Colbert Talks up Windows 7 Hamburger

American folk hero and freedom-fighting journalist Stephen Colbert uncovered one of the great stories of 2009 on his show this week: the Windows 7 hamburger currently being served up by Burger King in Japan. (Go about 3:10 into this clip to see what we're talking about.) Yes, the Windows 7 hamburger (which really does have a Microsoft promotional tie-in) has seven -- seven! -- meat patties in between its buns.

Throw a little mustard (that's how we do it in Texas) and some lettuce, tomato and pickles on that baby, and we'll stop eating the XP burgers we've been wolfing down since 2001. Unfortunately, as Colbert laments, the Windows 7 burger is only available in Japan. Microsoft and Burger King, this is an injustice you must correct.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 09, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Ozzie Apparently Exits Azure

Kathleen Richards, your editor's Framingham office mate and editor extraordinaire for the developer branch of the Redmond Media Group family, posted a little blog item on Tuesday afternoon that caught RCPU's eye.

It seems innocuous enough -- and it might be. On the surface, it's just another Microsoft reorg in which the company is combining its Azure business with its Windows Server and Solutions Group. No big deal, right? Maybe not, but dig this from Kate's blog entry:

"The Windows Azure development team is part of this transition and will no longer report to Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect. Instead, the dev team is part of the new Server and Cloud division headed by Amitabh Srivastava, a senior VP who reports to Muglia."

That's Bob Muglia, head of the server and tools business at Microsoft, who has, to be fair, been a major driver of Azure since the project's inception. But Ozzie has become a public face of Azure recently, as well; he even delivered an Azure-themed keynote at last month's professional developer conference.

So, what does this reorg mean? Is Ozzie off of Azure? It sure looks that way. We at RCPU haven't met Ozzie, but we've heard near-universal praise of him. He's extremely sharp, we hear, and he's got the technical chops and the market savvy to move Microsoft into the next phase of technology -- primarily the cloud.

Remember, Ozzie was supposed to be the next Bill Gates when he arrived at Microsoft in 2005. He holds, after all, Gates' old title of chief software architect. And his Live Mesh idea -- a sort of personal cloud thing, as we understood it -- garnered some interest among partners, users and developers. But Azure appears to have consumed Live Mesh, at least on the enterprise side. And Ozzie's not on Azure anymore, from what we can tell.

So, what gives? What is Ray Ozzie's mission at Microsoft now? And will Azure take a different path without his influence? Muglia is more than capable of running Azure development; we're not questioning his ability at all. We're just kind of wondering why Ozzie was shaping up to be the public face of Azure and now appears to be largely absent from its development process. And we're wondering what Microsoft wants to do with Ozzie -- and vice versa.

This news leaves us with more questions than answers, as Microsoft reorgs often do. In the past, they've tended to work out pretty well. But in the post-Gates era, there's more uncertainty about Redmond's overall business and standing in the industry than ever before. Is there uncertainty inside Microsoft, too? For partners' sake, we hope not -- especially with regard to something as important and all-consuming as Azure. As usual, we'll just have to wait and see.

What's your take on Ray Ozzie and the Azure reorg? Send it to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on December 09, 2009 at 11:56 AM3 comments

Package of Patches Coming

Just in time for the holidays. It's a six pack from Microsoft, but not the fun kind. In fact, Redmond is sending six patches, three critical and three important, for December.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 07, 2009 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Google Goes Real-Time

Oh, fantastic. Now there'll be no escaping Twitter (where you can follow RCPU here). Google has gone real-time in search, which means Tweets will start popping up on standard Google search pages.

Hooray! No longer do we have to actually go to Twitter to see some shut-in's political rant or know how hot some 14-year-old girl thinks Tom Brady is. Those tweets might very well pop up if we search for, say, "senate primary" or "New England Patriots." (Right now, nobody knows quite where the Patriots are...but we digress.)

OK, seriously, we know that real-time search is a breakthrough and a massive coup for Google. But if it really does start throwing inane Tweets and Facebook posts into our searches, we might end up moving over to Bing after all.

Oh yeah, also on the search front, Microsoft and Yahoo have finalized their search contract.

How excited are you about real-time search? If you care, send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on December 07, 2009 at 11:55 AM1 comments

Regulators Looking into Data Privacy

Worried that Google or some retailer has too much of your personal information? So is your hard(ly) working federal government, which is looking into consumer data privacy.    

Posted by Lee Pender on December 07, 2009 at 11:56 AM0 comments

Microsoft, EU Supposedly Finishing Browser Deal

Microsoft's long, international nightmare could soon be more or less over, as the company is reportedly finishing up plans for its "browser ballot screen" that will appear in versions of Windows sold in Europe. Apparently, Opera wanted some fairly subtle changes to the plan...and got them.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 04, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Microsoft Lays Out Bing Maps

Microsoft has been trying to spiff up its David to Google's Goliath, and the latest wrinkle (among others) is an ever-popular application: maps.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 04, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Tech Data To Buy Back Shares

We at RCPU have been extremely remiss about running reader e-mail, which we've let back up to the point at which a bunch of really good e-mails are now too old to run. We're sorry about that, but we're going to get back to putting your thoughts in this space soon. So, if you have anything you'd like to send our way, shoot it to the usual address: [email protected]

To be perfectly honest, we're getting into a slow time of year for news, and your editor is still busy with tasks outside of RCPU. So, for today, we're going to go with a pure channel play (which we really should do more often) and tell you that mega-distributor Tech Data is buying back $100 million worth of stock.

The company seems to be in pretty good financial shape overall, which has to be a good sign for the channel in general. Its stock, as of Thursday close, is trading pretty close to a 52-week high, and its third-quarter numbers, despite a dip in revenue year-over-year (which is pretty common these days), looked pretty solid to us. Take that for what it's worth, but any news that's even somewhat good for partners right now is certainly welcome.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 04, 2009 at 11:56 AM1 comments

Google Chrome Market Share Surges

OK, so Google Chrome has 3.9 percent market share, according to Net Applications. No big deal, right? Well, it kind of is, considering the fairly new browser apparently had only 0.4 percent market share at the beginning of November. As for IE, its current share is its lowest ever -- although it's still at almost 64 percent.

Oh, by the way, Bing is still struggling to make a dent in Google's search share, although it's not a total dud numbers-wise.

Posted by Lee Pender on December 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM0 comments

Intel, Acer Moving Netbooks Away from Windows

Netbooks, the beloved (by your editor) little machines that haven't quite penetrated the enterprise but still sell in big numbers, have fallen under the market share spell of Windows for the most part. But a couple of companies are nudging them in a different direction.

Intel's new SDK for its Atom processer points developers pretty strongly in the direction of Moblin, Intel's own Linux-based operating system. And netbook maker Acer is going to start (gasp!) putting Google's Chrome OS on netbooks. Just a couple of little things to look out for with these little devices, Microsoft partners.  

Posted by Lee Pender on December 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM1 comments

Microsoft Hopes for Windows 7 PC Bump

The year 2009 has been one of the more forgettable we've experienced in...well, quite a while, anyway. And while it's hard to tell whether the economy is recovering (ask a stockbroker and somebody who's out of work, and you'll likely get two very different answers), glimmers of hope for 2010 are starting to show through the thick financial clouds that have been over us for close to two years now.

Microsoft hopes it's seeing one of those glimmers with the release of Windows 7. A Microsoft VP said in London this week that the company hopes the new operating system will spark a "PC refresh" in corporate IT departments in 2010. Spake Neil Holloway of Microsoft International:

"'Most people do expect that there will be a PC refresh. And I think one of the things that will hopefully drive that will be Windows 7,' he said."

Well, of course you do, Neil. We all do. But while Windows 7 is still getting mostly rave reviews, we're not so sure that it'll be the catalyst for a wave of corporate PC purchases. Operating systems just don't have that kind of impact anymore; as long as XP is still useful, cash-strapped and recovering companies will get all the use out of the old OS that they can.

Your editor is currently writing a story for Redmond magazine on Windows 7 migrations (and thanks, by the way, to those who contributed to it). We've received quite a few e-mails in the Redmond Media Group about Windows 7 migration experiences -- but most involved folks upgrading their own computers at home. If we had to make a conclusion about our entirely unscientific little e-mail data pile, it would be that XP is still going to be the OS market leader by some distance at the end of 2010. Most folks told us that their organizations have no plans to upgrade in the near future.

We're still skeptics about the economy here at RCPU, although we're hardly experts on it. But what we do know is that a new release of Windows doesn't have the same effect on companies that it once did. Windows 7 is, from all we hear, much better than Vista and a huge leap forward from XP. But despite enthusiasm about it, it's not an absolutely necessary upgrade (yet).

Besides, it's the economy that dictates PC refresh cycles, which in turn give us OS market share sea changes. It doesn't work the other way around anymore, if it ever did. And while we're seeing the same slivers of economic sunlight that everybody else is seeing, we're not sure they'll last. And we're pretty sure that they don't justify Microsoft (or any other software company) putting on metaphorical sunglasses.

What are your plans to migrate to Windows 7? Do you expect a PC refresh bump in 2010? Send your thoughts to [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on December 03, 2009 at 11:55 AM1 comments

Microsoft on Black Screen of Death: Don't Look at Us

We in the software world get so used to blaming Microsoft for these types of things that when news broke of a "black screen of death" (oddly abbreviated KSoD in some places) plaguing multiple versions of Windows, lots of observers, including RCPU, instinctively pointed a finger of blame at Redmond.

Well, as your editor's second-grade teacher used to say, "Every time you point at somebody, there are three fingers pointing back at you." (This led, of course, to kids pointing with all five fingers at presumed guilty parties, which was pretty funny now that we think about it.) Anyway, we're acknowledging here the three fingers pointed back at us and offering Microsoft's side of the story, which is, essentially, "It's not our fault." Wrote a blogger from Microsoft's Security Response Center:

"We've conducted a comprehensive review of the November Security Updates, the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, and the non-security updates we released through Windows Update in November. That investigation has shown that none of these updates make any changes to the permissions in the registry. Thus, we don't believe the updates are related to the 'black screen' behavior described in these reports."

The rest of the short blog entry is here. Generally speaking, when Microsoft has a security flaw, it acknowledges it and eventually gets around to fixing it. So, we're inclined to believe Redmond's pleas of innocence here and conclude that the KSoD problem is coming from somewhere else.

Not that it matters, of course, because a problem's a problem, and somebody has to fix it. Security firm Prevx says it has a fix, but the fact is that it might be better if this flaw did come from Microsoft because then, at least, Microsoft could get to the bottom of it and issue a fix for it. If it's really not Redmond's problem, and we don't know whose it is...then we're not sure who's going to fix it (or whether Prevx's fix really works). For what it's worth, Prevx thinks it knows what the problem is, and is working with Microsoft on the matter.

But we also don't know how big a deal this flaw really is, and Microsoft is saying that it doesn't seem to be a broad customer issue. So, maybe this whole story is a whole lot of nothing, or at least not as exciting and significant as some of us in the press and blogosphere (we hate that word, by the way) would like it to be during a slow time for news. In fact, now might be a good time to stop talking about it altogether.

Have you experienced the black screen of death? If so, have you found a fix for it, and where? Share your information at [email protected]

Posted by Lee Pender on December 02, 2009 at 11:55 AM2 comments