Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Sure, Apple made gains in Mac market share and the iPhone 3G is wooing away developers. Google released a Web browser and mobile operating system, while gaining more search share.
But these nuisances aside, and despite sluggish enterprise Windows Vista adoption, Microsoft stormed the server and data center and continued to post strong quarterly earnings. Clouds may loom over 2009, but this was a year of sunshine. I present to you Microsoft 2008, in chronological order. If there is some important event you think should be on the list, please add it in comments or send to me by e-mail.
* Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates gives his last Consumer Electronics Show keynote, and it is surprisingly tepid. His "last day" video is more inspiring.
* Microsoft claims 100 million copies of Vista sold—that should have been stated as shipped and not necessarily deployed. Microsoft announces the number at CES, where Vista marketing is to be find nowhere.
* Fast Search & Transfer becomes Microsoft's first acquisition of the new year.
* The first of Microsoft's corporate presidents, Jeff Raikes, announces his departure. He kicks off a year rife with executive exits.
* CDW survey shows enterprises modestly warming to Vista, but separately deploying Office 2007.
* The European Union launches two new Microsoft anti-trust investigations.
* Microsoft begins engaging developers about Internet Explorer 8 standards compliance. The DOCTYPE switch is ill-received.
* Microsoft's fiscal 2008 second-quarter results soar: $16.37 billion revenue, a 30 percent year-over-year increase. Operating income surges 87 percent to $6.48 billion, or 50 cents per share.
* Microsoft makes an unsolicited, $44.6 billion for Yahoo. Microsoft's main objective is to gain search share against Google, but the deal is fraught with integration risk because of product overlap.
* AOL pulls the plug on Netscape, effectively burying the last carcass of the browser wars with Microsoft.
* Former Disney CIO Tony Scott assumes a similar role at Microsoft.
* Microsoft acquires Danger, mobile software and services provider for the T-Mobile Sidekick.
* Yahoo's failure to embrace Microsoft's unsolicited takeover starts rumors of a proxy fight.
* Microsoft announces so-called "interoperability principles" that derive from actions already mandated by its 2004 European adverse anti-trust ruling.
* Microsoft launches 2008 versions of SQL Server, Visual Studio and Windows Server, but the products are incomplete. SQL Server is a no-show and Hyper-V is delayed. Still, 3,000 people attend the product launch, Microsoft's most important of the year.
* The judge overseeing the Windows Vista Capable lawsuit unseals e-mails that suggest Microsoft colluded with Intel to lower graphic chips standards for Windows Vista.
No one at Microsoft will confirm whether this code is the same as the beta due to be officially released in early January, but it bears every earmark of being the real thing.
One of the first things I did before installing the software was to read the end user license agreement (EULA), carefully. Most of it was boilerplate, but I found a few surprises hidden within the legalese, including a revision code at the end, “EULAID:Win7_B.1_PRO_NRL_en-US,” which indicates that this is indeed Beta 1. Here’s a summary of some other interesting additions:
* You can install as many copies as you want. The agreement specifically waives any restriction on the number of copies you can install:
You may install and use any number of copies of the software on your premises to design, develop and test your programs for use with the software.
I expect this wording is from a build specifically released to software developers. This wording might change to a more general “for evaluation only” clause in the public beta release.
* Don’t use it in a production environment. That’s generally good advice for any product with a beta label on it, but in this case it’s explicitly covered in the agreement:
You may not use the software in a live operating environment unless Microsoft permits you to do so under another agreement.
* The software expires on August 1, 2009. Although I’ve read reports from other testers of a different expiration date, the copy I looked at includes a “Time-Sensitive Software” clause that reads in part: “The software will stop running on August 1, 2009. You may not receive any other notice.” That timeout date adds further credence to the notion that the final release will be ready in May or June.
* It’s OK to install in a virtual machine. The license agreement for the original release of Windows Vista includes some truly opaque wording about installing in a virtualized environment. This wording was significantly cleaned up for the Vista SP1 license agreement, and this same language appears in the Windows 7 EULA. The “Use with Virtualization Technologies” section is straightforward:
Instead of using the software directly on the licensed device, you may install and use the software within only one virtual (or otherwise emulated) hardware system on the licensed device.
* You’ll need to take a few extra steps to lock down your privacy. In section 4, the license agreement specifically notes that some features that normally require you to opt in are instead turned on by default:
Because this software is a pre-release version, we have turned on some internet-based features by default to obtain feedback about them […] You may switch off these features or not use them.
Most of the services on the list are fairly benign and involve little risk of divulging personally identifiable information. However, if you work with sensitive data files you might want to turn off the Customer Experience Improvement Program and automatic error reporting options.
While it is cooking the first Release Candidate build for Internet Explorer 8, the Redmond company is also supporting Internet Explorer 7 and Internet Explorer 6, a context in which it is a pain for developers to test their content on all versions of IE.
The situation has caused Microsoft to come up with the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC images, a solution designed to circumvent the limitations of IE running on Windows via virtualization.
With the Internet Explorer Application Compatibility VPC images, Microsoft is offering developers no less than four free copies of Windows packaged as Virtual Hard Disk Images and designed to integrate with the company's free virtualization offerings. The four VHD downloads feature a new release date, just ahead of the end of 2008, although the launched products are similar to those made available in August 2008, following the availability of Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2.
“VPC Hard Disk Image for testing websites with different IE versions on Windows XP SP2, Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista,” Microsoft revealed. “This download page contains four separate VPC images, depending on what you want to test: IE6-XPSP3_VPC.exe contains a Windows XP SP3 with IE6 VHD file; IE7-XPSP2_VPC.exe contains a Windows XP SP2 with IE7 VHD file; IE8B2-XPSP3_VPC.exe contains a Windows XP SP3 with IE8 Beta 2 VHD file; and IE7-VIS1.exe+IE7-VIS2.rar+IE7-VIS3.rar contain a Vista Image with IE7 VHD file. Note: For The Vista image, you will need all three files, downloaded and in the same directory, then simply run IE7-VIS1.exe.”
According to Microsoft, all the VPC images are time bombed and set to expire in January, 2009. In early 2009 the company plans to deliver Internet Explorer 8 Release Candidate 1, having already made available the pre-RC Partner Build. After the availability of IE8 RC, the Redmond giant is expected to deliver a fresh set of VPC images with a new expiration date.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The cut off date for PC makers to obtain licenses for the software was January 31, 2009. Still, vendors have to place their orders before the official cutoff date of January 31, but they dont have to take delivery until May. Microsoft granted the reprieve largely because of customer's preference for XP.
Microsoft also recently extended the Vista "downgrade" deadline for OEMs to July 31 and netbooks and low-cost laptops will be able to run XP until at least June 2010, so chances are you'll be able to get XP until Windows 7 ships.
PC makers largely stopped selling XP installed on desktops and laptops in late 2007, but they are available to customers who order online or have a business account with OEMs such as Dell or Hewlett-Packard. Recently, Dell offered customers, the option to get Windows XP instead of Vista on many models.
If you are an XP lover and have bought a Vista system, you have two choices to get XP:
* To buy an XP license before June 30 and install it over Vista, and
* To "downgrade" to XP Professional using an XP Professional install disc or a "downgrade" XP Pro install disc supplied by the PC maker
Downgrade option is available only to Vista Ultimate or Vista Business users
For user who doesn’t want to waste a DVD disc to burn the ISO to physical media, and does not have WinPE (Windows PE) startup disc, here’s a workaround method to install Windows Vista and Windows 7 into physical computer’s hard disk drive or partition (volume) directly with ISO without writing or burning to disc. The without-disc installation method is useful especially during beta and RC period of new operating system in the making, where the new build and new version is launching and publishing every now and then. This tutorial guide assumes that the new Windows 7 or Windows Vista will be installed and replaced the original existing operating system currently installed. The instructions can be modified slightly (mainly on hard disk partition used) to fit into need of readers who want to have a dual-boot, multi-boot, or simply just to upgrade install to new OS.
1. Install a virtual CD/DVD drive on existing Windows operating system.
2. Mount the Windows Vista or Windows 7 installation DVD ISO image using the virtual drive.
3. Copy all files inside the virtual CD/DVD drive mounted with the ISO into any folder on any partition or hard disk drive not going to be used to install the Windows OS. For example, copy into E:\Windows7.
4. Copy the bootmgr and boot folders nested inside the copied folder (i.e. \Windows7) to root directory of system boot drive, typically C:\.
Note: For Windows Vista, users may need to use this step: Copy the bootmgr folder from E:\Windows7 to C:\ root directory, copy E:\Windows7\boot\boot.sdi file to same folder in C:\boot folder, and then copy bootsect.exe from the E:\Windows7\boot\ folder to C:\ drive.
Note: boot folder in system boot drive is hidden system folder.
5. Create a new folder named sources under the C:\ root folder.
6. Copy the boot.win file inside \Windows7\sources folder to the source folder created in the system boot drive, normally C:\.
7. Open a command prompt as administrator.
8. Run the following command (change the C to your drive path letter if applicable):
C:\boot\bootsect.exe /nt60 C:
For Windows Vista users who copied bootsect.exe to C:\ root folder, use the following command instead:
C:\bootsect.exe /nt60 C:
A successful message is the command completes successfully.
9. Change the name or label of the boot system partition local disk to BDCP or any name you prefer that easier to remember and type (in DOS command promot, use label command).
10. Restart the computer.
11. After booting up, the system will start the corresponding Windows installation process. Select the applicable language to install, time and currency format (regional settings locale) and keyboard or input method in the installation wizard dialog.
12. On the next screen, user will be presented with option to Install Windows. DO NOT press on Install Windows button, instead, click on Repair My Computer link on the bottom left corner.
13. In the Windows Recovery Environment (WinRE) System Recovery Options dialog window, click on Command Prompt to open a DOS Prompt window.
14. Run the format command to format the primary hard disk or partition to clean state:
format c: /q
Note: /q switch, which perform quick format can be omitted to full format. And if existing hard disk partition is of FAT32 filesystem format, use format c: /q /fs:ntfs to convert the file system to NTFS while formatting. Before formatting begins, the command may prompt for hard disk drive or partition label name, if so, enter accordingly (i.e. BDCP).
15. After format completed, start the Windows Vista or Windows 7 installation process again by manually running the setup.exe located in the copied. Note that the setup.exe is not the one located on boot system drive which copied at later step, as the boot drive has been formatted. For example:
16. Continue with installation procedures by following on-screen instructions as per normal practice.
They're designed mainly for browsing the Web, handling e-mail, writing memos, and taking care of simple word-processing or spreadsheet chores.
Netbook sales will reach an estimated 60% growth in 2010, compared with 18% growth for standard notebooks says a September BNP Paribas report. So obvious is the future in Netbooks. But the hardware demands of Vista can't be met by Netbooks (and a reason why Microsoft keeps extending XP's lifetime) and Linux is ideally suited for lower-powered netbooks. At least 30% of the existing low-cost netbooks run on Linux.
Microsoft sees Linux on netbooks not just as a niche market, but as a threat to Microsoft's desktop share as well. It's finally taking Linux seriously as a desktop operating system, and Windows 7 is looking to be the tool Microsoft has designed to kill Linux. At Microsoft's recent Professional Developers Conference, where the pre-beta of Windows 7 was unveiled, Steven Sinofsky, Windows Senior Vice President, showed off Windows 7 on his Lenovo S10 and said it used less than half of the netbook's 1GB of RAM.
Jerry Shen, CEO of Asus, announced that he plans to release versions of the Eee PC powered by Windows 7 in mid-2009, including a touch-screen version. With netbook return rates much higher for Linux than Windows XP versions, the high point for Linux netbook sales will be from now until the launch of Windows 7. After that will come the inevitable decline. Ultimately, consumers will be the ones to tell us what they really want in a device like this, and how they would use them.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The Build was showcased at the Windows Hardware Engineering conference in China, and subsequently leaked and made available for download both as a VHD and as an ISO. Windows 7 pre-Beta Build 6801 Mileastone 3, released at the Professional Developers Conference 2008 and WinHEC 2008 US had a similar fate. From 6801 to 6956, the evolution of Windows 7 is indisputable, as the operating system is moving away from Windows Vista and more towards, well, Windows 7. This should be evident in the following Windows 7 Build 6956 gallery featuring no less than 160 screenshots of the operating system.
160 screenshots of Build 6956 of the next iteration of the Windows client offer an ample opportunity to get a taste of what the fully-fledged Beta version of the platform will bring to the table. In Build 6801, Microsoft blocked some of the best features of Windows 7, namely those based on the evolution of the graphical user interface. This is no longer valid in Build 6956. Features like Aero Peek, Aero Snaps, the new Taskbar (the Superbar), Aero Shake and even wallpaper slideshow are now available without having to resort to a hack to dig them from under Microsoft's limitations.
One thing is for sure. The Windows 7-specific feature set of components that were set free in Build 6956 has been available as early as Milestone 3 (Build 6801) in the operating system. Microsoft is in fact not adding much in the jump from M3 to Beta; it is only perfecting the release, taking care of all the details that were apparently considered not ready for the general public at the end of October/the start of November.
Two sides to Windows 7 Build 6956
Still, there are two sides to Windows 7 Build 6956, in accordance with the graphical user interface. Build 6956 will never manage to feel more like a Windows Vista Release 2 than without Aero and the GUI enhancements specific to Windows 7. At this point in the development of Windows 7, users will find that if they are forced to switch Aero off because of inferior machines, or because of the need to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the hardware, Windows 7 will show its “ugly” Vista face. But with Aero fully enabled, Windows 7 is without a doubt the next major version of the Windows client; well, quasi-major, but still.
The feel – minus Aero
Running Windows 7 Build 6956 in a virtual machine with some 1.6 GB of DDR3 and an Intel Core Duo processor at 3 GHz delivers a superior performance compared to Windows Vista. When it comes down to the way the operating system feels – no benchmarking involved, mind you – Windows 7 is superior to Windows Vista, Aero on or off. The actual impression of performance is immensely important, as Microsoft has learned with Windows Vista. While the company claimed that Vista was on par with Windows XP and supported the claims with benchmarking statistics, the actual user experience spoke to the contrary. And truth is that, even at Build 6956, Windows 7 feels lighter, faster, smoother, compared to Windows Vista.
The first new addition to Windows 7, synonymous with Build 6956, is the new boot screen animation. I managed to include a few screenshots of various stages of the startup process in order to give you an idea of what the new boot process brings to the table, but there is also a video you can access in this regard. Without Aero, Windows 7 Build 6956 is not much to look at. There is a new, more consistent effect when interacting with the Start Orb, but no Aero Peek, Snaps, no Superbar, and so on and so forth.
Exploring Windows 7 Build 6956 gives the familiar feeling of Windows Vista. In fact, Vista components are waiting for the users around every corner, from the Task Manager to the command prompt, to the Performance Monitor, Remote Assistance, Registry Editor, Resource Monitor, to Windows Media Center and IE 8. There are subtle changes here and there, but the fact of the matter is that Windows 7 remains Windows Vista R2.
One aspect that Microsoft will need to tackle before it releases Windows 7 to manufacturing is the content associated with the personalization of the operating system. Windows 7 needs its own brand of wallpapers, as distinct from Windows Vista's as possible. With Build 6956, Windows 7 offers new vistas, but this needs to change. Microsoft will have to take care of this aspect of the visual identity of Windows 7, while making sure that it says 7, and not Vista R2.
The look – plus Aero
An actual installation of Windows 7 will also offer a superior performance to Vista, and I'm also including Service Pack 1 here. No longer sluggish, no longer managing to produce hiccups even on common tasks, no longer hitting speed bumps even as a pre-Beta. With Aero enabled the Windows 7 user experience delivers the evolution Microsoft referenced time and again when it was discussing the development strategy for the next iteration of the Windows client.
Aero Peek, Aero Snaps, Aero Shake, Flip 3D, the Superbar are all available in Build 6956. But speaking of visual identity, what goes for the wallpapers also goes for the screensavers. While not available in virtual machines, the Windows 7 Build 6956 screensavers are the same as in Windows Vista. This aspects needs to be corrected before Windows 7 RTM, while at the same time, Microsoft has to either make the Settings button actually permit users to tweak the screensavers, or remove the thing entirely.
Far enough from Vista
Build 6956 inherently leads to the conclusion that Windows 7 is what Windows Vista should have been from the get go. This is an operating system actually capable of producing a few consistent Wows, unlike its precursor. But still, Windows 7 is just another Vista. So far it looks like Microsoft is right on track to producing a faster, prettier, more usable, more compatible Vista. My best guess is that end users will have to wait for Windows 8 in order for Windows to get far enough from Vista that it will not qualify as an R3 release, as with Windows 7, the Vista era is not ready to come to an end.