Earlier reports that Microsoft's new ad campaign would kick off with Jerry Seinfeld as its OS pitchman turned out to be true, and so has the pre-release skepticism. It's hard to imagine being any more annoyed than when watching Justin Long portray the prototypical hipster for the umpteenth time, but like Vista when it first came out, general consensus is that Microsoft has dropped the ball and left eager PC fans more than a little underwhelmed.
How bad was it? Enough so that you won't find any pretense of unbiased reporting in this blog. Not only did the first commercial in Microsoft's $300 million advertising campaign appear to make little sense, but if it was aiming to be funny (and it was), it missed the mark.
"Today, we are kicking off a highly visible advertising campaign," wrote Microsoft's senior VP Bill Veghte in an email to employees. "The first phase of this campaign is designed to engage consumers and spark a new conversation about Windows – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity."
Veghte goes on to explain that the first set of ads should be taken as an icebreaker, but if Microsoft was looking to make a good first impression with Seinfeld's debut, well, let's just say it didn't. See for yourself.
If Microsoft and Mozilla were content to shrug off Google's Chrome browser as just another also-ran, they might want to reconsider their position. Chrome still has a ways to go before it poses a legitimate threat to either of the market leaders, but its off to a damn good start, surpassing Opera in market share right off the bat. Net Applications' Market Share statistics site shows Chrome peaking at 1.48 percent the day after release, and as high as 1.73 percent yesterday. By comparison, Opera sits at .71 percent for the month of August, the highest it's been all year.
So what's the big deal? That remains to be seen, but Google's muscle in the online community should be obvious. For all of Chrome's potential, it's a beta release that so far doesn't support extensions and isn't yet as polished as other established browers, at least not yet. And while Opera isn't nearly the opponent that either Firefox or Internet Explorer is, many would consider it a niche favorite.
Is Chrome's initial success a sign of more to come, or will the initial buzz wear off?
As the system [running Windows Vista SP1] arrived to us, the off-the-shelf configuration had a ~45 second boot time. Performing a clean install of Vista SP1 on the same system produced a consistent ~23 second boot time. Of course, being a clean install, there were many fewer processes, services and a slightly different set of drivers (mostly the versions were different). However, we were able to take the off-the-shelf configuration and optimize it to produce a consistent boot time of ~21 seconds, ~2 seconds faster than the clean install because some driver/BIOS changes could be made in the optimized configuration.
Fortin identifies a number of design goals for Windows 7 to help it achieve a high percentage of "very good" boot times (under 15 seconds), including:
Reducing the number of system services
Reducing the demand that system services make on CPU, disk, and memory resources
Device and driver optimization
Improving parallelism of driver initialization (enabling multiple drivers to be installed at the same time)
Faster prefeching optimized for both traditional and SSD hard disks
Fortin's comments suggest that Microsoft is working very closely with system vendors to help assure that Windows 7 works well in typical preconfigured systems. Hopefully, Microsoft has learned a lot from the vast difference in performance between clean installs of Windows Vista and systems cluttered with OEM products not optimized for Vista.
Don't want to wait for Windows 7 to get faster boot times? Fortin also discusses analyzing systems with the Windows Performance Toolkit for Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, available here.
How do you define fast boot time? When is a system "ready to go?" Give us your thoughts after the jump.
Google Apps might be a dwarf compared to its rival Microsoft Office but it is making steady progress. It has finally made a stride of some significance by making it to 1 million enterprise users. The company claims to be successfully wooing 3,000 businesses to Google Apps everyday. However, it is certain that a significant chunk of its users are using the free version; the Premium version carries an annual subscription fee of $50.
Google Apps’ contribution to Google’s annual income was a paltry $4 million in 2007, and not a whole lot should change in the foreseeable future. Not that Google would be banking on a miraculous turnaround, as its product currently doesn’t even deserve to feature in the same sentence as Microsoft Office – at least going by the economics of magnitude. Google seems to be aiming for a ponderous victory over Microsoft.
In the past, I've clambered to the top of my soapbox tower in order to wax ludological about why games should be fun. While riding back down the escalator from atop my exceedingly ritzy box, I gazed upon my audience, hoping that I'd at least imparted one tiny nugget of info: I don't care about difficulty -- I'll even turn a game's masculinity meter down to "Very Easy" -- if it means having a good time. Lucky for me, many of today's game developers seem to agree with my sentiment. They hold our hands like an overprotective mother herding her child across the street. They give us failsafes for our failsafes. They design their games to be "fair."
But therein lies the problem. Personally, I think games should flip us a double-sided coin every once in a while. If the scales never tip, then what impact do our choices have? Take, for instance, BioShock. Whether you saved the Little Sisters or ended them, you still gained roughly the same amount of Eve, and bonus powers were negligible. BioShock was supposed to have us wracking our brains every time we made a choice. Your life versus the Little Sisters' -- power because of necessity versus mercy. Instead, though, the whole thing was a sham.
More recently, Mercenaries 2 made a similar mistake -- essentially replicating its weapon set across the game's different factions, making your choice of gun-toting employer basically meaningless.
And guess what? The onus for this trend rests on our shoulders. If the aliens have nicer weapons than the humans, we hop on message boards and join in a chorus of variously pitched whining. Single-player or multiplayer, if a game isn't perfectly "balanced," we get uppity.
So maybe we should just ease off our "!" key and let developers flex their creative muscles from time-to-time. A few failed attempts would be well worth the successes other games might reap.
But what say you, MPC readers? Should games continue down the sterile road toward same-same fairness, or would you prefer developers give some meaning to our choices, even if it means ruffling some feathers in the process?
Either way, this installment of the Roundup is just what you're looking for -- mostly because you're already reading it. Today, you'll find news about a wicked-cheap font from which X-COM now springs, a good reason to nab an Xbox 360, and episodic gaming's great failing.
Microsoft has revised the cap on hard disk space in netbooks running Windows XP. Now netbooks can have up to 160GB hard drive space, which is double the 80GB space previously permitted. It is anticipated that this increase in storage size will boost netbook sales, though not as significantly as enhanced processing power might. MSI and Asustek have already released the 160GB variants of their Wind and Eee PC netbooks respectively. This move can also dampen the sales prospects of SSD-bearing netbooks, which have comparatively lesser storage space due to current SSD prices.
Various streaming video services, and not just Youtube, have found favor among internet users in Britain and that has driven people away from P2P. Furthermore, according to PlusNet’s Dave Tomlinson, people are turning to streaming videos as they want to access content instantly.
All ISPs unequivocally despise P2P traffic and some have even devised clandestine methods to suppress it. There machinations against P2P are always wrapped in the puritanical garb of fighting piracy. Although streaming services are also used for propagating copyrighted content, the percentage of such unauthorized content is nothing compared to P2P. So ISPs might not have a moral pretext to combat streaming video, if it becomes as popular as P2P.
Despite its diminishing popularity, Microsoft still plans on releasing new Zune models in 120GB and 8GB (flash-based) capacities. We’re unsure what colors will be released, but we do know that you’ll at least have the option of a black 120GB and a blue 8GB.
Though the Zune never bumped Apple’s iPod out of first place, it managed to make its mark in the digital audio player (DAP) market with wireless syncing and a bigger screen. The player became a little played out though, with weak sales making the Zune an after thought in the DAP market.
Engadget reports that the old 80GB and 4GB were discontinued at Wal-Mart, just in time to pave the way for their successors. The new Zunes will cost $249 and $149, respectively, with the 80GB iPod Classic costing the same as a 120GB Zune. Though the price tag may seem a little steep, the Zune’s features, such as the built-in FM Tuner and wireless capabilities, give consumers a little more bang for their buck.
Paramount Digital Entertainment bought DVD games developer Screenlife. The move will allow Paramount to strengthen the reach of it cinematic offerings. Screenlife has to its credit the well known “Scene It?” game brand. Screenlife will continue to operate autonomously even after this deal. Thomas Lesinski, Paramount Digital Entertainment’s president, said that the acquisition will advance the company’s multiplatform strategy. Paramount didn’t elaborate upon the financial details of the transaction.
AMD, the one company in a position to give Intel a run for its money, has seen just how hard it is to keep up. Ever since Intel woke up from its Netburst slumber, the mostly two-man CPU market has been dominated by Intel and its Core 2 architecture, and that doesn't look to change any time soon. Is there room for another contender?
Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Computing Technology are talking about a new microprocessor they hope will make major headway in China by 2010. Backed by government funding, the chip was developed by more than 200 researchers.
"Twenty years ago in China, we didn't support R&D for microprocessors," said Zhiewi Xu, deputy director of ICT. "The decision makers and IT community have come to realize that CPUs are important."
China knows its getting a late start, but this isn't brand new territory for ICT. The group first began designing a single-core chip back in 2001, with Godson-1, China's first general purpose CPU, making a debut one year later. Now in its third iteration, engineers have added 200 additional instructions to Godson-3 to simulate a x86 chip, which will allow it to run more software than either of its predecessors.
It's worth noting that China's goal with the new processor isn't to take down Intel, a Herculean task by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, Tom Halfhill, an analyst at research firm In-Stat and Maximum PC magazine columnist, points out that "China wants to be independent. They don't want to be dependent on outside countries for critical technologies like microprocessors, which are, nowadays, a fundamental commodity."