PC2: Potential Convert

I think I have fixed my PC problems, which means I’m 70% confident that the computer will return to functioning status each time I reboot. The fix–not cure, fix–came by doing a Windows XP repair reinstallation, updating device drivers, and applying other Microsoft spells and rituals of which Mac owners live in blissful ignorance. Like Eve with her apple I began to fall under Mac owners’ spell, to the point where I planned a visit to the local Apple store Thursday night if the pc had not rebooted properly. Reboot properly it had; I was disappointed, although happy not to spend $2,500. I expect that day will come. It’s just a matter of time.

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PS: From the 5/1 Business Week: The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit

Vista Resista

One year after Microsoft released Vista, its newest operating system, I am like most Windows users. I continue to use Windows XP, and continue to resist the alleged upgrade to Vista. This story explains why resistance is a good move. It explains the woes of Jon, Steven, and Mike who upgraded or purchased what were labeled as Windows Vista Capable hardware only to encounter typical Vista woes: failure to provide drivers for printers, scanners and other peripherals, the need for brand-new graphics chips to operate at full capability, slow boot-up, inability to run XP-enabled software. The punch line is that Jon, Steven, and Mike are all Microsoft executives. Mike is the VP for Windows product management, Jon is a Microsoft board member, and Steven is a senior VP responsible for Windows.

Ouch.

Keeping the Moat Up

Earlier this week the China Internet Network Information Center issued its annual report, estimating China had 137 million Internet users aged 6 or older who spend at least one hour a week online. That’s about ten percent of China’s population and represents growth of over 23% compared to 2005’s numbers. The next day Chinese Premier Hu Jintao, in a speech to a Communist Party Internet study group, urged creation of more content “that is in good taste” and promotes Chinese culture. The goal, he said, is to “promote civilized running and use of the Internet and purify the Internet environment.” (See stories here and here.)

“Purify”–that’s a loaded word to western ears. China maintains strict control over the Internet within its borders, blocking access to certain foreign websites and running what is, in essence, an intranet. In the words of Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu in Who Controls the Internet, “physically, the Internet within China looks more and more like a giant office network, centralized by design.” What is paradoxical, from a western perspective, is that China’s political control goes hand-in-hand with dynamic utilization of the Chinese network as a platform for e-commerce. Businesses, online and offline, must accommodate–or, at least, not alienate–China’s control over political expression.

In light of that, the Yahoo story linked above ads an interesting note: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Vodafone Group recently agreed with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, the EFF, Reporters Without Borders, and other organizations to establish a Code of Conduct to promote freedom of expression and privacy rights around the globe. It is unclear how participation in the Chinese market will square with this code’s objectives.

For posts on global press freedom see here and here

By June the Tunes Will Grace One Million Zunes

Microsoft’s Zune is not flying off the shelves–it was the fifth-best-selling MP3 player during Thanksgiving week–but Microsoft expects to sell one million of the little music-beaming critters in the first half of 2007. Is Steve Jobs losing sleep over Zune’s competition with iPod? 199,000 Google hits for the words suggest the answer is “no.”

Zune Tune Lacks Harmony

IT Blogwatch harvested comments and speculation from music- and tech-industry watchers about Microsoft’s licensing deal with Universal. Is Microsoft desperate? Is the Zune a disappointment? Microsoft officially launches the Zune today.

Microsoft-Universal Royalty Agreement

Microsoft yesterday announced a licensing deal with Universal Music Group under which Microsoft will pay Universal royalties of about $1.00 per unit from sales of its new Zune portable music player, in addition to royalties on downloads from Zune’s online store. Universal said that it would, in turn, pay about half of the royalties it receives to its artists.

This licensing deal represents a shift in industry practices. Apple, for example, pays music companies a royalty on sales from its iTunes online music store but pays nothing on sales of iPods. The recording companies have been trying to get a piece of hardware sales because royalties from online music purchases are only a small piece of the Apple pie. Each iPod contains, on average, about 20 songs purchased from iTunes. At about 4 megabytes/song, that works out to about 80 megabytes — about 1/12th the capacity of the $79 one gigabyte iPod Shuffle or 1/1000th the capacity of the $349 top-end 80 gigabyte model. Apple sold 14 million iPods in the last quarter of 2005 alone, and over 42 million total since introducing the iPod.(1) That’s a lot of non-revenue-generating capacity for record companies to ignore. $1.00 per unit may not seem like a lot compared to the royalty potential in even 11/12ths of the capacity of the iPod Shuffle but it is $1.00 more than the record companies get now.

The Microsoft-Universal deal sets a benchmark for other music industry deals with Microsoft. If the Zune is successful these deals will put pressure on Apple to consider similar deals. Apple has had considerable leverage in its negotiations over music rights because of its 42 million + units sold, but every Zune purchase that results in an unsold iPod shifts the balance of power.

Jeff Leeds, Microsoft Strikes Deal for Music, The New York Times, 09-Nov-06; (1) Mike Musgrove, Big Hit of the Holidays: 14 Million iPods Sold, The Washington Post, 11-Jan-06.