RossCode Weekly #017

posted on 2005-09-11 at 23:46:36 by Joel Ross

Welcome to RossCode Weekly, version 17! Either I'm getting  more and more lax, or a lot happened this week. Usually I wait until Sunday to start writing this (I collect all week), but there's so much that I had to start early! I'm going to stay away from too many non-technical things this week, but I do want to say thanks to Jason Salas for the mention of RCW in episode 112 of his Digital Pontifications podcast.

One last non-technical thing. The Red Cross can still use your donations. Please give generously! As I did last week, I'll include a slightly technical story too. Since the lights are back on and people are trying to get back to work - at least some government officials. Well, while power is back, the networking infrastructure is gone. But, the good folks at Intel and Cisco have donated hardware to set up Wi-Max for the city. It's a nice gesture, and, even though it's extremely unfortunate circumstances, New Orleans presents a unique opportunity to build a network from the ground up - could this be the end of copper wire? If it works, will this spread?

Ok. You came for content, and that's what you're going to get. This'll be a long one, so don't say I didn't warn you!

It's always fun to delve into the rumor mill. This week has a good one. eBay is reportedly in talks to buy Skype. Now, no one is confirming or denying anything on either side, so who knows if this has any legs to stand on. Remember, though, that last week I speculated that as more and more social software companies consolidated, Skype's selling market would continue to dwindle. eBay is in the social software market, right? Yeah, it's a little different, and what could eBay do with it? Well, they could hold live auctions. That would be fun. Imagine bidding on a hot item (or just listening) with potentially 100s of other people?

Enough rumor mongering (at least about Skype). What about reality. Well, Skype didn't just sit back this week either. First, it sounds like Skype will be bundled with all Sony Viao's sold in Japan. Then they announced a partnership with Voxeo, VoxPilot, and TellMe to offer voice recognition to Skype. There's even a revenue model there for the provider, but mainly for Skype. And some don't see that as a good thing. If you read the post, I think the term "innovation killer" is used. Ouch! Basically, the service charge that Skype gets is 30%, which is pretty high considering what they are actually offering. "Can you imagine paying 30% of a sale to your credit card company? Or to your phone company for letting you hook up your computer to the phone network? That's Skype's program!" That's a quote from the last link on Skype Journal. It'll be interesting to see if this gets used. It's looking like Skype is out of the honeymoon period!

And then there's this. China is (or is thinking about, depending on where you read) banning VoIP programs such as Skype because it bites into state-owned telco income. So when eBay considers buying Skype, they'll need to remember that 1.3 billion people may be off-limits. As is the case with a lot of stuff coming out of China, this is a rumor, and there are reports that it's not happening - yet.

So what if you don't want to pay for Skype if you want to be able to call "real" phones? Well, you could use AdCalls, which says that the ad you see while you're making your call is actually paying for it. But dig deeper. When you make a call, you're agreeing to allow the telemarketers (who are obviously ultimately behind this) to use that information to solicit to the person you are calling. Yes, you read that right. You're not submitting yourself to telemarketing abuse (well, actually, you probably are!). No, you're actually responsible for adding your buddy to the tele-spam database. Now that's sneaky!

Let's move the rumor mill to Redmond, shall we? I didn't get this when I read it, but some are speculating that since Microsoft is making a PC controller that's based on the XBox 360 controller, that XBox games will play on Windows Vista. Somehow I doubt it, but who knows. It would kind of make sense. Microsoft loses money on the hardware every time they sell it, so why not embed the sofware into an operating system, and leave it up to the user to buy the correct hardware? On the other hand, now you are making a base set of requirements for any Vista PC that wants to run games of whatever hardware is in the XBox 360 - and then having to deal with the support issues if that doesn't work. But all this is even more interesting (and probably a mute point) when you consider that the XBox 360 is going to have a Power PC chip. I'm pretty sure that Vista is going to be Intel-based, and unless the games will be delivered on the disk in something like IL, which, for those who don't know, is then compiled based on the hardware it's run on. Now, if that's the case, this is cool. But I'm sticking with my initial reaction. Speaking of the 360 though, pricing for XBox Live Gold was announced, and it's not terribly different than the current offerings. More XBox news? How about this? First, Microsoft says that they've been using custom designed hardware to make the XBox 360 hack-proof. Not likely, but a valiant effort. One more thing: Halo 3 can be pre-ordered at EBGames, and is scheduled to be released on June 30th, which is shortly after the release of the PS3. I heard they were going to be on the same day, and this doesn't really change that - dates almost a year out are always flexible!

Speaking of Windows Vista, there's an unconfirmed report that there will be seven separate versions available, depending on what you want to do. There's one for emerging markets that limits you to three concurrent programs, home edition, which will be much like XP Home, a media center edition, and three different business flavors. But the one that piqued my interest was the Ultimate version, which was known as the Uber version. It's said to include a podcatcher, potentially free movie and music downloads. But the best part is the "Game Performance Tweaker." No one knows what that means, and how do you tweak a system generically for games, unless...what if the Ultimate version had an XBox 360 emulator built-in? Then you could tweak your 360 experience!

One more Microsoft rumor. Apparently there's an eWeek article out that says Bill Gates said that Office 12 will be out early next year, and not late next year, as previously reported. I'm going to have to say this isn't true either. I've heard all that is going to be in this release, including Content Management Server and Sharepoint, I'm going to have to say that what BillG referred to was not the final release, but actually the beta release, which seems much more reasonable.

More Microsoft. But this is more than a rumor. They've announced something similar to Small Business Server, but aimed at the middle market. It's called Centro, and as part of this, Microsoft will be revamping it's CRM and ERP solutions as well. New names too. And with the CRM at least, RSS feeds!

Back to Redmond Rumorville. There's reports that Windows Media Center 2005 may soon support podcasting. Where's the rumor coming from? Well, some are seeing subscriptions coming from MCE.

One last Microsoft fact. OneCare has entered into public beta. Remember OneCare? It's a program offered by Microsoft that includes back up, virus protection, and firewall. And it could eventually include spyware protection. Remember though, before you get addicted, Microsoft says it plans to charge for this eventually.

Now, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that there's going to be news next week, and it's going to be coming out of the PDC in Los Angeles next week. I, unfortunately, won't be there, but I'll still be covering it. Robert Scoble has been hinting at some big announcements, but they're all under wraps right now. Well, maybe not quite all of them. How about this? Microsoft Expression. Microsoft already has a site that references Acrylic, but it sounds like the Expression brand will include more than just that. It sounds like the designer suite will get the same type of division that Visual Studio has gotten - different versions for different focuses. I'm not sold on that for Visual Studio, and while I'm not a designer, I don't think I'd be sold on this division if I was one, either. 

More PDC stuff. MSN is releasing APIs for a bunch of services. What ones? Messenger. Virtual Earth. There's even a contest for Virtual Earth. And it sounds like others too. Rememer That's next Tuesday.

Want one more reason to envy those at the PDC? It looks like they'll be getting bits - the latest Vista , Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 bits. Most likely, this'll be RC1 of VS 2005 and SQL 2005. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on those!

Speaking of next Tuesday, that's the second Tuesday of the month, and all of us Windows users know what that means. Patch Tuesday. Except it's not. Because of quality issues, it's been cancelled. It looks like the flaw will live for a little while longer. I haven't had a BSOD yet, so I think I'm good for now!

Now it's Google's turn in the hot seat. But first, Happy Birthday! Google turned 7 on Wednesday. So what did you do when you turned 7? Well, Google increased it's memory, no doubt in response to Yahoo's bragging. It seems to me that when Yahoo announced it's index was bigger that Google's response was "Quality not Quantity" but I guess that wasn't quite what they were accepting.

Remember Google Wallet? I mentioned it back in June, and according to a job listing, it could be in the works. But wait, there's more. Remember GoogleNet? Well, Google hired Vint Cerf, and that's what it sounds like he could be doing. Don't know who Cerf is? He helped come up with a little protocol called TCP/IP. Recently, he worked at NASA. Google Shuttle maybe? Rememer that $4,000,000,000 we talked about Google raising? Well, rumors say they may buy The Yell Group, a yellow pages company. Could this be used to bolster their local search capabilities, or is there another plan here?

One last Google item to wrap them up. And Microsoft for that matter. Remember Kai-Fu Lee? He left Microsoft to go to Google, and Microsoft sued, saying he violated his employment contract. Well, new info has come out, and it's not pretty. First, allegedly, Lee was a mole for Google for a while. And Ballmer threw chairs. Anyway, a judge will be ruling on the injunction on Tuesday.

On to some more new stuff this week. There've been rumors for what? A year now? Something like that. But it's finally official. There is an iPhone. And the iPod Mini is replaced with the iPod Nano, which is downright small. And holds either 500 or 1000 songs. So what's the verdict on each? Nano: Good. iPhone: Bad. It's $250, and you can only hold 100 songs. Lost in the shuffle, though, is that iTunes hit 5.0. Sounds like a pretty minor release to me to justify going from a 4.x version to 5.x, but maybe they subscribe to a different versioning philosophy than I do. They do use Macs, afterall!

So Internet Explorer is insecure, you say? Well, it sounds like FireFox is succumbing to the same types of issues as IE has - popularity breeds contempt. Contempt from hackers, who will then find exploitable holes. It says all versions are affected, but it doesn't specifically mention the new Beta 1.5, which was released this week. Biggest new feature? Auto update. No more heading to and downloading anytime a new version comes out. Although, this brings up a (probably) sensitive issue with FireFox. Remember the stability of 1.0.4? Would you want to be auto updated to a version that didn't work? Usually, auto update is a good thing, but once you get a black eye from an update, well, then you have some trust to gain before you can do something like this.

Let's talk industry consolidation - without the rumor part of it. There's three of 'em. First, PalmSource was purchased by Access, a Japanese based company that builds a cell phone browser. PalmSource has been rumored to be for sale for 2 years or so, and it's finally come to pass. Does this spell the end of Palm OS? Some thought it might, especially with a Windows Mobile powered Treo coming out, but Access say no. In fact, they'll continue the process of moving to a Linux-based OS.

The next consolidation comes in the podcasting world. Podshow bought Podcast Alley. It's not a huge surprise. Podshow got $8,500,000 in investments, and it wasn't to buy T-Shirts. It was inevitable they would do something with that money, and given the prominence Podcast Alley has on the Podshow site, it's a good fit for Podshow.

One more consolidation. IGN was bought up by News Corp. IGN is a huge gaming network, and brings to News Corp a site that generates a lot of traffic that's in the right demographic. Can you say ad revenue? Although, you'll need a lot of ads to cover the $650,000,000 price tag.

I have two Yahoo items this week. First, the bad. There's been a little buzz about Yahoo's installation packages. And when I say package, I mean package. Apparently if you upgrade to the latest messenger, it also installs a whole suite of other software and modifies your settings. Some even report it does it even when you tell it not to. Next, Yahoo's Publisher's Network is offering the ability to add up to two categories to your website/page/directory, and have ads delivered based on that category. I've been accepted to the YPN, but haven't implemented them on the site yet, and maybe this will give me the incentive to do so. I haven't seen any comparisons of payments, but that may be due to TOS's on both services. And neither allow you to run the other at the same time. Maybe it's time for a random number generator to decide which ones to serve and run them head to head?

A few quick hits here. is tagging news items. Although, not the way Technorati wants you to. Or any other tagging service that I've seen. So it seems that the tagging is purely cosmetic and not really functional, unless you're within the world. Next, PBS is offering a web only show called NerdTV, which will feature interviews of some very high profile industry leaders. I've yet to find much good on PBS, except for Sesame Street. I guess we'll have to see if this is any better. Lastly, a judge in Australia has ordered major changes in the Kazaa network.

So that's a pretty good week, huh? Lot's of news and rumors. I've been thinking about the rumors lately. There have been quite a few I've reported, but what happens to them? Some are obvious, but some aren't and some are still possibilities. I'm thinking of adding a semi-regularly (read, when I get around to it) review of all rumors I've posted and what their status is. The first will obviously contain all of them, with any updates, and a note of which ones are no longer valid. Then, next time, I'll only include the ones that are still valid, along with any new ones. And of course, any updates I can find. Look for that soon. Anyway, let's get this out there and in your hands!

Have an item for RCW? Send it to weekly at rosscode dot com.

Categories: RossCode Weekly