<IT WORLD> Microsoft plays cool after DVD blow
By Martin J Young
The war over DVD formats came to an abrupt end this week when Japanese
electronics giant Toshiba announced that it would no longer be developing,
producing or marketing its HD-DVD technology. The move propels Sony’s Blu-ray
format to victory as the new global standard in high definition DVD and
eliminates the confusion amongst consumers who were in two minds over which
format to adopt.
The battle has been seen by many as reminiscent of that in the 1980’s between
Matsushita’s VHS format and Sony’s Betamax, the latter losing out and being
relegated to a darkened room at the rear of many video rental outlets. This
time though Sony emerged triumphant having successfully enticed a number of
studios to use its format for the release of new movies. The final blow for the
failing format was said by Toshiba’s chief executive, Atsutoshi Nishida, to
have been made when Warner Brothers chose to adopt Blu-ray.
A number of games consoles have also been in the fray with some using HD-DVD
drives and some opting for the Blu-ray. Microsoft’s Xbox 360 seems to be the
one that analysts predict will be hurt the most by adopting the Toshiba format.
Sony had the winning hand from day one with its built-in Blu-ray drives in the
Many believe that consumers will now choose this console over the Xbox for
future compatibility, although Microsoft responded by stating, "We do not
believe the recent reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the
Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. We will wait until we
hear from Toshiba before announcing any specific plans around the Xbox 360 HD
The bones of the technology are in the programming that can be built into
DVD-sized discs and offer higher resolution and sharper pictures than standard
DVDs. The formats were incompatible with each other so it was widely assumed
that one would emerge triumphant. Now that we have a winner we can expect to
see a lot more of them in the market as the new technology is embraced and
regular DVDs slowly get phased out and go the way of the VCD and VHS.
Following the rejection of Microsoft’s buyout offer for Internet stalwart
Yahoo! the California based company has begun to offer severance plans to its
employees. Yahoo workers will be eligible for payouts if they are fired or
leave for "good reason"; the decisions appear to be making any possible move to
purchase the company more expensive.
Yahoo has stated that the $31 per share bid by Microsoft substantially
undervalues the company and has rejected the offer. Microsoft has responded by
authorizing a proxy fight and is seeking to nominate a slate of directors to
Yahoo’s board unless the Internet company is willing to enter into talks.
Microsoft would hire a proxy solicitor to urge Yahoo investors to kick out
board directors according to reports by The New York Times. The move will cost
the Redmond-based software giant between $20 million and $30 million, a figure
far more attractive than the prospect of a higher bid.
The proposed takeover appears on the surface to be moving into hostile
territory, Microsoft know that it needs to make this deal productive if it is
to have any hope of catching the market-dominating, runaway Internet
advertising machine at Google.
Microsoft has announced a new initiative this week that will give students
around the world free access to development tools and software. The new
software will assist students to write software applications, websites and
design video games for the Xbox 360. Chairman Bill Gates stated that the
concept should prevent learning barriers for students which would include high
software licensing fees. Software has been made available to students before
but the universities were made to register the programs limiting use to
computer science students. This initiative will be available to all, the only
drawback being that the products will only be Microsoft compatible!
has also announced the official release of Service Pack 1 for Windows Vista
this week. The release to web (RTW) download will be available on March 18 yet
the software giant has stated that some users will still experience problems
with drivers. These will be patched in an ongoing process through the automatic
update feature of the operating system. The long-awaited software upgrade has
not performed optimally in initial benchmarks, indicating that many of the
annoyances of Vista will remain after the service pack is implemented.
As a result of this, the respect for Windows XP has increased and its third
service pack is in process, but it is likely that this will be delivered via
the Windows Update feature and not as a separate download.
More problems are expected with the Vista service pack as Microsoft has also
confirmed that some third-party applications are either blocked or lose
functionality when SP1 is installed. Programs from Trend Micro, Zonelabs, Bit
Defender and Novell are expected to be affected and blocked by the service pack
"for reliability reasons". Another glitch with SP1 was pulled this week; a file
known simply as KB937287, which is a prerequisite for the service pack, caused
some machines to enter an endless cycle of reboots. It seems that Vista still
has a long way to go before confidence in it improves, despite what Microsoft
Gaming fans will have something to smile about this week as Nvidia prepares to
launch its next "generation 9" series graphics cards. The 9600 GT will have
Internet forums buzzing and is expected to weigh in at less than US$200,
although there will be some confusion over the card as it remains on G94
architecture as opposed to its bigger "8 series" brother, the 8800 GT on G92.
Meanwhile rival AMD has announced price drops on its HD 3800 series graphics
cards indicating that it too may have something new in the pipeline.
Intel has launched an 8 core Skulltrail enthusiast platform this week, offering
Ferrari performance for your PC. The dual socked board will seat two quad core
Intel processors clocked at 3.2GHz and twin graphics card setups. Don’t expect
much change from $15,000 for a high end and fully configured system.
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.