WORLD> Microsoft looks to the clouds
By Martin J Young
HUA HIN, Thailand - Microsoft is about to take a big step into the growing
realm of cloud computing by offering software services running remotely in
addition to the conventional method of installing programs on a PC. Cloud
computing can be broadly defined as any situation in which computing is done in
a remote location rather than on a desktop or portable device. That computing
power is tapped into over an Internet connection.
Microsoft this week said it intends to launch a web software system called Live
Mesh that will offer an array of applications and services from data centers.
Google is already developing systems that will outsource data processing and
management. Its AppEngine offers web space
and developer tools that allow you to run your applications and store your data
with Google. Microsoft’s chief software officer, Ray Ozzie, has stated that the
web is "the hub of our social mesh and our device mesh", which translated
basically indicates a shift by society to web-based data management and
From a web-based Live Desktop users will be able to manage folders and files
just as they do at present from a Windows-based computer. The service will
offer advanced synchronization functions so that you can use the online system
in conjunction with a number of different computers. Management of devices
including remote computers, mobile phones, games consoles and media players
will also be possible … providing, of course, that they are all
Microsoft has said Live Mesh will use open standards, but developers are wary
considering the software giant's previous track record with openness. There are
also concerns about compatibility and whether this system will be a truly
universal platform and work with all others, including Macs. Many are worried
about Microsoft’s role in controlling so much of people’s information, although
the same concern is applicable to Google and its similar services and which
already claims to be revolutionizing the way the world manages its data. It
seems that both corporations want to own the pie.
Yahoo, which must decide this weekend on the unwanted takeover bid by
Microsoft, posted a near quadrupling of first-quarter profit. The gain, Yahoo's
first three-month profit increase in more than two years, is thought unlikely
to encourage a higher offer. Most of the increase came from Yahoo's stake in
China's now-listed Alibaba.com Ltd, with revenues climbing 14%.
Microsoft saw its profits decline 11% in the three months ended March from a
year earlier as sales of Windows software for PCs plunged 24%. Profit and sales
a year ago were boosted by orders held over from the previous quarter for
Chief executive Steve Ballmer has already stated that nothing about the
quarterly results will make a difference to its resolve. "I wish Yahoo all the
success with its results, but it doesn't affect the value of Yahoo to
Microsoft," he said regarding the bid, currently valued at $44 billion.
Microsoft knows that no other bidders are interested, while Yahoo claims it is
worth more and that revenues will climb throughout this year and next.
Microsoft has given Yahoo until this weekend to make its decision or face the
threat of a proposal to change board members and a possibly lower bid.
The standoff could run through the summer. Meanwhile Internet juggernaut Google
continues to gain strength and market share, with sales up 46% in the quarter.
has finally surpassed the US as has having the world’s largest Internet
population this week according to local media. With 221 million users and just
16% of its population using the Internet as of the end of February, China still
has a lower proportion of its population online than the global average of
19.1%. Amid heavy-handed censorship by the government, the Internet is still an
important tool in countering anti-China sentiment seen in protests along the
Olympic torch route. Promotion of nationalism within the country and its rapid
economic boom have been said to be the key factors in the jump in Chinese
netizens, according to government analysts.
A new high performance hard disk was launched this week in an effort to compete
with the solid state drives that currently populate the market. Western
Digital's aptly named VelociRaptor runs at 10,000 rpm and has performed
extremely well in initial benchmark testing. The drive boasts the same data
transfer rates as solid state drives for a third of the price and at nearly
four times the capacity.
One impressive figure from the testing was the drive's capacity to write just
over 3 gigabytes of data in under 90 seconds. Its small 2.5 inch chassis comes
in a 3.5 inch heat sink to dissipate the high temperatures that the 300 GB disk
will generate. The $300 unit will initially be marketed towards gamers.
processor battle between rivals Intel and AMD has calmed a little in the past
couple of months but this could well be the lull before the storm. Intel is
going through a transition phase from 65 nanometer chips to 45nm and has
slashed the prices of its Core2 Quad and Xeon CPUs to shift its remaining 65nm
stock. Prices were cut by up to 50% on bulk orders and around 12 different
processors are now considerably cheaper.
The pressure is now on AMD, which has always been known to offer the more
competitively priced chips. Triple-core processors are now becoming common and
quad-core units are also mainstream, with many older dual-core systems falling
into the budget, or sub-$500 category. AMD’s triple-core Phenom range has been
launched to compete with Intel’s dual-core processors and are doing quite well.
Retail outlets such as Newegg, Circuit City and Best Buy are selling computers
sporting AMD triple-core processors for just over $500.
graphics card front, AMD is running at full speed with its latest RV770 chip
and the new Radeon 4800 card. Boasting GDDR5 memory, more texture memory units
and faster clock speeds, the new entry into the graphics world will be a tough
to beat. As it is still in the production phase, no dates have been given for
the launch. We expect something from rivals Nvidia in the not too distant
Mac-cloner Psystar, which is selling PC units running Apple's latest Leopard
software, appears to have survived last week's initial surge of attention in
the product. A new office and revamped website continue to offer Psystar's
controversial Open Computer with now more hardware options.
Apple has yet to make any official counter moves but we can be sure that its
legal team is working overtime to find a way to prevent the Leopard running
away without its badge. Although Psystar claims to be processing all orders and
shipping units there have yet to be any confirmed reports of computers
arriving. Tech websites and blogs are patiently waiting for readers to post
their experience with the new "Hackintosh".
Martin J Young is an Asia Times Online correspondent based in Thailand.