Microsoft's week involved news of Kinect for Windows, new features for Windows 8, and Bill Gates testifying in a long-running court battle between Microsoft and Novell.
Microsoft's week involved gearing up
for the future.
On Nov. 22, the company revealed it is
prepping new Kinect hardware especially designed for Windows, the better to
extend the popular hands-free controller beyond its traditional realm of the
The hardware alterations necessary for
a Windows-optimized Kinect include shortening the USB cable "to ensure
reliability across a broad range of computers," Craig Eisler, general
manager of Kinect for Windows, wrote in a Nov.
22 posting on the Kinect for Windows blog. In addition, the upgrade will
feature "a small dongle to improve coexistence with other USB peripherals."
New firmware will optimize the camera to accurately focus on objects at ranges
up to 50 centimeters.
"'Near mode' will enable a whole
new class of 'close up' applications, beyond the living room scenarios for
Kinect for Xbox 360," he added. "This is one of the most requested
features from the many developers and companies participating in our Kinect for
Windows pilot program." Some 200 companies are already involved in that
program to explore Kinect's commercial ramifications.
Microsoft evidently hopes the
popularity of Kinect for Xbox 360-the device has sold millions of units in the
year since its release-will extend to more productivity-centric areas like
Speaking of Windows, the company
revealed still more details about its upcoming Windows 8, including the ability
to update via download.
"Buying boxed software is quickly
becoming the exception rather than the rule," Christa St. Pierre, a member
of the Windows Setup and Deployment team, wrote in a Nov. 21 posting on
Microsoft's official "Building
Windows 8" blog, "with more and more software being purchased
online as broadband penetration increases and large-size media downloads become
Windows 8 users, she added, will have
the option of starting their operating-system setup online: "We actually 'pre-key'
the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user, which means that you don't
have to type in the 25-digit product key when you install."
Unlike with Windows 7, where the
upgrade process often involved multiple apps or features (including Upgrade
Advisor, Setup and Windows Easy Transfer) and a trip to the local box store,
Microsoft is concentrating on streamlining the Windows 8 upgrade into what St.
Pierre described as "one fast and fluid experience."
According to a Nov. 23 report in The
New York Times, itself quoting an anonymous source briefed on the matter,
Microsoft also signed a nondisclosure agreement with Yahoo, opening the latter's
books to perusal. If verified, that could indicate Microsoft is considering
some sort of deal with its occasional partner (and occasional rival).
Three years ago, Microsoft tried to
snatch up Yahoo for $44.6 billion and was rebuffed. In the interim, the two
companies entered into a search-and-advertising agreement, with Microsoft's
Bing taking over Yahoo's back-end search apparatus while Yahoo took on
advertising responsibilities for the two companies. Were Microsoft to take
another run at Yahoo-which has become increasingly beleaguered as it seeks to
compete more effectively with Google-it could probably snatch the property up
for far cheaper than in 2008.
In terms of blasts from the past,
Microsoft had a major one this past week, when former CEO Bill Gates testified
Nov. 21 in a federal antitrust lawsuit leveled against the software giant by
open-source business software maker Novell.
Novell claims that Microsoft relied on
illegal practices to crush WordPerfect, a rival to Microsoft Word. The
long-running suit, originally filed in November 2004, centers on Novell's
claims that Microsoft withheld critical Windows 95 technical information, which
in turn made it difficult to deliver a version of WordPerfect compatible with
that operating system.
According to a report in USA
Today, Gates in court suggested that the software necessary to support
WordPerfect would have crashed Windows: "We were making trade-offs."
Even as Microsoft and Novell have
continued their courtroom battle, the two companies have collaborated in other
areas. Late last year, Novell said it would sell some of its intellectual
property assets to CPTN Holdings, a consortium of technology companies
organized by Microsoft.
Of course, it wouldn't be the first
time Gates testified in Microsoft's defense; he did so in 1998, during his
company's antitrust investigation by the federal government.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.