Microsoft's Game of Chicken

Apparently, Microsoft has found a way, premeditated or serendipitously, to boost its flagging fortunes in the search arena. According to both comScore and Compete, Redmond has had a search rebound, but it has little to do with improved quality or growing user satisfaction. It's because of the online game "Chicktionary."

Yep, you read that right -- the well-known game with the chicken theme that lets users rearrange letters into words, and then launches a Web search for those words.

"Chicktionary" is available on Microsoft's Live Search Club Web site, which offers other games, as well.

But what appears to be drawing an increasing number of users are the prizes. Users can earn points for every game they play, which they can then redeem for products like Windows Vista and the ever-famous "Zoo Tycoon 2." Users can also get the usual T-shirts and free song downloads.

Compete says the Live Search Club had almost no traffic in April but saw an incredible bounce in May: up to 330,000 unique visitors. And last month saw 3 million unique visitors going to the site.

Who needs improved search engine technologies to catch Google and Yahoo when all you have to do is play a game of Chicken?

The World's Fastest 75-Year-Old
I guess you never outgrow the need for speed -- Internet speed, that is.

Sigbritt Lothberg, 75, may well have set an Internet speed record with the installation of a 40GB-per-second fiber-optic connection in her home in Karlstad, Sweden. It's believed to be the fastest residential uplink in existence.

Such speeds are reached using a breakthrough modulation technique that makes it possible to send data between two routers that could be placed thousands of miles apart and without the aid of any transponders located in between.

One example of its speed is that it allows Lothberg, a new Internet user, to download a full-length film in 2 seconds flat. This sort of speed is several thousand times faster than your typical residential uplink.

Why Buy When You Can Rent?
If you don't want to spend the money to buy green technology, now you can rent some.

Zonbu, a small PC maker, has unveiled a very compact Linux-based PC that requires low power, operates silently and doesn't have a hard drive.

The Zonbu PC, which fits in your hand, requires just 15 watts of power, compared to the 175 watts needed by typical PCs. Company officials believe this could save companies about $10 per month in energy costs, depending on how long it's in use.

Users can buy a two-year subscription for online storage for between $12.50 and $19.95 a month. Or, if you want to go hog-wild, you can buy the unit for $249 but without a storage agreement.

Intel's Good News, Bad News
Quarterly revenue and earnings reports from major chip makers have always served as important indicators of the computer industry's overall health. But with Intel's second quarter financials this week, it was hard to tell what sort of shape the industry is in.

The good news is the world's largest chip maker reported that earnings rose some 44 percent, carried by the strong demand for PCs. However, the bad news is that average chip processes were lower than expected, which was the reason the company didn't hit its goal for gross margins.

"While demand for computers was strong, pricing remained competitive, particularly in the low end of the personal computer market," said Paul S. Otellini, Intel's president and chief executive, in a prepared statement.

But while Otellini said chip prices were down, sales of microprocessors were up, which he believes is a good sign that the company's financial performance will improve in this year's second half.

The company reported that revenue rose 8 percent to $8.7 billion for the quarter, up from $8 billion for the same period last year. Net income was $1.3 billion, up from $885 million.

Mailbag: Why Wi-Fi?, More
Lafe asked readers yesterday how they feel about Wi-Fi access. For his part, Ken doesn't really see the value in "free" Wi-Fi that isn't really free:

I do like free Wi-Fi and do use it when I am in a hotel, but most businesses do not really offer free Wi-Fi any longer. I used to try to get on Wi Fi at restaurants or other shops, and would get a notice that I had to pay for access. Since it was hard to find really free Wi-Fi -- and a motel Wi-Fi is not really free since you have to rent a room to get it -- I just gave up on Wi-Fi and bit the bullet for access through my cell phone. That has been the best because anywhere I have cell service, I have Internet access.

I use Cingular, which costs me about $40 per month for unlimited Internet access, but it has been great. I changed my phone over to an HTC Advantage 7500, obtained through Dynamism. Although the Advantage has Wi-Fi, I never turn it on because I can do anything I want to do on a portable over the cellular network. We have a normal-sized notebook computer we lug around with us when we are traveling, and we often use it in a motel using the Wi-Fi there, but we have had to fall back on my Advantage in some hotels because their Wi-Fi service was too low-powered or had other issues.
-Ken

The American Electronics Association reported recently that tech exports reached $220 billion last year. Here's what one reader thinks:

The export figures indeed look discouraging, but perhaps they are just the tip of the iceberg? It is my perception that even more valuable jobs than those in the production of tech equipment are being shipped off-shore. I refer to the help desk operations and technical support functions of many tech groups. Have you tried to place a support call to Dell or Juno.com lately? It can be a painful experience!

Where is the efficiency when you have to explain your issues three, four and five times because of language issues? It saves the manufacturers great amounts of dollars to handle it this way, and each of us that needs the 'service' pays for it in wasted time and frustration.

And yes, you can share this with Dell, Juno and any other "American" company that is exporting services across the ocean.
-Bill

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to escannell@redmondmag.com.

About the Author

Ed Scannell is the editor of Redmond magazine.

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