Microsoft Cutting Xbox Prices

In response to a recent price cut by the Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft has said it is dropping the retail price of its Xbox 360 Premium model by $50, to $349.

The move comes on the heels of the surprising success of the Nintendo Wii, a lower-end console that pioneered tactile feedback, enabling the user to participate in more active games.

While individual games can be highly profitable, Microsoft has yet to turn a profit on the Xbox hardware business it launched in 2001. The company has forecast a profit in 2008, but a recent acknowledgement of high rates of failure for the hardware systems has prompted analysts to call for the company to divest its hardware business.

Will a lower price lead you to buy an Xbox 360? Challenge me to a game at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Are Laser Printers Hazardous to Your Health?
A study published by researchers at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia last week cast some interesting information on the office hazards debate.

These researchers provided detailed emission measurements of 58 laser printers inside a typical office. Laser printer emissions, believed to be related to the toner powder used in the printers, were tracked and the printers ranked as non-, low, medium or high emitters.

Ironically, HP printers had the biggest presence in the high-emitter category. While HP has not disputed the volume of emissions measured from its printers, it claims that such emissions do not represent a health risk. In fact, the researchers themselves don't go so far as to make such a claim, instead concluding that further research is needed.

Check out the study here (PDF).

Who's afraid of HP laser printers? Not me. How about you? Come clean with me at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Congress Looks Into Yahoo Involvement With Imprisoned Chinese Journalist
In the ongoing debate surrounding government use of search data, Congress continues to look into Yahoo's role in the imprisonment of Chinese journalist Shi Tao.

In this round, lawmakers want to know if Yahoo misrepresented the company's role in a human rights case in China that resulted in a 10-year prison sentence for the journalist.

Yahoo claims that it didn't know the nature of the investigation against Shi Tao, and in any case was required to comply with China's laws in the matter. This and other similar cases are defining the debate regarding Internet companies' responsibilities across international boundaries. China has made it clear that doing business within its borders requires cooperation with the government in such investigations.

Would you pass on a market with a fifth of the world's population? Sound off to me at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Nokia To Use Microsoft DRM
Cell phone leader Nokia has said it will license Microsoft's PlayReady digital rights management (DRM) software and use it in its own platform for digital content use.

The company believes that the use of DRM will significantly increase the rate of growth for cell phones' entertainment uses.

Yet DRM is shrouded in controversy. Many believe that its use actually impedes the growth of digital content on mobile devices. What's your opinion? Mail me at pvarhol@redmondmag.com.

Mailbag: Your Thoughts on E-Passports and E-Produce
Peter reported yesterday on a recently discovered vulnerability in passports equipped with RFID chips. Would you still trust these e-passports? Here's what some of you had to say:

The short answer to your question is "NO!" RFID technology is still in its infancy and there has been much comment on the security of these devices. I don't believe that there is any RFID device at this point that can boast 128-bit encryption that conforms to DES standards. Until that time arrives, I will not trust the RFID passport. I will be placing my passport in a faraday cage while in storage or in my pocket to greatly minimize the possibility of the unauthorized sharing of my personal information.
-Mark

If you want a passport without the RFID, apply now. Since they've had such a rush on passport renewals, they aren't putting the RFIDs in currently. I sent my passport renewal in as expedited around the first week in July and had it back in less than two weeks without an RFID in it. It's now good for 10 years; no RFID to worry about until 2017. Not sure when they'll go back to the RFID version, but I guess I lucked out.
-David

Last week's CompTIA survey of the most influential technologies of the last 25 years placed Internet Explorer at the top. One reader thinks IE didn't get there without some help:

IE? We wouldn't have the IE we have now if it wasn't for Netscape. Word? We wouldn't have the Word we have now if it wasn't for WordPerfect. Even though I agree that Windows 95 was very influential, we wouldn't have that if it wasn't for the Mac graphical OS.

If anything is influential from Microsoft, it is Microsoft's marketing power (which I don't discount at all) and its ability to borrow the good bits from other vendors.
-Anonymous

Meanwhile, here's another vote for the Opera Mini, which one reader nominated yesterday for the most-influential list:

I agree with Fred that the Opera browser is a small wonder. I purchased the Nintendo DS Browser for my Nintendo DS Lite game console, although it does not allow any plug-in. But I am able to surf the Net and read Gmail in any hotspots available in Singapore. One more thumbs up for Opera.
-Edwinava

Finally, here are some of your thoughts on Amazon.com's attempt to revive the online-grocery business model:

I'm a big fan of online groceries -- and, by the way, Peapod didn't completely die. We order from it every week or two, and it saves a ton of time. And, since it's affiliated with our local grocery store, the inventory is similar (albeit smaller). I think partnering with local chains is key to making it more profitable.
-Kito

Tuffins! Tuffins for sale! Expiration date yesterday!

All it takes is one or two unhappy employees or a madman manager to ruin this market. Instead of sending out goods with the longest expiration date (by the way, if you do not know it, a store always hides it freshest products behind the oldest), they will be tempted, if not forced, by management to do this. I have seen this in action.
-Tom

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

About the Author

Peter Varhol is the executive editor, reviews of Redmond magazine and has more than 20 years of experience as a software developer, software product manager and technology writer. He has graduate degrees in computer science and mathematics, and has taught both subjects at the university level.

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