Bye, Bye, Bill

Bill Gates, the heart, soul and certainly the public face of Microsoft since its inception, took a moment at the Tech-Ed developer's conference this week to bid farewell.

Tech-Ed this year is divided into a developer's forum this week and an IT professional's forum next week. No surprise that Bill would gravitate toward the developers. "The success of Microsoft really is due to our relationship with developers," Chairman Bill said during his address.

He also acknowledged the uncharted territory he was entering as he officially withdraws from his position as the driving force of Microsoft, effective on July 1. "It will put me in new territory. That's the first time I've really changed my career since I was 17 years old. I've been completely immersed in software," he said.

What do you think of Bill's departure? What would you do if it was you slipping into his shoes? What's your take on Ray Ozzie's and Steve Ballmer's future roles with the company? Give me your thoughts at llow@redmondmag.com.

Let Windows Find It
The next time you buy an HP computer, you'll see Microsoft's search engine the first time you fire it up. Microsoft and HP have just hammered out a deal in which HP PCs will come loaded with the Windows Live Search tool bar starting in January 2009.

Google is still the leading search engine, followed by Yahoo -- which used to be HP's default search engine of choice -- then Live Search. This HP deal, and a similar deal Microsoft already has in place with Lenovo, will help boost Live Search's profitability in the increasingly competitive Web ad space.

While anyone can change their default settings, such as which search engine you prefer to use, analysts report this move is a big deal because most users don't really mess with the default settings, maintaining an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality.

What's your preferred search engine, and why? Have you changed the default settings on your company's PCs? Let me know at llow@redmondmag.com.

Pay as You Play...on the Web
The price of gas is on everyone's mind. Who hasn't shuddered as prices break through the $4 barrier and continue to creep upward? That makes everything more expensive. Pay-as-you-go is getting pricier, whether you're talking about gas, consumer goods, cell phone minutes and now, possibly, Web traffic.

I suppose it was inevitable. Time Warner Cable will soon be testing monthly allowances and fees for going over set bandwidth usages, much like my cell phone plan. Time Warner subscribers in the test site of Beaumont, Texas (bonus points for anyone who can tell me why they're testing in Beaumont, Texas -- seriously, I have no idea) on Thursday will receive monthly data allotments of how much they can upload and download. If they blow through that allotment, they pay an additional buck a gig. Perhaps they'll adopt that as their ad slogan: "Only a buck a gig!"

According to published statements, Time Warner claims Internet usage is wildly uneven among its customers; a mere 5 percent account for half of the cable capacity. Applying metered usage billing could help even out who pays for what, which is small comfort to frequent downloaders.

While metered usage is more common overseas, it remains to be seen whether this might scare off current or potential subscribers, so it's a delicate issue for providers. You can bet that competing providers will be paying as close attention as existing customers.

What's your take on metered usage? Is pay-as-you-play a fair model for something that has always been as wild and unregulated as Internet access? Send me a note -- as long as you want -- at llow@redmondmag.com.

And remember, you can read more about these and other breaking news stories from the Microsoft universe at our new Web site RedmondReport.com.

About the Author

Lafe Low is the editorial liaison for ECG Events.

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