Google Phones Home

The Google phone is nearly ready to rock. And while it has nowhere near the fanfare of the iPhone, this is clearly a significant product. The idea is the phone will tie closely to Google search and apps, making it easy to find information, get maps and perhaps feed Google all your personal information.

From all reports, the Google phone (sold only by T-Mobile) is fully featured. But the real keys are usability, reliability and how well these features work. It took Microsoft a long time to get phones right, and even Apple has had its hiccups (and Apple has been building operating systems since 1976, way before Microsoft got into the game).

But is the real play Android, the OS that drives the Google phone? Could this be the basis of a range of intelligent devices that ultimately replace our laptops and desktops and thin clients? PC World weighs in on this without reaching any major conclusions.

Are you excited about the Google phone? Don't call -- e-mail your answers to me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

HPC Is Mainstream
Earlier this week, I talked about Microsoft's new HPC 2008, a supercomputer-style version of the OS based on clusters aimed at scientists, engineers and massive data-mining/massaging apps.

I lamented the fact these high-end OSes and hardware don't mean much to mainstream IT -- that we're missing out on all that power. In fact, most of our cores, especially on the desktop, go unused (I wrote about that problem in this cover story).

Microsoft is one step ahead of me, at least when it comes to HPC 2008, and is now positioning this clustering tool right at IT. Hopefully its hardware partners, such as Cray, will go along for the ride and give us commodity supercomputers that run database, e-mail and even Web apps. This could give the Crays and the SGIs a whole new lease on life.

Early Windows 7 Bits Set for Release
I've had a lot of questions about Windows 7 lately, such as whether it has a brand-new microkernel or is instead a rehashed version of Vista. Some of the questions will be answered late next month at Microsoft's Professional Developers Conference (PDC), where attendees will get a pre-beta version (didn't this used to be called an alpha?) on a handy USB drive.

My new question: How many folks will go to PDC just to get a free 160GB flash drive?

Meanwhile, the Engineering Windows 7 blog, which was dormant since its inception, is gaining serious steam. Check it out.

Speak Out on VMware and Chrome
I'm doing two articles that I may want to quote you on. The first is about Chrome, which we've talked about quite a bit. I'm writing a Reader Review, which means you and your peers are the actual reviewers. Share your Chrome thoughts by writing me at dbarney@redmondmag.com. Over a dozen already have.

The second article is about VMware and its plans for a datacenter operating system, one that promises to turn all your x86 servers, network connections and storage into a single utility. The company claims 70 percent of this functionality is already in place. VMware users and others can contact me at dbarney@redmondmag.com and I'll shoot you a bunch of questions.

Both of these articles show how Redmond magazine is driven by readers as much as it is by our writers and editors. So thanks!

Mailbag: Meet the New Ad, Slightly Better than the Old Ad; More
Your verdicts are in: The new Microsoft "I'm a PC" commercials aren't exactly worse than the Seinfeld ones...but that's not saying a whole lot:

I too have seen the "I'm a PC" commercial (at least the first one). I don't know if it's defensive or not, but it's not persuasive. For one thing, even though I use a PC, I am NOT a PC. Nor am I "PC," although that's a whole other discussion. For another, "PC" is a generic enough term that it's arbitrary to imply that if it's a PC, the thing is automatically a Windows computer. Finally, even though the commercial I saw showed different people using their PCs for different activities, it largely showed someone simply making a claim.

What I'd like to see instead is something along the lines of this: "My PC is me." HP has the tagline "The computer is personal again." Why shouldn't Microsoft make use of something similar? I'd prefer to see a real profile of someone using their PC for interesting activities, rather than just a talking head saying, "I'm a PC, too." Microsoft has partnerships with enough major PC vendors that it could do tie-ins if it wanted. Microsoft just needs to do something different than what it's doing (and has done) so far in its massive ad campaign. I, for one, don't think they're getting their $300 million's worth.
-Dennis

I read your review of the "I'm a PC" commercials and thought it was a bit harsh. The new ad is leaps and bounds better than the Seinfeld ad (mostly because Bill is not in it). Actually, Bill is so goofy that any ad he would be in would ruin it. That said, the new ad has integrity and shows real people doing amazing things with the technology. I am happy Microsoft is finally responding with any kind of ad, actually. It has been tread on by Apple for for too long. I will admit the marketing machine at M$ needs a lot of polish.
-Charles

Really incredibly poor ad. It says nothing. (Are you sure that Apple didn't pay for it?) More and more, it seems like Microsoft is really out of touch.
-Howard

I think the main point of the ads is that while a Mac can SAY how great it is, the fact is that the majority of the world uses a PC!
-Anonymous

The "I'm a PC" ads do a good job of overcoming the myth that only Macs work well. I would like them to go further and say exactly what users like about the PCs. For instance, a Mac ad states that Macs can run Microsoft Office. If I were Microsoft, I would want a PC ad to compare the amount of third-party compatible software and hardware for Macs with PCs. I want to see comparisons of the quantity of qualified support people for Mac vs. the PC.

Given the necessary resources and accepting the limitations of each operating systems, all computers can work well and I am happy for the diversity. Many of my clients only call me after hours of unsuccessful phone OEM support. My PC clients are frustrated by their phone support. My Mac clients accept that phone support didn't help without complaint. Can anyone tell me why the perception is different?
-Earl

I myself find the "I am a PC" commercials confusing and contradictory. If you think about it, the PCs are still a market leader and they perform all the functions that we need them to in one form or another. The commercials are not explaining or saying anything to me other than, "We are all different and we all have our own weaknesses." And what I mean by weakness is the inconsistency of hardware quality. As unique and different as we all are, we are also frail and easy to break if we try to be the cheapest thing out there.

This is exactly why Apple is of such a high quality, including in price. The design is wonderful, performance is amazing, and it is gaining ground because of the opinion that it has a stable OS that is easy to learn and master, and owning one means a sense of longevity.
-Albert

The Gates-Sienfeld ads were STUPID! In fact, they were beyond stupid and rank in stupidity next to the "brilliant minds" who gave us the current financial meltdown.

The current ads are better, but why not try the simple approach? Something like what Sprint did with its CEO talking about how they can personalize the handheld telecommunication box to your needs, rather than spending $300 million on a STUPID Sienfeld ad. Microsoft could've used the money to pay some American developers to test the Chinese-developed Vista OS for bugs and trap doors. That way, MS could've blunted Apple's so-called superiority, as far as system security goes.
-Anonymous

I have to agree with your assessment. How about an ad that directly refutes the so-called "myths"? These ads just make it seem like they are in fact true. It will fail to convince those that need to be.

The "Mojave experiment" is even sillier -- nobody ever said Vista didn't LOOK good.
-Anonymous

Bill thinks Microsoft made another misstep when it decided to buy back $40 billion of its own shares:

I have to disagree. While the stock buyback is an excellent indicator of the strength of Microsoft's balance sheet and fiscal position, it is also an excellent indicator that the company is running out of ideas.

Apparently, they are sitting on a mountain of cash and 1) they can't find (or can't make a deal on) other companies or products worth buying, or 2) they can't think of anything internally in which they can invest. Stock buybacks are, to me, a sign of a company that has lost its vision.
-Bill

In the spirit of Doug's "Speak Out on VMware and Chrome" item, here are a few of you doing just that:

I'm eager for VMware to virtualize more. The best part is the company's focus on quality in both the underlying technology and the management tools. I don't have to be an ESX expert to configure and operate the tools. Assuming VMware maintains this ability to make intuitive, stable products that ease labor, I'm eager to buy, deploy and use them.
-Milton

Chrome is OK, I guess. I remember that when I started using Firefox, I practically gave up IE immediately. With Chrome, it seems that I have to keep reminding myself that I have it, and want to try it out. There is nothing there that excites me about it.
-Jason

I downloaded Chrome a couple weeks ago, and other than a few sites that aren't supporting it too well yet, I've been truly impressed. As an Internet application developer I really get off on the memory usage, multiprocess-oriented tabs and "Inspect element" feature. It's great for analyzing what exactly ASP.NET or any other framework is shipping down to the client. I love the internal task manager with the "Stats for nerds." At work, we're currently doing some final performance testing before we implement into production and would love to be able to use Chrome to help distinguish basic memory usage issues. But alas, my company is much too bureaucratic for useful tools to be downloaded willy-nilly.

My only complaint is that I haven't found add-ins like in Firefox. So from a user perspective, I'd say I still like Firefox better, but as a developer I'm quickly shedding my ties to all other browsers.
-Seth

One reader has a bone to pick with a recent news item that said most botnets come from the U.S.:

According to SecureWorks, 20.6 million attacks originated from U.S. computers and 7.7 million from Chinese computers. But that's meaningless unless you normalize that to the number of users with wideband connections in each country.
-Anonymous

And, since it's on everyone else's mind, Bruce shares his 2 cents on the current economic situation:

Hell yes, the AIG investors should bear the brunt of the fallout! I agree with you wholeheartedly: The investors in those companies should bear the brunt of them failing -- NOT the general public. There needs to be a constitutional amendment against bailouts. Yes, I'm a card carrying Libertarian.
-Bruce

Tune in next week for even more reader letters -- including more of your reviews of Microsoft's new ad campaign. Meanwhile, tell us what you think by commenting below or sending an e-mail to dbarney@redmondmag.com.

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