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May, 2019

Xbox 360 losses shrink, but so do shipments

The 360 hardware is a loss leader for Microsoft: they lose money with every console shipped out and hope to make it back via game sales and downloads in the Live Marketplace. While Microsoft's gaming division has always lost money, the company has said that it hopes to break even on the hardware sometime later this year. That could get harder now that there are plenty of signs that sales are slowing down. HangZhou Night Net

Microsoft has released their quarterly earnings, and of note is the $315 million in losses the Entertainment and Devices Division reports for this quarter. Last year at this time they lost $415 million, and they clearly state why the loss has been lessened:

EDD operating loss decreased during the three months ended March 31, 2007 primarily due to decreased products costs from lower sales of Xbox 360 consoles and increased Mobile and Embedded Devices revenue, partially offset by expenses related to the launch of Zune and increased Xbox 360 console warranty expenses. EDD operating loss decreased during the nine months ended March 31, 2007 primarily due to increased Xbox 360 platform sales and improved Xbox 360 console margins, partially offset by expenses related to the launch of Zune and increased Xbox 360 console warranty expenses.

The demand for the system has slackened as time moves on. Microsoft sold 1.1 million units in the US in December, which isn't surprising in the holiday season. However there were only 228,000 units sold in February, and that further decreased to 199,000 systems in March. Microsoft has stated they're hoping to sell 12 million units by June of this year, and with their claims of shipping 11 million units since the system's launch that number could be attainable. Of course, with the shell game of shipped vs. sold that most console manufacturers play, actual sales could be hard to quantify.

We expect Microsoft to post an even smaller loss for the next quarter, as stocked supplies of the Xbox 360 should satiate the market and greatly reduce Microsoft's needs to ship more systems, if sales should stay mild.

Web administrators rejoice, IIS7 will make your life easier

Your life as a web admin is about to get easier, assuming you are using Windows as your platform of choice. IIS7 in the newly released Longhorn Beta 3 is chock full of updated and upgraded goodness. A few specific features look like they will save a lot of time and effort for admins: HangZhou Night Net

Shared Configuration: This will let you share a configuration across multiple servers. This is a great tool; set up your system how you like it and then deploy it across all your boxes. No more messing around with the metabase.FastCGI for PHP. Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP are still powering the majority of websites out there, but it's obvious that Microsoft is taking the web server market seriously with built in support for PHP or Ruby on Rails, something that Mac OS X will support with Leopard.Remote administration: You can now administer your web servers remotely
as well as delegating the ability to "site managers" with the upgraded
management tool, as well as accessing more options via the GUI instead
of cryptic command line settings.Extensibility: IIS is now much easier to expand. Developers can hook into and expand IIS functionality with familiar tools.FTP over SSL: Written with the new extensibility tools mentioned above this is something you'd have to use third party software before. Because it's using HTTPS it will be usable behind most firewalls while maintaining a decent level of security.

Microsoft has not announced a pricing model yet for Longhorn, but we believe that they'll have something similar to Windows Server 2003 Web Edition to try and keep Linux at bay. If the new features in IIS7 work reliably and securely, they may be able to accomplish that goal.

Microsoft releases Longhorn Server Beta 3 to the public

Longhorn Server, the server counterpart to Windows Vista, is now up to Beta 3, and Microsoft has made it available as a free public download, in order to get as much feedback from testers as possible before release. HangZhou Night Net

Eight different downloads are available:

Windows Server "Longhorn" Web x86 – EnglishWindows Server "Longhorn" Web x64 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Standard x86 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Standard x64 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Enterprise x86 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Enterprise x64 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Datacenter x86 – English Windows Server "Longhorn" Datacenter x64 – English

The beta will work until April 7, 2008, after which it will expire. This gives testers plenty of time to kick the tires before the operating system stops being functional and ensures that the deadline won't kick in until after the release version of Longhorn Server is ready, currently estimated as some time in the latter half of this year. Downloaders are required to fill out a form to receive a key via e-mail in order to install the operating system.

The operating system's bare minimum requirements to run are a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, and 8GB of hard drive space. The "Web" version of Longhorn Server, as one could expect, is aimed at basic web server installs; this is Microsoft's "don't use Apache" product. As with previous versions of Windows Server, the "Enterprise" and "Datacenter" versions add more high-end features such as failover clustering. The Datacenter Edition also comes with a license for unlimited use of virtual images, which are becoming increasingly common in server farms because of the savings in computer hardware they provide.

Longhorn Server aims to increase the security and power of Windows on the server. It uses the Intel Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip, if present, to provide new features such as Secure Install, which prevents the OS from being assaulted during installation, and Full Volume Encryption (FVE), which adds extra strength to Windows' existing encryption options. Installation is also simplified, with a standard Server Core install happening automatically with the user only having to input a product key, and all configuration of the server happening after the install process has finished. The configuration and management options have also received major overhauls. In terms of performance, Microsoft is promising some gains in the 32-bit space, but says that the largest improvements will be found when running the 64-bit version. You need 4GB+ of RAM these days anyway, so 64-bit is the way to go for most serving needs besides front-ending a web site or file serving in a small/medium-sized business environment.

Vista, Office 2007 drive record profits for Microsoft

Some may question the future of Microsoft, but up in Redmond they just continue to rake in the dough. Microsoft's fiscal third-quarter profits were up 65 percent to $4.9 billion, or 50¢ a share. Revenue for the quarter was $14.4 billion, thanks mostly to Vista and Office 2007. Ok maybe the accountants hedged their bets a little by pushing—excuse me "deferring"—$1.2 billion in revenue from holiday season Vista upgrade coupons into the third quarter, which ended March 31. HangZhou Night Net

Drop the deferred income from the picture and it's still an impressive quarter—client revenue was up 30 percent over last year, at $4.1 billion. Revenues from Vista and Office even outperformed Microsoft's internal forecasts. Vista revenues were $300 million to $400 million higher than expected, while Office 2007 sales figures were $200 million above Microsoft's internal targets.

Microsoft is also changing how it reports revenue from operating system sales. In previous years, Microsoft would recognize as much as a quarter of Windows revenues over a three-and-a-half-year period to reflect the costs of add-ons and upgrades provided by the company. That has changed with Vista, as the software giant will record all revenues from an OS sale during the quarter the sale takes place.

The only bit of bad news for Microsoft during the quarter came from the entertainment and devices division, which is the home of the Zune and Xbox, and the online group. Revenues in entertainment and devices dropped 21 percent and Microsoft attributed the drop to lower Xbox 360 sales. The online group reported a $200 million loss, although revenues were up 11 percent. The loss was due in part to investments in online services as well as other cost increases. Online advertising revenue grew 23 percent for the quarter.

Naturally, Microsoft officials are upbeat. "I am extremely pleased that we delivered a quarter of strong double-digit growth," said CFO Chris Liddell. "And I am looking forward to a very good finish to this fiscal year with strength continuing into fiscal 2008." With that, Microsoft predicts revenues cooling somewhat to $13.1 billion to $13.4 billion and earnings per share around 37¢ to 39¢ for its next fiscal quarter, which ends June 30. For the full fiscal year, Microsoft is predicting profits of $1.48 to $1.50 a share on sales of as much as $51.2 billion.

Blizzard to announce new title at Worldwide Invitational

My very first post here at Opposable Thumbs was a hopeful plea for some kind of successor to the StarCraft throne. Though I've enjoyed my time with the Warcraft series over the years—including numerous trips through the ranks of WoW—I've been hankering for some kind of extension, expansion, or evolution to the RTS game that easily captured the genre's fans for almost a decade. HangZhou Night Net

Now, it seems, my prayers have been answered. Kotaku spotted a claim on a Korean web site stating that StarCraft 2 has already been in development for a while, including state-of-the-art graphics, a new race, and a plethora of changes to the old balancing. The site also claimed that details of the new game would be announced during Blizzard's Seoul-based Worldwide Invitational in Korea on May 19.

After polling Blizzard adamantly about the ever-persisting rumor, they received back the following response:

We do intend to announce a new product at the Worldwide Invitational next month in Korea, and we appreciate the enthusiasm and interest in getting an advance look at what that will be, but players will have to wait until May 19th to find out more. Also, we have a very strong connection with the characters and settings of StarCraft, and we do plan to revisit that universe at some point in the future, but we don't have anything new to announce in that regard at present.

The announcement could pertain to any number of things: the StarCraft series, the Diablo series or even just another WoW expansion. Given the success of WoW, a successor to Diablo could be just about the only thing that could perhaps outdo the WarCraft MMO in popularity. Who knows? We'll be sure to explore the answer when it arrives on May 19.