Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP operating system is about to get faster and Windows Vista isn’t, according to a report that caused a stir online this week as industry watchers speculated that a zippier XP could keep customers from upgrading to Vista.
Microsoft, however, said it’s too early to evaluate the two service packs it plans to release next year.
Early versions are already in the hands of testers like Devil Mountain Software Inc., which helps big financial services companies track trading-floor computer performance.
Wellington, Fla.-based Devil Mountain Software ran several versions of XP and Vista through a test simulating common desktop computing tasks. It found the original Vista performed 50 percent to 100 percent slower than the prevalent XP Service Pack 2, or SP2.
Vista SP1, due out in the first quarter of 2008, barely improved the operating system’s performance.
But XP SP3, scheduled for the first half of 2008, did improve on XP’s earlier performance, running 10 percent faster than SP2.
That’s a strike against Vista for IT professionals on the fence about switching, according to Craig Barth, the company’s chief technology officer.
Kevin Kutz, director of Microsoft’s Windows Client group, said the company is working on speeding up tasks like moving files between PCs, but it’s a work in progress.
Michael Cherry, an analyst for research group Directions on Microsoft, said it’s impossible to say if Microsoft has started tuning Vista SP1 for speed. Even if XP gets faster, consumers and businesses may still switch to Vista.
“It might be an acceptable thing to me if it were slightly slower but more stable,” Cherry said.
Benjamin Gray, an analyst for Forrester Research, said businesses will upgrade to Vista regardless, to “stay current with Microsoft’s support life cycle.”
Source: Yahoo! News
A movie that shows the making of the boxart can be seen here.
In a brief submitted to federal court, state antitrust regulators dismissed companies such as Google and Mozilla, and technologies such as Ajax and software-as-a-service, as piddling players that pose no threat to Microsoft’s monopoly in the operating system and browser markets. Ten states and the District of Columbia made the unusual claim to try to show that the OS and browser spaces had changed much more slowly than expected in 2002, when state regulators and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) brokered a deal with Microsoft in a long-running antitrust case against the Redmond, Wash. company. The lack of change, they said, means that potential competitors need more time — and judicial protection — if they are to develop into real rivals to Microsoft.
“The relevant markets — those for Intel-compatible PC operating systems and Web browsers — have not experienced the rapid development that the Court had anticipated they might when it limited the initial term of the Final Judgments to five years,” the states argued in a Nov. 16 filing to U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. “This is a ‘changed circumstance’ that has an important bearing on whether the Final Judgments have had sufficient time to achieve the pro-competitive benefits that the Court expected they would — and that the public itself is entitled to receive.”
Lead by California and New York, the states have asked Kollar-Kotelly to extend her monitoring of Microsoft’s business practices another five years, until Nov. 2012. In a series of legal filings since August, Microsoft and the DOJ have argued that an extension is unwarranted while the states have pressed for the longer oversight.
In their most recent brief, the states countered Microsoft’s contention that Web-based companies — Google, Salesforce.com, Yahoo, eBay and others — and new Web-centric technologies constitute what Microsoft dubbed a “competitive alternative to Windows.”
Not even close, said the states.
“While these companies’ products provide some functionality for users, they still depend upon a PC operating system and browser — the two spaces where Microsoft dominates — and thus they are not yet able to reduce the applications barrier to entry.”
A pair of experts that the states hired to write rebuttals to Microsoft’s position were even more damning. For all the talk about “OS agnostic” applications, Web. 2.0, Google’s dominance in search and Firefox’s inroads against Internet Explorer, the collective cannot compete with Microsoft where it counts, said Ronald Alepin and John Kwoka in separate reports filed along with the states’ brief.
“The ‘Internet Platform’ … does not even exist, much less constitute for the foreseeable future a practical or viable alternative to the desktop platform,” said Alepin, a technical advisor with the law firm Morrison & Foerster, and a frequent expert witness for parties facing Microsoft in court. “Firefox has yet to reach a level of penetration and use that Microsoft’s own internal measures indicate is necessary for survival and for the all-important ability to influence developer choices,” Alepin added later in his rebuttal. “With a market share of less than 20%, Firefox does not have the influence to promote the adoption of alternatives to standards or extensions advanced by Microsoft.”
He even badmouthed Apple, which has been lauded for its hardware market share gains and the design of its operating systems, as too weak to capitalize on its successes, and ultimately no threat to Microsoft. “In spite of the advantages of arguably superior products and missteps by Microsoft, Apple has been unable to raise its share of the worldwide installed base of PCs, hovering near 3%,” Alepin said.
Kwoka, a professor of economics at Northeastern University, was even blunter in his assessment of Microsoft’s rivals. “I analyzed the economic evidence and concluded that there was no indication in the relevant market that these technologies have yet had a restorative effect on competition,” he stated flatly.
“Competition in the market for Intel-based PC operating systems has not been restored by the five year term of the Final Judgment,” he concluded.
Under the temporary extension agreed to late last month, Kollar-Kotelly has until the end of January to decide whether to extend the settlement’s oversight terms.
Windows XP Service Pack 3, the update scheduled to be released next year, runs Microsoft Corp.’s Office suite 10% faster than XP SP2, a performance testing software developer reported Friday. Devil Mountain Software Inc., which earlier in the week claimed that Windows Vista SP1 was no faster than the original, repeated some of the same tests on the release candidate of Windows XP SP3, the service pack recently issued to about 15,000 testers.
“We were pleasantly surprised to discover that Windows XP SP3 delivers a measurable performance boost to this aging desktop OS,” said Craig Barth, Devil Mountain’s chief technology officer, in a post to a company blog on Friday.
Devil Mountain ran its OfficeBench suite of performance benchmarks on a laptop equipped with Office 2007, Microsoft’s latest application suite. The notebook — the same unit used in the Vista/Vista SP1 tests earlier — featured a 2.0-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of memory. The results reported that XP SP3 delivered a 10% speed increase over SP2, the service pack released in 2004.
“Since SP3 was supposed to be mostly a bug-fix/patch consolidation release, the unexpected speed boost comes as a nice bonus,” Barth said. “In fact, XP SP3 is shaping up to be a ‘must-have’ update for the majority of users who are still running Redmond’s not-so-latest and greatest desktop OS.”
According to the Office performance benchmarks, Windows XP SP3 is also considerably faster than Vista SP1. “None of this bodes well for Vista, which is now more than two times slower than the most current builds of its older sibling,” said Barth.
While Microsoft was not available over the weekend for comment about XP’s performance, it defended Vista SP1 after Devil Mountain’s first round of tests.
“We appreciate the excitement to evaluate Windows Vista SP1 as soon as possible. However, the service pack is still in the development phase and will undergo several changes before being released,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mail.
Microsoft has at times struggled to wean users from the six-year-old Windows XP and get them to migrate to Vista. During 2007, for example, it made several XP concessions, including adding five years to the support lifespan of the Home edition and extending OEM and retail sales of XP through June 2008, as it recognized that customers wanted to hold on to the older operating system.
Recently, Forrester Research said that XP remained Vista’s biggest rival and cited survey data that showed that U.S. and European businesses would delay Vista deployment, in part because of application incompatibility problems plaguing the new operating system. “That’s causing a lot of XP shops to take a wait-and-see approach to Vista,” said Forrester analyst Benjamin Gray two weeks ago.
Rambus Inc. plans to announce this Wednesday a new memory signaling technology initiative targeted at delivering a Terabyte-per-second of memory bandwidth, which the company touts as a solution for next-generation multi-core, game and graphics applications.
Rather than simply increasing the clock speed of memory to achieve higher output, Rambus looks to boost bandwidth with a 32X data rate. Just as DDR memory technologies doubles transfer on a single, full clock signal cycle, Rambusâ€™ proposed technology is able to data at 32 times the reference clock frequency. With 32X technology, the memory company is targeting a bandwidth of 16Gbps per DQ link with memory running at 500MHz. In contrast, todayâ€™s DDR3 at 500MHz achieves a bandwidth of 1Gbps.
Of course, it requires a little explanation on how a technology that enables a DQ link 16Gbps of bandwidth could result in a Terabyte of throughput. Rambusâ€™ aim for the technology is to grant Terabyte bandwidth to a system on a chip (SoC) architecture, and such may be achieved with 16 DRAMs operating at 16Gbps, 4-bytes wide per device.
Another innovation that Rambus plans to integrate into its Terabyte memory initiative is FlexLink C/A (command/address), which the company claims is the industryâ€™s first full-speed, scalable, point-to-point C/A link â€“ with the C/A running at full speed along with the DQ. FlexLink C/A also simplifies the interface between the memory controller and DRAM. For example, traditional legacy interfaces may require a 12 wire interface, FlexLink C/A can operate point-to-point with just two wires.
Furthermore, FlexLink C/A is named for its flexibility given to system designers, as now the overhead wires freed from the FlexLink C/A interfaces may be devoted to more data wires. Conversely, the model may offer greater bandwidth with the addition of more FlexLink C/A wires, making the technology more easily scalable.
Rambusâ€™ Terabyte bandwidth initiative will use a fully differential memory architecture, which will employ differential signaling for both the C/A and DQ. While current DDR3 and GDDR5 memory use differential signaling for data and strobe, Rambus aims for full differential at the DQ and C/A. Advantages of going full differential include better signal integrity, especially due to its suitability for use in low-voltage electronics, such as memory.
While this Terabyte bandwidth memory method isnâ€™t slated for market until 2011, Rambus has recently received early silicon capable of demonstrating its technology. The early test rig uses emulated DRAM chips, connected to a Rambus memory controller at a 32X data rate capable of 64Gbps. Rambus will show its silicon test vehicle this Wednesday at the Rambus Developer Forum in Tokyo, Japan.