Which retailer is first on the street with Windows 7?

At shops in the bustling Xinyang market in Shanghai, fake Apple iPhones and Bose speakers were displayed alongside bootleg copies of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system, a week before it officially was to go on sale.

Which version do you want? Ultimate? Normal? English or Chinese?” one shopkeeper asked, proudly pointing out her ample supply of discs packed in unmarked white boxes.

People in mainland China have been able to buy pirated copies of the newest version of Microsoft’s Windows franchise this month for just 20 yuan, or $2.93, each — a fraction of list prices, which are as high as $320…

“The big issue that is driving piracy in China today is price,” said Matthew Cheung, an analyst at the research firm Gartner. “If you’re trying to sell a program that costs 2,000 yuan to a student living on 400 yuan a month, that’s simply not going to work out for most consumers…”

Violation of intellectual property rights has been a sore spot in China’s relations with its major trading partners, even as it has cracked down on rampant piracy of everything from Gucci bags to software.

Comparative incomes, cost of living, always make a difference. I grew up in a neighborhood with folks poor enough to steal shoes for the winter. And that wasn’t out of the ordinary.

Times change.

Does Steve Ballmer’s signature make you feel like partying?

Still reluctant to throw a sponsored “house party” for Windows 7 later this month?

Such reluctance would be perfectly natural on your part. After all, even if hosting such an event earns you a Signature Edition of Windows 7 Ultimate and “your very own Windows 7 Party Pack,” and puts you in the running to win a PC worth $750, there’s still a risk that your friends could start giving you slightly odd looks–especially since the parties are being wrangled by houseparty.com, which tries to convince ordinarily sane citizens to throw blowouts for corporate brands such as Ford.

Oh, but wait till you hear that the Signature Edition of Ultimate has been signed by Steve Ballmer. Yes, I know that’s enormously exciting. Just hearing that bit of news made me want to break out the official party theme decorations right here at my desk…

Actually, the Steve Ballmer version features the CEO’s signature on the front along with a gold band – similar to the numbered, limited-edition version of Windows Ultimate signed by Bill Gates, which is still being offered on Amazon.com for $109 in “used” condition…

Doesn’t that perk your enthusiasm? Casting around on the Microsoft site, I’m not seeing a place to preorder the Signature Edition, so if you want it, you may actually have to bite the bullet and sign up to string those “Family-Friendly Fun” streamers around your humble abode.

I can hardly stand the excitement!

Microsoft wants you to organize parties for Windows 7. Really.

Microsoft is asking people to hold parties in their homes to celebrate the launch of Windows 7. Does this raise anticipation to a fever pitch? Well, no.

There is a site called houseparty.com, easily one of the worst ideas I have ever stumbled across, where people can sign-up to hold parties to support commercial products.

And there, right above the Mexican Avocado party and one for the previously-respectable Dr. Andrew Weil’s baby products line, sits “Windows 7 Launch Party…Global!”

Be a part of Windows history,” the site promises. “Host a Windows 7 Launch Party. Have Fun. Help Your Friends!”

Help your friends ditch Vista?…

And then there’s the kicker, “Apply online to host a Launch Party. Choose a day from October 22-29 and if you’re selected, you’ll not only receive a special Signature Edition of Windows 7 Ultimate but your very own Windows 7 Party Pack.”

Har! Someone at Microsoft has been smoking the seeds.

Six in 10 companies plan to skip Microsoft Windows 7

Six in 10 companies in a survey plan to skip the purchase of Microsoft Corp’s Windows 7 computer operating system, many of them to pinch pennies and others over concern about compatibility with their existing applications.

Windows 7 will be released October 22, but has already garnered good reviews, in contrast to its disappointing current version, Windows Vista.

Many of the more than 1,000 companies that responded to a survey by ScriptLogic Corp say they have economized by cutting back on software updates and lack the resources to deploy Microsoft’s latest offering.

I think the active definition is that they’re “unwilling” to deploy those resources. And that’s something that Microsoft has had to face increasingly since XP. Simply planking the next-gen Windows OS on retail PC’s and waiting for corporate IT depts to begin support – is over and done with.

ScriptLogic Corp, which provides help to companies in managing their Microsoft Windows-based networks, sent out 20,000 surveys to information technology administrators to learn the state of the market…

The survey found about 60 percent of those surveyed have no plans to deploy Windows 7, 34 percent will deploy it by the end of 2010 and only 5.4 percent will deploy by year’s end…

But there were reasons other than money for staying away from Windows 7. Another 39 percent of those surveyed said they had concern about the compatibility of Windows 7 with existing applications.

IT departments want to wait for the deployment of the 1st Service Pack – to back away from stability worries.

There are many industries where the XP-based software they’re running – or even older – does everything they need just fine. Why spend the money for bells and whistles that aren’t required to kee their systems happy?

Reversing Windows 7 to XP gets yet another reprieve – again

In a reversal of its earlier stance, Microsoft officials confirmed that customers will be able to downgrade from Windows 7 to Windows XP for a year and a half after the new system ships, or until the first Service Pack drops — whichever comes first.

While some industry observers the modified downgrade policy is a change for the better, at least one analyst says Microsoft still hasn’t enough to provide options for enterprises.

This industry observer says Microsoft simply hasn’t a clue!

The downgrade option is also not available to all Windows 7 users: Downgrade rights apply to purchasers of Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate, so the option isn’t available to customers who buy Windows 7 Home Premium.

Additionally, customers who have either Software Assurance subscriptions or Enterprise Agreements with Microsoft can continue to get the downgrade as long as they want.

Confused, yet?

“Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate customers will have the option to downgrade to Windows XP Professional from PCs that ship within 18 months following the general availability of Windows 7 or until the release of a Windows 7 service pack (SP), whichever is sooner and if an SP is developed,” a Microsoft spokesperson told InternetNews.com in an e-mail.

Understand that, OK?

Windows 7 Starter as absurd as abstinence pledges

Microsoft is being pilloried over its plan to hobble the power of netbooks with a crippled version of its new operating system called Windows 7 Starter Edition. With the release of Windows 7 still months away and a competitor like Google’s Android looming, Microsoft may be just testing the market to gauge its reaction. If so, the answer it is receiving spells trouble.

The fact is that consumers will not accept paying for an operating system that deliberately stunts the power of their hardware and only allows three applications to run simultaneously. Not in this day and age when they now have plenty of alternatives to choose from.

Aside from the various Linux distributions and the Linux-based Android, Microsoft is likely to encounter considerable resistance from users of Windows XP.

Claims from Microsoft that Windows XP users would be satisfied to “upgrade” to Windows 7 Starter, with its 3 applications limit, because it’s “easier” and “more reliable” are beyond nonsense. They insult the intelligence of Microsoft’s customers.

It stretches the sensibilities beyond their limits to think that Microsoft could even try to convince any of its users that going from full-powered XP to a severely stunted version of Windows 7 is an upgrade.

If this is the class of marketing plans developed inside Microsoft, they’re in more trouble than I thought.

Microsoft to allow Windows 7, erm, downgrades to XP

Microsoft officials have confirmed that it, along with PC partners will allow users of its upcoming Windows 7 the option to downgrade to both Windows Vista as well as Windows XP.

The last few days have been fraught with rumors that Microsoft will be offering users the opportunity to downgrade to Windows XP. Those who don’t like the look of Windows 7 and are afraid it’s their only alternative can rest easy; ZDNet asked Microsoft for a little clarification and the a spokesperson revealed that XP would also be on offer when it came to downgrades.

When asked if Microsoft had downgrade rights for Windows XP planned as part of Windows 7, the Redmond company responded with a resounding yes. The spokesperson went on to detail that this would not the first time that Microsoft has offered downgrade rights to a version other than its immediate predecessor and the company’s volume-license customers can always downgrade to any previous version of Windows.


Six Flavors of Microsoft’s Windows 7

Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise

When it released Windows Vista two years ago, Microsoft took some lumps from critics and competitors for offering six versions of its latest operating system. So how many versions of its successor to Vista – Windows 7 – will Microsoft offer?

Once again, six is the magic number.

In a Q&A that Microsoft posted on its site Tuesday, Windows general manager Mike Ybarra said the different flavors of Windows 7 will include Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Ultimate and Enterprise. Microsoft made only small changes to its naming scheme, chucking out a “business” version of Vista in favor of a “professional” version of Windows 7, for instance…

A company spokeswoman says PC makers will conceivably be able to install as many as four out of the six versions of Windows 7 on their computers. Some of the differences between the various flavors are huge…

It isn’t clear whether the company is intentionally crippling Windows 7 Starter to give consumers an incentive to buy machines with higher-end versions of the software. Netbooks are widely seen as a potential threat to Microsoft’s business if they start to cannibalize sales of more expensive, full featured machines. At the moment, most netbooks come with Microsoft’s older Windows XP operating system, which it plans to stop selling by the end of next June (or one year after Windows 7 goes on sale, whichever is later).

In other words, Microsoft hasn’t a clue. And if they did, don’t be confident they’d pass it along to you.

Microsoft unclogs Windows 7 beta download pipe

Microsoft Corp. on Saturday restarted its roll-out of the Windows 7 beta, 24 hours after it aborted the launch when heavy demand stalled its servers. As of noon PST, 10 January, Microsoft said that the primary beta download site, an off-shoot of the Windows section Microsoft.com, was “up and working.”

Computerworld confirmed that the Windows 7 beta download page was online and taking download requests. Springboard Series, another public download location targeting IT professionals, was also live.

Originally slated to start Friday at noon PST, Windows 7’s public debut was postponed by Microsoft, which cited “very heavy traffic” across its Web properties. “Due to very heavy traffic we’re seeing as a result of interest in the Windows 7 Beta, we are adding some additional infrastructure support to Microsoft.com properties,” a spokeswoman said Friday afternoon.

On Wednesday, when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced the Friday launch of the public beta, he urged everyone to grab a copy. “I encourage you all to get out and download it,” he said.

Some of the comments from Microsoft – and users – were hilarious. A Microsoft hack worried aloud that, “demand might be so high it will bring down the Internet”. Uh-huh.

Then there were a few users who cautioned Microsoft that continued delays “were going to hurt the credibility of Microsoft statements.”