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Microsoft and the HD Disk Fight, Dell Bursts Into Best Buy, Vanishing Leoptard?, Product of the Week

By Rob Enderle
Dec 10, 2007 4:00 AM PT

There were some interesting things going on last week and one of them I ran into by accident. First, I was amazed that Dell got into Best Buy, as this would be like Apple suddenly becoming a Windows reseller, and it falls into the "impossible" class of accomplishments.

Microsoft and the HD Disk Fight, Dell Bursts Into Best Buy, Vanishing Leoptard?, Product of the Week

Speaking of impossible, Michael Bay accused Microsoft of funding HD-DVD to ensure the failure of both formats so that movie downloads win instead. I think that would actually be a brilliant strategy, but not particularly likely. I was thinking conspiracy theory when I tried to find references to Leoptard; the new nickname for Apple's Leopard and couldn't find them. It turned out I misspelled Leoptard, but ran into something else over on Wikipedia that made me even more nervous.

We'll close with a really cool laptop product of the week designed for the barbarian in all of us.

Microsoft Funds HD War?

What Michael Bay is saying suggests a level of strategy I'm not sure the company is capable of, but the end result is consistent with what I think is happening. I mentioned last week that Blu-ray was a stupid decision by Sony because it can neither win nor exit, the fight is costing it massive amounts of money, and lots of folks have lost their jobs over it.

Right now, HD-DVD has hit volume price points with selling prices for the player dropping under US$200 for the low end and, on specials, under $100. You can find a very comprehensive piece here on why HD-DVD isn't losing, and focus appears to be the key.

Concern over the HD war is keeping it from truly ramping to volume, and this means Sony is effectively ensuring neither side wins. If we believe that the future is downloads, one thing that would make this future happen more quickly would be low penetration of HD disk players regardless of format.

This is because buyers who already have something that is good enough won't move to something else. By blocking HD players, the emerging download services providing HD content don't have to compete with HD players in folks' homes and can ramp more quickly.

Microsoft is heavily invested in downloads and would -- assuming (which isn't certain) its technology is the one chosen when HD downloads go mainstream -- the end result would be a huge benefit for Redmond.

However, if Microsoft is funding Toshiba, it likely has more to do with the fact that Toshiba has been one of its biggest supporters of late. Toshiba was the only vendor that created a special laptop, the R400, for Vista, and it helped Microsoft with the first Zune.

Toshiba probably got burned on that product, and I expect Microsoft felt it owed Toshiba. Regardless of what folks say about the firm, it has a history of coming though for its close partners, and Toshiba is closer than most.

In the end, however, the longer the war goes on, the faster downloads will take hold. Regardless of how this comes about, given downloads are the future anyway, I can't be too upset if this future is coming faster than it otherwise would.

Dell Does Best Buy

Moving back to the present, it isn't often I'm caught with my mouth hanging open. I was after I was told Dell would be in Best Buy -- you would have needed a shovel to pick my jaw up. This required some incredibly heavy lifting because Best Buy thinks of Dell as a competitor because Dell is the second-largest on-line retailer, behind Amazon.

By doing this, both companies have turned the other into a partner, and now the more Dell stuff Best Buy sells, the happier both companies are.

I have to think this partially means that Best Buy is upset with one of its vendors and wanted to replace it.

The likely candidates are HP, which is closely partnered with Best Buy and very difficult to displace; Sony, which has been having financial trouble and is tied to the HD war that is costing Best Buy money; and Gateway, which was just sold to Acer, a company Best Buy supposedly didn't like.

The drama will be which one of these vendors is going to take it in the shorts when Dell steps in, but the move puts Dell in Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Staples, and it remains the No. 2 online vendor. Boy, if that doesn't cause them to close the sales gap with HP, nothing will.

Leoptard Leads to Wikipedia Concerns

Two weeks ago, articles that were comparing Leopard to Vista in a bad way and using the nickname "Leoptard" were increasing at a dramatic rate. It seems that a lot of folks using Leopard, Apple's new OS, were breaking and getting really upset about it.

As I was writing this article, I did a Google search to see how far the Leoptard name had gone, and while the articles are still on the Web, it looked as if they had been blocked from Google's search results.

It turns out I was misspelling Leoptard (it is now in my spelling dictionary), but before this was discovered, it had me looking for other instances of tampering.

I then ran into a Wikipedia problem. Recently this kind of behavior was reported to have happened with Wikipedia. It's worth reading, and it makes you wonder how much of what we think is unbiased is anything but.

It seems that there may be some excessive efforts there to control what is being said on that service and, if what the Register is reporting is true, it makes you wonder what else might be going on we don't know about to form our impressions and drive our decisions.

The question I think a lot more of us should be asking is whether properties like Google and Wikipedia are actively being used to control public opinion, and if so by whom and for what purpose? Now there is something that will keep a few of us up at night.

Product of the Week: Dell's 'World of Warcraft' Laptop

I have to admit the whole thing about manipulating information on the Web has me a little worked up, and when I get worked up I go online to destroy some artificial real estate. I've also been a fan of the co-branded laptops, and the Acer Ferrari laptop in particular.

However, last week Dell launched the XPS M1730 "World of Warcraft" Edition, and while it is certainly out of my budget -- the wife would kill my meat body if I bought one -- I can lust for it at a distance.

Coming in two versions, one with Horde badging and one with Alliance badging, this is the laptop for the truly over-the-top "WOW" ("World of Warcraft") player. At $4,500, this thing isn't cheap, but it contains enough performance to keep you ahead of what is needed to play the game for years.

A burnished silver cover, heavy "WOW" badging, and bragging rights that could likely last a lifetime define that as something most of us can only dream about for Christmas.

Like most products in its class, if you are on a budget, worried about weight or battery life, this isn't for you.

However, if you like raw, unbridled, performance and perhaps a little touch of the barbarian with a healthy dose of PC envy for everyone else and can afford it, finding it under the tree at Christmas will likely put a smile on your face. Hell, you'll probably die of a heart attack when you see it, but you'll die happy!


Rob Enderle is a TechNewsWorld columnist and the principal analyst for the Enderle Group, a consultancy that focuses on personal technology products and trends.


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