The new Microsoft stores

Recently Microsoft announced that they would be opening retail stores. Presumably in an attempt to replicate the success enjoyed by the Apple stores. Now if you are wearing your jaded Apple fanboy hat this may appear as yet another daffy, half baked, rip off idea. Well fortunately Brennon Slattery at PC World has written an article to disabuse us of this predictable misconception entitled 10 Ways Microsoft’s Retail Stores Will Differ From Apple Stores.

  1. Instead of Apple’s sheer walls of glass, Microsoft’s stores will have brushed steel walls dotted with holes — reminiscent of Windows security.
  2. The store will have six different entrances: Starter, Basic, Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate. While all six doors will lead into the same store, the Ultimate door requires a fee of $100 for no apparent reason.
  3. Instead of a “Genius Bar” (as Apple provides) Microsoft will offer an Excuse Bar. It will be staffed by Microsofties trained in the art of evading questions, directing you to complicated and obscure fixes, and explaining it’s a problem with the hardware — not a software bug.
  4. The Windows Genuine Advantage team will run storefront security, assuming everybody is a thief until they can prove otherwise.
  5. Store hours are undetermined. At any given time the store mysteriously shuts down instantaneously for no apparent reason. (No word yet on what happens to customers inside).
  6. Stores will be named Microsoft Live Retail Store with PC Services for Digital Lifestyle Enthusiasts.
  7. Fashioned after Microsoft’s User Account Control (UAC) in Vista, sales personnel will ask you whether you’re positive you want to purchase something at least twice.
  8. Xbox 360 section of the store will be organized in a ring — which will inexplicably go red occasionally.
  9. DreamWorks will design a scary in-store theme park ride called “blue screen of death.”
  10. Store emergency exits will be unlocked at all times so people can get in anytime they want even if the front doors are locked.

Seriously though, a Microsoft retail store will be very different from Apple stores simply by virtue of the fact that Microsoft is primarily a software purveyor while Apple primarily sells hardware. You know, stuff you can see and touch. Stuff like you would find in a retail store.

So what would a Microsoft store look like? Zunes, Xboxes, keyboards and mice with all kinds software. In boxes. Hey here’s an idea: they could demo that spiffy software on something that will really show it off to best effect.

Like, say, an iMac.

Sooner or later you will need this site

I’ll admit it – I love technology. I collect technology. Over the years I’ve managed to collect a fairly impressive amount of antique technology. The problem is that what I consider antique (like my Sony SOBAX calculator with Nixie tube display) and what the manufacturers consider obsolete and therefore antique (like Windows 2000) don’t mesh. Consider the following scenario.

I’m installing Xubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex) on my HP/Compaq dc7100 connected to my HP Ergo 1600 21 inch monitor. Now these are both several years old. OK, the Ergo 1600 is more like 15 years old but it’s still a killer display and I’ve never had any problems with it. Other than the fact that it sucks more power than a Tesla sports car and I’ll probably die from the radiation exposure. In any case, the folks in the latest incarnation – which is included in all Ubuntu Intrepid variants – make configuring the display completely automatic. Swell, unless you have a monitor like my Ergo 1600 that is no longer recognized by So it defaults to 1024 x 768. That’s the highest resolution that the display configuration panel will let you choose. Gone are the xorg.conf generation tools that used to be provided. No problem, I think, I’ll just edit xorg.conf directly. But as Aahz the Pervect frequently intoned, “herein lies the story…”

I mentioned that I collect technology. I do not, however, collect users manuals for that technology. I’m a geek. We don’t need no stinkin’ manuals. Except now I did. I needed to enter in the horizontal sync frequency range and the vertical refresh frequency range for my Ergo 1600. Now I’ve done this at least a dozen times before going back to the old Red Hat 7 days when you didn’t have any other choice. But now in early 2009 I simply don’t recall the frequency ranges on an Ergo 1600. What to do? Turns out that the good folks at lifehacker recently had this article entitled SafeManuals Online User Guide Library.

You already know how to find replacement video game manuals, but what about user guides for everything else? If you’re stuck without a manual for that gadget you scored on Craiglist, search for the PDF at SafeManuals. With an archive covering 3,627 brands and housing 883,542 manuals, there’s a good chance you’ll find what you’re looking for.

Turns out this was exactly what I needed. In case you are wondering, the horizontal sync frequency range is 31.5 – 95.0 KHz and the vertical refresh frequency range is 50.0 – 160.0 Hz and it supports DPMS. So when you need information like this – and you know you will – give SafeManuals a shot. Antique doesn’t have to mean useless.

Great stuff that failed has this article entitled 21 Great Technologies That Failed with examples split more or less evenly between Microsoft and Apple. Here is the abbreviated list.

10 Great Microsoft Technologies That Failed

  1. WebTV – 1997
  2. Tablet PCs – 2002
  3. WinFS – 1990s
  4. -1997
  5. OS/2 – 1987
  6. Passport – 2000
  7. Windows Live Spaces – 2004
  8. .NET – 2002
  9. WinG – 1993
  10. Sidewinder Freestyle Pro – 1998

11 Great Apple Technologies That Failed

  1. OpenDoc – 1992
  2. Cyberdog -1996
  3. HyperCard – 1987
  4. Newton – 1993
  5. PowerBook Duo 230 – 1992
  6. Mac G4 Cube – 1999
  7. eWorld – 1994
  8. Macintosh TV – 1993
  9. Mac Quadra 610 DOS Compatible – 1994
  10. Bandai Pippin – 1996
  11. QuickTake 100 – 1994

Now some of these I would hardly call failures – particularly Microsoft 1 and 8 or Apple 3. Perhaps they were or are not as commercially successful as hoped or hyped, but they were definitely solid products. Maybe a bit ahead of their time with respect to the market. Others, like Microsoft 3 were just plain vaporware. Still others like Microsoft 10 and Apple 1 were really the first generation of something that ultimately was quite successful. Microsoft 5 (later IBM OS/2) was really a killer system. Unfortunately, Microsoft lost interest and IBM had no idea how to market it. Which is not to imply that IBM has ever had any idea how to market consumer products.

Some days you get the bear. Some days the bear gets you.