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Week in review: No dog days in Redmond

There's been a steady stream of news from Microsoft this week, chiefly, a deal with Nokia on mobile office. Also, a look inside SpiralFrog's short, troubled life, and game sales in free fall.

So much for the summer doldrums.

Apparently someone in Redmond forgot to send the memo to Microsoft employees about taking time off in August, as they typically do, following its quarterly earnings.

Instead, there's been a steady stream of Microsoft news headlining this week, including a deal with Nokia on mobile Office, the confirmation of Zune HD details, and the release of information on the upcoming Mac Office product.

As CNET News anticipated, Microsoft and Nokia--still significant rivals in the cell phone business--announced Wednesday that they are working together to bring mobile versions of the software maker's Office programs onto Nokia phones running the Symbian operating system. That collaboration also extends to Microsoft's unified communications and System Center management tools, the companies said.

While the iPhone may be the apple of everyone's eye, Nokia says that its main goal in partnering with Microsoft is taking on BlackBerry maker Research In Motion. In an interview, Nokia executive vice president Robert Andersson said that RIM has an almost dominant position in the North American market for mobile e-mail. "That's the application where they really are strong," he said.

But the fruits of the partnership will take some time. For next year, the companies are committing only to bringing a version of the Communicator instant messaging program to Symbian.

Later in the week, Microsoft confirmed several of the worst kept secrets in the industry, acknowledging the pricing, availability date, and capacities for its upcoming Zune HD.

The black 16GB version of the touch-screen media player will sell for $219.99, while a 32GB version in "platinum" color will cost $289.99. The pricing had already leaked via Best Buy and Amazon, while the September 15 launch date was noted as part of a retailer's display, reported by Gizmodo.

Microsoft will also start taking pre-orders for the device and starting September 15, it will be able to be ordered in five colors from Microsoft's Zuneoriginals.net site, with the option of adding 1 of 10 engravings by guest artists to the back of the device.

Among the device's features are its OLED (organic light-emitting diode) display, multitouch Web browser, and the ability to send video in 720p to an HDTV (using a dock, sold separately).

In another big Microsoft story this week, a federal judge in Texas ordered Microsoft to stop selling any versions of Word that use a custom XML tagging technology. The ruling, part of a patent infringement case filed by I4i that also resulted in a huge monetary judgment back in May, is set to go into effect in 60 days.

But don't expect to see Redmond allow one of its key money makers to be pulled from the market--even for a day. The company is definitely appealing the case, as it said in a statement on Tuesday. The appellate court has the option of holding off on the injunction, but is not compelled to, as Microsoft makes its appeal. The small Canadian I4i, for its part, says it's not out to destroy Microsoft Word. In fact, I4i Chairman Loudon Owen said he is one of the hundreds of millions of people who uses Word and other Office tools every day.

"We're not seeking to stop Microsoft's business and we're not seeking to interfere with all the users of Word out there," Owen said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. He added that this week's ruling orders an injunction only against Word shipping in a form that uses I4i's custom XML technology.

Another one of Microsoft's flagship products, Internet Explorer 6, was in the spotlight this week. It's been roughly eight years since Microsoft released IE 6, and the company has since released two major versions of IE. But in many ways the company is still very much tied to the aging product, in all its tabless glory.

In large part, that's because many of Internet Explorer's users are the ones who tend not to change the browser that comes with their operating system--either because that's the type of consumer they are, or because they are working on a work machine on which they are not able to upgrade to a later version of IE or switch to another browser.

And on Thursday, Microsoft said the next version of Office for Mac will arrive by the 2010 holiday buying season, and it added that the new version will include a version of Outlook.

Outlook for Mac will replace Entourage, the current e-mail and calendar program in the Mac Office suite. Although it will still differ from the Windows version of Outlook, it will add support for more Exchange features, such as public folders and rights management features.

More headlines

Inside the short, troubled life of a music start-up

Hyped music service SpiralFrog had money, big partners, and promising traffic. But it lacked effective leadership and a strong business model.
•  How turf wars and miscues crippled SpiralFrog
•  Why are old SpiralFrog users getting spammed?

Twilight time for Yahoo search

Uncertainty is in the air at Search Engine Strategies 2009 in the wake of Yahoo's deal with Microsoft: what will Redmond keep, and what will it discard?
•  Google's chief economist: Search scale is 'bogus'
•  Google's Caffeine: A jolt to search rankings?

Video game sales in free fall

For the fifth consecutive month, industry sales are down, and in July, sales were off 29 percent from a year earlier. So much for recession-proof.

Is the GM Volt mileage claim legit?

General Motors says its electric car will get 230 miles per gallon in the city. But there are still questions about how plug-in vehicles should be rated on fuel efficiency.
•  To grow, GM tries to make small cars cool
•  Getting a charge from the Chevy Volt
•  Click to drive: GM, eBay join to sell new cars online

Apple planning September event?

No official word yet, but rumors are already swirling about the timing of the company's annual September event.
•  Cocktail part of Apple's September event
•  The original Apple tablet: Marketing lessons from the Newton
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RealNetworks loses critical ruling in RealDVD case

Federal judge sides with Hollywood and issues a preliminary injunction that will prevent RealNetworks from selling RealDVD software.

Facebook buys FriendFeed: Is this a big deal?

The massive social network confirmed on Monday that it has acquired the aggregation start-up after TechCrunch reported the rumor. Be it known: This acquisition is about talent, not product.
•  Facebook gets Twitter-like search

Another attack hits Twitter

Less than a week after a denial-of-service attack knocked it offline, Twitter's servers went down again. What gives this time?
•  Twitter on the blink again

Can the Twitterati help sell your soda pop?

Marketers are pouncing on the potential influence of active Twitter users to talk about their brands. The path to profit, however, is less clear.

Shooting the boss(and getting paid for it)

At more and more companies, employees are being encouraged to play video games together as team-building exercises.

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