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The week in review: Windows XP airlift

With pressure on for the release of Windows XP, Microsoft stages a helicopter stunt to coincide with the delivery of XP code to computer makers, leaving Sun's Java in the dust.

With pressure on for the release of Windows XP, Microsoft staged a helicopter stunt to coincide with the delivery of XP code to computer makers, leaving Sun's Java in the dust.

In a publicity stunt that included helicopters, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and Group Vice President Jim Allchin handed off Windows XP to PC makers.

The software maker also released pricing for the operating system. Windows XP comes in two flavors, one for home users and the other for business professionals. For those who are upgrading, the Home Edition carries a manufacturer's authorized price (MAP) of $99, or about $10 more than Windows Me. Those buying the full version will have to pay $199, an increase of about $20.

Microsoft is under pressure from several sides as it pushes Windows XP out the door. PC makers are counting on the new operating system--due on new PCs starting Sept. 24 and as packaged software Oct. 25 for its retail launch--to boost lagging sales. Meanwhile, government trustbusters are giving conflicting signals about whether they plan to seek an injunction to block release of the software.

Regardless of outside legal concerns, Microsoft will find itself back in court soon. Friday a federal court randomly assigned U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to preside over the Microsoft antitrust case. The assignment of Kollar-Kotelly means the case can move forward fairly quickly.

However, Sun Microsystems may be feeling a bit late to the party, as it may have missed its opportunity to get the newest version of Java on PCs loaded with Windows XP. The company acknowledged that because of timing issues, no PC maker has opted to incorporate Sun's version of the Java Virtual Machine--or JVM--into Windows XP systems. Case in point: Compaq Computer has stated that it will incorporate Microsoft's JVM in its upcoming Windows XP PCs.

Compaq's decision to go with Microsoft, especially if followed by other PC makers, will likely thwart Sun in its attempt to show what can be accomplished with the Java programming language. Sun has been writing code furiously since Microsoft's April decision not to ship the JVM with Internet Explorer 6, which is integrated into Windows XP. Sun had planned to offer an IE 6-compatible version of the JVM but won't have it ready in time to ship on new Windows XP PCs.

Apple peels
Apple Computer confirmed that it will drop prices by up to $500 on its Titanium PowerBook G4 laptops. As this publication previously reported, the price cuts bring the 400MHz model to $2,199, a $400 drop. The price of the 500MHz machine is dropping by $500, to $2,999. Both cuts take effect Saturday.

Separately, Apple has ended a promotion to give a free CD burner to customers who buy a Titanium PowerBook G4 before Sept. 3 a few days early--right before the Titanium price cuts. Apple modified the terms of the CD-RW promotion to end the deal Aug. 24. In the fine print of the mail-in offer, Apple does note that it "reserves the right to change the terms and conditions of the promotion at any time without notice."

Looking to quash rumors before they start, Apple said that it won't launch any new hardware next month at Apple Expo Paris. Apple CEO Steve Jobs outlined in a statement the topics for his keynote address at the European event on Sept. 26, which include a new, faster version of OS X and the company's iDVD 2 software. Such an announcement is unusual for Apple, which typically tries hard to keep the topics of keynote speeches secret. Apple watchers had hoped that a long-rumored flat-panel iMac system might make its debut before year's end.

With a nod from Hollywood, Apple will receive an Emmy award for creating FireWire. The high-speed connection has become a key technology in the television industry for moving video on and off computers.

Price cuts
PC shoppers can expect lowered prices in the coming months. Hoping to reverse a year-long slump in computer sales, manufacturers, retailers and chipmakers are coming together to offer deep discounts on consumer PCs. Not only has the use of mail-in rebates increased, but manufacturers are throwing in free--or nearly free--printers, extra memory and handheld computers. And with Intel cutting processor prices next week by about 50 percent, there will be even more bargains awaiting patient buyers.

The "misery that's happening for the (manufacturers) is going to translate into joy for the consumer," said one analyst.

However, not all price cuts are intentional. Some lucky globe-trotters are benefiting from a glitch on United Airlines' Web site, landing fares to travel round-trip from Chicago to Bombay for only $140. About 123 travelers snagged the low fare, which is as much as 10 times cheaper than similar tickets.

Making the best of dot-bombs
Liquidation specialists have gotten fat selling the assets of dead dot-coms, but there is one type of asset they may have overlooked. Webreco, an online spinoff of the nearly 100-year-old liquidation company Gordon Brothers, intends to resell or license software mostly from defunct technology companies. While other liquidation companies have specialized in selling the computers, servers and Aeron chairs of failed dot-coms, they have left behind software that the companies often spent millions of dollars creating.

Two entrepreneurs have created a line of novelty toilet paper printed to look like ticker tape spewing the stock prices of struggling dot-coms. Publicly traded companies such as Yahoo, Amazon.com and BroadVision are among the stocks that landed on the company's "roll of shame."

In a Silicon Valley twist on the childhood summer institution, Recession Camp helps unemployed dot-commers survive the technology sector's downturn, largely by arranging social events where tech talk is off-limits. Founded by 30-something buddies who lost their jobs earlier this year, the support group has become one of the hottest clubs in the Bay Area. It has 470 members and a Web site visited by 20,000 people.

Also of note
AOL Time Warner said it plans to slash 1,200 positions from its America Online unit, the second round of layoffs in the online unit since its merger with Time Warner...As part of the AOL cuts, iPlanet, a much-touted alliance between AOL and Sun Microsystems, will shed 500 employees...Cisco Systems said it will reorganize its business units to focus on 11 target technologies, and that Senior Vice President Kevin Kennedy will leave the company as part of a management restructuring...Excite@Home and its accountants said the company may not be able to continue operations, especially if the Nasdaq Stock Market delists its shares...Nintendo pushed back the U.S. arrival of its new GameCube video game console by nearly two weeks, with executives saying they intend to avoid the shortages and frustrated consumers that marked the debut of Sony's PlayStation 2 last fall.

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