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Microsoft's Open Sesame Moment

Meanwhile, Merc columnist Mike Langberg noted that there's a fire sale of sorts going on for Windows XP. "Microsoft for the first time is lowering the price that manufacturers pay for the Windows operating system. It's happening with a new version of the OS called Windows XP Starter Edition that's only being sold on the other side of the world in languages other than English," Langberg wrote on Friday. "But this crack could quickly widen. I expect more and more nations to demand their own low-cost version of Windows. I can even imagine a day, not too distant, when an economic colossus bigger than any nation -- Wal-Mart -- demands Starter Edition for PCs on sale in the United States."
The San Jose Mercury News: XP Price Cut May Just Be the Beginning (Registration required)

Blog Clog

The Seattle Times provides an interesting Microsoft-themed footnote on Microsoft news. More than 1,000 Microsoft workers write Web logs, which are hosted by Microsoft on a company Web site. The site gets a surge of traffic each hour. "The surge isn't because people are sitting at their computers, diligently searching every hour for the latest news from so-called bloggers. Instead, software programs called RSS readers are doing it for them, resulting in a barrage of traffic," the Seattle Times reported. "The uptick in visits is a side effect of RSS readers, a familiar technology in the world of blogs, but one that is just starting to catch on with mainstream Web users. And some experts say that Web sites may not be prepared to handle the massive amount of traffic the readers are expected to generate as they become more popular."
The Seattle Times: Software Programs Called RSS Readers Creating Blog Jams

_____About Filter_____
Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.

_____Filter Archive_____
Gaming Godzillas Prepare for Battle (washingtonpost.com, Sep 21, 2004)
Technology Rules in 'World of Tomorrow' (washingtonpost.com, Sep 17, 2004)
Digital Eye on Ivan (washingtonpost.com, Sep 16, 2004)
Clash of the Tech Titans (washingtonpost.com, Sep 15, 2004)
Hollywood's Lion Kings (washingtonpost.com, Sep 14, 2004)
More Past Issues
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From Yahoo to Mickey

Terry Semel, a former Hollywood executive who took over Yahoo and has led the company through the dip of the tech sector, could be wearing mouse ears someday. "Yahoo CEO Terry Semel has emerged among Hollywood insiders as a top contender" for Disney's CEO post once Michael Eisner leaves, the Merc reported over the weekend. Other media outlets reported on Eisner's potential heir apparent too, but the paper had an interesting tie-in: Semel's family has the right zip code. "Semel has deep roots in Hollywood, having run a movie studio for two decades. His family still lives in Bel Air. And his success at turning around one of America's highest-profile technology companies could give him more cachet with a Disney board seeking to restore the struggling entertainment company's fortunes. Semel's name surfaced almost immediately after Disney's embattled CEO ... announced last week that he would leave in 2006, when his contract expires. It is the kind of opportunity Semel would relish, according to Hollywood executives who know him."
The San Jose Mercury News: Yahoo's Semel Emerges as Disney Contender (Registration required)

The Los Angeles Times on Friday gave a short list of Disney contenders, but don't bet on Semel jumping Yahoo for his own "I'm going to Disneyland" moment. "Many on the short list of possible successors, including News Corp.'s Peter Chernin and ... Semel, are happy where they are. Some, such as eBay CEO Meg Whitman, have gone out of their way to make clear they have no interest in leading Disney."
The Los Angeles Times: Disney Chairman Isn't in the Happiest Place (Registration required)

You've Got Shopping

America Online is going shopping ... with a revamped online shopping service. AOL has shopping features on its site already, but the company insists this new rollout has some cool things. Has anyone clued AOL in to the fact that there's nothing new about online shopping? Ted Leonsis, AOL vice chairman, was on CNBC this morning to talk about the new service. This "offers an extra level of value for our customers to really find where they need to shop," Leonsis told "Squawk Box." He said 60 percent of all people on the Internet are shopping online and that the service allows customers to compare prices while shopping online and get alerts when there is a sale. AOL has also created new lingo to get buzz around about the service. Leonsis said there is "social shopping" on the service too -- people can IM a buddy and go shopping together online. This, of course, gives teenagers a whole new way to hook up before hitting the stores.

The Los Angeles Times explains what AOL is really up to with the service, noting that it's "a bid to expand its audience beyond its shrinking subscriber base," the paper said. "With InStore, AOL joins a crowded field. Yahoo Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and dozens of smaller companies already offer similar services that let shoppers search for products and bargains among many online retailers. But it highlights AOL's efforts to become a broader Internet portal. Most of AOL is accessible only to the 23.4 million subscribers who pay the company a monthly fee of $4.95 to $23.90."
The Los Angeles Times: AOL To Launch Shopping Service (Registration required)
The Associated Press via the Miami Herald: AOL Launching New Shopping Site (Registration required)

AOL might want to take notes from the online shopping experience in China as a crib sheet of potential pitfalls. "Creaky banking and postal systems are conspiring against Chinese shoppers snapping up books and cosmetics over the Internet, holding back a market that has lured the likes of eBay and Amazon," Reuters reported. "Its online shopping market was worth 4.2 billion yuan ($507.5 million) last year, and is expected to double this year, according to market research firm Shanghai iResearch. Its longer-term potential is considered huge -- if its problems are resolved. Drawn in by such numbers, global Internet giants including eBay Inc., Yahoo Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. have all taken the China plunge in the last year, paying a combined $375 million to acquire domestic start-ups."
Reuters: China's Online Shopping Stuck In Web of Problems

I Spy, You Spy

Spyware continues to be the Achilles' heel of the Net. The New York Times yesterday reported on the front page of its business section about the wrath of adware and spyware, the pesky programs that imbed themselves on your computer and records online activity and other data. "The rapid proliferation of such programs has brought Internet use to a stark crossroads, as many consumers now see the Web as a battlefield strewn with land mines. At the same time, major advertisers and big Internet sites are increasingly tempted by adware's singular ability to display pop-up ads exactly when a user has shown interest in a particular service or product," the Times said. "For all the differences between spyware and adware, their impact on computers is pretty much the same: screens transformed into digital versions of Times Square, and overburdened PCs that operate much more slowly as they struggle with random and uncontrollable processes prompted by the hard drive. Small wonder that consumers are throwing up their hands in despair."
The New York Times: Barbarians at the Digital Gate (Registration required)

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