News Roundup: Windows-to-Mac Converter for Word, Amazon's DRM-Free Music, and More

News Roundup: Windows-to-Mac Converter for Word, Amazon's DRM-Free Music, and More

Microsoft releases Office Windows-to-Mac converter: A posting by Mac Business Unit product manager Geoff Price on Microsoft's Mac Business Unit's "Mac Mojo" blog has announced the lyrically named Microsoft Office Open XML File Format Converter for Mac 0.1b (Beta) (downloadable here), which converts Office 2007 for Windows Word files to RTF files that can be opened by Microsoft Word for Mac (both 2004 and v. X editions). While this development is welcome, it's important to recognize the converter's limitations. For one, the converter turn files into RTF, and not .doc files. Also, the converter expires on December 31, 2007 - you'll need to buy the next Mac-compatible version of Office if you want to convert files after that date. The licensing agreement is less than friendly, as well, requiring that you not "disclose the results of any benchmark tests of the software to any third party without Microsoft’s prior written approval." Finally, the blog includes a caveat that the converter is, indeed, a beta, and that "the converters will not be final until Office 2008 is also fully complete and fully tested." Converters for Excel and PowerPoint are scheduled for this summer. Yes, the MOOXMLFFCM 0.1b (Beta) is a welcome event, but we're still waiting or a full-scale, Intel-native, Windows-compatible Office for Mac. According to Price, that release is "on track for release later this year." Before December 31, that is.


Amazon to launch iTunes Store competitor: In another signal that a DRM-free world is coming, Amazon has announced that it will launch its own DRM-free online music store later this year. We applaud their anti-DRM policy, but agree with Jupiter Research's assessment that "...unless there's a marked differentiation, it's not likely that iPod users would go to Amazon over iTunes, especially given the iTunes ecosystem of music, TV shows, movies and games." We also agree with Blackfriars Marketing, which avers that Microsoft and subscription sites will be the big losers in Amazon's move, and not Apple. The anti-DRM movement is gaining steam, with both Warner Music Group and Vivendi's Universal Music testing the concept, as well - though neither group has said that they're planning to move to DRM-free tunes.


More (and detailed) iPhone-sales projections: Ah, the iPhone - has any product in living memory (with the exception, perhaps, of Vista) garnered more tea-leaf-reading and entrail-divining before its release? Not that we can think of. A recent comprehensive survey of potential iPhone buyers (read Part 1 here and Part 2 here) turned up a number of interesting tidbits, including that "60.7% of Shuffle owners said that they were seriously considering the iPhone, depending upon the deal, compared with 46.2% of all respondents. 45.6% of Nano users would consider it, and 50% of iPod users." Its all still conjecture, of course. The only thing certain is that the iPhone is raising the bar for smartphone capabilities - and prices. Nokia, for one, is pleased with the iPhone's high price - so much so that one wag at Ars Technica predicts that "Steve Jobs may not be the only one swimming in a pool full of cash like Scrooge McDuck." Oh, and since we mentioned Vista, we can't resist noting that U.S. News and World Report suggests that if you're not attracted to the hassles of moving over from Windows XP to Vista, you might, instead, "Buy a Macintosh." According to their perspicascious pundits, "Apple's computers are attractive, stable, and secure - and more fun than Windows"


More new-MacBook news: A couple of interesting facts surfaced today about the MacBook upgrade announced yesterday. First, the chipset used in new MacBook isn't the new Santa Rosa one (part number 965 for you chipheads, a step up from the 950 in new MacBooks). "Who cares?" you may ask. Well, consider that the 965 uses Intel's "Enhanced dynamic acceleration technology," which dynamically cranks up the processor's speed when only one core is being used. Chalk up another thing to look forward to in the upcoming MacBook Pro upgrade. Second, although Apple claims that the new MacBook maxes out at 2GB of RAM, Other World Computing claims that that limitation is an artificial one, and will sell you a 2GB RAM module for a mere $129.95 that'll max out the MacBook at 3GB of RAM (Apple charges $175 for a 1GB upgrade). We haven't tested that upgrade ourselves yet, but we have no reason to doubt the good folks at OWC.


In other news: Despite what you may have read yesterday, the iPhone and Leopard are not delayed - that rumor was started by someone who hacked into Apple's internal email system and sent an official-looking email with that dastardly lie. Apple's not the only company that's suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous litigation: New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is suing Dell for "deceptive financing practives" - on second thought, maybe that litigation's slings and arrows aren't all that outrageous. Our European readers will be happy to know that Coke's European division plans to give away 2 billion free iTunes songs. Yes, that's "billion." With a "b." Paul McCartney (his old band was called "The Beatles") has a new album on the way entitled Memory Almost Full, which is available for pre-order on iTunes; an Apple press release also announced that his "full catalog of 25 solo albums will be available for the first time digitally on iTunes later this month." A couple of new products surfaced today that we think are worth a closer look - namely digital drumsticks that allow you air drummers to jam along with your iPod, and a 22-inch display with a built-in webcam and dual noise-cancelling mics from Samsung. While this may not be Mac-related news, seeing as how Halo's provenance was, you'll remember, from the Mac third-party community, you might interested to know that Halo 3 launches a three-week public beta today. Finally, in today's heartwarming story of "Sex, Drugs and Updating Your Blog," a New York songwriter has found fame, friends, and fortune (well, at least what he describes as "a reasonable middle-class living") by blogging a new song per week on his personal website. Welcome to the 21st century, RIAA.




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I tried those in a Discovery Store sometime last year, so they can't be that new. They were pretty chinsey, but still a cool concept.

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