What's Now: Microsoft confirms Windows 7 three-license discount 'family pack'

What's Now | What's Next main bannerYour reporter has a theory about suicide, which goes: No one knows why the hell anyone does anything. That said, if your employer searches your home, puts you in solitary confinement, and uses "inappropriate interrogation techniques" on you, maybe 25-year-old Sun Danyong's decision to jump off a 12-story building makes sense to you. And if you're the company (Foxconn) and the alleged infraction involves a missing top-secret iPhone prototype, well... A little Foxconn history in a moment, but first, gather the family 'round the PC.

Windows 7 to be offered in "family pack"

3:53 pm EDT, Tuesday, July 21, 2009 • Confirming rumors that have been making the rounds for a while (and that made the rounds with Vista to no avail, if one's memory may be trusted), Microsoft says it will offer a "family pack" version of Win7 Home Premium with licenses for up to three PCs. Brandon LeBlanc made the announcement Tuesday afternoon on the Windows 7 team blog, along with some general clarifications to a previous announcement concerning RTM dates.

"We have heard a lot of feedback from beta testers and enthusiasts over the last 3 years that we need a better solution for homes with multiple PCs," LeBlanc wrote. "I'm happy to confirm that we will indeed be offering a family pack of Windows 7 Home Premium (in select markets) which will allow installation on up to 3 PCs." Although final pricing has not been announced, initial pricing was inadvertently released early a few weeks ago, by one online retailer.

Microsoft's RTM calendar may be confusing, and the specific RTM date remains uncertain even after yesterday's announcement. But the general availability date, October 22, is holding firm.

LG's posts record Q2 profit

Morning of Wednesday, July 22, 2009 • Watch out, Sony -- here comes LG, and not only is the Seoul-based electronics firm on track to sell more LCD TVs than you by year's end, people don't cry when they read its earnings reports. You ought to try that sometime. The firm says that skyrocketing name recognition is moving not just flat-panel televisions and mobile handsets but other gear in the company's rather diverse lineup.

The company reported a 62% year-to-year jump in net income, and smashed analyst profit estimates, coming in about 50% higher (at approximately $614 million) than analysts expected. Over the past year, LG stock has gained 76% on South Korea's stock exchange, compared to a gain of 33% for the country's benchmark index fund.

AMD Q2 looks flat on the way up to recovery

5:05 pm EDT July 21, 2009 • In contrast, AMD posted a 13% drop in revenue and a loss of 49 cents/share, or $330 million. Of course, if you'd like to look on the bright side, that's not bad for AMD lately; a year ago the company lost $1.2 billion, or $1.97/share.  Dirk Meyer, AMD president and CEO, described the company's gross margin for Q2 as "disappointing." More on the AMD report later today on Betanews.

Intel unveils faster and/or cheaper solid-state drives

July 21, 2009 • The data-storage world seems like such a happy place, with products on a perpetual upward curve of speed and capacity. Intel did it parts Tuesday, announcing its first 34-nanometer solid-state drives and related price cuts of up to 60%.

The move away from 50 nm drives will, according to the company, fuel large-scale price drops, and they announced two for the 2.5" X25-M: If you're buying in quantities of 1,000 or more (and really, who isn't?), the 80 GB version drops from $595/per to $225/per, and the 160 GB version moved from $945 to $440. Meanwhile, the 1.8" X18-M SSD isn't shipping its 34nm incarnation just yet, but it should be available in the near future. No prices have yet been announced for those SSDs.

Did a missing iPhone prototype cause a suicide in China?

July 16, 2009 • Yesterday's revelation of unfortunate and suspicious circumstances surrounding the alleged disappearance of a prototype 4G iPhone ended up giving online tech services a Google News "gimme:" an opportunity to use "China," "iPhone," and "suicide" in the same headline.

Foxconn's reputation as a dicey employer goes back almost as far as its relationship with Apple, with which it has been closely associated since 1986. (The company works with many name-brand tech firms, including Palm, Sony Ericsson, Amazon, and Motorola.) In 2006, a widely read article in China Business News concerning the firm's abusive employment practices led to momentary concern among American consumers, an investigation by Apple that led essentially to a shrug, and a years-long legal battle for the two journalists who ran down the story.

The death of Foxconn worker Sun Dayong has reportedly led to the suspension and arrest of Foxconn's security chief, garnered a brief statement of regret from Apple, and made absolutely no difference to the people who are already annoyed that this tragedy has intruded on their pre-release gadget lust.

RIM pushes UAE BlackBerry update to kill off spyware

July 21, 2009 • Research In Motion has examined the mysterious update some UAE-based BlackBerry users received from Etisalat recently, and has concluded what researchers already suspected: It's spyware.

Despite Etisalat's protests -- the carrier not only claimed that the unauthorized update contained "service enhancements," but that the system crashes and fast-draining batteries reported by irate subscribers were trivial issues -- RIM has issued a firmware fix to remove the SS8-developed surveillance application, about which Wired's Kim Zetter has intriguing details.

MySpace Mail rumored to be on for Thursday launch

July 23, 2009, maybe > Staci Kramer at PaidContent.org is reporting this morning that MySpace is on the verge of launching "@myspace.com" addresses in a limited rollout. Kramer says that "the project is being run out of Seattle by what one person called 'a bunch of ex-Hotmail guys.'" More news as we know it.

Earnings-a-palooza week continues with eBay

5:00 pm EDT, Wednesday, July 22, 2009 > Once upon a time, eBay was a colossus among e-commerce sites. Not so much these days, but the auctioner's earnings report is due out today, and analysts expect the company to have made at least some progress on its grand plan to reinvigorate business by becoming more, well, businesslike. Though that too has the potential to tick off one of the Web's least pleasant user bases, as Joe Mont at TheStreet.com so amusingly explains.

Wednesday's tech headlines


• Hey, MySpace still has something to offer -- if you're a band or a music fan. Robin Wauters reports that MySpace Music has logged an impressive 1,017% year-over-year traffic increase. The 12-to-17 crowd is particularly enamoured.

• Meanwhile, Facebook Video is delivering a billion views per month.

• Microsoft's still having fun with Bing's promotion, reports Jason Kincaid -- they've got a YouTube video-jingle contest going, and you could win a little money for a little song and dance. As Kincaid adroitly states, you know you want to.


• Expect a (slightly redacted) copy of the contract for the Recovery.gov redesign to hit the Net sometime this week, says Robert Brodsky.

• The site redirects to sister publication nextgov for a Bob Brewin story on Army weapons systems being designed for the video-game-honed skills of the modern soldier. (Think Xbox and -- ahem -- Roomba.)

All Things D

• AT&T will be the wireless service provider for the Plastic Logic e-reader.

• $750 million? Seriously, the Valley's venture-cap bigwigs are now valuing Ning.com at $750 million?! Ning, in case you don't recognize the name, allows users to (as Kara Swisher puts it) "create social networks around their interests." GeoCities, anyone?


• Carl Malamud, one of the fathers of the Net, is leaning hard on the federal government's General Printing Office to make its data open to and free for anyone who what to mash it up or otherwise examine it. Ryan Singel points out that this is the guy who got the SEC to launch EDGAR -- would you bet against him?

• Ethicists who deal with robots say that we need to revise Asimov's Three Laws, because otherwise we're apt to get a lot of technically psychopathic robots. Humans could also use some guidelines for dealing with robots, as far as that goes.

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