XP Reprieve: Microsoft Gives OEMs Five More Months

Microsoft allow OEMs and retail outlets to sell PCs with Windows XP as customers continue to balk on upgrading to Windows Vista.

Microsoft had high expectations for customer adoption of Vista, and claimed the launch would be one of the most successful in Windows history. Unfortunately for the company, those predictions so far haven’t panned out, and in July, Microsoft lowered its projections for customer adoption of Vista. The company had said the split between XP and Vista sales in its fiscal year ending June 30, 2008, would be 15 percent to 85 percent; now the company is saying the split will be 22 percent XP and 78 percent Vista.

According to some, that may even be optimistic. Paul Ghysels, a custom system builder who owns the Neighborhood Computer Store in Moraga, California, said that Microsoft has “really blown Vista.” He said he’s not surprised Microsoft extended the availability of XP for OEMs. “I figured Microsoft would have to come up with something because Vista is so unprepared for the market right now,” Ghysels said.

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Arithmetic Is Hard–To Get Right

Yesterday, a nasty little bug was identified in Excel 2007. Try multiplying 850 * 77.1 and Excel returns 100,000. Well the answer should be 65,535! Any calculator should get this right, so why not Excel.

AppScout had the following explanation:

It all boils down to the fact that you can’t represent an infinite group of non-integer numbers using a finite number of bits. In fact, Excel can store “only” about 9 quintillion distinct values. The numbers going into your calculations may be infinitesimally different from the number displayed, and for two calculations that nominally have the same answer the result may be infinitesimally different. Excel generally manages just fine in dealing with these tiny differences, but in exactly 12 instances out of the 9 quintillion possibilities it goes completely bonkers.

Wolfram research has an interesting blog entry explaining the potential causes for arithmetic errors and he discusses the impacts.

These days reliability is an increasingly important component of numerical computation. Machines have become so fast that people are doing huge numbers of numerical computations all the time. And now what’s critical is to get them right all the time–because if there’s a fringe case that’s wrong, it’s now going to be noticed.

Enjoy and double check those Excel sheets!

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