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Dell’s profit sank drastically during the final quarter of 2008.

The PC maker reported fourth-quarter revenue of $13.4 billion Thursday, a 16 percent drop from $15.9 billion reported the same quarter a year ago. Dell’s profit for the quarter totaled $351 million, or 18 cents per share, compared to $671 million and 31 cents per share the year before. That’s nearly a 48 percent drop in profit. Analysts had been anticipating earnings per share of 26 cents.

Dell had reported last month it would be forced to take a pre-tax charge of $280 million, or 11 cents per share, related to cost-cutting and restructuring measures taken during the quarter.

The company continued to cite the “challenging” global environment and the reduction in IT spending by large corporate customers, a segment in which Dell is heavily invested. dell

Many of the company’s customers began to defer spending starting in the summer, and it “continued to deteriorate through the second half of the year,” Chief Financial Officer Brian Gladden said during a conference call with reporters. “We expect continued weakness during the current quarter.”

Gladden tried to keep the focus on the company’s progress on cutting costs. Dell cut operating expenses by 16 percent, or $363 million, during the fourth quarter.

He also said there would be more to come. Gladden said the company will be able to take $4 billion of costs out of its budget by 2011, up from the previous goal of $3 billion announced last year. The costs will come from improving on manufacturing and supply chain costs, as well as operating expenses. When asked if that included more job cuts, Gladden didn’t deny that it would. It’s “not just labor, not just people,” he said.

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Microsoft is moving forward with plans to launch Windows 7 this year, although the company still refuses to publicly commit to that goal.PC industry sources in Asia told that they have heard things are on track to launch by this year’s holiday shopping season, which has been Microsoft’s internal target for some time. Microsoft is also putting the finishing touches on a program to offer Vista buyers a free or low-cost update to Windows 7. The company has run such “technology guarantee” programs in the past, typically allowing each PC maker to set the exact rules, but essentially offering buyers after a certain time to get a free upgrade to the next version. In an interview at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, Microsoft senior VP Bill Veghte cautioned that the release still could be pushed into 2010, depending on customer feedback.

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1. Standard approach to mobile broadband
Windows 7 treats cellular modems as a standard connection, much like a Wi-Fi network, popping them up in the same available wireless networks dialog.

Sierra Wireless has already said it will support the new approach, which should make life much easier for road warriors (myself included). One of my few gripes about the prebeta Windows 7 laptop I’m using is that it doesn’t recognize my relatively new USB Sprint modem.

2. Help with public Wi-Fi spots.
This was a little feature I discovered on my own. With many public Wi-Fi hot spots, once you connect to the network, you have to do something in your browser, such as agree to certain terms or enter a password. Windows 7 pops up a notification that tells you that, although you have to be connected to the network, more action may be needed and it gives you a direct link to open your browser.

3. Windows Troubleshooting
Sure, it would be better if your computer worked problem-free. But, acknowledging that’s not the case, Microsoft has added a central place in Windows 7 to try to figure out what went wrong and why.

Among the kinds of problems that Windows Troubleshooting aims to help solve are issues with networked printers, detecting hard drive problems, and even some proactive things, like figuring out how much life a laptop battery has before it will likely need to be replaced with a new battery.

4. New sensor support
Windows 7 adds base-level support for all kinds of sensors, from GPS, to fingerprint readers, to ambient light sensors, to accelerometers. Light sensors, for example, can now be used not only to light up a keyboard, but an application could sense daylight and make type larger so that it’s easier to read.

At WinHEC, Microsoft handed out 700 free sensor developer kits that included a light sensor, touch pad, and accelerometer. The kit was a big hit with the developers, prompting one of the only long lines of the show.

5. Improved battery life and playback of DVDs
Microsoft is trying to do a couple things to make the DVD-playing experience better in Windows 7.

First and foremost, it has changed things so that DVD movies just start playing, as opposed to bringing up a long list of options.

Second, the company has worked to adjust power settings while playing back movies to enable better battery life.

“I’m hopeful it will have battery life equivalent to a portable DVD player,” Microsoft’s Jon DeVaan said in an interview. The issue is personal, he said. If Microsoft can reach its goal, he might be able to only bring a laptop on outings. “I hope to spare my back on family trips,” he said.

6. Windows Biometric Framework
According to a press release from fingerprint sensor make AuthenTec, the operating system features improved biometric support that should enable a more standard way for fingerprint management applications to work with fingerprint readers in Windows 7.

“This provides ease of fingerprint sensor integration for PC manufacturers and a more consistent user experience,” AuthenTec said in its release.

7. Enhancements to Windows Media Center
Microsoft hasn’t given up on its dream of having Windows gain a prominent spot in the living room and its main effort in this area–Windows Media Center–is back in Windows 7.

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Adobe Systems announced late on Tuesday that it has begun shipping Creative Suite 4, the latest edition of its bundle of professional graphics and media applications.

The launch, which Adobe described as the largest in the company’s history, includes updated versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Contribute, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Soundbooth, OnLocation, and Encore. Four different flavors of the suite are available, with prices ranging from $1,699 to $2,499.

Adobe continues to improve integration among the applications. After Effects, for example, can import Photoshop 3D layers and export content directly into Flash.

Options for working with high-definition video and mobile content expand too, with support for the latest formats, as well as for making Adobe AIR applications.

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If you feel that Windows starts too slowly most days, Microsoft is considering an option that could help.

The company is surveying select users on whether an “instant on” feature, which would rush a usable desktop to your screen in just seconds, is something they’d like included with Windows.

“The concept is called ‘Instant On.’ Instant On takes your computer from being completely powered down or turned off to being usable for a few specific activities in a very short amount of time,”

“The Instant On experience is different from “Full Windows” because it limits what activities you can do and what applications you can have access to,” the survey states.

Faster boot times are clearly a priority for Microsoft and could be included in Windows 7, the next planned release of the operating system.

“For Windows 7, a top goal is to significantly increase the number of systems that experience very good boot times. In the lab, a very good system is one that boots in under 15 seconds,” engineer Michael Fortin said

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The Playstation 4 won’t feature Blu-ray.

The Playstation 4 should be made available in the next three to five years. During that time, Sony will need to work on getting Blu-ray into more homes and try to supplant DVD as the leader in the media space.

But how will it do that? The main advantage DVD still enjoys is that it’s mobile and ubiquitous.

It took DVD almost a decade to reach that kind of saturation and Blu-ray simply doesn’t have that much time. With companies like Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and others quickly moving towards a home environment that doesn’t require a disc, but rather a download or streaming service, Blu-ray can’t compete.

It’s becoming easier and easier to stream movies from your computer to your HDTV. A Roku Netflix box means Blu-ray isn’t even needed anymore, and cable companies offer VOD service for those that don’t feel like popping a DVD into the player. And as broadband speeds increase making HD downloads more relevant, Blu-ray finds itself squeezed out by the past and the future.

And all the while, Sony is left to make the decision of whether or not it wants to tie its next video game console to an irrelevant format.

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