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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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March 12, 2009 11:53 AM

Woman struggles to prove to Microsoft's Xbox service agents that Nome, Alaska, exists

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Kim Galleher's nightmare may be coming to an end. The Nome, Alaska, mother has been trying since mid-February to get Microsoft to send her a shipping box so she could return her 13-year-old son's Xbox 360, which died of the Red Ring of Death in the depths of winter when going outside to play wasn't really an option. Microsoft extended the warranty on the Xbox 360, including shipping costs, in summer 2007, responding to what it called an "unacceptable" rate of hardware failures. But representatives at the company's repair center could not find a way to ship an empty box to Nome for the Gallehers to send back the game console for repair. Their address wasn't recognized, probably because the town of about 3,500 people on the remote Seward Peninsula has only post office boxes. And so began a month-long back-and-forth with Microsoft agents, nearing a dozen contacts, that starts to read like an Abbott and Costello routine, or an episode of the Twilight Zone, as Galleher put it.

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Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Miscellaneous , Xbox 360 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 6, 2009 9:36 PM

CES: Netbook maker Asus partnering closely with Microsoft on Windows 7, but showing new Eee PCs with XP

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- The netbook market exploded in 2008 with significant implications for Microsoft's flagship Windows business. The Consumer Electronics Association says in 2008 manufacturers shipped 10 million of these low-cost, lightweight computers meant for Web surfing, e-mail and other light-weight, connected activities.

One of the leaders in the market is ASUSTeK Computer, the Taiwan-based global computer hardware giant, whose Eee PC line helped kick-start the trend. Today the company rolled out the latest in that line, as well as several other new hardware devices, and highlighted its relationship with Microsoft.

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Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Hardware , Windows , Windows 7 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 12, 2008 2:38 PM

Steam Hardware Survey: More than 68 percent of PC gamers running Windows XP

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

What do hard-core PC gamers have under the hood? Bellevue game maker Valve collects lots of data to answer that question through Steam, the game company's online PC games distribution platform, which boasts 15 million+ accounts globally. Today, the company relaunched a public results report from the Steam Hardware Survey and the top operating system is Windows XP 32 bit, which was running 68.7 percent of the computers surveyed in November.

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Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Windows , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 8, 2008 3:16 PM

Dell's Humidors packed with 'puro' servers for Microsoft?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


Ellen M. Banner / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Stacy Thrasher, great grand-daughter of F. K. Kirsten, poses for a photo inside my favorite local humidor.

Wondering who's going to build all the shipping containers preloaded with server computers to supply Microsoft's ambitious modular data center strategy? Dell, for one, is already scoring some of the business with a double-decker model code-named "Humidor."


Before we go much further, isn't that just a great code name? There are so many awful code names in tech, it's nice to see one that makes sense.

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Comments | Category: Cloud computing , Hardware , Server and tools |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 5, 2008 2:30 PM

Foley: Microsoft nabs Live Search distribution on Dell from Google

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Mary Jo Foley has a good scoop today on a distribution deal between Microsoft and Dell for Live Search. Currently, Google's search toolbar is preloaded on Dell PCs. Officials aren't commenting, but Foley cites unnamed sources familiar with the arrangement saying the two tech giants "have signed a deal via which Dell will be shipping new PCs with the Live Search toolbar preinstalled."

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 18, 2008 7:08 AM

Vista Capable: E-mails tell story of tense Monday at Microsoft

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

There are several interesting narratives to be found in the 252 pages of e-mail released last night in the Windows Vista Capable class action lawsuit unfolding in Seattle. Microsoft is accused of deceiving consumers who bought PCs in 2006 labeled "Vista Capable," but which could only run a basic version of the operating system.

The e-mails are interesting because they give an unvarnished look at how Microsoft worked with its most important partners on marketing for its most important product: Windows. Here is an excerpt from our story in today's paper:

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Intel , Legal issues , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 5, 2008 6:52 PM

Coming up: Talk at WinHEC turns to Windows Server

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Day 2 of Microsoft's Windows Hardware Engineering Conference starts at 9:30 a.m. with a speech from Bill Laing, corporate vice president of the Windows Server Division. Access to the Webcast is here.

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Server and tools |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 5, 2008 1:13 PM

WinHEC: 64-bit operating system reaching "tipping point" in U.S.

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

64bit slide.JPG

Jon DeVaan, Microsoft's senior vice president of the Windows Core Operating System Division, said today that the PC industry is rapidly adopting 64-bit versions of Windows Vista, in the U.S. at least.

"We believe that we have accomplished the tipping point in terms of 64-bit adoption," he said during a keynote speech to hardware makers at the company's WinHEC conference in Los Angeles. You can watch a replay of it here.

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

November 4, 2008 2:56 PM

Coming up: Microsoft WinHEC to focus on Windows 7 'fundamentals'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is set to address another important constituency tomorrow -- manufacturers of computers and other hardware for the Windows ecosystem. We'll be watching closely for new Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 details at the company's WinHEC (Windows Hardware Engineering Conference) in Los Angeles.

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Windows 7 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 15, 2008 5:59 AM

Third-quarter PC shipments grow 15 percent, tech earnings season arrives

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Analyst firm Gartner reported third-quarter PC shipments grew 15 percent year-over-year to 80.6 million units, lead by strength in the newer mini-notebook segment. But analysts continue their skeptical view of the tech sector -- which begins reporting September quarter earnings this week -- in anticipation of tighter IT budgets.

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Comments | Category: Chips and semiconductors , Financial , Hardware , Intel , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 3, 2008 7:32 AM

Next week: Microsoft business intelligence conference a coming out for DATAllegro

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft will tout its recent buy, DATAllegro, at a business intelligence conference beginning Monday in Seattle.

Microsoft announced the acquisition of the high-end database company in July during its Financial Analyst Meeting. The acquisition was viewed as a broadside on Oracle in the high-end database market. DATAllegro makes a data warehousing appliance, which combines multiple database servers with hardware.

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Comments | Category: Enterprise , Hardware , Office , Server and tools |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 13, 2008 5:08 AM

Microsoft's Surface plans include third-party application developers

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Workers were set to install three Microsoft Surface tabletop computers at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel early this morning. My story in today's paper touches on the Seattle commercial debut of the Surface, but also details the internal deployment of the devices on Microsoft's campus going on since January.

The company is now setting its sights on third-party application developers, with a boost from the internal developers who got their hands on the Surface in the past half year, said Matt Champagne, director of Surface product management.

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Comments | Category: Devices , Hardware |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 15, 2008 4:22 PM

Microsoft Windows on XO laptop later this summer

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is finally putting Windows on the One Laptop Per Child low-cost XO machines aimed at children in poor countries. Here's coverage of the development, which had been anticipated for some time, from The Associated Press.

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Comments | Category: Chips and semiconductors , Hardware , Intel , Philanthropy , Public policy & issues |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

May 14, 2008 8:30 AM

Gates looks to the future with top CEOs, unveils 'Touch Wall'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates conceived of the CEO Summit 12 years ago as an exclusive forum to discuss technology and other issues worrying the business world's elite. It's also an excellent sales opportunity for Microsoft. This year's event kicked off last night at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Devices , Hardware , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 3, 2008 11:17 AM

A tea leaf about Windows 7 in Windows XP announcement: It's still on track

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Makers of ultra-low-cost PCs (ULPCs) such as ASUS and Intel can install Windows XP Home until June 30, 2010, or one year after the general availability of Windows 7, whichever is later, Microsoft said today. But isn't Windows 7 supposed to be available in 2010?

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Comments | Category: Hardware , Intel , Microsoft , Windows 7 , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 28, 2008 4:15 PM

'White space' demonstration device, backed by Microsoft, breaks a third time

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft's "white spaces" demonstration device is broken. For the third time.

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Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Hardware , Intel , Microsoft , Public policy & issues , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 13, 2008 3:30 PM

Game consoles: Sony PS3 outsells Microsoft Xbox 360 for the second month in a row

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

For the second month in a row, Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Microsoft's Xbox 360, according to U.S. sales data for February from The NPD Group.

As the two higher-end consoles duke it out, Nintendo's Wii, which is in the midst of several sought-after game and accessory launches this spring, continued to run away with the market.

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Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Microsoft , Nintendo , Sony |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 19, 2008 9:00 PM

Microsoft: Death of HD DVD format to have no material impact on Xbox 360

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With Toshiba today making it official that HD DVD is done, Microsoft updated the statement they gave me last week about the company's plans for how to proceed with the Xbox 360's HD DVD player accessory. In last week's post, I discussed how the competing formats played out in the console battle between Sony and Microsoft. (Sony's PlayStation 3 comes equipped with the victorious Blu-ray Disc format.)

There's not much new from the earlier Microsoft statement:

"We do not believe the recent reports about HD DVD will have any material impact on the Xbox 360 platform or our position in the marketplace. As we've long stated, we believe it is games that sell consoles and Xbox 360 continues to have the largest next-gen games library with the most exclusives and best selling games in the industry. We will wait until we hear from Toshiba before announcing any specific plans around the Xbox 360 HD DVD player. HD DVD is one of the several ways we offer a high definition experience to consumers and we will continue to give consumers the choice to enjoy digital distribution of high definition movies and TV shows directly to their living room along with playback of the DVD movies they already own."

Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 15, 2008 12:08 PM

Microsoft, still supporting HD-DVD, doesn't close the door on Blu-ray

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

It's been a rough start to 2008 for the next-generation high-definition format backed by Microsoft, HD DVD, which is being eulogized around the Web today. The latest blow comes from Wal-Mart, which announced today that, by June, it will stock exclusively Blu-ray movies and players, in addition to its standard definition lines. And The Hollywood Reporter is quoting "reliable industry sources" who say that even HD DVD's prime backer, Toshiba, is expected to give up the format fight "sometime in the coming weeks." Netflix and Best Buy jumped on the Blu-ray bandwagon earlier this week.

All of which raises the question of what's next for Microsoft, which sells a $130 add-on HD DVD player for its Xbox 360. Unlike Sony's PlayStation 3, the device is not built-in. That helped Microsoft keep the price of the Xbox 360 lower at first. Sony has since cut its price for the PS3, and it bet on the winning hi-def horse, with a Blu-ray player built in to each box. In fact, the cheapest way to play high-def optical media through a game console now is to buy a $400 40-gigabyte Sony PlayStation 3. To match that, you'd have to buy an Xbox 360 for $350 and the $130 HD DVD add-on.

I asked a spokeswoman with the PR firm that handles Xbox for comment on Microsoft's plans if HD DVD should officially bite the dust. The company is sticking with it for now, but with caveats.

"Microsoft's plans for HD DVD won't change as long as they continue to see strong consumer interest and their partners remain committed. Sales of HD DVD players have remained brisk and there is a healthy catalog of more than 400 HD DVD titles offered at retail," she wrote in an email.

What about the possibility of switching to a Blu-ray player as an add-on?

"[I]t's too premature to say, but as Microsoft has long stated, Xbox is focused on delivering great high-definition experiences to consumers -- whether it's through HD gaming, digital downloads through Xbox LIVE Marketplace, optical media or IPTV."

So, gamers, would you like the option of a Blu-ray add-on for Xbox 360? And what would you pay for it?

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January 17, 2008 7:13 AM

Ahead of earnings, Goldman boosts MSFT; solid PC growth figures show Apple gains

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft will try to keep up with the blistering pace it set during the fiscal first quarter of 2008 when it reports earnings for the second quarter on Thursday, Jan. 24, after the markets closed.

Today, the stock started off up slightly after Goldman Sachs analyst Sara Friar added it back to the financial giant's "Americas Conviction Buy List." Friar is bullish on the upcoming earnings announcement and the late February launch of Windows Server 2008 and associated products.

Microsoft should also benefit from solid PC sales growth in the quarter, which hit 15.5 percent according data released yesterday by IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Gartner's growth estimate was slightly lower for the quarter: 13.1 percent. A huge chunk of Microsoft's Windows revenue comes from sales of software pre-installed on new PCs, so the PC growth rate dictates a large part of the company's financial results. But at least one PC tracker sees a slowdown ahead.

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Comments | Category: Financial , Hardware , Microsoft , Week in review |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

December 27, 2007 11:41 AM

Apple world: Rent flicks on iTunes; order coffee on iPhone; find community at Apple stores

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The Financial Times, quoting "a person familiar with the situation," says Apple is in a deal with movie studio 20th Century Fox to rent digital movies through iTunes, potentially making a key link in the digital entertainment chain.

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Comments | Category: Digital media , Games & entertainment , Hardware |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

August 15, 2007 11:32 AM

Scorching hot virtualization: VMW continues skyward; XenSource bought for $500 million

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After leaping out of the gate yesterday with the hottest IPO of the year, VMware is again climbing big-time today, up about 13 percent in midafternoon trading in New York.

That's got to have the people at Seattle-based virtualization startup illumita, which pulled down $6 million in funding last week, feeling pretty good. (Did we mention they're hiring? They are.) Their investors are probably smiling broadly, too, especially the guys over at Bellevue-based Ignition Partners.

An earlier virtualization bet that Ignition made on XenSource paid off handsomely today when Citrix Systems announced plans to buy the company for about $500 million in cash and stock. Here's analysis from Mary Jo Foley on what the Citrix-XenSource combination could mean for Microsoft.

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August 6, 2007 11:54 AM

FCC gives 'white space' device an early thumbs down

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Earlier this year, Microsoft, Google, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Intel and Philips -- working together as the White Space Coalition -- built a demonstration device to lobby the government to open up unused television airwaves -- called white space -- for wireless Internet access. The effort got the backing of Rep. Jay Inslee, for one.

But the Federal Communication Commission's initial review of the device was negative.

Broadcasting and Cable reports on the FCC's statement:

"This report determined that the sample prototype white-space devices submitted to the commission for initial evaluation do not consistently sense or detect TV broadcast or wireless microphone signals," the commission said, striking a blow to the hopes of companies looking to use the spectrum for portable devices like PDAs and game controllers.

The prototype was meant to demonstrate that accessing unused TV spectrum would not interfere with existing technology, such as TV broadcasts on adjacent channels and wireless signals.

The FCC review pleased the National Association of Broadcasters, which worries that using the white space would disrupt their signals.

NewsFactor Network covers the NAB reaction:

The FCC's latest tests "confirm what NAB and others have long contended, that the portable, unlicensed devices proposed by high-tech firms can't make the transition from theory to actuality without compromising interference-free television reception," said NAB executive vice president Dennis Wharton in a prepared statement.

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July 24, 2007 1:52 PM

Microvision projects itself into Motorola phones

Posted by Kristi Heim

Microvision stock got a lift today after the company announced a deal with Motorola to integrate its miniature projector into Motorola handsets. Microvision's PicoP projector has been a key product to test whether the company can successfully commercialize its technology and ensure its own survival.

The tiny laser projector works inside mobile devices to project content from the screen onto a larger surface, enabling big screen viewing of movies, videos and the like.

The companies announced a joint development agreement to integrate PicoP into a Motorola handset "for demonstration purposes." That sounded pretty tentative to me, so I asked Microvision spokesman Matt Nichols to clarify what the agreement means.

Until now, prototypes of the PicoP were not designed within functioning handsets, he said. This agreement takes it further by putting it into a real Motorola mobile device, validating the potential of Microvision's technology. As to what's ahead, "for competitive reasons" Motorola doesn't want to say what is beyond the initial test, he said.

However, Microvision is aiming to partner with a number of hardware makers to bring the projector to market, so it's no secret the company hopes its deal with the world's second largest handset maker will go a lot further than a demo.

The company's shares were up 12 percent today on the news, to $5.45.

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July 9, 2007 8:49 AM

Sony cuts PS3, as predicted. Who's next?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Video game industry analysts I spoke with last week for today's story previewing the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) were fairly certain we would see a price cut from either Sony or Microsoft sometime before the holiday season.

"These guys have got to do something, or Nintendo is going to run away with this business," said Mike Goodman, director of digital entertainment with Yankee Group Consumer Research.

Last night, Sony confirmed those predictions, lopping $100 off the price of the PlayStation 3. It now retails for $499, still the most expensive of the current generation video game consoles.

Sony also rolled out an 80 gigabyte hard-drive version of the PS3. According to this Associated Press report, the higher-capacity model will be packaged with racing game "MotorStorm" and sell for $599. This model won't hit North American markets until August.

From The AP:

[The higher-capacity PS3] plays into the company's upcoming strategy of eventually offering downloaded high-definition movies, video games, movie trailers and demos, Sony spokesman David Karraker said.

Karraker said further details on high-def movies for download would be released at a later date.

Could that later date be, say, Wednesday morning at 11:30 a.m., when Sony holds its E3 press conference? And what might this mean for Microsoft's Xbox 360?

The company isn't tipping its hand just yet. The president of Microsoft's Japan unit, Darren Huston, is quoted in this Wall Street Journal roundup as saying the Xbox 360 has "very competitive pricing" right now. He added that Microsoft would continue to "assess market dynamics." Not clear if his comments apply just to the Japanese market or to the Xbox 360 business globally.

Microsoft in March announced a $480 high-end version of the console, with 120 gigabytes of storage that appeared to be aimed squarely at the PS3's target audience.

I'll be keeping track of the major announcements from Santa Monica this week as E3 begins Tuesday. Check back here for updates following Microsoft's press conference Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. Nintendo goes before the cameras Wednesday morning at 9, followed by Sony.

In other news going in to E3, Sony issued an apology for a shoot-out scene that takes place in an Anglican cathedral in "Resistance: Fall of Man." According to this AP report, the game depicts a "gun battle between an American soldier and aliens inside a building that resembles Manchester Cathedral in northwest England."

Here's another story updating Nintendo's efforts to make the DS Lite an integral part of baseball through a pilot project with the Mariners at Safeco Field.

Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

June 20, 2007 3:01 PM

MWR initiating coverage of Cray with buy, $10 target

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Northwest brokerage and investment firm McAdams Wright Ragen is restarting coverage of supercomputer maker Cray.

MWR analyst Sid Parakh has been keeping an unofficial eye on the company for a while now and formally initiated coverage today with a "buy" rating and a $10 price target. The company's shares were down slightly today to $7.50.

Cray took a big hit in May when it disclosed the first of two negative developments that smacked the stock down. Parakh, in his opening report, put it this way:

Cray reported that it was experiencing product development delays for its BlackWidow (BW) and XMT products, pushing the launch timeline into late 2007 and 1H2008, respectively. In early June, the company announced a six-to-eight week delay in the launch of its XT4 Quad-Core product due to a postponement in the availability of a key component. The combination of these two events caused Cray to lower its 2007 outlook from its initial revenue expectation of $230 - $260 million down to under $200 million. Additionally, the company scrapped its earlier operating margin guidance of 3% - 7%, implying negative operating margin expectations.

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June 4, 2007 10:49 AM

Cray lowers guidance, takes a beating

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Seattle-based supercomputer maker Cray announced that it's expecting revenue this year at or below $200 million.

"While there continues to be a wide range of potential outcomes ... consequently, there is an increased probability that the company will not achieve profitability for the year," company management wrote.

Cray shares were down more than 12 percent, 96 cents, to $6.99 in early afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.

It sounds like the current year revenue slide is more of a delay than a disappearance altogether. Cray attributes the downgrade to "timing of volume parts availability" for its quad-core Cray XT4 systems. The company expects to begin selling these systems in the fourth quarter, but "the timing is such that most or all of the planned acceptances, and associated revenue recognition, will likely be deferred until early 2008."

Peter Ungaro, Cray's CEO, said in a statement the company is disappointed that two of its top goals -- growth and profitability -- are now "in jeopardy for 2007."

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