Dumais figures that major improvements in search technology are only a few years out. Getting people to stop saying Google when they mean search, however, may take a lot longer.

How Much Is That Zune in the Window?

An unconfirmed report in This Week In Consumer Electronics says that Microsoft plans to sell the Zune, the company's answer to Apple's ( AAPL) popular iPod music player, for $299. Articles on other sites also claim that the launch date has been set for Nov. 14.

If true, the Zune would be roughly comparable to the iPod; both players have a capacity of 30GBs although the Zune reportedly will have a larger screen.

Retailers who have been briefed by Microsoft said the player will offer WiFi capability, but will require that the portable be connected to a PC for the actual purchase of songs, according to the consumer-electronics publication.

Microsoft did not comment on the report.

Early Indicators

Tech investors will get a much better fix on the hoped-for second-half surge next week when four important companies report earnings. The key, says Goldman Sachs analyst Laura Conigliaro, is Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ), which reports Wednesday, along with Network Appliance ( NTAP). Brocade ( BRCD) and Dell ( DELL) follow on Thursday.

Conigliaro, who rates H-P a buy, says the company's software business is likely to improve once it digests recently acquired Mercury Interactive ( MERQ), and the storage business "already sounds more competitive, with H-P's pricing power making it more difficult for competitors to continue to take share from it."

Goldman Sachs has investment banking business with H-P and Mercury.


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