An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Nokia Admits the Obvious: A Microsoft Surface Phone Would Damage the Company
Today, Nokia is by far the world’s leading maker of Windows Phone handsets. And it could even be argued that the Windows Phone market—such as it is—is pretty much just Nokia with a small serving of HTC on the side, like the vegetables no one wants but we all agree is healthy. But with rumors continuing to swirl that Microsoft might make its own Windows Phone—or what we might call a “Surface Phone”—Nokia’s shaky comeback could become a lot shakier. In public, Nokia executives have said that such a move would be healthy for the market, but as is always the case, the firm must state the obvious truth in regulatory filings. And this week it did so, noting that a Surface Phone would have “a negative effect” the Nokia. “Moreover, if Microsoft reduces investment in [Windows Phone] or discontinues it, [Nokia’s] smartphone strategy would be directly negatively affected by such acts.” People are going to make a lot of these statements, but they shouldn’t: Nokia is required by law to list potential challenges to its business in such filings. Nothing to see here, unless of course you’re not particularly insightful.
Nokia Expects to Cash In on Microsoft Cross-Licensing Deal
When Nokia announced its plan to use Microsoft’s Windows Phone OS in early 2011, there was a lot of speculation about which way the money would flow. On the one hand, we have Nokia paying Microsoft to license Windows Phone. And on the other, we have Microsoft paying Nokia to support Windows Phone, especially for its expertise in location services. The assumption was that, in the long run, Nokia would pay more to Microsoft than the reverse, making it the junior partner in the transaction, and there was a lot of grumbling from the Nokia fan base about CEO Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft executive, bowing down to Redmond. Well, Nokia now says this assumption is incorrect: In that same regulatory filing noted above, the firm says that Microsoft currently doles out $250 million in “platform support payments” each quarter and that it, in turn, makes unspecified but “competitive” software royalty payments to Microsoft, also quarterly. So far, Microsoft has paid Nokia more than the reverse. And over the course of the agreement, Nokia expects Microsoft’s remaining platform support payments to outweigh its own royalty payments by approximately $650 million. So they’ve got that going for them.
Windows Phone 7.8 Updates Halted, but You Need a Divining Rod to Know It
While we’re on the subject of Windows Phone, I should note that Microsoft’s planned release of Windows Phone 7.8—the final major 7.x update, which adds the Start screen capabilities from Windows Phone 8 to the older system—has been halted because of a technical glitch. It turns out that Microsoft found a “minor issue where some 7.8 tiles stop updating and [is] working on a fix now.” We know this not because Microsoft published a blog post explaining things, or because the Windows Phone website was updated with the information, but because one member of the Windows Phone team tweeted the news in response to a single other user on Twitter. Yep, that’s how these guys communicate: poorly. Am I tired of this? Duh. Am I resigned to this issue never being fixed? Obviously. And that’s just one of about a million reasons that this all-too-important product should be handed over to a more competent team at Microsoft.
Xbox Live Gold Family Pack, RIP
Microsoft this week confirmed that its Xbox Live Gold Family Pack, which provided four Xbox Live Gold memberships for a hugely discounted price of $99.99, has been discontinued. (Individual Xbox Live Gold accounts are normally $69.99 per year.) “The Family Gold offer is no longer available for purchase,” a Microsoft representative wrote in the Xbox Support Forums, slyly and incorrectly suggesting that this “offer” was always supposed to be temporarily. “We continually evaluate our business focus and work to offer services that make the most sense for our customers and Xbox.” Or, as I might put it, “that make the most sense for Xbox.” And this is the dark side of the Xbox experience I keep writing about: When Microsoft finds an all-too-receptive audience, it has no problem milking them unnecessarily. This is just the latest example, and it’s wrong.
Pandora CEO Steps Down, Doesn’t Entertain Us with His Exit
Well, this is disappointing. Last week, I wrote about Groupon CEO Andrew Mason’s hilarious exit from the company he founded after it reported a disappointing quarter amidst a nose-diving stock price that wiped out billions of dollars of value in the company. Now this week, Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy has announced that he’s leaving the company he’s led for a decade. But Pandora just announced better-than-expected financial results, and its stock price soared over 20 percent in the wake of that announcement. Worse, Kennedy didn’t even leave a funny note. What the heck!
Google Cuts Another 1,200 Jobs at Android Phone Maker Motorola Mobility
Just guessing, but I bet those jobs weren’t related to the patent part of the business.
Detroit Was Apparently the Inspiration for SimCity
It was the most eagerly awaited game of the first half of 2013, the most recent entry in a beloved franchise that is supported by millions of dedicated fans. And it is now the most unmitigated tech disaster I can think of, and yes, I’ve lived through Windows Millennium Edition (Windows Me) and Windows Vista. (No, Windows 8 doesn’t qualify. Sit down, Waldo.) SimCity’s release this week was marred by problems too numerous to even list, and still is, and to say that its fans—would-be players, at this point—are upset is the understatement of the decade. For years, I’ve been making the argument that PC gaming is dead, but this is like desecrating a corpse. What an embarrassment.
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