An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Seeking Answers from a Company that Doesn’t Know How to Communicate
After watching the Xbox One fiasco unfold over the past few weeks, it’s pretty clear that a recent decision to better integrate the different teams at Microsoft—you might recall the infamous "Microsoft org chart" joke in which the teams were pictured pointing guns at one another—was perhaps a move too far to the other extreme. That is, the once-mighty Xbox team has succumbed to the same communications ineptitude that has hobbled Windows Phone and, for about six painful years, Windows too. These guys could once do no wrong, and today, suddenly, they can do no right. Watching Don Mattrick fumble around like an idiot, I almost feel bad for the guy. You know, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s making a mockery of everything that Xbox fans hold dear. Maybe it’s time for Microsoft to rethink not just how it develops and services products—that new online services model—but how it communicates with its customers. Clearly, this is the biggest issue with the firm right now, and it’s a serious, serious problem. Related: "Xbox One Launch Missteps Could Cost Microsoft"
Damned If They Do? No. They Need to Explain It Properly, Too.
Matt Baxter-Reynolds at ZDNet raises a fairly obvious point in the wake of Microsoft’s recent troubles, noting that the firm is "damned if they do, damned if they don't," and that nothing it does will please everyone (or anyone). Fair enough, and I’ve made the same point. But let’s not let Microsoft’s “unwinnable” position get in the way of understanding the “why” of this situation. It’s this way because huge swaths of the firm can’t communicate effectively, as noted above. I recall that in the wake of Windows Vista someone from the Windows team asked me how the company could get customers to trust it, and to trust the initial release of a product (and not, say, wait for the first service pack), with the inference being that Microsoft never got any product right until the third version. I told this person that it would simply need to consistently deliver, and that over time these impressions would evolve. The Windows Sever team has no problem doing this, for example, and Office pretty much falls into this category, too. But some parts of Microsoft have a hard time explaining not why what they’re doing is “right” but rather why what they’re doing benefits actual customers. This is never a problem for Server or Office. It should never be a problem for any part of Microsoft. This is basic stuff, guys. Figure it out. Related: "Microsoft Answers Complaints but Neuters Some Key Xbox One Advantages"
Alternate History Report: Microsoft Came THIS Close to Buying Nokia’s Handset Business
If things had gone just a little differently at a secret meeting in London about a week ago, the blockbuster news this week would have nothing to do with Don Mattrick and submarines. Instead, Microsoft and Nokia could be announcing the most sweeping change in the smartphone industry since Apple revealed the iPad, with Microsoft purchasing Nokia’s handset business in a blockbuster deal worth billions. Alas, it was not to be: After getting very close to a verbal agreement, the two firms walked away from the table for unspecified reasons. I still think a Microsoft acquisition of Nokia is a possibility, however, and given this week’s news about Chinese smartphone giant Huawei also being possibly interested in purchasing Nokia, you have to think that Microsoft’s hand might be forced at some point. Such an event would result in the end of Windows Phone OS licensing, I bet, but it would also inject some much-needed talent into the design and creation of that OS. This is overdue.
Samsung Announces New Families of Windows 8 PC and Devices
Am I the only one who doesn’t really trust this company? Maybe I’m just getting all "conspiracy theory" here, but it seems to me that Samsung is just hedging its bets with Windows-based devices and that if Google gets its Android act together (you know, kill the pointless Chrome OS and put Android on PCs) it will jump ship at the first chance. Case in point: One of the Windows-based tablet hybrids the firm introduced yesterday, the ATIV Q, runs both Windows 8 and Android, so you can switch back and forth between the two. This is of close to zero benefit to any end user, but it provides valuable information to Samsung about how a platform migration could work. If Windows 8 was only a desktop OS, this might make sense to some mass market. But Windows 8 includes its own touch-friendly mobile environment, with an app store, a digital media ecosystem, and more. Tying Windows to Android is even more of a Frankenstein experiment than is Windows 8, and the fact that some people are applauding this move has me wondering.
Oracle + Microsoft
Well, here’s a corporate tie-up I bet you never saw coming: On Monday, Oracle will reveal a new partnership with Microsoft that also involves Salesforce.com and NetSuite, according to CEO Larry Ellison. Oracle and Microsoft, of course, compete in the corporate database space, and if I’m reading this right, Oracle—a tardy convert to cloud computing—will probably announce that its Oracle Database 12c product is now somehow ideal for the cloud, blah blah blah. So what’s the Microsoft tie-in? Hosting on Azure? Integration with Microsoft’s management servers? Integration—gasp!—with SQL Server?? We’ll have to wait until Monday to find out. But given Ellison’s penchant for drama (he did, after all, telegraph that this announcement was coming), I’m hoping for something ridiculous.
FAA Embraces Science and Will Allow Some Electronic Device Usage During Plane Takeoff, Landing
Here’s a bit of good news for the weekend: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now considering adopting some common-sense rules for allowing the use of some electronic devices during plane take-off and landing. Basically, passengers will be able to use devices such as smartphones and tablets for data but not voice. Apparently, the FAA has been studying this issue since last year amidst growing complaints that the current no-usage policy is ridiculous because there is zero evidence that they interfere with flight systems. (And by the way, some airlines let their pilots use iPads during takeoff and landing, and in flight, in case you’re wondering about their real stance on this issue.) I don’t really care what the rule is; I just want it to be based on facts and not on some voodoo-like perception about what might be happening. Figure it out.
Meet Me Next Week at Build in San Francisco
I’ll be in San Francisco next week for Microsoft’s Build conference. If you’ll be in town, too, there are two events to be aware of. First, I’m sort-of cohosting/attending a mini-Build Blogger Bash replacement event with Mary Jo Foley, Rafael Rivera, and other tech bloggers at the Thirsty Bear on Thursday, July 27, at 6:30 p.m., and will be attending a Build Influencers party after that. Then, on Friday afternoon, we’re all heading up to Petaluma to record the Windows Weekly podcast live at the TWiT Brick House at 5:00 p.m. Everyone is invited, and we’ll be serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres. If you’re coming to the Windows Weekly event, please RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org.
But Wait, There's More
Don't forget to follow me onTwitter and Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Windows Phone 8 (currently in progress) and Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Xbox Music!