An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Next Week: Connections
I'll be attending the Connections conference in Las Vegas next week, where Mary Jo Foley and I will be hosting a panel discussion about the future of Microsoft and will be recording a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast live. (Mary Jo is also presenting a separate session as well.) See you in Las Vegas!
Yes, the Nokia Sirius Tablet Is Still Happening
Since Microsoft announced that it is buying Nokia's hardware and services offerings, I've argued that it no longer makes sense for Nokia to release its "Sirius" tablet, which—while interesting—will utilize the lackluster Windows RT and come with a heady $499 price tag. But no worries, Nokia fans: I can now confirm that Sirius is still happening, and the firm will indeed announce the device at an October launch event that will include a few new phones, including a long-awaited Lumia phablet, as well. And here's something you've not heard yet: it will ship in separate versions for both AT&T and Verizon LTE.
Microsoft Surface "Mini" Delayed Until 2014
And it might not be "early" 2014, just "sometime in 2014." A number of reports emerged this week that Microsoft's third Surface model, a Surface "mini" I exclusively revealed early this year, would be delayed from its planned late-2013 release to sometime in 2014. I can now confirm this is true, although the release might be further off than many expect (i.e., as late as this time next year). As I revealed earlier, the Surface mini will feature an 8" screen, utilize a Qualcomm processor, and run Windows RT. That's not changed.
Microsoft Annual Company Meeting
Microsoft held the last annual company-wide meeting of the Steve Ballmer era yesterday, and a number of sources within the company stepped up to tell me exactly what they discussed. Below, you'll find a few tidbits from this private internal event.
Company Meeting: Devices Aren't Just Bigger than PCs, They're WAY Bigger than PCs
Although Microsoft likes to debate the term "post-PC world," the firm made its best case yet for this notion, noting that while the market for PCs is about 350 million units per year (reality check: It's closer to 300 million), the market for non-PC computing devices—smartphones, tablets, and so on—is much, much bigger. How much bigger? How about 2.8 billion? This number explains why Microsoft has positioned itself as a devices and services company: It feels like it must secure a piece of that massive pie in order to remain a major player going forward. I happen to disagree with that assessment, and think the firm would be better served writing software and services that users could use on all those devices, but whatever. That's the thinking.
Company Meeting: Windows 7 Will Not Be the Next Windows XP
With Windows XP support finally winding down, the firm recently revealed that about 30 percent of all PCs in use worldwide are still running the aging OS. But at its company meeting, the real figure—27 percent—emerged, which means there are about 405 million XP PCs in use worldwide, an eye-opening figure. But Microsoft is determined not to let this happen again. So while many of us believe that Windows 7 will neatly slip into XP's role and become the next XP—partially because so few businesses are interested in Windows 8.x—Microsoft will instead push its newer OSs and let Windows 7 die a quicker death. It believes that by "listening" to customers with Windows 8.1, it can make this happen, and that the business-oriented changes in that version of the OS put it over the top. We'll see, but I've yet to hear anything like that from the enterprise.
Company Meeting: Lumia 520 Is the Best-Selling Windows Device in the World
If you've been following my coverage of the Nokia Lumia 520 on the SuperSite for Windows, you know that this $99 wonder isn't just versatile and fun, it's also the best-selling Windows Phone handset by far, and has been the most-used Windows Phone handset in the world for months. But Microsoft revealed an even more fascinating statistic about this device at its company meeting: The Lumia 520 is the best-selling Windows device in the world, a milestone that includes both PCs and tablets as well as phones.
Company Meeting: Yes, Microsoft Will Unify Development for Windows Phone and Windows
And now we know the timing, sort of: It will happen with the next release of Windows, or what we might call Windows 9. The idea is to unify the development environment—tools and APIs—across all Windows devices and to provide a single app store that works across PCs, tablets, and phone. That latter bit caused a bit of a sensation online yesterday when reports emerged that Microsoft was going to "combine" Windows Store (for Windows) and Windows Phone Store into a single electronic storefront, but that's not really a big story: They are already the "same" store, really. The big deal is that the app environments—the runtimes/APIs/SDKs—are merging. Yes, it's happening.
Company Meeting: Microsoft Demos Game Streaming from Tukwila Data Center
As I revealed first on Twitter yesterday, Microsoft demonstrated a streaming version of Halo 4 running on Windows Phone and Windows tablet devices. Here's what this means: The firm is developing an online game streaming service, similar to OnLive, which could let it stream modern PC-quality games over the Internet from its data centers—yesterday's demo utilized Microsoft's Tukwila data center—to modern Windows devices. The firm noted that latency was down to 45 milliseconds, which is probably OK for simple single-player gaming but is in fact pretty high for real-time multiplayer gaming. But here's a secret benefit of this technology: Microsoft might use this to solve the backward-compatibility problem of the Xbox One, which cannot play Xbox 360 games: It could simply stream these titles to customers. In the future. Maybe.
Company Meeting: Office Team Talks Gemini
Mary Jo Foley has been talking about the next version of Office, code-named Gemini, for a while now, and at the annual meeting yesterday, Microsoft confirmed that it's real: Gemini includes an improved Business Intelligence (BI) tool for Excel, Hadoop integration, and natural query tools. Based on what I've heard about the Gemini demo, it was classic Office, with lots of data points all coming together into an integrated experience, but I'm kind of short on the details. The news here is that Gemini exists.
Company Meeting: Steve Ballmer Goes Out Weeping Like a Baby
And I mean that in a good way. Arguing that breaking up Microsoft or confining its efforts to the enterprise would be a huge mistake, CEO Steve Ballmer—who recently announced he's stepping down within 12 months—gave his final company meeting appearance, and it was an emotional one. And try not to groan at this one, but he left the stage to standing ovation as the song "(I've Had) The Time Of my Life" played in the background. Yes, really.
Google Turns 15, Changes Search Algorithm
Google celebrated its 15th anniversary this week and celebrated by making a major change to its search engine that should help it stop driving traffic to other sites. The new algorithm behind this change, code-named "Hummingbird" (and not "f!@# 'em" as I'd imagined) now provides better answers to user queries—a good thing—but also drives less traffic off of Google.com since you can get more done right there. And that's bad for those of us—and in this case, I do mean "us"—who actually create the content that Google mines. Remember, Google doesn't create or maintain any data in-house. It just takes from the rest of the world and gives it to users, while making money on advertising. Those last two items would be perfectly legit if it weren't for the first.
But Wait, There's More
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