An often irreverent look at this holiday-shortened week's other news, including a look back at Internet Explorer's ups and downs in 2011, how the US smart phone market changed between August and November, the letter than toppled HP CEO Mark Hurd, Facebook's new Windows Messenger application, Verizon's Happy New Years greeting for customers, and a coming generation of Ultra-Definition TVs.

Internet Explorer in 2011: Good, Bad, or Indifferent?
The Internet Explorer team published a year-end blog post about the product's performance in 2011, and if you've been following along with the team's monthly missives, it should sound familiar. Depending on how you look at it, 2011 was either good, bad, or indifferent for IE. In the good news column, which is what Microsoft prefers to highlight, the latest IE version, IE 9, has made tremendous usage share gains, especially on Windows 7. In fact, as of now, it's the number one most often used browser on Windows 7 with about 26 percent usage share. (IE 8, which comes preinstalled on Windows 7, has about the same usage share.) In the bad news department--and this is the news virtually all tech blogs and mainstream news stories highlight, go figure--IE lost share overall throughout 2011. It currently controls about 53 percent of PC browser usage share (compared to 22 percent for Firefox and 18 percent for Chrome), down from 59 percent a year ago. Its chief rival, Chrome, controlled just 10 percent of the market a year ago; Firefox usage is down a bit from 24 percent. But in my mind, things are fairly indifferent. Because sitting in the middle of these two extremes is one simple fact: Usage of the outdated and insecure IE 6 version, which ships as part of Windows XP and is thus hard to kill off, has dropped dramatically in 2011, and that benefits everyone. The future of the web, as with the future of personal computing, is going to be more heterogeneous than it was in the past, and while some (i.e., Microsoft) may pine for the dominant days of the past, the trends we see today are pointing to a healthier future--and a healthier web--for us all.

US Smart Phone Market: Android Up, iOS Flat, RIM Continues Its Nosedive
The market researchers at comScore this week released their findings for the US smart phone market in November, and the results are fairly predictable. Google's Android continues its strong march upward, jumping to 47 percent market share (it was 44 percent in August). Number-two Apple, with iOS, is flat at about 29 percent. And number-three RIM continues to tumble, falling from 20 percent in August to 16.6 percent. And the top three smart phone makers are all Android licensees: Samsung (26 percent), LG (21 percent), and Motorola (14 percent), with Apple a distant fourth at 11 percent. Microsoft, by the way, was essentially flat, with 5.2 percent market share. Admit it, that's over twice what you thought it was. And I'd just remind everyone that Apple's Mac OS X controls that exact same market share in the global PC market before you dismiss it as an also-ran. Face, meet palm.

The Beginning of the End: Letter That Toppled Mark Hurd Revealed
2011 was notable for a number of reasons, and we'll have to wait and see whether HP, RIM, or Yahoo ends up looking the worst for wear once the dust settled. (For now, I'll call it a three-way tie.) Anyway, HP's problems actually began in 2010, when then-CEO Mark Hurd's public life became all-too private and he was tossed out on the street by a defiant board of directors who claimed that his behavior was "inappropriate." Now, we know how inappropriate: The letter that touched off Mr. Hurd's ouster--described by a court as "mildly embarrassing," which is an understatement--has been made public. And it's a doozy. In the letter, which was delivered "by personal messenger" (just in case you thought HP wasn't old school), Mr. Hurd was accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. I won't go into the lurid details, but let's just say that Hurd made many unwanted advances and even revealed internal company plans (including a $14 billion HP purchase of EDS that happened two years later). Hurd resigned shortly after receiving the letter. But you know what? Given the events of the intervening 18 months, I bet a lot of folks at HP would love to get Hurd back, because this company spent much of 2011 spiraling the drain, or at least running around like a chicken with its head cut off.

Facebook Testing New Messenger Client
After a test version of its Facebook Messenger for Windows application leaked online this week, Facebook came clean and released the real thing, complete with documentation and an online Help center. Messenger for Windows is Facebook's answer to IM applications like Windows Live Messenger and an alternative of sorts to the Facebook web site since it offers access to your Facebook-based friend requests, Messages (which are like email, but tied to Facebook), and notifications. It runs via the Windows system tray, can be windowed or docked to the edge of the screen, and connects you to the people you care about. What's not to like?

Verizon Extends Middle Finger Towards Customers, Emulates Bank of America
Verizon Wireless this week found itself in the midst of a self-created and easily avoidable fracas over its plans to institute a $2 fee for those customers who make one-time payments on the phone or online. The unwarranted fee harkens to an earlier plan by Bank of America, since rescinded after a similar uproar, to institute a $5 per month fee for those customers who were silly enough to actually use the company's ATM machines. See, here's the problem with the Verizon plan: It charges customers for something that doesn't necessarily cost Verizon anything, while meanwhile not charging other customers who perform actions--like paying by paper check--that do, in fact, cost Verizon money. Put another way, they're punishing the wrong people. My guess is that the uproar will cause Verizon to reverse course. And if they don't, I'll just tell you for the upteenth time that AT&T is not as bad as Apple and its fans have led you to believe.

3D TVs are Failing, So What's Next? How About Ultra-Definition TV (UDTV)?
Consumers aren't exactly lining up for 3D televisions--and, heck, even my kids gave an in-store demonstration a dismissive grade of "eh," which doesn't bode well--so how will the television industry react to its need to sell you yet another version of the same thing? How about Ultra-Definition TV, or UDTV? This coming generation of higher-than-high definition televisions will come in ginormous physical sizes (55" to 84" inch, I'm told) but, even more important, will offer eye-popping onscreen resolutions of  3840×2160. That's almost 4,000 pixels horizontally, kids, double that of the 1920 x 1080 HD standard, leading to UDTV's other name: 4K. And since 4,000 is bigger than 2,000, it must be better, right? Still not convinced? Oh, did I mention these TVs are coming with 3D technologies too? Sigh.

Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!
Andrew and I recorded a "2012 Wishlists and Predictions" episode of the What The Tech podcast on Tuesday, and Mary Jo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Leo on Thursday that focuses on Microsoft's highs and lows of 2011. Both new episodes should be available by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More
Don't forget to follow me on TwitterFriendfeedPaul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, and the SuperSite Blog. Coming soon: Windows 8 Secrets!

Happy Holidays, Part Deux!
As with last week, this Short Takes is a bit shorter than usual, and once again I can blame a holiday-shortened week, one that in this case felt like a blurry, never-ending long weekend. But New Years is upon us at last, and we're off Monday, again. So stay tuned to the SuperSite for Windows over the holiday long weekend; if anything of note happens, I'll be writing about it. Have a happy and safe holiday. --Paul