An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
CES: A Complete Waste of Time
I spent much of this week wading through an unprecedented sea of non-news thanks to the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and the hyperactive, kiddie-driven gadgets blogs, which will—and did—write a post about anything, no matter how uninteresting or nonsensical. So we saw individual posts about every single freaking pair of headphones announced at the show. Every iPhone case. Two bored-looking booth girls listlessly kicking a soccer ball back and forth. Whatever. When I started WinInfo in 1995, I had one goal: separate the wheat from the chaff and tell the reader about only what really matters. My successors, alas, are both less insightful and less useful, from what I can tell. And it makes me sad. Not only is CES a waste of time, but thanks to these kids' inability to discern and then communicate what's really important, they've actively worked to make it harder for others to figure that out as a result. These blogs are an embarrassment. And with CES over, I'm more than happy to delete them from my RSS feed reader for good and get back to real news. But I have some advice for the kids, and it goes like this. Most of what you "write" about is worthless. As a result, so are you.
A fascinating Business Week article about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer reveals some interesting insights. (Note to kiddie bloggers: Read and learn.) Looking back on his 3.5 years at the helm of a) the world's largest and most successful software company or b) a company in the midst of watching its market power ebb, Mr. Ballmer reflects on what he might have done differently. He admits that Microsoft is now often the underdog, not the "overdog" (as he calls it). He wishes the clownish "monkey boy" thing never happened (or at least was never videotaped.) He calls 2012 a "reset moment" for the company, which is interesting. And he admits that the relative failure of Windows Vista prompted drastic changes. And of course there are the critics, many of whom call for his ouster. Ultimately, however, I'm guessing that critical comments about Ballmer don't mean much to the man. He's worth $14 billion, which suggests he could spend more money than I make in a year for every single minute of the rest of his life and still be buried in a pile of hundred-dollar bills bigger than my house. More to the point, Microsoft's profits have more than tripled under Ballmer and its revenues have almost tripled. So take that, critics. And for the rest of you, read the article. It's long, it's in-depth, and it's interesting—again, everything the gadget blogs are not.
Windows 8 in October?
Let's hope not. But a Microsoft executive provided the same hint that's been provided in the past, prompting a new round of rumors. And it goes like this. During a CES product demo, Microsoft Public Relations Director Janelle Poole said, "Windows releases come round about every three years, and this year will be three years in October since we launched Windows 7. So I think that's a good guideline to consider." That sounds dramatic. But Steven Sinofsky, who runs the Windows Division, said exactly the same thing at BUILD last September. So it's not really "news" per se. But I'm sure every gadget blog on Earth will have a breathless post about it this morning, regardless. And no, I will not let this drop.
Rumor Patrol: Microsoft's Web TV Plans "On Hold"
Reuters is crediting unnamed sources with a blockbuster bit of information, if it's true: Microsoft has apparently put its plans to offer subscription TV show and movie services "on hold" after talks with media companies broke down. What's amazing about this is that the companies had been debating terms for over a year and a half, and it seemed that Microsoft was on the cusp of making it happen. But as you might imagine, licensing costs are what ultimately killed the plans: The media companies just wanted too much money. Apparently, the project was called Microsoft TV, at least as a code name, and would have been similar to Netlfix but would have offered more current TV shows and movies immediately and thus could have been a cable TV replacement for many. Microsoft, of course, is busy with Plan B as we speak, adding more and more content providers to its Xbox LIVE service. But when you think about what could've been, Microsoft TV was far more ambitious and interesting.
Rumor Patrol: A Kinect HD Set-Top Box for 2012?
Speaking of rumors concerning Microsoft's entertainment plans, a number of less reliable sources are claiming that the software giant will introduce a Kinect-based set-top box in late 2012 that will stream Internet-based multimedia, offer motion and voice control, and cost less than $200. It's like an Xbox + Kinect minus the video game stuff, I guess, and is variously called the "Kinect HD," "Live Xbox," or "Kinect Box," depending on who you ask. So is it viable? Sure, I guess so, though I still think the market for these living-room boxes (which are indeed useful to consumers) will remain small. And the ability to wave your hands frantically at the TV isn't going to change that.
iPhone 4S Sales Canceled in China
We've finally gotten the Apple product launch I've always dreamed of: Surly customers-to-be hurling eggs at Apple retail stores in Beijing halted sales of the iPhone 4S in that country. Well, it's not exactly what I had hoped for. Turns out, the Chinese were just too excited to get the evolutionary device, forcing Apple to sell the iPhone 4S only electronically. Still, the sight of eggs on an Apple Store ... You know, it just warms the heart. Speaking of which....
Target Plans Apple Mini-Stores Within Its Stores
Oh good, I was just thinking that what this country needs is more Apple Stores. I have an idea: Rather than build all this crap, why doesn't Apple just unilaterally make each of its products available for 25 percent less than the current selling price? It would save money, raise market share, and benefit the millions of people who can't actually afford all this stuff to begin with.
Video Game Sales Fall Off a Cliff in 2011
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 might have been the most successful entertainment launch of all time, but even that wasn't enough to save the overall video game market in 2011. Total video game sales for the year were off a stunning 21 percent when compared with 2010, according to NPD, and sales in the crucial holiday month of December were down 8 percent when compared with the same month a year earlier. (Methinks the November release of MW3 is what saved December.) Video game hardware was off even more, by 28 percent in December. On the good news front, we're still talking big money here.
Rupert Murdoch Admits News Corp. "Screwed Up" MySpace
Wait. What's MySpace?
Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!
It was a big week for podcasting, so hang on to your seats. On Monday, Mary Jo Foley and I provided live, MST3K-style coverage of Microsoft 2012 CES keynote. Then, on Tuesday, I recorded two podcasts: an earlier-than-usual, CES-themed episode of Windows Weekly with Leo and Mary Jo, and my normally scheduled (but also CES-themed) episode of What The Tech with Andrew Zarian. Then, on Wednesday, I appeared on the CES episode of the Windows Phone Dev Podcast, which also included some fun Modern Warfare 3 team deathmatch advice. All of these new episodes are available now, generally in both audio in video formats, on the web, and via iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found. And now I must sleep.
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