An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...

Reminder: Monday Holiday Next Week

Just a quick reminder that Monday is the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the United States and that since Penton will be closed, there won’t be a WinInfo newsletter on Monday. However, I’ll be working, so stay tuned to the SuperSite for Windows.

Intel the Latest Victim in PC Market Showdown

Because of my focus on Microsoft, I tend to think of this company and Windows when it comes to PC sales. But obviously, Microsoft isn’t the only company harmed by last year’s slowdown in PC sales: Microprocessor giant Intel is also suffering and, like Microsoft, if it doesn’t reverse the trend, it’s going to succumb to smaller competitors that offer more mobile products. Intel this week released its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2012, and for all of calendar year 2012. The firm posted net income of $2.5 billion in Q4 on revenues of $13.5 billion, which was in line with reduced expectations thanks to what Intel described as a “challenging environment.” The most telling statistic came from its PC client group, which experienced a 6 percent revenue drop in the quarter year-over-year. This data corresponds to IDC and Gartner data for PC sales, which fell in the quarter, year-over-year, for the first time in several years. Intel now expects “low single digit” growth for calendar year 2013. But the worst news might be that Wall Street’s negative reaction to the news drove Intel’s stock down, resulting in an embarrassing moment where its much smaller competitor Qualcomm, which makes ARM-based chipsets, was momentarily worth more than Intel.

On the Good News Front…

So, it’s going to be an interesting year. But I actually see a future in which Intel does the same thing to Qualcomm and the broader ARM industry that it did previously to AMD. You might recall that AMD got a boost a decade ago when it created what’s now called the x64 instruction set, adding 64-bit capabilities to the aging x86 chipset and ushering it into the modern age. That boost came courtesy of Microsoft, which immediately seized on x64 as the superior alternative to Intel’s ridiculous Itanium product, and supported it natively in Windows. So Intel was forced to sign on, and as x64 really took off, Intel left AMD in the dust with superior chips. Intel could do the same thing to ARM, though it’s going to have to move a lot more quickly than it has so far. Its Atom “Clover Trail” is already superior to today’s ARM chipsets in virtually every way imaginable, but Intel needs to get the battery life and cool temperatures of this design into faster, more powerful Core chipsets. And that won’t happen until late 2013. Will that be fast enough? Like I said—interesting year.

ASUS Looking at Windows-Powered Padphone

ASUS Corporate VP Benson Lin said this week that the firm has an interesting idea for a “Padphone”—a smartphone that docks into a laptop shell, thus transforming into a real computer—based vaguely on Windows 8. I say vaguely because Windows 8 can’t work on smartphone-sized screens and doesn’t include phone-calling capabilities, and Windows Phone 8 can’t work on laptop-sized screens. So it’s not clear which OS they’d be able to use for this Frankenstein-like contraption. Still, the mind boggles at the possibilities, and why couldn’t Microsoft add phone-calling features to Windows 8 (or, conversely, let Windows Phone 8 run on a laptop-sized screen)? “We are interested in making Windows phones,” Lin said. “With our Padfone concept, the phone plus tablet, I think it makes sense for Windows 8 … But there is no target timeline.” Nor, apparently, any idea what software is going to run on the thing. Given the choices, I’d advise Microsoft to add phone features to Windows 8/Windows RT. You know it’s not a big deal doing so.

Surface Controls 82 Percent of a Completely Pointless Market

The good news: Microsoft Surface with Windows RT represents about 82 percent of the market for Windows RT devices, according to the market researchers at AdDuplex. But then there’s the bad: The same firm says that Windows RT represents just 9 percent of all Windows 8 usage worldwide, and a separate firm, UBS AG, says that it believes Microsoft has sold just 1 million Surface with Windows RT tablets so far. So … doing a little math, we find that total Windows RT sales are approximately 1.2 million units. And if that’s 9 percent of all Windows 8 usage, then there are possibly 13.5 million people using Windows 8 overall right now. I think. That number is a far cry from the 60 million Windows 8 licenses sold and is flawed for about a hundred reasons—those numbers I’m using are essentially made up and are completely unrelated, for starters. But that’s the point. Anyone can throw out numbers. The real proof in the pudding, so to speak, will happen when and if Microsoft reveals actual Surface sales next week. I bet they don’t do it.

Microsoft Offers to Let Business Users Take Office 2013 Home for Just $10

If you thought Microsoft’s Windows Upgrade Offer—by which purchasers of Windows 7 PCs can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for just $15—was a good deal, wait until you get a load of this. Microsoft this week unveiled a new Office 2013 Home Use Program (HUP) for Software Assurance (SA) customers which allows employees to purchase Office 2013 Professional Plus for just $9.95. That’s a $490 savings—yes, seriously—over the retail price of that Office SKU (though Office Home & Student 2013 will cost just $140). But there are some caveats: Your company has to join the program and must of course be a Microsoft volume licensee with an active SA subscription. Start pestering your CIO, folks.

Apple CEO Forced to Give Deposition in Antitrust Case

If ever there was a headline that can warm my heart these days, that’s it. US District Judge Lucy Koh this week ordered Apple CEO Tim Cook to provide a deposition in an antitrust case I had pretty much forgotten about: You might recall that Apple and several other Silicon Valley firms—including Adobe, Google, Intel, and Intuit—were accused of violating antitrust laws by entering into agreements to not recruit each others' employees. (And I thought the companies had settled the case, agreeing to basically stop doing so.) Well, Koh says she cannot believe that Cook, who was COO at the time, wasn’t aware of the practice at Steve Jobs’ Apple, and can’t understand why senior executives from the companies haven’t been deposed yet. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt, who was CEO of Google at the time, is also being deposed, as is Intel CEO Paul Otellini. Weird.

Amazon, Apple Ordered to Try Settlement in "App Store" Case

Apple’s spurious "App Store" lawsuit against Amazon is about to end: After fatally reducing Apple’s case, US Judge Elizabeth Laporte has now ordered the two firms to work together to negotiate a settlement, which if I’m understanding this correctly, would amount to Apple dropping the case. Because it is spurious. Apple, as you might expect, has refused to discuss the case. And if my imagination is accurate, Amazon’s response will amount to mad cackling followed by unintentional but delighted crying.

But Wait, There's More

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