An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
IDC: Windows Phone Will Pass iPhone by 2015
You know the theory: "Maybe if we repeat this enough, it will become true." In a week in which Apple once again impressed an admittedly easy-to-impress home crowd during its WWDC developer show with a preview of iOS 5, the analysts at IDC released another report stating that Apple's iOS-based smartphones are about to be run over by a train in the form of Microsoft's Windows Phone. Now, this is amusing because Microsoft's partners have sold approximately 17 of these phones so far, and while we're all eagerly awaiting Nokia's entry into the Windows Phone world, that company is apparently imploding as we speak. But that hasn't stopped IDC from predicting, again, that Android will still be number one in four years, but there will be a new number-two player: Windows Phone. After that, of course, is iPhone, followed by RIM BlackBerry, which IDC thinks will be kicking around at the time. The most amazing thing about this IDC prediction, perhaps, is the fate of Nokia's current smartphone OS, Symbian: IDC says that Symbian will effectively disappear by 2015, with 0.1 percent market share. That's a pretty sharp fall from this year's anticipated 21 percent share.
Microsoft Goes After Android Developers
And I don't mean in a mob hit kind of way, though I understand how you could think that. Earlier this year, Microsoft posted an API mapping tool that allows developers to more easily transition between Apple's iOS (for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch) and Windows Phone. And now the plucky developer evangelists at Microsoft are at it again, with a similar tool aimed squarely at Android developers. This tool, along with a white paper called the "Windows Phone 7 Guide for Android Application Developers," is a good start, and an update that covers the Windows Phone 7 "Mango" update will make even more sense. But I have to assume that Microsoft (and Nokia) is working on a tool for transitioning Symbian developers over to the new platform. In fact, some kind of automated tool would be even better.
Virus Masquerades as Windows Update
Which is like saying you rob banks because that's where the money is, I guess. If you want to convince a typical PC user to install your malicious little back-door app, posing as a legitimate security update isn't such a bad strategy. But now that this is really happening, you need to know about it. Fortunately, you'd have to really not be paying attention for this thing to work. First, it requires an older version of Windows (read: XP) that still uses the web-based version of Windows Update. Second, note that this fake version of Windows Update runs only in the Firefox web browser, whereas the real version runs only in Internet Explorer (IE). Armed with this data, you can protect yourself. But there's an easier way. Just upgrade to Windows 7, for crying out loud.
A Small Sign of Hope in Sweeping Supreme Court Defeat
When Microsoft's i4i appeal was denied in decisive form this week by the US Supreme Court, I hadn't seen a victory so one-sided since the Boston Celtics manhandled a clueless LA Lakers squad in Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals. But maybe it wasn't that bad. According to legal analysts, Microsoft did nudge the Supreme Court into at least noting that new information should be considered in patent cases. That is, just because a company is granted a patent doesn't mean it didn't violate prior work, and that work should be considered in any subsequent court case. Point being, yes, Microsoft lost the i4i case. But the bigger issue here is that too many companies are patent trolls or own patents for technologies they did not invent. And in coming court cases--of which there will be many--a US Supreme Court opinion about what evidence juries can weigh is now a matter of public record. This will no doubt benefit Microsoft and other companies in the future. And the only reason Microsoft lost this case, I think, is because it didn't raise this issue far earlier, in trial.
Sorry, Microsoft Did Not Hire 14-Year Old Hacker
How do you punish a teenaged hacker who breaks into the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 servers to set up a phishing attack? If you're Microsoft, you give the kid a job. At least that was the story that was broadcast around the noobisphere this week by clueless bloggers and tech reporters. And it is a great story. Thing is, it's not true. "Microsoft can confirm that the company has not offered to mentor a 14-year-old from Tallaght [Ireland] who purportedly was related to a phishing scheme," a Microsoft statement reads. "The comments attributed to Microsoft Ireland's Managing Director Mr. Paul Rellis, when speaking at a business event last week, are inaccurate." My favorite part of this story, however, is the reaction of some of the fooled journalists. "A representative from Microsoft wrote in to argue that this story, despite being heavily reported and reproduced, is false," the Atlantic tried to explain. Right, because if you reproduce a fake story enough, that makes it true. This isn't Appleland, people. The truth matters.
Sorry, Woman Did Not Tattoo Herself with Facebook Friends' Pictures
Oh, good, I get a double-debunk this week. PC World and other fact-checking amateurs this week reported that a woman had tattooed her entire arm with a grid of pictures of her Facebook friends. "Do you like your Facebook friends enough to have an inked needle daggered into you thousands of times, over and over again, until their faces are permanently etched into your flesh?" the publication breathlessly asked. No? That's OK, neither did the woman in question. It was a temporary, rub-on tattoo like the ones my kids get at the state fair. In PC World's defense, there is a video showing the woman getting ink. So there's your fact-checking for you. No one could ever fake a video.
Apple Quietly Backtracks on Anti-Kindle Rule, Eases Path for iPad-based Publication Subscriptions
Apple caused waves early this year when it announced that it would require any company hoping to sell periodical subscriptions on the iPad to do so through Apple's App Store, a move that would hand Apple 30 percent of all subscription fees and the keys to third parties' subscriber details. This rankled publishers, and also competitors like Amazon, which complained that it would not be able to abide by these terms for the subscription offerings it makes through its Kindle platform. When Apple announced this crazily Draconian requirement, it said that the new policy would go into effect by the end of June 2011, so obviously the clock's been ticking, and Apple has never given any indication that it ever cared less about capitulating in any way, shape, or form. (Apple must just be delightful to deal with.) So that's why this week's news is so interesting: Apple has, in fact, dropped the most egregious of its subscription policies for periodicals, though of course in classic Apple fashion it never actually announced the change but instead just quietly changed the terms of the agreement it has with publishers. So why did Apple do a sudden about-face? Altruism? A sense of partnership with the companies that support its platforms? A great love of the written word and unfettered access to unbiased information? Ah-hah, you wish. Turns out, Apple was falling under antitrust scrutiny from both the US Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. And it's nice to see those boys can still have some impact when it matters most.
iCloud a Bit Cloudier in the UK
One of the big complaints about Microsoft's online services--Zune, Bing, and so on--is the haphazard way in which the company makes them available (or more often does not make them available) around the world. Generally, we here in the United States get all the services early and often, but if you live anywhere else--and I'm told a lot of you do--then you're often out of luck. Likewise, Apple has typically had a much better record of releasing software and services in a more consistent fashion around the globe, and though I don't quite understand why this is the case, it most certainly is. So I was amused to discover this week that Apple might not be delivering all of its upcoming iCloud services to customers in the UK until the first half of 2012. And the reason this is happening (go figure) is the same reason Microsoft often cites for its own inability to consistently deliver digital media services internationally: licensing issues. Yes, the recording industry, which seems to have wildly different licensing rules in every single country on Earth, is still trying to stick it to Apple--in the UK, at least. This puts me in a weird quandary, because Apple is almost always the bad guy no matter how you choose to spin a story. But in this case, I have to go with our perennial favorite: the recording industry. You guys are so awful you make even Apple look good by comparison. Congratulations.
Google's First Chromebooks to Ship June 15
Google's hardware partners will ship the first Chrome OS-based Chromebooks to customers next week, ushering in a new era of computing or, as is more likely the case, another round of indifference to a solution to a problem no one had. Chromebooks, of course, are a new type of portable computer that look exactly like today's Windows-based notebooks but instead run the Chrome OS, which is to say they run only a web browser. They're relatively expensive for what they are--the first models cost $430 to $500 depending on configuration, but come with paltry amounts of storage and low-end specs--and, oh, did I mention that the only software on these things is a web browser? I'm all about simplicity, believe me. And I like Google Chrome a lot. But I'm not sure these things make much sense, especially at those prices and during an age in which pervasive connectivity, frankly, is more fantasy than reality. That said, I'll be reviewing ChromeOS and the new Chromebooks soon. But with a healthy amount of skepticism.
Here Comes Duke Nukem Forever. Protect the Children!
It's one of the most eagerly awaited video games of all time, and the most recent poster child for the term "vaporware." But after 15 years in the oven, Duke Nukem Forever might be overcooked, and likely to run into the same problem that torpedoed the Star Wars prequels for life-long fans of that franchise: Its audience has simply grown up and is no longer amused by the kiddie stuff. And if early reviews of Duke Nukem Forever are any indication, this game is pretty horrible, with generations-old graphics and a heavy reliance on nudity, profanity, and bathroom humor. So I'm all over it, of course, and I might even review it. But this isn't a game for kids. The problem is that it's probably not a game for adults, either. Which kind of makes me wonder: What is the point of this thing exactly?
HP to Launch WebOS-Based TouchPad Tablet on July 1
The iPad has had a lot of would-be contenders over the past few months. The Dell Streak. The Motorola Xoom. The RIM PlayBook. The Lite Brite. But now, the latest viable iPad contender of the week has emerged, and it's shipping July 1, so we can stop pretending this thing matters in exactly one month. It's called the HP TouchPad, and it runs HP's Palm webOS, a decent platform by any measure, though we'll need to see how the tablet conversion holds up under real-world use. The problem with the TouchPad, of course, is the same problem that has dogged all of those other iPad wannabes (except for the Lite Brite, of course). And that's the ecosystem. When you buy a computer, a smartphone, an eBook reader, or a tablet, you're not just buying that thing. You're buying into the whole surrounding ecosystem. And in this area--this major and very important area--there is the iPad and then there is everything else. That's why the iPad is successful, not because of any combination of hardware specs, thinness, or perceived coolness. And it's why the TouchPad, no matter how good it is, will never make any sense at all.
Microsoft Quietly Kills Windows Mobile Services
Microsoft this week sent out an email message to customers of its My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile--both of which target Windows Mobile 6.x users--stating that both services will be killed off this year. This will no doubt cause some harsh feelings in some quarters, but really, if you're still using Windows Mobile at this point, you should be used to the pariah thing. Moving on.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, along with special guest Aaron Hillegass of Big Nerd Ranch and featuring a feistier-than-usual debate about Windows 8 between Leo and I. (Don't worry, we make up in the end, though I admit it felt like the Spinosaurus and T-Rex circling each other in Jurassic Park III.) Anyway, the new episode should available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
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