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

Microsoft + Paul: Symbidiotic

If you think I’m bad in my writing or on the podcasts, imagine what it’s like to be my wife. She sits through a fairly constant cavalcade of complaints about Microsoft, mainstream tech reporting, and more, just providing a valuable chance for me to vent, really, and further securing her guaranteed position in the canon of saints. The other morning, finally, she interrupted, and asked a simple question. “I don’t get your relationship with Microsoft,” she said. “You ask them questions and they never respond, you write books about their most important products and they ignore you, and you’re constantly frustrated by their inability to communicate effectively. What kind of relationship is this, exactly?” I thought about this for a second and said, “Its symbidiotic.” That is, in some ways I’m ecstatic that this company is so inept because it gives me so much to write about. But it’s also idiotic because, despite the fact that Microsoft desperately needs honest, transparent criticism, the company just isn't interested. We were made for each other, when you think about it.

Why Tim Cook Is Wrong About Windows 8

Apple CEO Tim Cook is a nice guy. Which makes his attempts to be as prickly and insensitive as Steve Jobs more than a bit contrived. This week, Cook implicitly slammed Microsoft’s strategy with Windows 8—which is to merge mobile device and PC capabilities into a single system that can work across a wide range of device types—as inferior to Apple’s approach. “You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those aren’t going to be pleasing to the user,” he said during a conference call after Apple announced its quarterly earnings, referring to Windows 8. “We are not going to that party, but others might from a defensive point of view.” That quote was widely reposted around the Internet, and it’s not farfetched to imagine Apple’s many backers virtually high-fiving each other at the dig. But I think the best quote on this topic came not from Cook but rather from Microsoft PR head honcho Frank Shaw, who correctly noted on Twitter that “[Windows 8 is] not a toaster/fridge. It’s a toaster/oven. Those seem pretty popular. Just saying.” And, he added in typically cryptic Twitter hashtag form, “Toaster-oven for the win.” Bravo.

US Government Steps Up Antitrust Investigation of Google

It looks like the US government is getting very serious about charging Google with antitrust violations. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week has hired a prominent outside litigator, Beth Wilkinson, to expand the probe into Google’s alleged violations of market power and help bring charges against the firm. Google, you might recall, has been accused by rivals of abusing its Internet search monopoly to shut out competitors and drive up the cost of online advertising, its sole source of revenues despite having literally hundreds of different products and services. And, not surprisingly, antitrust regulators from the European Union (EU) are also considering charges related to the exact same behavior and are expected to issue a decision on charges against the firm within weeks. According to antitrust experts, the hiring of Wilkinson mirrors a similar hiring of David Boies by the Department of Justice (DOJ) almost 15 years ago in its case against Microsoft. And we all know how that went.

Apple “10 Years” Behind Microsoft on Security

To which I say, “No $#!&, Sherlock.” I’ve been writing about that little issue for years. But anyway, Kaspersky CEO and Founder Eugene Kaspersky this week opined that recent high-profile electronic attacks against Apple’s Mac computers are just the beginning, and the reason that Apple users are in so much trouble is that Apple doesn’t handle security correctly. “[Apple is 10] years behind Microsoft in terms of security,” Kaspersky said in an interview this week. “For many years I've been saying that from a security point of view there is no big difference between Mac and Windows ... Welcome to Microsoft's world, Mac. It's full of malware.” Hmmm. Perhaps. But after undergoing a development halt wayyyyy back in 2002 and restructuring its development process around the Trustworthy Computing initiative, Microsoft gets security. Apple’s approach—ignore, deny, delay, and then belatedly fix some but not all problems—as it turns out, maybe isn’t the right approach. Duh.

Ex-Nokia Executive Slams Windows Phone, But....

And yes, there’s always a "but." This guy was responsible for the software that Nokia replaced with Windows Phone. So that he’d harbor a grudge is perhaps not surprising. Former Nokia Senior Vice President of Series 60 Software Lee Williams was once personally responsible for Nokia’s Symbian software which, let’s face it, didn’t exactly rise to the iPhone challenge during his tenure. But don’t let that get in the way of some awesome sour grapes. “There's no overarching vision for this company," he said this week. “I did not see a good reason to change course so frantically. I don't think Nokia was going in the wrong direction with some of the things it was doing—it was simply executing poorly before [CEO Stephen] Elop got there and they weren't giving it enough time.” No offense to Williams or his obviously biased viewpoint, but let’s be serious here. If Nokia had stuck with Symbian, there wouldn’t even be a Nokia anymore, and its one-time competitors would be picking over the company’s patents like vultures on roadkill. On the flipside, Williams is right about one thing: Embracing Android would have been suicide for Nokia. “I do not see any benefits to Nokia embracing Android," he said.

Nokia Stock Is Now Rated as Junk

Beleaguered smartphone maker Nokia might make the highest-quality handsets in the market—and yes, Virginia, it really does—but that hasn’t helped the firm catch a break as it makes its difficult and controversial switchover to Windows Phone. Now Standard & Poor's has cut the firm’s credit rating to junk, which is akin to “red” on the Homeland Security Threat Advisory System. The reason? Though sales of Nokia’s Windows Phone-based Lumia devices are strong and will improve, the company might never recapture the sales level once enjoyed by the company’s previous smartphone lineup. "We still expect revenue from Lumia smartphones to grow over time but not sufficiently to offset a rapid decline in revenue from Symbian-based smartphones over the next few quarters," an S&P note reads.

Microsoft Quietly Fixes Major Hotmail Flaw

Courtesy of a terse tweet this week, we know that Microsoft has quietly fixed a major flaw in its Hotmail web-based email service that allowed hackers to bypass the password-reset system and take over users’ accounts. Microsoft was made aware of the flaw and fixed it “within hours,” according to reports, and well before it started spreading quickly throughout the hacker community. This likely explains the security-info message I received from Windows Live Accounts this week. Either that, or it was a hacker trying to get into my account. Either way, all is well: As Microsoft notes, “No action [is] needed.” You know, I think I’ll reset my password anyway.

Samsung Beats Apple, Nokia to Become Number One in Both Smartphones and Mobile Phones

The mainstream press will still be writing celebratory stories about Apple’s blockbuster quarter a week from now, but here’s a little reality check: Samsung actually outsold Apple handily in the smartphone market in the first quarter, seizing 31 percent of the market, with sales of 44.5 million units, compared with 24 percent for Apple, which sold 35 million iPhones. This means that Apple’s temporary reign atop the smartphone heap was indeed just temporary: Samsung was the number-one smartphone maker for all of 2011, though Apple eeked out a victory for Q4 thanks to the iPhone 4S launch. But Samsung is also kicking butt with mobile phones in general: The company surpassed Nokia to become the number-one seller of mobile phones overall, shipping 93.5 million units—good for 25.4 percent of the market. This compares with 82.7 million units, or 22.5 percent market share, for Nokia. Not surprisingly, Samsung posted a record net profit in the quarter of $4.44 billion, with revenues of $40 billion. And now, Samsung is prepping the release of its Galaxy S III smartphone, which Samsung Vice President Kim Hyun-joon this week said he expected to be the company’s “most successful smartphone ever.” Game over?

Amazon Shares Soar in the Wake of Yet Another Blockbuster Quarter

Amazon posted net income of $130 million on revenues of $13.18 billion for the quarter ending March 31, handily outpacing expectations and sending the company’s stock soaring 15 percent. But the big news for the quarter was that 9 of the top 10 products being sold by the company were digital rather than physical products. And many of them were Amazon’s own Kindle devices. According to the e-tailer, the Kindle Fire remains Amazon’s number-one-selling product 6 months after its release, and the full lineup of Kindle devices is now available in more than 175 different countries around the world.

Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!

Andrew Zarian and I recorded the latest episode of the What The Tech podcast on Tuesday, and Iyaz Akhtar, Mary Jo Foley, and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday. As always, these episodes should be available soon, generally in both audio in video formats, on the web, and via iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found. You can also find all of my podcast activities on the SuperSite for Windows.

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