An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Join Me and My Blogger Pals at the BUILD Blogger Bash!
Microsoft's epic BUILD conference is happening the week of September 12, and that Wednesday, on September 14, 2011, I'll be co-hosting the BUILD Blogger Bash meetup at the Bar Louie Tavern & Grill in Anaheim, California, along with fellow Windows bloggers Ed Bott, Mary Jo Foley, Kip Kniskern, Marques Lyons, Ryan and Travis Lowdermilk, Rafael Rivera, and Long Zheng. There should be some great conversation, as Microsoft will be doing the full Windows 8 mind meld just one day prior. See you in Anaheim!
The IBM PC Turns 30
Thirty years ago today, on August 12, 1981, tech industry powerhouse IBM launched its IBM PC in a bid to enter the then-nascent personal computing market. Dominated at the time by such companies as Commodore, Tandy, and Apple, this market didn't really respond to IBM in any measurable way at first, but businesses did, and the IBM PC soon set the standard for what was expected in a personal computer, or PC. Literally, that is: Soon, clones appeared and the market for PC compatibles came to dominate the tech landscape, as did the OS that drove it, Microsoft's MS-DOS (or what IBM called PC-DOS), and its successor, Windows. (Fun fact: The first PC actually shipped with two other OS options, CPM-86 and the Pascal-based UCSD p-System. Both fizzled.) The first IBM PC, model 5150, established many hardware and software norms that we still live with on PCs today (like Ctrl+Alt+Del), which is bizarre, as well as a few that didn't make it (the 5150's keyboard had the function keys in a double vertical stack on the left side, not over the keys horizontally across the top). The thing I miss most about those early PCs is the sheer level of quality. They were metal through and through and built like tanks, and they came with thick, nicely bound documentation. But of course as the PC market commoditized, anything that was actually expensive and nice went by the wayside, and today's PCs are almost throwaway devices that aren't designed to last beyond a few years.
30 Years In, Divergent Views on the Future of the PC
If you asked Apple CEO Steve Jobs what he thought about the PC (and the Mac, which he considers a PC), he'd tell you that the PC was a "truck" and that consumers are moving to "cars," simpler and sometimes less expensive devices that look a lot like his company's iPad. So we're in the "post-PC era," in Jobs' view. Ask Microsoft, which of course has ridden the success of the PC to great successes of its own, and you'll get a different perspective: Microsoft calls this the "PC-plus era" because it feels that PCs are still very successful—about 400 million will be sold this year alone, most running Microsoft's Windows 7 OS—and will be for a long time going forward. My view is somewhere in the middle. I think that iPads and those simpler devices (which are often but not always tablets) will mature "up" and pick up more PC-like features. And I think that traditional PCs will mature "down" (if you will) to be simpler, faster, and more device-like. And in the end, the line between traditional PCs and iPads will blur and these things will all be seen as general-purpose computing devices. Or what we now call PCs. We're not there yet, but you can see hints of this future in such things as the MacBook Air and Intel's Ultrabook scheme, and in the ARM versions of Windows 8, which will bring Microsoft's mammoth, previously monolithic OS (and the direct successor to the first PC-DOS from 1981) into a new class of devices. If the tech industry has taught us anything, it's that things change. And while the car/truck analogy is cute in its simplicity, it's also an example of the old (and admittedly slightly edited) adage, "When all you sell is hammers, everything you see looks like a nail." Point being, Apple thinks the iPad/iPhone is the future, because its devices are selling so well. Microsoft thinks the PC is the future because that's where it makes its revenues. I think the future is somewhere in-between ... because I have no stake in this at all.
Google to Microsoft: J'accuse!
Google has accused Microsoft of leaking "highly confidential source code" in a court filing related to the software giant's lawsuit against Motorola, which uses Google's Android OS in its mobile devices. (Microsoft is currently suing Android licensees for violating various patents.) The charge is made in a motion for sanctions, which sounds ominous. According to Google, it provided Microsoft with internal information while responding to an earlier subpoena in the case, but Microsoft turned around and showed the code to an independent expert without first alerting Google. Microsoft doesn't dispute that it has shown the expert the code. But one has to wonder: If Android is open source, how could any of its source code possibly be "highly confidential"? Maybe I'm just missing something here.
Gartner: Windows Phone Is Hanging On by a Thread
According to the market researchers at Gartner, the smartphone market is going gangbusters, with device makers shipping a whopping 107 million handsets in the second quarter of 2011. Android, of course, is the market champion, with 43 percent of the market, over twice the market share of number-two player Symbian, which accounted for 22 percent. (Apple was third, with 18 percent.) So where does Microsoft's Windows Phone fall in this smartphone bounty? Right at the bottom, sadly: Microsoft's hardware partners sold just 1.7 million Windows Phone handsets in the quarter, according to Gartner, enough for just 1.6 percent of the market. Granted, that's better than HP/Palm webOS (which is apparently lumped in the Other category). But it's an embarrassing last-place finish behind something called Bada, which is a Samsung-developed mobile OS I had to look up. (Actually, this might be an unfair comparison since Bada is sold on feature phones as well as true smartphones.)
Gartner: Here's What Changed in the Past Year
Looking at Gartner's smartphone numbers, I'm noticing some interesting trends. First, smartphone growth, year over year, was 74 percent. Nokia is seeing nothing but disaster: Last year, the company's Symbian OS was number one with 41 percent of the market, but this year it's in second place, dropping to just 22 percent. Android, meanwhile, is on fire (just as Google has claimed): While it owned just 17 percent of the smartphone market a year ago, Android now commands 43 percent of the market. Put another way, in Q2 2010, handset makers sold 10.6 million Android devices. In the same quarter this year? 46.7 million. Yikes. That's a 400+ percent increase. And what this says to me is that most of the crazy growth in the smartphone market is going to Android, though Apple's year-over-year unit sales growth (8.7 million in Q2 2010 vs. 19.6 million this year) is also very impressive. For Microsoft, of course, things aren't looking good: Windows Mobile was horrible, and I mean, epically, incurably horrible. And yet in its last full quarter on the market, Windows Mobile accounted for 3 million units sold (almost 5 percent of the market). This year? Just 1.7 million, all Windows Phone 7. And that's sad because Windows Phone is only a million times better than Windows Mobile. What the heck is wrong with this planet?
Chrome Gains Native Code Capabilities
In the argument of native applications vs. web apps, which has some new awareness thanks to Microsoft's recent disclosures about web apps being the native Windows 8 programming model, one thing has been thus far indisputable: Native apps simply run faster than web apps. But now Google is working to change that, and this week it released the first version of something it calls Native Client for its Chrome web browser (and Chrome OS). Native Client bridges the gap between web apps and native apps by providing compiled C and C++ code capabilities within a web browser in a way that maintains security. Developers who are interested in checking it out will need the latest Chrome beta (v14) and will want to peruse Google's document. This blog post is a good starting point.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo, Mary Jo, and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday a bit later than usual (4pm ET instead of 2pm), but the new episode should be 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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