An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Steve Jobs Exit Prompts Curious Reactions from Fans and Detractors
Apple's visionary leader Steve Jobs stepped down from his CEO post suddenly and unexpectedly this week, leading many (myself included) to guess that his ongoing health problems have taken a turn for the worse. I've certainly had my issues with Jobs and with Jobs' Apple over the years—he's a charlatan in some ways, and not above outright lying if that's what it takes to make a pitch—but, come on. He's the Man. And when I say he's the Man, I mean, there's Steve Jobs and then there's the rest of humanity. And what's amazing is that while some people do get it, almost every reaction I've seen on Twitter and elsewhere online has completely misrepresented the man. And it cuts both ways. Some reviewers credit Jobs with inventing the Apple II or even the web and cloud computing, overstating his accomplishments. Many claim his accomplishments amount to nothing more than eye candy and design, as if those very vital components of product design are somehow less important than other aspects. I'll say this: Whatever PC you're using today—a sleek ThinkPad laptop, a touch-screen desktop, a portable tablet, or whatever—that thing wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Steve Jobs. And I don't mean just the hardware, or just the software, or any one piece. I mean it literally wouldn't exist. Love him or hate him, you need to understand that his contributions to society cannot be overstated, and that as a human being, I want him to be well. We've lived in a time of wonder, and in the shadow of greatness. And you can choose to be snippy and petty about that all you want, but it doesn't make you right. Steve Jobs is the best thing that ever happened to technology. Ever. And if you don't get that, it's time to wake up.
Bloggers Flunk Yet Another Test: We Already Knew These Features Were in Mango
This week, tech bloggers far and wide reported that Microsoft has "confirmed" that the next version of Windows Phone, code-named Mango but really called Windows Phone 7.5, will support two eagerly awaited new features: a front-facing camera and Wi-Fi hotspot. And sure enough, this was absolutely newsworthy ... several months ago when we, in fact, first found about these features. So from my perspective, yes, something was confirmed this week. But not that.
Windows Phone ... Tango?
We know that Microsoft likes to code-name its Windows Phone releases with names ending in the letter "o"—you know, Metro, NoDo, Mango, and, coming soon, Apollo—and we know that rumors of an interim release (between Mango and Apollo) supposedly called Tango have been making the rounds. But is Tango real? Turns out, yes, it is. And though details about Tango are still vague, Microsoft has been discussing Tango at various developer events in Asia, giving us some hints about what the company intends to ship. From what I can tell, Tango is an interim build of Windows Phone 7.5 (so, something that sits between Mango and Apollo, just as NoDo came between Windows Phone 7.0 Metro and Mango). It won't provide much in the way of new features for existing Windows Phone customers but is instead aimed at a new market for lower-cost devices that will no doubt be championed by its BFF Nokia. And ... that's about all we know. But at least we know it's real. And in several months, when Microsoft "confirms" the existence of Tango, you'll be able to read about it on all the tech blogs. An, the Internet.
Should Microsoft Buy Nokia?
Speaking of Windows Phone, one of the big questions surrounding this platform is whether Microsoft should simply buy Nokia outright and formalize its close partnership into something even closer. (And unlike the BS question about whether Microsoft should buy HP's PC business, this one actually does deserve a bit of debate.) With Google buying Motorola, and Apple already doing the end vendor thing, questions about Microsoft/Nokia are naturally becoming more fervent. But here's the thing. I don't really believe that Google is going to hold onto Motorola's hardware business, and even if it does, it'll do it in a weird, Googley way that won't be replicatable (a word I just invented) elsewhere anyway. Microsoft doesn't want to be in the hardware business, and with the possible exception of the Xbox 360, the company has never been successful with its own hardware platform anyway. So, no, I don't feel that Microsoft will or should buy Nokia, much in the same way that I don't think Google will keep Motorola's phone business. It just doesn't make sense.
Microsoft Threatens Not to Publish Any "PSN First" Games
In the world of video games, there are exclusives—games that appear only on a single platform, like Nintendo's Mario and Zelda titles, or Xbox 360's Halo and Gears of War—and then there are "firsts," where a platform maker makes a game maker an offer it can't refuse (i.e, "tons of cash") in order to entice it to release its games—or downloadable content—first on its platform, screwing millions of customers who were silly enough to buy rival game machines. Microsoft made such a deal with Activision for Call of Duty-based download content, for example. So whenever Treyarch or Infinity Ward releases a new Map Pack for any Call of Duty game going forward, it appears on the Xbox 360 first, and everyone else has to wait. Fine, right? But what happens if a game maker is crazy enough to sign a "firsts" agreement with a Microsoft rival, like Sony? Turns out, that's when things get ugly: This week, Microsoft revealed that it has an unforgiving stance on "firsts" for other platforms, and it will block the release of that content on the Xbox 360 as punishment. According to Eurogamer, Microsoft's policy is as follows: "Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platforms, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available. If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360." Maybe it's just me, but that's an awfully Apple-like policy there. I like it.
Xbox 360 Gets a $50 Price Cut ... but Only at Wal-Mart, and Only Temporarily
Those hoping that Sony's recent price cut on the PlayStation 3 would lead to a similar price cut for the market-leading Xbox 360 have been disappointed, as Microsoft is no doubt waiting to see whether the PlayStation 3's new pricing makes any difference from a unit sales perspective. But there's no need to wait on Redmond to get the message, assuming you live near a Wal-Mart (spoiler alert: you probably do) or can order products from the retailer online (ditto). And that's because Wal-Mart will be offering a single Xbox 360 bundle for $50 off starting this Sunday, if a flyer uncovered by Joystiq is indeed accurate. (And it is. See below.) The bundle in question is the Xbox 360 4GB Kinect bundle, which normally runs at $300, but will be sold for just $250 while supplies last. Interestingly, Microsoft confirmed the price cut. "Wal-Mart made an independent decision to implement this temporary price cut," the software giant told Joystiq. "We've made no announcements about price drops, and do not discuss our pricing plans in advance." Anyway, if you've been waiting on a price cut, this might be a good time to jump.
RIM Launches a Music Service
To which I know you're thinking, "Oh, good, we need another one of those." But understand Research in Motion's (RIM's) position before you rush to judgment. After all, despite an ongoing sales decline, its BlackBerry mobile platform is still very successful, though it's missing some key ecosystem pieces, not the least of which is a compatible digital media service for its users. And that's how we arrive at BBM Music, a new subscription-based music-sharing service that works with RIM's popular BlackBerry Messenger. Does this thing have a snowball's chance in hell? Of course not. But give the company some credit for trying.
Amazing Facebook Stat of the Week
Social networking giant Facebook released an interesting little statistic this week: The service has officially hit more than 1 trillion page views—yes, trillion—during June. No, not in all time. Just in June 2011. And you thought your little web scam was doing well.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
I visited Petaluma, California, twice this week: once on Sunday to record the TWiT podcast and once on Wednesday to record the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Leo and Mary Jo. So, we recorded the new episode a day earlier than usual, and it 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.
But Wait, There's More