An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Windows Phone Updating Glitch Affects 1 in 10 Users
The failure rate of the first Windows Phone software update is 1 in 10. So riddle me this, Batman: Is that good or bad? The glass-half-full answer is that 90 percent of Windows Phone users had no problems installing the first update, so it's all good news. But that stance is ridiculous: Anything less than 100 percent on an update as insignificant as this one is absolutely a disaster, so I'm on the glass-half-empty side on this one. On the other hand, I give Microsoft some credit for finally waking up to the need to be transparent: Responding to a very vocal cry for more information, the company did in fact issue a blog post describing what happened. So, kudos. But seriously, fix the problem and make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
Google Goes Afterwith Cloud Connect
Launching a preemptive strike against Microsoft's forthcoming Office 365 service, Google this week announced the availability of Google Cloud Connect, which lets Office users sync their documents between their PC desktops and Google's cloud-based Docs service. Google Cloud Connect also provides collaboration functionality that appears to be similar to what Microsoft's SharePoint offered about five years ago, and currently offers for free in Office Web Apps—in other words, a typical Google product. (Devil's advocate view: It does, however, work with Office 2003 and 2007 as well.) If you're married to the idea of using Office documents with a Google service for some reason, you can find out more at the Google Cloud Connect website.
Windows Phone Controversy of the Week
This week, a number of news reports decried Microsoft for prohibiting developers from using the open-source General Public License (GPL) licensed software in their Windows Phone apps. More specifically, they've described this requirement as some sort of action against open-source software. Not so, says Microsoft. In fact, Microsoft notes that developers are in fact free to use the Microsoft Public License, which is open-source as well. The difference between the Microsoft Public License and the GPL, of course, is that Microsoft is involved in various intellectual-property battles with companies that use the latter license, arguing that much of the technology licensed by the GPL has been stolen from the software. So, I guess we can raise a big stink about this and act all surprised. Or we can just recognize that it makes sense and is consistent with the company's prior behavior.
Judge Prevents Ex-Microsoft Executive from Joining Salesforce.com, For Now
A Washington state judge has prevented a former Microsoft executive from joining Salesforce.com, thanks to the non-compete agreement he signed when first joining the software giant. (Too bad he doesn't live in California, where such agreements are essentially unenforceable.) Former Microsoft General Manager Matt Miszewski was hoping to soon assume his new job at Salesforce as the senior vice president for global sales, but apparently Microsoft's arguments against doing so were pretty strong. Those arguments, by the way, include the allegation that Miszewski stole confidential business files before walking off the Redmond campus for the last time. But there is some good news for Miszewski: The order is temporary and essentially just an extension of a previous order. So, he could be moving to Salesforce.com soon enough.
Windows Azure Gets Free Trial
Microsoft this week announced an extended free trial of its Windows Azure cloud-based services, giving developers a pain-free way to try it out over time without incurring upfront costs. "The Windows Azure platform allows developers to use their existing .NET, Java, and PHP skills to develop, test, and deploy compelling and innovative applications without worrying about the back-end infrastructure and other operational constraints," a blog post announcing the offer explains. "For those developers who have yet to experience what it's like to build and deploy applications on the Windows Azure platform, we're unveiling a new Introductory Special offer as part of the Cloud Power campaign." The offer runs through June 30, includes 750 free hours of the Windows Azure extra-small instance (usually $.05 an hour), 25 hours of the Windows Azure small instance (usually $0.12 an hour), and more.
Gears of War 3 Pushed Back to September, but Multiplayer Beta Coming in April
Epic's eagerly awaited third installment of the Gears of War video game series for the Xbox 360, imaginatively titled Gears of War 3, is now set for a September 2011 release, and marks the beginning of the 2011 holiday selling season. Which makes plenty of sense, though I'd point out that the game was originally due in April 2011. Epic says the reason for the delay has nothing to do with quality issues. Instead, the company (and publisher Microsoft) just feels that releasing the blockbuster during the holidays will result in better sales. But to make it up to fans, the company will still ship something in April 2011, in the form of a multiplayer beta of Gears 3. I wish I could get excited about this: I've really, really enjoyed the first two Gears' single-player campaigns, but multiplayer is terrible. In fact, it's been compared with "running around with a loaded diaper" because of the crouch-based, slow movement. Maybe they'll get it right this time.
Apple Underwhelms with New MacBooks
When Apple introduced its stunningly innovative second-generation MacBook Air last year, it promised that this SSD-based and optical-drive-less architecture was the future of all MacBooks. Not yet, it seems. This week, Apple introduced a widely anticipated update to its MacBook Pro line and, sadly, the new models are just like the old ones. They look just like last year's MacBooks. They have optical drives and are big and heavy. Battery life is actually down, though Apple says it's because a more realistic measurement is being used now. (I guess Apple lying before?) There are slow hard drives, and SSDs, not integrated solid state storage. Even the screen resolutions are relatively low, compared with the Air models: With a 13" MacBook Air, you get a 1440 x 900 native resolution. The 2011 MacBook 13"? Still stuck at an old-school 1280 x 800. So, color me unimpressed. After last year, I figured Apple would simply go all-out on its higher-end, more costly machines. But that's not the case at all.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Because I was away on vacation through Thursday evening, Leo and I will record the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Friday afternoon. The new episode should become available by the end of weekend on the Zune Marketplace and iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
But Wait, There's More
My latest book, Windows Phone Secrets is now available in bookstores everywhere.