An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft Partners Pumped Up by Windows 8
While the developer community continues to whimper about Microsoft's HTML-based development strategy for Windows 8, the software giant's partners are incredibly excited about the changes coming in the next Windows. The key is the new UI, which represents the biggest user-experience change to Windows since Windows 95 in 1995, and Microsoft's hardware partners are pumped about it because they feel it's going to trigger an avalanche of new PC sales, especially of iPad-like tablet PCs. It's nice to see that some people understand what's really happening, and though I agree that developers have a right to be confused, I suspect that some good news is on the way for you as well.
Windows Phone 7 Now Has More Than 25,000 Apps
Microsoft might have been late to the game with Windows Phone 7, but the fledgling mobile platform has seen some important successes despite slow sales so far. And perhaps the most impressive success is the growth of apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace: After just 8 months, Windows Phone is now served by a market of more than 25,000 apps, and though you might argue that this number pales in comparison with the hundreds of thousands of apps available to Android or iPhone users, you would be missing the point. First, I'd argue that Microsoft only needs to hit a certain point at which every relevant app is available for Windows Phone, and we're pretty much there already. (Come on Audible, put us over the top!) Second, it's instructive to look at how quickly Windows Phone reached this milestone when compared with the competition. And when you look at that, something interesting emerges: Windows Phone reached the 25,000-app plateau in exactly the same amount of time it took the iPad to do the same. And I don't think anyone would argue that the iPad is anything other than a phenomenon. So chew on that for a moment. Windows Phone doesn't seem too shabby now, does it?
Windows Phone 7 Is Number 1! Oh Wait, That's 1 Percent ...
Speaking of Windows Phone and "shabby," a Nielsen survey of US smartphone OS usage reveals that Microsoft's new smartphone platform is number one in ... wait, what's this? Oh, sorry. It has 1 percent usage share in the United States. Well, that's sort of like being number one, assuming you're willing to ignore all the platforms that came out ahead of it: Android (38 percent), iPhone (27 percent), BlackBerry (21 percent), "other" (19 percent), Windows Mobile (9 percent), Symbian (2 percent), and webOS (2 percent). The good news? Windows Phone is tied with Palm's legacy mobile OS, Palm OS. In last place. OK, that's not really good news.
IE 9 Hits 22 Percent Usage Share on Windows 7 in the United States
According to the market researchers at Net Applications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) 9 web browser is now in use on over 15.6 percent of all Windows 7-based PCs worldwide, and on about 20 percent of all Windows 7-based PCs in the United States. And in both cases, IE 9 is the second-most-used web browser version overall, behind IE 8. And so that's great: Microsoft's strategy of making IE 9 the most integrated browsing experience on Windows 7 appears to be working out. Of course, the negative nannies in the audience will also point out that overall IE share fell slightly again in June, from 54.27 percent in May to 53.68 percent. Firefox, number two with 21.7 percent usage share, was absolutely flat month over month. And Chrome was up very slightly, from 12.5 to 13.1 percent. So is there any lesson from June? From what I can tell, Chrome is stealing IE usage share slowly, and IE 9 is seeing big success on the OS that matters most. So, I think both browsers are in great shape.
Microsoft: Just Kidding, Rootkit Removal Won't Require Windows Reinstall
Microsoft was mocked by various online pundits this week for suggesting to customers that the only way to remove a sophisticated new rootkit that embeds itself in your PC's master boot record (MBR) like an electronic tick was to reinstall Windows from scratch. (The headlines pretty much wrote themselves.) But as it turns out, that advice was as premature as it was ludicrous: The Popureb.E Trojan that delivers the rootkit can in fact be removed from a PC without requiring a full reinstall of the OS. Instead, you can simply use the Windows Recovery Console to return the PC's MBR to its original, clean, and uncompromised state. Head on over to the Microsoft TechNet website for the instructions.
Microsoft Kills Off Hohm Project
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week claimed that the software giant was honing in on the software products and services that made the most sense and would be culling smaller, less crucial products. And I think the recent cancellation of the Hohm project—which sought to bring home energy monitoring to PCs—is a great example of this new direction. "The feedback from customers and partners has remained encouraging throughout Microsoft Hohm's beta period," a Microsoft blog post reads. "However, due to the slow overall market adoption of the service, we are instead focusing our efforts on products and solutions more capable of supporting long-standing growth within this evolving market." Google killed off a copycat service too, coincidentally, so it's not like someone else had figured this out. And let's face it: Home energy use is interesting. But it's not core to what Microsoft is doing.
Security Researchers Discover "Indestructible" Botnet
OK, they used the term "practically indestructible," but still ... Security researchers at Kapersky Labs this week said that they have discovered a virulent new botnet that is spreading via over 4.5 million malicious and compromised websites, disseminating pornography and pirated content. The botnet exploits Windows vulnerabilities that were patched last year, but since some Windows users still haven't figured out the "let it install those Windows Updates" mantra, their machines are still vulnerable. So what makes this botnet so powerful? Apparently, it's the same distributed structure that makes the Internet work as well as it does: By spreading out to so many machines in so many different locations, the botnet becomes harder and harder to stop over time. And in this case, the traffic between the malicious sites is actually encrypted, so it's much harder to intercept and trace. So what's the end game here? I guess we'll have to wait and see. This could be a long-term issue.
HP Launches iPad Clone. Who Cares?
HP today begins selling its iPad lookalike, the TouchPad. It runs the admittedly beautiful and sophisticated Palm webOS, which I like, and it appears to offer a technically decent alternative to Apple's product. But the important thing to know about the TouchPad is that it doesn't matter. And when it comes to buying a tablet here in mid-2011, there is still only one viable choice. And that, folks, is the iPad. Here's the thing. I suppose there is a market of sorts for a product that looks and works exactly like the iPad but is made by a company not named Apple. But where the iPad will always come out ahead—and this really is the crucial bit, so stop skimming and pay attention—is in its ecosystem support. When you buy any device like this, you're not buying a hunk of metal and plastic in isolation. You're buying into a way of doing things. And on the iPad, you're gaining entry into the biggest, richest, and best support ecosystem, complete with an online store that's stocked with music, TV shows, movies, apps, eBooks, audiobooks, educational content, and more—a store that is simply unmatched anywhere else. So yes, dear consumer, please do scratch that anti-Apple itch and buy a lackluster and pointless iPad clone, if you must. But you'll regret it. Because the TouchPad—like the Research in Motion (RIM) PlayBook and countless Android tablets before it—simply doesn't matter. Will that change a year from now or whatever? I actually doubt it. But wait. At the very least, wait.
Android Growth Slowing But Still Kicking the Bejezus Out of iPhone
I love Apple fanatics, both for their predictability and for their ability to pull out their credit cards with Ninja-like reflexes whenever Apple announces any product. On the predictability front, Apple fanatics had been preaching the undefeatable notion of iPhone dominance over Android well after Android began outselling their favorite little device. But then, once reality set in, the story changed: "Well, of course Android is going to outsell iPhone," they claimed. "We knew that all along. It's obvious. There are so many devices. This is really about quality over quantity, and let's face it, Apple is in great shape." Yes. So I'll be curious to watch the story change yet again, if temporarily, now that an aforementioned Nielsen survey of mobile phone users suggests that while Android is still wiping the floor with iPhone, growth in iPhone sales is nicely outpacing growth in Android (27 percent for iPhone vs. 17 for Android). So, take a deep breath and realize one important thing before you change your story yet again: Growth doesn't equal unit sales. And though Mac sales growth has consistently outpaced PC sales growth for, like, forever, the overall installed base of the Mac is still under 5 percent of the total PC market. So before you start believing that this Nielsen study changes anything, remember that Apple is just a single player in a big market that's dominated by an OS that's being sold on dozens (soon hundreds) of different devices from different hardware makers all over the world. And as with the PC market, Apple can get all the growth it wants. It's not beating Android.
MySpace Sells for Just $35 Million
Remember when MySpace dominated the social networking market? No, neither do I. And neither does former MySpace owner News Corp., which sold the ailing online service for $35 million this week, just six years after it plopped down a pretty $580 million to buy it. And while a dark part of me revels in News Corp. taking a $545 million loss for any reason, the big question isn't why News Corp. sold MySpace. It's why anyone would want to buy MySpace. The purchaser is a little-known company called Specific Media, whose claims to fame are its previous business of selling online ads and the fact that its MySpace purchase has the vague backing of singer/performer Justin Timberlake. But here's a fun fact: MySpace has almost exactly 35 million users right now (compared with more than 750 million for Facebook), so Specific Media paid $1 for each user.
Monday is July 4th, or Independence Day as we call it here in the United States, and it's a national holiday. So we'll be off Monday, and back on Tuesday. Have a great long weekend!
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on Thursday as usual and 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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