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

Windows 8: Upgrade Only, with No Full Version?

Just when you thought bloggers couldn’t get any lazier, you see a report like this, which is based solely on something I said off the cuff on the Windows Weekly podcast yesterday. Cute. But since this quickie blog doesn’t get it quite right—go figure—let me set the record straight. I’ve heard from a single source that Microsoft has changed the Windows 8 System Builder License Agreement (SBLA), allowing do-it-yourselfers to legally use Windows 8 System Builder kits for their own use (a first) because—get this—there will be no retail full versions of Windows 8, only upgrade versions. That said, Microsoft will still offer full versions of Windows 8 to PC makers and other system builders since, by definition, these companies are providing new PCs with new versions of Windows. But consumers won't be able to purchase full versions of Windows 8 at retail, suggesting that literally everyone qualifies for the Windows 8 Upgrade versions. Which, when you think about it, is as it should be. Is it true? Yes, I believe so, and I do trust this source. But it’s just a single source at the moment.

Office 365 to Come on a Card?

My Windows Weekly cohost Mary Jo Foley reported this week that Microsoft is prepping an interesting new addition to its Office lineup. Dubbed Office 365 FPP (for “fully packaged product”), it’s apparently a new way for Microsoft to sell its cloud productivity service, which includes hosted versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. But rather than require customers to discover the service online, the Office 365 FPP consists of a card you pick up at retail locations—similar to those Microsoft Points and iTunes cards you see everywhere—that provides prepaid access to Office 365. Interestingly, Microsoft today sells its Office 2010 productivity suites in this very fashion—I’ve seen two different versions of Office Home and Student 2010 offered this way locally, for example—and this type of offering has obviously been quite successful even in this day of electronic software delivery. Anyway, despite uttering the term “Office 365 FPP” at its Partner Conference this week on more than one occasion, Microsoft has been mum about the product. It’s almost like it’s a secret.

Office 2013 Delayed Until Mid-2013

Speaking of which, Mary Jo is also reporting that Microsoft has recently delayed the release of its Office 2013 wave of products—which, yes, includes virtually everything under the Office umbrella, including all suites and applications, servers, online services, and more—from early 2013 to mid-2013. And I can now confirm that report, with a source at Microsoft telling me that the entire wave of products has been delayed until May 2013. You might recall that Microsoft previously promised that it would deliver a public beta of Office 2013—then known by its code name Office 15—“this summer,” which gives the company until late September, according to the calendar. But although the final version of the product wave has been delayed, it’s unclear whether that affects this first public preview. And then there’s Office RT—the version of Office that will ship as part of Windows RT, due in October—to consider: Does Windows RT now ship with a prerelease version of Office? My guess is yes, but we’ll have to wait for official word on that one.

Another Microsoft Exec Jumps Ship … Bolstering Rumors of an Amazon Smartphone

Windows Phone Senior Director of Business Development Robert Williams has left Microsoft, just the latest in a long line of executives to leave the software giant in the past few years. But this particular defection might sound familiar: Like several other high-profile departures, Williams is heading to Amazon, where he’s taken on the title of App Store Director. And some are speculating that his move is related to Amazon’s rumored entry into the smartphone market. Further interesting, perhaps, is that Williams’ previous job at Microsoft was quite similar to that of Brandon Watson—that is, getting apps on the Windows Phone platform—and Watson, too, previously left Microsoft to go to Amazon, where he heads up the company’s Kindle app development. Coincidence? Perhaps. But Amazon seems to be an ever-more-frequent landing spot for those Microsofties looking for a new challenge.

Next Xbox to Be Far More Sophisticated

As I reported previously in Next Generation Xbox Preview, Microsoft’s video game console follow-up to the Xbox 360 will offer a much more customizable experience than the current device, and will work much like a PC in its ability to come in different versions with different capabilities. This has led to speculation that Microsoft might sell a low-end version of the next Xbox aimed solely at media sharing. But a recent patent leak, first reported by Eurogamer, suggests it might go further than that. Apparently, the next Xbox will feature a multi-CPU, multi-GPU design in which parts of the hardware are reserved for the platform (the Dashboard UI, video encoding and decoding, and so on) and the rest is reserved for apps, allowing multiple apps and games to run full speed at the same time. And when you’re doing low-bandwidth activities—playing music or video, for example—parts of the hardware could actually shut down, preserving power. However you look at it, the next Xbox isn’t going to be much like the current Xbox, which—for all its hardware prowess—is a dullard when it comes to running apps and games: It can only do one thing at a time.

Microsoft Tries Again with Halo Movie

A few years back, Microsoft was famously shepherding a big-budget movie version of Halo with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, but the project fell apart, apparently because of Microsoft’s heavy-handed micromanaging and budget-overrun concerns. Well, now they’re back at it, sort of, and this time even titanic egos won’t be able to sink this project. And that’s because the movie, a forerunner to this fall’s Halo 4 game for the Xbox 360, is being produced for the web, and will be released over multiple parts between October and November. Called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, the web movie series will unfold in five parts and will later be collected into a final, 90-minute saga that will be sold digitally. And its budget will be less than $10 million, or roughly the amount Microsoft spent on soft drinks for the designers of Halo 4. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing it, and given that it’s entirely possible today to make high-quality, special-effects-heavy movies on a shoestring budget, it might not even be terrible.

Google’s Page Finds His Voice

I mentioned in Short Takes a few weeks back that Google CEO Larry Page would not be appearing at the company’s I/O conference because he had lost his voice as part of an unspecified illness. This week, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that Page was recovering from the illness—still unspecified—and that he had been at the office working. That said, he was only speaking softly and it’s still very much unclear what’s wrong with him. In the wake of Steve Jobs’ multi-year and secretive illness—which ultimately led to his death—many are understandably concerned that something is wrong with Page. And I’d argue, as I did with Jobs, that Page and Google have a responsibility to shareholders to clearly explain what’s happening. Silence is just the wrong way to handle this.

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 Leo Laporte, 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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