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

Microsoft: Business Sales Are Strong, Consumer Sales Are Down, Netbook Sales Have Fallen Off a Cliff

I wrote separately about Microsoft's quarterly (and fiscal year) earnings, but Microsoft provided some interesting and related perspective on PC sales that's worth examining.  "We estimate that sales of PCs to businesses grew approximately 8 percent this quarter and sales of PCs to consumers declined approximately 2 percent," the company noted. "The decline in consumer PC sales included an approximately 41 percent decline in the sales of netbooks." What's interesting about that 41 percent decline, of course, is that even in this dilapidated state, the market for netbooks was probably still bigger than Apple's total iPad sales in the quarter. Something to think about while you're writing that obituary.

Microsoft Shows Signs of Life in Tablet Market

That's right, the title says "signs of life in tablet market" next to the word "Microsoft." Go ahead, read it again. Here's what that means: In a Strategy Analytics survey of tablet OS market share for Q2 2011, something surprising emerges: Tablets running Windows were somehow responsible for 4.6 percent of the market, up from an even more meager 0.0 percent share a year ago. OK, so that's neat, but here's the kicker: Even that small level of sales puts Microsoft ahead of Research in Motion's (RIM's) PlayBook, which seized just 3.3 percent of the market in the quarter. Now, before anyone gets too excited, iPad was of course way out in front with 61 percent of the market, down a huge amount from last year's 94 percent. And Android, which was barely a blip a year ago, took 30 percent in Q2 2011. So what will things look like next year when Windows 8 ships? I think it's fair to say things are going to change quite a bit. And the ones going down will be iPad (again) and Android.

Will Nokia Save Windows Phone, or Destroy It?

It's no surprise that Nokia has fallen on hard times. But even after CEO Stephen Elop's "burning platform" menu of late last year, there were some who didn't see the inevitable, didn't see how quickly the mighty would fall. Well, open your eyes, people: Nokia is spiraling the drain. The company just reported an operating loss of $700 million on net sales of $13.4 billion, as it sold almost 40 percent fewer smartphones in the quarter when compared with the same quarter a year ago. And while the company was expecting a rough year, here's where the Windows Phone speculation begins: If Nokia falls far enough, how could its remaining loyal customers possibly number enough to help save Windows Phone? And vice versa: Since Windows Phone isn't selling well at all right now, how can it possibly help Nokia? I just don't see how this ends well. Windows Phone is great, and Nokia makes great phones. But this isn't helping either succeed right now. What will change to make that happen a year from now?

Apple Overtakes Nokia to Become World's Largest Smartphone Vendor

Not coincidentally, Apple this week surpassed Nokia to become the world's largest vendor of smartphones. That's a big milestone, I guess, but let's get serious: Most of Nokia's so-called smartphones barely even qualify for the name. My guess is that Apple really passed Nokia about 18 months ago.

Microsoft Introduces the Worst Xbox 360 Version Ever

There are few Star Wars fans as passionate as I am. But even I will tell you that the recently announced Kinect Star Wars Limited Edition Xbox 360, which is styled to look like R2-D2 and includes a gold, C-3PO-like hand controller, is the silliest, ugliest, gaudiest video game console ever made. It's terrible. And it's going to cost a whopping $450 when it's released later this fall. Look, no one has thrown more money George Lucas' way than I have. (I've purchased the Star Wars movies so many times it's embarrassing.) But I will never own this stinking pile of Bantha poodu. And neither should you.

Bing Getting Windows 8-Style Live Tiles

My Windows Secrets coauthor Rafael Rivera this week discovered that Microsoft is testing a new UI for its Bing search engine that borrows heavily from the Windows 8 Start screen (and Windows Phone), with a bank of "live tiles" that provide graphical peeks at common searches. However, the feature has since been hidden and Microsoft is playing mum. "We're constantly updating and refining the Bing search experience," a company representative said. "And before any changes are implemented, they undergo intensive testing and experimentation to ensure the best possible experience for our customers. We have nothing further to share at this time." That's OK, Microsoft. I'll show them what it looks like.

Verizon Already Snags One-Third of US iPhone 4 Market

Well, so much for AT&T holding its own: Though Verizon Wireless customers have only had access to Apple's iPhone 4 since February, eight months after it debuted on AT&T, the network is responsible for over one-third of all iPhone 4s sold in the United States. But one has to wonder how ugly it's going to get when the next iPhone debuts. By then, a large number of AT&T customers will have expiring contracts, and I bet a bunch of them jump ship. I know I'd like to.

Senator Wants AT&T/T-Mobile Merger Scuttled

Senator Herb Kohl is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights, and he's taken an unusually harsh view of AT&T Wireless' attempt to merge with T-Mobile. In fact, he wants the deal killed. "We cannot turn a blind eye to the dangerous possibility that this acquisition could ultimately result in a duopoly [of AT&T and Verizon] in the national cellphone market," he wrote in a letter to antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which are investigating the deal. And sure enough, this deal would result in a three-way market in which the two biggest players, AT&T and Verizon, control 80 percent of the market. You know, like in virtually every other modern country on Earth.

Fake Apple Stores Found All Over China

It's one of the weirdest tech memes I've seen in a while, but bloggers are now passing around photos and posts about fake Apple Store locations that are apparently all over China. The fake stores look like the real thing (until you start inspecting too closely) and come complete with overly harsh lighting and too-trendy employees in matching tee-shirts. (One is incorrectly labeled as "Apple Stoer.") But where this really gets delicious is that some of the employees at these stores apparently believe they're actually working for Apple. That's right: Even the Chinese are fooled by these Chinese knockoffs. And that's pretty hilarious, when you think about it.

Google+ Has 20 Million Users in Just 3 Weeks

Speaking of ripoffs, Google's Facebook clone, Google+, is apparently off to a racing start, gaining a whopping 20 million users in just 3 weeks. That's pretty impressive for something that, quite frankly, isn't even slightly necessary and is available by invitation only. I'd describe its features, but it's just Facebook with a Google logo and an Apple look and feel. Why would anyone want to use this thing? I honestly have no idea. But it's getting to the point where Facebook might need to actually respond. Maybe it could launch a Google+ clone. Oh wait.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual, and we were joined for the third week in a row by special guest co-host Mary Jo Foley. The new episode should 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

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