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

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to Keynote CES 2012

The company behind the massive Consumer Electronics Show (CES) revealed yesterday that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will once again provide a "pre-show" keynote address in January 2012, leading bored bloggers and tech writers to ponder what topics he'll discuss. Well, duh. Obviously, Microsoft will use CES 2012 as the launching point for Windows 8 and most likely will unveil either a public beta or release candidate (RC) version of the OS, which is prepped for release by mid-2012. I think the latter is more likely, and I have my money on a public beta of Windows 8 before the end of this year. Ante up, people.

Microsoft Gets Aggressive with Android Licensees

This week, Microsoft stepped up its attacks on companies that license the Android OS from Google for use in their own devices, a move I applaud if only because I enjoy seeing the long-dormant super-power exercise its market power for a change. (On the other hand, one naturally wonders why Microsoft doesn't simply sue Google. This suggests Microsoft is simply bullying companies it can bully while avoiding the cash-rich companies that could actually stand up to it.) Here's why this strategy makes sense: It's a duplicate of the strategy that Microsoft used to suck Linux licensees dry years ago--which isn't coincidental, as Android is based on Linux--and that strategy was so successful it kept Linux off the PC desktop for good, erasing one of Windows' only possible competitors. But the Android suits are even better, because Android devices, unlike Linux PCs, are actually selling. And that meansĀ  Microsoft can now collect money from these companies, somewhere in the $5 to $15 per device range. And with Android devices busy beating the iPhone into a sad, bloody pulp in the market, that means Microsoft will make millions--possibly billions--in the mobile market over the next few years. And that's true even if its own partners don't sell a single Windows Phone handset. Brilliant? You bet.

Native HTML? Just Kidding

One of the stranger claims that Microsoft's made this year is that its Internet Explorer (IE) 9--and coming IE 10--web browser provides Windows users with "native HTML" functionality that, by definition, is not available on competing web browsers. This was a rather spurious claim, and as Opera's Haavard Moen has pointed out, the point of HTML is that it's not "native" and instead works identically (at least in theory) on different platforms. So this week, Microsoft began to quietly back away from the "native HTML" claim, telling The Register (the tech industry's inadvertent version of The Onion before there was an Onion) that Microsoft is really just differentiating by offering deep Windows integration, true across-the-board hardware acceleration, and a better user experience. Well, sure. But what was that "native HTML" silliness all about? "I don't know that you'll see us refer to native HTML in the future," IE evangelist Ari Bixhorn told the publication. I guess we can just consider this a mulligan and move on then.

Surface 2.0 to Debut This Year

Microsoft announced a major update to its Surface platform months ago, but it now looks like new Surface devices will be hitting the market later this year. These devices will be thinner, lighter, and less expensive than Surface 1.0 devices--which were all humongous table (yes "table," not "tablet") computers used semi-exclusively in casinos, museums, and other niche markets. But don't get too excited by the changes: "Less expensive" means "around $7,500" instead of well over $20,000, and "thinner and lighter" means that these devices can technically be mounted on a wall, not that you'd want to lug one around. Will Surface devices and tablet computers ever "meet" in some HDTV-style middle ground? I think so. But we're not there quite yet.

Apple Suffers Another "App Store" Defeat

With a trial loss looming large, Apple has suffered its latest legal defeat against retailer Amazon.com, as its request for an injunction against Amazon's Android Appstore was soundly defeated by a federal judge. Apple, of course, is suing Amazon for using the supposedly trademarked term "Appstore," claiming that consumers will confuse it with Apple's own "App Store," which sells iPhone apps. Nonsense, Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton said in a decision against Apple this week. "Apple speculates that Amazon's App Store will allow inappropriate content, viruses, or malware to enter the market, but it is not clear how that will harm Apple's reputation, since Amazon does not offer apps for Apple devices," she wrote. "The court finds that Apple has not established a likelihood of success on its dilution claim." So now it's going to trial. You know, unless Apple wakes up and just drops the spurious case.

Google Chairman Would Love Deep Integration with Facebook and Twitter. Tough Luck, Eh?

While Google is busy pushing its lame Facebook rip-off, Google+, this week, what the company really wants is deeper integration with Facebook and the related Twitter service. At least, that's what Google chairman and resident creepy anti-privacy guy Eric Schmidt claims. "We would love to have deeper integration with Twitter and Facebook," Schmidt said this week, lending immediate credibility to the previous sentence and the title of this blurb. Someone should alert Schmidt that although blatant copying is sometimes misconstrued as a weird, childish form of affection, the way to gain Facebook's (and Twitter's) trust is to not do exactly what Google just did. Put another way, your words are interesting. But your actions are predatory.

Facebook Working On Its Own Music Service

And you thought MySpace still had a single reason to live. JavaScript code related to Facebook's recently released and Skype-based video chat service indicates that Facebook is working on a music service of its own called Vibes. And though we know absolutely nothing about this service beyond the name (or code name), what the heck, it's fun to speculate. Anyone who's followed the fledgling social networking market for the past few years knows that previous wunderkind MySpace was good at exactly two things: making annoying-looking, blinking, personal web pages, and promoting music. And now that users have abandoned the service in droves, it seems that the recently sold company hopes to eke out a few more years solely on the back of music promotion. So, it sort of makes sense that Facebook would want to add the final nail to that little coffin, but I have to wonder what the value of "yet another online music service" really is. And all I can come up with is the same argument I made for Facebook video chat: Sure, others are doing it, but now that Facebook has joined the game, it becomes instantly mainstream. Can Facebook succeed in music? I think we're about to find out.

Apple Rumors Continue to Dominate the Tech Headlines

You gotta give Apple some credit: Even with no new products to announce, the company still dominates the tech headlines thanks to often-easily-discredited rumors from a variety of nefarious sources. The company will likely issue its Mac OS X "Lion" release next week, we're told (and my lengthy review is already prepped, just in case), along with related MacBook Air and Mac Mini updates. Apple could release an updated version of the iPad that is calledĀ either iPad 2+, iPad 3, or iPad NowWe'reJustMakingThisStuffUp, and of course the long-awaited next iPhone, which will or will not be called the iPhone 5. And then there's that iPhone nano rumor, and of course new generations of most of its iPods. There's just so much to discuss when it comes to Apple. Even when there is, in fact, absolutely nothing to discuss. Brilliant.

Short Week This Week, Long Week Next Week

This was a short week here in the United States thanks to the Fourth of July holiday on Monday, which explains why it was also a slow news week. But next week promises to feel a lot longer, thanks to a whopping 22 bug fixes that Microsoft plans to ship on Tuesday as part of its regularly scheduled Patch Tuesday schedule. The good news? Only one of those fixes is rated as critical. Still something to keep in the back of your mind as you enjoy the weekend.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual, and this time we were joined by special guest cohost Mary Jo Foley. 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.

But Wait, There's More

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