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

Windows 8 Upgrades Revealed

I’ll be writing a more involved piece about this topic for the SuperSite for Windows over the weekend, but I wanted to call your attention to Mary Jo Foley’s post, "Microsoft details its Windows 8 upgrade plans," which explains how Microsoft will (or won’t) support upgrades from Windows versions as old as Windows XP with SP3. The software giant is using new language in Windows 8 to describe what used to be known as clean installs, in-place upgrades, and migrations, but the story really hasn’t changed. Those on Windows 7 can do in-place upgrades, which preserve everything (documents and data, customizations, and applications.) Those with Windows Vista and SP1 can perform a migration in which only documents and data, and customizations, are preserved. And those with XP with SP3 (or Vista RTM) can perform a migration in which only documents and data are carried over. There are some caveats and confusions, of course, given the wide range of Windows system types out there. But that’s the basic gist. More soon.

RIM Circling the Drain, a Bailout Might Be the Only Viable Strategy

Research In Motion (RIM) announced a loss of $518 million for the most recent quarter, which is horrible but not surprising given the company’s rapidly declining share of the smartphone market. But the company also revealed that its oft-delayed BlackBerry 10 system—long proffered as the company’s savior—would be delayed yet again, this time until 2013. So even though RIM is claiming that its $2 billion in cash assets and lack of debt means it can weather this current storm for at least a few years, the analysts and pundits are declaring RIM dead already. (Heads up, you funny little pundits, you’re late. I wrote "RIP, RIM" way back in December 2011.) And now they’re offering their own ideas about what moves could save the company. Key among them, apparently, is an EU-style bailout, except that instead of Big Government subsidizing an unsustainable European lifestyle, it would be Microsoft or some other big-pocketed tech company bailing out RIM and its unsustainable product strategy. And reportedly, Microsoft has approached RIM about the company adopting its Windows Phone OS for mobile devices, apparently with the theory that one money- and market-share-losing albatross (Nokia) is not enough to tie down Windows Phone. Or perhaps Microsoft could simply buy RIM’s patents, a move that might be considered the last viable financial action RIM would ever take. I have a third strategy, however. And I think it’s the best one for Microsoft, and the entire tech industry: Let RIM die. This lackluster waste of time has been weighing down the mobile industry with its backward thinking for too long. And it’s time to move on.

Gartner: Windows Desktop Begins Its Death Spiral

You gotta love tech analysts. They’re rarely if ever right, but that never seems to stop the pontificating. Take this week’s Gartner bombshell as a typical example. Gartner claims that, because Windows 8 begins the process of melding mobile technologies into Windows, the traditional Windows desktop and its millions of desktop applications are on the way out. This is as obvious as, say, the color of the sky, or the fact that, for once, the two best teams in the NBA actually did duke it out in the Finals this year. But whatever. Where Gartner gets it wrong is in its conviction. See, Gartner is bold enough to state that the traditional desktop interface is on the way out. But it hugely qualifies this bet by further stating that the move away from the desktop will take over a decade and that businesses and consumers will still be running Win32-based desktop applications in the 2020s. Way to stake a claim, guys! Or, as Rob Enderle (one of the few credible analysts I’ve ever met) notes, “Over time, Windows has changed. It's not the ending of something, it’s not dying. Windows is evolving.” Exactly.

Why Microsoft Really Removed the Start Button from Windows 8

Microsoft held TechEd Europe this week in Amsterdam, just two weeks after the main North American event, which is odd timing that left the more recent show with nothing in the way of actual news. So, media companies covering TechEd Europe were pretty much forced to make stuff up, or report old news as if it were new, hoping that no one would notice. My favorite was a report from PC Pro, written by a blogger “in Amsterdam” who claims to have finally cracked the mystery of why Microsoft removed the Start button from Windows 8. And it quotes a Microsoft program manager, obviously ecstatic at the chance to travel internationally, who claims that Start button (and Start Menu) usage dropped dramatically when Microsoft added the ability to pin applications to the taskbar in Windows 7. It sounds reasonable, but only if you’re willing to ignore my report from February, "The True Story Behind the Missing Start Button," which is based on interviews with the people at Microsoft who are actually responsible for the Windows 8 user experience. The real reason the Start button was removed from Windows 8 is that Microsoft needed a consistent Start button experience that would work in both the desktop and all Metro screens. And now it has one, in the form of the new Start tip, which appears exactly onscreen where the old Start button used to be. End of story.

Report: Microsoft to Offer Music Locker as Part of Xbox Music

We know that Microsoft is evolving its current Zune Music offerings into a new service called Xbox Music, and we know that key parts of those offerings, including the Zune Music Pass subscription service, will continue forward. But Bloomberg is claiming this week that Xbox Music will be a far more complete service than its predecessor, adding features like an online music locker—such as those provided by Amazon and Google for free, and by Apple with a yearly fee—that will make customers’ music collections available from anywhere at any time. Some of the Bloomberg report shows a blissful cluelessness about Microsoft’s existing products—it already offers a “Spotify-like” streaming service (Music Pass) and the ability to buy music through an online store. But the music locker bit is new, and that Microsoft would like to charge for this service is, of course, believable.

Microsoft Rolls Out “Tango” Update to Nokia Lumia Devices

Explaining how Windows Phone software updates work has become increasingly difficult because Microsoft is no longer accurately identifying individual updates or what they do, and because wireless carriers continue to block certain updates to certain phones. Ignoring this reality for a moment, I can report that Microsoft is starting to roll out its mysterious “Tango” update(s) for Windows Phone, and that owners of Nokia Lumia 710 and 800 devices are starting to receive them … in certain countries and on certain carriers. What about Lumia 900 users? Honestly, you didn’t think this was going to make sense, did you?

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.

The Paul Thurrott Mobile App: Is That a Paul in Your Pocket?

The Paul Thurrott: Pocket Tech app is now available for both the iPhone and Windows Phone, bringing all of my technical content to your favorite mobile device in a fun, on-the-go format. We'll have an Android version available soon as well, I'm told. And who knows? A Windows 8 app would make plenty of sense too. Download for Windows Phone - Download for iPhone

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