An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including some delusional reactions to Windows 8, Microsoft's hardware partners freaking out that they won't be able to destroy the Windows 8 user experience, claims about Windows Phone being the most secure smartphone, a non-news news story about Nokia and Microsoft, EA's new Steam competitor, Adobe claims battle with Apple is over but it ain't, Apple preps subscription music service, and a Gmail attack targets the White House.
Windows 8 Revelations: Genius or Delusional, Depending on Whom You Ask
I now know that Microsoft's plans for Windows 8—which I lay out neatly in my article, Windows 8 Preview: An Analysis of the First Public Unveiling—are correct because the iCabal is trying so hard to prove that Microsoft just doesn't get it. But truth is, the decision to reframe the Windows 8 shell around a flatter, simpler, Windows Phone-like UI is pretty controversial. And the trolls are coming out of the woodwork with amusing claims. I'm not going to link to clowns on the Apple side of the fence. But noted industry curmudgeon John C. Dvorak, who's made a career out of simply taking the devil's advocate view on everything, claims that Microsoft is "essentially kill desktop computing once and for all" and that Windows 8 is so "incredibly stupid" that "Linux could waltz in and take over the desktop." Um, right. Let me be very clear about this: You know you're on to something when your critics are tripping over themselves to shout you down. Right or wrong, Microsoft is indeed "reimagining" Windows for a new era with Windows 8. I applaud this move whole-heartedly. And I think it's going to be a raging success.
Faux Indignity of the Week: Microsoft to "Limit" Tablets
In a week in which Microsoft revealed its suddenly stunning tablet strategy—basically, Windows 8 will be "One OS to Rule Them All"—some of the software giant's hardware partners are already starting to whine about the plans. The key issue here seems to be that Microsoft is trying to more tightly control what it means to be a Windows-based tablet in a move that is reminiscent of the company's earlier standardization of the Windows Phone platform. This is a good idea. Well, unless you're one of the whiners: Remember, these are the same companies that routinely ruin the PC experience by saddling their products with crapware, bloatware, and unnecessary functional duplication. Heaven forbid Microsoft would want to rein that behavior in. "The industry does not belong to Microsoft, and it does not belong to Intel," Acer Corporate VP Jim Wong said at the Computex tradeshow this week. "It belongs to all participants. They cannot make the decision for all of us. That is the problem." Heads up, Jim. It's only a problem for you. As it turns out, Microsoft does own this platform, not you, and if you want to play in this sandbox, you need to follow the rules. My only question is why this took so long. And my only concern is that Microsoft won't go far enough to prevent these losers from screwing up yet again.
Is Windows Phone the Most Secure Smartphone Platform? Really?
Microsoft Technology Evangelist Dave Northey told Silicon Republic this week that Windows Phone was "the most secure smartphone platform" on the market. That's quite a claim. So what's the basis for it? According to Northey, each running Windows Phone app is kept isolated from both the OS and other apps, and "no one application can steal data from another application." Each app has isolated storage and can optionally "encrypt" that storage "if it likes." Um. Hm. One of the big complaints about Windows Phone is that it lacks file system encryption, and one of the primary security features it lacks—and will still lack after the "Mango" update ships later this year—is Exchange ActiveSync policy support for encryption. A feature which, by the way, iPhone, Android, and Blackberry all support. Assuming this app-based data encryption claim is correct, my question is this: Why is this optional and not required? And why doesn't the OS itself support this functionality across the board?
Blogger Makes Fanciful Tweet, World Reacts as if it were Both "Fact" and "News"
The older I get, the less patience I have with the never-check-for-facts methodologies of the tech noobisphere. Case in point: This week, my IM app suddenly flashed orange with an urgent incoming message from a close friend and prominent Windows blogger who shall remain nameless: "Microsoft is buying Nokia for $19 billion!!!" he breathlessly asserted. "Says who?" I asked, logically enough since a quick scan of Google, Yahoo, and Bing News revealed no such claim. He pointed me to a single cryptic tweet—"One small software company decided last week they could spend 19 bln USD to buy a part of a small phone vendor"—claiming that its author, a Russian tech blogger named Eldar Murtazin, was both credible and had been right many times in the past. Neither claim is true. And even when Murtazin has been right, it's been coincidental from what I can tell. (He "predicted" that Nokia would choose Windows Phone as its smartphone platform, for example. Not a hard guess when there were only two possible choices, the other being Android.) The problem is, my friend isn't alone in questioning such sources. All around the web, stories popped up with headlines claiming that this deal was a fact. And I just can't stand that kind of thing. A single tweet launched a hundred stories, all of them wrong. Let's rein it in, guys. Appearing online doesn't make it true.
EA to Take On Steam with its own Online Gaming Service
Video game giant Electronic Arts (EA) will announce plans for a new online service called Origin that will compete with Steam and other PC-based video game services and provide consumers with a new way to purchase games electronically. EA is one of the world's biggest makers of video games and the hope here is that Origin can reduce the company's reliance on expensive and wasteful physical media and distribution. Origin will open with over 150 games, and many of them will be excellent, given EA's voluminous and high quality stable of tiles, which include the "Battlefield" and "Need for Speed" franchises among many others. What's missing, of course, is a way to distribute those games to video game consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and to portable platforms such as the iPhone and iPad, but the companies behind those products control those markets closely and already offer electronic distribution schemes of their own. Maybe Microsoft could strike a deal with EA to combine the software giant's lackluster "Games for Windows LIVE" baloney with Origin.
Adobe Claims its Battle with Apple Is Over
Someone just needs to alert Apple about this, not to mention its many minions in the mainstream media, including "Mouth of Jobs" Walter Mossberg. Actually, Adobe did say this to Mossberg, who asked Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen this week if the Adobe/Apple battle over Adobe's Flash technology had finally concluded. "Absolutely," Narayen claimed. Adobe obviously wants this embarrassing battle with Apple to end, since it casts doubts on the viability of Flash, which Adobe would like to position as the go-to platform for next-generation web apps. But Mossberg, ever the Apple backer, would have none of that. He told Narayen he had yet to test a single Android device on which Flash worked "really well," point being that maybe Apple was right about Flash after all. I don't see it that way at all. I'm no fan of Flash per se, but Narayen is right here: Apple's BS complaining about Flash was really about it needing to control its platform, and Flash works just fine on competing devices such as the RIM PlayBook. Curious that Mossberg never thought to address Apple's control issues, but instead kept pressing this guy on superfluous things instead. It is platform control issues, period. So if the battle is really over, that just means Adobe has lost. Because Flash is not happening on Apple's devices.
Apple Set to Launch Online Music Service
Apple's WWDC conference is happening next week, where Apple will discuss its coming iCloud music service. According to sources, the company has signed deals with most of the major recording companies, which will give iCloud some capabilities that its rivals—Amazon's CloudPlayer and Google Music—don't have. But more pressing, perhaps—this is Apple, after all—is how much this will cost consumers. Apple has apparently paid $100 million to $150 million in advance payments to the recording industry, and will continue to pay for the music it's licensing for the service, and the last time I checked, Apple isn't altruistic. So that money is going to have to come from somewhere (i.e. you, the user): So rumor has it that Apple will charge an annual subscription fee for iCloud, perhaps $25 a year. We'll know soon enough.
Gmail Hackers Targeted the White House
A new round of hacks against the popular Gmail email service were highly targeted against specific individuals and businesses and agencies, and the White House was among those targets, government officials said this week. The attacks were described as run of the mill phishing-based attacks in which messages appearing to be from trusted contacts contain compromised URLs or file attachments, so it's not like there's a new Gmail-based Trojan in the wild or anything. But I do have one question: Why the heck is anyone in the White House using a public web service like Gmail?
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on Thursday as usual, so it 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.
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