An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Steven Sinofsky to Appear at Tech Conference, Could Show Peek at Windows 8
Microsoft President Steven Sinofsky, the man most directly responsible for Windows 8 (or, as he would say, "the next version of Windows"), will appear at the "All Things D" conference next week. And though the reason for his appearance is a bit of a mystery, rumors have emerged that he'll show off Windows 8-based tablets. I actually don't believe this will happen, however. Here are my guesses: He'll either show off some other Windows 8 functionality--think Kinect-style motion and voice control--or he'll in fact show off Windows-based tablets that are shipping this year ... that is, Windows 7-based tablets. Why is this? Because neither demo would stall sales of Windows-based PCs this year, especially Windows-based tablets. But if Sinofsky shows off Windows 8 tablets now, he'll effectively kill any consumer desire for soon-to-be-obsolete products. Just a guess on my part, but admit it, it does make sense.
Microsoft Board Allegedly Backs Ballmer
When influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn touched off a new round of Ballmer loathing this week, it was a news story because, well, it's been a news story for a long time. But Reuters reports that an unnamed source close to Microsoft's board of directors says that the software giant's CEO is in no danger of losing his job. Here's the exact quote: "Microsoft's nine-person board, including Chairman and Cofounder Bill Gates, supports Ballmer." So there you go.
Hedge Fund Manager Puts in $200 Million Offer for Baseball's New York Mets
By the way, in a completely random coincidence, that David Einhorn guy made even bigger news this week by offering $200 million for a noncontrolling stake in the New York Mets, a financially struggling Major League Baseball team. How messed up is that?
Ballmer: China Is Killing Us with Piracy
China's legendary software piracy problem is second only to its legendary human rights abuses, I guess. But in a tour of the country this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said it was the former problem that was causing it the most trouble. PC makers sell just about as many PCs in China as they do in the United States every year, Ballmer said, but Microsoft makes only 5 percent as much from Windows licenses there as it does in the United States because the Chinese simply pirate its software. In fact, Microsoft makes more on software sold in The Netherlands, a tiny country with 17 million people, than it does in China, the most populous nation on Earth with 1.3 billion people. "I'm not saying everybody in China could afford to buy a PC," Ballmer noted. "But if you can, you could afford the software." You're familiar with the term "falling on deaf ears," right? No? That's a good example of it.
Skype "Crashes," Sending Chicken Littles Running for the Hills
Enough already. Every time a cloud service experiences a problem real or imagined, inept tech reporters, bloggers, and pundits race to publish stories about how our reliance on this kind of technology is perhaps misguided. You know the drill, headlines like, "10 MINUTE GMAIL OUTAGE PROVES CLOUD COMPUTING IS A PASSING FAD." Little tires me as easily as that kind of cheapshot linkbait, but you see it all the time. So this week, Skype "crashed" (whatever that means in the context of a cloud service), triggering all of the expected dimwitted headlines, but also a few new twists. Despite the fact that Microsoft has only announced its intention to purchase Skype--remember, this deal has to be approved by regulators first--and in no way could have any impact on the other company's operations, many stories I've read about this non-event are openly wondering whether "the Redmond Company is directly to blame" for the outage. Um. What? WHAT??! I love my job, I really do. But sometimes I look around this industry at my so-called peers and I'm just embarrassed for all of us. Anyone can write a blog post. Most of them shouldn't.
Windows Phone Launches on Verizon ... And Sells Out
OK, so we didn't see any lines around the corner like you'd expect at any Apple product launch (or any Star Wars movie premiere, for that matter), but the initial stock of Windows Phone-based HTC Trophies that launched on Verizon this week quickly sold out and is now on back-order. The cynical among us will argue that Verizon probably only ordered about 18 of these things, but let's be fair: This phone was supposed to first launch in early February, and a lot of Verizon customers have been champing at the bit ever since. So let's give Windows Phone the bit of good news it so desperately needs (and deserved). The phone sold out. Deal with it.
Android Is Free? Not for Microsoft, Which Gets $5 for Each Android Handset
According to Citi analyst Walter Pritchard, Microsoft collects $5 for every Android handset that HTC sells because that company settled a patent-infringement lawsuit with the software giant, owning up to the fact that the Android OS it's distributing is utilizing Microsoft-owned technology. And Pritchard said that prices just go up when handset makers refuse to settle: Microsoft is now seeking $7.50 to $12.50 per Android handset from others. As Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said last year, "It's not like Android is free. Android has a patent fee." And the company collecting that fee, ironically, is Microsoft, not Google. The interesting thing here, aside from the obvious, is that Microsoft and others who are suing over Android OS patent infringement are gradually raising the cost of Android handsets, and that means that Microsoft's own offering, Windows Phone, is becoming a lower-cost alternative than the so-called "free" OS. Hilarious.
Microsoft Wants Luxury Apps on Windows Phone
And speaking of Microsoft making money in the mobile market in roundabout ways, the software giant this week said it wanted to see more higher-priced apps on Windows Phone. "If we can support a higher price point [for apps,] that's good for developers," Microsoft Program Director Brandon Watson said this week. "I'd rather developers sell fewer than a million downloads and get to a million dollars." Apparently, the Windows Phone Marketplace is awash in free and super-cheap ($0.99) apps. But that makes sense: Windows Phone hasn't taken off with consumers yet, and to get to 18,000 apps--as Microsoft has apparently done, in just 7 months no less--you can't overcharge people. I think a variety in price points comes naturally as the market matures. And no doubt, we'll soon be overpaying for Windows Phone apps when/if that happens.
Google Introduces Digital Wallet
As expected, Google this week announced a digital wallet service for smartphones running the Android OS. Imaginatively named Google Wallet, this new service "will make your phone your wallet. You'll be able to tap, pay, and save using your phone and near field communication (NFC)." Implemented as an Android app, Google Wallet will store your credit cards, loyalty cards, and gift cards, and other private information, all in a convenient easily lost or stolen portable format. You know, I'm trying to think who I'd trust less with this information, Google or Facebook, and it's kind of a wash. But ultimately, I'd have to choose Facebook because, let's face it, that company would silently change your privacy terms and open up your financial information to "Friends of Friends" or whatever. I really hate Facebook, mostly because I rely on it so much and yet still don't trust it at all. I'm not sure what this has to do with Google Wallet, I'm just saying.
Apple's iCloud Service Will Allegedly Scan, Mirror Your Music Collection in the Cloud
One of the problems with recent cloud-based music services like Amazon Cloud Player and Google Music is that they require you to upload your entire PC-based music collection to the cloud before you can access your collection from anywhere, a process that can take several hours or perhaps even days for a large collection. But according to reports, Apple is going to bypass this issue with its coming cloud music service, allegedly named iCloud, by providing licenses with major recording companies that let it scan your PC-based collection and then simply provide you with cloud-based access to those songs, without needing to upload them first. This has other benefits aside from the obvious: The cloud-based versions of your songs that Apple will offer will apparently be of very high quality, too. On the other hand, there are problems with Apple's approach because, well, it's Apple and you know it's going to charge a pretty penny for the service. Amazon and Google, meanwhile, are free or, in the case of Amazon's tiered offering, low-priced.
Apple Who? Lenovo Net Profit More than Doubles
Every time Apple announces anything, the tech press goes ga-ga over the company for some reason. And that's doubly true of the company's financial results in which huge gains are the norm, as is ignoring under-performing products. But this week Lenovo pulled an Apple and announced that strong corporate demand for its PCs led to a more than doubling of its quarterly profits year-over-year. And I don't need to look far to know that the tech industry simply ignored this story, because Lenovo isn't Apple. Lenovo, by the way, is China's biggest PC maker and the fourth-biggest PC maker in the world, behind HP, Dell, and Acer. And ahead of Apple. Cough. Again, just saying.
Next Week: No WinInfo on Monday
We're celebrating Memorial Day here in the United States on Monday, so the Penton offices will be closed and we will not be publishing WinInfo. Have a great long weekend. We'll see you again on Tuesday. (I will be updating the SuperSite for Windows over the long weekend as usual, however.)
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 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