An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
WordPerfect May Be Dead but the Suit Goes On and On and On...
A Novell lawsuit against Microsoft that dates back to 2004 and regards the former company's mid-1990s foray into general computing with its purchase of WordPerfect Corp. (an unalloyed disaster) is somehow back in the news: Despite a previous court ruling in Microsoft's favor, in which Microsoft was found to have not violated the Sherman (antitrust) Act in its competitive behavior against WordPerfect, has just been overthrown. And that means that Novell—a huge Microsoft partner, by the way—is now free to pursue this antitrust case against Microsoft yet again. For a product it owned briefly. In the 1990s. And no longer owns. Here's my expectation: This development, while interesting, means nothing. And Novell will not pursue this case in court. As for WordPerfect, yes, it sort of still exists, and it's still owned by Corel. But come on: It hasn't been competitive for a decade and barely registers with any serious PC users anymore.
Skype Apparently Courting Both Google and Facebook
Google and Facebook are apparently scurrying to outbid each other in an attempt to purchase Skype—a confusing development, because Skype was a financial disaster for previous owner eBay, which purchased the firm in 2005 for $4.1 billion. I guess I can think of worse ways to flush $4.1 billion down the toilet, but let's be clear: That's exactly what happened. So why would Google and Facebook even want this dog? Obviously, both companies feel that interpersonal communications are the future, and Skype does provide a way for users to place audio and video calls over the Internet. In the early days, this was seen as an alternative to phone calls, but in some ways, Skype and other similar online communication tools have established themselves as clearly superior—and more popular—than traditional land lines. Anyway, Skype isn't commenting, but rumor has it that the company could go for up to $4 billion. Not bad for a firm with about $17 in annual sales.
Stupid Acquisition Rumor of the Week
"Will Microsoft buy RIM?" the pundits asked no one in particular this week. Which was smart, because asking something like that in the open should result in public ridicule. But why even ask? Apparently, Steve Ballmer's appearance on the BlackBerry World Conference keynote stage this week was enough to set the stupidity in motion. But in the wake of Microsoft's epic deal with Nokia, in which the two companies will partner on the future of Windows Phone, buying a rival smartphone market doesn't really make any sense. And let's face it: Two duds do not a hit make: BlackBerry has great share now but is decidedly nose-diving, and Windows Phone hasn't found any traction in the market yet at all. How the heck would combining these two things—an act that would require at least another year of resetting and restarting—help matters? Answer: It wouldn't. So let's all stop the cheap speculation and move on. This one is a non-starter.
Apple Cofounder Calls Microsoft Cofounder a Patent Troll
Which is true enough: Paul Allen is absolutely a patent troll. But then I'd also argue that the otherwise affable Steve Wozniak (the Apple cofounder in question), when compared with Allen, hasn't exactly experienced a continuous level of success since leaving the company he cofounded. That is, Allen has been extremely successful. Wozniak, alas, has not. I think the real issue here is that Allen is just a predatory business man with all the skills inherent in such behavior, whereas Wozniak is just a bumbling nice guy. Or is he? Reading through his comments about Allen—"Paul Allen was an inventor in the past," he said—it's hard not be struck by the fact that they apply equally well to Wozniak. It's just that Wozniak never achieved any success—technical or financial—after the 1970s ended. So, I hear you Mr. Wozniak, and I respect you. But this sounds like sour grapes.
Massachusetts Court Shoots Down Google Attempt to End Android "Openness" Suit
The Massachusetts Superior Court this week denied a Google request to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that the online giant's Android smartphone OS isn't as open as Google asserts. The suit was brought by Skyhook, which claims that Google forces handset makers to bundle their phones with Google's location services rather than competing services such as those provided by Skyhook. "Skyhook's theory [is] that Google used its contractual power not to protect its legitimate business interests but to injure Skyhook and thereby avoid competition," Judge Judith Fabricant wrote in ruling that rejected Google's summary judgment request. "Whether Skyhook will be able to elicit evidence to support that theory remains to be seen, but, at least at this stage, the Court cannot conclude that the theory lacks viability." Apparently, the Skyhook suit has some juicy internal play-by-plays, including an episode in which Android inventor and Google executive Andy Rubin told a Motorola co-CEO that Google would pull Android support from the company unless it used Google's location services. Now that's the kind of old-fashioned, Microsoft-esque, anti-competitive behavior I like to see. Bring it to court!
Microsoft: Email Not Dead Yet
Microsoft recently commissioned a survey to determine whether email is on the decline, and the results may be somewhat surprising—unless you're not paying attention to the fact that our society is rapidly aging. According to the MarketTools survey, email remains very popular as a communication tool and its use is, in fact, growing even faster than the use of social networking services, mobile messaging, and PC-based instant messaging (IM). Further, of those services, only IM is on the way down. "Just as email didn't kill the telephone and video didn't kill the radio, newer messaging tools won't kill email," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Takeshi Numoto says. "In fact, the survey tells us that the overall volume of communication is increasing as a whole."
Hotmail Bests Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Facebook for Email
Speaking of Microsoft and email, the software giant's web-based email service, Hotmail, has come out on top in a different (and, sure, completely unrelated) survey of webmail services conducted by UK-based Which. Hotmail garnered 83 percent first-place picks, compared with 69 percent for Gmail, 67 percent for Yahoo! Mail, 65 percent for AOL (they're still around?), 50 percent for Excite (ditto), and just 48 percent for Facebook. I smell a rat, or at least a weird UK bias. But what the heck, a win is a win.
Windows Phone Marketplace Goes Down for the Count ... So?
In a month in which Amazon, Sony, and now LastPass have all experienced high-profile outages, a short-lived outage of Microsoft's little-used Windows Phone Marketplace isn't going to cause much of a stir. And it didn't: The Marketplace was actually online during the whole incident on Thursday, but a software issue was preventing customers from purchasing apps for several hours. That problem was fixed late yesterday, and Microsoft says it was related to routine, scheduled maintenance. "The problem was identified and fixed in a matter of hours," the Windows Phone team reported in what I believe was the first time they've ever moved this quickly about anything. "The Marketplace service is now fully available." As with the outage itself, few people noticed.
Sony Apologizes for PSN Outage, Says Service will Return
Sony CEO Howard Stringer this week apologized for the outages at the PlayStation Network (PSN) and the resulting customer data theft and promised that the service would be back online in the coming days. I hope there are still some customers waiting around when that happens. It seems to me that a primary goal of any online service is that it be, you know, online. And PSN hasn't been online for weeks now. To help mollify understandably agitated customers, Sony is going to offer each a "$1 million identity theft policy," which sounds ludicrous to me. I have an idea: How about just offering them each one free year on Xbox LIVE? That would nicely solve the problem, methinks.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on Thursday as usual this week, 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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