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

Further Evidence of a Muted Launch for Windows 8

Respected market researcher NPD might have just delivered the ultimate retort to that "40 million licenses" figure that Microsoft was touting this week: It says that PC sales actually dropped 21 percent in the first four weeks of Windows 8’s availability when compared with the same period a year earlier. And notebook sales dropped even harder, at 24 percent. “It’s still early to place blame on Windows 8 for the ongoing weakness in the PC market," said NPD Vice President Stephen Baker. “We still have the whole holiday selling season ahead of us, but clearly Windows 8 did not prove to be the impetus for a sales turnaround some had hoped for.” What I’m a bit more interested in is that Windows 8 accounted for just 58 percent of all Windows hardware sales in this time period, down from the 83 percent that Windows 7 garnered during its first four weeks, three years ago. Are people … actively avoiding Windows 8? And what about Windows 8 tablet sales? “Almost non-existent,” NPD says, with such devices accounting for just under 1 percent of all Windows hardware sales. What the heck. (See "Windows 8 Sales: Good, Bad, or Ugly?").

Report: Microsoft Cuts Surface Orders in Half

Speaking of bad news—we might as well just get it all out of the way—a report in DigiTimes claims that Microsoft has cut its manufacturing order for Surface with Windows RT tablets in half, from four million units to two million units. “Microsoft originally expected to ship four million Surface RT devices by the end of 2012, but has recently reduced the orders by half to only two million units,” the report notes. “The sources also pointed out that Surface RT is also unlikely to achieve great performance in the upcoming quarter, which might force Microsoft to bring out its Intel-based Surface Pro tablet earlier in December.” No sooner had that report hit the web than Microsoft announced that Surface Pro would hit, in fact, in January. (And my own sources say it will be very late January, at that.)

Surface Pro Won't Be Sold Only at Microsoft Stores

While we’re on the subject of Surface, you might recall that there was some controversy when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was misquoted on Surface with Windows RT sales. (See "Microsoft: Surface Sales Far From 'Modest'.") He said that Microsoft had only “modest” distribution for the devices, meaning they're sold only through the Microsoft Store, both online and in physical retail stores. But Surface Pro—the Surface version coming in January that will run Windows 8 Pro, not Windows RT—won't be handicapped in this fashion. My sources have now told me repeatedly that Surface with Windows 8 Pro will be sold by multiple retailers, and that here in the United States those retailers will certainly include Best Buy and Staples.

Office 2013 General Availability

January 29, 2013? Hmmm.

Rumors About Windows Phone 8 Follow-up Begin Appearing Online

And no, it’s not about Microsoft giving up and going Android—at least, not yet. First reported by an anonymous tipster on Twitter, Microsoft is allegedly going to follow up Windows Phone 8, which was code-named Apollo, with a new release that is code-named Apollo+ (“Apollo Plus”). Given the name, one might consider this a minor update, but I think there’s a better way of looking at this, and that is that the Windows Phone team is simply doing what the teams responsible for Windows, Office, Server, Visual Studio, and other groups at Microsoft are doing: offering iterative updates that roll out much as do updates to online services. And my guess—yes, it’s a guess—is that we’ll see multiple “Apollo+” updates that will fill the gap between Windows Phone 8 and 9. The Verge says that Apollo+ will include Wi-Fi and audio fixes while adding VPN support. This makes sense, since these interim updates should be considered Feature Packs, which are combinations of bug fixes and software updates.

Google Copies Microsoft Playbook with Gmail + Google Drive Linkup

One of the big advantages of using Microsoft’s consumer-oriented Hotmail and Outlook.com webmail services is that they can use SkyDrive on the back end to send enormous attachments. (I wrote about this in "Outlook.com Tip: Send Huge Attachments.") Well, now Google is copying this functionality: The online advertising firm introduced a new feature for its free Gmail service that allows it to use Google Drive (Google’s SkyDrive ripoff) to send very large files as (sort of) attachments. It’s nice to see Google catching up in the online space. They were so archaic before.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Destroys Halo 4 on the Xbox 360

As expected, the latest Call of Duty title, Black Ops 2, has dominated Microsoft’s own Halo 4 on the Xbox 360 since both titles launched earlier in November. Fans of Halo 4 had complained to me that it wasn’t fair to compare sales of the two games since Black Ops 2 is multi-platform while Halo 4 is exclusive to the Xbox 360. But there are two retorts to that: First, if Microsoft wants to artificially limit Halo 4 sales to their own console, that’s Microsoft's strategic blunder, not ours. (And seriously, how could the company not make a Windows 8 version of Halo??) And second, it doesn’t matter: Looking just at the Xbox 360, Black Ops 2 is killing Halo 4 anyway, with the Call of Duty title topping the Xbox LIVE online activity charts since its launch. It’s an inconvenient truth, folks. But Call of Duty is far more popular than Halo, even on Microsoft’s console. (See also, "Xbox 360 Owned Black Friday Weekend, Microsoft Says").

Google Play Eliminates Anonymous App Reviews

I feel the same way about this as I do about the anonymous commenters that pollute blogs and websites around the globe: There is virtually no place at all where being anonymous is fair to others. (I wrote “virtually,” folks. No need to anonymously opine about the few times when this is OK.) So this week Google finally did something it should have done from the outset: It is banning anonymous reviews of apps in its Play store, which provides Android apps. The reviews on Google’s Play store resembled the comments on the articles and posts I often saw here on Windows IT Pro—that is, they amounted to a “cesspool,” as Research In Motion (RIM) VP Alec Saunders once infamously described it—before I decided to start paying attention. The point here is simple: You can absolutely have an opinion about something, sure. But only if you put your name on it. (Note: We don’t require you to use your real name in comments at Windows IT Pro. But I do moderate comments to prevent that cesspool effect.)

Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!

I recorded What the Tech with Andrew Zarian on Tuesday and Windows Weekly with Leo Laporte and Mary Jo Foley on Thursday. Both podcast episodes should be available soon, 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.

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