An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Home at Last, and a New SuperSite!
After almost two straight weeks on the road, I arrived home battered, bruised, and exhausted on Wednesday morning after a final-insult red-eye flight from Sea-Tac. But there’s no rest for the wicked! I had to prepare for the relaunch of the SuperSite for Windows, which went live last night. This is only the third infrastructure change we’ve ever completed in the 13-plus-year history of the site, and the first in two years. But it was worth the wait. I’ll provide a complete rundown of what’s new in a Welcome article on the site later today, but two of the biggies are our first-ever mobile site (m.winsupersite.com, though you should get there automatically on most smartphones) and full (but moderated) comments capabilities across all of the articles on the site. Obviously, there will be some growing pains and we’ve got a few niggling issues to fix, but the site looks great, if I don’t say so myself, largely because of the efforts of other folks at Penton that I’ll thank for you. This is a major and positive change, and from my perspective the best thing that’s ever happened to the site. Thanks to everyone who made it happen.
Microsoft Is Cool? Um, Let’s Give It a Few Years, Please.
A troll-bait article at the Huffington Post ponders whether Microsoft is suddenly hip and cool and is experiencing a “surge in consumer perception,” crediting a survey from YouGov BrandIndex. According to the firm, the Bing advertising campaign, the recent launch of Windows 8, and a new Surface tablet are putting Microsoft back in front of consumers for the first time in a while and driving attention away from rival brands, presumably Apple and Google. No offense to the hardworking folks at Microsoft, but I’d let the dust settle on this one before declaring victory. Microsoft’s bestselling product is still Office, and its Server & Tools division is still outperforming Windows client. My point is that Microsoft, despite millions in advertising that claims otherwise, is still very much a maker of business products and services. And if you really look at what this survey claims, Microsoft isn’t even hitting a high water mark with consumers now: The Windows brand “buzz score” is higher than it’s ever been since the release of Windows 7, but that also means it’s not higher than it was when Windows 7 launched. So that’s good, but not great, and arguable it's a problem, because Windows 8 is very much a consumer-focused product, unlike Windows 7. Just saying.
First Windows Phone 8 Handsets Go on Sale in the United States
AT&T Wireless is now selling the HTC Windows Phone 8X, Nokia Lumia 920, and Nokia Lumia 820, marking the first Windows Phone 8 handsets for sale in the United States. The HTC 8X is available in California Blue (8GB or 16GB) or Limelight (yellow, 8GB only). The Lumia 920 can be had in high-gloss red, yellow, white, matte cyan, or black. And the Lumia 820, while only available in black, can be colorized with new optional wireless-charging shells that come in—yes—red, white, black, yellow, and cyan. If you’re on AT&T and have been waiting for the new generation of devices, here they are. I’ve made the HTC Windows Phone 8X my own pick, but each of these new Windows Phone 8 handsets has something to offer, and the Lumia 920 in particular might sway you with its superior camera and Nokia-specific apps.
Halo 4 Launches, No Standalone Multi-Player Planned
Microsoft launched Halo 4 for the Xbox 360, and based on just a bit of game play—between travel and the new site, I’ve been understandably distracted this week—it’s clearly a revolutionary improvement for the blockbuster video game series and clearly the best-looking entry of the bunch by a wide margin. I’ll get to Halo 4 soon enough, but one of the dirty little secrets of the first-person shooter genre is that these games come with both single-player campaign and multiplayer modes, and most people just stick to multiplayer. (I’m not among them, though the multiplayer is what keeps you playing months later: I actually really enjoy the single-player campaigns, especially in Halo games.) So people are naturally starting to wonder why Microsoft bothered with a campaign and why it doesn’t simply release a separate (lower-cost) version of the game that only includes multiplayer. (I do think this could be a possible future for the Call of Duty series, by the way: How cool would it be if there was a Call of Duty: Online version that included every single map from Call of Duty 2 on up?) But Microsoft has nixed that plan, at least for Halo 4, even though it includes something called Infinity Multiplayer on a second disc with the retail Halo 4 package, and you’re required to install it to your console. “There are no plans to offer Halo 4 Infinity Multiplayer digital download as a separate product or purchase." Honestly, I think it’s a bit weird we’re still buying discs in this day and age. It makes the Xbox 360 seem dated.
Twitter Triggers Unintentional Password Resets, Sparking Hack Fears
Twitter this week mistakenly sent out mass password change requests to its users, prompting fears that the popular social networking service had been hacked. Not so, Twitter claims, though the days leading up to the password resets certainly have security experts on edge. On Monday, infamous hacking cabal Anonymous published what it claimed to be a list of 28,000 PayPal accounts. This caused major sites such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo! to cross-reference the account logons to see if they matched accounts on their own services. And then Twitter sent out the mass password reset requests. Coincidence? Twitter says yes, that it “unintentionally” sent out too many requests but that it does routinely send out such requests as part of its “process to protect users”—you know, from hacked accounts. Maybe you should just change your password. Everywhere.
Samsung Galaxy S III Outsells the iPhone 4S in Q3 … And Why That Means Absolutely Nothing
In the world of Apple apologists, any statistic can be contorted in a pro-Apple way. That said, this time they have a point. And it goes like this. Although Android is positively killing the iPhone from a market-share perspective and is in fact extending its lead over time, and although Samsung is likewise outselling Apple in the smartphone market by a huge amount, Apple and its fans have generally been able to claim that the current iPhone has historically outsold the next-bestselling individual smartphone model and has been the bestselling smartphone model for some time now. But with market researchers coming in with their Q3 numbers, a presumably interesting trend has emerged: For the first time, a non-iPhone handset has unseated Apple to become the bestselling smartphone in a given quarter: Samsung sold more than 18 million Galaxy S III handsets in Q3, compared with 16.2 million for the iPhone 4S. Can you see the problem with this oh-so-temporary first-place finish? No? It’s that Apple launched the iPhone 5 late in Q3, and that this new device will almost certainly outsell the Galaxy S III and regain the crown for bestselling smartphone handset in the current quarter. In other words, the only reason the Galaxy S III squeaked by with a “win” is that customers were waiting on the new iPhone. So the iPhone is still number one, only this time it’s the iPhone 5. Say hello to the new king, same as the last.
Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!
I recorded What the Tech with Andrew Zarian on Tuesday, but had to miss Windows Weekly again thanks to a last-minute travel emergency. (No worries, everything is OK.) So Iyaz Akhtar and Mary Jo Foley were joined by guest Peter “Dr. Pizza” Bright this week. 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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