An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
A Week in the Hinterlands
I spent the past week visiting Paris and London on a mini-vacation of sorts with a friend, and this would normally be a good thing. The problem was that I still needed to get work done, and the quality and availability of wireless connectivity on this trip was disappointing in both places. Twice I had to write articles based off of information I was reading via my personal phone's 3G connection (I paid for international data ahead of time), and then post later whenever I could beg, borrow, or steal a (poor) wireless connection on the laptop. In London, I could get online via Mac OS X, but not via Windows (using a dual-boot Macbook Air for either). Why? I have no idea. I travel a lot, so I know that these things are improving overall, and the situation traveling to these cities is indeed better than it was in, say, 2007 or 2008. But come on. Traveling to Western Europe shouldn't be any more traumatic from a work perspective than going to Los Angeles or New York. But it really is. And I hope that changes soon. I had a great time, of course. But the connectivity stuff was too frustrating.
Microsoft: IE Is the Most Secure Browser
Microsoft this week launched a website that it says demonstrates that Internet Explorer (IE) is by far the most secure web browser currently available. Curiously, its competitors disagree. The site, Your Browser Matters, talks up the total number of online attacks that IE has blocked thus far, and provides a handy security score so that you can see how your own browser matches up. (Spoiler alert: Non-IE browsers fare poorly.) To their credit, Microsoft's competitors aren't amused. Mozilla Director of Firefox Engineering Johnathan Nightingale said the site was "more notable for the things it fails to include," such as Do Not Track and patch response time. (Microsoft actually supports Do Not Track and, at worst, Microsoft's patch response time for IE is comparable to that of Firefox: Patches appear every 8 weeks for IE and every 6 weeks for Firefox.) Meanwhile, Chrome is still having a little, ahem, problem with Security Essentials, so I'm sure we'll be hearing from those guys soon enough.
Microsoft: You Are the Problem, Not the Solution
There's an old saying that France would be great if it weren't for all the French people, and Microsoft seems to be using a similar turn of phrase when it comes to PC security: It works great until you add a human being to the mix. That's one of the conclusions of this week's update to the company's Security Intelligence Report, which claims that almost half of all PC malware is caused because the silly human in charge of the PC made a stupid decision. These attacks, which basically involve some form of social engineering, require the user to "perform an intentional action that is in some way distinguished from typical use of the computer, for the computer to be compromised." These types of attacks are twice as successful as the next most dangerous type, USB Auto Run attacks, Microsoft adds. User, you are the weakest link. Goodbye.
Michael Dell: Android Is Disappointing for Hardware Makers, butIs Going to Rock
It's probably no surprise that Dell is in the "PC Plus era" crowd and not the "Post PC era" crowd, but this week the company revealed that it plans to focus on a combination of consumer and business computing devices going forward and, yes, they will be based on Windows 8—not smartphone OSs such as Android. At Dell World 2011 this week, Dell founder Michael Dell said his company was "very aligned with Microsoft around Windows 8" and that he was excited about the new OS. Android, meanwhile, has been very disappointing, he said, and "has not developed to expectations." He said, "There are 1.5 billion PCs in the world, and that is a pretty big number ... Estimates suggest there will be 2 billion PCs in a few years, so it's a growth market. If you look at where this computing happens, the client device is still quite important ... New devices are augmenting the PC, but we don't see the PC going away at all." Exactly.
Judge, to Apple: Show Us the Validity
A US district judge ruled this week that Apple must prove that its patents are valid before she will even consider the Cupertino consumer electronics giant's request that Samsung be prevented from selling its Apple-like tablet. The ruling is a blow to Apple, which has generally won various suits against Samsung around the world related to Apple claims that Samsung smartphones and tablets are Apple product ripoffs. But not so fast, says US District Judge Lucy Koh. Now Apple must prove that the patents in question are, in fact, valid. But Apple did score one point with the judge. At one point during a hearing, she held up an iPad and a similar-looking Samsung Galaxy tablet and asked Samsung's lawyers if they could tell which one was which. "Not at this distance your honor," one of them replied from about 10 feet away.
iOS 5 Upgrade Problematic for Many
On the eve of the iPhone 4S launch (which is today), Apple separately released the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch software update, called iOS 5, that accompanies that new phone. And if Twitter, Facebook, and Apple's own support forums are any indication, it's not going well. First, the update is absolutely mammoth—about 750MB, depending on the device—and Apple's servers apparently weren't prepared for the massive number of downloads that the release would trigger. Error messages were all over the map, and often cryptic, in sharp contrast with Apple's patently baloney image of elegance and simplicity. And some users even found their precious little iDevices wiped out, bricked with no chance of recovery. It's pretty easy to mock the difficulties Apple and its never-see-evil followers are experiencing, but I think the simple truth is that these devices are so darned popular that it's unclear how it could have gone any smoother. I can't explain or excuse the sheer size of the update, but come on: Clearly, Apple has a huge audience here, and they're all very eager to get the update. And for the record, I upgraded several iOS devices and didn't experience any issues at all.
RIP, Dennis Ritchie
Jobs' Death Tied to Respiratory Arrest
This week, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department issued Steve Jobs' death certificate, which notes that the mercurial Apple cofounder died of respiratory arrest resulting from pancreatic cancer that had spread to other organs. Jobs contracted a rare form of pancreatic cancer in 2004 and then underwent a liver transplant in 2009. But he clearly never fully recovered and in recent years has appeared wan and thin at public events. The death certificate confirms that Jobs had a metastatic pancreas neuroendocrine tumor for the past five years.
Jobs' Wife Excels Where the Man Could Not
Steve Jobs was many things—industry seer, tech visionary, and marketer extraordinaire—but the one thing no one would confuse the guy with was a good person. Jobs wasn't someone who had a lot of true friends, and he didn't give a cent of his fortune to charity, not ever. But now that Jobs is gone, his wife is stepping up and doing what the iCEO could not: She's actually providing for those less fortunate than herself. Which is basically everyone. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Laurene Powell Jobs is involved in "supporting education reform, women's issues, and other philanthropic causes" and "has become a leader in education policy, advising nonprofits and politicians." I'm sure the Apple goon squad will try to contort this into some form of history rewriting, where Jobs himself actually had a hand in some kind of giving. But let's be clear: This guy gave us great products only, albeit products that were explicitly designed to go obsolete quickly and be replaced on a regular schedule. And he took the profits for himself. In any comparison with his one true contemporary, Bill Gates, that needs to be part of the final score. And anyone being honest with themselves will find Jobs lacking as a person.
No Surprise, But Google Planning MP3 Store
It's hard keeping track of all the consumer-oriented online services coming out of Amazon, Apple, and Google this year, but since all three are heavily involved in online music, it will probably come as no surprise to discover that Google is planning on joining the other two in offering digital music for sale as well. The Google MP3 store will augment the company's Google Music Beta, which provides online storage and playback for users' music collections, and will no doubt work similarly to Amazon and Apple's offerings. Expect an announcement by the end of the year.
Google Revenues Surge in Quarter
Speaking of Google, the online Goliath continued its heady growth, reporting $2.7 billion in profits for the three months ending September 30—a jump of 26 percent year over year. Its revenues were an astonishing $9.7 billion, up 33 percent. Google CEO Larry Page improbably called the results "gangbusters"—come on, there's no way the guy actually thinks like that—and said the company was hiring so quickly it was on "the edge of what is manageable." (Which sounds exactly like something he really would say.) Google now has more than 31,500 employees, with more than 7,000 already added this year in its fastest-growth year yet. The big news, however, was that Google for the first time called out its earnings from mobile services, which is no doubt a public relations attempt to prove that it's not only successful at selling ads on searches from desktop PCs. No surprise there, Google: We figured all those Android giveaways were good for something.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Mary Jo, Leo, and I will record the next episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Friday because I've been on vacation this week. This will occur at 2pm ET/11am PT if you want to catch it live, and I assume it will 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.
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