An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Windows Phone Will Ship Only on GSM Devices in 2010
What this means to you—dear US-based reader—is that Windows Phone won't be shipping via Verizon Wireless until 2011. Microsoft on Thursday confirmed a long-brewing rumor that its upcoming Windows Phone 7 smartphone OS will ship only via GMS-based wireless carriers (AT&T and T-Mobile in the United States) this year and that it's working on an update to the OS, to be delivered in early 2011, that will enable CDMA (Verizon Wireless, Sprint) support. "For the worldwide market, the vast majority of phones are GSM phones, so we focused on GSM first and then plan to deliver an update that will have great CDMA support in the first half of 2011," Microsoft Senior Product Manager Greg Sullivan said. “That's device availability in the first half and we're very confident of that. That’s probably a conservative estimate." Based on my email, this is going to be very bad news, however, for a great many people. A little heads-up on this would be nice, given that Windows Phone is going to launch less than a month from now.
Microsoft: We Aren't Making Our Own Phone
Microsoft confirmed this week that it won't be making its own smartphone and will instead continue to rely on partners. "We are in the software business, and that is where our business will be focused," Microsoft's Tivanka Ellawala told investors at a conference in San Francisco. The timing of this revelation is interesting because there have been rumors recently about a Microsoft job posting in which the software giant was looking for someone to help "build the next generation of portable entertainment and communication devices." Some speculated that Microsoft was going to build its own Windows Phone, while others suggested it was a new Zune device based on the Windows Phone OS. That latter possibility is now far more likely and is something I'd love to see Microsoft do. In fact, it would make a killer portable gaming machine too, when you think about it.
Microsoft Spells Out Rules for Windows Phone Marketplace
And let's just say those rules are going to be a lot more transparent than, say, Apple is. As part of its announcement this week about the release of the final version of the Windows Phone developer tools, Microsoft also spelled out the rules for developers who wish to see their apps sold through the Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft's online store. Compared with Apple's arbitrary rules for the iTunes App Store, Microsoft's rules are a model of clarity. No sex, nudity, pornography, or other adult content. No realistic or gratuitous violence. Music sales are OK as long as purchasing via the Windows Phone Marketplace is an option. (This opens up the phone to competing music services.) No depiction of non-Windows Phone smartphones. (Which is similar to an Apple provision, by the way, and is aimed more at defamatory apps than the scenario you're probably imagining.) Put simply, it's just a nice helping of common sense.
Halo: Reach Makes $200 Million in First Day
Which means that it just needs to be on the market for another two months to make back its development budget. Microsoft promised that Halo: Reach would outsell its chief rival, the upcoming Call of Duty: Black Ops this holiday season, and it's certainly off to a fine start. And though I'd hate to be the guy who throws cold water over the good news, I will at least point out that Halo: Reach's opening figure—while impressive compared with recent Hollywood blockbusters—actually pales in comparison with the opening for the previous Call of Duty title, Modern Warfare 2, which made a whopping $310 million in the first day when it shipped last November. I've finished the Halo: Reach campaign and it's a fine, fine game. But I've said it before and I'll say it again: When it comes to multiplayer, no one beats Call of Duty. Not Halo, not anybody. Why is this important? Because the single-player experience in either game lasts about 8 hours tops. But you can play multiplayer for several months—or, heck, even years—straight.
Medal of Honor Banned at US Military Bases
Speaking of video games that will be destroyed by Call of Duty: Black Ops this year at retail, whatever marketing Electronic Arts has planned for its upcoming Medal of Honor title will have no bearing whatsoever on the game's success. But EA can't buy the kind of publicity it's getting lately. The game is being condemned everywhere, with the most recent example coming courtesy of the US military, which is refusing to sell the title. The reason? In the multiplayer experience, the two sides are coalition forces (read: from the United States) and Taliban terrorists. So, it's possible that you could end up playing a terrorist attacking US troops. Maybe I'm missing the point here, but that's exactly what happens in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and in that game's single-player experience, Russia actually launches a ground invasion of the United States. And I've played Nazis in numerous other Call of Duty games, attacking US, British, and Russian troops. If we're going to ban this kind of thing, let's be a bit less selective about it, eh?
No, the Commodore 64 Isn't Back
As a long-time Commodore user and fan, I'd like to think that the company could rise from the grave and put the slap back onto Apple, Microsoft, and all the other pretenders that rose in its wake, but let's be serious here. That's never going to happen. Sadly, the Commodore name, however, is in fact making a comeback of sorts, and it's being slapped, this time onto the side of white box PCs. And now the company that purchased the rights to the name is actually going to sell a PC that looks exactly like the Commodore 64 of old—though under the covers it will essentially be an Atom-based netbook, offering modern features like HDMI-out, dual-link DVI, six USB ports, integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 6-in-1 media card reader. This makes me sad. Very sad.
Microsoft Talks Up Legal Risk of Using Google's Android
Which is better than the risk to your soul when you use Apple products, I guess. Microsoft's Tivanka Ellawala (quote above as well) also noted this week that Google's Android is based on Linux and is thus subject to the sweeping lawsuit threats that Microsoft has made against Linux vendors. "It does infringe on a bunch of patents, and there's a cost associated with that," he said. “So there's a cost associated with Android that doesn't make it free." Microsoft has pursued hundreds of patent licensing deals with Linux vendors and is talking about doing the same with the Android community. But you have to wonder: Isn't Microsoft making its own Android apps now, too? Is Microsoft going to sue itself?
What Happens if You Release a Tablet and No One Notices?
I'm not sure, but let's ask Samsung. The company this week started shipping its Galaxy tablet, an Android-based device that sort-of competes with the Apple iPad and will cost just $200 to $300 with a wireless carrier subsidy. (Which means that it will really cost about $1,500 over two years.) On the good news front, it will be sold via four—count 'em, four—wireless carriers in the United States (Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile) and is smaller and lighter than the iPad. (What isn't?) The 7" screen might in fact be the sweet spot, and it does have two cameras, compared with the zero cameras on the iPad. Still. It's not an iPad. Which I suspect will be its biggest problem.
Mozilla Lashes Out at IE 9 Hardware Acceleration
Busy dropping features from the upcoming release of Firefox 4 so that it can meet its arbitrary release deadline, Mozilla paused for a moment this week to lash out at Microsoft's new Internet Explorer (IE) 9 Beta browser. The reason? IE 9 is making Firefox look silly, and that is exactly what the foundering Firefox doesn't need right now. "Microsoft is wrong," Mozilla's Mike Shaver wrote in a Twitter post. (Yes, we're quoting Twitter posts now.) "We accelerate content and compositing," Mozilla's Asa Dotzler wrote in a separate blog post. "The facts are that Firefox takes advantage of the same Windows 7 APIs that Microsoft does to accelerate both the compositing and the rendering of Web content ... Mozilla provided test builds of Firefox with this hardware acceleration well before Microsoft did. We are faster and we were first." That's quite a claim—the "faster" bit, that is. The thing is, IE 9 offers "full" hardware acceleration, not partial hardware acceleration, like Firefox will. What this means is that IE 9 uses hardware acceleration for virtually everything it renders—not just parts of what it renders. One thing that Firefox will do, however, that IE won't, is offer some form of acceleration of Windows XP. Which, when you think about it, is like Netscape making a Windows 3.1 version of its browser when Windows 98 shipped. Which, by the way, it did.
Google (Also) Lashes Out at IE 9 Hardware Acceleration
Not to be outdone by Mozilla's Pravda-like proclamations of superiority, Google also made its own awesome claims with regard to IE 9 this week. (Google makes the darling-of-the-moment Chrome browser.) It says it has developed new "GPU techniques" that will make Chrome 60 times faster (60 times!!) than the current version. And it's cross platform! "This system picks the best graphics API to use on each OS that Chrome supports: Windows XP/Vista/7, Mac OS, and Linux," Google's James Robinson and Gregg Tavares wrote in the Chromium Blog. "With Google Chrome's fast release cycles, we expect to be able to get these enhancements to users quickly and add new performance improvements over time." Just so we're clear here. IE 9 has very obviously rattled some cages. Not bad for a browser that's supposedly in free fall, eh?
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, and we had a special guest—Microsoft's Brandon Watson—on to talk about Windows Phone. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, as always.
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