An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Report: EU to Investigate Windows RT
A report in Bloomberg says that European Union (EU) antitrust regulators are considering an investigation of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows RT, the ARM-based version of Windows 8. At issue, naturally, is the built-in web browser, Internet Explorer (IE) 10, and the fact that makers of competing browsers—like Google with Chrome and Mozilla with Firefox—cannot create native software applications on this platform. “We will need to look at this,” EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Bloomberg. Microsoft, in a statement, said that it had done nothing wrong in excluding competition in the new OS. “We’re confident that our updates to the Windows family of products—Windows 8, Windows RT, and Windows Phone—will offer customers additional choice in a very competitive market.” Which is fine. But the EU needs to be confident of this as well. It's right to be unconvinced.
US Senate Claims Microsoft, Others Avoided Taxes … Legally
A US Senate committee memo claims that Microsoft and other high tech firms used dubious but legal financial maneuvers to avoid paying billions in taxes over the past three years. Put another way, they did what all big companies do: maximized profits in every conceivable way while not actually breaking the law. I’m curious why this is even an issue, but here goes. The memo says that Microsoft made transactions with its subsidiaries in Bermuda, Ireland, Puerto Rico, and Singapore that helped it save $6.5 billion in taxes. Senator Carl Levin told Microsoft in a hearing that the moves “may be in your temporary interest as a corporation … and increase your profits and reduce your taxes.” To which I assume Microsoft replied, “Right. Are we done here?” (Actually, what it said was that it complied with US and international tax laws, which is true.) The issue isn’t really Microsoft—Senator Tom Coburn said the software giant utilized “properly legal tax avoidance”—or the other firms, but rather the laws themselves, which contain a ton of loopholes. Senators, this is why corporations hire lawyers.
Microsoft Scores Patent Victory Against Motorola in Germany
A German court ruled this week that Android-based devices made by Motorola Mobility do infringe on a Microsoft software patent and will need to be changed or face a sales injunction in that country. The ruling affects various smartphones and tablets, and involves a Microsoft patent related to alternative virtual keyboard layouts. Interrupted in the middle of a happy dance, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said, “We’re pleased this decision builds on previous rulings in Germany that have already found that Motorola is broadly infringing Microsoft's intellectual property. We will continue to enforce injunctions against Motorola products in Germany and hope Motorola will join other Android device makers by taking a license to Microsoft's patented inventions.” It’s inconceivable that Google—which owns Motorola Mobility—would ever agree to such a thing, because the company’s business model basically involves giving away other firms’ intellectual property while hoping that regulators look the other way.
Samsung Scores Patent Victory Against Apple in Germany
I haven’t seen this much fighting in Germany since—well, never mind. But Samsung also scored a legal victory this week, this time against Apple, when a German court tossed out an Apple claim that Samsung infringed on its patents for touchscreen technologies. “Our products do not infringe Apple’s intellectual property,” a Samsung statement reads. “We will continue to further develop and introduce products that enhance the lives of German consumers.” In a bit of good news for Motorola Mobility and parent company Google, the same court also threw out Apple’s same patent claim against Motorola’s products.
Apple Users Can Expect to Be Lost a Lot in the Coming Weeks
Good thing no one had an iPhone 5 before they queued up in line to wait for the iPhone 5 to go on sale this morning. That’s because the iPhone 5 comes with Apple’s new Maps program, which is borderline unusable. All those poor Apple fans would never have found their local Apple Store! What they can do with Maps, however, is look at pretty but completely useless “fly-by” views of locations, which show what these places look like from a plane, at an angle. Which, as you know, is exactly what you need when you’re driving or walking. I’ve often argued that Apple is all about form over function, but Maps brings this silliness to a new, stupefying level. At least you’ll have something pretty to look at when you walk around, hopelessly lost. Which, when you think about it, is exactly how many iPhone users appear to others already.
iPhone Sets Another Record: $6 Billion in Repair Costs
Which is interesting, because I noticed two people with broken iPhone screens on the train ride home from New York this week. (I’ve never experienced a broken screen with various Windows Phone devices, and I drop these things all the time.) Consumer electronics protection plan provider SquareTrade released a study this week claiming that iPhone users in the United States alone have racked up almost $6 billion in screen-repair fees since the product’s launch in 2007. It seems you can crack the screen on the notoriously delicate device simply by looking at it the wrong way, and this leads me to wonder if a huge chunk of iPhone “sales” are in fact overly loyal customers buying second and third replacements for broken phones—a theory that would more than somewhat contradict Apple fans’ claims of design superiority. Actually, it’s not a theory: According to SquareTrade, a full 30 percent of iPhone owners damaged their precious devices just last year. I’m sure the taller iPhone 5 can beat that record, too.
Swiss Federal Railways Learns the Hard Way that Apple Has Never had an Original iDea
Apple doesn’t get enough credit for its ability to bald-facedly copy designs, pass them off as its own, and then get lauded for those designs by the unsuspecting public. The latest example is the Clock app in Apple’s iPad, which the Swiss clockmakers at Swiss Federal Railways think looks surprisingly similar—one might say identical—to the design of their iconic railway clock, which dates to the 1940s. The firm owns both a trademark and a copyright on the design and was curious how Apple arrived at such an identical design, so they’re suing. (Hint: Lazy Apple designers Googled “clock” and picked the prettiest one to copy. They’ve done it before.) The clock design is, however, widely licensed, so if Apple wants to pay to use it, it's certainly able to do so. No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
From the "Kick ‘Em When They’re Down" Files: RIM Experiences Another Network Outage in Europe
Last October, Research In Motion's (RIM’s) proprietary BlackBerry email service went down for the count in Europe and the United States, a rare outage that left 10 million users without connectivity and the struggling firm looking more helpless than ever. This week, it happened again, and this time in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. RIM confirmed the outage and had things up and running again more quickly this time: In 2011, the outage last days, but this time it was just several hours. See? Things really are improving over at RIM.
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 on the normal schedule, and we even had Microsoft Technical Fellow Mark Russinovich on Windows Weekly 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.
The Paul Thurrott Mobile App: Is That a Paul in Your Pocket?
The Paul Thurrott: Pocket Tech app is now available for both the iPhone and Windows Phone, bringing all of my technical content to your favorite mobile device in a fun, on-the-go format. We'll have an Android version available soon as well, I'm told. And who knows? A Windows 8 app would make plenty of sense too. Download for Windows Phone - Download for iPhone
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