An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including the good and bad sides of the iPad, Microsoft's sub-$1 apology for the Modern Warfar 2 map pack screw-up, RIP Itanium, Dr. Evil vs. media vampires, Office Mobile 2010 silliness, and much more ...
Leo and I recorded what might just be the longest-ever episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, courtesy of our debate about the iPad, which I think is good (if not excellent) but Leo believes to be a gamer changer. The podcast should be available any time now, and as always there will be versions on both iTunes and the Zune Marketplace.
The iPad Isn't Sold Out. How Is the iPad Not Sold Out?
It's a curious thing that the iPad—which has been so thoroughly hyped unmercifully by both Apple and the mainstream media that thoughts of conspiracy are only natural—has not, in fact, sold out. This is odd because Apple is very clearly determined to make this thing seem like a huge success. It announced first-day sales of 300,000 units (though that figure included several weeks of preorders). And then a total of 450,000 sales over its first five days. But what it didn't announce—and I find this interesting—is that the iPad had sold out. Because it hasn't. In fact, you can walk into your local Apple Store right now and buy one, no worries at all. Why is this? How is it that a device that is being sold in only one locale (the United States) and is, again, being hyped in unrelenting fashion as The Next Great Computing Miracle (tm) hasn't sold out? By comparison, the iPhone has always sold out at launch. In fact, the iPhone sells out when it's released simultaneously in numerous locales. And unlike with the iPad, an iPhone purchase actually requires a credit check and a 24-month subscription of at least $80 per month. I mean, if the iPad really were the big deal that Apple and its foam-at-the-mouth followers claim it to be ... wouldn't it have sold out immediately, if not in the first week? Yeah, it would have.
That Said, the iPad Is a Success
Unlike most Apple fanatics, I actually have a decade's worth of Tablet PC experience, so many of the capabilities that the iPad brings to the table aren't new to me. But that experience also provides me with a bit of insight into what Apple got right, and when you compare this product with the Tablet PC devices that preceded it, it's impossible not to conclude that Apple has done some things that numerous PC makers were unable to do. First, it's decision to base the iPad on the iPod touch (it is, after all, simply a big iPod touch) and its simple iPhone OS was the right one. The alternative was Mac OS X, which is big and complicated and hairy, and would require far too much testing and bug and security fixing. But it's not just that: The iPod touch/iPhone platform is backed by the richest and deepest ecosystem support possible, thanks to the iTunes Store, and it makes the Mac look sick by comparison. So, that was absolutely the right decision. Also, Apple is not afraid to leave stuff out that others think is necessary, such as stylus and handwriting support. The Tablet PC has this stuff, but it failed in the marketplace, and I'd remind people that sometimes good design is about intelligently leaving stuff out. This was also the right decision. In the end, what you get is a very limited device but also a device that was limited on purpose. And it shows: The iPad is both refined and poised for big improvements, something that can't be said of any Tablet PC. And when the price cuts come—and they will—it may be hard to resist.
Microsoft Tries to Make Up for Modern Warfare 2 Map Pack Screw-up
When Infinity Ward, makers of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and Microsoft, owners of the Xbox Live gaming service, got together last week to release the first Modern Warfare 2 map pack to eager players, hilarity ensued. Well, not quite hilarity: With millions of people clogging the pipes eager to download the $15 map pack, Microsoft delivered, but it did so without first shipping the required software update that made the new maps possible. So, then it delivered the update to confused gamers who couldn't actually play on the new maps. But that first update delivery didn't work, so for an hour or more last Tuesday, gamers all over the world were throwing their controllers against the wall, wondering why Microsoft and Infinity Ward hated them so much. The issue was eventually resolved—and Infinity Ward reported that 2.5 million people downloaded the map pack in the first week. But because so many people were displaced during the initial screw-up, and they complained so publicly, Microsoft is providing those players with a seven-day extension of their Xbox Live Gold subscription. Which sounds really nice until you realize that, at a yearly cost of $49.99 for Xbox Live Gold, that 7-day extension is worth a whopping 96 cents. So that's how much a couple of frustrating hours of your time is worth to Microsoft. Thanks!!
Microsoft Drops Itanium Support
Microsoft announced this week that it will no longer make Itanium-based versions of Windows Server after the current version, Windows Server 2008 R2. This, of course, raises a very interesting question. They still make an Itanium version of Windows Server??
Dr. Evil—er ah, Rupert Murdoch—Goes After Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!
Rupert Murdoch reigns over a bizarre media empire, and he's tired of online services—such as those from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!—"taking \\[his\\] stories \\[from the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and elsewhere\\] for nothing." So he's going to erect what he calls a "pay wall" (already in place at the expensive Wall Street Journal) around those stories so that others can't suck at them like media vampires and steal his profits. He called Google's poaching of his stories a "river of gold taken mostly from the newspapers" and vowed to "make them do their own reporting or whatever" and have other newspapers do the same. But hey, at least we've got this going for us: Murdoch thinks the iPad is going to be a huge success. I told you this guy was a madman.
Office Mobile 2010 Beta Users Get a Nasty Surprise
If you were among the many who downloaded the free Office Mobile 2010 Beta for Windows Mobile last November, you've been enjoying a sneak peek at Microsoft's next mobile office productivity suite. But this week, you got a nasty surprise: Silently and without warning, the beta expired on April 5. So, if you try to run the app, you get a notification balloon that reads Office Mobile 2010 (Beta) has expired. Uninstall the beta version, and install Office Mobile 2010, from Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Which would be great advice if Office Mobile 2010 was available in Windows Marketplace for Mobile. Which it isn't. Microsoft apologized for the inconvenience via a blog post but didn't offer much advice. If your phone came with an older version of Office Mobile, uninstalling the 2010 Beta will put that back. Otherwise, you can buy the older version (for $30!) or wait for the final version of Office Mobile 2010, which is due in mid-June. Maybe it's just me, but shouldn't the beta version expire after the final release? Eh?
Weekend Rumor: Microsoft Might Still Make that Halo Movie
Microsoft is still trying to get the on-again, off-again Halo movie made. The original plan was for Lord of the Rings filmmaker Peter Jackson tp produce a blockbuster summer movie based on Microsoft's video game franchise. But that deal apparently fell apart over financial concerns between Universal and Fox. Microsoft briefly considered financing the movie itself, but maybe losing billions of dollars on Xbox 360 R&D had left a bad taste in its mouth, so it declined. But now the software giant is saying that it could still happen. "We're going to make a movie when the time is right," Microsoft Franchise Development Director Frank O'Connor said this week. And there are even rumors that Steven Spielberg is interested. Given the treatment Spielberg has given World War II via Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the mind boggles at the possibilities. But alas, this is but rumor. Cross your fingers.