An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including Windows Phone Secrets, iPad hype vs. reality, Microsoft's privacy jab at Google Chrome, Office 2010 business launch plans, Windows Summit, hosted Exchange futures, and much, much more...
This week, I agreed to begin work on my next book, Windows Phone Secrets, which Wiley will publish in September. But I'm doing something a bit different this time around: I'll be blogging about the book, the writing process, and of course Windows Phone itself, while working on the book. You can read along if you're curious about my new (and likely temporary) blog, also called Windows Phone Secrets. I plan to keep this going at least through the main writing phase, which will last from now through the end of June.
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week on the usual schedule. So, it should be up any time, including various video versions on both iTunes and the Zune Marketplace.
With iPad Hype Building to a Frenzy, Someone Finally Asks the Hard Questions
I've been sort of shocked by the way the mainstream media has hyped Apple's somewhat pointless iPad over the past few months, but this week, finally, someone has started asking the hard (but obvious) questions. Key among them, of course, is who exactly will buy a device for $500 to $850 (or $1000-plus with accessories) that doesn't replace an existing device, doesn't provide any unique service or capability of any kind, and is missing a slew of obvious and important features such as dual cameras, expandable storage, and USB extensibility. So finally, the New York Times asked those questions. What the reporter discovered was predictable: Apple fans will buy this thing. And then ... pretty much no one else. The best description of this issue comes courtesy of the original Apple product evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, who astutely noted, "The first five million will be sold in a heartbeat. But let's see: You can't make a phone call with it, you can't take a picture with it, and you have to buy content that before now you were not willing to pay for. That seems tough to me." Me too. I expect Apple to sell several million units in the first year. But how does that really compare with the annual sales of PCs, iPods, or smart phones? Not too well. And that's the real issue here, isn't it? This device is beautiful, and of course I'll be reviewing it. But the key question I'll be asking myself while doing so is this: $500 isn't a trivial amount of money, and that only buys you the lowest-end and most limited iPad. How can anyone recommend such a thing to normal people in such an economy? I'm going to find out.
Microsoft: No Office for iPad
Speaking of the iPad, Microsoft this week said it would take a "wait and see" approach to Apple's hypetastic new iPad and had no plans to deliver a version of the Office suite on that device. "Never say never, but we have no current plans" to develop Office for iPad, said Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop. That said, I do expect to see a number of Microsoft solutions pop up on the iPhone/iPod touch and, presumably, the iPad. But the iPad is a consumption device, not a creation device. I don't see that changing in this first-generation version.
Microsoft: Google Chrome Steals Your Privacy
Microsoft is usually pretty conservative in its public statements about the competition, so I was amused to discover this week that the software giant had released a video about its Internet Explorer (IE) 8 web browser that smeared the competition. In the video, IE Product Manager Pete LePage describes how Microsoft "intentionally" keeps the application's address bar and search bar separate "to protect your privacy." Google Chrome, meanwhile, combines these functions into a single "omnibox." So what, you say? According to Microsoft, Chrome's omnibox actually sends information back to Google every time you type any character in a search string. "I haven't even hit Enter yet and Google is already getting information about the sites and domains I'm visiting," LePage says in the video. "Google Chrome sends every character you type back to Google." According to Google, this isn't as evil as it sounds—it apparently stores only 2 percent of the information it collects this way and "anonymizes" it after 24 hours, whatever that means—but the point is made. What's silly is that the video came under fire, so Microsoft removed it. Which is too bad. As I've noted many times in the past few years, Microsoft would benefit from being more aggressive in its treatment of the competition. And this should have been a great example of that.
Office 2010 to Launch to Business Users in New York on May 12
Microsoft will officially launch Office 2010 to business users only (i.e., not to consumers/end users) on May 12 in New York City. The event will include a keynote address by Microsoft Business Division President Stephen Elop. Mark your calendars. By the way, I've been told that the consumer launch (or "general availability—GA) of Office 2010 is set for June 15. That said, it's been a while since I've gotten an update on that. But I think it's fair to expect the Office 2010 GA to hit by the end of June at the latest, regardless.
Windows Summit Coming in May, but It's No WinHEC
Microsoft will be holding a new event, the Windows Summit, in May at its Redmond, Washington, campus. The event sounds interesting on the surface, but the Windows Summit is aimed at "people who engineer and test Windows 7 PCs, devices, and software." So it's not forward-leaning—like a WinHEC or PDC type event—and it won't feature any information about next-generation products such as Windows 8. CNET's Ina Fried received the following statement from Microsoft about this event: "Windows Summit 2010 is an opportunity for partners and developers to interact directly with the Windows Team and learn to build great products based on technologies in Windows 7 and Internet Explorer. \\[It is for those developers\\] who are looking to engage with Microsoft on an intimate level or who haven't engaged with Microsoft in the past 18 months." So it's not WinHEC, and it's not PDC. But it is for developers. And it is very much about current-generation products (such as IE 8 and Windows 7).
Microsoft's Plans for Hosted Exchange and Other Server Products
Mary Jo Foley has an interesting post this week about Microsoft's plans for its Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which includes cloud-hosted versions of its Exchange, SharePoint, and Office Communications servers. All the usual improvements are coming, such as upgrades to the latest product versions (e.g., Exchange 2010), better default storage for mailboxes (25GB per user), and so on. But what I'm really curious about is when Microsoft will begin making this product available on a per-user basis. Right now, if you want to sign up for BPOS, you have to have at least 10 users, which is reasonable for a small business. But what if you have a really small business—say, with five users—or are a home business but would like the convenience and power of Exchange? You're out of luck. Foley previously reported that Microsoft is planning a BPOS "Lite" product line for smaller businesses, but I don't believe this is what I'm asking for. I'd really like to see Microsoft offer something that sits side-by-side with its Hotmail offering but is more business oriented. Throw the little guys a bone, Microsoft.
More Microsoft Retail Stores on the Way
After opening just two of its own Apple-esque retail stores—in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Mission Viejo, California—Microsoft had been pretty quiet about further expansion. I actually asked company representatives about this a few weeks ago and was told that more stores were on the way. And this week, the software giant elaborated on this statement by announcing that it plans two more retail stores—in Denver, Colorado, and San Diego, California—that will open by the end of the year. This isn't exactly a barn-burning schedule, but at least Microsoft is moving forward.
At Least You're Not an Apple user
One thing Apple doesn't get enough criticism for is the way it goes about patching it's incredibly buggy products. If you're a Mac OS X user, for example, security and bug patches come sporadically, with no warning, and they're always humongous. For example, this past week Apple dumped an unbelievable 10.6.3 update on unsuspecting Snow Leopard users covering a whopping 88 vulnerabilities, many of them rated critical. How big was this monstrosity, you ask? 784MB. Yikes! But it gets worse. On the heels of this sudden mega-patch, Apple also patched 16 flaws in QuickTime, seven flaws in iTunes, and one in its AirPort Base Station. And all of them include critical fixes. So, don't believe the baloney from overly energetic Mac fans. Not only do they get more patches, they get them on a less predictable schedule, and they get them in a volume that would make an average Windows user's head spin. That's life on the other side of the fence, folks.
RIP, Ed Roberts, Inventor of the PC
Finally, I'd like to pause for a moment to remember Ed Roberts, founder of MITS and creator of the world's first PC, the Altair 8800. It was the Altair that inspired Bill Gates and Paul Allen to scurry off to Albuquerque, New Mexico, so that they could link up with Roberts, create a version of the BASIC programming language for that system, and eventually cofound Microsoft. The Altair was a kit computer, meaning that you had to assemble it yourself using parts, but it also spawned a healthy mini-industry for device makers and, of course, the entire PC industry. (Apple's first product, the Apple I, was also a kit computer, but it arrived a year later.) Roberts was 68 and died of pneumonia in Georgia. He was visited by Bill Gates in the past week, and both Gates and Allen issued a joint statement this week hailing Roberts and his role in the PC industry. "Ed was willing to take a chance on us—two young guys interested in computers long before they were commonplace—and we have always been grateful to him ... We will always have many fond memories of working with Ed." Peace.