An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...

Germany, Week 1

I'm in Germany this week with my family for our annual home swap. I'm working, but not on a normal schedule. The six-hour time difference isn't much of an issue, but because we're not right outside a major city (as we've been in the past), getting home in time to start my work day at 3pm locally (9am back home) is proving difficult. So, I've moved to a less desirable schedule, in which I work for a while each night and then some more early in the morning. Things are a bit ... off. But I'm here.

Microsoft Teaser Product Is Almost Certainly the Arc Mouse Touch

In typical fashion, Microsoft has started touting this upcoming new product just days after Apple released its own touch-based pointing device, the Tragic Macpad  (or something like that). The Arc Mouse Touch follows on the heels of last year's ergonomic disaster, the Arc Mouse, providing multi-touch gesture support for Windows 7 users only. It will ship later this year and cost $70. Microsoft is describing it as "Mouse 2.0," but given the Tragic Macpad's earlier delivery, maybe it should be Mouse 2.1. Yawn.

Microsoft Completes Global Rollout of New Hotmail ... Except for That One Feature Everyone Wants

Microsoft this week announced that it had completed rolling out the new Hotmail update to all 350 million users of its web email service. "All of our customers are now upgraded," Microsoft's Mike Schackwitz wrote in a blog post. "The majority of you got the new Hotmail just this past week, as we completed the rollout to over 350 million people in more than 220 countries around the world. Now, everyone can take advantage of a faster Hotmail experience with great new features like one-click filters, Sweep, Active Views and more." Neat. But what's still missing is the one feature everyone is really looking for: Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support, which will give users push access to email, contacts, and calendar on mobile devices such as the iPhone and Android. Microsoft tells me this feature is still on the way and should be enabled by the end of August. If you're curious about all the new features in the new Hotmail, please check out my review.

Salesforce Settles Patent Dispute with Microsoft

Salesforce.com has settled a patent dispute with Microsoft and will pay the software giant an undisclosed sum. Additionally, both companies will receive a license for each other's patented works. The dispute began in May, when Microsoft sued Salesforce.com for infringing on its patents related to OSs, cloud services, and customer-relationship management software. Salesforce.com countersued, alleging that Microsoft was infringing on its patents. But I guess we can see now how strong that argument was. "Microsoft's patent portfolio is the strongest in the software industry and is the result of decades of software innovation," Microsoft Corporate Vice President Horacio Gutierrez said. "Today's agreement is an example of how companies can compete vigorously in the marketplace while respecting each other's intellectual property rights."  Especially after a little time in court.

Biggest. Patch Tuesday. Ever.

Microsoft on Tuesday will unleash a record 14 security patches as part of its regularly scheduled monthly security update release schedule. But it could be worse: If it weren't for that out-of-band update for the Shortcut URL flaw, there would have been 15 patches.  Those 14 patches cover a whopping 34 vulnerabilities—which isn't a record, by the way—or what Mac OS X users would call "a normal security update." Eight of the 14 patches are "critical" fixes, which is the company's most serious label in the Homeland Security-like scoring system. If you're looking to skip out on the patches, you can't: There are fixes in there for all supported Windows versions. Well, I guess you could skip out if you were using Windows XP with SP2, since that OS version is no longer supported.

Google Kills Wave

A little over a year ago, Google introduced a bizarre and ultimately pointless tool called Google Wave that the company touted as the next email technology. Instead, it was the next Kozmo.com: A stupid idea, badly implemented. For me, Google Wave was the online giant's "jump the shark" moment, and like many people, I fell hook, line, and sinker for this waste of time.  What Google Wave really was, of course, was a nebulous "real-time communication" product that was sort-of email, sort-of IM, sort-of everything but the kitchen sink. And that's what killed Google Wave, really—its lack of focus. It was a like a busy Microsoft app but made by a company that excels only in very simple tools. In a post describing the Google Wave massacre, Google talked up lessons learned. But the real lesson here is simple: This just wasn't a Google kind of tool, and it was certainly not anything a broad audience was interested in. Here's hoping for a similar announcement about the equally pointless Google Buzz.

Verizon in Talks with Google over Net Neutrality

Google is reportedly in discussions with Verizon to effectively destroy Net Neutrality by paying to ensure that its content is delivered faster over Verizon's network than that of its rivals. The agreement could ultimately lead to a tiered Internet, similar to cable TV, in which users pay more for certain content on a regular basis. So, it's understandable why Verizon would be interested in this, but it's unclear how this fits within Google's "don't be evil" mantra. Oh, right. That was always baloney to begin with. Or maybe not. Google this week denied the reports, stating that it has not had any "convos" with Verizon over Net Neutrality. (You gotta love a company that issues public policy statements via Twitter. How professional.)  Verizon, however, offered up an interestingly worded statement that leaves some wiggle room. "Our goal is an Internet policy framework that ensures openness and accountability, and incorporates specific FCC authority, while maintaining investment and innovation. To suggest this is a business arrangement between our companies is entirely incorrect." So, there have in fact been discussions, including Google, around Net Neutrality. It's just that they're not a "business arrangement" between the two companies. In fact, numerous sources have confirmed that the two companies are talking, and the New York Times, which published the original report, stands by its story, noting that the Google refutation is of another story that was never published. Remember: Don't be evil!

Mac OS X Loses Usage Share for the Fourth Straight Month

You don't hear a lot about this stuff because the mainstream media are too busy tripping over themselves to write only positive stories about Apple and help the company cover up endemic hardware defects in its iPhone 4, but check out this little statistic: Despite making some decent market-share gains in recent months, Mac OS X has actually lost real-world usage share for four months running. According to the market researchers at NetMarketShare—which, oddly enough, doesn't measure market share (which is unit sales)—Apple's PC OS usage share has fallen month over month to 5.06 percent in July. Meanwhile, Windows 7 jumped to 14.46 percent, surpassing Windows Vista usage share for the first time. The most amusing part of this story? Watching my colleagues in the tech press and blogosphere continue to report this data as market share. It's not. It never was. And it never will be.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo is away, and I'm in Germany, but I still recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, again with Tom Merritt. It should be available by the weekend on iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More!

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog. Also, follow along as I write my next book, Windows Phone Secrets!