An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft: Future Is Cloudy, So We're Trying Again
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer this week reaffirmed his company's commitment to the cloud, noting that cloud computing is the future of not just Microsoft but the entire tech industry. "Cloud computing represents the next frontier," he said during an annual CEO Summit at the Microsoft campus this week. "We've been betting or investing in the cloud for about 10 years and in earnest for about six or seven years. There is incredible opportunity in the cloud." One way to look at cloud computing is to compare it with the music industry. Over the years, music companies pushed the same content via various media, including records, cassettes, 8-track tapes, CDs, and digital downloads. The beauty of this system is that it allows these companies to sell and re-sell the same content to the same people repeatedly, while offering technological advances that allow the newer formats to come with unique advantages and functional extras. That's exactly what cloud computing is to Microsoft. So, although the company used to sell software to customers on floppies, CDs, and DVDs, it can now offer software and services online, via subscription-like models. Different day, different format. It really is that simple.
Windows 7: As Satisfying as Apple Pie, Sunsets, and Magnum PI Re-runs?
Microsoft has a lot to smile about this week—not least of which is a recent consumer satisfaction study suggesting that Windows 7 has overcome the bad taste in the back of everyone's mouth that Windows Vista caused. According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, Microsoft's customer satisfaction rating was 74 percent in 2006, right before the company released Windows Vista. After Vista's release, that rating plunged to 70 percent and then, in 2008, to a low of 69 percent. But, finally, Windows 7 shipped in late 2009, selling at almost double the rate of its predecessor. And in the latest survey, Microsoft achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 76 percent. Makes sense, right? I don't buy it. You know, it's easy to make fun of Vista. Maybe too easy: Back in 2008, Microsoft was also suffering through the single biggest consumer electronics recall debacle in history courtesy of its criminally buggy Xbox 360 video game console. Convenient how we all forget that, eh? I do think that Windows 7 is a nice improvement over Vista, but give me a break. Microsoft's "satisfaction rating" wasn't all Vista's fault back then, and its rise is not all because of Windows 7 now. I'm calling BS on this one.
Ballmer: We Spent Too Much Time on Windows Vista
Speaking of Vista and our illogical desire to always cast it in the worst possible light, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer also mentioned this ill-fated OS this week (if I can use "ill-fated" to describe an OS that sold several hundred million copies, or more than every single copy of Mac OS ever sold from 1984 till today). And in keeping with our desire to misrepresent every single thing about Vista, the press misreported Ballmer's statements, too, with many reporting that Ballmer "admitted" that Vista was a mistake. That's not what he said. Here's what he said: "Our Vista product \\[was\\] just not executed well—not the product itself, but we \\[had\\] a gap of about five, six years without a product. We tried too big a task, and in the process wound up losing essentially thousands of man years, of innovation capabilities. And so a discipline and an execution around the innovation process I think is essential." Put simply, he said that Microsoft simply spent too much time developing Vista because it reached too far with that release and then realized too late it had done so. That's not a condemnation of Vista—in fact, he explicitly states the opposite—it's a condemnation of the internal processes that led to Vista being delayed so much. "We \\[had\\] a gap of about five, six years without a product." That's the problem there, plain and simple. But please, keep rewriting history.
Maybe, Just Maybe, Under Very Specific Circumstances, You Could Be in Trouble
Microsoft this week issued an advisory for a vulnerability in 64-bit versions of Windows 7 (and Windows Server 2008 R2) that could, under extremely unlikely circumstances, allow a hacker to remotely run code on your PC and hang the system, forcing you to hard reboot. The possibility of such a problem is so low that Microsoft is giving the vulnerability a "3" rating (on a scale from 1 to 3, where 3 is "eh" and 1 is "you're screwed). What's odd about this advisory is that it's just a warning, and no patch is currently available, although Microsoft is apparently looking into that. But if you're a bunker-dwelling security freak, feel free to disable Windows Aero. That will alleviate the problem until a fix is available.
"Old Microsoft" Rears Its Ugly Head in Patent Lawsuit Against SalesForce.com
I have to admit, I'm of mixed minds here. On the one hand, I'm no fan of patent trolls, and I'd rather see tech companies battle it out in the marketplace than in the courtroom. On the other hand, Microsoft is no patent troll, not really, and let's face it, I've missed the overly aggressive Microsoft from the pre-antitrust days—maybe even more than I've been willing to admit. What's the cause of this moral exploration, you ask? This week, Microsoft sued Salesforce.com, accusing the latter of violating eight of its software patents. This development has raised hackles in certain circles—"Microsoft is reverting to its old ways!" But these people are clueless: Microsoft has been threatening companies with patent lawsuits for years, and my guess is that Salesforce just declined to roll over, as all those Linux companies have. And just so we're clear, it's not "spurious patent litigation" if it works or is held up in court. Let's see what happens before we decide that Microsoft is in the wrong. It's one thing to take a tiny company to court, but Salesforce.com is huge and can defend itself. Microsoft knows that.
Army Looking to Waste Even More Money
A report in Information Week says that the US Army is apparently looking to expand its research and development partnership with Microsoft to include the Xbox 360's Project Natal motion-sensing technology. If I had to go out on a (virtual) limb here, my guess is that the armed forces are looking for a more modern version of the Star Wars defense shield—you know, something that demos really well but couldn't save this country if our lives depended on it. (Which, when you think about it, they would.)
Google Android Coming On Strong
According to Google, wireless providers are now activating more than 100,000 Android-based smartphones every single day, up from 60,000 in February and 30,000 a year earlier. That makes Android the second-fastest-selling smartphone platform in the world, behind Research in Motion's (RIM's) BlackBerry, and bolsters news from earlier in the week that Android should surpass Apple's iPhone either late this year or early in 2011. And Google has plenty of plans in place to make sure the growth continues. There's a new Android software update, version 2.2, which adds a ton of new features, including Flash support and Wi-Fi hot-spot functionality. And Google is making its Android market—home to more than 50,000 Android apps, by the way—an iTunes rival by adding a music store later this year. And unlike Apple's service, the Android version will support music streaming. It's a pretty impressive product, honestly, and between this and other mobile developments, one has to wonder whether Apple's day in the sun is finally coming to a close.
Google Heading to the Living Room
Google also announced its long-expected Google TV service this week, and the company is being aided by a who's-who list of consumer electronics giants. Google has created a software platform called Google TV that will ship via new TVs, Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes from a wide variety of companies (Sony, Logitech, DISH, and more) later this year. It works with existing cable and satellite TV sytems and provides a way to seamlessly choose between programming on traditional TV and web-based video sources such as YouTube, Hulu, and more. It supports Flash (take that, Apple), is an open platform, and is optimized for HDTVs. It's still in its early days, and we should remember that previous efforts like Windows Media Center, TiVo, and Apple TV have all been sales disasters. But still, this looks very interesting. I'll be keeping my eye on this one.
Dell Out of the Doghouse but Still Relying Too Much on Spendthrift Corporations
Once-high-flying Dell reported its first decent financial news to Wall Street in, oh, about 1,000 years this week, noting that it earned a profit of $441 million (up 52 percent) on revenues of $14.87 billion (up 21 percent). But Dell still relies far too much on corporate PC sales, and with these companies being even thriftier than ever before—I blame the fact that PCs (hardware- and performance-wise) have become pretty stagnant—Dell needs to improve its consumer portfolio if it's going to see any long-term improvements. Stronger corporate sales couldn't hurt either.
Listen To, or Watch, the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast a day early this week because of my travel schedule, but as usual there will be versions on both iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, in the coming days.