Short Takes: January 10, 2014

Short Takes: January 10, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Yes, PC Sales Fell in Q4 and All of 2013 ... but How Badly?

To say that 2013 was an "annus horribilis" for the PC industry appears to be a bit of an understatement, but now that we have the official numbers from both IDC and Gartner, we can at least explain why that is or is not the case. Worldwide PC shipments in Q4 2013 were 82.4 million units, a drop of 6.25 percent from the 87.9 million units in the same quarter a year ago. For the full year, worldwide PC sales hit 315.3 million units, down 10 percent from the 350.2 million units for full year 2012. And, I have to be honest: Given all the excitement around non-PC devices like tablets and smartphones, a 10 percent drop really isn't that shabby. Better still, both IDC and Gartner believe the worst is over. "[PC] growth rates will continue to improve gradually during 2014 despite remaining in negative territory," IDC noted, somewhat dourly. But Gartner was more upbeat, stating that the PC industry had "bottomed out." I'll have a further write-up about PC sales on the SuperSite for Windows later today. Related: "PC Sales Slump Reality: Doing More with Less, Longer"

Obviously, Security Essentials for XP Will Be Retired Alongside Windows XP

Microsoft confirmed this week that it will stop providing its Security Essentials (MSE) software suite to users with Windows XP when that OS heads off into the twilight in April. This has generated an interesting backlash in Windows-focused tech blogs, but I'm not sure what the faux anger is all about: XP won't be supported anymore, so why would Microsoft continue providing an ever-less-effective security solution for it going forward? If it were to do otherwise, many users would simply continue using XP, assuming that the protections in MSE would protect their PC despite the fact that Microsoft will never fix any issues with the OS itself. And that, folks, would be irresponsible. Related: "How Are We Doing with Less than 90 Days Until Windows XP's End of Life?"

CES Stupidity, Writ Small

I've spent the week bracing myself against endless reports from CES, the biggest and most pointless tradeshow in North America. But my favorite bit—or least favorite bit, depending on my mood, I guess—are the attempts to manufacture excitement or controversy. As the perfect example, I offer two blog posts written by the same blogger and posted back to back on the same tech blog. There's "Closing Windows: Microsoft and its platforms are nowhere to be found at CES," in which the author attempts to explain that you can't find new Windows devices anywhere at CES, and "A closer look at Asus' $299 Wacom-equipped Windows tablet," in which the same author describes his hands-on experience with a new Windows device he found at CES. Pretty much all you need to know about the show. Related: "Does CES Matter Anymore?"

Nokia's Lumia 929 Will Be Marketed as the Lumia Icon

Antsy Verizon customers who have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for a new Windows Phone handset are about to be rewarded by what looks to be the best possible device: A rumored Nokia Lumia 929 will apparently be sold as the Lumia Icon, and it's one of the best-of-both-worlds type devices with the svelte look and feel of the Lumia 925 combined with the amazing 20-megapixel camera in the Lumia 1520. It makes me wish I was a Verizon customer, and I actually had to genuflect a few times as I wrote that, to give you an idea of how abhorrent that idea is. The Lumia Icon will sport a 5" screen—the sweet spot, I think, for the modern smartphone—and should ship sometime this month. If you are on Verizon—and, seriously, my apologies—your wait is almost over.

Apple, Samsung Might Try to Settle Their Patent Mess

The CEOs of both Apple and Samsung are allegedly going to meet sometime soon and try to iron out their differences. But don't think this is some new era of appeasement between the two bitter enemies. If this meeting really does take place, it will be because a federal court ordered it: The firms were ordered to try and mediate their tech patent dispute ahead of a trial that will otherwise begin in March. I'm recommending a sort of cage match thing, maybe tied to Pay Per View on TV. But whatever happens, I think we can be assured of one thing: The money will be flowing from Samsung to Apple. Related: "New Drama Emerges in Apple vs. Samsung"

Duh and/or Hello: Microsoft Will Be Updating Xbox One

A number of blogs and even mainstream news outlets are reporting that Microsoft is planning to release its first big Xbox One software update soon to address various issues that people are allegedly experiencing. But Microsoft has in fact already released two major software updates for the Xbox One—a launch-day update and a second one tied to the December Patch Tuesday date—and my expectation is that the company will issue a third next Tuesday and then stay on that schedule. Look, Xbox One is new. Obviously, it's going to be updated and improved over time.

Microsoft Is a Better Consumer Brand than Apple, We're Told with a Straight Face

In a fantasy land that exists only in the minds of some analysts at Forrester—and then probably only until they cash a check from Microsoft—we're greeted with the following bit of, um, news: Microsoft "trumps" Apple in the battle for consumer mindshare. Citing the results of its TRUE brand compass framework, which includes a ranking and scorecard for brands based on surveys with consumers, Forrester discovered something very interesting: that its TRUE brand compass framework is horribly flawed, because Microsoft—no matter its strengths—absolutely does not have a better brand with consumers than does Apple. Business users, sure. Enterprises, governments, whatever. Absolutely. But consumers? Come on.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Windows Phone 8, Paul Thurrott’s Xbox Music, and the currently in-progress "Windows 8.1 Book," which I'm now writing—and publishing as we go—with Rafael Rivera.

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