Short Takes: June 20, 2014

Short Takes: June 20, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including the arrival of Surface Pro 3, Microsoft's implicit admission of a Surface Mini, Microsoft pays marketers who pay bloggers to like Microsoft products, government snooping is hurting Microsoft's cloud businesses, Nokia ships Android software for some reason, Windows Phone to get a kill switch, and a priceless take on Amazon's Fire Phone.

Surface Pro 3 arrives

Well, the first Surface Pro 3 models are available for sale today at Microsoft retail Stores and a few other retailers. And if you preordered one, it should be arriving today. Microsoft also noted that the i3 and i7 versions of the device, originally slated for late August, will now arrive August 1. And the Surface Pro 3 Docking Station—a $200 accessory—is available for preorder now and will arrive August 15. If you're looking for more info on Surface Pro 3, I've got you covered: Check out my exhaustive Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Review and Complete Guide to Surface Pro 3 on the SuperSite for Windows.

Surface Pro 3 documentation discusses Surface mini

I didn't really need the confirmation, since I was the primary source of information for everything about Microsoft's aborted Surface mini. But a user guide for the just-released Surface Pro 3 mentions Surface mini—or "Surface Mini," as it is capitalized—several times, and always in relation to the Surface Pro Pen, which would have been shared between the two devices. As you must know by now, Microsoft delayed Surface Mini just days before the launch event last month, leaving Panos Panay and crew scrambling to fill them time with a device that was originally seen as a side-show. The funniest part? They actually built a bunch of them, and would have handed the first batch out to press at the launch event. And those devices are now sitting, fully boxed and ready, in warehouse and faced with an uncertain future.

Microsoft (sort of) caught paying off bloggers again

It seems like this sort of things happens a bit too often. But this week venture capitalist Michael Arrington exposed a Microsoft-hired marketing agency's attempts to get him to blog favorably about Internet Explorer for an unspecified compensation. Oddly enough, I've received similar solicitations, most recently for a different Microsoft product (and never directly from Microsoft, to be clear). When I explained that it would be unethical for me to accept this offer, they raised the amount! Don't worry, I still said no. I like to hang on to whatever shred of dignity I still have.

Microsoft: Government snooping is hurting business

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith said this week that the firm's business was suffering because of US government snooping allegations and that things were getting worse over time. He said that an unidentified German business executive approached him recently with a copy of the U.S. ruling that required Microsoft to turn over a user's information stored in an Ireland-based datacenter. The executive said that until and unless that decision is reversed, his company could not trust Microsoft to store its data. Smith had figured that the Snowden revelations would quickly lead to a US reversal of its secretive spying policies, but that in fact the reverse has happened. "It is not blowing over," Smith said. "It is getting worse, not better."

Nokia raises middle finger towards Redmond

This one is funny and a bit odd. A part of Nokia that wasn't carted off as part of the sale to Microsoft has just released a beta version of an application launcher ... for Android. Called Z Launcher—presumably because anyone involved with mobile phones that didn't go to Microsoft is like a Zombie—the app can replace the stock Android launcher on select phones. It doesn't look anything like Windows Phone (or the weird sort-of Windows Phone UI on the Nokia X devices), thankfully. (Actually, it sort of reminds me of Windows Mobile 6.5.) But ... what's the point?

Windows Phone to get a kill switch over the next year

Microsoft said this week that it would add a software-based "kill switch" to Windows Phone 8.1 via an update sometime in the coming year. This kill switch will render a handset useless if stolen, a move that many feel will reduce device thefts. Apple added an "activation lock" feature to its iPhone last year, and that apparently did lead to a drop in theft, though I have to think the device's falling market share probably played more of a role. (And let's face it, many people still don't bother to even use a passcode on their smart phones, which is dangerous.)

Amazon's phone: How bad is it?

Few (sane) people are excited by Amazon's first smart phone, the Fire Phone. To the point where parsing the headlines about the device can be interesting. For example, TIME Magazine offers "Four Theories on What Jeff Bezos and Amazon Are Really Up To," because clearly the phone isn't the real story. Bloomberg gets to the point with, "Amazon's Fire Won't Set the World Ablaze Just Yet." And then is one-upped by Tech Insider, which notes, "'s Fire Phone Will Fail." But my favorite commentary comes from T-Mobile CEO John Legere, who said succinctly of Amazon, "F--- 'em." LOL.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows.

Buy the books!

I'm trying to change the book publishing model, and would appreciate your support: Windows 8.1 Field Guide is available directly from me for only $2 in PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats. And it is now available on Amazon Kindle for $4.99 too. I also have other free and inexpensive e-books available too, including Windows Phone 8 Field Guide (free from that site, or available from both Kindle and Nook too) and the in-progress Xbox Music Field Guide and Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide. Coming soon: Surface Pro 3 Field Guide!

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