Short Takes: November 1, 2013

Short Takes: November 1, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Time to Turn Our Attention to the New Consoles

Well, it's November finally. In the past few years, this month has brought a new Call of Duty game, along with record-breaking sales. But although this year will certainly see a new Call of Duty, the big news is the release of the first major video game consoles in several years, the Microsoft Xbox One and the Sony PlayStation 4. (And before I hear from every Nintendo fanatic on Earth, yes, I know what I wrote.) These two high-end titans will duke it out for next-generation supremacy, and if I'm reading the tea leaves correctly, Sony seems to have the upper hand in both perception and in technical specifications. But ham-handed marketing and gigaflops aside, the real battle will play out in living rooms around the world, and I think Xbox is the superior platform overall and will do just fine, thank you very much. But we'll know soon: By this time next month, we should have a much more complete understanding of how these two devices stack up in the real world. Stay tuned.

It's Official: Android Is the New Windows

According to the market researchers at IDC, Android now accounts for 81 percent of all smartphones sales, up from 75 percent in the same quarter a year ago. Android's handset victims? BlackBerry and iPhone, of course—the latter because Apple refuses to sell an affordable iPhone. Microsoft, meanwhile, saw Windows Phone double its share, from 2.1 percent a year earlier to 4.1 percent market share in Q3 2013. But it's not just phones: With the iPad falling under 30 percent market share in Q3—it commanded 65 percent market share at the start of 2012—Android now commands roughly two-thirds of that market, too. It's official, folks: Android is the new Windows, and the king of personal computing devices. The only question is whether Apple falls hard enough to let Microsoft take the number two spot. So far, it's doing a bang-up job.

Nokia Sees Life After, Um, Nokia

With Nokia preparing to shed most of what made this company special—its devices and services businesses—to an eager Microsoft for $7.2 billion or so, many have been wondering whether antitrust regulators, especially those in the European Union (EU), would even approve the deal and, if so, what a post-Nokia, um, Nokia might look like. It might not look too bad, actually. After the firm's new management issued an uncharacteristically positive future outlook report timed to its previous-quarter earnings, Nokia's stock jumped almost 10 percent. This new Nokia will focus mostly on its NSN telecom business, and also its HERE navigational services, rather than on handsets and related services, and will be a much smaller company. But it's pretty clear that this business isn't just sustainable but also potentially very profitable.

Speeding Driver Cited for Wearing Google Glass

A driver pulled over for speeding in California was subsequently cited for wearing Google Glass, which is obviously a distraction and a danger to other drivers. I salute the police officer who did this—in accordance with California law, by the way—and call on a nationwide ban on driving while similarly distracted. Using this device while driving is absolutely as distracting, if not more so, as texting or talking on a mobile phone, and is something that should be stopped. The "Glasshole" (as one publication called her) claims, hilariously, that her Google Glasses were not "on" and that while she "doesn't use it much while driving," she does "wear." (Yes, she wrote it like that, much in the way a gun owner will say that they "carry.") So she just wanted to make sure people saw she had them, I guess. Sounds like someone who's distracted a lot more than while driving to me.

Google, Yahoo! Reportedly Outraged at Alleged NSA Spying

You know, I have to be honest here: The fact that some secretive, spying entity is violating Google's privacy rights is just too deliciously ironic not to enjoy. "Google has long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping," Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said this week, and I assume he meant that with no trace of hypocrisy whatsoever. Ah, yes. The hunter becomes the hunted.

NSA Chief Says Agency Does Not Have Access to Google or Yahoo! Servers

But seriously, why would anyone believe a word this guy says?

Xbox One Launches Next Month Without a New Halo

When the Xbox 360 launched 8 years ago, one of the big complaints was that Microsoft wasn't ready with a new Halo title timed to that launch. So almost a decade later, clearly Microsoft has learned its lesson, right? Nope. Xbox One launches next month without a new Halo title as well. But at least Xbox One fans will have exclusive access to what looks to be the single best (new) first-person shooter of this generation of consoles, Titanfall. What's that you say? Titanfall was delayed until 2014 too? Wa-waaa-wahhhhhh.

Sony Swings to a Loss While Waiting on PlayStation 4 Launch

Struggling Sony posted a loss of $181 million in the most recent quarter and blamed the disastrous performance of movies White House Down and After Earth on its troubles. But look a bit deeper, and more profound problems are found: The firm cut its sales expectations for TVs, PCs, digital cameras, and video cameras for the second time in 2013 and turned its hopes to smartphones and games. I know, I was thinking the same thing: Sony makes smartphones? Sony's video game business posted an $8 million loss in the quarter thanks to slow sales of current-generation PlayStation 3 and Vita machines. But with PlayStation 4 expected to perform very well in the coming months, that business, at least, is due for a turnaround. And there's always Sony's most successful business, insurance: Sony’s insurance business posted a 26 percent gain in profit on revenues that were up 5.9 percent in the quarter. So the company always has that to fall back 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 and Paul Thurrott’s Xbox Music, both of which are now available in ebook reader-friendly MOBI and EPUB versions. The next book, Windows 8.1 Book, is now moving along quickly.

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