An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft Responds to Spurious Google Allegations
In a post to the SuperSite blog, I provided my own feedback about Google's spurious allegations regarding Microsoft and Apple's recent patent moves. But now Microsoft has responded, as well. You might recall that the original Google complaint is that Apple, Microsoft, and others have joined together in some form of unholy cabal in order to purchase mobile patents and then wield them as a legal weapon against Google by requiring the company to pay per-phone licensing fees for its Android OS. (Google also claimed that these patents were invalid, though it provided no proof or explanation of that claim.) Taking to Twitter, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith confirmed my claim that Google was hypocritical, noting that Microsoft "asked them to bid jointly [on the patents] with us. They said no." In other words, this wasn't an anti-Google cabal at all. This group wanted, and expected, Google to join with them. But "partnering with others and reducing patent liability across industry is not something [Google] wanted to help do." Google's public whining has now gone from pathetic to reprehensible. This company is clueless. And it cannot be trusted.
Former Microsoft Exec Becomes CIO of ... The United States?
Fifteen-year Microsoft veteran Steven VanRoekel, who served a high-profile stint as Bill Gates' assistant before moving to the Windows Server team, this week agreed to serve an even higher power: the US government. VanRoekel was named the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the United States in an apparent bid to follow through on all that talk about the country needing to be run like a corporation. "The productivity gap between where the private sector has gone over the last two decades and where government has gone is ever-widening," VanRoekel said this week from his new corporate digs (by which I mean the White House). He pledged to close that gap "in a way that actually saves money, saves resources, and everything else." Perhaps he means Office 365. Makes sense to me.
Microsoft Reportedly Planning Office 365 Bundles on New PCs
Today, when you buy a new PC, you often get a free and limited version of Office 2010 called Office Starter, which provides built-in methods for electronically updating the product to a more traditional and full-featured version of the suite. These types of PC bundles are common, and of course PC makers also bundle a variety of other software on their machines, too. But with Microsoft moving increasingly to the cloud, how can it continue this tradition of bundling trial versions of its full-featured offerings? Easily, according to a report in Talkin' Cloud. It will simply provide PC makers with a bundle that offers customers a trial version of Office 365 on their new PCs. No word yet on whether this is accurate—the article cites an interview with an executive from Acer, a major PC maker—but it does make plenty of sense, especially if the trial includes an easy-to-use, locally installed Setup wizard. I'm curious to see what such a thing would look like.
Fantasy Rumor of the Week: Microsoft Makes More on Android than It Does on Windows Phone
I'm not sure what you call the psychology behind something like this, but it falls into the same BS category as "cold hands, warm heart" and "Mac users are smarter than PC users." That is, when you're biased against something, you'll believe anything negative about that thing. That was true this week of a hoax "study" in which users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) were supposedly found to be dumber than users of other browsers. And it's true of my favorite little bit of recent fiction, that Microsoft supposedly makes more on phones running Google's Android OS than it does on Windows Phone. The latest rationale behind this little bit of silliness is that an industry analyst no one has ever heard of provided his guestimate about how much Microsoft made from licensing its mobility patents to Android phone makers—$150 million through Q1 2011, he says—and a separate guestimate on how much the software giant made on Windows Phone through the same time period: $21 million. See? The Android figure is bigger, so this must be true. There are so many problems with this math that I'm finding it hard not to laugh out loud, but I'll just leave you with this: Through mid-2011, Microsoft has almost certainly made in excess of $300 million on Windows Phone, and perhaps as much as $400+ million, the rationale for which I laid out in a blog post last week. And regardless, whatever Android licensing revenues Microsoft does make are in fact applied directly to the division responsible for Windows Phone anyway. Sounds good to me.
Android Will Continue to Be Dominant in 2012, as Will Anything Apple Releases
Speaking of Android, and coming as it does from the "Duh Files," a research report from IDC claims—logically enough—that Android will continue to dominate the smartphone market in 2012. And Apple, of course, will continue seeing big success with whatever the next iPhone is called, and will likely remain the biggest standalone manufacturer of smartphones. In other words: same old, same old. "Apple has yet to top Nokia's single-quarter volume record of 28.1 million units," IDC analyst Ramon Llamas noted. (In its best quarter so far, Apple sold 20 million iPhones.) "But given Apple's momentum in the smartphone market, it may not be a question of whether Apple will beat that milestone, but when." The wild card, I think, is Windows Phone, especially with Nokia jumping on board. I'd like to see, and do expect to see, Windows Phone establish itself as the clear number-three player by the end of next year. But with both IDC and Gartner already predicting a big future for Windows Phone, any bad news will send those predictions plummeting downward.
Is There a "Tango" Release of Windows Phone Coming?
We know that Microsoft recently completed its portion of the code for Windows Phone 7.5, which was code-named Mango. And we know that the next major version of Windows Phone, version 8, is code-named Apollo. We also know that Microsoft is planning on giving all of its Windows Phone releases a code name that ends in the letter 'o.' So, with rumors swirling that Microsoft now plans to release some other Windows Phone version, perhaps a pre-8.0 release—one that is supposedly code-named "Tango"—what are we supposed to think? I've not personally heard anything about a release named Tango, not that that means anything. But this interim release will apparently supply iOS-style universal search and could perhaps be to Mango what NoDo was to the original Windows Phone release: a minor, midstream update, aimed at Mango + 6 months. Confused by all this code-name silliness? Sorry.
Chrome OS Sliced and Diced at Black Hat
Remember how Google's Chrome OS was going to be safer and more secure than traditional desktop OSs like Windows because of its reduced attack surface and sandboxing? Well, fantasy met reality this week when hackers at the Black Hat conference revealed that Chrome OS is just as vulnerable to existing OS attacks as any other system, making users susceptible to all kinds of issues. "[Google has] just moved the security problems to the cloud," security researcher Matt Johansen said. "We're moving the software security problem that we've been dealing with forever to the cloud." Which, when you think about it, doesn't sound all that safe or secure at all, does it? At the show, hackers demonstrated how simple attacks could inject malicious code into the Chrome OS browser and, in some cases, actually steal user credentials and passwords. So if this thing isn't any more secure than a real laptop, why would I want to live with its many functional limitations?
Fantasy Rumor of the Decade: Apple to Merge OS X, iOS
This one also falls into that category of "it makes sense to me so it must be true": According to global securities and investment banking group Jefferies—which, when you think about it, is an absolutely logical source for such a pronouncement—Apple will merge its desktop OS, Mac OS X, and its mobile OS, iOS, into a single operating system by 2013 and will use this single system on its Macs, iPhones, iPads, and other devices. But like any good rumor, there's a nice bit of detail that makes it just seem all the more real: This merging of systems will occur with the introduction of Apple's A6 processor, a quad-core beast that the good folks at Jefferies literally conjured out of thin air. (And, well, basic deduction: Today's iPad 2 runs on Apple's very real A5 processor, which features a dual-core design.) So is this merger really in the works? I have no idea. But then neither does Jefferies.
Is HP's webOS Experiment Already Circling the Drain?
When HP purchased Palm for its webOS mobile OS last year at a whopping cost of $1.2 billion, the PC giant claimed it was a bid to own its own destiny, a la Apple, and make both the hardware and software that it provides to customers. The company quickly announced plans to port webOS to its PCs (and said it would offer them in a dual-boot configuration with Windows), and the HP TouchPad tablet—an iPad lookalike and wannabe that runs webOS. But sales of the TouchPad have been—how do you say?—slow. So this past week, the company slashed prices on the new product, by $50 to $100, depending on the model. And now one has to wonder: Has HP already quietly given up on webOS? When you consider that this device is being outsold by the iPad somewhere (far) above a 20-to-1 ratio, that almost makes sense. But it's early yet. And while I do expect webOS to die a painful (and, to be fair, undeserved) death, the only uncertainty is whether this will be a murder or a suicide.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo, Mary Jo, and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday as usual. The new episode should be available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
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