WinInfo Short Takes, January 21, 2011

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

Two More Execs Flees Microsoft

Has this reached crisis stage yet? Two more executives have left Microsoft recently, adding to what can only be described as an exodus at the struggling software giant. Brad Brooks, one of about a million corporate vice presidents at Microsoft, is leaving the company's Windows division to join Juniper Networks. And Johnny Chung Lee, who was "integral" to the development of Kinect, is leaving Microsoft to join Google. (And if I know Google like I know I do, Lee will be making something very much like Kinect for Google, which will of course be expanding into video games soon because Google has never seen a market it doesn't want a piece of.) OK, Lee was technically a researcher and not an executive, but you get the idea: Central people at Microsoft are leaving the company in ever-rapid fashion these days. This can't be coincidental.

Questions About the Future as Google Rearranges the Deck Chairs

Eric Schmidt's unceremonious demotion is causing a ripple of rumors as Google tries desperately to not become the next Microsoft by calcifying and slowing innovation and product releases. Was Schmidt forced out, essentially? (Yes.) Will he remain with the company going forward? (Doubtful.) Is Google's move wise or a sign of intellectual hubris? (We'll see.) I've even seen speculation that Schmidt's demotion could lead to feelers from Apple about him taking over the top job in Cupertino because of Steve Jobs' medical issues. I'm not sure that makes sense as Schmidt is over-rated at best, and while he was certainly adult oversight at Google for a decade, his previous businesses didn't exactly rise to their respective challenges. Whatever happens, my expectation is that Schmidt will be gone from Google within a year, tops. Maybe Facebook could use a bit of adult oversight.

New Microsoft Store Opening in California

At the rate these things are going, we should see maybe one more by the end of the year. Microsoft confirmed this week that it will open its eighth retail store, all of which are on the west coast of the United States, in the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California. So if you're in the area and want to see why an Apple Store looks like an insane asylum's emergency room by comparison, I recommend stopping by. You're going to be pleasantly surprised.

Yes, Kinect Is Coming to Windows

A bunch of rumors popped up this week suggesting that Microsoft was making official Kinect drivers for Windows, allowing the motion sensor to work with PCs, and not just the Xbox 360. Well, duh. It's inevitable, and as I've noted before, Kinect will be to Windows 8 as multitouch was to Windows 7, a new first-class interaction model. So this is happening at some point, obviously. But what I'd like to see is PC makers shipping gaming PCs with a Kinect port on them so that you don't need a separate power cord for the device. Or just build the Kinect hardware directly into laptops. Eh? Eh?

Microsoft Porting Mediaroom to Windows Phone 7

What do you get when you integrate one beautiful and under-used product with another beautiful but under-used product? At Microsoft, you get "Rome," the codename for a version of the software giant's Mediaroom software that will run on Windows Phone 7. This news comes courtesy of ZD's Mary Jo Foley, who notes that Rome will bring IPTV capabilities to Microsoft's mobile platform, but that you'll need a Mediaroom IPTV set-top box in your home to take advantage of this stuff. So, while admittedly excellent, this will only affect about 17 people—that is, the number of people who use both Mediaroom and Windows Phone 7.

Measuring Success and Failure at Microsoft, Part 29: Online Services

According to Seeking Alpha, Microsoft's losses in its online services business could exceed the amount of money it will pay to shareholders in the form of dividends. How is this relevant or important? Apparently, Microsoft Online Services lost about $3 billion in 2010, and if this trend continues, it will soon hit the amount of money ($4.5 billion) it pays to shareholders as dividends. In other words, the company is burning through money while trying to migrate its business from traditional software-delivery methods to a cloud-based services model. OK, it's still not clear why these two things are being compared, other than that they're both huge numbers and represent money that is being jettisoned from Microsoft.

Microsoft's Solution to the Bungie Exit: Massive Hiring Spree

After letting Bungie extract itself from the mothership, Microsoft faced an interesting dilemma: The creators of its one massive Xbox 360 software franchise were gone, but it had secured the rights to the Halo brand, which is clearly still a massive draw for gamers. How could Microsoft soldier on with Halo in the wake of Bungie's departure? The same way it always does: It's throwing money at the problem, in this case by going on a massive hiring spree. It will be interesting to see whether a new team can recapture the magic of something that was very consistent throughout Bungie's stewardship. I'm guessing no.

Infinity Ward Struggling with Modern Warfare 3

Speaking of video game franchises that are striving to follow-up the hits of the past, Infinity Ward (or what's left of it) is apparently struggling to complete Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, the sequel to its blockbuster Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare titles. The issue here is that most of Infinity Ward, including its founders, left the company last year after a dispute with publisher and owner Activision. And the remaining staff is way behind schedule, which requires them to have the game in market by November 2011. So, Activision has hired outside companies, Sledgehammer and Raven, to help Infinity Ward complete the single-player and multiplayer experiences, respectively. This isn't even slightly surprising, and when the Infinity Ward silliness was revealed last year, I wondered if this was going to mean a year without a Call of Duty game. (Infinity Ward has typically released a Call of Duty game every other year, with sister development house Treyarch responsible for the Call of Duty titles in the off years.) As with the Halo bit above, one has to fear for the quality of this next game, which has big shoes to fill given the success of the past several games.

Microsoft's Home Page Redesign Is Not Metro

Microsoft is testing a redesign of its tired home page on the web, and virtually every mention I've seen of this new home page notes that it's based on the Metro UI from Windows Phone. Um. No. It is not. Yes, there are rectangular ... areas ... and sliding animations. But what's really happening here is that Microsoft is trying to divide its home page, like its actual business, into clearly definable work and home sections. And let's be clear, the new page is still busy and pretty ugly. I hate to draw the obvious comparison, but look to the Apple home page for an example of how this kind of thing can be done right. Yeah, Apple sells less "stuff," making a simpler design more possible. But Microsoft needs to figure out a way to communicate what it does more elegantly. Because if it can't figure this out, it's unclear how the rest of us are supposed to.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on Thursday as usual this week, so it should become available by the weekend on the Zune Marketplace, in iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More

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