An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
'Twas the Weekend Before CES 2012, and All Through the House...
The mammoth and largely unnecessary Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2012 opens in Las Vegas this week, and based on my pre-show briefings, we can expect to see a lot of Windows 8 tablets from all the obvious players, tons of Windows Phone news about how Microsoft and its partners intend to market the product in the United States in the first half of 2012, the first Windows Phone LTE devices, a slew—literally hundreds—of coming Ultrabook PCs from every single hardware company you can think of, and much, much more. It all starts Monday night, when Microsoft keynotes the show for the last time. Mary Jo Foley and I will be providing live commentary along with the folks from TWiT. So follow along live, at live.twit.tv, starting at 9:30pm ET. See you then!
No, Virginia, Microsoft Is NOT Buying Nokia
TV comedian/satirist Stephen Colbert infamously coined the term "truthiness," but this concept has been with us for years. You know what I'm talking about: things that just seem right and are thus suddenly "facts" in the eyes of the unwashed masses. In the tech world, many factoids fall under the truthiness heading. You know, such gems as "Macs are easier to use than Windows PCs," which is as ludicrous as it is commonly believed. And Microsoft is the subject of many such truthiness claims, the latest of which is "Microsoft will buy Nokia." I mean, it just makes sense. That is, unless you really think about it. But in the wake of yet another round of "Microsoft will buy Nokia" rumors this week—set off yet again by a single Russian blogger who has no actual ties to either company—Microsoft's Windows Phone partner finally came out and said something. And it was, "Nyet." Well, actually it was, "We've put these rumours to rest a long time ago. The focus for Nokia is on executing on our partnership around Windows Phone and growing the ecosystem, and each company has the tools [it needs] to do so." Next up: Microsoft buys Yahoo!
RIM Finally Considers Canning Its Useless Co-Chairmen
Which is, of course, like remembering to turn off the lights in your bunk after the Titanic has already slipped below the surface of the icy North Atlantic. But still, I like to see anything positive happening at the company that made the word "beleaguered" suddenly seem too conservative a term. Apparently, Research In Motion (RIM) is, get this, a publicly traded company, and that means it has shareholders. And those shareholders are apparently quite unhappy with the company's performance of late (I can't imagine why) and have turned their attention to Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, the RIM cofounders who also serve as the two-headed hydra known as RIM's co-chairmen. So, here's a thought: Replace them with a single human being who can actually make decisions. Do so quickly. And then act aggressively, or 2012 will be known forever as the year RIM bit the dust. Do it now. Stop reading. Just do it.
Microsoft Improves Lowliest Version of Office 365
If you're familiar with Office 365, you know that Microsoft offers a great plan for individuals and small businesses that costs $6 per month per user, and then about 1,173 various plans for bigger businesses, requiring a compass, a flowchart and a safety pin to figure it all out. Well, it's not getting any less complex, but Microsoft this week revealed that it will be improving the lowest-end plan it makes available to corporations. Called K1 and aimed at "kiosk" (i.e., web-based) workers, this plan will now gain Exchange ActiveSync support, enabling access to email, calendars, and contacts from smartphones and devices, and Microsoft is raising the storage limit to 1GB (from 500MB). This plan costs only $2 per user per month, but note that it's not available to individuals. Wouldn't that be something? Cough. Just a thought.
What Would Be Better than Microsoft Bringing Back Flight Simulator? How About Bringing It Back for Free?
When Microsoft infamously killed off the Flight Simulator product line a few years back and then salted the earth by firing the team responsible for the decades-long success story, fans were disappointed. But then there was news that Flight Simulator was making a comeback as "Flight," though details were thin. This week, we learned however that Flight will be released in the first half of 2012. And get this, it will be free. Yes, FREE. "Microsoft Flight will be available as a free download this spring, giving players the freedom to fly the skies over the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, complete a variety of exciting missions, test their skills in flying challenges, or find hidden aerocaches on the island," a statement on the Microsoft Flight website reads. If you simply can't wait—and believe me, I get it—sign up for the beta and maybe you'll get early access. Happy flying!
Kill the PC? The iPad Can't Even Kill the eBook Reader!
When Apple's iPad launched almost two years ago, Apple-loving pundits claimed that it would kill the PC, starting with the netbook. Then they claimed that it would kill Android-based tablets, especially Amazon's hated Kindle Fire, which embarrassed Apple with its low-ball pricing. And then they claimed that it would make mincemeat of the dedicated ebook market because no one would want a device that did only one thing. Surprise! Not only did netbooks outsell the iPad yet again in 2011, and not only did the Kindle Fire eat significantly into Apple's iPad sales and garner serious market share, but even the lowly ebook reader is thriving. Thriving as in "selling more than twice as many in the most recent quarter as it did in the same time period a year earlier." So what's the truth? Simple, and I've been saying this for some time: This isn't the PC market of yore, with one obvious winner, one minor player, and many losers. This is the heterogeneous computing market of today, and of the future, and there are many choices. So we're going to see the iPad (of course), Android tablets of various kinds, Windows-based tablets, dedicated ebook readers and other limited computing devices, smartphones, and even, yes, traditional PCs. And all of them will coexist. I know this doesn't fit neatly into the message every other headline-happy tech blog is trying to communicate, but it's clearly true. Can't we all just get along?
Apple Has No Sense of Humor, Part 312
Apple has issued a legal threat to the Hong Kong-based makers of an eerily detailed Steve Jobs action figure—yes, you read that correctly—in an attempt to prevent the firm from selling it. As is so often the case, I find myself disagreeing with Apple, though I'd point out that anyone who wants a Steve Jobs action figure is a ludicrous excuse for a person and needs to get a life. Just saying. Anyway, the Hong Kong company, In Icons, had previously announced a 12" version of Jobs that looks a little too accurate, though I doubt Jobs had that much elasticity even in youth. The site literally noted that the "collectible figure" comes with "one realistic head sculpt & two pairs of glasses, one highly articulated body & three pairs of hands, one black turtleneck & one pair of blue jeans, one black leather belt & one chair (wood + metal), one pair of black socks & sneakers, two apples (one with a bite), and one piece of 'ONE MORE THING' hard backdrop." And it's priced at an Applerific $110 including shipping. Oh my.
Making Lemonade: Can Google TV Rise from Punching Bag to Actual Competitive Product?
Though the list of products that failed in 2011 is perhaps too long to recount here, let's just say there would be plenty of choices. But one we too often forget is Google TV, and I suspect that's because the product itself is so forgettable. Worst of all for Google, the company had only two major partners for devices, and one of them, Logitech, not only abandoned the product but complained while doing so that Google's software was terrible and only half-finished. Sounds like a bust, right? Not so fast: Google TV could make a serious comeback in 2012, and the seeds of that comeback could be revealed at CES this coming week. My understanding is that the online giant has signed on numerous TV-maker partners that will integrate a seriously revamped version of the software directly into their coming HD sets. This will make it easier for consumers to use—no confusing TV connection switching required—and get it more widely distributed. If the new software is any good (and to be fair, it does look decent), this plan could actually work.
Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!
Andrew and I took the week off, so there's no new episode of the What The Tech podcast this week. But Mary Jo, Leo, and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, and remember we'll be doing the live Microsoft CES Keynote coverage on Sunday night. The new episode of Windows Weekly should be available 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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