Short Takes: November 28, 2014

Short Takes: November 28, 2014

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

An often irreverent look at this short week's other news, including the Thanksgiving holiday, China charges Microsoft $140 million for tax evasion, Microsoft Band sells out (sort of), US warns EU on GOOGL, Apple may replace Google Search in Safari, HP reports another decline, Apple's iPad will experience a full year sales decline as Android, Windows tablets race upwards, and Amazon finally right-prices the Fire Phone.

Happy Thanksgiving!

No, it's not Friday. But because tomorrow is Thanksgiving here in the US, this is the last day of the work week. But while there won't be any more newsletters until Monday, I'll be writing as usual over the long weekend, so stay tuned to the SuperSite for Windows for the latest updates. --Paul

China charges Microsoft $140 million for "tax evasion"

Remember all the craziness this past summer when China began investigating Microsoft and questioning senior officials in that country. This has absolutely nothing to do with that. But this week, China charged Microsoft with tax evasion and has levied a $140 million fee to cover the back taxes owed plus interest. China's official news agency, Xinhua, said that Microsoft has admitted to tax evasion and to pay the central government to settle the matter. Microsoft, naturally, has admitted nothing of the sort. "In 2012 the tax authorities of China and the United States agreed to a bilateral advanced pricing agreement with regards to Microsoft's operations in China," a Microsoft statement notes. "China receives tax revenue from Microsoft consistent with the terms of the agreed advanced pricing agreement."

"The flashlight app on your [Android] phone may be reporting your GPS location"

Just in case you thought Google wasn't innovative.

The sad tale of Microsoft Band availability

When Microsoft quietly introduced its new fitness wearable, the Microsoft Band, last month, it only made the device available in limited quantities, and only through the Microsoft Store in the United States. But it promised that it would continue delivering more of them throughout the holidays, and most people praised them for getting to market quickly and making it happen at all. Now, not so much. Microsoft emailed prospective Band customers this week to inform them that it will in fact not be getting any more Bands in stock during the holiday selling period, and that if they're lucky, maybe they can find one sitting in a Microsoft retail store. But here's the final insult: To "make it right," Microsoft is giving people on the Band waiting list a $10 credit toward an online purchase of $50 or more. Oh, Microsoft.

"The Only Way to Save Google Glass Is to Kill It"

I support this strategy.

US warns EU not to get crazy in regulating Google

In the wake of a report that the European Parliament may actually recommend to the European Commission that it seek the breakup of Google, the US Mission to the European Union—which is headquartered in Brussels and maintains our diplomatic relations with the EU—warned the EU not to overdo it. "It is important that the process of identifying competitive harms and potential remedies be based on objective and impartial findings and not be politicized," a statement from the Mission reads. Which is fine. Because an objective and impartial examination of Google's business practices can only lead to a remedy that makes sense, regardless of whether that includes breaking up the search giant.

"Why Apple Failed to Make Sapphire iPhones"

It couldn't breed the unicorns quickly enough.

Apple looking to drop Google from Safari, and Microsoft smells blood in the water

You have probably heard that there is no love lost between Apple and Google these days, and the Cupertino consumer electronics giant has been slowly removing Google apps and services from its popular devices over the past few years. In this not-so-subtle shift is opportunity for Google's competitors, including Microsoft, whose Bing services already power Spotlight search (and thus Siri) on iPhones and iPads. Now, Google's contract for Safari-based search defaults is coming up for renewal. And you have to think that Microsoft—and others, like Yahoo—will be making a big push for that. I'd love to see that happen, and nothing brings together two former competitors better than a new competitor no one likes.

"Google Pushed to Extend 'Forgotten' Requests to US Site"

Makes sense. So I expect Google to fight this.

HP reports another decline as self-imposed breakup looms

HP's slow road to recovery continued in the most recent quarter, with the firm experiencing drops in both profits ($1.3 billion, down 6 percent) and revenues ($28.4 billion, down 2 percent) for the most recent quarter. For the full fiscal year, HP reported net earnings of $5 billion, down 2 percent, on revenues of $111.5 billion, down 1 percent. But there were bright spots, including the fact that the firm is now cash positive, whereas they were $11 billion in debt just two years ago. But from my perspective, here's the big news: HP's biggest growth in the quarter came from ... wait for it... portable computers, which added an additional $510 million in revenue, year over year. So maybe at least one of the two companies that will emerge out of HP next year will be OK.

"Windows 10 gets native support for Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC)"

Yeah, I can hear that one guy golf-clapping in the back of the room.

Apple's iPad will experience a full year of sale declines in 2014

The market researchers at IDC say that Apple's two consecutive quarters of falling—and that's "falling" not "slowing"—iPad sales are not an aberration, and it expects Apple to experience a full year of sales declines in 2014. The rest of the tablet market has slowed considerably in 2014—tablet growth in 2014 is expected to come in at about 7.2 percent this year, compared to a whopping 52.5 percent growth rate in 2013. But only Apple is seeing huge declines, with the firm seeing shipments fall by 12.7 percent in 2014 and its market share fall below 30 percent, to 27.5 percent. Sales of Android tablets, meanwhile, are up: They're up 16 percent in 2014 to 67.7 percent, or over double iPad's sales, with 160 million in unit sales. And Windows tablet sales have skyrocketed: They're up 67.3 percent year over year, with 11 million units sold. I wonder when Windows tablet sales will surpass those of iPad. Cough.

"Dell's Venue 11 Pro 7000 Tablet Makes Laptops Nervous"

At least it's not a hard drive failure.

Amazon cuts the price of unlocked Fire Phone to $199

When Amazon debuted its late-to-market Fire Phone earlier this year, it stunned analysts, press and potential customers by eschewing its normal low-price strategy. Instead, the Fire Phone shipped only on AT&T and was priced just like an iPhone: $200 with a two-year contract or $650 and up unlocked. Customers stayed away in droves—hell, even Windows Phone sold millions of units this summer—and Amazon quickly admitted it had screwed up. But when a 1 cent sale for the on-contract version of the Fire Phone failed to improve matters, the company pulled a Blackberry and finally did the right thing: Now you can buy a GSM unlocked version of the Fire Phone for just $199. And that is exactly the price it should have launched at earlier this year. Opportunity lost.

"There's a Better Way to Board Planes"

Says every single person who has ever boarded a plane, yes.

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 Microsoft Band Field Guide (free), Surface Pro 3 Field Guide, Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide and Xbox Music Field Guide (free). Coming soon: Windows 10 Field Guide.

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