An often irreverent look at this week's other news ...
Surface Pro Sellout, Round Two
Five days after Microsoft once again made the 128GB version of its Surface Pro available for sale/preorder on its Microsoft Store website, the device is again sold out. And my sources tell me this current spate of unavailability could last a while. You might recall that those who were able to order the device before the sell-out were told that they should receive their unit by March 1, 2013, so we’ll have to wait and see how that goes. But it could be weeks before the 128GB version is available online again, leaving spotty availability at Microsoft retail stores and Best Buy and Staples stores your only option for the short term. If you live outside the United States or Canada, of course, don’t hold your breath. I’m sure Microsoft will sell Surface Pro internationally eventually. Maybe in time for the holidays.
Good News: Microsoft Is “Cooler” Than It Used to Be
Bad news: That’s a low bar. According to a silly Reuters poll, 50 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 say they believe that Microsoft is now cooler than it was one to two years ago. That makes Microsoft cooler than Facebook (42 percent) or Twitter (47 percent), but not nearly as cool as Apple (60 percent). This might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever reported on. I apologize.
HTC Has a Comeback Plan: Android and a Dash of Windows Phone
When HTC introduced its stunning new Windows Phone 8 handsets last fall, I knew the company was on to something, and its HTC 8X, in particular, is the most stunning Windows Phone 8 handset—and thus the most stunning smartphone, period—on the market today. Well, it was. This week, HTC introduced the new Android-based HTC One, and the struggling smartphone firm appears to have found a recipe for success: Gorgeous, lust-worthy devices, usually running Android, but sometimes running Windows Phone. What I’d like to see is the HTC One’s best technologies, like its camera, make their way to Windows Phone, but we’ll have to wait and see whether a new round of HTC Windows Phone handsets are on the way. (Mobile World Congress?)
Nikon the Latest in a Long List of Android Resellers to Pay for Microsoft Patent License
You can add Nikon to the very long list of Android devices makers that are now paying Microsoft licensing fees related to the very many patents that Android allegedly infringes upon. Nikon, of course, is a camera maker. But some of its new connected cameras utilize Android and—uh oh!—Google’s freebie mobile OS is a technology bouillabaisse that, um, was inspired by an awful lot of previously patented technologies. So they gotta pay up. According to Microsoft, the company has entered into more than 1,100 licensing agreements so far, and its efforts in “reaching out to” Android device makers has resulted in license agreements with numerous companies, including Samsung, LG, HTC, Acer, and Barnes & Noble.
Google’s Ugly and Expensive New Chromebook Makes Me Laugh
Google isn’t just a humongous online advertising firm; it’s also one of the world’s greatest copiers of other companies’ products. And anyone who still respects this firm should be losing sleep over its latest boondoggle, which involves not just copying Apple yet again, but copying (for the first time) Apple’s lofty pricing structure. Before yesterday, the highest selling price of a new-model Chromebook—which, to be clear, is a laptop that can run only a single web browser—was $249. But Google dug deep into its (Apple’s) bag of tricks and figured out a way to turn a borderline useless device running a semi-OS into a luxury bling item that costs almost $1,500. That’s right, Google’s new Chromebook, the Retina, er ah, the Pixel, costs $1,300 for a Wi-Fi only version with 32GB of storage or $1,450 for one with 4G and 64GB of storage. This puts my complaints about the costs of iPads ($500 to $930) and Surface RT ($500 to $700) nicely in perspective, not to mention the sanity and logic of Google’s executive staff. Speaking of which, did I mention this thing has a square screen, gets under 5 hours of battery life, and is perhaps the ugliest notebook released since, oh, I don’t know, 2002? Because that’s all true, too. So congrats, Google. You really get the future of computing. It’s the past.
Surprise! Samsung Sells More “Smart Connected Devices” than Apple
In another blow to the fragile egos of Apple fanatics, it turns out that even fuzzy math can’t turn their favorite company into the world’s biggest maker of “connected devices,” that nebulous and make-believe market that combines smartphones, tablets, and PCs. You might recall that I wrote in the February 8, 2013, edition of Short Takes that the iCabal was eagerly combining all of Apple’s device sales—Macs plus iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches—to “prove” that the firm was “the biggest PC maker in the world.” Because, you know, people walk into a Best Buy intending to buy a laptop and sometimes walk out with an iPod touch instead. But it turns out that even when you do this kind of contorted math exercise, Apple’s isn’t, in fact, the biggest maker of PCs, or smart connected devices, or whatever you want to call this non-existent market. It’s the second biggest. According to IDC, Samsung is the world’s biggest maker of “smart connected devices,” with 250 million units shipped in 2012, a jump of 120 percent year over year. Apple, meanwhile, sold 219 million units, a less lofty jump of 44 percent. (And Lenovo, HP, and Dell round out the top five.) Don’t worry, iFans, your favorite conspiracy blogs have raced to find a way in which Apple still wins: Whereas Samsung is destroying Apple in unit sales and extending it lead over time, Apple continues to make more money, thanks to its high margins. So it might be 2014 before Samsung overtakes Apple in that department, giving these guys more time to come up with yet another way Apple can win.
Red Hat Is Still a Thing
That is all. I just wanted to mention they’re somehow still in business. You know, riding that Linux wave or whatever.
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