Short Takes: May 24, 2013

Short Takes: May 24, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a new report about Windows 8 usage that has been misunderstood by most, a hope that Intel’s Haswell chip will save the PC industry, an ITC ruling that clears Microsoft of violating Google patents, an FTC probe of Google display ads, Samsung sells 10 million Galaxy S4 handsets in less than a month, and a US District Court judge preliminarily sides with DOJ in its price-fixing suit against Apple.

New report is much ado about nothing

Like other tech bloggers I was spammed with requests to cover a new Soluto report that describes some Windows 8 usage patterns. Unlike other tech bloggers, however, I can read between the lines, and the crazy conclusions I’m seeing out in the world require a retort. There have been two. First, many are delighting in the fact that the majority of Windows 8 users (61 percent) are apparently using just one Metro-style app a day and are largely sticking to desktop applications. That sounds damning for Microsoft’s new mobile platform until you remember that the vast majority of Windows 8 users (95+ percent) are using the system on a non-touch device where standard desktop applications make more sense. Second, Ed Bott has come to the “startling” conclusion that the breakdown of the top Metro-style apps proves that to be successful, app developers actually need to ignore Microsoft’s guidelines for creating these kinds of apps. No it doesn’t: The Yahoo Mail app for Windows 8 (number one on the list) is popular only because a lot of people use Yahoo Mail. (Here’s a conclusion no one considered: Maybe a simpleton still using a Yahoo! Mail account is also the sort of person who would embrace the bare bones Metro environment. Just a thought.) Put simply, there is no evidence that anyone is making a decision, conscious or otherwise, to use apps that don’t follow Microsoft’s guidelines. You can’t make this stuff up. Oh, wait. Yes you can.

Will Intel’s “Haswell” chipset be the PC savior we’ve been waiting for?

With Windows 8, Microsoft has for the first time in a while bifurcated its Windows lineup into two related but separate lines, in this case Windows 8 Core and Pro for Intel x86-type PCs and devices and Windows RT for those based on ARM. Those who want the best performance (and, it should be noted, compatibility), have to choose x86 designs based on the Intel “Ivy Bridge” Core i-series processor, but the trade-off is battery life: Where ARM- and Intel Atom-based designs typically get 10 hours of battery life, those base on Ivy Bridge—especially tablets—get much less. So this year, we’re turning our attention to a new Intel design, codenamed “Haswell,” that will allegedly provide the performance (and compatibility) of Ivy Bridge with better battery life. But the question has always been, how much better? This week we found out: Intel now claims that Haswell-based PCs and devices will offer 50 percent more battery life than their Ivy Bridge-based predecessors. That suggests that a rumored Microsoft Surface Pro 2 based on Haswell could possibly get a very acceptable 7.5 hours of battery life, compared to just 5 for the current version. Would this make a big difference? Hell yeah it would. Fingers crossed.

ITC: Xbox does not violate Google patents

Looks like that Google purchase of Motorola Mobility is officially a bust. The US International Trade Commission this week ruled that the P2P wireless system in Microsoft’s Xbox 360 does not violate Google patents that the firm obtained as part of its $12.5 billion Motorola Mobility purchase. Google bought Motorola to help protect itself against patent attacks from companies that actually own and created the mobile products they sell, but it’s been a bust so far, and this legal defeat is just the latest in a growing list. Many of these suits involve Microsoft, against which the firm has been notably unsuccessful. Hilarious.

FTC probes Google display ad business

Just months after it ignored complaints about Google’s antitrust abuses in the web search and search advertising markets, the US Federal Trade Commission has launched its latest show probe of Google, this time over competitor complaints about the online advertising giant’s abuses with display ads. These ads—which are graphical and sometimes include video content—generated about $2.26 billion in revenues for Google in 2012, mostly from the YouTube web site. But according to the complaints the triggered the foot shuffling FTC into so-called action, Google is preventing advertisers from using anything other than Google’s own ad publishing network. “Should Google engage in unlawful tying or other anticompetitive conduct, the Commission intends to act quickly,” the FTC claims, and one has to imagine this quote is followed by unintentional laughter. You know, since the FTC has a long history of ignoring the problems posed by Google’s actions. In 2007, it allowed the firm to purchase Doubleclick, expanding its advertising capabilities dramatically. That’s what triggered this mess.

Samsung sells 10 million Galaxy S4 handsets in less than one month

Samsung announced this week that its new Galaxy S4 smart phone is its fastest-selling handset of all time, with the firm selling 10 million units in less than 30 days. By comparison, its predecessor, the Galaxy S3, took 50 days to hit the 10 million mark. And if Samsung’s hype machine is to be believed—and you know, what the heck, let’s give them the same pass we always give Apple, eh?—then the sales would have been even higher if the firm could have overcome its early inventory issues sooner. Speaking of Apple, Samsung provided a statistic similar to those that ooze out of Cupertino with such casual regularity: They’re selling four Galaxy S4 handsets every second.

Judge says evidence proves that Apple conspired to raise e-book prices

As if we needed more proof of Apple’s guilt, the US District Court judge overseeing the Department of Justice’s pricing-fixing and conspiracy case against Apple has taken a highly unusual step: Judge Denise Cote said this week that the DOJ has evidence that proves Apple engaged in a conspiracy to illegally and artificially raise the price of e-books in a bid to harm both a competitor (Amazon) and consumers. And just so you don’t think I’m reading anything into this, here’s the quote: “I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that,” she said. I’m no legal expert, but with the case barreling towards a June 3 trial, I have to wonder whether the comment was a bid to get Apple to agree to a last-second settlement by doing the right thing and just admitting to what everyone already knows. I’ll also point out that every single publishing company involved in this suit has already settled, and that Apple itself has settled a nearly-identical suit in the EU. Just saying.

But Wait, There's More

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