Short Takes: November 27, 2013

Short Takes: November 27, 2013

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving

No, today isn't Friday. But here in the United States, we're celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow, on Thursday, so today is the end of the work week. We'll be back on Monday, officially, though I will of course be updating both the SuperSite for Windows and Windows 8.1 Book during the long weekend.

Silliness Over Microsoft's Scroogled Ad Campaign

I'm amazed that so many people react so negatively when Microsoft correctly calls out Google for its obviously dubious business practices in the "Scroogled" ad campaign, and I'm getting tired of it. The entire world collectively ooh, ahhed, and giggled while Apple lied about Windows PCs in its "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" advertisements. But when Microsoft points out basic truths about Google—a company that relentlessly mines your data to make ads, reads your email to make ads, creates a fake shopping service that is just ads, and so on—oh my goodness. The arms go up, the faux indignation goes to 11, and the armchair pundits rant endlessly about how gosh-darned negative Microsoft is. Why, Microsoft should be talking about how good its products are, not how bad Google is, these airheads argue. No. Wrong. This is all about moving the conversation to where it needs to go. A decade ago, Microsoft's strategy for handling Apple was to ignore it. Microsoft's executives never mentioned Apple or its products at public events or in commercials. And over time Apple ate away at and then finally demolished Microsoft's lead ... by driving the conversation. This time, Microsoft is doing the right thing, at the right time, and the target it has chosen (Google) is such a danger to humanity that I don't understand why it doesn't routinely outrage more people. (Many of these same people are going nuts over the NSA, by the way. Like there's any difference.) Folks, turn this faux indignation on the company that deserves it: Google. And cheer Microsoft for fighting the good fight. This company doesn't get everything right, far from it. But if you don't understand why this Scroogled campaign is both correct and important, it's really time to reassess your priorities. Wake up.

Xbox One Teardown: Microsoft Would Make About $25 on Each Console, If Only ....

If only it hadn't cost Microsoft billions of dollars to develop it. The tear-down specialists at IHS have determined that it costs Microsoft about $471 to make the Xbox One, a cost that is divided between parts ($457) and manufacturing ($14). And since the firm retails the Xbox One for $499, that's a bit more than $25 of "profit" on each one, right? Right? Wrong. No, Xbox One won't be the first Microsoft console to actually be sold for a profit. Instead, we need to factor in the billions of dollars the company spent on research and development, marketing, and other areas. So the Xbox One is being subsidized just like all other consoles at launch, and like all other Xboxes over the course of their entire lifetimes. As with the previous two renditions, Microsoft will try to make up the difference with software, services, and accessory sales, hope to reduce costs over the course of its lifecycle, and pray to God that no "red ring of death"-type mishap throws all those delicate calculations right into the toilet. My educated guess is that Xbox will simply continue hemorrhaging billions and that Microsoft will chalk it all up to brand investment, fending off competitors in a crucial market, and holding to a very mistaken belief that something like this can ever truly be profitable. Same old, same old, in other words.

NPD Tosses Cold Water on Touch-Based Laptops

The market researchers at NPD issued some bad news for Microsoft this week: Touch-based laptops, they said, simply aren't selling. This is an issue because these machines are central to Microsoft's plans to combat the rise of tablets. According to NPD, which measures sales in the United States only, touch-based Windows laptops accounted for only 7 percent of all laptop sales in the first half of 2013, and that number is expected to grow to only 11 percent by the end of the year. You might recall that I previously disclosed Microsoft's internal goal to make touch mainstream on PCs by the end of the holiday season. NPD suggests this ain't happening. Indeed, touch won't even hit 40 percent of all laptop sales until 2017, the firm predicts. "Premium pricing and a lack of compelling uses for touch screens on notebooks continue to hinder adoption," NPD senior analyst Richard Shim noted in a statement, pretty succinctly.

Microsoft General Counsel Calls NSA Spying "Disturbing"

But unlike a website comment spammer, he didn't follow it up by saying that he had seen many of his customers leave the cloud and move to on-premises solutions as a result. Microsoft's Brad Smith this week suggested that his firm would step up its encryption efforts to help combat alleged electronic spying by everyone's new favorite government agency, the NSA, which apparently holds God-like powers. "If they are true, these actions amount to hacking and seizure of private data and in our view are a breach of the protection guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution," Mr. Smith said. Microsoft's move toward more encryption follows similar plans by Google, Yahoo!, and probably everyone else.

Microsoft Finally Enforces Its Xbox Live Code of Conduct

As an obsessed Xbox gamer and someone with a platform from which I can praise or vilify Microsoft, I've come very close over the years to writing a post that I would title "F&Y$% YOU, MICROSOFT!" Why would I consider writing such a post, you ask? Because every time I play a game online on Xbox Live via the Xbox 360, I'm confronted by idiots who utter profanity; shout racist, sexist, anti-gay or other nonsense; or, in the worst cases, create anatomically terrible artwork for their in-game characters. You could complain, sort of. But nothing was ever fixed and, if anything, it's gotten worse over time. I just don't understand why Microsoft can charge us for a service that is basically just a vehicle for hate. But now the Xbox One is out. And the clueless miscreants who have ruined Xbox Live for everyone are finally getting their day in Hell: Microsoft is now temporarily banning Xbox Live users who use the Xbox One's Upload Studio tool to post offensive videos. And you know what? It's not enough. I hope the new reputation system in Xbox One really does work, since it's supposed to weed out the true idiots. But I have no faith that these people will actually step up their game and fix this thing. Maybe I'll still write that post after all. This is a serious problem.

Nokia New Zealand gets to the Point

Speaking of profanity, I was amused to see a tweet from Nokia New Zealand yesterday with a simple and concise message: "F*** you". I didn't get the context of the tweet, and it's unclear why it went out in the first place, though of course it's since been removed. Nokia NZ later apologized and said it was investigating how this happened. But I think I speak on behalf of everyone who's had to put up with ever-more-aggressive complaining, harping, and criticism on Twitter when I say this. We've all wanted to say that to someone on Twitter at least once a day. Just don't do it on Xbox Live.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Windows Phone 8, Paul Thurrott’s Xbox Music, and the currently in-progress "Windows 8.1 Book," which I'm now writing—and publishing as we go—with Rafael Rivera.

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