Short Takes: October 11, 2013

Short Takes: October 11, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Quote of the Week

President Barack Obama this week used a nice Microsoft reference while complaining about GOP lawmakers who are holding the US government hostage because they refuse to acknowledge the legality of the Affordable Care Act law. "The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs," he said. "You don't get a chance to call your bank and say, 'I'm not going to pay my mortgage this month unless you throw in a new car and an Xbox.'" Good stuff, and not too shabby for a former BlackBerry fan.

No Word Yet on the CEO Search, but Microsoft Board Would Like to Get This Over With Quickly

We've received just scant bits of news about possible candidates for the Microsoft CEO job, although I should point out that the two best entrants—Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Microsoft board member John Thompson, both in their late 60s—are unfortunately too old for the job. (Outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer is just 57.) But according to a credible report in Bloomberg, the Microsoft board would like to wrap up the CEO search quickly—by the end of the year—so that the company (currently engaged in what can only be called a "deer in the headlamps" pose) can get back to work. According to the report, Microsoft has discussed the CEO position with eBay CEO John Donahoe, Ford's Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Pivotal CEO (and former Microsoft exec) Paul Maritz, and former Skype CEO (and current Microsoft exec) Tony Bates. Aside from Mulally, whom I still feel is the right guy, few of these people really excite me. And how are there no viable women candidates?

Microsoft's Big Launch Week Disrupted by Apple

Next week was going to be huge for Microsoft (and its closest partner and soon-to-be business unit Nokia): The firm is launching Windows 8.1 on October 18 and Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 on October 22, and Nokia is launching a number of new phones and tablets on October 22. That's a week's worth of Microsoft-dominated tech news, or it would have been but for one little wrench in the machinery: Apple is apparently going to launch its next-generation iPad tablets on October 22. That means that Microsoft and Nokia will only have a few hours on the 22nd—the Nokia event, curiously, is being held in Abu Dhabi—before Apple pushes aside all others and demands that all tech bloggers and reporters pay it homage. Well, at least these guys will have something to write about while they wait in line to get into the Apple event.

Now Best Buy Has a Surface Trade-In Program Too

Unlike Microsoft's trade-in program, though, this one lets you trade in your existing Surface devices. According to the retailer's Surface Trade-In Offer website, Best Buy will pay at least $200 for a used Surface, and perhaps up to $350 for a high-end model, though these amounts are paid in the form of a Best Buy gift certificate. As many will point out, you could probably do better elsewhere—eBay, Trade-In, or whatever—but you can't beat the convenience if you live near a Best Buy and really want to upgrade that under-performing Surface RT to a less questionable Surface 2. Just a thought.

Microsoft Working to End Internet Cookies

According to a report in Ad Age (of all places), Microsoft is working to replace the Internet cookies used by web browsers with something that works more universally—across PCs, mobile devices, and other computing devices such as the Xbox—and more reliably. Cookies today are used for a variety of purposes, but the most common use has evolved from letting websites persist user settings between sessions to tracking for advertising purposes. But since most web browsers now block so-called "third-party cookies," and they don't work with mobile devices at all, those with a financial stake in this usage are starting to clamor for a replacement. On that note, it's not surprising that Internet giant Google is working on a similar cookie replacement. "Going beyond the cookie is important," a Microsoft statement notes. "Our priority will be to find ways to do this that respect the interests of consumers." Something tells me that's not Google's priority.

Who Says Developers Are Underpaid?

Microsoft paid security researcher James Forshaw $100,000 for privately reporting a security vulnerability that he found in Windows 8.1, marking the biggest-yet payment since Microsoft made its June offer to reward people via a bug bounty. Previous to this pay-out, Microsoft had delivered $128,000 in rewards to six security bug finders, and ironically, two of them work at Google. Microsoft is paying $500 to $5,500 for individual found bugs, but Forshaw also received an additional $9,400 for finding bugs in Internet Explorer (IE) 11. And no, we're never going to find out what those bugs were, though I'm sort of curious.

Google TV Could Be Getting Rebranded as Android TV

Which explains why Google's latest TV effort, which is actually Android-based, is branded as Chromecast. But whatever. According to GigaOM, the Google TV branding is dead and will be replaced with the name Android TV. That makes sense: Android is indeed quite popular and has consumer awareness, whereas a box called Google TV sounds like something that would just play advertisements on your TV. (We already have that device: It's called TV.) Still, it's interesting to see how much Google—like everyone else—has struggled in the living room. This clear and obvious next market for a consumer electronics explosion has been just that for over a decade now. Something has to take off eventually.

Do Two Turkeys Make an Eagle?

When BlackBerry announced its provisional acceptance of a $7.5 billion buyout offer by Fairfax Financial Holdings last month, it came with some caveats: It would require a six-week due diligence period during which Fairfax would review BlackBerry's business, and the latter company could still consider other offers. And at the time, I reported that BlackBerry Cofounder Mike Lazaridis was talking to private equity investors about making his own bid for the firm. This week, it emerged that Lazaridis has actually teamed with the other cofounder, Douglas Fregin, in a proposed attempt to acquire the firm. As with the Gates/Ballmer duo at Microsoft (yes, yes, I know Gates cofounded Microsoft with Paul Allen; settle down), Lazaridis and Fregin are paradoxically responsible for much of their firm's early and stellar successes and for BlackBerry's latter calcification and inability to respond quickly or properly to emerging threats that quickly displaced them. On that note, I have to think that Lazaridis and Fregin would be the last thing BlackBerry needs at this point.

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 and Paul Thurrott’s Xbox Music, both of which are now available in ebook reader-friendly MOBI and EPUB versions. The next book, Windows 8.1 Book, is now underway!

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