Short Takes: April 4, 2014

Short Takes: April 4, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including Cortana's sense of humor, some worthwhile questions about the fate of Windows RT in this Windows IoT world, Samsung's pointless new Windows Phone, Eich steps down after fallout with Mozilla fans, Apple tries to shut down Samsung arguments a bit too early, and Nest has a hard time telling the difference between a fire and a hand wave.

Cortana has a sense of humor

Like the iPhone's Siri feature on which it is based, the Cortana "digital assistant" in Windows Phone 8.1 has a sense of humor. And while I'll save a longer list of jokes for my eventual review, here's one I think you'll find cute. If you ask Cortana, "who's your daddy?" her response is priceless: "Technically speaking, that'd be Bill Gates. No big deal." Nice!

Free Windows, check. But what about Windows RT?

I've been watching the reactions to this week's Build 2014 conference news—and there has been a ton of it as you can see from Microsoft Opens Build 2014 with Windows, Windows Phone Updates and the SuperSite for Windows. And I'm especially interested in the unanswered questions. Key among them is, what is happening to Windows RT? I don't believe RT was mentioned even once in the keynotes, and despite major news about free versions of Windows for the Internet of Things (Windows IoT) and free Windows on small devices, RT was never explicitly mentioned. On the one hand, it doesn't really need to be mentioned, as RT is really just a version of Windows 8. But on the other, we need to face the reality that RT has never really taken off in a meaningful way. with Terry Myerson busy picking off all of the decision makers and major policies from the Sinofsky era—God bless him—one has to wonder if RT isn't on the chopping block next. After all, nothing would signal the final nail in that coffin better than killing off Sinofsky's pet project.

Spoiler alert

OK, I don't really expect them to do that. But it's an interesting thought.

And yet...

It is worth remembering that Microsoft's Windows IoT efforts, which are really the "Windows on devices" efforts, is the sort of thing one would expect to see Windows RT (and ARM) be part of. And they could be. But Mr. Myerson talked up only Intel with regards to this project, specifically Intel's Core-based system on a chip efforts, which combines the power of real Intel silicon with new power management capabilities, low power requirements and a tiny physical size. Methinks the old Microsoft/Intel duopoly could be firing up for another run on the gold.

It's almost like Samsung doesn't get Windows Phone

Samsung was the number one maker of Windows Phone handsets until Nokia stepped in and completely ran away with the market. Since then, Samsung has only halfheartedly supported Windows Phone, and its Windows Phone releases were particularly uninspiring. But this one takes the cake: Less than a month after Nokia launched its best-ever Windows Phone, the Lumia Icon, on Verizon, and in the same week that Microsoft announced that Windows Phone 8.1 and new devices based on that OS would ship in the coming weeks, Samsung is back. With a Windows Phone 8.0 phone. Called ATIV SE. That is not particularly interesting. On Verizon. After you're done queuing up the "sad trombone" sound, you can just sort of sit back and shake your head. This one just doesn't make any sense.

Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich pulls a Pope John Paul I

Well, that didn't last long: When Mozilla announced recently that it had chosen JavaScript creator Brendan Eich as its next CEO, I figured that was a good thing. But then news emerged that Mr. Eich had donated money to an (unconstitutional) anti-gay marriage effort, and I figured he had to go. Mozilla held out for a few days, but then dropped the hammer Thursday: After just two weeks guiding the firm, Eich is out. The issue here isn't so much one's preferences for gay marriage—though I would just love to debate that in the comments (no, not really)—it's that his stance is so completely at odds with Mozilla's mission. In a post announcing Eich's departure, Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker apologized for failing to uphold the company's standards and for doing nothing about it for two weeks. "We're sorry," she wrote. "We must do better."

You gotta give them credit for trying

I'm not a legal expert, but I sort of picture most court cases going like this: A lawyer representing the defendant stands before they jury (or judge) and makes his case, followed by a lawyer representing the prosecution, who does the same, and then the two sides present evidence and testimonials to support those cases. And I think that is what just happened in the Apple v. Samsung (Round 2: the Quickening) case that just got underway in California. Except after Samsung's lawyer was done making his company's case, something unexpected happened: Apple filed a motion asking the judge to force Samsung to provide evidence to support the claims it made during that initiation presentation. Which I thought was the point of the trial. What Apple took umbrage to, apparently, was that Samsung alleged that Apple does not "practice" (i.e. use) the technologies it patented and is now trying to prevent Samsung from using. And since Apple doesn't even consider these technologies important enough to use in its own products, why should it be allowed to sue others to prevent them from using them? Judge Lucy Koh will probably need therapy after this case concludes, but she did the right thing. She denied Apple's motion. After a decade of simply getting its own way, something tells me Apple is starting to get used to that.

Nest sales halted because of silly "wave" feature

And here I was, hoping it was because Nest's corporate parent Google was caught stealing personal information from the devices. Turns out the reason is almost as dangerous: the Nest smoke and carbon monoxide alarm, which was just judged as pointless by "Consumer Reports," apparently has a feature that lets you wave in front of it to turn off an errant alarm, such as when you may be cooking or whatever. But apparently this feature is easily triggered by mistake, which could make the device useless in the event of a real fire. So Nest is halting sales and will fix the problem via a software update. I assume now you'll need to say, "OK, Google" to get it to do anything.

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 e-books, Paul Thurrott's Windows Phone 8 and Xbox Music Field Guide, plus the incredibly inexpensive ($2!) Windows 8.1 Field Guide, which is now complete. Coming soon: Field Guide and Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide.

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