Short Takes: December 20, 2013

Short Takes: December 20, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including an epic EU slap down of Google over antitrust settlement, a Microsoft documentary to look at the "E.T." Atari game fiasco, a reminder about the expiration of the Windows 8.1 Preview, a former Microsoftie charged with insider trading, a major setback for Blackberry and Twitter's abusive relationship with third party developers.

EU slaps down Google antitrust settlement offer

Antitrust regulators in the European Union have seen past the Google smokescreen and rejected an antitrust settlement offer from the search giant. Describing the offer as "not acceptable," EU competition commissioner Joaquin Almunia said today that Google now has only "a little time left" to get serious and offer a reasonable settlement. And if that doesn't happen, the firm will finally be charged with sweeping antitrust violations related to its search business. Google's competitors, of course, would like to skip the formalities and jump right to the logical conclusion of this silliness. "We believe strongly that the next step should be a full examination of all the pending complaints by means of a statement of objections," a representative of the industry group ICOMP noted. I couldn't agree more.

Microsoft documentary to explore the most pressing mystery of our times

As part of a push to deliver original video content through its Xbox entertainment services next year, Microsoft will create a documentary series that focuses on "the extraordinary events and characters that have given rise to the digital age." UFOs? Sasquatch? Jimmy Hoffa? Nope. "E.T." As in the video game. The first "film" (which is an interesting word, when you think about it) in this series will be about the disastrous E.T video game cartridge for the Atari 2600, a game that was so bad it's single-handedly blamed for the video game crash of 1983. More important, Atari allegedly buried its stock of millions of cartridges—the firm infamously made more of them than there were Atari 2600 consoles in the world—in a landfill in the New Mexico desert and then covered it over with cement. So the documentary will uncover the truth about the cartridges when the landfill is dug up next year. Honestly, I can't wait, though to be fair, I suspect this is among the least interesting of stuff buried in New Mexico.

Reminder: Windows 8.1 Preview will expire January 15, 2014

While we've been obsessing over the coming April 2014 expiration of Windows XP, which I assume will start smelling like spoiled milk after that date, another Windows expiration date is a bit more pressing. Those who installed the Windows 8.1 Preview (including the RT version) can continue using that pre-release OS version until January 15. But they'll need to upgrade to the final version of Windows 8.1 at that time—which is free. The catch is that you will need to reinstall all your apps—both Modern mobile apps and desktop applications—though your data will be retained. Just head to the Store app in Windows to get it going.

Former Microsoft employee charged with insider trading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission this week charged a former portfolio manager at Microsoft with insider trading. According to the suit, Brian Jorgenson tipped off a friend about Microsoft's internal plans so that he time trades to the eventual public announcements and take advantage of the resulting stock price bump. (One example that was cited was Microsoft's $300 million investment in Barnes & Noble.) The two then shared the profits equally, making a combined $393,125 over about a year. Mr. Jorgenson said through a lawyer that he was "extremely remorseful." About getting caught, I assume.

So about that Blackberry comeback...

When Blackberry took the "For Sale" sign off its front lawn and pretended that it actually had some future as a devices maker, some people actually took the bait. Maybe the firm has a chance, I was told. Maybe it could come back as a smaller, more profitable company. Yeah, maybe. Or maybe it's off the market because no other firm was even slightly interested in the firm or its technology. Or, maybe it's because Blackberry is Dead Firm Walking and its assets will soon be available at even lower prices: This week, Blackberry reported a massive quarterly loss of $4.4 billion for the quarter ending November 30, with revenues falling from $2.73 billion a year ago to $1.9 billion. The reason for this dramatic shortfall? No one wants its devices. Or, as Blackberry put it, "inventory write-down and asset impairment charges."

Twitter continues biting the hand that feeds it

And you thought Google and Apple were evil. (Don't worry, you were right on both counts.) Twitter has been working to kill off the third party Twitter apps that helped propel the firm to success by forcing them to adhere to strict user limits. So the more popular an app becomes, the better its chances of getting cut off. And on that note, one of the most popular Twitter apps for Windows Phone, Rowi, was pulled from the market this week because it reached that limit. "The user limit is on Twitter's end so new Rowi users would be unable to use the app after downloading it," Rowi's makers explained. "This is far from what we wanted or expected at any point in the nearly three years of Rowi's existence but we have little choice to move aside and see what experiences Twitter and others can bring to the new Windows ecosystem." In other words, Twitter wants to be the only company that can make Twitter clients. Kind of makes me not want to use Twitter.

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, 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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