Short Takes: February 28, 2014

Short Takes: February 28, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Because It's Funny, That's Why

On Thursday, this publication's Rod Trent reported that I tweeted that the Windows 8.1 Update 1 will hit MSDN on April 2, [and] Windows Update on April 8. I can confirm this report, and since we now have two sources for this information, we can simply consider it a fact.

Well, Thank Goodness We Can Finally Move On

Microsoft and Google panelists at an RSA security conference session "agree that it's time to stop fearing cloud security and embrace the future," CNET reports—I wasn't there, thankfully—so I guess we can take off our tin hats and get with the program.

Or, Maybe Not

In this week's most titillating tech story, spies at the British GCHQ (think NSA but with a British accent) have allegedly been intercepting and storing mountains of nude photos and videos from Yahoo! Messenger-connected web cams. And not for national security purposes, but because they can. As Ars Technica's Peter "Dr. Pizza" Bright put it so ably on Twitter the other day, I too am more surprised by the fact that Yahoo! doesn't prevent this kind of snooping than I am by the notion that someone in a position of power might be abusing that power. "It would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person," a leaked GCHQ document allegedly noted. "Also, the fact that the Yahoo! software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography." Shocking. And maybe it's time for a hard drive upgrade. That porn isn't going to back itself up.

John Thompson Speaks on Changing the Culture at Microsoft

While I'm quoting other publications—I know, I'm so well read—Fortune this week interviewed Microsoft Chairman John Thompson, who recently led the firm's search for a new CEO. The former IBMer made some interesting comments about culture and, more specifically, how it's time for a change at Microsoft. "When the IBM monopoly ran out and they had to compete with a bunch of smaller, more agile companies, they needed to have a different rate and pace of change," he said. You don't change a company's culture overnight ... I would argue that there are some attributes to Microsoft today that do look vaguely like IBM circa 1990. The Windows monopoly is in fact under attack, and therefore we're going to have to change or think differently about the management systems and the associated culture of the company as time goes on." I couldn't agree more, but the big bit here, in case you missed it, is this: The chairman of Microsoft literally just compared that company to IBM.

Microsoft: Yes to Lumia Brand, Not So Much for Nokia Brand

I'm not sure why this is confusing to people, but when Microsoft completes its acquisition of Nokia's devices businesses, it will inherit three brands: Lumia, Asha, and Nokia. It will own the first two outright, and I can't imagine a circumstance under which the firm would change those brands. But the Nokia brand is a bit more nuanced. Microsoft won't own it, of course—there will still be a company called Nokia, after all—but it is getting a several-year license to use the Nokia brand (on handsets and other devices), too. This is important in two ways. First, Microsoft can, if it wants to, continue selling devices it brands as the Nokia Lumia 1020 or Nokia Asha 201. And second, it can continue selling Nokia "dumb phones" with that brand. My expectation is that it will figure out a schedule to deemphasize and then stop using the Nokia brand, and perhaps time it to January 2016, which is when the company called Nokia can start selling phones again. But that's another story, and I'm not sure the new Nokia would even bother trying. (Speaking of other stories, what about that Nokia X? No idea.)

Microsoft Squeaks Ahead of Amazon in Web-Hosted Windows Computers

This might seem like a nichey market to be measuring, but it's going to have a bigger impact moving forward: According to the market researchers at Netcraft, Microsoft has become the largest hoster of Windows computers online, narrowly beating out perennial market leader Amazon. Microsoft now has 23,400 web-facing Windows computers, the firm says, compared with Amazon's 22,600. But here's where things get weird. Although Microsoft and Amazon are the number one and two Windows hosting companies in the world, they each have about 1 percent usage share, so this market is both wide open and crazily fragmented. On the Microsoft side, Azure is of course the biggest part of this business, with over 90 percent of all of Microsoft's "web-facing computers." And about 90 percent of those Azure-based computers are running Windows Server 2008 (55 percent or so) or Windows Server 2012 (35 percentish), compared with 10 percent on Linux. Windows Azure has seen some big growth lately, but its highest-profile success, perhaps, is the recent Soshi 2014 Olympic Games, for which Microsoft played "a key role in the creation and development of official websites for the 2014 Games." Hey, it didn't crash.

Actually, This Makes Plenty of Sense

Amazon is reportedly eyeing a streaming music service like Spotify or Pandora that it would tie to its Amazom Prime subscription shipping service, similar to how it provides these people with the Amazon Prime Video service, which is like Netflix. But free to Prime subscribers. You get the idea. My only issue with this is that Amazon has done a horrible, horrible job of supporting Windows users with its services—check out "The Sad State of Amazon Apps on Windows" for a few examples—and I'd hate to see this continue with music streaming. You know what? Screw you, Amazon.

Apple Kills Off Snow Leopard Support After "Just" Four Years

A lot of people—including us, as it turns out—are making a big deal out of the fact that Apple is ending support for Mac OS X 10.6 ("Snow Leopard") after "just" four years, while Microsoft is being raked over the coals for ending support for Windows XP after an astonishing 12+ years. Folks, as much as I love a cheap dig at Apple, these events are not in any way comparable. First, XP is used on about 500 times as many PCs as is Snow Leopard, and it came with a guarantee of 10 years of support because it's an enterprise product. (Microsoft also shipped a turd called Windows Vista in 2006, further extending XP's life.) But more important, the most recent OS X upgrade is free, and the two before that cost next-to-nothing, whereas upgrading from XP to anything is in fact quite expensive (and, it should be noted, potentially impossible or, at the least, fraught with technical difficulties). We should be so lucky to have the upgrade "issues" that face Mac owners. Still laughing?

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and 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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