Short Takes: March 21, 2014

Short Takes: March 21, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Making Controversy Out of Nothing at All

As I reported yesterday, the FBI recently arrested an ex-Microsoft employee and charged him with intent to convert trade secrets. But then a weird side story emerged: Microsoft, it was reported, had examined the email records of the employee in question (understandable) but also the Hotmail-based email—and, later, the Windows Live Messenger-based chat transcripts—of the unnamed French blogger he interacted with. Mon dieu! Despite the fact that this behavior is both legal and clearly stated in Microsoft's terms of service agreements, the faux indignation spread far and wide. It's not like the company was examining the email to make ads, like Google does. No, this was a criminal investigation, and ... (sputters) ... Microsoft has NO right!! Ahem. A few people reached out to me last night and wondered whether I'd be dropping Hotmail because of this. The answer is no, because my Microsoft sources are smart enough not to give me clues from their Microsoft corporate email accounts. I mean, duh. Oh, and I don't ever break the law.

But in the Good News Department ...

If you are outraged by news that Microsoft would actually look for illegal activity in its own email services, here's some good news: The firm says it will change its policies for doing so. Now, when its own internal investigators want to access information in customer accounts, Microsoft will present the evidence to an outside lawyer, a former federal judge. This outside party will OK the search only if he believes that the firm has grounds to obtain a court order to obtain the information.

Huawei Drops Plans for a "Dual-Boot" Windows Phone/Android Hybrid

Well, so much for that. In the wake of news that both Google and Microsoft squashed PC maker plans for devices that could run both Windows and Android, China phone maker Huawei has cancelled its own plans to make a "dual boot" phone that could run both Android and Windows Phone. Despite having previously said it would make such a device, the firm now says it has "no plans" to do so. The weird thing is, in this case, Microsoft wanted the dual-OS devices to happen, mostly because Windows Phone isn't seeing much traction after three years in the market. I suppose it's possible Google is behind the about-face, but Huawei isn't talking.

Google Makes Encryption Mandatory on Gmail

Speaking of email snooping, the snoops who snoop the snoopiest have coincidentally (ahem) announced this very week that they are now requiring HTTPS encryption on all Gmail connections, a move that will help prevent others—cough, the NSA—from snooping on your email. In fact, this change pretty much does everything except protect Gmail users from the only entity they should be worried about: Google, which of course, snoops on its own email users more than any company (or governmental entity) on Earth. "Today's change means that no one can listen in on your messages as they go back and forth between you and Gmail's servers—no matter if you're using public Wi-Fi or logging in from your computer, phone, or tablet," the company claims, without mentioning that "no one" really means "no one but Google."

In Wake of Google Drive Price Drop, Microsoft Ups SharePoint, OneDrive for Business Capacities

Earlier this week, Google announced a fairly stunning price cut on its paid Google Drive cloud storage plans, a move that many—myself included—saw as an attack primarily on Dropbox. But when you think about paid cloud storage, it's pretty clear that businesses are a big part of that, so Microsoft this week responded. It is raising the storage quota maximum for OneDrive for Business (formerly SkyDrive Pro, part of SharePoint 2013/SharePoint Online/Office 365 business plans) from 100GB to 1TB. Likewise, the former limit on SharePoint Online, 25TB, has been removed, so businesses can now purchase as much storage as they need. I think it's fair to say that nuances aside, cloud storage is both here to stay and will continue to get cheaper, at least until the industry consolidates. Get it while it's hot.

"Don't Blame Android for Being Like a PC"

Who should we blame?

Microsoft Unveils DirectX 12

But the biggest news, really, was that it won't even ship until holiday 2015, a full 18 months from now, so it's pretty clear this one part of Microsoft hasn't gotten the "rapid releases" memo. Introduced at the Game Developers Conference on Thursday, DirectX will provide developers a "console-like" experience in which they can get "closer to the metal" (just in case you were worried they wouldn't hit all the checkboxes in one sentence). The important bit, I think, is that it will work on all Microsoft platforms—meaning Windows, Windows Phone, and Xbox One—and though it's tempting to think this might be tied to some platform release (i.e., Windows 9), my sources say that's not the case. Instead, I see DirectX 12 as a midstream way to improve Xbox One graphics and performance (or, put another way, "graphics performance"), and give it a programmatic leg up on the technically superior PlayStation 4 at a time in which the latter's modest hardware advantages will start coming into play from a game title perspective. I guess we'll see. We certainly have long enough to wait.

"Kutaragi, PlayStation's 'Father,' Sees a Future Without Controllers"

He presumably saw this by traveling back in time and using the Kinect for Xbox.

Sony: PlayStation 4 Demand Will Outstrip Supply into the Summer

On the off chance that anyone thought the recent release of Titanfall was going to reverse video console sales trends, Sony this week reminded everyone who's boss when it announced that it would be unable to meet PlayStation 4 demand into the summer. "We're struggling to keep up with demand," Sony's Andrew House said. "Conservatively, as we get into the early summer months, we'll be closer to a full supply situation." Meanwhile, Microsoft this week announced that it wouldn't push Xbox One into additional markets until ... wait for it, literally ... September. Seriously, why even bother at this point?

Apple's Jony Ives: "We're Surrounded by Anonymous, Poorly Made Objects"

See, I don't think that's fair. Apple's products are well made.

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 Windows 8.1 Field Guide, which I'm now finalizing with Rafael Rivera. It's just about done.

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