Short Takes: May 3, 2013

Short Takes: May 3, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

Xbox Fusion?

The most common rumor about the next Xbox is that Microsoft will inventively just name it “Xbox,” but that rumor became a bit murkier this week when bloggers discovered that the company has purchased several domain names that point to a new name for the console: Xbox Fusion. That said, Microsoft also owns domain names related to Xbox Next and Xbox Gold. And of course, Microsoft—wait for it—owns as well. I guess we’ll see. Related: "Here Comes the Next Xbox"

Winning Market Share for Windows Phone the Cheap and Easy Way

Although Nokia recently revealed that it sold more Windows Phone handsets in the preceding quarter than ever before, that milestone was reached without help from the United States: In the United States, sales of its Lumia smartphones actually declined year-over-year. But the firm has a plan, and it’s one that has worked well for its overseas markets to date: Attack with super-low-cost phones. And in the United States, that means variants of its Lumia 520—a phone that sells for roughly $150 sans contract. That’s an amazing price for a new phone running the latest software, and when you compare it with the market leaders (iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy whatever it is this week, which cost $600 to $750 unsubsidized), you can see why Nokia's hopes are pretty high. The Lumia 52x—the T-Mobile version is called the 521—is no doubt a fine phone. But I’m personally a bit more interested in the mid-level Nokia Lumias—like the 720—that kind of split the difference with reasonably powerful cameras and better specs. At the right price, those phones could also help a lot in Nokia’s bid to make up its market-share losses and reverse the trends of the past few years. Related: "Report: Windows Phone Sees 'Steady' Growth in the United States"

Windows 8 Page on Wikipedia Vandalized

Wikipedia’s egalitarian approach to building an Encyclopedia Galactica took a hit this week when ne’er-do-wells—read: Apple fans—“vandalized” the entry for Windows 8, making it appear as if no one liked Microsoft’s latest Windows version. “Everyone hated Windows 8,” the new entry read. “The interface was useless, it looked like a drag queen on steroids. And the operating system is extremely unstable on mobile devices, which would guaranteeing angry shoppers who has used a mobile device that ran on a Windows OS before [sic]. Save yourselves and use either an iPad or an Android mobile device.” Now, that is totally unfair. Windows 8 has nothing to do with steroids.

Windows 8 Might Be Sputtering, but Internet Explorer 10 Usage Surges

Earlier this week, we learned that Windows 8 is seeing a very slow uptick with users, garnering just 3.82 percent usage share in April 2013, about a tenth the usage of the 12-year-old Windows XP. But Windows 8 isn’t necessarily holding back Internet Explorer (IE) 10, which is bundled with the OS. According to NetApplications, which also provided the Windows 8 usage data cited above, IE 10 surged from 2.93 percent usage share in March to 6 percent in April. Now, a big part of this is due to the fact that IE 10 is now available to Windows 7 users, of course. But it’s still an important point because overall IE usage has remained constant over many months now: It still commands 56 percent usage share, compared with 20 percent for Firefox and just 16 percent for Google Chrome. And that Chrome figure is 3 percentage points lower than it was a month earlier, meaning that the change was entirely due to IE, or, more specifically, IE 10. That is, Chrome’s month-over-month fall was identical to IE 10’s month-over-month increase. Interesting. Related: "Microsoft Stock Surges as Windows 8 Sputters"

Remind Me Again Why Microsoft Invested in NOOK?

When Barnes & Noble last year settled its Android-based patent-licensing spat with Microsoft on the eve of a trial and announced a NOOK partnership with Microsoft, many assumptions were made. Key among them was that we could look forward to a future NOOK tablet running Windows 8 or Windows RT. But in late 2012, Barnes & Noble announced a new lineup of NOOK tablets, all of which were based on Android, not Windows. And this week, the firm announced that it would add the Google Play app and content store to its NOOK tablets. (Previously, it had offered a subset of Android apps on the devices, as Amazon does with the Kindle tablets.) So I have two thoughts there. Microsoft’s investment in NOOK was an absolute waste of time and money. And NOOK users will now be able to install the Android version of Amazon’s Kindle app on their devices. Which they should.

Relax, Intel Just Hired Another Middle-Aged White Guy

For months, we’ve waited with bated breath, wondering whether Intel would take the momentous step of replacing outgoing CEO Paul Otellini with an Intel outsider or—gasp!—a woman, injecting a new way of doing things into a company that, let’s face it, is sort of treading water these days. But like the old-school organizations on which it is modeled—the Catholic Church, perhaps, or the Republican Party—Intel stuck with what works, or at least what used to work. And it hired yet another middle-aged white guy from within. Brian Krzanich, whose name is so hard to pronounce it has to be explained (Krah-ZAN-itch), will take over the reins at Intel in two weeks, on May 16. He was previously Intel’s COO. Shocker.

Biggest Tech News of the Year: Call of Duty: Ghosts

Say what you will about Windows 8.1 “Blue,” the next Xbox, or rumored Apple TVs and watches, but the biggest tech news of 2013 is clearly that Activision’s Infinity Ward studio will follow up the successful Modern Warfare trilogy with a new Call of Duty game series called Ghosts. OK, maybe this isn’t a big deal to you, but when you consider how absolutely huge the past several Call of Duty games have been, this is still huge news. No? Not the “entirely new story, setting and cast of characters, all powered by a new, next-generation Call of Duty engine that redefines the series for the next generation”? Hmmm. How about this: The game will be unveiled at the Xbox v.Next reveal event on May 21 and will run on that and other next-generation consoles in addition to existing boxes like the Xbox 360. Nothing? Well. There’s only one way to settle this: Team Deathmatch!

But Wait, There's More

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