WinInfo Short Takes, July 27, 2012

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

Valve’s Gabe Newell Talks Up Future of Computing, Is Quoted Only for Windows 8 Criticism

If you’re looking for evidence of the tech media bias against Microsoft in general and Windows 8 in particular, look no further than a recent interview with Valve’s Gabe Newell. The video game maker behind the hit games Half-Life and Left 4 Dead discussed his take on the future of computing, including a very interesting bit about how the multi-touch interfaces we’re all so in love with today are really just a temporary step on the path toward true natural user interfaces (NUIs). But that’s not what the tech blogosphere wrote about. No, the entire Internet was apparently transfixed by his quickie comment that Windows 8 was a “catastrophe.” Sadly, they misquoted even that bit. What Newell really meant was that Windows 8 was bad for content creators like him—who, like him, have online services (Steam, in Valve’s case) that compete with services (like Xbox LIVE) that are built in to Windows 8. Newell is so nervous that Xbox LIVE will kill Steam that he’s even porting Steam to Linux so that he can sop up all seven users over there too. And you know what? That is a story. It’s just not the one you read this week. The one you read was also a story. But it was a science fiction story.

Earth to Gabe: Wake Up!

While we’re on the topic of Gabe Newell, I would like to point out the irony and hypocrisy of this guy calling any software product a catastrophe since, after all, his company has pretty much given up on ever finishing its Half Life 2 episodic trilogy, stranding gamers in a vaporware hell of its own making. You might recall that Valve’s lengthy development time (5 years) for Half-Life 2 was a source of embarrassment and frustration, so the company pledged to speed things up by quickly releasing a series of Half-Life 2 sequels, back to back, in smaller but quicker installments. It then quickly released Half-Life 2 Episode 1 in 2006, just 18 months after Half-Life 2. Then it released Episode 2 in late 2007, after another 18 months. And I’m no math expert, but it never did release Episode 3 to finish the storyline, and … let’s see … it’s been five years, Gabe! So, although the notion of Windows 8 as a catastrophe is just a theory, it’s a fact that Valve’s inability to deliver is very much a catastrophe. Pot, kettle, black.

Microsoft: No $99 Cent Windows 8 Apps in Windows Store

Microsoft this week confirmed that developers will be able to give Windows 8 apps away for free, provide trial versions of their apps, and charge $1.49 and up for them, too. What they won’t be able to do is hit the magical 99 cent price point … for some reason. (Microsoft has also set an upper limit on app prices at $999.99.) I find this odd, since 99 cents has developed into a standard of sorts, with that under-a-dollar price tag being seemingly ideal for impulse purchases. I’m guessing that the decision to up the minimum a bit is more to protect Microsoft from credit card charges than for any legitimate user or developer benefit: That’s the same reason it used Microsoft Points instead of real currency in its various online stores previously.

Microsoft Acknowledges Risk in Surface Strategy

In a regulatory briefing with the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Microsoft admitted something its executives have carefully ignored in public appearances this year: Its entry into the PC hardware market with the Surface line of tablets could adversely impact its relationship with PC makers and their dedication to sticking with Windows. “Our Surface devices will compete with products made by our OEM partners, which may affect their commitment to our platform,” the filing notes. But Microsoft feels it needs to jumpstart Windows on devices since users are increasingly moving to simpler devices, like tablets, over traditional PCs. “Users may increasingly turn to these devices to perform functions that would have been performed by personal computers in the past," the filing continues. "Even if many users view these devices as complementary to a personal computer, the prevalence of these devices may make it more difficult to attract application developers to our platforms.” Of course, PCs are still blowing away tablets. In the most recent quarter, one in which Apple sold a record-breaking 17 million iPads, PCs still outsold tablets by almost five to one.

Swedish Site Leaks Fake Surface Pricing, Causes Stir … Then Admits to Ruse

The tech blogosphere is so gullible. First, they fall for the Gabe Newell “catastrophe” story. Then, they believed it when a Swedish website no one had ever heard of published a $1,000 price for Microsoft’s upcoming Surface tablet. The responses were universally doom and gloom: "Microsoft has shot itself in the foot!" ... "They’re crazy!" ... and so on. Yeah. Too bad it was obviously a joke. First, that site: It’s a Swedish retailer. And since everyone has apparently checked their brains at the door, allow me to remind you that Microsoft said it would be selling Surface only through its own stores. Second is the price itself. Although $1,000 is not unreasonable for the Surface Pro—it is, after all, an Ultrabook-class, full-featured PC—it’s almost double what any reasonable person would expect as the price for the ARM-based Surface. That device will compete with the too-expensive iPad, whose average price of $665 (before the hundreds everyone spends on cases, screen protectors, docks, and other needless garbage) is a more likely starting point for Surface. Well, not that any of it matters. The Swedish site, called, later admitted it was all a ruse. After all, it can’t sell the Surface anyway. Remember?

This Week in Tech Patent Injunctions: Microsoft Obtains Ban on Sale of Motorola Handsets in Germany

Microsoft has at least temporarily won a ban on the sales of Motorola Android handsets in Germany. The Mannheim Regional Court ruled this week that Motorola has infringed on Microsoft patents related to the FAT file system and must stop selling infringing devices in the country. By my count, that’s a lot of them, too: It should impact all of Motorola’s Android phones. You know, it’s funny, but people ask me why Android and Linux licensees almost always license Microsoft’s patents as well. This is why, people. Because when you don’t, Microsoft takes you to court. And wins.

Samsung Confirms Its Lopsided Victory Over Apple, Sells More than 50 Million Smartphones

Samsung confirmed this week that it has outsold its nearest smartphone rival, Apple, by two to one, by selling more than 50 million smartphones in the most recent quarter; Apple sold 26 million. The largest smartphone maker in the world earned $4.5 billion on revenues of over $40 billion. So, even Samsung’s revenues were higher than those of Apple, which should stop the griping from the Apple goonsquad, which is desperate to prove that Samsung only wins by selling inexpensive junk in volume. That disproven, I’ll take it a step further: If you measure the size of a company by its revenues, as you should, Samsung is now the world’s largest technology company, period.

Facebook Growth Slows, Advertising Revenues Non-Existent

Well, now that Facebook is public, we can see what kind of car crash this company really is. And it ain’t pretty. The firm now has about 955 million active users, up from 901 million at the end of the last quarter, but user growth has slowed dramatically overall. User growth on mobile, however, has surged to over half of all users, which is great because Facebook doesn’t do much in the way of advertising on mobile, so it can’t monetize those users effectively. Revenue leaped 32 percent in the quarter, to $1.2 billion. But it actually posted a loss of $157 million, it says, because of stock-compensation charges related to its IPO. You see, Facebook was somehow valued at over $100 billion when it went public, which is one of those things that seems silly in retrospect, like a drunken decision that just made so much sense at the time. Well, now for the hangover: Facebook stock has landed with a resounding thud, and after trading in the $30s for a while, the stock dropped to a record low of $23 in the wake of the earnings announcement. Winning!

Listen to Paul. No, Really Listen. Or Watch. Or Both!

Andrew Zarian and I recorded the latest episode of the What The Tech podcast on Tuesday, and Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley, and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday. As always, these episodes should be available soon, generally in both audio in video formats, on the web, and via iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found. You can also find all of my podcast activities on the SuperSite for Windows.

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