WinInfo Short Takes: July 29, 2011

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including why the Windows Phone 7.5 RTM doesn't mean this update is done quite yet, of moronic bloggers and the lack of fact checking, MS-DOS turns 30, CNET accuses Microsoft of mobile privacy invasion, Apple is now the world's biggest smartphone manufacturer, Apple has more money than the US government, Nintendo slashes 3DS sales estimates, Android tablets continue to tank in the market, and Mary Jo Foley finally accepts my proposal.

Microsoft's RTM of Windows Phone Doesn't Mean It's Final Yet

I discussed this briefly in a news story this week, but I'd like to expand on that hear and explain what's up with Windows Phone 7.5, previously codenamed Mango. The RTM (release of manufacturing) of Mango this past week was a nasty surprise to me because my sources—at Microsoft, no less—have been insisting all year that the Mango development schedule would mirror that of its predecessor. That is, Microsoft would finalize the OS in September and launch the product in October. So when Microsoft RTM'd Mango, the Twitter blogger squad came after me with virtual pitchforks, mocking me for not getting it right. But the thing is, Mango still isn't done. And it won't be done until the mobile carriers and hardware makers—of which there are many—all make their own code check-ins and Microsoft adds and tests that code and ensures that it works properly with the core OS. And that process will take until ... wait for it ... probably September. (Microsoft won't finalize the developer tools until September either, and there's no "probably" attached to that one.) But, please, don't take my word for it. This is how Microsoft publicly described the process this week on its own corporate blogs. "This marks the point in the development process where we hand code to our handset and mobile operator partners to optimize Mango for their specific phone and network configurations," Microsoft's Terry Myerson wrote.  "It's important to remember that until the phone and mobile operator portion of Mango is complete, you're still using a pre-release [build] on your retail phone, no matter the Microsoft build," Cliff Simpkins wrote separately. "[Mango currently] only includes the Microsoft portion of the Mango update." Point being, as a reporter, I live and die by my sources. And my sources in this case happen to be from Microsoft. So while I get that they could still be wrong, in this case, I think reality will bear out, at least roughly, the schedule I've been told all along.

Speaking of the Twitter Blogger Squad...

Actually, there was a deeper reason some people weren't happy with me over the Mango schedule stuff. And that's that I had previously referred to certain bloggers as "moronic" in a post on my Windows Phone blog. But that statement is in fact defensible. A week before the actual Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango) RTM, a particular clueless blogger did in fact post about Mango being finalized. And that post was parroted on tech blogs far and wide, without a lick of fact checking or qualification. But even after Microsoft had publicly denied this baloney report, bloggers kept posting stories stating that Mango had RTM'd. So my "moronic" comment was directed at two groups: A very large group of bloggers who will simply repost anything they read online, true or not. And those bloggers who did so even after Microsoft had set the record straight. For some reason, this was a big deal for certain people. But again, I feel very comfortable with my description of these people as well. So there you go.

MS-DOS Turns 30.  And It Doesn't Look a Day Over 90

This week marked the 30th anniversary of MS-DOS, assuming you're willing to mark the date back to when Microsoft paid an enterprising local hacker for his somewhat controversial "port" of C/PM to the Intel x86 processor platform. On July 27, 1981, Microsoft paid Tim Patterson $50,000 for the rights to his 86-DOS operating system (also called Q-DOS) and turned it into MS-DOS. Actually, it was turned into IBM's PC-DOS, which is the name that IBM gave it; Microsoft's first standalone MS-DOS version didn't actually ship until 1982. Despite its arcane, command line user interface, MS-DOS dominated the personal computing landscape immediately, and did so for the next 10 to 15 years, until its more graphical successor, Windows, matured from a front-end UI to a full-fledged OS in its own right. Microsoft had a hard time dropping DOS, and when the company claimed in 1995 that its 32-bit Windows 95 OS had finally removed the need for DOS, another enterprising hacker, Andrew Schulman, effectively proved them wrong: Windows 95 very much relied on MS-DOS, even if Microsoft had tried to hide this fact. It wasn't until the release of Windows XP in 2001 that Microsoft finally removed DOS from the technical underpinnings of its mainstream Windows OSs, but one might argue that we still (sort of) wrestle with DOS today: The Command Line application in Windows 7 is basically just the latest MS-DOS runtime. And if you're a real glutton for punishment, the Server Core version of Windows Server 2008 R2 actually utilizes an MS-DOS based command line UI as its sole interactive interface.

CNET: Microsoft Mobile Map is a Privacy Disaster

A report on CNET alleges that Microsoft has been quietly gathering the locations of laptops, cell phones, and other Wi-Fi connected devices from around the world and makes those locations available on the web, via Bing Maps, in a manner that does not respect user privacy. If this story sounds a bit familiar, that's because it mirrors a similar claim against Google that was made over a month ago, and Google subsequently tightened security on its own mobile device map as a result. This latest witch hunt hasn't yet garnered a response from Microsoft, but based on the software giant's record, my guess is that they'll lock things down appropriately now that they've been alerted to the situation. But I guess I'm a bit underwhelmed by the charge as-is, and would be surprised if anyone could actually use this data to monitor, say, a particular smartphone.

Apple is Now the World's Largest Smartphone Maker ... And A Distant Number Two for Overall Smartphone Platform

In the second quarter of 2011, Apple surpassed both Nokia and Samsung (the latter, barely) to become the world's largest manufacturer of smartphones. But the OS that powers its smartphones, called iOS, is actually number two in the market behind Android. And it's a distant number two: Android smartphones, which are made by multiple hardware makers and sold by virtually every wireless carrier on earth, are outselling iPhones (which run iOS) by almost 2 to 1. It's not even close. But back to that Samsung thing. Interestingly, Samsung has also had a surge of its own, and while it wasn't quite enough to beat Apple, Samsung also surpassed Nokia in the quarter and is now the world's second largest maker of smartphones. Apple controls 18.5 percent of the worldwide market for smartphones, compared to 17.5 percent for Samsung. (Nokia fell from 38 percent to just 15.2 percent, year over year.)

Apple Has More Cash than the US Government

Speaking of Apple, everyone's favorite totalitarian state now has more cash on hand—$76 billion—than the US government—$74 billion—because the latter entity is embroiled in a heated political battle over the debt ceiling. There's really not too much I can say about this situation other than this: Clearly, this is a sign that we need to be taxing wealthy corporations more. It's time they did their part.

Nintendo Slashes 3DS Sales Estimates

While Nintendo once dominated the portable video game market with a series of hit products that included the Gameboy and DS, the company is finally waking up to the fact that the volume market for video gaming on the go belongs to smartphones and the iPod touch, and not to dedicated machines. The company recently unveiled the latest version of its flagship DS handheld, the 3D-capable 3DS, but consumers simply aren't buying it. And now Nintendo has slashed its sales estimates for 2011 by a whopping 40 percent and, not coincidentally, its annual profit estimate by an even bigger 70 percent. My advice to Nintendo is very simple: You have a lot of hit game franchises. But it's time to start porting them to the platforms people are really using. Don't become the Japanese version of Nokia.

Android Tablets Tanking in the Market

I'm not surprised by this in the slightest—as I keep warning potential customers, it's about the ecosystem, stupid—but Android-based tablets designed to compete with the iPad are tanking in the market. And they're starting to take down their hardware makers with them. Motorola this week announced its quarterly results this week, and let's just say that there weren't too many champagne bottles being cracked open anywhere near the company's corporate headquarters. Of particular note are its device sales. Motorola sold a total of 10.6 million devices in the quarter, 4.4 million of which were smartphones. (Apple, by comparison, sold over 20 million iPhones in the same time period.)  But the company's tablet sales were woeful even in a world populated with the RIM Playbook: Motorola sold only 440,000 Xoom tablets, compared to over 9 million Apple iPads sold. That's a 20-to-1 unit sales advantage for Apple. What's interesting here is that Motorola actually makes good products. It's DROID phones are well received, for example. But it hasn't been enough to stave off Apple on the high end. Or help it sell more smartphones than the "dumb phones" that still dominate its own portfolio.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

I'm happy to announce that Mary Jo Foley has agreed to permanently join the Windows Weekly podcast as cohost with Leo and I. We all recorded the latest episode of the show on Thursday as usual, but this time from the new TWiT studio, which looks beautiful. (I'll be visiting in person next month.) The new episode should be available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows, the SuperSite Blog, and on Windows Phone Secrets. Coming soon: Windows 8 Secrets!

TAGS: Windows 8
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