WinInfo Short Takes: June 24, 2011

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including Nokia's first Windows Phone revealed, Mango heading to developers soon, FTC prepping Google antitrust charges, the return of the Winklevoss twins, a XAML mystery of sorts, Mozilla hates corporations, Apple prepping for Google-less iPhone future, Google preps Skype killer, Yahoo CEO is clueless, and Quake turns 15...

Nokia Reveals First Windows Phone: Familiar, Yes, but Drool-Worthy

Nokia inadvertently (or was it "advertently"?  ... wait, that is a word?) revealed its first Windows Phone handset this week, a device that's codenamed "Sea Ray" and bears a suddenly-not-that-surprising resemblance to the recently revealed N9. Which is to say, it's gorgeous. The N9, as you may recall, features a beautiful, colored metallic shell that's vaguely reminiscent of the old iPod nano, with a Gorilla Glass screen, a "pillow shaped" back with an 8 megapixel Carl Zeiss lens-based HD camera, and so on. If this is the kind of industrial design Nokia is bringing to Windows Phone, sign me up: This phone looks awesome. I can't wait to see more.

Windows Phone "Mango" Heading to Developers Soon

Sometime soon, perhaps as soon as this week, developers will get their hands on the recently released Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" beta code, allowing them to begin testing new Mango-based phone apps in the months before the update is shipped out to all Windows Phone users. Microsoft allowed reviewers (such as myself) to write about this beta release this past week, but a broader release to developers should really open up the virtual floodgates. According to various rumors, developers will also be getting flashable ROMs for existing devices so that they can "flash" the devices to Mango without needing to ship them back to Microsoft temporarily or obtain new devices. (Reviewers like me received new loaner devices with Mango-preinstalled.) But I have no information about that one.

FTC Preps Antitrust Assault on Google

To which I say, simply: It's about fricking time, people. According to various reports, the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is broadening its investigation of Google's search engine to determine whether the online giant is pushing users towards its others services. Such a move would be anticompetitive, of course, and very much like the behavior Microsoft employed when it bundled and co-mingled other Microsoft products and services with its dominant Windows OS a decade ago. In fact, the behavior is so similar, so virtually identical, that one has to wonder whether this little ordeal won't end up in a similar place, with Google squaring off against antitrust regulators in court. I'm crossing my fingers. This company got too big too fast and it did so with too little oversight. They are now the arbiters of information all around the world, and I'm surprised that doesn't worry more people.

We're baaaaaccccck! Winklevoss Twins Attack Facebook Again

Just days (hours?) after the Winklevoss twins announced via their attorneys that they would not appeal a recent court decision in their Facebook suit with the US Supreme Court, they revealed it was all just a funny, funny, joke. Well, they're not resuming the old case, which resulted in a $65 million settlement with Facebook. No, this is a new case. The twins are now asking a Boston federal court to investigate whether Facebook "intentionally or inadvertently suppressed evidence" during their previous Facebook suit. Facebook reacted predictably. (Did Facebook post this on the company's Wall, one wonders?) "These are old and baseless allegations that have been considered and rejected previously by the courts," a Facebook attorney said. Ooh, I bet you wish Facebook had a "Dislike" button now, eh? At issue is evidence acquired from Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg's PC during the earlier investigation; in stored IM messages from the Harvard days, when Zuckerberg screwed over the Winklevoss twins by stealing their idea for a service identical to Facebook, the guy actually admitted what he was doing "I'm going to [expletive] them," he wrote in one IM. "They made a mistake haha. They asked me to make it for them. So I'm like delaying it so it won't be ready until after the Facebook thing comes out." Haha, indeed. Hahahaha.  

Much Ado About Nothing? Microsoft Splits Developer Group Between Windows, Windows Phone

This one is sort of hard to explain, but then I think that's a big part of the reason it's not that big a deal. But Mary Jo Foley is reporting that Microsoft has split up its "XAML team," with some members of that team ending up on Windows and some heading for Windows Phone.  (XAML is an XML-based, declarative markup language for Microsoft platforms that's used in tandem with "real" programming languages to create app user interfaces.) So what does that mean, and how does it relate to the recent developer uproar over the HTML 5-based development model for Windows 8? I'm not sure it means anything. The people working on XAML technologies for Windows will move to Windows. Makes sense. The people working on XAML technologies for Windows Phone, Xbox, and the browser plugin will move to Windows Phone. Makes some sense. Others will stick with the developer division. OK. And... what? I'm not sure this does a thing to hint at future directions (will Microsoft provide a native dev experience for Windows 8 that includes XAML, C#, and Silverlight?) one way or the other. So my basic point here is, yes, something minor has happened. But no, I don't think we can derive any conclusions from this change.

Mozilla Says "Screw You, Corporations" with Latest Firefox Update

While the blogosphere was busy this week slapping Mozilla on the back for actually meeting a product deadline for once and shipping the next "major" release of its Firefox browser, version 5.0, just months after 4.0, there's been a growing chorus of users that isn't so impressed. Businesses, in particular, are looking for something that's more measured from a release schedule, and Firefox—like Chrome and Safari, by the way—also lacks the deep deployment and management functionality that's present in Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which explains the real reason why IE is so entrenched in businesses. So why would Mozilla forsake the few business customers that have decided to standardize on Firefox regardless? Because they just don't care about business users, that's why. "A minute spent making a corporate user happy can better be spent making many regular users happy," Mozilla's Asa Dotzler wrote, responding to complaints. "I'd much rather Mozilla spending its limited resources looking out for the billions of users that don't have enterprise support systems already taking care of them." So. There you go.

Apple Getting Ready to Evict Google from iPhone

When Apple announced the first iPhone in 2007, it was careful to play up partners such as Google (search, maps) and Yahoo (the only push email available on the device at the time). But since then, Apple has taken a far more adversarial approach with the iPhone, especially with regards to Google, which essentially betrayed Apple by releasing its own competing smartphone platform, one which "borrows" many ideas from iPhone. This strained relationship has triggered rumors that Apple was getting ready to push the remaining Google services off of the iPhone, but with each passing iOS software update, that hasn't happened. Well, until now. Developers looking at the recently released iOS 5 beta software have discovered references to a variety of non-Google mapping services that weren't there before, and the guess here is that Apple is finally getting ready to jettison at least Google Maps from the iPhone. Apple being Apple, the resulting maps service(s) will need to be palpably better than whatever Google offers, so the existence of multiple services may be what solves that problem. So we'll see what happens. But it's pretty clear that Apple is at the very least preparing itself for a post-Google future.

Google Prepping Skype Killer

The dust still hasn't settled on Microsoft's proposed purchase of Internet communications giant Skype, but the companies' biggest online competitor is already launching a counterattack: Google this week announced an addition to its popular Gmail service and Chrome browser that will provide Skype-like audio and video chat capabilities to its users. Google calls the solution WebRTC (for Web real time chat), and it's based on technologies from a company called Global IP Solutions (GIPS) that it purchased last year. Google says WebRTC will be open source and royalty free so that anyone can use it in any browser, site, or service. And some of the less insightful blogs and tech websites are already declaring this initiative as the end of Skype. Let's not get ahead of ourselves, people. Google's success rate is still pretty bad, and if this company was a major league baseball player, it would have been sent back to the farm league a long time ago. Just something to remember.

Yahoo CEO Finally, If Briefly, Finds Out What People Really Think About Her

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is an odd bird: She's profane and adversarial, and yet despite doing absolutely nothing to turn the ailing online giant around over the past couple of years, she's been curiously immune to criticism. Well, no more. After a bizarre annual shareholder's meeting that was basically an orchestrated love-fest for Bartz, a shareholder with a bit of common sense finally got hold of the microphone in the waning minutes of that meeting and gave Bartz a much-needed dose of reality. "The tone of this meeting is as if the stock is at a 52-week high, not languishing for three years," the shareholder said, finally breaking the strange positive overtone of the meeting. "I'm going to address the elephants in the room. I think this is a lot of what shareholders are talking about but won't say. [I heard] that the board is talking to other CEOs. The last thing Yahoo needs right now is a lame duck CEO ... Yahoo cannot afford another exodus of talent, and I think this is likely if Carol remains for the duration of her contract." Bartz curtly thanked the only honest guy in the room for his opinion, described the exchange as a "downer" and then closed the meeting before anyone else with a brain in his head could speak up. No offense, Ms. Bartz, but you're the captain of the Titanic. Either steer the ship or step aside and let someone else do it. Yahoo is already irrelevant. Are you just trying to make it extinct now?

Quake Turns 15

The id Software video game "Quake" turned 15 years old this week, causing some introspection since this was one of many, many early video games on which I spent a monumental amount of time. It's hard to overstate how impressive and influential Quake was at the time, with its true 3D environments, optional 3DFX-based realistic graphics, and, courtesy of a mod-rific QuakeWorld add-on, unbelievable online multiplayer capabilities. Quake was the real deal, and unlike today's blockbuster games, it was in heavy use for several long years around the world, thanks to a variety of innovative and fun add-ons (like the Rune Quake online variant I preferred) and, it should be said, it's enduring playability. Quake was the game that moved keyboard-based PC players to the then-new keyboard + mouse model, thanks to its amazing "free look" mouse capabilities, and it established the 3D shooter as a genre that dominates to this day thanks to more modern titles such as "Call of Duty," "Gears of War," and "Halo." Quake was later followed up with a bewildering array of successful sequels, including Quake 2, the amazing (and still excellent pure multiplayer game) Quake III Arena, and Quake IV. So thanks to John Carmack and the gang at id for so thoroughly consuming my young adult life.  I look forward to the next game, Rage, and, I'm hoping, a Quake V. No, seriously. You must do this.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly on Thursday as usual and the new episode should 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!

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