An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
The New York Times Flips Windows Phone 7 the Bird
How do you extend a middle finger toward Redmond if you're a member of the mainstream press? I mean, Microsoft just released its innovative and exciting Windows Phone 7 smartphone OS. How could you possibly dump all over this thing? Well, if you're Wall Street Journal technology maven and Apple lover Walter Mossberg, you simply write an unfair review that ignores the product's best features and harps on obvious if little-needed functional miscues such as the lack of copy and paste. But at least Mossberg wrote a review. This week, New York Times technology reviewer (and, yes, Apple lover) David Pogue devoted his own column not to Windows Phone but—get this—earbud headphone accessories. This column could run anytime. It's not topical or timely. But he ran it the week Microsoft shipped its biggest and most important platform in a decade. If that's not a giant "[email protected]#$ YOU, Microsoft," I don't know what is.
Windows Phone 7 on a Tablet? Maybe.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Windows Phone makes far more sense as a tablet-type UI than Apple's iPhone-based iOS and HP's Palm webOS. And I've repeatedly asked Microsoft to consider porting it to such a form factor, if only to thwart the iPad silliness that's currently gripping the industry. To date, Microsoft has simply said, in effect, "No, the Windows Phone OS is for phones, not tablets." But at a Gartner conference this week, Ballmer hinted, finally, that it could happen. "This is Windows too," he said, holding up a Windows Phone. "I'm not making some grand technology statement. It could be this Windows, it could be the other Windows ... The technical details I'm not getting into today ... We get different UIs." OK, nothing definitive, and in truth he was being a bit dramatic because of the constant questions from the boobs from Gartner. But I do think this is something Microsoft is looking it. It had better be.
Windows 8 to Be Microsoft's "Riskiest" Product
Speaking of Ballmer and the Gartner show, Microsoft's CEO had an interesting response when asked what the company's "riskiest product bet" was. He replied, "The next version of Windows"—meaning Windows 8. And this of course touched off rampant rumors about the meaning of the statement, chief among them being that maybe, just maybe, Microsoft actually has big plans for Windows 8. I don' think that's it. See, Microsoft has a weird problem on its hands. Windows 7, its current Windows version, has been so successful—too successful, if you catch my meaning—that there's just no way the next one will ever live up to the hype. I mean, how do you follow up a smash hit? Even Apple coughed up a hairball when it followed Mac OS X Leopard with ... ugh... the buggy and uninteresting Snow Leopard. This, people, is the problem Microsoft faces. I mean, you don't want to pull an Apple.
Elop Already Cutting Costs, Deadwood, and Expectations at Nokia
Ex-Microsoftie Stephen Elop has wasted no time making his mark as the new CEO of Nokia, the struggling cell phone giant. This week, the company announced plans to shelve 1,800 jobs and completely change the way it delivers new products. So, instead of pre-announcing products and then disastrously delaying them again and again (as it did with this year's N8 smartphone), Nokia won't announce products until they're ready. And instead of licensing rival smartphone platforms such as Android and Windows Phone 7, as has been widely rumored, Nokia will ramp up development of the MeeGo OS, which is based on Linux. Elop says that adopting a rival OS would harm Nokia's ability to differentiate, which is exactly right. But then relying on yet another mobile OS at a time when we arguably already have too many mobile OSs is a gamble, too. Just ask Palm. Or HP. Or whoever owns them now.
The iPad Is the New Nintendo Wii ... and That's Not a Compliment
Remember the Nintendo Wii? Nintendo sold millions of them and dominated the video game market for almost four straight years before sales fell off a cliff. But the dark, dirty secret of the Wii is that those sales were pretty much the extent of the platform's success: Few Wii owners ever purchased more than a game or two, and most Wii consoles are sitting in a corner now, gathering dust—rarely if ever used. Well, it appears that the iPad is following the same trajectory, albeit in a tighter timeline. In the wake of Apple's quarterly results, in which far fewer iPads were sold than anyone expected, Nielsen reveals that a full third of iPad owners have never installed even a single app on the thing. Not even a free app. Which leads me to believe that the iPad is exactly what I pegged it to be in the beginning: nothing more than a gotta-have-it, trendy, techno-fashion statement, one that people bought to look like they were hip and savvy. And as for those people who actually do use the thing—after all, they did invest several hundred dollars in it, so it better be good for something—they are, as predicted, simply consuming content. There could literally be millions of first-generation iPads gathering dust in people's home offices already. This product is the tech industry's biggest MacGuffin yet.
Microsoft Opening an Online Store for Windows Games
Microsoft this week revealed that it will launch a web-based online store for Windows games called Games for Windows Marketplace, which will augment its pre-existing (though no one knew about it) Games on Demand service. which is part of Games for Windows - LIVE, Microsoft's horribly named version of Xbox LIVE for Windows. Whew! Just writing that was painful. Anyway, Games for Windows Marketplace will offer at least 100 titles at launch and, like so many other Microsoft products these days, requires a Windows Live ID. Will gamers rally around Microsoft's umpteenth attempt to resuscitate its PC-based gaming efforts? No. Of course not.
Apple Jumps the Shark with iOS Features on Mac OS X
Or as I like to call it, "the dumbening." Apple's OS X software has always been quixotic. It's billed as "easy to use" but is in fact Spartan and inscrutable. And anyone who watched this week's demo of the next version, called Lion, surely felt a sinking feeling that Apple just doesn't get it when it comes to interacting with a computer. First, we witnessed Craig Federighi, Apple's vice president of engineering for Mac OS X, repeatedly fumble around with bizarre and clearly hard-to-use and hard-to-remember multitouch gestures, using Apple's ergonomically dangerous Tragic Mouse. (Go watch the video and see it for yourself. If the guy in charge of OS X finds this difficult, something is wrong.) And then there was the real jump-the-shark moment, when the company revealed that it would bring the dated and horrible grid-of-icons UI to Mac OS X, just in case the system wasn't dumb enough as it is. Guys, we get it: It's hard to make something this mature look new and different. But complicated multitouch gestures and a dumb UI from iOS aren't the answer. Most of the Lion stuff was just embarrassing.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday, as usual. It should be available by the weekend on the Zune Marketplace, in iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats. Next week's podcast, if all goes well, will be recorded live from Microsoft's PDC.
But Wait, There's More
My next book, Windows Phone Secrets, is now complete and will ship in late October.