WinInfo Short Takes: Week of May 3, 2010

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including Microsoft discontinuing a product that never actually existed, rumors about the HP Slate, Google Docs vs. Microsoft Office, Steve Jobs and his vicious attack on Adobe, that iPhone 4G theft, and so much more...

Microsoft Discontinues a Product It Never Sold or Even Announced

In a classic case of "wag the dog" pseudo-journalism, blogger sweatshop Gizmodo "reports" this week that the Microsoft Courier dual-screen tablet PC that it previously revealed to the world has been canceled by the software giant. This is interesting because Microsoft never once said it was making such a device. Instead, the Courier was just one of many internal designs Microsoft worked on briefly from an R&D perspective. But hey, don't let the details get in the way of an invented scoop or two.

Rumors Abound About HP Canceling the Windows 7-Based Slate. Head's Up: They're Only Rumors

Speaking of Tablet PCs, in the wake of HP's blockbuster $1.2 billion purchase of Palm this week, the rumor mill is tripping all over itself to "report" that HP has now canceled its previously announced HP Slate Tablet PC. There's just one problem: The company has said no such thing. A more likely scenario is that HP goes ahead with the Slate and then works concurrently on a version of the device, or a similar device, that runs Palm's webOS. In any event, despite a day or so of "RIP, Slate" stories, this much is clear: HP has yet to say anything about changing its plans for that device. When and if it does, I'll be sure to report on that.

Do People Really Believe that Google Docs Is Viable Competition for Microsoft Office?

Apparently, yes they do. According to the investment experts at The Motley Fool, Google is "eating Microsoft's cash cow" (i.e., Office) by offering a free online suite of applications, Google Docs, that competes (sort of) with Office, and via its Google Apps, also in a free version, that provides free email, calendaring, and some really lame other stuff we'll just pretend doesn't exist for purposes of this argument. The Motley Fool steps through the Google advantages: It's free (though there is a paid version), it's available on any computer (and not just on the 96+ percent that run Windows, and then only when online), it's "getting good enough" (a nod to the fact that Google Docs is functionally equivalent to what Word and Excel were like back in the MS-DOS days), and it offers real-time collaboration features (which I refuse to believe anyone uses for important work). So what is The Motley Fool's conclusion? Despite the fact that Google Docs has never actually affected Microsoft's Office business in any way whatsoever, "it looks more and more like Google is up to the task." Yawn.

Steve Jobs Is a Liar and a Hypocrite. Oh, and He Makes Great Products, Too!

Apple CEO Steve Jobs is no stranger to controversy, given his outspoken views on anyone who has the temerity to stand up to him. This has actually worked to his advantage because Jobs is a demigod to his acolyte-like followers, but he routinely steps over the line, as he did this week in an open letter addressing the Adobe Flash drama. Apple, you might recall, explicitly prevents Adobe from putting its Flash technology on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and it went so far as to actually prevent third-party companies—aka Adobe—from creating tools that would make it easier for developers to make apps that run on Apple's devices as well as on the web and other, competing devices. Why would Apple do such a thing? Because Apple doesn't want developers to be able to create different versions of their apps that run on other platforms. Apple wants developers to be locked into Apple's environment, so they'll ignore other platforms.

Of course, that's not how Jobs explains it. "It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps," Jobs claims. "It is their goal to help developers write cross-platform apps. And Adobe has been painfully slow to adopt enhancements to Apple’s platforms." He then points to a nearly 10-year old slight, in which Adobe was slow to create an OS X-specific version of Photoshop (just in case you thought the guy didn't hold a grudge).

There's lot of other insanity in this letter—outright lies, really. He says that Adobe's products are "100 percent proprietary," and notes that, by contrast, "Apple has adopted HTML5, CSS, and JavaScript—all open standards." He doesn't mention, however, that the iTunes Store, the iPhone developer approval process, and virtually everything else Apple does is also, as he says, "100 percent proprietary" and closed to outside scrutiny. He says that Adobe's claims that iPhone users can't access "the full web" is bogus, even though it isn't and he offers up no proof to the contrary. He talks up Adobe's "reliability, security, and performance," all without acknowledging that the only company that releases security fixes at the same alarming and unpredictable rate as Adobe is, sorry, Apple. He says that Flash would impact battery life but then notes that Flash has never actually been ported to any portable device, making that first claim somewhat curious. He says that the WebKit rendering engine is an open standard, even though it isn't, and even though the companies that use it all render web pages differently.

He says a lot of things. But what Jobs is really saying is very simple: The iEcosystem is Apple's playground, and if you want to play, you have to play by Apple's rules, and those rules benefit only Apple—not developers certainly, and ultimately not end users either. We as users of technology all benefit greatly from competition, but competition is something Apple doesn't want, and when it's missing, we all suffer greatly. And I am struggling to understand why people look up to this charlatan, because in the end, he's just a snake oil salesman, and he is not looking out for your best interests at all. Wake up, people. Apple does make great products. But the company is rotten, right from the top. And that rottenness is on public display this week, right on its website.

Adobe Responds to Apple's Charges

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen responded to Steve Jobs' caustic remarks—an "extraordinary attack," in his words—about his company and its products. "It's really a smokescreen," he says. "When you resort to licensing language to restrict this sort of development, it has nothing to do with technology." Now, developers who wish to target multiple devices will need two different workflows, one for Apple and one for everything else. And Flash is open, he says, adding, "I find it amusing, honestly. Flash is an open specification." Ultimately, of course, what this comes down to is different worldviews. Adobe believes in openness and Apple is all about lock-in. "We have different views of the world," he said. "Our view of the world is multi-platform." Mr. Narayen uses an Android phone, by the way, and not an iPhone. And Flash is coming to that platform this year.

iPhone 4G Finder "Regrets" Not Doing More to Return Phone to Apple

The hapless boob who "found" a prototype iPhone 4G last month and then sold it to the Gizmodo gadget blog for $5,000 now "regrets" not doing more to return the phone to Apple. I'm guessing this has more to do with the law enforcement officials and lawyers breathing down his neck than any moral rectitude, but whatever. "He regrets his mistake in not doing more to return the phone," the guy's lawyer said this week, and "believed—and Gizmodo emphasized to him—that there was nothing wrong in sharing the phone with the tech press." Of course he did. And who would know more about right and wrong than Gizmodo? Hopefully, Stephen Wagstaffe, the chief deputy district attorney for San Mateo County, which is investigating the case, does. Because I'd love to see those guys fry for this. They've given a black eye to the entire tech press/blogosphere community. Shame on all of them.

Amazon Adds Facebook, Twitter Support to the Kindle. Why, We'll Never Know.

Apparently not realizing that its Kindle device is an eBook reader and not a multi-function computing device such as the iPad, Amazon this week announced that it will be adding support for Facebook and Twitter to the Kindle in the next software update. Due in late May, the Kindle 2.5 update will make Amazon's device more social, which I'm sure is exactly what people expect to be while reading. Heads up, Amazon: I love the Kindle, but I love it because it does exactly one thing better than any other device, including the iPad. And that thing has nothing to do with social networking, and everything to do with reading.

Apple Kills LaLa ... Is the Service Heading into iTunes Next?

Once upon a time, there was a wonderful little online service called LaLa. It allowed you to back up your entire music collection to the cloud, for free. So I did—all 25GB worth. But then this year, something terrible happened: Digital media juggernaught Apple bought LaLa for an undisclosed sum. At first, not much changed. But then the company shut down new accounts. And this week, the worst news of all: LaLa is no more, even for existing customers. "Lala is shutting down," a message on the service's website reads. "The Lala service will be shut down on May 31, 2010. Members, uploads have been discontinued, \\[but\\] you can still use Lala through May 31, 2010." And that's it. Given that Apple has the dominant digital media platform thanks to its iTunes ecosystem, rumors have it that the company will implement the LaLa service in some future version of iTunes. For now, RIP LaLa. Ah well.

Ubuntu 10.4 Ships

I've basically given up on Linux—for many years, I constantly maintained PCs and virtual machines with the latest distributions—but if you're still curious, the version I always liked best was just updated this week, on its normal schedule: Ubuntu Linux 10.4 is now available in netbook, desktop, and server variants, and aesthetically it's the nicest version yet, with Canonical finally moving away from the awful brown palette that made previous versions so ugly.

Listen To, or Watch, the Windows Weekly podcast

Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, and as always there will be versions on both iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, in the coming days

But wait, there's more. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

TAGS: Windows 8
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