Short Takes: August 23, 2013

Short Takes: August 23, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Stock Analyst Calls for Change at Microsoft

Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund this week upgraded Microsoft stock from "neutral" to "buy," but with an interesting caveat: He's doing so in the hopes that activist investors at ValueAct will buy a bunch of stock, triggering a stock price jump and garnering them a seat on Microsoft's board. And it will do so in order to drive some change at the company, which could include borrowing money for a huge stock buyback, using income from international markets to pay a dividend, shipping a real version of Office for iPad, rethinking its online search business (which has lost $17 billion over a decade), and rethinking its Xbox product line, which is cool but also has never made any money for the company (as I've pointed out many times). The theory is that if Microsoft were to act on any of these ideas, the stock price would jump. Hey, what the heck. Nothing else has worked. And that goes back to the Clinton administration, basically. Related: "Lots of Hand-Wringing in Wake of Microsoft Earnings Report"

Germany Jumps the Shark, Claims Windows 8 Is a Security Risk

As with any excellent conspiracy theory, the rationale for this claim is so vague as to be pointless. Which, of course didn't stop every tech blog on Earth from covering it as if it were legitimate news. Germany's Federal Office for Information Security said in a statement this week that governments and critical infrastructure operators should be leery of Windows 8 because its use of Trusted Platform Module (TPM) hardware—which was also available in Windows Vista and Windows 7—could result in a "loss of control" of the system's OS and hardware, although it never explains how or why such a thing could happen. "As a result, new risks occur for users, especially for federal and critical infrastructure." Um, what? "The new mechanisms in use can also be used for sabotage by third parties," it further claimed. "These risks need to be addressed."

Not Insane Enough? Let's Add the NSA to the Mix!

So, the previous blurb is based on information on a public governmental website. But if that's not nuts enough, let's turn to the conspiracy theorists to turn things up a notch. Patrick? "The so-called Trusted Computing is a back door for the NSA," a report in the German-language Zeit Online claims (at least according to Google Translate). "The operating system contains a back door ... This backdoor is called Trusted Computing and could have the effect that Microsoft can control any computer remotely and control. And thus the NSA." And thus the NSA?? That is a flabbergasting leap of logic, folks. "The user of a trusted computing system loses control of their computer ... Microsoft could decide which programs can be installed on the computer, make already established programs unusable, and subsequently help intelligence to control other computers." But let's examine the NSA tie-in just a bit more. "In light of the Snowden revelations, it takes little imagination to see TPM 2.0 and Windows 8 as a back door for the NSA, just waiting to be opened." Actually, I think it takes a fairly impressive imagination. And not a little bit of crazy. Related: "German Government Says Windows 8 Is a Trojan Horse for the NSA?"

Still Not Insane Enough? How About the Chinese?

Ready for Stage 3 Crazy(tm)? This guy adds the Chinese to the mix, too. "One must assume that the NSA could compromise the corresponding computer [system], just the way the Chinese [could if] the TPM chip was manufactured in China." I'm sorry. One must assume? Oh boy.

Has Windows 8.1 Been Finalized?

No word yet from Redmond, but a generally reliable source of information about Windows product leaks says that the final build number of the product is 6.3.9600.16384. That's certainly logical and consistent with previous information, and thus plausible. (See how I used cause and effect in a non-insane way there? It's possible.)

Reminder: Windows XP Support Will End on April 8, 2014

That is all.

Microsoft Transitions From Points to Pesos

If you're an Xbox 360 users, it's a big day today: Microsoft has transitioned away from Microsoft Points (that crazy scheme under which users gave Microsoft loans and were then never able to spend the Points they purchased) to your local currency. So, if you sign on to your console today and initiate a purchase, you'll be prompted with information about the change, and any remaining Points you have will be converted to money. This change affects other places where Microsoft Points were used, including Zune Marketplace (where the solution was to simply turn off purchases) and Windows Phone. But don't cry a tear for Microsoft Points. This is the currency Clippy would have used.

Accessory Makers Shifting From iPhone to Samsung Products

In just the latest sign that Apple's hold on the mobile industry is waning, Chinese mobile device accessory makers are shifting away from the iPhone and starting to support the Samsung products that overwhelmingly outsell it. "The market is now moving toward Samsung and brands from China, so we've enlarged our product line," Vincent Kwok, CEO of accessory maker Magic Kingdom, told Bloomberg. "Expanding our product line has reduced the risk for us. To focus on Apple is too dangerous." Of course, life on the Samsung side isn't as simple: Whereas Apple sells only a handful of aging designs, Samsung sells many different devices, all of which come in different sizes, and this complicates the manufacturing of accessories such as protective cases. But these guys at least get the problem. "Apple has no fresh ideas, no new designs," Stella CEO Hans Han said. "The market changes very quickly. If you don’t change, you will die." Tim Cook's Apple is a lot of things, but "quickly moving" isn't one of them.

1999 Called and It Wants Its Internet Giant Back

According to the market researchers at comScore, beleaguered Internet also-ran Yahoo! was somehow the world's most visited Internet destination in July, edging out Google. It's the first time Yahoo! has held this position since 2011, although I'm surprised it was that recently. Yahoo! only beat Google by a small amount—196.6 million unique visitors versus 192.3 million for Google, and Microsoft, Facebook, and AOL took up the rest of the top five. ( was number six.) So how did this happen exactly? There are only theories. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer said recently that the firm had been experimenting with the placement and performance of search results. And of course, Yahoo! has been making improvements to many of its web services across the board. Whatever it is, it appears to be working. Not bad for a "flailing dinosaur." And I assumed that others are noting with wonder and awe that 1990s stalwart AOL—AOL!—is somehow in the top five still. What the ...?

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Windows Phone 8 and Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Xbox Music. Next up: Windows 8.1 Book!

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