Short Takes: December 6, 2013

Short Takes: December 6, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Windows 7, RIP

We all have the notion of Windows XP's pending end of support in the back of our heads, but an equally momentous milestone just passed with very little notice: Microsoft is no longer selling Windows 7 at retail. And an even bigger Windows 7 milestone is coming on October 30, 2014: That's the last day PC makers can sell Windows 7 with new PCs. The good news for Windows 7 fans, however, is that the system's mainstream support doesn't end until January 2015, while extended support lasts through January 2020, almost six years past XP's end days. Plus, with users just embracing Windows 8 en masse—cough—what's the worry?

Users Still Don't Get Windows 8

Speaking of Windows 8, how is everyone's favorite whipping boy doing these days? Well, there are already more people using the Windows 8.1 update than are using the latest version of Mac OS X, but that's no surprise. The big issue for Windows 8 is that users are still confused by its multiple personalities as it combines the traditional Windows desktop experience with a new mobile environment that everyone still calls Metro. (Shh! Don't tell Metro AG.) And perhaps not surprisingly, Windows 8 usage has dramatically lagged behind that of its predecessor, Windows 7, over similar periods of time. According to NetApplications, Windows 8 accounted for about 8.3 percent of all PCs in use a year after its release. But Windows 7, by that point in its life cycle, was already surging past 20 percent. The worst news? Windows 8 growth, month over month, is so tiny that the gap between its performance and that of Windows 7 is actually growing over time—and to Windows 8's detriment. Maybe it's time for Windows 8.2. And I have a two-word recommendation for Microsoft for that release: "Start. Menu."

Now We Know Where Microsoft's Engineers' Heads Really Are

Researchers at Microsoft have developed a so-called smart bra that is embedded with sensors to track such things as the wearer's moods, heart activity, and even food intake. I'm guessing that being prodded and alerted all the time will do little to help any woman's mood, but it's an interesting idea. Sadly, Microsoft has no intention to actually sell the bra, and I'm guessing arguments over where the Windows logo would go are at the heart of this issue. If you're curious about Microsoft's take on a smart bra, check out the research paper, "Food and Mood: Just-in-Time Support for Emotional Eating." And thank goodness men don't have overeating issues. Ahem.

US Government Briefly Works to Pass Patent Troll Bill

For the past 5 years or so, the US government has ground to a standstill thanks to rabid partisan politics and has rarely gotten anything done. But this week, in a rare moment of across-the-aisles cooperation, the US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at limiting the ability of patent trolls (in and out of the tech industry) to demand "nuisance" royalties of companies that are actually out there selling products to customers. Of course, a similar bill needs to find its way through the Senate, and that should happen sometime next year. Virtually every tech-industry heavyweight backs these measures, as you might expect. "These are common-sense reforms to curb abusive patent litigation," Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez noted. Heck, even Google backs the bills, speaking of across-the-aisle cooperation.

Google Lets Users Download Their Own Email and Calendar Data

I sort of assumed this was already possible, but Google revealed this week that Gmail users can now download their email and Google Calendar data. This is useful for anyone making the switch— anyone? How about Office 365?—but I do wonder whether this email dump will include all the crazy advertisements. I sort of hope so.

Amazon Fools Media, World with Bogus Drone Delivery System

Last week, Jeff Bezos was featured on the octogenarian-focused TV news show 60 Minutes, and the Amazon CEO wasted no time completely fooling interviewer Charlie Rose—and apparently all of media and the world—by announcing that the firm actually has plans to bypass UPS, FedEx, and the US Postal Service and deliver individual packages to customers' homes via remote-control drones. The sheer audacity of this absolute BS claim calls to mind such infamous chicanerists as PT Barnum, but the willingness with which everyone seems to have bought into this science fiction is even more awe-inspiring. The headlines about this "news," too, are priceless. There's the blandness of " is Developing a Drone Delivery Service," of course, but my favorite, perhaps, is either "Using Amazon drones is a good idea" or "Amazon's drones: What happens if my cat catches one?" People are so gullible. And the media? It just got played, big time.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Windows Phone 8, Paul Thurrott’s Xbox Music, and the currently in-progress Windows 8.1 Book, which I'm now writing—and publishing as we go—with Rafael Rivera.

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