Short Takes: June 14, 2013

Short Takes: June 14, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

Office for iPhone Doesn’t Exactly Change Everything, but It’s a Nice Release

I’ve written an exhaustive review of the just-released Office Mobile for iPhone over at the SuperSite for Windows, but mulling over this app and all the pre-release rumors about Office or iOS (and Android), I’m most struck by how none of us saw this coming. I know Microsoft is developing a version of Office for iPad (although the company wouldn’t confirm this), and I had expected to see that product hit the market first. But Office Mobile for iPhone, as its name suggests, is simply the same Office Mobile product that Windows Phone users get for free … ported to the iPhone. That is, it’s not the full Office suite, and in retrospect that actually makes tons of sense. It lets you view and edit Office documents on the go but is no replacement for the full Office suite, which remains a tablet exclusive on Windows devices only. Given this fact, it’s reasonable to expect that the coming Office for iPad will indeed be Office Mobile, not full Office, and that this is the strategy: a lightweight experience on non-Microsoft platforms. I like it. Related: "Microsoft Now Comingling Windows and Office on New PC Devices"

Smartphone “Kill Switch” Is a Good Idea, but Common Sense Will Help in the Interim

Law enforcement officials from around the United States are calling on smartphone makers to build a “kill switch” into their devices that would render them inoperable when stolen, thus ending what can only be called the worst “first world problem” in history: the frequency of smartphone (and other digital device) thefts in this country. This is clearly a good idea. But you’ve seen people on the subway or bus, casually holding their expensive phones and iPads while not paying attention to the world around them, lost in an important game of Wordament or the latest news about the Kardashians. And although I’m not suggesting that they deserve to be robbed—per se—I am suggesting that a little common sense goes a long way. Like, don’t sit next to the door on the subway while flaunting your $650 Galaxy S4. Or don’t—ever­—take a photo with an iPad out in the world. No, seriously. Don’t ever do that.

Nokia Expected to Unveil a 41-Megapixel Windows Phone Handset in July

Nokia has invited the media to an event in New York City on July 11 (yes, I’ll be there) at which the company is expected to unveil a “true” EOS Windows Phone handset. (I previously pegged July as the release month for this phone, so I can pretty much confirm this.) If you’re not clear on what this means, the current version of this phone (called the PureView 808) runs Symbian, offers an amazing 41-megapixel camera that takes pictures of such stunning quality that they’re not even comparable to photos from today’s smartphone cameras. Will this be a game changer for Windows Phone? Maybe, but that huge camera bump means you really need to care about picture quality over virtually everything else. That said, I can’t wait to see what Nokia comes up with.

Symbian, RIP

Speaking of Nokia (and Symbian), the struggling smartphone maker is about to stop shipping its aging line of Symbian smartphones this summer so that it can focus exclusively on Windows Phone. (The firm also makes Asha feature phones, of course.) “The last Symbian phone we introduced was the Nokia 808 PureView, and that's fitting,” a Nokia statement notes. “This phone extended the platform's pioneering tradition and acted as a bridge for the next wave of innovation now seen in our latest models, such as the Lumia 925.” With Windows Phone handsets now outselling Symbian devices about 10-to-1, the timing makes sense, although it’s worth noting that Nokia sold hundreds of millions of Symbian devices over the years. It will be a while before Nokia can make that claim for Windows Phone.

Hints of NSA Surveillance Came Months Ago

In the wake of the NSA/FISA baloney that distracted the tech punditry from Apple for two seconds last week, there are some interesting signs that we actually knew about this stuff a long time ago. For example, in Eric Schmidt’s recently released book The New Digital Age, the Google chairman wrote that “governments operating surveillance platforms will surely violate restrictions placed on them (by legislation or legal ruling) eventually. The potential for misuse of this power is terrifyingly high, to say nothing of the dangers introduced by human error, data-driven false positives, and simple curiosity.” Now, to be fair, no one has actually read Schmidt’s book, nor should they, so it’s understandable that we all missed the tip. But what kills me is that actor Shia LaBeouf actually warned us about this in 2008 during a “Tonight Show” appearance. Yes, seriously. (Here’s a video of this discussion.) So this boob might have ruined the Indiana Jones movies, but we gotta give him this one.

Is There Anything More Heartwarming in the Morning than Apple at Trial for Antitrust Abuses?

Apple’s federal trial for collusion with the world’s biggest book publishers is underway, and this week “the ringleader” of Apple’s illegal ways—Eddie Cue—took to the stand. He defended Apple’s business practices, denying that he pushed publishers into illegally harming both Amazon and consumers by artificially raising the average price of ebooks from $9.99 to a range of $12.99 to $14.99. But the following exchange is perhaps my favorite. “Who protected consumers?” DOJ lawyer Lawrence Buterman asked Cue, in reference to consumer outrage over the sudden price increase. “I did,” Mr. Cue answered. “By charging them higher prices?” And … end scene. Related: "Finally, an Apple Antitrust Probe"

Microsoft Tries for Cross-Platform Gaming, Again

One could write a book about Microsoft’s various attempts at cross-platform gaming—I still hold up Shadowrun and the ultimately doomed XNA as perhaps the best examples—but this week the firm started talking up a new initiative, Project Dreamspark, that will help game makers create immersive open-world games that run across Windows 8, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. My reactions to this vary from “What? No Windows Phone??” to “Surely there’s more to cross-platform gaming than this!” but maybe we’ll see more in two weeks at Build. There, Microsoft will hopefully show off a truly cross-platform developer vision that ties the APIs and SDKs for Windows 8/Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox One together in one gooey, melty, WinRT mess. Hey, I can dream.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitterand the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free ebooks, Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Windows Phone 8 (currently in progress) and Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Xbox Music!

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