Short Takes: June 28, 2013

Short Takes: June 28, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a few days of vacation after a busy week at Build, an update on the Microsoft reorg timing, Build day 2, a cheap Xbox One ploy by Microsoft at Build, an even weaker showing for Windows Phone, Sony sacrifices camera accessory to undercut Xbox One, Samsung’s naming morass, and Blackberry’s red quarter.

Taking a couple of days off

After an incredibly busy week covering Build and writing about the important changes coming in Windows 8.1, I’m going to experiment with doing something I’ve not done in 10 years (literally): Take a few days off: My wife arrives here in San Francisco this morning, and we’ll be spending a long weekend in Sonoma. I’ll try to relax. :) Before that, however, I’ve got the Windows Weekly live podcast event the TWiT Brick House in Petaluma this evening. So if you’re in the area and are attending that event, see you soon. Otherwise, I’ll be back to work on Tuesday. In the meantime, be sure to catch up on the SuperSite for Windows where, among other things, I’ve already written over 20 hands-on articles about Windows 8.1.

Microsoft reorg update

You can expect Microsoft to announce a massive new corporate reorganization at its Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston about a week from now, ahead of the MGX event I had previously pegged for the announcement. Stay tuned. :)

Build Day 2: Services

Microsoft Server & Tools president Satya Nadella opened the second day of the firm’s Build 2013 conference, rallying developers to what Microsoft sees as one of the most crucial pieces of the modern developer story: back-end services. “Developers are increasingly demanding a flexible, comprehensive platform that helps them build and manage apps in a cloud- and mobile-driven world,” Nadella said. There’s something really interesting about this guy: I joked on Twitter that the current CEO of Microsoft gave the Build day 1 keynote and that the next CEO gave the day 2 keynote. I sort of wasn’t kidding.

Microsoft throws developers an Xbox BOne, but it’s not enough

After I complained that this year’s Build conference was suspiciously lacking in information about two of Microsoft’s most important platforms—Windows Phone and Xbox One—both of which were heavily advertising in pre-show promotions, the firm threw developers interested in the Xbox One, at least, a bone: In the coyest and strangest thing I’ve seen in a Microsoft keynote event in years, it was hinted that developers who targeted the “modern” environment (i.e., Metro) in Windows 8/RT today would be well positioned to port those apps to Xbox One … sometime, vaguely, in the future. This is a far cry from what I expected to see—that is, full Visual Studio support for a WinXRT set of APIs that would look and work much like WinRT in Windows 8/RT and WinPRT in Windows Phone 8—and was hugely disappointing to the many developers who paid big money to attend this show and be part of what they rightfully assumed would be the opening wave of Xbox One apps. Way to go, guys.

So what about Windows Phone?

So Microsoft sort-of dealt with the Xbox One issue. What about Windows Phone? In the Build day 1 keynote, Microsoft carted out exactly four current-generation Windows Phone handsets, two of which are already available and two others that will ship soon on laggard Sprint. In the day 2 keynote, Microsoft revealed that a handful of notable new apps—Voxer, Walgreens, and ABC News—had shipped on the platform. And … that was it. No information about a coming Windows Phone 8.1 release—which sources say has slipped into the first half of 2014—and no information about even closer updates like GDR2 and GDR3 (where GDR stands for General Distribution Release). And all of the Windows Phone sessions at Build were about the platform that launched 9 months ago. Maybe BlackBerry’s troubles (see below) have the company feeling confident for some reason. But this platform is on the ropes. I’d love to see someone at the company at least pretend to care about this.

Internet Explorer 11 heading to Windows 7 too

With Microsoft finally revealing Internet Explorer 11 as a feature of Windows 8.1 in the Preview released this week, the inevitable question emerges: Will this browser be made available on Windows 7 as well (as was IE 10 before it)? And the answer, Microsoft says, is yes. “Internet Explorer 11 will be available for Windows 7, but we do not have anything to share today regarding timing,” a Microsoft representative said, also answering my next question. PR people are so smart.

Report: Sony “sacrificed” the PlayStation 4 Eye to undercut Xbox One pricing

Sony got an undeserved amount of good press a few weeks back by capitalizing on Microsoft’s horrific messaging around the Xbox One during the E3 press conference battles. But the firm’s biggest win—its $100 cheaper pricing of the PlayStation 4—was accomplished by subterfuge. According to IGN, Sony originally intended to price the PS4 at $499, just like the Xbox One. But when it caught wind of Microsoft’s pricing, it realized it could score a PR coup if it could just lower the PS4 price. And it did … by removing the PS4 Eye from the console. (Where Microsoft bundles the similar Kinect sensor.) By removing the Eye as built-in equipment, Sony has nullified on advantage of the PS4’s controller, which features a movement tracker that won’t work without the Eye. And it’s also fragmented the user base, meaning that less games will take advantage of this functionality since it’s optional. Which, folks, is why Microsoft refused to remove Kinect from the Xbox One.

Attention, Samsung: You have too many devices using the Galaxy S4 name

That is all.

Game over for BlackBerry

Looks like BlackBerry’s last-ditch attempt at a comeback has come up soft: The firm announced this week that it sold just 2.7 million BlackBerry 10 handsets in the previous quarter en route to losing $84 million on revenues of $3.1 billion. Worse, the BlackBerry user base actually shrank by four million users to 72 million in the quarter, which was the first full quarter in which BB10 devices were available. That the firm sold 6.8 million smartphones overall in the period is interesting, since it means that most of their sales were of older devices. It’s time for a courtesy flush, folks.

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 e-books, Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Windows Phone 8 (currently in progress) and Paul Thurrott’s Guide to Xbox Music!

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