Short Takes: May 17, 2013

Short Takes: May 17, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

Google Adopts Microsoft’s Multi-Touch Tech for the Web

Google and Microsoft might be sniping at each other these days in public, but behind the scenes the two companies actually do work together occasionally. And this week, Google revealed that it’s on the cusp of adopting a Microsoft technology called Pointer Events that the firm built into Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Internet Explorer (IE) 10 as a way to help control normal websites on touch-based devices. And yes, that means that Pointer Events could end up in Google Chrome. “We're going to start landing some experimental support in [the Chrome browser engine] for Pointer Events," Chrome developer Rick Byers said this week at Google I/O. “Hopefully, we'll see it in Chrome at some point in the future … IE 10 has a number of touch features that are pretty nice. We're talking with Microsoft about those.” I know, I know. I can’t believe I just read that either.

Sticking with XP? It Will Cost You

As we race toward the April 2014 retirement of Windows XP—that’s the date when Microsoft will formally stop supporting the ancient OS—the firm is trying an ever-evolving strategy aimed at getting hold-outs to switch to a new OS (which I think we can all admit will be Windows 7, not Windows 8). The latest (not so new) message? Sticking with XP will be more expensive than upgrading. Based on a 2012 IDC study, the theory goes like this: Using XP today results in lost user productivity time and IT support and Help desk costs that are actually more expensive than the cost of upgrading. “Windows XP users are saddled with 7.8 additional hours of lost time per year compared with their colleagues using Windows 7,” IDC claims, noting that the typical large organization can save an incredible $700 per year by upgrading. I don’t have a handle on these numbers, but I will say this: While I appreciate the notion of stretching out an investment, sometimes you can hurt yourself trying to do the right thing. XP is going away folks. Let it go.

Dell Profits Nosedive in Tandem with PC Industry Downspin

While Dell waits for “activist investor” (read: “meddling jerk out looking to make more money”) Carl Icahn and founder Michael Dell to decide the fate of the company, Dell must of course remain in business and keep selling product. And given the recent year-long downturn in the PC industry, that’s not going so well: Dell this week announced that profits slid almost 80 percent in the previous quarter when compared with the year-ago quarter. Dell earned $130 million on $14.1 billion in revenues, the latter of which fell about 2 percent. But the most relevant figure, perhaps, is Dell’s end-user computing business, which experienced a 9 percent decline in revenues in the quarter to $8.9 billion. (And profits were down an astonishing 65 percent to $224 million; hey, at least there were profits.) Dell won’t provide guidance for the coming fiscal year given the current takeover bids in play, but let’s just say that guidance isn’t going to be very positive until those current takeover bids are resolved.

Gates Is Number One Again

In what can only be described as the feel-good story of the decade, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is once again the world’s richest man, edging out Carlos Slim. Gates is now worth $72.7 billion, and this is the first time he’s been the world’s richest since 2007. Gates’ unexpected rise is two-fold. First, Microsoft stock has surged 28 percent this year and Gates’ fortune has climbed $10 billion in 2013 so far. (Only 20 percent or so of the Gates fortune is actually tied up in Microsoft. He’s a businessman, not a charity. (OK, he’s really a businessman and a charity, but let’s move on.) Second, Slim's fortune has dropped over $2 billion this year thanks to Mexico's attempts to crush the monopoly owned by his wireless firm America Movil.

DOJ Details Apple Role in eBook Price-Fixing

And let me cut right to the chase: Apple wasn’t just the ringmaster, but it actually threatened publishers that wouldn’t sign on to its scheme to illegally end Amazon’s reign as the top seller of ebooks and gouge consumers. Among the details released this week… Apple CEO Steve Jobs was the leader of the conspiracy to harm Amazon and artificially raise the price of ebooks as much as 50 percent: He explicitly asked NewsCorp’s James Murdoch (the firm owns HarperCollins) to “throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99” in an email. Apple in email messages said it was fighting with publishers to “solve the Amazon issue”—scary language indeed—and “orchestrated and coordinated a common approach for all of them.” Apple’s Eddy Cue, who led negotiations for the firm, actually counseled the CEO of Random House to withhold ebooks from Amazon unless it agreed to higher prices, a strategy that Macmillan later employed. And the best bit: Mr. Jobs threatened to pull Random House apps from Apple’s App Store if it didn’t join the price-fixing cabal; the firm was the last publisher to resist striking a deal with Apple. When the publisher finally capitulated, Mr. Cue sent an ebullient message to Jobs explaining that Random House signed on in part because he had “prevented an app from Random House from going live in the app store.” Hooray.

Apple responds

But don’t worry, Apple fans: There’s still a reality-distortion field at work in Cupertino. Apple has responded to the price-fixing accusation with the following statement: “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing.” So please ignore the evidence and move on.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on TwitterFriendfeed, and the Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. And check out my free new books-in-the-making, Windows Phone Book and Xbox Music Book

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