Short Takes: May 31, 2013

Short Takes: May 31, 2013

An often irreverent look at this (short) week's other news

Short Week Here in the United States, Busy Travel Month Coming Up

Thanks to the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, it was a short week here in the United States, so today’s Short Takes is a bit shorter than usual too. But with the transition to June, we’re about to hit a busy time period for Microsoft news, particularly for people like me who will be traveling to the company's events. Next week, of course, is TechEd 2013 in New Orleans, and I’ll be there with many coworkers from Windows IT Pro covering all the news and events. And then the week of June 24 I’ll be traveling to San Francisco for Microsoft’s BUILD conference, another eagerly awaited event that’s sure to have plenty of news about Windows and Xbox. Stay tuned: Things are about to heat up. Related: "Best of TechEd 2013 Finalists Announced!"

Ubuntu Chief Raises Middle Finger at Microsoft, Claims Windows Is No Longer Dominant

This week, Ubuntu’s Mark Shuttleworth, in an act of almost historic chutzpah, closed his firm’s Bug #1 after a lengthy (and ultimately futile) 9-year fight: Titled “Microsoft has a dominant market share,” the bug was instituted to inspire his Linux cohorts to make Ubuntu Linux more successful. But Microsoft’s fall from grace had nothing to do with Linux (~1 percent market share) or even Windows for that matter. With many tech industry analysts now pitting all electronics devices—smartphones, tablets, and PCs—against one another, Windows suddenly represents a smaller percentage of a much larger market. I don’t mean to use Mark’s words against him, but the first line of the bug report reads, “Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace. This is a bug which Ubuntu and other projects are meant to fix.” Guess what? That never changed. Not even a bit. That said: Hilarious.

HTC Cancels Windows RT Tablet Plans, Will Focus on Windows 8 Mini-Tablet Instead

Last week, I wrote in "Mini-Tablets Will Not Take Over Windows Ecosystem This Year" that Microsoft’s hardware partners would deliver three Windows 8-based mini-tablets (i.e., devices with 7"-8" screens) in time for the holidays. Well, here’s one of them: According to a credible Bloomberg report, HTC has scrapped plans to deliver a full-sized Windows RT tablet and will instead deliver a min-tablet. You might recall that Microsoft will also release its own mini Surface tablet this year; I exclusively reported months ago that this would be an 8" design. Perhaps it will be officially announced at TechEd next week or at BUILD at the end of June.

Sinofsky Rises from the Ashes, Says Nothing, Retreats Back to the Darkness

With no official Microsoft presence at this year’s All-Things-D conference—where the firm had, in past years, revealed various new products, including Windows 8—the husky old-timers from the Wall Street Journal turned to the past instead, and invited former Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky to come and speak … about absolutely nothing. Clearly prevented legally from discussing anything of interest about his time at Microsoft and his sudden and secretly acrimonious separation from the company last year, Sinofsky claimed he left because “it was time for a change.” Which is likely true. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how CEO Steve Ballmer described it to him before he showed him the door. Sinofsky offered up nothing of interest about Windows 8 (he’s “feeling good” about how well it’s selling), the speed at which Microsoft moves (“an incredible pace”), and how he now uses an Android handset, you know, “like everyone” does. And with that, I hope to never have to mention this guy again. Related: "Microsoft Announces Leadership Change: Sinofsky Out!"

Dell Buyout Offer Possibly Coming to a Head

Dell asked shareholders this week to vote on founder Michael Dell’s $24.4 billion buyout offer for the company, a move that is designed to curb predatory attempts by “activist investor” (read: jerk) Carl Icahn to scuttle the deal and make some money off the rotting corpse of a company he couldn’t care less about. “A sale to the Michael Dell/Silver Lake group is the best alternative available,” a Dell letter to shareholders notes. “In a challenging business environment, it offers certainty and a very material premium over pre-announcement trading prices.” Icahn, meanwhile, has offered a leveraged recapitalization of the company. If Dell rejects this bid, he threatens to rally shareholders to vote down Mr. Dell's offer. Seriously, aside from a minor squabble over the value of the deal, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone would want to stand in the way of giving Michael Dell control of his company.

And You Thought Microsoft Had Troubles

In the wake of an absolutely amazing report about the company, Sony is defending itself this week against calls for a breakup. Last week, a financial analyst said that Sony should sell off its electronics business, which has lost $8.5 billion over the past decade. Oddly, Sony's biggest money maker over this time period has been—wait for it—insurance. That business, which is available in various parts of Asia, made over $9 billion in profits in the past decade! Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai defended his firm’s allegiance to the money-losing electronics business this week, however, noting that the company benefits from being so diverse. If that doesn’t sound like Microsoft’s defense of its own decade-long losers—Bing, Xbox—then you’re not paying attention. But in Microsoft’s case, “insurance” is not so unrelated to products like Windows, Server, and Office. In other words, where Microsoft is actually in good shape, I don’t see any way that Sony can parlay its excellence in insurance to an advantage for video game consoles, TVs, and other gadgets.

But Wait, There's More

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