Short Takes: November 8, 2013

Short Takes: November 8, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

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

Elop Clicks His Heels Three Times and Wishes to Be Microsoft CEO

Already on the short list for the Microsoft CEO position, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop reportedly has some big—and controversial—plans should he get the top job. According to a credible report in Bloomberg, Elop plans to push full-featured Office versions heavily on Android and iPad and focus much less on Windows. He is also reportedly prepared to shut down or sell money-losing Microsoft businesses such as Bing and Xbox because they aren't crucial to the company's success. And at a lower level, he would cut jobs—long overdue at the gigantic and complex company—and create smaller teams. When you consider that Elop dropped Nokia's legacy Symbian like a bad habit when he took over that company, these moves are at least in keeping with his history. And I have to say, I pretty much agree with all of these proposed moves.

With Friends Like These, Microsoft Will Continue to Have Commitment Issues

Microsoft just launched the high-profile NVIDIA Tegra 4-based Surface 2, but the company that makes the chipset in that device is falling all over itself praising Android, not Windows RT. In an earnings conference call with press and analysts, NVIDIA CEO Jen-Hsun Huang said that Android was a much bigger deal than anything Microsoft is doing. "We have some [sales] for Windows RT or Surface, but our focus is that going forward the vast majority of Windows on ARM will be Surface and the vast majority of everything else in Tegra is Android," he said. "Android is not just about phones ... We believe that Android is going to be a very important platform for gaming in the future ... Android is probably the most versatile operating system that we've ever known ... It's incredibly useful, with all kinds of applications already on it."

Microsoft Could Make $2 Billion a Year in Android Licensing

Speaking of Android, Microsoft could have just found its next billion-dollar business. Or should I say it's next $2 billion business? According to credible calculations by Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund, Microsoft will soon make about $2 billion a year in Android-based patent licensing fees. (Delicious conspiracy rumor side note: Sherlund further claims that Microsoft uses this money to hide the financial disasters at Xbox and Bing. I'm not going to even touch that one.) How does he arrive at this figure? Well, he assumes that Microsoft makes about $5 per Android device, and that about 70 percent of the Android devices sold are made by companies that have patent-licensing deals with Microsoft. This sounds accurate to me, but here's the delicious irony bit: Xbox and Bing aside, this $2 billion is interesting to compare with Microsoft's Windows Phone numbers. And according to Sherlund, Windows Phone should generate about $3.6 billion in revenues this year. But only $347 million in profits. Meanwhile, the Android-based $2 billion is basically all profit, so Microsoft is on track to make over five times as much from Android as it does from its own mobile platform.

Twitter Outdoes Facebook in at Least One Area

Twitter might be lacking as a social network—with its anemic 140-character limit on posts, a curiously antagonistic relationship with developers, and a bizarre, ad hoc hashtag system—but give the service at least some credit: It got its IPO right. Where Facebook's initial public offering was an unqualified disaster that led to charges of (among other things) insider trading, this week's Twitter IPO wasn't just smooth, it was also successful. The stock was launched at $26 on Thursday morning, but quickly rose as high as $50 before settling in around $46. Of course, now the hard work begins and Twitter actually has to make money to satisfy its investors. Good luck with that.

Lenovo Profits Jump 36 Percent in Quarter

Lenovo, the world's biggest PC maker, reported a 36 percent jump in profits of $219.7 million on revenues of $9.77 billion (up 13 percent), well above expectations. The best news, in a way, is that Lenovo's PC business is doing great. "The sharpest decline in PC sales are over," CEO Yang Yuanqing said, with Lenovo's PC business reporting 2.2 percent growth overall (with laptop sales up 8 percent), year-over-year, for the quarter ending September 30. But Lenovo's other technology products, tablets and smartphones, are going gangbusters as well: The firm sold 12.3 million smartphones in the quarter, up 78 percent, and hopes to enter the US market some time in 2014. Most of Lenovo's revenues, about $7.7 billion, come from its PC business, and the remainder is largely from smartphones and tablets. I guess that's why Lenovo calls itself a "PC+" company.

Windows Phone Fans: Preorder a Lumia 1520 Now

AT&T Wireless and the Microsoft Store are now accepting preorders for the Nokia Lumia 1520, the first Windows Phone phablet, and the first Windows Phone handset to sport a 1080p screen. The device will cost $199 with a two-year contract, or $549 without, and comes in your choice of four colors: matte black, matte yellow, matte white, and glossy red. I'm hoping to review the device, and of course the equally interesting Lumia 2520 tablet, which is due by the end of the year, as well.

Google Floats a Garbage Barge Off of San Francisco

You're forgiven if you think you're seeing the realization of a major set piece from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, but that mysterious garbage barge-looking thing floating off the Port of San Francisco is apparently nothing more than a floating Google product exhibition space. Or, as the search giant calls it, "an unprecedented artistic structure" that will "drive visitation to the waterfront," presumably while it drives privacy advocates bonkers. But don't worry, while Google silently steals from you every day, you won't be able to do the same of it: The barge features more than 50 security cameras and other security features. Oh, and some "nautical whimsy," according to the firm's original proposal for the barge. Spare me.

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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