Short Takes: October 3, 2014

Short Takes: October 3, 2014

An often irreverent look at this week's other news

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a silly urban myth about Windows 10 naming, Bill Gates has a vague plan for Office, Steve Ballmer is rich because the man can negotiate a sale, Eric Schmidt wishes he was Steve Jobs, Google can't stop collecting user data, and hacked celebrities threaten Google with extortion.

This is not why Microsoft skipped Windows 9 and called it Windows 10

A Reddit poster claimed this week that Microsoft had to skip the name "Windows 9" and settle on Windows 10 for its new OS because of version-checking code in "many third party products" that would see the name Windows 9 as being "Windows 95" or "Windows 98" and would thus mark the OS as out of date. That's ridiculous. Version checking occurs with the actual version number of the OS, which explains why products like Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and now 10 all have very similar version numbers: 6.0, 6.1, 6.2, 6.3, and now 6.4, respectively. Any product that checks a name string like "Windows 9" deserves to fail. But then that's not how it works in the real world anyway.

"How Microsoft Can Outdo the Apple Store in Manhattan"

Sell iPads and iPhones at a discount?

Bill Gates has a secret plan to improve Office

Speaking to Bloomberg, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates—who you will recall is now serving CEO Satya Nadella in a special technology advisor role—said he has a plan to improve Office. "Helping people communicate in new ways [is part of] a long list of opportunities Microsoft has to innovate [on]," he said. "And taking Office and making it dramatically better would be really high on the list there. That's the kind of thing I'm trying to help make sure they move fast on." Looking for specifics? Keep looking, but I guess I'd point to this week's pre-release version of a new Office app called Sway as a possible hint at how Office might improve communication. Sway is super-vague: Microsoft described it as "an app for expressing your ideas in an entirely new way," and commentators—confused by the newness of it, I guess—have referred to it as a presentation, document, or web site creator. Which it's not.

"Flipboard Finally Arrives on Windows Phone"

Sans the flipping part, oddly.

How Steve Ballmer became one of the richest men on earth

An interesting report in Fortune claims to uncover the truth behind Steve Ballmer's billions: Despite not being among the initial wave of Microsoft employees—he joined the firm in 1980, four years after Microsoft was founded—Mr. Ballmer was able to negotiate a massive stock a few years into his initial role as a business manager because it was financially more expedient for Microsoft. As a relative latecomer to Microsoft, Ballmer didn't get a piece of ownership via company stock, so he instead received 10 percent of whatever business he could drum up. It was a lot of business, as it turns out: Microsoft was just entering its hyper growth phase and paying Ballmer what was promised quickly became problematic. So the two cofounders—Bill Gates and Paul Allen—agreed to give up 8 percent of Microsoft to Ballmer in the form of stock. (Gates and Allen kept 84 percent and the remaining employees got the other 8 percent.) Microsoft went public in 1986, but unlike Gates and Allen, Ballmer never sold any of his stock. So today, he's worth $22.5 billion fortune today, and he still owns 4 percent of Microsoft, at a value of $15.5 billion, $1.6 million than Gates' holding. That's Ballmer, all right: The long game.

"Bill Gates Tops Forbes 400 List for 21st Straight Year"

Suck it, Steve.

Eric Schmidt has Steve Jobs envy

Speaking at a meeting of the Commonwealth Club of Silicon Valley this week, Google chairman Eric Schmidt—aka "the luckiest man on earth"—stated that "We could all aspire to be a small percentage of Steve [Jobs]," when asked who his hero was. Let me be clear about this, given the outright copying of Apple products that occurred while Schmidt was Google's CEO: It's very clear to everyone that you are a small percentage of Steve Jobs.

Eric Schmidt denies Google does anything with collected user data

And speaking of Mr. Schmidt, who, let's face it, deserves a bit of scrutiny, the Google chairman this week also spoke out, sort of, about the comments Apple CEO Tim Cook recently made about his company. "A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you're not the customer," Mr. Cook wrote in an open letter on Apple's web site, alluding to Google. "You're the product." Nonsense, Schmidt claimed, Google does nothing of the sort. Right, but doesn't Google collect user information? Yes, Schmidt admitted. But Google has done "nothing" with all the information it has collected "for a decade" now. Please, I'm begging you, gentle reader. Let that little admission hang in the air for a second and consider the ramifications. "We have always been the leader in security and encryption," Schmidt said. That's patently laughable. But not as laughable as the notion that Google is simply collecting information about its users from all over the world, and doing absolutely nothing with that information. And has been doing it for a decade for some reason.

"Windows Phone is great, but requires you go all-in on Microsoft"

Ah. So that's why I like it so much.

Hacked celebrities threaten to sue Google

Remember when a bunch of celebrities discovered that hackers had stolen nude selfies that they took on their iPhones? If you were to guess who these poor saps might sue has a result of this transgression, what might you guess? The hackers? Nope. Apple? Nope. It's Google. Wait. What? A lawyer representing "several" of these celebrities has threatened Google with a $100 million lawsuit for its "despicable, reprehensible" inability to remove nude selfies from Internet searches. You know, I agree that the whole hacking thing was a crime. But then so is this. It's called extortion.

"Larry Ellison On Why He Stepped Down"

Because he's 70?

"Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Great for iPads, Androids and Windows"

Assuming your fingers are the size of a Cabbage Patch Doll's, that is. Here's why.

But Wait, There's More

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Buy the books!

I'm trying to change the book publishing model, and would appreciate your support: Windows 8.1 Field Guide is available directly from me for only $2 in PDF, MOBI and EPUB formats. And it is now available on Amazon Kindle for $4.99 too. I also have other free and inexpensive e-books available too, including Windows Phone 8 Field Guide (free from that site, or available from both Kindle and Nook too) and the in-progress Windows Phone 8.1 Field Guide and Xbox Music Field Guide. Coming soon: Windows 10 Field Guide.

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