An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft Releases "Killer" Bing App ... for iPad??
Microsoft this week released an innovative new mobile app for Bing, one that reviewers are swooning over and calling a "killer app." Sounds great, right? But it's for iPad, not Windows 7 tablets or Windows Phone. And that just makes me feel weird, especially when you consider that the Bing experience on Windows Phone, like much else in that stalled mobile OS, is horribly incomplete. Anyway, the Bing app for iPad is pretty cool, and it's not just for search: It provides a highly visual and attractive way to browse the web, find local news, view videos and maps, find recipes, and more. It can be used as a news reader. It has voice control. This thing is so cool, in fact, that I'm kind of curious why it wasn't released as a Windows-based app of sorts, too. No, really, I'm very curious why. Microsoft? What the heck?
iPad 2: Yes to Toys R Us, No to Best Buy?
Apple's iPad 2 is racing to stellar sales and has been basically sold out since launch. But this week, Apple has apparently taken the curious step of "blacklisting" Best Buy from selling the device going forward—a move that could undermine the electronic retailer's clout. So why would Apple do this? Apparently, Best Buy is selling only a certain number of iPad 2s each day, and once it reaches that artificial quota, it tells customers the device is sold out (even though it isn't). This way, customers have to keep coming back each day to see whether more have arrived, thus artificially inflating the retailer's walk-in numbers. So Apple's going to establish a little artificial quota of its own: 0, the number of iPad 2s it will ship to Best Buy going forward. Meanwhile, Apple has apparently created a new partnership with another retailer that wants to sell iPad 2s, and maybe it can make up the Best Buy slack: Toys R Us will allegedly begin selling the devices soon, according to rumors.
Google Responds to the, Um, Un-Opening of Android
Google's Android OS is popular because it's free and thus available from numerous wireless carriers in multiple device types from many hardware manufacturers. But it's also popular with a small but vocal community of open-source goons who like Android because it's supposedly "open." This month, Google revealed that it was going to scale back the openness of Android, if you will, because the market for the OS has become too fragmented (which it has) and because it needs time to mature the tablet version of the OS, called Honeycomb (which it most certainly does). And this doesn't sit well with the open-source folks at all. Responding to a steady stream of howling from this mob, Google's Vice President of Engineering Andy Rubin said this week that the company needs to balance innovation and control, and he's not too pleased with the "misinformation" out there. The thing is, this was quite predictable. And while "open source" sounds like a nice approach theoretically, you have to take the good with the bad. And when it comes to tech-enthusiast groups, there is perhaps none more sensitive and unreasonable than those that care about open source. (And yes, I say this with full knowledge of Apple's iGoons.) Have fun with that, Mr. Rubin.
Windows Phone: Now with 13,000 Apps, but Only One Software Update, and Then Only if You're Lucky
According to the Windows Phone App List, which tracks apps on Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace, there are now more than 13,000 apps available for the new mobile OS, and it's adding new apps at a rate of about 3,000 new apps each month. That is fantastic. But in the United States especially, the majority of Windows Phone customers still don't have access to the one app they all want: the first real software update for Windows Phone, which the software giant completed back in December. As of today, this update is still in the supposed "testing" phase at AT&T, meaning that the wireless carrier is simply preventing its users—which represent most Windows Phone users in this country—from getting an update that passed its own internal tests months ago. So while I think it's fair to blame Microsoft, generally, for this fiasco—it did allow carriers to block (excuse me, "indefinitely test") updates, after all—as the months tick by, it's getting harder to ignore those carriers, like AT&T, that are still holding out and not delivering what is, at the end of the day, a very minor update indeed. Seriously, do we really need more reasons to hate AT&T?
Was the Windows Phone Team Just Caught in a Lie?
Speaking of which, this week, Microsoft warned users against using Chris Walsh's homebrew tool to bypass Microsoft and carrier blocks and update their Windows Phones to that first software update. As I noted in my report about this incident, Microsoft's public statements about the tool were padded with a curious number of qualifiers. That is, the tool "might" misconfigure your phone, "might" make the phone stop working properly, and "may void your phone warranty." (My favorite line: "We can't say for sure what might happen to your phone," which is funny because Walsh's tool simply uses functionality from a publicly released Microsoft-support tool.) But now it gets ugly. According to Walsh, Microsoft told him that, contrary to its public statements, the tool will place devices in a "non-serviceable state." (Emphasis his.) So ... if that's true, did Microsoft knowingly misrepresent this situation to its customers in a public forum? Even more curious: I have received several reports, as has Walsh, from readers who have in fact gotten carrier and hardware maker updates delivered to their phones after using Walsh's tool. Which also suggests, but does not prove, that Microsoft is not being especially truthful about this episode. This whole episode is very disheartening.
Commodore 64, Amiga Are "Back" ... for Suckers?
Pining for the days of the VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Amiga 1000? Well, then get a load of this: A company calling itself Commodore USA (really just a couple of old-school computer enthusiasts who bought the rights to the names Commodore and Amiga at fire-sale pricing) have started a company that is going to sell new PCs that look like old Commodore computers. I'm not sure that I'd trust such an enterprise with my credit card information, but those who are nostalgic enough and brave enough to try can now preorder such machines as the (new) Commodore 64 (costing $250 to $900), the Commodore VIC Pro ($500 to $1,200), and the Commodore VIC Slim ($300 to $500). Each features a Commodore-esque all-in-one design, uses PC parts and ports, and runs Ubuntu Linux, though the company promises that a Commodore 64 emulator is on the way, as well. In the future, there will be Amiga offerings, too—though also PC-based and not technically related to the classic computers. I guess we'll find out soon enough whether this is a serious concern or just a silly vanity project.
Next Week: MIX'11, Las Vegas
Next week, I'll be in Las Vegas for Microsoft's MIX'11 conference, which should have some interesting news about Windows Phone, Silverlight, and other related topics. As before, I'll be live-blogging from the show with Ed Bott, Mary Jo Foley, Kip Kniskern, Rafael Rivera, and Long Zheng, and possibly others. See you there!
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded the latest episode of the Windows Weekly Thursday as usual, and the new episode should be available by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.
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