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WinInfo Short Takes: December 23, 2010

An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news, including the truth about Windows Phone 7 sales, some good news about Windows Phone Marketplace, a critical flaw in all versions of Internet Explorer, Mozilla's plans for a Do Not Track feature in Firefox, an adult-themed Kinect game, Microsoft's decision to kill Office Genuine Advantage, and the coming holiday long weekend.

Yes, Virginia, Microsoft Really Did Sell 1.5 Million Copies of Windows Phone

Every single time Microsoft announces a unit sales figure—and I mean, every single time—the anti-Microsoft FUD machine fires up to try and refute the numbers and, in turn, belittle Microsoft for not actually doing what it said it did. This week is just the latest example: The second that Microsoft announced that "that phone manufacturers sold over 1.5 million phones in the first six weeks" of availability, the iCabal raced to their keyboards to retort that those aren't actually sales to consumers, and thus Microsoft must have really sold far fewer phones than that, and was in fact stuffing the channel with products no one wants. Ah yes, the sweet sound of reason. Well, I'm here to clue you into the facts: Microsoft did sell 1.5 million copies of its Windows Phone OS, in fact, probably much more than that, because it registers a sale whenever it sells a copy of the OS to its hardware maker partners. And Microsoft's hardware maker partners did in fact sell 1.5 million Windows Phones, because they, in turn, register their own sales when they sell the devices into the channel. And yes, Apple, of course, tends to sell products directly to consumers, which is where the confusion lies. But make no mistake: To Microsoft, or the Windows Phone hardware makers, or Apple, a sale is a sale is a sale, and it impacts the bottom line whenever it's made. So Microsoft has sold 1.5 million copies of Windows Phone. Again, it's probably sold a lot more than that. But 1.5 million is the minimum. And that, folks, isn't too darned shabby, especially when you consider the difficulty of replacing an existing platform and selling something completely new to people in the face of very high quality competition. Coloring this situation as anything other than positive is disingenuous at best, and more often is simply a calculated attempt to distort the truth.

Some More Good News About Windows Phone 7

And speaking of good news about Windows Phone 7 that the iCabal would rather you not hear about, the online marketplace that serves this new platform has seen explosive growth in a very short time, and leaving a similar market for Palm's webOS in the dust. That's right, from the perspective of apps availability, Windows Phone 7 is already the number three mobile platform behind Apple's iOS and Google Android. Since opening in October, the Windows Phone Marketplace has jumped from over 2000 apps to over 4400 apps, a milestone it took Palm about 18 months to hit, and it's on track to surpass webOS's total apps figure within a few months. In fact, the Windows Phone Marketplace growth is faster than that of Android (which took five months to hit 4000 apps) and on par with that of the iPhone.

I'd also point out that Windows Phone is only available on AT&T and T-Mobile right now; imagine the explosive growth when Verizon users get their hands on Windows Phones and can access the Marketplace as well. Adding fuel to this fire, Verizon has already published its first Windows Phone apps in the Marketplace, and my sources tell me that Verizon's first Windows Phone devices will be announced next month. 2011 should be pretty interesting on the Windows Phone front.

Microsoft Confirms Critical Bug in All IE Versions; Is Working on Fix

Microsoft this week confirmed that there is a critical security flaw in all versions of its Internet Explorer web browser. The company isn't aware of any active attacks that exploit the flaw, but it is working on a fix that will likely be delivered at or before next month's regularly-scheduled monthly Patch Tuesday. While Microsoft is downplaying the possibility of an attack, it's a bit disturbing that the flaw bypasses additional security controls built into Windows, including ASLR (address space layout randomization) and DEP (data execution prevention). But the good news is that it's because a core IE component doesn't correctly utilize those technologies, not because they are themselves flawed. Microsoft recommends that people who are overly concerned about security and have way too much time on their hands can use the Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) utility to help protect IE, and they provide instructions in a security bulletin about the vulnerability. But this seems like overkill to me, and I'll just continue exercising common sense online and install the fix whenever that's released.

Mozilla Will Add "Do Not Track" Functionality to Firefox

And I bet it won't be as lame as Microsoft's plans for adding a similar feature to Internet Explorer 9. The company is talking about adding a Do Not Track "button" to Firefox 4, which, like IE 9, has been in a perpetual beta for about 19 years now, from what I can tell. Mozilla's decision to add this feature, like Microsoft's, was prompted by a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposal that would give Internet users some control over how powerful advertisers track their movements online. And the reason I think that Mozilla's implementation will be better than anything Microsoft (or, for that matter, Google) can come up with is that Mozilla doesn't control a major ad-serving platform that would be adversely affected by this technology. So the next time someone claims that they want to "put the user in control," consider the ulterior motives. Facebook uses this language all the time, for example. And their user controls, as you know, are designed to specifically prevent you from helping yourself. This is exactly what's happening with IE 9's Do Not Track functionality. It's about passing the buck, not doing the right thing.

Microsoft Not Surprised, But Not Happy About, Sex-Themed Kinect Shenanigans

An adult entertainment firm recently posted a concept video of a sex-themed video game that uses Microsoft's Kinect add-on for the Xbox 360 to provide a new layer of realism. According to a video demonstration, users would be able to interact with onscreen digital models in, well, adult ways, using voice commands and hand gestures. I think you get the idea. But while Microsoft isn't surprised by this type of thing, it's not amused either. And it will not authorize or license its technology to be used in such a way. "Xbox is a family friendly games and entertainment console and does not allow Adults Only (AO) content to be certified for use on its platform, and would not condone this type of game for Kinect," the company says. Which is funny when you consider the many questionable gamertags I see on Xbox LIVE every single time I play games online. I support Microsoft's efforts to suppress this kind of game, but they need to pay more attention to other aspects of Xbox usage too. And that includes all the racist, misogynistic and otherwise scummy people who manage to easily bypass Microsoft's gamertag restrictions every single day.

Microsoft Kills Office Genuine Advantage; Turns Out There Was No Advantage

Microsoft this week quietly killed its Office Genuine Advantage (OGA) program, part of a wider series of anti-piracy controls in its biggest products that, alas, are still around, sorry. According to a document on the Microsoft website, the software giant "retired" OGA , but offered up no rationale for the move. Previously, OGA was used to prevent people with counterfeit versions of Office from accessing certain online features of the suite, including add-ons and templates. Knowing Microsoft, OGA will simply morph into something more onerous and user-antagonistic, but it will come with a cute new name and acronym. I can't wait.

Happy Holidays!

Windows IT Pro is taking Friday off to celebrate the holidays, and that explains the early delivery of Short Takes this week. If you are celebrating, have a wonderful Christmas, but enjoy the long weekend regardless. We'll be back on Monday.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Leo and I will record the last new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast for 2010 later today (Thursday) at the usual time. The new episode should become available by the weekend on the Zune Marketplace, in iTunes, and wherever else quality podcasts are found, in both audio and video formats.

But Wait, There's More

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, Friendfeed, and the SuperSite Blog.

My next book, Windows Phone Secrets, is now available in bookstores everywhere.

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