WinInfo Short Takes: February 8, 2013

WinInfo Short Takes: February 8, 2013

An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a canceled Windows Phone launch thanks to a pending blizzard, Microsoft’s excellent response to faux Surface Pro storage outrage and other issues, an update on Blue, which looks to be about more than just Windows 8, how Apple fanatics will tilt the scales in any way possible even though it’s been pointless to do so for years, Google patent claims against Microsoft are walloped in court, and conflicting thoughts about whether the Windows Phone 8 launch helped Microsoft’s mobile ambitions.

“Snowpocalypse 2013: Snowmageddon” Derails Surface Pro Launch in NYC

After closing its Times Square Surface Store (which, admittedly, was originally designed to be a temporary Microsoft Store location anyway), Microsoft wasn’t left with a lot of good choices for a Surface Pro launch venue in the Big Apple. So it chose a ridiculous venue: A “midnight madness”-type event at a Manhattan Best Buy. But with “a major weather event” bearing down on New York and New England—we’re looking at 12 to 32 inches of snow where I live—Microsoft had to cancel this event and it shipped Surface guru Panos Panay back to the safety of snow-free Redmond, Washington. I was going to head to New York on Friday for the event and a related meet-up with Mary Jo Foley, but canceled because of the storm. Not that it matters: Amtrak just canceled all trains between Boston and New York anyway. Some on Twitter asked me who it was at Microsoft that thought up these winter launch events in the snow belt, and while I’m not sure, I bet it’s the same genius who schedules summer TechEds in the nation’s hottest and muggiest locations (Orlando, New Orleans, and Atlanta).

Microsoft Responds to Faux Outrage over Surface Pro Storage Space

Assuming you live in a place in the US or Canada that isn’t under a blanket of snow, you will be able to buy a Surface with Windows 8 Pro starting on Saturday. My review is in, of course, but the big controversy about this device occurred last week when tech enthusiasts created a fake uproar over the supposed lack of storage space on the Surface Pro. Reportedly, the 64 GB model had only 23 GB of free space, due to the installed OS and a few apps, the OS recovery image, and a few other standard Windows bits, while the 128 GB version had only 83 GB of free space. Remembering for a moment that these same ne’er-do-wells raised the same exact issue about Surface RT months earlier, and that all computers with real desktop operating systems behave similarly, let’s just say that I find these kinds of complaints to be suspicious. Like “vast right wing conspiracy” suspicious. But earlier this week, Microsoft revealed that those numbers were wrong. There are, in fact, about 7 GB of additional space free on each device by default—so ~30 GB free on the 64 GB version and ~90 GB free on the 128 GB version—and you can of course gain additional space by adding micro-SD expansion (up to 64 GB), USB expansion, or by removing the OS recovery image and creating a USB-based recovery disk; that latter step frees up another 8 GB. As noted in Microsoft Addresses Surface Pro Concerns, the firm also answered some other lingering questions about the new device, so let’s put the silliness behind us and move on, shall we?

I’m Blue, Da Ba Dee Da Ba Di

Mary Jo Foley has been on the hunt for details about Microsoft’s plans to update its current wave of products—Windows 8/RT, Windows Phone 8, Windows Server 2012, Visual Studio 2012, and Office 2013—as they do with its online services, which is to say regularly rather than slowly. There have been rumors of a project called “Blue,” which we originally took to be Microsoft’s yearly update schedule for Windows 8. But according to a new Foley report, Blue is much bigger than just Windows, it’s a scheme to update Windows Phone, Windows Server and Windows Services going forward, as well, in lock-step. “In other words,” Foley writes, “Blue is a wave of product refreshes which are not expected to arrive exactly all on the same day, but which are meant to be released more or less around the same time.” I’ve heard precious little about Blue personally, but a source I cannot confirm is correct has validated at least part of this—the Windows Phone bit—while noting that Microsoft intends to ship updates over time, not just once a year. This is a big change, of course, since many of these products were previously on a three year development cycle. But with online services and mobile OSes like Android and iOS being updated at least once a year, Microsoft needs to step it up to remain competitive.

Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics, and Outright Insanity

While there is understandably some debate about whether tablets like the iPad should be counted as “PCs,” or, perhaps more correctly, whether both PCs and tablets could be measured together in a separate “personal computing devices” category, Apple fanatics are so eager to overcome the abject failure of Mac OS X market share over the past decade and a half that they’re starting to strain the bounds of credulity. That’s right: They’re pretending that iPhones are PCs too. If you were to look at a chart of PC sales over the past 13 years, you’d see a tiny, barely or not growing sliver at the bottom representing Mac sales. But if you throw in iPad sales—which, by the way, you can almost make a case for—the Apple slice starts to get bigger. More to the point, its growing while overall PC sales have stagnated, which makes sense given the maturity of the latter market. But if you want to really make Apple look good, and they do, don’t just count iPad sales, count all iOS sales, which includes iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. When you do that, Apple’s combined devices sales—Macs plus all iOS devices—is almost as big as the entire PC market: 75 million (Mac + iPhone + iPad + iPod touch) vs. 90 million for PCs in the most recent quarter. This of course ignores Android, which Apple fanatics also like to do, fingers stuck firmly in ears while murmuring some kind of white noise mantra. And it ignores the most important fact of all: That smart phones are not PCs. To be clear, Apple’s doing great, it’s a phenomenon. But the thin-skinned nature of their fanatical audience is troublesome, as is the tortured logic they continue to use in insane op-ed pieces. These guys won’t be happy until all negative news about the company is erased, and all past slights, any a decade old and most imagined, are avenged. Sad? You bet.

Google Patent Claims Against Microsoft Significantly Diminished

Judge U.S. District Judge James Robart issued an order invalidating more than a dozen claims across three patents that Google has made against Microsoft. You may recall that Google’s Motorola Mobility and Microsoft are involved in a messy spat of patent infringement lawsuits. Well, this ruling has dealt a serious blow to Google’s case, not to mention the reason Google purchased Motorola Mobility in the first place, its vast mobile industry patent portfolio. This is the second major setback for Google—in November, the court issued a summary judgment against its request for an injunction of Microsoft’s supposedly infringing products—and it significantly reduces its claims against the software giant. I smell a Google defeat in the air, and I gotta tell you, I’m liking the aroma. The worst thing that could happen now is that Microsoft has to license the remaining patented technologies under “fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory” terms. Which, if you’ve been following along, was Microsoft’s goal all along. Game, set, match.

Report: Windows Phone Overtook Blackberry in the US in Q4 2012

At least one market researcher thinks that Microsoft’s struggling Windows Phone smart phone platform has overtaken RIM’s Blackberry in the US, seizing the distant number-three spot behind Android and iOS/iPhone. According to Strategy Analytics, Windows Phone became “the 3rd smart phone platform in the United States,” the first time a Microsoft mobile OS has outsold Blackberry since 2006. Sounds exciting until you remember the fine print: Microsoft and its partners launched a major new version of Windows Phone in Q4 2012, while that quarter was the one right before RIM launched its long-awaited Blackberry 10 OS. So it was a perfect storm of sorts. That said, I do expect Windows Phone to pull ahead of Blackberry sometime in 2013, not so much because Microsoft has any idea what it’s doing but because RIM is so epically pointless and won’t be able to overcome its downward trajectory.

… Or Not

On the flipside, there is reason to believe that Windows Phone is in fact not exactly surging in the market. Two market researchers now claim that in the fourth quarter, the time period during which Microsoft launched Windows Phone 8, Microsoft’s new mobile OS wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves. Canalys, which measures worldwide device sales—a.k.a. “market share” for those bloggers who still have no idea what they’re talking about—claims that Windows Phone market share in Q4 2012 was “unchanged” from Q3, holding steady at just 2 percent. And research firm comScore—which, again for bloggers, doesnt measure unit sales but instead measures usage, or what we might call “usage share,” and then only in the United States—claims that Windows Phone usage share actually fell in Q4 2012, from 3.6 percent in the previous quarter to 2.9 percent. To be clear, these two firms are measuring different things in different markets. But none of these numbers are big, none of them are good, and none are moving in the right direction.

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