WinInfo Short Takes, November 4, 2011

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

Stop Yer Whining: Microsoft Was Right to Kill the Courier

CNET posted a two-part article about Microsoft's supposedly controversial decision to kill the Courier, a prototype two-screen tablet device that was championed by supposed whiz kid J Allard. But instead of proceeding with yet another hardware device no one would buy, Microsoft did the right thing: It chose to go with Windows-based tablets instead. Why was the Courier such a bad idea? It was a completely new and half-baked platform that would offer no interoperability with Microsoft's email and calendaring services. More bizarrely, the Courier was seen as a content-creation device, for some reason, and not as a content-consumption device like the iPad. And that means it would require a stylus for input. All you need to do is look at the Research In Motion (RIM) PlayBook to understand a not-so-fully-realized tablet isn't a good idea. No one would have bought this thing. No one.

Hot on the Heels of the HP Slate, It's the HP Slate 2!

Speaking of tablet devices that no one will ever buy, HP this week quietly revealed that it will soon begin selling a second-generation version of its poorly selling Slate PC. Dubbed the Slate 2, this new Windows 7-based tablet PC will cost $700, weigh 1.5 pounds, and come with a 9" screen, offering up to 6 hours of battery life via a pathetic little Atom processor. Regardless of the specs, HP plans to sell Windows 8 tablets next year, so my advice is to wait. And what the heck, you will anyway. It's not like anyone is going to buy this thing.

Microsoft Promises a "Fun Surprise" at Windows Phone Event in NYC on Monday

I'm spending Monday in New York to attend a curiously secretive Windows Phone-related event, which I believe will involve the retail availability of Windows Phone handsets in the United States—although that's just a guess. After the event, at noon, Microsoft is holding an even more secretive event that is open to the public, and the company teased it on the Windows Phone Blog this week. "If you live in or around New York City, you might want to find an excuse to wander past Herald Square sometime during the day next Monday—noon would be an especially good time—for a fun surprise we're putting together," the posting reads. "All I can say is we're bringing Windows Phone to life in a big, big way. Curious? Stay tuned ..." Hopefully, the surprise won't be a guy in a Windows Phone costume, but I'll let you know what happens.

Microsoft Again Improves Bing for iPhone and Android, But Not for Windows Phone

One of the weird things about Windows Phone is that Microsoft's Bing search service is so thoroughly integrated into the OS that the software giant can't easily update its features over time. So instead, Microsoft delivers new Bing versions when it updates Windows Phone, as it did recently with the version 7.5 release. This problem doesn't affect rival smartphone platforms (like the iPhone and Android), however, since Bing is delivered there as a standalone app. And that means that Microsoft can and does update its Bing app for iPhone and Android far more frequently than it does for Windows Phone. In fact, the company did it again this week: Bing for Mobile is now built on HTML 5 on those platforms, provides a split view for Maps, includes a new Deals component, and provides transit routing/real-time transit and news. These are features that aren't available at all on Windows Phone, by the way. And that ain't right.

October Comes to a Close, and Yet No iTunes Match

When Apple launched iPhone 4S, iOS 5, and iCloud in early October, it promised that a key component of iCloud called iTunes Match would ship by the end of the October. As you might have noticed, however, October has come and gone, and just this week Apple delivered a second beta version of iTunes Match only to paying developers. So what gives? No idea, as Apple is incredibly secretive. But this second beta version of the service, which works on the Apple TV for the first time, suggests that iTunes Match is getting close. I'm eager to test it. (If you forget or haven't heard, iTunes Match is a $25/year subscription service that scans your music library and then provides a downloadable, cloud-based version of your music collection in a protection-free format. I suspect it's going to be popular.)

Siri Goes Dark

Speaking of Apple, one of its other online services wasn't doing so well this week either: Its Siri voice command system, currently available in beta form on the iPhone 4S only, suffered a second outage this week, though it apparently lasted only a few hours. That explains why my pleas of "Why, Siri, why?" went unanswered Wednesday night.

Yep, It Was FUD: There Is No Plan to Block Linux on Windows 8 PCs

Last month, a handful of the world's remaining Linux advocates accused Microsoft of implementing Windows 8 in such a way that would prevent users from later replacing Windows with Linux. Not so, Microsoft said: The security feature at the heart of this complaint, Secure Boot, is there because PC makers asked for it—not because of anything Microsoft did. And this week, we received confirmation of this fact, courtesy of ZD blogger Ed Bott, who spoke with two of the biggest PC makers and was told that Microsoft had nothing to do with it. (Sorry, conspiracy theorists.) "This is about propaganda, not technology," Bott notes. "The real goal of the campaign against Secure Boot is to whip up antipathy toward Microsoft and its hardware partners." Absolutely pathetic.

Tim Cook Already More Charitable Than Jobs

As I noted a few weeks back, there wasn't a charity that Steve Jobs couldn't ignore, including several his wife was heavily involved with, according to his recent biography. But there's some news out of Cupertino that Jobs' replacement, Tim Cook, is a lot more charitable than his predecessor. Not that that's very difficult. The Wall Street Journal reports that Cook has already started a charitable program at Apple where the company will match employee donations to non-profits of up to $10,000 per year. When this program was first proposed a year ago, then-CEO Jobs shot it down, noting that he "was opposed to giving money away."

Captain Obvious Returns with a Whirlwind Prediction That Will Leave Your Head Spinning

This one is rich. A new report in Digitimes claims that Apple will revamp its iPad, iPhone, iMac, and MacBook Air product lines in 2012. And tech bloggers are all over it, breathlessly posting and reposting the exciting news. Um. You mean to tell me that Apple, the company that revs most of its products each and every single year, is actually going to—get this—rev most of its products next year? Pfffftt ... No kidding! Wow, no wonder people are so fascinated by gadget blogs.

Android Continues to Dominate 

Speaking of being so obvious it almost doesn't bear reporting, a Nielsen survey notes that Google's Android OS is still the dominant smartphone platform in the United States, increasing its market share from 39 percent in the second quarter to 43 percent in the third. Apple's iOS (iPhone) was flat, with 28 percent share. RIM's BlackBerry remained in third place, but lost share, dropping from 20 percent of the market to 18 percent. And Microsoft's Windows Phone and Windows Mobile platforms also fell, to 7 percent from 9 percent. Of more interest, perhaps, is news that smartphones now account for 43 percent of all mobile phones sold in the United States, while 62 percent of customers aged 25-34 now own smartphones.

This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast

Mary Jo, Leo, and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast on Thursday at the usual time Thursday, though I did so from Las Vegas. The episode should be available for download by the end of the weekend on iTunes, the Zune Marketplace, 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 and Paul Thurrott's SuperSite for Windows. Coming soon: Windows 8 Secrets!

TAGS: Windows 8
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