An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Shock! Amazement! Microsoft Is Using IE 9 to "Force" Windows XP Upgrades
The tech blogosphere never ceases to amaze. One bit of invented controversy this week involves a sinister plot by Microsoft to finally get the Windows XP holdouts to upgrade to a modern Windows version by artificially locking them out of the next IE upgrade, IE 9. Because, you know, guys using a 10-year-old OS often want the very latest browser to go with it. There's just one problem with this conspiracy theory: There's nothing artificial about it. The reason is that IE 9 requires platform technologies that are only in Windows Vista and Windows 7. So yes, please, feel free to make a big deal out of nothing. That's what blogs do best anyway, right?
A Bigger Concern Surrounding IE's Loss of Usage Share
Although IE has been on a near-linear downward trend, usage-wise, for years, some are starting to wonder what the ramifications will be if IE falls too far. In other words, can Microsoft continue to exert influence over the next important new market—online/cloud computing—if it's not bolstered by the fact that most people still use its browser? This is a legitimate question, and it might explain Microsoft's sudden conversion to the web standards religion with IE 9. But for all the hand-wringing, I have to wonder: Isn't this what we were all looking for anyway? I mean, if there are basically three major browser technologies—IE/Trident, Mozilla/Gecko, and Google/WebKit, all of which are on roughly equal footing—doesn't that create a perfect competitive landscape that will result in rapid innovation and ultimately benefit consumers hugely? I think so. And I think that's a good thing. Hopefully, it will happen in the mobile space, too: It would be horrible to see one company or technology dominate the mobile web in the same way that IE dominated the desktop web over the past decade.
Bill Veghte Heads to HP
Former Microsoft executive Bill Veghte is joining HP this week and will head up the computer giant's software division. Which is interesting, in light of the company's purchase of Palm and speculation that HP will use Palm technology to make an end run around Microsoft's dominant Windows platform. Is something sinister afoot? I doubt it. Veghte is a server guy, and HP's software business is largely oriented around corporate computing—not consumers. So, although this has the makings of another awesome conspiracy theory, once again I have to think that there's just nothing to see there. Good luck to Bill V., though.
Report: 34.5 Million Netbooks Will Be Sold in 2010, 50 Million Portables in iPad Price Range
So much for that "iPad is killing the netbook" silliness. According to an iSuppli report this week, PC makers will ship 34.5 million netbook computers in 2010, up 30 percent from 2009. And by 2014, netbook shipments are expected to jump to 58.3 million units. Meanwhile, the related Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage (CULV) segment, which involves netbook-like devices that are just a bit bigger, will result in unit sales of 14.5 million in 2010, way up (40 percent) from the 7.5 million units shipped in 2009. Put another way, the types of portable computers that ship in the same price range as the iPad—up to $820—will sell nearly 50 million units in 2010, or roughly five times the most over-the-top sales estimate for the iPad. Seriously, there's no doubt that the iPad is "successful." But calling it a netbook killer is pathologically clueless.
Smartphone Market Share for April Indicates Big Gains for Apple
According to the market researchers at IDC, Apple's iPhone continues to make big gains in the smartphone market, jumping to 16 percent market share in April 2010, up from 11 percent a year ago. That's good enough for third place, behind Nokia with 39 percent (unchanged year over year), and Research in Motion (RIM) with 19 percent (up 45 percent). Rounding out the top five are HTC in fourth (4.8 percent market share, up 73 percent) and Motorola (4.2 percent, up 92 percent). I think it's fair to say that Apple will eclipse RIM in second place some time this year, and with Nokia not making any gains, it could turn into a real game by next year.
Gmail Pilot Canceled at UC Davic Amid Privacy Concerns
A high-profile pilot of Google Apps—which includes Gmail, Google Calendar, and other cloud-based tools—at the University of California Davis was canceled this week, with the institution citing Google's "unacceptable" privacy issues as the reason. UC Davis had originally planned to convert all of its 30,000 staff and faculty to Google Apps, but that's not going to happen. "Our campus's commitment to protecting the privacy of their communications is not demonstrated by Google, and the appropriate safeguards are neither in place at this time nor planned for in the near future," UC Davis CIO Peter Siegel wrote in a letter announcing the decision. He said that the school would continue to search for "a more flexible and effective central email system." Running damage control, Google said that UC Davis's reaction was "not typical of what we're seeing in the market." But the UC Davis rejection also cited a separate letter from 10 countries—including Canada, the UK, and others—denouncing Google Apps for the same reasons. OK, so that's cute, and it's nice that some people are finally questioning the one thing that is clearly Google's Achilles Heel. But let's face it, Google has some high-profile Google Apps wins as well. And this doesn't really change anything.
Nintendo Finally Settles Back to Earth
After dominating the competition for five straight years and posting the kinds of profits that would make Microsoft's Xbox team unconscious with delight, Nintendo this week finally posted its first full year profit drop in six years, with sales of the Wii console and DS handheld slipping. Oh, Nintendo is still beating the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 handily; don't worry about that. The company sold 20.5 million Wii consoles in the fiscal year ending March 31 and expects to sell "just" 18 million units this coming year. It has sold 71 million units so far, compared with the 40 million Xbox 360s sold worldwide since 2006—one year longer. Meanwhile, the DS sold 27 million units last year and is actually expected to perform better in the coming year, selling 30 million units. (129 million units sold overall.) So, how will this once high-flyer rocket back to hyper-growth? Rumors suggest an HD version of the Wii is on the way, and Nintendo vaguely plans some kind of finger-pulse reader that will transmit "biological information" to the console. And you thought Google was invasive.
Listen To, or Watch, the Windows Weekly Podcast
Leo and I recorded a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast this week, and as always there will be versions on both iTunes and the Zune Marketplace, in both audio and video formats, in the coming days