An often irreverent look at some of this week's other news ...
Microsoft Apologizes for Online Services Outages
What do you call an online service that can't stay online? Microsoft calls it Business Online Productivity Suite, and this week the software giant found itself apologizing to customers for not one, not two, but three separate outages. "We aspire to deliver quality services, and in the last couple of weeks, we have fallen short of this aspiration," Microsoft's Morgan Cole wrote in a blog post. "I wanted to ... apologize to you, our customers, for any inconvenience these issues may have caused." Apologize, sure. Explain even. But compensate for your loss? Not so much.
Microsoft Bundles Xbox 360 S with Kinect for $400
Microsoft this week announced that it will sell a bundle of its Xbox 360 S (with 250GB hard drive) with a Kinect motion controller add-on and the Kinect Adventures game for $400 in the United States, starting November 4. That's a pretty good deal, because the console and Kinect sold separately cost about $450. So, if you want both, and you can wait until November, you might be able to save $50. Assuming of course you can find one: My guess is that these things are going to sell out very quickly.
Verizon's Bing Deal Isn't Exclusive
This week, a rip in the fabric of time created an odd scene over at the local Verizon store: Verizon is now selling smartphones based on Google's Android OS that are bundled with Microsoft's Bing search engine instead of Google search. However, it turns out that Bing won't be preinstalled on every Android phone sold through Verizon—just most of them. You might recall that Microsoft and Verizon recently signed a five-year deal in which Bing would be installed on its mobile phones. It turns out the deal isn't exclusive. So, some upcoming Android phones sold by Verizon will come with Bing and some won't. One gets the idea that Microsoft doesn't really care, and all it really wants to do is rattle Google's cage. Consider the job done.
Microsoft Apologies to Fort Gay Gamer
Microsoft this week said it owes an apology to a gamer and customer from Fort Gay, West Virginia, who was recently banned from Xbox Live because he said he was from Fort Gay, West Virginia. You see, Microsoft—which makes mapping products such as Streets & Maps and Bing Maps—claimed that Fort Gay was a made-up name and that the gamer was, get this, "violating its policy that prohibits offensive language on Xbox Live." The gamer, Josh Moore, isn't amused. "It makes me feel like they hate gay people," he said. "I'm not even gay, and it makes me feel like they were discriminating." That's because they were, Josh. But don't worry, I hear that Microsoft's Xbox Live policy director Stephen Toulouse—who really is a nice guy, by the way—is going to apologize personally. Maybe he'll hook you up with one of those lame new controllers.
One Blog Says Windows Phone 7 Will Launch October 11 and the World Goes Nuts
This week, a blog that no one has ever heard of published a post in which it claimed an anonymous source told them that Microsoft would launch Windows Phone 7 on October 11. Then, every single tech publication on the Internet, big and small, published stories referring to that blog as if it were suddenly the most trusted source this side of Wikipedia. Here's the thing. I know Microsoft plans to launch Windows Phone 7 in October or November. And yes, October 11 is thus a possibility. But there's no way I'm giving those bloggers any credit, because the October 11 date was previously leaked by Telstra back in June. And that, folks, is almost certainly the real source for that blog. So, why is anyone getting excited by this? It's not news, yet, and it's certainly not new.
Apple Changes App Store Rules ... But Did It Really Change Anything?
Apple suddenly and unexpectedly this week changed the guidelines for its App Store approval process, seemingly reversing itself and allowing developers to use third-party tools to create applications that run on Apple's iOS devices, the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. But once you look past all the hoopla and "hell just froze over" headlines, it becomes pretty obvious that not much has changed. Apple can still reject apps for virtually any reason at all, and if you were expecting the iron hand of Steve Jobs to be lifted from the store any time soon, you obviously don't understand how this company works. My guess is that Apple lifted the third-party-tools ban to stifle critics and some gnarly lawsuits that might have further dimmed iOS growth.
Video Game Sales Nose-Dived in August
Video game retailers posted their worst August numbers in four years last month, with year-over-year revenues dropping 10 percent to $820 million in the United States. (So far this year, year-to-date sales are down 8 percent compared with the year before.) The reason is simple: No major new game titles were released in August, and the industry is eagerly awaiting the September-November time period, when several major new titles will ship, including long-sought-after Halo and Call of Duty games. (I'll be sequestered with my Xbox 360 to make sure they get proper reviews.) The best-selling console in August was once again the Xbox 360, which posted 366,000 in unit sales, compared with 244,000 for the Nintendo Wii. That Wii number, incidentally, is the worst ever for that console since its 2006 introduction. Can you say "long in the tooth"? Of course you can.
Adobe Is On a Roll ... the Wrong Kind of Roll
Adobe this week found itself in a position Microsoft is all too familiar with: Its products are so popular that hackers are once again using them as a way to break into computers. Adobe's Acrobat and Reader applications are the subject of a zero-day exploit, which is a hacker's cute little way of saying they love you. The vulnerability affects all versions of Acrobat and Reader 8 and 9 for Windows, Macintosh, and UNIX. (And yes, I asked the same question: "They make Acrobat and Reader ... for UNIX??" What's next, an Amiga port?) Expect an emergency patch ahead of Adobe's next regularly scheduled quarterly release, which is due October 13.
Kindle Is Heading to Best Buy, Target, and Staples
Amazon's bestselling product, the Kindle, is coming to a Best Buy, Target, and/or Staples near you in time for the holidays, dramatically expanding the availability of my favorite eBook reader. The thing is already outselling the competition by a wide margin, but this should be the final nail in the coffin for the wanna-bes. If you're on the fence and really need to see one in person before taking the plunge, your chance is coming.
This Week, on the Windows Weekly Podcast
I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, this week for a Windows IT Pro editorial conference, but I managed to sneak away for a few hours on Thursday and record a new episode of the Windows Weekly podcast with Leo as usual. Well, mostly as usual: The hotel's Internet connectivity was a blast out of 1999, so we got disconnected, but I think it will be edited into something seamless in time for the weekend.
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