Paul Thurrott’s Short Takes: September 6

end of summer

Because summer ends when I say it ends, this edition of Short Takes looks at Slack and its inability to turn a profit, Microsoft testing 5G game streaming in Korea, deep fake videos, mega-yachts, and Window 10 update quality, and so much more.

Slack issues first earnings report. Maybe “earnings” isn’t the right word

Slack issued its first earnings report since going public, and—surprise, surprise—the firm is doing horribly: It posted a loss of $0.14 per share on revenues of $145 million for the quarter ending July 31, far below analyst expectations. The news sent the firm’s stock price into a freefall, triggering questions about how it could possibly compete effectively with Microsoft and its Teams offering. But Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield says that the company is in “a strong cash position,” thanks to about $800 million in cash assets. And it intends to grow its subscriber base of 100,000 paying customers. But Slack is also projecting a loss for the current quarter and for the entire fiscal year, and it’s unclear how or when it will be able to turn that around. Microsoft, meanwhile, has infinite money and is well-respected and well-established in the enterprise market that Slack seeks to grow. I’m going to call this one: Slack is the next Netscape. And this time, the DOJ isn’t going to care if it disappears.

Free software advocate Richard Stallman spoke at Microsoft Research this week

And by “free software advocate,” we mean “scary-looking homeless guy”

Microsoft will test 5G game streaming in South Korea

Microsoft announced this week that it will partner with SK Telecom to deliver 5G-based game streaming in South Korea. The two firms will begin testing Microsoft’s Project xCloud game service in preview in October using SK Telecom’s “super-fast speed and ultra-low latency” 5G network. “Microsoft’s approach to game streaming combines nearly 40 years of gaming experience with investments and resources from Azure, Microsoft Research, and other business groups across the company, allowing us to reach gamers around the world,” said Microsoft executive vice president Phil Spencer. Left unsaid: Microsoft would love to test 5G gaming in the United States, but none of the wireless carriers here can get their act together. Indeed, SK Telecom already boasts over one million 5G subscribers on its world’s leading mobile infrastructure. It’s like they’re living in the future or something.

“Why you might actually buy a 5G phone in 2020”

Because time marches on and obviously.

Microsoft, others will try to help others spot deep fakes

Microsoft this week said that it would partner with the Partnership on AI coalition, Facebook, and academics from several universities to help better detect deep fake videos. The first step is a contest, the Deepfake Detection Challenge, in which the group will ironically commission researchers to create realistic deep fake videos so that they have a data set to work from. Why Facebook is involved is unclear—the company doesn’t even have a policy preventing deep fake videos from appearing on its services—but I think it’s fair to say that the social networking giant will never live down the damage it did to our democracy during the 2016 presidential election. Anyway, the contest will run from late 2019 into Spring 2020 and will hopefully help create a system by which deep fake videos are easily recognized and then taken offline. I’m not holding my breath.

“Facebook Dating available now, with Secret Crush feature”

I see absolutely no problems with this.

In the market for a yacht?

Late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s mega-yacht is on the market, but it won’t come cheap: The 400-foot affront to all that is ecological in this world will set you back a cool $325.5 million, which is about the same price as a top-floor, one-bedroom condo in San Francisco these days. It includes 13 guest cabins and 30 rooms for the crew, two elevators, two helipads, a pool and a hot tub, a private deck with a bar, a movie theater, a basketball court, a library, and a spa. That’s along with an observation deck, a hyperbaric chamber, and, of course, an 8-person underwater submarine that docks in the ship. And that’s the thing. Unlike Steve Jobs’ pointless and ugly mega-yacht, Allen actually used this thing, and he used it to explore the Antarctic coast and the Northwest Passage. And to host mega parties with celebrities like Mick Jagger. Because why not, you were one of the richest men on earth.

“The coolest thing about Lenovo’s new tablets is what happens when you’re not using them”

Do they mate with each other?

OK, maybe Windows 10 version 1903 isn’t any better than previous versions

Facing mounting criticism about the quality of its Windows 10 feature updates, Microsoft slowed things down this year and issued Windows 10 version 1903 much later than usual and deployed it much more slowly than usual. (It also plotted a Windows 10 version 1909 release that is basically just a service pack for 1903, giving customers even more breathing space.) Mission accomplished? Not quite: Now that 1903 is finally making its way into the world— it’s currently installed on about one-third of Windows 10-based PCs—the problems are starting to mount. The big problem is a mysterious CPU usage spike of 30-to-40 percent for some users, which Microsoft says it is investigating. But there are other issues, too, including one with Windows Search, which is broken for some. Microsoft says it will fix the bugs in the next few weeks. But that’s when we expect to see Windows 10 version 1909 appear, again. And that’s the real problem here, the gerbil wheel of never-ending updates that explains why so many Windows 7 users don’t want to upgrade to Windows 10. After all, jumping out of a perfectly working airplane is an unnatural act. What’s even more unnatural, of course, is continually updating an airplane while it’s flying. Actually, jumping out of that plane might make sense.

“What to expect from Apple’s September 2019 iPhone event”

Just spit-balling here, but … iPhones?