Paul Thurrott’s Short Takes: February 27, 2015

Because you accept no substitutes, this week’s other news includes Microsoft at Mobile World Congress next week, Microsoft finally decides to replace IE with something that works, the salacious tale of a Microsoft employee’s expense account, why on earth is the PlayStation 4 so popular, and Apple is about to invent the Surface, er, iPad Pro.

Microsoft at Mobile World Congress

Next week, Mobile World Congress gets underway in Barcelona, giving tech journalists and bloggers an expensive excuse to travel to one of the world’s most beautiful cities, eat Jamón Iberico and drink Sangria and pretend that the mobile gadgets they’re ogling (and the expenses their accruing) matter in the slightest. For me, Mobile World Congress is all about what Microsoft is going to announce, and given the slow flushing sound I hear around Windows Phone, I’m particularly interested in—and worried about—what they’ll announce on that topic. Rumor has it that the software giant will launch up to 5 new Lumia smart phones next week, and though my sources tell me none will be true flagships, some of them are at least coming to the United States (including a mid-level phablet that will likely be called Lumia 1330). I’ll be covering Microsoft’s MWC announcements on as they happen next week, but if you’re a night owl, you can watch its MWC press conference live at 2 am ET on Monday, March 2.

“Microsoft employee donation campaign hits another record”

And here I’ve been claiming that Microsoft wasn’t a charity. But seriously. Nice.

After 20 years and 11 versions of Internet Explorer, Microsoft finally wants the web to “just work”

There’s a strange dance one must do when marketing a new product version where you have to dump on the previous version just enough so that people will upgrade but also not hate you for previously shipping what is now obviously a very broken product. And so now Microsoft is doing that with Windows 10, which will include the company’s first-ever replacement for Internet Explorer, now codenamed Project Spartan. According to Microsoft, Spartan will “make the Web ‘just work’ for [its] customers.” For which we thank you. After all, we’ve only been putting up with Internet Explorer for 20 freaking years. Maybe you could make mobile apps “just work” sometime in 2032.

“Lenovo just showed why Microsoft needs the Surface PC”

No they didn’t. This was always obvious, and I’ve been railing against the PC makers that ruin Windows with crapware for years.

Two former Microsoft employees sue company for baseless firings

It’s been too long since we’ve heard a lurid story about a Microsoft employee, so this will do nicely: two unnamed former Microsoft employees have sued the software giant, claiming that they were fired after they raised concerns about an employee’s expenses that include sex services in South Korea. To be clear, they were not fired for putting sex services on their expenses. They were fired because they claimed an employee working under them did so. According to the suit, this employee racked up $22,000 in “entertainment expenses,” which included partying with potential business partners in South Korean hostess bars, which, well you know. So they complained, but after an internal investigation these complaining employees were shuttled off to Microsoft’s version of Siberia—yep, Bing—and their supposed projects were subsequently shut down and they were then both fired, supposedly for reasons unrelated to the complaints. “We always encourage employees to raise concerns that they may have, and take such reports seriously,” a Microsoft statement notes. I think I hear snickering.

“14 things you didn’t know your iPhone headphones could do”

#7. It’s an improvised garrote for those awkward moments on the subway.

Why the heck is the PlayStation 4 so popular?

Look, I get that Microsoft bungled the initial marketing of Xbox One, and, sure, the starting $500 price tag was too high. But the one thing I’ll never understand—never—is why the bland Sony PlayStation 4, made by a company no one should trust, has not just outsold the Xbox One, but has in fact sold spectacularly well. It makes no sense. Well, the consumer marketing experts at Nielsen say they’ve figured it out, and as a clickbait headline might describe, you won’t believe what happens next. The number one reason people choose the PS4 over the Xbox One is … wait for it… “better resolution.” Which is a curiously nuanced reason because while it’s fair to say that some PS4 games are in fact of a higher resolution than their Xbox One counterparts, the simple truth is that there isn’t a human being on earth that can actually discern the difference in most cases. The number 2 reason—Blu-ray player—is even odder, since both consoles include a Blu-ray player. Game library is number 3, also odd given the Xbox One’s superior games library. On and on it goes, but what I keep coming back to isn’t so much why someone would choose PS4—after all, consumers are by definition uneducated sheep—but how on earth Sony has sold so many of them. And Nielsen can’t help us with that. No one can.

“What Will The PS5 And Xbox Two Be Like?”

Shut up. Now.

Is Apple about to release its own Surface Pro?

The conventional wisdom is that Apple innovates and Microsoft copies, but anyone without Cupertino-tinted blinders on knows that Apple copies Microsoft (and everyone else) just about as much as the reverse. And this year, we could see one of the more bald-faced versions of this copying if the rumors are true. Facing a year of massive iPad sales setbacks—iPad sales actually fell year-over-year in 2014 even though the overall tablet market continued to grow—Apple is allegedly set to release a magical new device that—get this—combines a bigger, say 12-inchish, version of the iPad with a magnetically-connected typing cover that will turn the Fisher Price-like iOS device into a real computer! I know, it’s crazy! I mean, who else but Apple could totally redefine a product category—sorry, invent a product category—by making something that can and should be called the iPad Pro? They’ve done it again, folks. Or they will soon.