Paul Thurrott’s Short Takes: February 13, 2015

In this week’s other news, Microsoft can’t stop punching itself in the face, Microsoft’s next billion-dollar business, Microsoft will buy its way to mobile productivity supremacy, Microsoft gets Scroogled again, Xbox One breaks record by never beating the PS4, Xbox One loses an exclusive, and Xiaomi is (sort of) coming to the US.

Microsoft can’t stop punching itself in the face

One thing Microsoft just can’t ever seem to get right is the communication thing. Case in point: The dwindling and increasingly nervous Windows Phone fan base has been waiting since last month’s media event to get their hands on Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 for Phones, so they can see the future of their favorite platforms. And yet Microsoft, despite being besieged by questions around the timing of this release, opted not to communicate the fact that WTP2 for Phones would not, in fact, run on any mid- or high-end phones at all (e.g. the phones that these fans actually own). Instead, they simply announced the release in a flurry of excitement that was quickly dashed by the dawning realization of these fans that, nope, that release you’ve been waiting for will not in fact work on your phones. This is no way to treat anyone, let alone your biggest fans, Microsoft. And that should have been patently obvious weeks ago, when you should have told them about the limited list of phones you’d be supporting for this release. That’s just plain dumb. But don’t take my word for it: enjoy this video—not necessarily suitable for work—which provides a better commentary than I ever could.

“Will your phone run the Windows 10 Technical Preview?”


Bond sales: Microsoft’s next billion dollar business?

Many people don’t realize that the tech brands you know and love are often subsidized by seemingly crazy and unrelated side businesses that have nothing to do with technology. Google, for example, is really just an advertising business. Samsung of course sells products as diverse as washing machines and heavy equipment. And Sony, curiously, has a strong insurance business that kept the firm afloat during the disastrous past decade. So with that all in mind, consider Microsoft’s next billion dollar business: assuming debt in the form of very low interest rate bonds. And with nearly $100 billion in cash—amazing, but shy of Apple’s $155 billion—Microsoft can buy a lot of debt. And it can then raise money by selling that debt at higher interest rates. Crazy? Yes. Crazy like a fox. And good timing, since it can use this money to help overcome the revenue losses from traditional businesses like Windows and Office as it transitions to mobile apps and cloud services.

“Death is Not the End on Facebook”


Microsoft will buy more mobile apps

Makers of mobile apps, pay attention: with two major mobile app purchases in the past couple of months—Accompli, for about $200 million, and Sunrise for about $100 million—Microsoft isn’t done yet. While it will continue to ship its own internally-built mobile apps on a variety of platforms, the software giant also plans to keep buying third party mobile app makers too, in a mad bid to own the mobile productivity market and keep Google relegated to a distant second place. And as noted above, it has the cash to make this happen, and it is looking for deals in the 10s of millions of dollars range to the 100s of millions of dollars range. That’s a lot of dollars, people. So if you’re a developer or startup focusing on productivity, you could be getting a big payday soon. From Microsoft or, presumably, Google. Which is not known for taking this kind of thing lying down.

“Say good-bye to the Charms Bar on the Windows 10 desktop”

Where’s that middle finger emoticon again?

Scroogled: Google keeps leaking Microsoft product vulnerabilities

Google’s crazy policy of revealing security vulnerabilities in Microsoft and other third party products after 90 days regardless of the platform owners’ ability to patch those vulnerabilities in time is patently non-defendable. But with Google revealing two major Microsoft vulnerabilities this year just days before each was officially patched—Microsoft, you may recall, has this little regularly-scheduled thing they do for security patches—tensions are starting to come to a boil. “The [Google] decision [to reveal vulnerabilities before we can patch them] feels less like principle and more like a ‘gotcha,’ with customers the ones who suffer as a result,” Microsoft security research group director Chris Betz wrote in a blog post in January. Which, as you know, is a polite way of saying “screw you, Google.” But then Google did it again, just days later. “Those who fully disclose a vulnerability before a fix is broadly available are doing a disservice to millions of people and the systems they depend on,” Betz noted, again correctly. Google isn’t just targeting Microsoft—it has disclosed dozens of vulnerabilities each in Apple and Adobe software, for example. But it’s unclear why Google—which claims it is not the gatekeeper to the Internet—is in fact acting like the Internet police. Maybe it’s time for others to start reporting Google vulnerabilities before they can be fixed.

“Microsoft fixes a serious 15-year-old bug”

How did Google miss that one?

Xbox One breaks January sales record in the US … and is still outsold by the PS4

And speaking of quiet desperation, it’s getting hard to come up with new ways to put a positive spin on the Xbox One, which faces a curious fate in which it consistently outsells its predecessor over similar periods of time but is still consistently outsold by its chief rival, Sony’s PlayStation 4. And in a month in which Microsoft quickly reversed a bone-headed decision to raise the price of the Xbox One, the firm still found itself in the number two slot at the end of the month: the PS4 once again outsold the Xbox One in the US in January. So here’s the tally: Worldwide, PS4 has outsold Xbox One every single month since the two consoles were released in November 2013; and the Xbox One only outsold the PS4 in the US in two months, November and December 2014. Microsoft’s “making lemonade” moment? The software giant claims “more game sales per console than any other platform” in January. It’s not clear if that’s worldwide or in the US only.

“Microsoft’s Windows 10 promises to be the best version for tablets to date”

Well … right. We don’t expect new versions to get worse.

Sequel to Xbox One exclusive will also run on PS4

And just in case it wasn’t obvious why being number two isn’t a good thing regardless of unit sales, the sequel to “Titanfall,” one of last year’s most eagerly awaited Xbox exclusives and a title that was at one time supposed to catapult Xbox One ahead of PS4, almost certainly won’t be an Xbox exclusive. “Last year Titanfall was on the Xbox only,” EA’s Blake Jorgensen said this week. “In the future, we haven’t yet announced, but we’ll probably have another Titanfall game. It will probably be a bigger footprint than just a single platform. I think that’s a huge positive for us.” And so it is. It’s just not a huge positive for Microsoft, or the Xbox One.

“Print out digital photos or risk losing them, Google boss warns”

Because nothing is safer than paper.

Xiaomi is finally coming to the US … sort of

Xiaomi sells more smart phones in China than any other company; it’s bigger than Samsung, and bigger than Apple. And the firm makes what looks like amazing products, so much so that I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to get my hands on some Xiaomi Mi smart phones and tablets. So good news! Xiaomi is coming to the US—it will soon open its first online sales site here—but it won’t sell the products I really want. Instead, Xiaomi is going to start small, and sell headphones, smart wristbands and other accessories only. (Cue sad trumpet sound.) “We’re keen on being in the conversation in the US,” Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra (a former Google executive) said this week. Sadly, they’re starting with just a whisper.