Paul Thurrott's Short Takes: February 22
Because I’m off to Barcelona, this edition of Short Takes looks at Microsoft at MWC, Microsoft’s “inner source” moves, Microsoft’s next Chromebook competitor, Xbox Game Pass on Nintendo Switch, and much, much more.
Microsoft at MWC
Microsoft is staging a secret product announcement at MWC—formerly called Mobile World Congress—in Barcelona on Sunday night, so I’m going to spend 7 hours in a cramped budget airline seat so I can see what’s up. It’s widely rumored to be the long-awaited second-generation HoloLens—really the third generation, since the original 2nd-gen device was canceled internally because it wasn’t a big enough improvement—mostly since HoloLens co-creator Alex Kipman has been excitedly but vaguely tweeting about the coming show. That makes sense: HoloLens today has found success in some lucrative and unique vertical markets, and a source tells me that the new version will include a hand-tracking feature that should obviate the need for controllers. (I’ve since seen rumors about “eye tracking” online and am wondering if these reference the same new feature.) We’ll know more soon.
“Microsoft Build 2019: 5 things we’re dying to see”
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Dying. Ah boy.
Microsoft is infected with open source “cancer”
You’ve probably never heard of this because you’re normal, but apparently, there is a formal open source methodology called “inner source” that describes how companies can adopt open source everywhere they develop, ship, and maintain software internally. As I noted on Thurrott.com, inner source is an ironic end-game to Microsoft’s relationship with open source—you may recall Steve Ballmer’s comments about Linux being a “cancer”—and, worse, evidence that open source, again ironically, has embraced and extended Microsoft from within. These days, it seems that there is nothing Microsoft won’t say no to, in sharp contrast to its heady days as an aggressive heavyweight that once dominated the industry. Excuse me for sort of missing the good old days when competitors actually competed instead of sitting around a campfire singing Kumbaya and slapping each other on the back. More to the point, it’s unclear what open source methodology can teach the world’s biggest and most successful software maker. I’m pretty sure they figured this stuff out decades ago.
“Here’s How Microsoft Makes Its Money”
One dollar at a time, baby.
Microsoft will get its Chromebook challenger right someday, maybe
Microsoft has been trying to figure out a viable Chromebook competitor since, well, before there were Chromebooks: One might argue that Windows-based netbooks, which were a response to Linux’s only serious challenge to Windows PCs, were in many ways the first Chromebook competitors. But since then, Microsoft has foisted all kinds of unpopular crap on customers hoping to find something that will slow down Chromebooks, from Windows RT to Windows 10 S to “S mode,” the latest way in which a fully-functioning Windows PC can be reduced to a barely functional shadow of its former self. Well, no worries: They’re trying again. The software giant is now working on a simpler Windows 10 version called Windows 10 Lite (or just Lite) that looks a lot like Chrome OS and won’t run desktop applications. And this system will allegedly run on a variety of devices, including low-end, Chromebook-like laptop and dual-screen portable PCs. But no matter what form this platform takes, I keep coming back to the same old argument: Without apps, Lite is doomed. And a version of Windows that doesn’t run Windows (desktop) applications arguably isn’t Windows. Or very interesting.
“How to sync Microsoft To-Do and Cortana Reminders with macOS”
Is a task no human being has ever wanted or needed to do.
Xbox Game Pass may come to Nintendo Switch
We know that Microsoft is planning to move its Xbox platform to the cloud via a coming game streaming service called xCloud that will work with PCs, consoles, mobile devices, and probably smart TVs too. And we’ve seen rumors that Microsoft will bring Xbox Live to Android and iOS. So it’s perhaps not surprising that Microsoft is now rumored to be bringing a related service, Xbox Game Pass, to a competing console, the Nintendo Switch, as well. It’s highly unlikely—OK, literally impossible—the entire 100+ game catalog on Xbox Game Pass would ever work on the Switch, as those games are natively designed for the more powerful Xbox One and Windows PC platforms. But rumors suggest that we will see some Xbox Game Studios games ported to the Switch and that this move is the first step towards getting xCloud working on the device. And that does make some sense. Plus, let’s face it, for all its reputation among a certain class of gamer, Nintendo doesn’t exactly “get” services. So this would be a win-win for both firms.
“Huawei exploded in Q4 2018”
Hopefully, no one was hurt.
Report: Apple will move the Mac to its own ARM chips
Given how quickly Apple’s A-series mobile processors have progressed over the years, I’ve long felt that Apple would begin a transition away from using Intel chipsets in its Mac, mimicking the work it did years ago when it moved from PowerPC to Intel. And now a new report confirms that this is in the works: Bloomberg says that Apple will begin the transition by making it possible for developers to bring iPad and then iPhone apps to the Mac, and that they will be able to create a single app binary that works on all three platforms by 2021. And the publication further notes that Apple will release its first A-series-based Macs as early as 2020, most likely starting with MacBooks and other less-powerful Macs. (Apple could retain Intel chips in its Pro Macs for scalability and performance reasons.) If true, Apple has been building macOS on the ARM-based A-series chips for years by now, much as it did previously with Intel. That’s the secret behind its apparently quick transition: They had been working on it for years by the time the transition really happened.
“You’ll Have to Replace Your $160 AirPods Every Few Years”
Google: Sorry, we didn’t mean for that secret Nest microphone to be discovered
Google can’t stop punching itself in the face when it comes to privacy problems, and this week’s example is a classic: When a Nest customer discovered that his Nest Guard home security device had an undocumented microphone inside of it, Google—which owns Nest—coolly reported that it “included a microphone in the Nest Guard with features such as the Google Assistant in mind. It has not been used up to this point, and you can enable or disable it at any time using the Nest app.” Needless to say, this cavalier response brought down a world of hurt on Google, forcing the firm to issue a statement explaining that it was just a big mistake. “The on-device microphone was never intended to be a secret and should have been listed in the tech specs,” the statement explains. “That was an error on our part.” It sure was, idiots. And you wonder why no one trusts you.
“Google didn’t tell users its Nest security system has a mic”
Fortnite fights back against an unexpected challenger
Even if you don’t follow the gaming world, you may be aware, vaguely, that video games are a bigger market than all of Hollywood combined. And you are certainly aware of Fortnite, a game so popular that it’s become a general cultural phenomenon. Fortnite seemingly came out of nowhere, but in recent weeks a new game, called Apex Legends, has been stealing the limelight. Apex has risen in popularity much more quickly than did Fortnite, leading some to wonder if that latter title wasn’t just a flash in the pan. So Fortnite is fighting back: This week, the game’s makers announced that it achieved a new milestone of 7.6 million concurrent players, compared to 2 million for Apex Legends. What it didn’t mention, however, is that it achieved this milestone only after making a previously-paid Season Pass available to gamers for free. A move that was almost certainly made to counter the success of Apex Legends. Fight!
“Apple Now On iPhone Watch”