What a strange coincidence: Earlier this week, Smithsonian Channel's "Air Disasters" broadcast an episode about the downing of Korean Airlines flight 007 in 1983 -- at the height of the Cold War. Turns out the Soviet Union recovered the black boxes and hid them for a decade. I'm old enough to remember the Cold War and what the United States fought against. I told my wife: "Sometimes I really wish the Soviet empire still existed, so Americans had a measure for government bad behavior". A day later, the Guardian and Washington Post broke what likely is the biggest story about U.S. surveillance since the Watergate break in. The activity stinks of behavior opposed decades ago.
The National Security Agency spies on you, in secret, something many people suspected. The NSA monitors Internet servers, without warrants. In a Google+ comment today, Joe Betsill brilliantly and succinctly captures what changed: "There's a difference between suspicion and evidence". He links to an Electronic Frontier Foundation "Timeline to NSA domestic spying". I strongly suggest reading the EFF material, in addition to the Guardian and Washington Post investigative reports -- so that you are informed.
Today, over at all AllThingsD, Kara Swisher reports that a major Microsoft makeover is imminent. Reorganization is bloody well overdue, and timing makes sense. The company's fiscal year closes June 30, and the final quarter is when employees, product groups and future plans are evaluated and rewarded and when internal changes occur.
I strongly expect the new structure to mesh with CEO Steve Ballmer's mandate Microsoft is now a "devices and services" company. His larger challenge is surmountable: Enabling a stronger siloed Microsoft that disables a power structure that resembles "A Game of Thrones" -- too many fiefdoms fighting cross-purposes to the kingdom Bill Gates created. Under the current structure, Ballmer deals with only five kingdoms, rather than book and HBO series' seven.
My oldest email address, circa 1996, is with Yahoo -- just three letters. I joined Flickr in October 2005 and Tumblr in May 2008. Three years ago, I stopped paying for Yahoo Mail, mostly abandoned the photo-sharing site and essentially stopped blogging at the social network. But I'm psyched now. Maybe former Googler Marissa Mayer can save the grandpa dot-com after all.
Today colleague Wayne Williams asks: "What will it take for people to care about Yahoo again?" "May 20th" is my answer. On the same day that Yahoo bought Tumblr for a cool $1.1 billion cash, the rickety dot-com gave Flickr the biggest makeover ever. Subscribers get 1TB of storage, on a site suddenly beautifully modern and supported by a hot, Android app. Google CEO Larry Page, Mayer just thumbed her nose at you.
Seventh in a series. When I reported the original iPhone launch in June 2007, there was sense of history among the people waiting to buy. Several shared similar sentiment: That we would all look back in five or 10 years and see the mobile as a defining moment in computing. They were absolutely right. I feel similarly about Chromebook Pixel, not that as many people appreciate what it represents compared to the larger number of folks rushing to purchase Apple's smartphone.
Google's computer is an acquired taste, and so delish you don't easily go back. But there's a Vegemite quality. Most people wouldn't eat the spread, but ask those who do -- they can't live without it. Likewise, Chromebook Pixel isn't for everyone, but is for me and possibly could be for you, if given a chance.
More than two weeks ago I asked: "Will you buy HTC One?" Preliminary results are in, and many of you express intentions to get the smartphone. Last week, I expressed how much more I like the One than iPhone 5.
The unlocked One is backordered at HTC.com, while T-Mobile can't meet demand. Someone wants this smartphone, and it might just be you. Forty-five percent of respondents say they will get the handset "as soon as available", while another 11.5 percent "within 3 months". Buying polls like this one, and that includes those conducted by outfits like ChangeWave, only measure sentiment -- what people would like to do. What they actually do often varies for lots of reasons. Clearly there is lots of interest in HTC One.
May 9 was a big day for Flipboard. The personal news app launched a new version on Android, bringing feature parity with iOS, and the Financial Times debuted as a content provider. FT is unique among magazine news publications, by making people pay. Free rides are short lived; the newspaper lets registered users view a limited number of stories per month. More than that, requires a subscription.
Many people look at Flipboard as a pretty news aggregator -- a smorgasbord of valuable content served up for free; eat as much as you like. Financial Times brings the pay model with it. You still need a FT account. Registered users are limited to blogs and video, while subscribers get access to everything. I wonder if personal paper apps like Flipboard aren't the future news, with some -- even more -- content behind the paywall.
Today, another Galaxy S4 variant goes on sale at AT&T -- 32GB and yours for $249.99 with two-year contract. Buyers looking for commitment-freedom pay $669.99. The S4 joins HTC One as hottest smartphone of the season. Both pack gorgeous 1080p displays. The One is my choice for design; other benefits include booming front-facing speakers and low-light photography. Samsung packs in larger screen and loads more software capabilities.
For the US carrier selling more iPhones than any other, AT&T makes Galaxy S4 quite the priority, jumping ahead of competitors selling the 16GB model and carrying its larger-capacity cousin. Preorders started April 16, with the 16GB phone in stores two weeks later.
YouTube opened to the public in November 2005, and Google paid $1.6 billion for the service 11 months later. The video-sharing site is the quintessential freebee. No longer. Today Google announced the launch of the first pay-for channels, which is rather strange coming from the company which business model is about profiting from valuable content given away free wrapped with search keywords and advertising. Welcome to the new Internet, with paywalls rising everywhere. To play, you must pay.
In a statement Google says there are "1 million channels generating revenue on YouTube, and one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content". That revenue largely comes from the in-video advertisements. Now you'll pay, too -- as little as 99 cents per month. Here's something: From the sampling I made today, subscription liberates you from advertising, which is something to cheer about.
During last month's fiscal third quarter 2013 earnings call, Microsoft revealed that Peter Klein would step down as chief financial officer. Today, the company announced his replacement: Amy Hood, who currently is CFO of the Business division. She assumed that role in January 2010.
CEO Steve Ballmer describes Hood as an "instrumental leader" who helped "lead the transition to services with Office 365" and to bring strong financial results.
If Linux is good enough for the International Space Station, why not your school computers? The developers over at openSUSE must think so, today releasing Li-f-e (Linux for Education) 12.3-1.
I confess to not being familiar enough with Linux (go ahead, beat me with a stick -- or with words in comments). But a reader complained this week about BetaNews' rather absent coverage of the open-source operating system. He's absolutely right about that. Reporters here tend to write about what they use, and we don't have a Linux lover currently on staff. Please pardon my light treatment of the news, in place of someone more qualified.
I'm not sure who does whom the bigger favor -- Apple or T-Mobile USA. The nation's fourth-largest carrier started selling iPhone 5 in stores April 12 (preorders a week earlier) and today reports 500,000 sold to date. T-Mobile also added 100,000 previous iPhone owners (presumably the majority from AT&T based on network types). The carrier also sells iPhone 4 and 4S but kept the big news to the 5.
Half-million new iPhones sales is just what Apple needs, too, with the U.S. smartphone market rapidly saturating. Apple is the country's leader, with 39 percent subscriber share in March, according to comScore. Samsung follows with 21.7 percent share. T-Mobile's contribution is sure to lift iPhone against rivals, when April numbers release.
Just yesterday, I suggested that Gmail for iOS, which new version links to Google apps rather than Safari, might be a bigger deal. Sure enough, is it ever. The search and information giant is hellbent on co-opting Apple's mobile platform by offering superior apps tightly tied to web services. But the strategy depends on Chrome.
Contrary to popular tech convention, Android isn't the future of Google platforms, neither is Chrome OS, nor is an amalgamation of the two. The browser is the go-forward platform of choice. Android and Chrome stand apart, competing with operating systems like iOS and Windows. Chrome can co-opt them and others. The browser is more natural fit for Google services and anchors them anywhere. This is the lesson from March's corporate shake-up that put Android under Sundar Pichai, who leads Chrome and Apps.
That's the word late today from Microsoft. The next version of Windows will be available, as a preview, during Microsoft's BUILD developer conference June 27-29 in San Francisco.
To ship this year, as the company plans, the preview would need to be brief, with release to manufacturing ideally coming by end of August latest. PC makers generally need four to six weeks of testing before qualifying final images. That makes the timetable tight to get Windows Blue on holiday 2013 PCs.
Colleagues Mihaita Bamburic and Larry Seltzer both have stories today about Microsoft's newest sales milestone. They make valid points in "Windows 8 is such a failure Microsoft sells 100M licenses" and "You wish you could fail like Microsoft". However, 100 million is less than you might think and represents Windows 8's failure.
Meanwhile, the announcement is Microsoft's attempt to use seemingly good news to admit failure, by softballing step-backwards changes coming with Windows Blue.
Regular readers know that I'm a sucker for good advertising. Audi's "The Challenge" is classic, pitting the new and old Spocks (Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto) against each other. Surely the geeks, especially old-timers like me, will appreciate the inside-Star Trek humor. If you're a Trek fan of long vintage, the video is a treat.
I laughed when Nimoy started singing the Bilbo Baggins song. I actually owned that album in high school. William Shatner (aka James T. Kirk) and Nimoy both released records during the 1970s, when Star Trek was in syndication and before the series' revival on TV and movie theater screens. Geeks and Trekkers, this commercial will be among the best two minutes forty-five seconds you'll spend today.