FOSS Week in Review
Redmond Ups the Ante on Its Buyback Program
No sooner had we told you last Friday of Microsoft’s offer to buy certain “gently used” iPads for up to $200 in credit vouchers, good at your friendly neighborhood Microsoft store, than they went and upped the ante. What they’ve done is something of a reverse interpretation of a line from the old Proctor and Bergman comedy album from the early 70’s, TV or Not TV. To paraphrase, “What was once two hundred is now three hundred fifty.”
Yup. You heard us right. On Friday your old iPad was worth two hundred smackers to the Microsoft folk–which had to be taken in store credit. By Sunday morning, it was three fifty as cash loaded on a Visa card. Talk about inflation. Not only that, Redmond’s buyback offer now extends beyond a limited range of iPads to include many more devices. Now they’ll take Android devices, both phones and tablets, from Samsung, Lenovo and others, as well as iPhones and iPads. We understand they’re even offering to buyback BlackBerrys.
We heard about this development through an article by Gregg Keizer posted on PC World:
“Customers receive quotes online from Clover Wireless—one of the many “re-commerce” companies bidding for used hardware that they then refurbish and resell, mainly in developing markets outside the U.S.—and then ship their hardware along with proof of purchase of a Windows phone or tablet. Assuming everything’s approved, Clover returns a prepaid Visa card loaded with the payment amount.”
Now, if we may be allowed to quote Badfinger: “Did I hear you say that there must be a catch?”
There is a catch. With the new offer, before you can sell your old device, you must buy a new Windows device first.
“‘The Microsoft device must have been purchased within thirty days of the date you ship your old device,’ the program’s FAQ states. The new purchase does not have to be a Surface RT or Surface RT tablet, but can be a third-party Windows-based phone from Nokia, HTC, Huawei, and Samsung; or a tablet made by Acer, Asus, Dell, Lenovo, Microsoft, Samsung, Sony, and Toshiba.”
If the idea of trading-in your Nexus 7 for a Surface RT running a watered down version of Windows and with hardly any apps available sounds good to you, visit the Microsoft store for details.
The sky is falling! Ballmer & Gates both admit making mistakes–sort of…
Last week, in Steve Ballmer’s farewell address before a group of Wall Street investors and analysts, he admitted that Microsoft all but missed the smartphone boat because they stayed too long at the Windows fair. Well, he didn’t really put it that way; what he said was something about being so focused on making Vista the best operating system ever that they failed to realize they had a boat to catch. We’re guessing that with no phone, no one could call and remind them.
Now, Bill Gates (remember him?) is making the same admission. Not only that, he’s also admitting that the whole Ctrl-Alt-Delete thing was a mistake as well. However, in the later case, he says it was really all IBM’s fault.
Mr. Gates, who evidently used to be something of a big shot at Microsoft, lamented missing the smartphone boat back in February in an appearance on CBS This Morning. Well, he didn’t really admit missing the boat actually…
“‘There’s a lot of things, like cellphones, where we didn’t get out in the lead early. We didn’t miss cellphones, but the way that we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership.'”
We learned about how much of a mistake the Ctrl-Alt-Delete thing was yesterday in an article on The Verge, which had this to say:
“‘It was a mistake,’ Gates admits to an audience left laughing at his honesty. ‘We could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t wanna give us our single button.’ David Bradley, an engineer who worked on the original IBM PC, invented the combination which was originally designed to reboot a PC. ‘I may have invented it, but Bill made it famous,’ Bradley said in an interview previously, leaving Bill Gates looking rather awkward.
Funny. Over the years we’ve been aware of countless mistakes made by the gang in Redmond, but we never stopped to consider that Ctrl-Alt-Delete was one of them. Maybe if they fix that, they can get back to ruling the world again.
New & improved Surface tablets with thousands of old ones still on the shelves
Mandrake the magician Microsoft unveiled their new and improved lineup of Surface tablets on Monday. You know, the tablets they’re hoping you’ll buy just before selling your old Nexus through their buyback program. Remember, this is an upgrade on a product line that Microsoft is hoping will turn damp and rainy Redmond into sunny Cupertino; the line that was behind a $900 million write-down just a few months back. Just in case you went to a public school in the U.S., 900 million is getting pretty darn close to a billion.
In their coverage of the unveiling on Monday, the BBC sought the opinion of a research director at Gartner:
“‘Our outlook for the RT tablets is very low because consumers are still confused about what they are getting with the platform and we aren’t seeing a big uptake in the business market,’ said Roberta Cozza, a research director at Gartner.
“‘The “pro” [Intel-based] range may do a bit better. The release of a new docking station and other accessories will help.
“‘But they’re still quite pricey so it’s unlikely to be a huge leap forward.'”
Evidently, the new Surfaces are an improvement over the old, especially the RT which was little more than crippleware in its first incarnation. It’s now capable of full 1080p high-definition resolution. Also, the new RT comes equipped with a 3.5 megapixel front camera and a rear 5MP camera. It features Nvidia’s ARM-based Tegra 4 processor in addition to a USB 3 port.
Nokia’s big Elop payout
In another Microsoft related story, it appears that what’s left of Nokia since it’s phone unit was
stolen purchased by Redmond is on the hook for big bucks to their outgoing CEO Stephen Elop. It appears that Mr. Elop, who was Nokia’s first non-Finn CEO, insisted on a contract that was under the American plan–meaning big bucks at buyout time. According to a report on Ars Technica on Tuesday:
“Elop gets 18 months of base salary plus a ‘short-term management cash incentive’ for a total of €4.2 million ($5.66 million). On top of this, Elop could get €14.6 million ($19.69 million) through ‘accelerated vesting’ of his remaining equity awards.”
All in all, Mr. Elop stands to gain about $25.4 million. It’s not all bad news for the new and downsized Nokia, however. It appears that 70% of that total will be paid by Microsoft, his once and future bosses. Welcome home, Mr. Elop.
Mr. Torvalds magical finger
Evidently shooting someone the bird and imploring them to inseminate themselves can sometimes have a positive payoff.
If you remember, last year Linus Torvalds called Nvidia the “single worst company” with which Linux developers must deal, then dropped the “F” bomb while displaying his middle finger. It seems that the folks over at Nvidia have taken this to heart and are now waving the white flag, seeking peace with the penguinista army, as reported by Ars on Tuesday:
“Yesterday, Nvidia’s Andy Ritger e-mailed developers of Nouveau, an open source driver for Nvidia cards that is built by reverse engineering Nvidia’s proprietary drivers. Ritger wrote that ‘NVIDIA is releasing public documentation on certain aspects of our GPUs, with the intent to address areas that impact the out-of-the-box usability of NVIDIA GPUs with Nouveau. We intend to provide more documentation over time, and guidance in additional areas as we are able.'”
Acting like a good diplomat, Mr Torvalds is taking a wait-and-see attitude and doesn’t seem to be in too big a hurry to declare “there will be peace in our times.”
“‘I’m cautiously optimistic that this is a real shift in how Nvidia perceives Linux. The actual docs released so far are fairly limited, and in themselves they wouldn’t be a big thing, but if Nvidia really does follow up and start opening up more, that would certainly be great.
“‘They’ve already been much better in the ARM SoC space than they were on the more traditional GPU side, and I really hope that some day I can just apologize for ever giving them the finger.'”
We should develop a new term for this. How about “middle finger diplomacy?”
Court to NSA: Spy away!
An article yesterday by Grant Gross on PCWorld began with this unwelcome news:
“A U.S. surveillance court has given the National Security Agency no limit on the number of U.S. telephone records it collects in the name of fighting terrorism, the NSA director said Thursday.
“The NSA intends to collect all U.S. telephone records and put them in a searchable “lock box” in the interest of national security, General Keith Alexander, the NSA’s director, told U.S. senators.
“‘There is no upper limit’ on NSA telephone-records collection, Alexander said. “I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lock box that we can search when the nation needs to do it.'”
What’s most disturbing about this whole NSA/PRISM fiasco is the number of politicians who should know better who are firmly behind the NSA and their actions. Even staunch Democrats, like San Francisco’s Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence defends the NSA and their practices.
There remains one or two dim flickers of sanity on Capital Hill, however. Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit the bulk collection of phone calls that the NSA currently has carte blanche to carry out. Said Wyden:
“‘I believe that any government official who thought that the intrusive, constitutionally flawed surveillance system would never be disclosed was ignoring history. The leadership of your agencies built an intelligence collection system that repeatedly deceived the American people. Time and time again, the American people were told one thing about domestic surveillance in public forums, while government agencies did something else in private.'”
That does it for another week. We’ll see you next Friday. Until then, may the FOSS be with you…