Microsoft is signalling the end of its Nokia experiment today. After acquiring Nokia's phone business for $7.2 billion two years ago, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion last year and cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its phone efforts. Microsoft is now writing off an additional $950 million today as part of its failed Nokia acquisition, and the company plans to cut a further 1,850 jobs. Most of the layoffs will affect employees at Microsoft's Mobile division in Finland, with 1,350 job losses there and 500 globally. Around $200 million of the $950 million impairment charge is being used for severance payments.
Everything about this entire deal needs to be investigated for all kinds of shady practices. My gut is telling me there's a bunch of people that perhaps ought to be in jail on this one. Meanwhile, this is absolutely terrible for all the people involved. I've got the feeling thousands of people's jobs have been used as a ball in a very expensive executive game.
Luckily, the remnants of Nokia in Finland seem to be doing well, so that's at least something, and in case you've got a hunkering for the good old days: there's a video out of Nokia Meltemi on a device called the Clipr - a very rare look at a Linux-based mobile operating system Nokia was developing around 2012.
It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.
Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.
Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.
I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?
I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?
I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.
Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.
Windows Vista was a shock to many Windows users, as its hardware requirements represented a steep upgrade over those required to run Windows XP: most 32-bit versions required a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, DirectX 9 graphics, and 40 GB of mass storage with 15GB free. But those 2006-era requirements looked much less steep once Windows 7 rolled out in 2009: it required almost the same system specs, but now 16GB of available disk space instead of 15. Windows 8 again stuck with the same specs and, at its release, so did Windows 10.
But the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (referred to in documentation as version 1607, so it ought to ship in July) changes that, with the first meaningful change in the Windows system requirements in almost a decade. The RAM requirement is going up, with 2GB the new floor for 32-bit installations. This happens to bring the system in line with the 64-bit requirements, which has called for 2GB since Windows 7.
After so many years, I'm okay with a small memory bump. Considering the state of software development today, it's amazing enough as it is that Microsoft had managed to keep the minimum requirements level for this long.
Ara is going to be the first ever phone that Google is making itself (it has already made laptops and a tablet, among other things). And even though what I saw last week was just a prototype, it was working well enough that I believe Google can fulfill its promise to release a consumer product next year. Yes, we've seen Google kill off hardware before, but this is a high-profile launch from a newly independent division. It's the first truly big swing from Google's new hardware group under Rick Osterloh, and to back off now would be a colossal embarrassment.
Given all that, really the only questions that matter are simple: Is Google really making a phone? Will this plan to make it modular really work this time? Is this more than just an experiment?
Coming out of the meeting, had I shaken a Magic 8 ball, it would have said, "Signs point to yes."
I want this to succeed - finally something new, beyond the square slab - but this is so radical in the smartphone (or feature phone and PDA before that) market that I honestly just don't know if it'll work out.
In any case, people are taking sides, but a this point in time, I think either option - "this will be a massive success" or "this is nonsense" - is equally shortsighted, and especially the latter not at all unlike this infamous quote.
Reports say about 100 tax officials entered Google's offices in central Paris early in the morning. Police sources confirmed the raid, but Google itself has so far made no comment. Google is accused of owing the French state €1.6bn ($1.8bn; £1.3bn) in unpaid taxes.
We're coming for you.
The reason we're making this change is that users regularly lose data because they hit the backspace button thinking that a form field is focused. After years of this issue, we realize we're not going to have a better way to solve that problem.
I absolutely hate this change. I deeply, deeply, deeply hate this change. This is a classic case of instead of addressing the core problem - web forms shouldn't lose their content when you navigate back and forth - you just try to hide it a little more by making navigation harder.
Emblematic of software development today, especially in operating systems: instead of fixing core problems, let's just add more layers to hide the ugliness. You see it everywhere - from still relying on an operating system written for timesharing machines with punchcards, to trying to hide broken, complicated and obtuse file system layouts behind "just use convoluted cloud storage".
People carrying around ugly battery packs just to get through a day of use on their devices running an outdated timesharing mainframe punchcard operating system from the '60s tells you all you need to know about the complete failure of modern software development - and this tiny little change in Chrome only underlines it.
Good software does not exist.
It's really happening. Android apps are coming to Chrome OS. And it's not just a small subset of apps; the entire Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. More than 1.5 million apps will come to a platform that before today was "just a browser," and Android and Chrome OS take yet another step closer together.
In advance of the show, we were able to sit down with members of the Chrome OS team and get a better idea of exactly what Chrome OS users are in for. The goal is an "It just works" solution, with zero effort from developers required to get their Android app up and running. Notifications and in-line replies should all work. Android apps live in native Chrome OS windows, making them look like part of the OS. Chrome OS has picked up some Android tricks too - sharing and intent systems should work fine, even from one type of app or website to another. Google is aiming for a unified, seamless user experience.
Interestingly enough, this project is actually not ARC, the technology Google used before to bring Android applications to Chrome. ARC wasn't good enough for Google, as it still required developers to make changes to their code. In fact - and this is kind of funny - ARC didn't even pass Google's own Compatibility Test Suite Android variants have to comply with. So, they started from scratch, and used containers instead.
The new model dumps the native-client based implementation for an unmodified copy of the Android Framework running in a container. Containers usually bundle an app up with all of its dependencies, like the runtime, libraries, binaries, and anything else the app needs to run. This allows the difference between application environments to be abstracted away. In this case, Google is putting the entire Android Framework into a container, all the way down to the Hardware Abstraction Layer.
I'm hoping Google will eventually bringing Android applications to all variants of Chrome, including the one on Windows.
During the Google I/O keynote last night, the company introduced a number of new products and talked some more about Android N. There's Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor, which will be available somewhere later this year. The company also announced two (!) more messaging applications, and at this point I'm not sure whatever the hell Google is thinking with their 3027 messaging applications. There was also a lot of talk about virtual reality, but I still just can't get excited about it at all.
More interesting were the portions about Android N and Android Wear 2.0. Android N has gone beta, and you can enroll eligible Nexus devices into the developer preview program to get the beta now (Developer Preview devices should get the beta update over the air).
New things announced regarding Android N are seamless operating system updates (much like Chrome OS, but only useful for those devices actually getting updates), a Vulkan graphics API, Java 8 language features, and a lot more. Google is also working on running Android applications without installing them.
Android Wear 2.0 was also announced, introducing a slightly improved application launcher, better input methods (handwriting recognition and a tiny keyboard), and support for a feature that allows watchfaces to display information from applications - very similar to what many third-party Wear watchfaces already allow.
Tying all of Google announcements together was Google Assistant, an improved take on Google Now that integrates contextually-aware conversation speech into Google's virtual assistant. Google Assistant is what ties Google Home, Android, Android TV, Wear, the web, and everything else together. We'll have to see if it's actually any good in real tests, of course, but it looks kind of interesting.
That being said, I've been firmly in the "these virtual assistants are useless" camp, and this new stuff does little to pull me out. It just doesn't feel as efficient and quick as just using your device or PC with your hands, and on top of that, there's the huge problem of Silicon Valley - all technology companies, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft - having absolutely no clue about the fact that endless amounts of people lead bilingual lives.
To this day, all these virtual assistants and voice input technologies are entirely useless to people such as myself, who lead about 50/50 bilingual lives, because only one language can be set. Things like Wear and the Apple Watch require a goddamn full-on reset and wipe to switch voice input language, meaning that no matter what language I set, it'll be useless 50% of the time. If you're American and used to only speaking in English, you might think this is a small problem... Until you realise there are dozens of millions of Spanish/English bilingual people in the US alone. It's high time Silicon Valley goes on a trip out into the real world, beyond the 2.3 kids/golden retriever/cat/minivan perfect suburban model families they always show in their videos.
The once beloved ES File Explorer was revealed recently to be little more than a Trojan Horse, used to get adware installed on thousands of devices with one update. This was apparently just the beginning. Users have started compiling a spreadsheet of apps that sneak the same adware-infused charging lock screen onto your device. There are already about 20 of them. Google, where are you?
Google needs to address this grotesque abuse of its users quickly and decisively, and remove all applications that install this adware from the Play Store, no questions asked. This is in direct violation of the Play Store rules.
Nokia has announced plans that will see the Nokia brand return to the mobile phone and tablet markets on a global basis. Under a strategic agreement covering branding rights and intellectual property licensing, Nokia Technologies will grant HMD global Oy (HMD), a newly founded company based in Finland, an exclusive global license  to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next ten years. Under the agreement, Nokia Technologies will receive royalty payments from HMD for sales of Nokia-branded mobile products, covering both brand and intellectual property rights.
All these devices will run Android.
With the news that Microsoft is selling the feature phone branch it bought from Nokia, and the additional news that Microsoft is hinting at killing its Lumia line and brand, can we all finally agree what many smart people - including myself - said from the very beginning, namely that Microsoft acquiring Nokia was nothing more but yet another disaster in a long line of Microsoft/Windows Phone disasters? One that cost thousands and thousands of people their jobs?
I still feel the circumstances around the Microsoft/Nokia deal needs to be investigated for... Shenanigans.
The ReactOS team is proud to announce the release of version 0.4.1 a mere three months after the release of 0.4.0. The team has long desired an increased release tempo and the hope is that this will be the first of many of faster iterations.
Due to the brief period of time between the two releases, 0.4.1 is ultimately a refinement of what was in 0.4.0.
I'm glad ReactOS has been picking up steam again. I still doubt it'll ever serve a production purpose, but the effort is incredibly impressive nonetheless.
Possibly the most despised feature of Windows 10 is advertisements. They show up in your apps list, lock screen, and even the Start Menu. Sadly, Microsoft plans to double the amount of Promoted Apps that you'll find hiding in the Start Menu when the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is released this summer.
To be fair, this supposedly only applies to fresh installs of Windows 10 (though that is unconfirmed), but it just feels so dirty. Apple is already stuffing iOS full of ads and unremovable ads disguised as applications, and now Microsoft is making Windows 10 worse too. This is a horrible trend.
Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site
And so the slow march of death of Flash continues, ever onward, never looking back, into the abyss, a neverending blackness, cold and deep, nevermore to return.
Linux 4.6 has been released. This release adds support for USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps), the new distributed file system OrangeFS, a more reliable out-of-memory handling, support for Intel memory protection keys, a facility to make easier and faster implementations of application layer protocols, support for 802.1AE MAC-level encryption (MACsec), support for the version V of the BATMAN protocol, a OCFS2 online inode checker, support for cgroup namespaces, and support for the pNFS SCSI layout, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.
I downloaded the new Gboard for iOS today, and have been really enjoying it so far. Along with wondering about what Google will tell advertisers now that they can read every single thing I type, I came to the realization that pretty much every major function of my iPhone has now been taken over by Google software.
I use Google products for email, search, photos, maps, and video. Gboard effectively puts Google inside every app I use that requires me to type, from texting to taking notes. The only activity that isn't really mediated by the search giant at this point are voice calls, although in the past I have used Google Voice.
This is why, despite rumblings, we've not yet seen Apple allowing iOS users to set default applications.
The day Apple allows this, we're going to see a whole lot of Google iPhones.
During hours of unrelenting cross-examination today, Andy Rubin, Google's former Android chief, was on the stand in the Oracle v. Google trial defending how he built the mobile OS.
Rubin's testimony began yesterday. He's another one of the star witnesses in this second courtroom showdown between the two software giants in which Oracle has said it will seek up to $9 billion in damages for Google's use of certain Java APIs in the Android operating system. Since an appeals court decided that APIs can be copyrighted, Google's only remaining defense in this case is that its use of those APIs constitutes "fair use."
The "API's are copyrightable"-ruling is one of those rulings we will look back on decades from now and point to as "that's where it all went wrong", much like how we now look back upon disastrous rulings like Citizens United or the slew of bad rulings that legitimised software patents.
And we have the despicable Oracle to thank for that. As I've pointed out before, it's no coincidence that the three-pronged legal attack on Android - from Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle - all started at around the same time, and that Larry Ellison was a very close friend of Steve Jobs.
When all this stuff hits the fan even harder, you know who to thank.
Today, we are sharing with you yet another feature to try out in the developer channel for Opera for computers.
We are the first major browser to include a dedicated power saving mode, designed to extend your laptop battery life by up to 50% compared with, for example, Google Chrome. Depending on your type of hardware, it can mean several hours more browsing before you need to recharge your laptop.
Very interesting feature - but I'll be interested in real-world tests and benchmarks.
The other notable change in build 14342 isn't a feature that's been added but rather one that's been removed. Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 both included a contentious feature called Wi-Fi Sense that allowed Wi-Fi credentials to be shared with your Facebook and Skype contacts. Citing the lack of end-user uptake of this feature, it has been removed from 14342.
Windows 10 will still sync Wi-Fi credentials among your own machines, so signing on to a network with one Windows 10 PC will allow all the other PCs that use the same Microsoft Account to also access the network, so this (arguably more important) capability isn't going away, but the one that raised so many hackles after it was spotted a year after its introduction is consigned to the dustbin of history.
Good. This was such an incredibly creepy and potentially dangerous feature that I really cannot fathom that it got through the countless levels of triage Windows features certainly go through.
Google began digging up dirt and laying fiber optic pipes in Kansas City, Kan., five years ago in April. Its first customers were wired the following year.
For the years after, it was unclear - certainly outside of Google - just what Google wanted to accomplish with this first venture outside of its core business. Now it's evident: Google was using Kansas City as a testbed for an audacious project - one to take on broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, which enjoy long-held duopolies and monopolies across the country, and build out a national service. To provide real competition.
Googlers won't say this out loud, but they despise the cable industry. They find it inert, predatory and, worst, anti-innovation. So Google wants to replace it.
No better microcosm of the complete and utter ineptitude of the US government to implement, maintain, and modernise infrastructure than the US cable industry. I still can't believe that the internet in the US is as dreadfully horrible as it is.
If it takes Google to break the deadlock, so be it - even though it shouldn't be a profit-hungry company to do so.
We need competition; we also need diversity. We need the possibility that young, game-changing market entrants might come along. We need that idea to be kept alive, to make sure that all the browsers don't shift from keeping users happy to just keeping a few giant corporations that dominate the Web happy. Because there's always pressure to do that, and if all the browsers end up playing that same old game, the users will always lose.
We need more browsers that treat their users, rather than publishers, as their customers. It's the natural cycle of concentration-disruption-renewal that has kept the Web vibrant for nearly 20 years (eons, in web-years).
We may never get another one, though.
Sometimes, I feel a little dirty for using Chrome just about anywhere, instead of Firefox. The problem is that switching browsers is not something I just do willy-nilly; you build up certain ways of using a browser, and with it being by far the most-used and most important application on my PC, even the tiniest of things become ingrained, and the tiniest of differences between browsers will annoy the crap out of me. I do give other browsers a chance every now and then, just to keep up with the times - but I always end up back at Chrome.
That being said, Doctorow's article paints a very bleak picture of the future of browsers, because according to him, the W3C has basically become a tool for the few big tech companies to dictate the direction of browsers and therefore the web with it, with disastrous consequences.