Microsoft's week included a Windows Phone 7 crack, 5,000 mobile apps in the Phone Marketplace, and readying for January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The last week of 2010 was a quiet one for Microsoft, as the company-along
with many other tech stalwarts-geared up for January's Consumer Electronics
Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
Rumors suggest that Microsoft CEO Steve
Ballmer will use his opening keynote at the show to reveal a line of Windows
tablets. Such an event would mirror his CES 2010 keynote, when he unveiled a
tablet prototype built by Hewlett-Packard along with devices from two smaller
manufacturers. Microsoft doubtlessly hopes that 2011 will bring a sea change in
its tablet fortunes-unlike 2010, where Ballmer's early optimism translated into
nothing more than a very small handful of limited-run devices.
On Dec. 21, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft would use CES to debut a
version of Windows leveraging ARM Holdings
report cited unnamed sources "familiar with Microsoft's plans,"
and suggested the new Windows software "would be tailored for
battery-powered devices, such as tablet computers and other handhelds."
Both Microsoft and ARM declined to comment
If that story proves true, Microsoft's tablet plans could involve Windows
devices running both ARM chips and Intel's
upcoming "Oak Trail" Atom processors. Microsoft executives have
repeatedly emphasized that Oak Trail will play a vital role in its upcoming
"Intel is going to come out with [its] Oak Trail chip around the first
of the year," Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investor
relations, said Aug. 10 at the Oppenheimer Annual Technology, Media &
Telecommunications Conference in Boston. "And, we think, that's going to
offer a lot of new capabilities. Whether it's better usage of battery life and
the like, it's going to really help move the category forward."
Microsoft will most likely use CES to highlight continuing strong sales of
Windows 7, its keystone software platform, and the emergence of Windows Phone
7, its smartphone platform. The company claims sales of 1.5 million Windows
Phone 7 devices during its first six weeks of release-that figure represents
sales from manufacturers to mobile operators and retailers, not consumers.
However, the company will probably continue not to comment on reports that
Windows Phone Marketplace can be cracked-news that spread across the
blogosphere after a Dec. 29 proof-of-concept video posted by Windows
"A -white hat' developer has provided WPCentral with a proof-of-concept
program that can successfully pull any application from the Marketplace, remove
the security and deploy to an unlocked Windows Phone with literally a push of a
button," Windows Phone Central's Daniel Rubino wrote in a Dec. 29 posting
accompanying the video. "Neither the app nor the methodology is public,
and it will not be released (please don't ask). It is important to note that
this was all done within six hours by one developer."
Microsoft has encouraged third-party developers to create apps for the
marketplace, seeking to create an ecosystem that rivals similar offerings from
Google and Apple. At least one analyst this week thought that the company was
making progress in its app efforts.
"Released in October, WP7 ends 2010 with over 5,000 apps in its
marketplace, a milestone it reached quicker than the Google Android platform,
which took almost three times as long to reach the same level," Al Hilwa
of research firm IDC wrote in a Dec. 29
research note. "Of course the circumstances for such comparisons are never
identical, and Google followed a more gradual and tentative launch for Android
compared to Microsoft's well-orchestrated big-bang approach."
In keeping with previous CES editions, Microsoft will almost certainly use
its space at the event to show off hardware created by its partners. This year,
that means Windows Phone 7 smartphones, including perhaps the Verizon devices
reportedly in the pipeline. It means PCs from Dell and other manufacturers. The
question is, does it also mean Windows tablets ready to challenge Apple's iPad?
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.