Yesterday Microsoft confirmed recent rumors it was buying Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars. The deal announced on Monday will see the Redmond, WA company buying the wildly popular game along with its developer Mojang. Minecraft creator Notch will not be a part of the deal; he notes in a post he hasn’t had much to do with the game for some time and wants to focus on making games.

microsoft-minecraft1

The deal is the first major purchase for Satya Nadella and it has some scratching their heads as to why Minecraft (especially for a few billion) and why now. At a luncheon held in Seattle, Nadella said he viewed the purchase in terms of buying a platform. It is a platform he also said, that is making inroads as an educational tool (Minecraft has an addition aimed at schools). Some have speculated the purchase was a way for Microsoft to use up money it has overseas and avoid the taxes it would pay to repatriate it. One article by Simon Bisson speculates the purchase was about reaching the next generation software developers.

Whatever the reason Microsoft has gained a strong intellectual property in Minecraft which has made as much as $317 million in sales alone as of 2013. It has also brought a property that has become more than a game with both merchandising and its own conference. The Mojang purchase from my vantage point serves to strengthen Microsoft in gaming (and is a coup for Xbox chief Phil Spencer) and also continues the trend of cross platform services. The potential worries are around potential fears by Minecraft players; already some are saying Microsoft will mess up their beloved 8bit land. To that a number of statements from Microsoft, Nadella, and Spencer have been assurances that Microsoft will not make serious changes to Minecraft.

It will be interesting to see how Minecraft be integrated into the Microsoft ecosystem.

Given the nature of this news I want to link to articles which can explain this a lot better than me:

Simon Bisson Buying the next generation of Gamers

Mary Jo Foley Microsoft rumored to be poised to buy Minecraft for $2 Billion

Phil Spencer (Xbox, Microsoft) Minecraft to join Microsoft

Taylor Soper Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Minecraft

Markus “Notch” Persson I’m Leaving Mojang

image: TechCrunch and RGS Computing

I am a Nerd.

I have the glasses

The arcane pop knowledge

The references from scifi shows

I’m that guy (well hopefully not THAT guy, he’s weird) and I have lived long enough to where being a nerd is now considered cool. Comics conventions have become the places where entertainment companies go to show off and get feedback. Things like superheroes have become mainstream. Hell a Fantasy show got nominated for an Emmy. We the nerd community have come into our own……and I think I am ready to make nerd no more.

Maybe I’m just old, maybe I wasn’t the nerd I thought I was, but sometimes I get tired of being a nerd. Being a nerd now means being part of the nerd category. So now I have to watch X amount of shows, read X titles, and what not to keep my nerd credentials. I have to make room for fanfic writers, ‘shippers, otakus, Whovians, and the like. And while I’m cool most times, sometimes I want to pull rank and shut them all down.

It’s gotten to the point where in order for me to enjoy something I have to cut my fellow nerds out.

But I’m an old nerd and I am probably just being crabby.

SouthBend Tribune

The shooting of Mark Brown and the subsequent riots that are occurring in Ferguson, MO started out for me quietly. If I’m honest I wasn’t paying that much attention; its sorry to say but a young Black man being shot (regardless of reason or cause) is no longer shocking news.

In many ways there is a script for when a questionable shooting occurs. There is the event itself. The interviewing of the parents. The police officer or officers in question are put on leave or arrested. Local representative and/or a mix of the NAACP, Al Sharpton, or Jesse Jackson hold a press conference condemning the shooting. Then a rally, march, or vigil caps the event until a trial. In the script the victim becomes less a part of the story as more people come in until they are a symbol or a martyr.

Ferguson hasn’t followed the script and now everyone is scrambling to understand its meaning. I really hate looking at this story because a boy was shot and that is no longer the story. The Ferguson riot may have started with the shooting of Mark Brown, but it was sparked by something that obviously been simmering longer.

That much anger, especially with the night protests, doesn’t sprout up overnight. Just as the actions of the Ferguson police isn’t coming from nowhere.

Part if my reluctance to write about the shooting has been simply due to the fact the situation is unclear. Everyone is walking into this cold and the riots illustrate the situation on the ground is more complicated. For example a lot of the protesters have talked about the police force being comprised of people coming outside the city. It also seems that the city government is also composed of people outside Ferguson.

If both of these claims are true it would explain the police reaction to protests; they’ve adopted a siege mentality and view Ferguson as foreign territory. It doesn’t explain the almost media blackout that’s happened or the glacial response by local and state government. But it may explain why this went from zero to warzone in almost 24 hours.

The weird thing about Ferguson is how much it wasn’t a news story for cable news. I blame that partly on the death of Robin Williams and ISIS if only because it seems cable news can only handle two big events at a time. Also because the 24 hour news cycle favors burrowing in on one thing even if nothing happens for long periods.

The fact that the only way to follow the story was through Twitter, other social networks, and live feeds makes you wonder why you need channels dedicated to the news.

This one of those times, one of those situations where I don’t think anyone watching has anything to add except to be observers.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

There are times when you know you will be disgusted by the species known as homo sapiens.  There are these times when you really just don’t want to deal with its psychic mess of relationships and needs that lead to destructive behaviors. One also hates to be burdened by empathy and anger or resignation. The last 24 hours have been that for me.

On Saturday evening a boy name Mark Brown was shot and killed in an altercation with police. Information is sketchy but it appears Brown was another victim of, I won’t say police negligence, but the weird midnight place where Black males exist in regards to the law. It’s the place where young Black are trained to act a certain way with police officers to mitigate potential conflicts. It’s the place where you have to train someone not to be threatening. He was shot in a city that has erupted into a riot zone and its name has become trending topic on Twitter.

The riot and shooting are now occurring in the shadow of another tragedy. The death of actor and comedian Robin Williams.

You know Mr. Williams had been an actor for 35 years. That is one year longer than I have been on earth. So for me Robin Williams in one form or another has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Whether as Popeye, Mork, Garp, Genie, Mrs. Doubfire, the Fisher King, or Peter Pan; he was a presence. Williams was always the manic, never sit still character; a hairy ball of chaos and impressions. His death at age 63 seems too soon. I don’t know about the mentioning the depression he suffered, but I know we all have demons for which we have to overcome and it seems to me he did that.

I know today that for both men’s families they are experiencing the type of heartache that doesn’t get better with time like they say. I know for the parents of Mark Brown it will be like someone has cut something vital from their body. He was young and no parent wants to bury a child. For Mr. Williams family there will be the times you want to reach out for his presence and it won’t be there. There will be the replays of what happened and what you may have said or should’ve. There may even be the times you won’t want to hear another, “Sorry for your loss”. Time may lessen the pain, but not the absence.

This is going to be a hard week because people are going to be beautiful, but they will also be asses. Right now there are people complaining that Williams’s death shouldn’t be covered. There will be some who look at the riots in Ferguson and replay the eyewitness that described people taking hairweave. We will all be simultaneously singing Kumbyeya and Fuck the Police. And it will be tiring. And in a month or two we will be on the next thing.

So right now I want to wish Mark Brown and Robin Williams a good night; you will be missed.

I feel like instead of writing some long, drawn out posts I write a post with different subjects. I blame Twitter and Tweet storms for the WHOLE thing.

 

The Microsoft Store comes to Fifth Avenue

 

So the New York Daily News is reporting that Microsoft is in negotiations to buy space on Fifth avenue. The building, located at 677 Fifth avenue, was formerly occupied  by Fendi. The image of the store I found shows a nice little store. The story along with the stories that liked to it are saying it’ll be down the street from the iconic Apple store Cube. Now I two tweeted about it being close, but apparently its not. Also for some reason the Daily News story showed a picture of Microsoft founder Bill Gates but neither a picture of a current Microsoft Store or new CEO Satya Nadella. In my mind the paper looses 10 points plus another five for not at least having a current photo of Bill G.

 

The Microsoft Surface line: A billion here, a billion there?

 

Is the Surface line’s future in jeopardy? That seems to be the potential consensus given a report by Computerworld that the line, which premiered in 2012, has been a lost leader for the Redmond giant. An interesting analysis from Tom Warren of the Verge discusses how these loses could mean the end of at least the ARM based versions of the Surface device and the potential or the lineups dissolution by Nadella. In particular it seems everyone is taking the Microsoft CEO’s decision not to bring the Surface mini to market as a sign he may have the companies first computer on the chopping block. While I no doubt that the numbers are real, I think a better indication of where Nadella views the Surface can be found in his interview with re/code:

 

Mid-Year Elections 2014 (Shelby County edition)

 

So its election time again in the Bluff City and apparently its also a major front in the war between mainline GOP leadership and the Tea Party Insurgents. With more than five pages of people and issues on the ballot, we may need a Wiki when we get to the poll. In addition to the electing a County mayor, this election is also covering a Senate race, a House seat, and the state Supreme Court. The most interesting thing in this election has been the concerted effort by the Tennessee’s Republican party to fend off the Tea Party movement. On the Senate side, its Senator Lamar Alexander versus State senator Joe Carr and local Dr. George Flynn (who’s always running for something). Also there has been the issue of retaining State Justices Connie Clark, Sharon Lee, and Gary Wade. I think this is the only time in my memory that there have been adds in which judges have been defended and not just by a PAC but by the sitting governor of Tennessee. In a state with a clear conservative majority all of this seems to be a warm up for larger battles to come.

 

And that is that come back later, I’m taking a nap.

In covering Microsoft I always seem to return to a few large themes. One is user interface and experience. The second is about the consumer space. And the third is Windows. In many ways these topics meld and follow each other. I return to them because they are part of the question no one ever asks or answers to my satisfaction (including myself).

To quote new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, “The question that must be asked and answered”, is what will Microsoft do about Windows. It such an easy question. The problem is the answer isn’t as simple.

From my perspective the problem is around Windows as a consumer product. Its about the PC displayed in the store that people in recent years are less inclined to buy. Its about Windows competing in a market with competitors who are just as well back, and at times the better options for most users. Its about the shift that occurred with the type if users that buy devices and the device types that moves the market.

This puts me in the minority when discussing Windows and Microsoft because most of the discussions are around the enterprise, developers, and the back end. This is the half that makes Redmond its money and its the part most think should be the primary focus of the company. And while I don’t disagree about the need for this perspective, I think its shortsighted.

We talk about the decline in PC sales and we site the numbers and check for upticks and plunges. We talk about the competition from new devices and operating systems. What we, and by we I mean the community that follows Microsoft, don’t discuss is why.

(that was loaded wasn’t it.)

Windows is a consumer product. I know its the software by which a lot of businesses large and small swear by, but its still sold to people who’ll use it solely for Facebook and YouTube. And sometimes I think its important to remind everyone of this fact.

As a product sold to consumers Windows has a reputation and a history; both of which I think has led to a level of apathy that effects sales. Windows is Windows; people got upset with Windows 8 because it wasn’t the Windows people expect. It runs on a PC which people buy and keep until it breaks. You go to the store to buy a PC and the demo unit might work. The salesperson might know what they’re talking about. With Windows you have to talk maintenance, antivirus, and extra software you buy before walking out the store. This is the experience buying a Windows device.

And you wonder why sales are declining.

Windows and the PC it runs on were developed for a type of user that no longer makes up the majority buying them. Today’s audience isn’t looking for something they have to manage or hack to make it work. They also are not looking to build out machines, They want something that works and has the software they need out of the box for no additional costs.

Windows is still considered something prone to viruses and complexities; requiring users to constantly tend to it. This image is why Macs and Chromebooks focus on selling themselves as simple alternatives.

The issue facing Nadella and his head of Operating Systems Terry Myerson is dealing with shifting tastes in computing while also catering to its strongest customers.

 

 

 

Today an interview with tech gadfly and Rackspace Startup Liaison Officer Robert Scoble brought up a continued argument around the future of Microsoft and Windows. In an interview with GeekWire, the former technology evangelist at Microsoft was asked about Seattle and Windows Phone. His responses were let’s just say provocative. 

On Windows Phone:

“That train has sailed,” “The real answer is, give up Windows Phone, go Android, and embrace and extend like you did with the Internet. But they don’t listen to me.” “The problem is that Microsoft has 4 percent market share for mobile. The reason for that is that they have no apps, and there’s no love for developers of apps.

On Microsoft:

The problem with Microsoft is that it’s so committee-driven and slow. It’s not a startup anymore. It’s a big-ass company with a lot of people. And let’s be honest — you work at a big company because it’s comfortable. You don’t have to work 80 hours per week and you get paid, have nice benefits, and the family is all happy. It’s collected a lot of those kinds of people and they are all in committees. Committees don’t do anything.

 

You can read more of his sound bites on GeekWire (warning if you work in Seattle or for Microsoft you might need to restrained). The interview is interesting because it highlights the issue of what exactly is the nature of Microsoft. Is it the next IBM, an enterprise technology company that should focus on software and services. Or is it a company that has a place in the mass consumer computing space. Windows Phone successes and failures seem to be representative of this issue, as is the success of Azure and Office 365.

There is an argument to be made that Microsoft would be better served abandoning the consumer market and mobile as a platform maker. The company’s market share has been slow despite having years in the market. Windows phones and tablets have also had issue in gaining traction with the new set of app developers created with the emergence of the iPhone. In mobile success has come from software and services which don’t need to run on devices with the Windows logo. And serious growth has come not from the fickle consumer market, but from the enterprise with Azure and Office 365.

I think the question around consumers and enterprise is what good does it do Microsoft to have anything to do with computing beyond developers and enterprises. I was in a conversation today where this case was essentially being made. Does it make sense for Microsoft to invest heavily in having a mobile platform if its limited in adoption when they could go for services and have virtually no costs and all benefits? Could they win just by putting Office, Xbox, and desktop Windows on Android phones and iDevices?

Yes they could, but they also would be limiting themselves.

Imagine a situation in which Microsoft’s mobile efforts were built around managing iPads, Android tablets, and Chromebooks. They’d provide software and support using Intune and MDM. Now both Apple, Google, and say Amazon will also be doing the same; except they’ll have actual devices with software they make to complete the package. Now Microsoft’s strategy would manage these devices well but they would be a third party. Their solution would also have to mean the shop buying would have previous investment in the Microsoft ecosystem; this is a workable scenario but not best case.

One thing I have come to realize with computing is that it is both easy to discern enterprise computing from consumer computing and hard to divide it. It is easy because we can come up with a list detailing the need of a business and the wants of a regular consumer. Its hard because the devices and software you use for one, you use for the other. Beyond this users themselves make devices dual use. The mobile platforms people think Microsoft should abandon Windows/Windows Phone for are still largely consumer focused. The computing field has moved beyond supporting specialized software on a large scale.

I don’t think I have an answer to, “Why Windows or Windows Phone”, that will appeal to the rational. I have no answer to how to make it grow. I have my opinion and suggestions, but I’m an armchair analyst like everyone else. I can say that having a mobile platform means having a showcase for your services. It creates a physical product that makes what you sell real to people. It allows for access where otherwise you be restricted. And it is the natural step for most companies seeking growth.

So maybe Scoble is right. I mean Microsoft could make it work. It’d make Value Act and investors happy. It make Google and Apple happy. It would likely destroy whatever would be left of Microsoft’s developer base. And it would relegate Windows to the closet where all back end tech goes.

If Microsoft is okay with this I guess its the right course, but I doubt it. 

 

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