Phil Nickinson

Ladies and gentlemen, Microsoft is back.

I wasn't sure we'd ever have reason to write those words again, and Microsoft's not yet all the way back. But it's absolutely taking the right steps. And for the first time since I began worrying about this sort of stuff, Microsoft appears to actually have some direction, some common goal.

Google EventGoogle easily made the right call by canceling Monday's "Playground" event. More here.

I found myself in unfamiliar territory late last week, a couple days before a trip without a couple of reviews hanging over my head. Relative free time. Windows 8 had just gone official, and I hadn't actually gotten around using any of the beta builds over the past few months, and a $39 upgrade is kind of a no-brainer. (That and my daily machine is now a Mac, so I wasn't overly concerned about app compatibility just yet.) So, I popped Windows 8 onto the box it now shares with an Ubuntu install (for those times I feel like torturing Jerry with Linux questions).

First off, I'm loving the move away from the traditional desktop metaphor. It's going to be a big adjustment for us old folks. But our kids are gonna love it. And (for me, anyway), things started to make sense pretty quickly. There are Metro apps (sorry, Microsoft, but that's what they're called, and that's what I'm calling 'em), which run on the cool (if busy) start screen, and there are legacy apps, which run on top of a traditional desktop space. We'll eventually see the latter phased out entirely, I suppose, but that's going to take time. It takes a little work getting used to only having one app on the screen at a time. But maybe that's not a bad thing for casual computing. 

For me, though, it shows that for the first time in a very long time, the different departments at Microsoft are working together. Hell, they're probably allowed to talk to each other for the first time. Three screens and the cloud no longer is just bluster coming from Ballmer, ladies and gentlemen. 

What does this mean for Google and Android? Not a lot, just yet. It's still early in this rebirth for Microsoft and it's going to take more time for the ball to start rolling down the hill. But it's most certainly in motion, and it's no longer going uphill. Google, obviously, is serious about the mobile space. You wouldn't be reading this otherwise. I think it's still kinda toeing the waters when it comes to Chromebooks, but I also think that'll change over the coming months as well. (I love this new Chromebook commercial. Google's got to do this for Android, too.) And I still think Google's got more in store for the living room space; the Nexus Q was just a teaser.

But consider this: Microsoft is making its products available on current non-Microsoft devices. We're already seeing that with Xbox SmartGlass. Xbox Music is coming to Android as well -- quite possibly sooner rather than later. Microsoft Office is still strongly rumored. I've always believed one of Apple's bigger mistakes was not letting iTunes -- and its purchasing power and gateway drug status -- infect other platforms. Microsoft has never been shy about spreading its reach. After all, it's how we ended up with Bing Android phones for a short time.

Microsoft may be in third place in the mobile space, and that's not all that likely to change anytime soon. There are just too many Android and iOS devices out there. But make no mistake, Microsoft's in a much stronger place than it's ever been.

The Google 'Playground' event ...

On Saturday afternoon, Google canceled (or at least postponed) its "The Playground is Open" event scheduled for Monday morning in New York City. Easily the right call, as the event was scheduled for a flood zone downtown. I've been through more storms than I care to remember here in Florida. I won't be second-guessing this one.

The strange coincidence is that this makes two straight "Nexus" events that have been postponed. Last year, the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich unveiling got pushed from CTIA in San Diego to a stand-alone event eight days later in Hong Kong, coinciding with an already scheduled demo at AsiaD. Needless to say, that drastically changed the U.S. presence at the launch.

Google hasn't yet said (and likely doesn't yet know) when the event will take place. You'll know more as soon as we know more. Disappointing, yeah. But it's weather, and these are just phones. What are you gonna do? I didn't make the hop to Hong Kong last year for just a single phone. I might be willing to go TPAC for the Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Android 4.2, though. And if anyone's looking for suggestions, I hear Sydney is lovely this time of year. 

Is it a tablet? Is it a phone?

I've seen some gnashing of teeth following the leak of the Samsung Nexus 10 over whether a tablet that big should have the same "phone" user interface as the Nexus 7 (or Galaxy Nexus), or whether it should have a "tablet" UI. The Nexus 10 appears to have neither. Or it has both. Just like the Nexus 7.

The more astute among you will recall Dianne Hackborn's Google+ post from July 3, in which she spells it out pretty simply:

"Some people have commented that the UI on the Nexus 7 isn't a scaled down version of the 10" UI.  This is somewhat true.  It is also not just the phone UI shown on a larger display.  Various parts of the system and applications will use one or the other UI (or even a mix) depending on what works best.  For example parts of the system UI (status bar and navigation bar, settings) use the phone layout since they too compact in 600dp of width.  Other apps use the tablet UI or even a mix -- for example Gmail uses the tablet UI in the conversation list, but the message screen is either a single pane like a phone or dual-pane like a tablet depending on whether the screen is currently portrait or landscape."

The Nexus 10, like the Nexus 7 before it, is an Android device. It's got all this baked in. Know how every now and then you'll see a post about "enabling tablet mode" on a device that might not natively display it? That's all that's going on. It's not black magic -- is display density.

Is one "mode" better than another? Depends on the application, I suppose. Either way, I'm going to wait till I actually get to use the thing before worrying about it. I'm funny like that.

Dear Verizon: Stop it

Here's my conspiracy theory over that hideous Verizon logo on the button of the Galaxy Note 2. I've got a feeling it's consolation for not being able to muck up the Galaxy S3. Samsung put its foot down, but offered up a 5.5-inch carrot, and quite possibly some other intangible goodies, such as a discount on cost.

Or maybe somebody lost a bet or had one too many last one night. That logo's so awful on that button, it defies rational explanation. It did, however, prompt Alex Dobie to imagine what it might look like if Verizon does manage to get another Nexus device. 

Verizon Home Button

I shudder to think.