May 26

Windows Phone 7. Copyright © Microsoft Sweden. Used under Creative Commons License.

In spite of having a decade head start with Windows Mobile and the Pocket PC, Microsoft somehow completely missed the initial smartphone wave and is now playing a desperate game of catchup. 

Apple released its first iPhone in 2007, essentially defined the smartphone ecosystem, and jumped to an impressive early lead.  But with a more open platform and cheaper hardware, Google Android has grabbed a commanding 35% share of smartphone subscribers.  Apple is holding flat around 25%. 

Microsoft entered the smartphone market late in 2010 with Windows Phone 7 (WP7), which was already generations behind competing platforms and lacked key features like copy/paste and multitasking.  WP7 is also incompatible with previous versions of Windows Mobile, so existing users have no allegiance to the new Windows phones, and hence are just as likely to switch to iPhone or Android.  As a result, Microsoft’s share of the smartphone market is only 8% and dropping.

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May 21

In January 2011, well-known computer hacker George “GeoHot” Hotz discovered and published the keys to the Sony PlayStation 3 game console.  GeoHot had previously cracked the iPhone, allowing users to “jailbreak” their phone and run any software they want.

Crack Goes the PS3

Around the same time, another hacker group fail0verflow had also cracked the PS3 and released tools that enabled users to install the Linux operating system on the PS3.  The capability to turn the PS3 into a regular Linux computer was a favorite among geeks and hackers.  Sony originally provided this feature, but later angered the hacker community when it turned off the feature in 2010.

GeoHot took it to the next level and released the PS3’s “root key.”  This key authorizes hackers to run essentially any software on the PS3.  And a root key is nearly impossible to change without breaking all existing PS3 software.  Hence, GeoHot permanently and publicly cracked the PS3 platform.

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May 11

Imagine you are at a cocktail party.  You are having a private conversation with someone you thought was a trusted business associate.  You lean forward and whisper confidential information in his ear.  He immediately repeats what you said aloud.

Your secret may not be exposed – depending on whether anyone is within earshot – but this person has violated your trust.  You are unlikely to share any more secrets with him.

This is what it’s like when a website or online store emails your password in plaintext.  The vendor has violated your trust and called into question whether you should continue to do business with them.

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May 11  Public domain on imgur.

This would be even more funny/scary if Microsoft was still the 800-pound gorilla in the computer industry that everyone feared.