Engineer grumbles and user gripes do little to slow down Nadella’s trillion-dollar Microsoft

Also: Android integration pays off and recent crack at BASIC turns 11

Roundup  While Microsoft basked in the warmth of soaring digits last week, former technical evangelist and engineer James Whittaker was there to tip an icy scorn bucket over Windows and the culture lurking behind it.…

Roundup While Microsoft basked in the warmth of soaring digits last week, former technical evangelist and engineer James Whittaker was there to tip an icy scorn bucket over Windows and the culture lurking behind it.

Those with long memories will remember the Microsoft of old, blighted by the “toxic management style” of the Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer (2000-2014) eras, and while the company has made huge efforts under Satya Nadella to change itself, Whittaker claims that enough of the fossils from the bad old days remain in “discouragingly large numbers”.

Of course, there were kind words for the cloud group, formerly run by Nadella, and other parts of the organisation, but it was the beleaguered Windows group – the company’s former (and to a certain extent, present) cash cow – that took both barrels. “Nadella simply rearranged the made-men deck chairs,” observed Whittaker.

“The same people unable, over the course of a decade, to craft a winning strategy for mobile were suddenly tasked with crafting a winning strategy for the desktop.”

Don’t go beating about the bush, James. Say what you mean.

“The unsurprising result is that Windows continues its tradition of boring, buggy software, and consistently fumbled updates.”

Ouch. Whittaker, a veteran of life inside the walls of Redmond (bar a stint at Google) is well placed to know.

And award for most popular Android app goes to… Microsoft?

One of the highlights of Microsoft’s abandonment of Windows Phone has been the arrival of Your Phone, which has rapidly transformed from being interesting demoware to a highly handy add-on for those using Windows 10 and a recent Android phone.

Vishnu Nath, partner director of program management for Microsoft, was barely able to contain his excitement as he squeaked out the news that Your Phone was topping the Google Play charts.

Still there at the time of writing, the app stands ahead of the likes of Facebook Messenger and is testament to the effort to close the feature gap with the functionality of iMessage for iPhone and Mac users.

Of course, the app has troubled the top of the trending charts before (as Nath trumpeted back in October) but its arrival in the Top Free charts is a sign that it isn’t attracting just the curious.

The app allows Windows 10 users to send and receive SMS messages, make calls, respond to notifications and, for some lucky Android owners, interact with the phone screen in Windows 10.

There is a version for iPhone fans, but unless photo uploading floats your boat, there isn’t an awful lot to it – mainly, we suspect, due to Apple’s restrictions.

Surface: Quality grumbles from early adopters

It isn’t only Windows suffering from the odd quality issue or two. Judging by both Reddit and Microsoft’s own forums, well-heeled users, keen to be first in line with their shiny new Surface Pro 7 and Surface Laptop 3 hardware, are encountering the odd teething trouble, from iffy performance and random freezes to battery wobbles and easy-to-damage cases.

Of course, the entirely new Pro X has yet to hit, and we can’t help but wonder if the faithful will be expecting more performance from the pricey slab, in line with the glossy commercials for the thing. After all, Microsoft’s last crack at an Arm-based machine, the Surface RT, was blighted by returns from users who found the thing simply didn’t run what they wanted. This time around, of course, there is emulation… sort of.

At the moment, the hardware issues can be categorised as a low rumble, and Microsoft, to its credit, has been quick to swap out units, no questions asked. The software giant also rushed out day-one firmware updates for the devices, but currently lists “no known issues”.

While rapid-fire firmware fixes may seem neat, sometimes things can go disastrously wrong. Just ask all those Surface Pro 4 users…

Tactical leaking from Microsoft? Windows 10X coming to a clamshell near you

Infamous Redmond poker The Walking Cat turned up some interesting nuggets concerning one potential direction of Microsoft’s mainstream desktop operating system.

The “leaked” documents appear to suggest the 10X incarnation of the OS, shown off on the Neo foldable hardware, may be coming to other platforms, complete with a potential Start Menu replacement in the form of the “Launcher” seen in Surface Neo demos.

There are also improvements to the Windows Hello experience and yet another attempt to deal with the scattergun approach taken to Settings – although we’ll miss the occasional drop into a GUI that looks like an XP refugee when hunting for that elusive network knob.

There are other adjustments to apps such as File Explorer, all in the laudable ambition to create something “Adaptive”, “Calm”, “Effortless” and “Magical”. Right.

It appears that the new OS, should it ever see the light of day outside of 2020’s Neo, will feature “levers” to allow things to be adjusted from a “base model”. Hopefully one of those levers will enable a normal Start Menu – unless Microsoft’s memory has become very short over the years, and it has forgotten what happened the last time it fiddled with the precious pop-up.

Small Basic jabs itself with an “I am 11” badge

Finally, please join us in wishing Small Basic a happy 11th birthday.

Development proceeded in stops and starts with 2010 seeing Silverlight and browser support, until a full version 1.0 was released in 2011.

Things went a little quiet after then, other than a minor version bump to 1.1 in 2015 which updated .NET support to 4.5. A 1.2 version followed soon after with Kinect and then… silence.

After languishing in the wilderness, Small Basic was taken on by volunteers within Microsoft and saw updates to both the desktop and online versions as well as an open-sourcing as the language reached double figures.

A further update in 2019 saw the online incarnation hit version 1.0 (in public preview at least) but, sadly, things have gone a little quiet again.

While wannabe coders await the next release, join us in breaking out the jelly and ice cream and pondering the thought processes that went into that turtle. ®

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