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Random Microsoft Speculation Runs Rampant

When the news hole is gaping, journalists and pundits start filling it with whatever they can find. (Believe us, we know.) So, with iPhone 4 registering a solid "meh" on the excitement scale and Tech-Ed producing not a whole lot of news this week, the rumor mill sputtered back into action.

That's always bad news for poor Steve Ballmer, whose job always seems to be at risk (although we really don't think that it is) whenever there's nothing more high-profile to discuss. So, this week, like clockwork, the speculation about the possible end of Ballmer's reign as Microsoft CEO has cranked itself up again.

We're pretty sure that it's all bunk and Ballmer isn't going anywhere -- and probably shouldn't actually -- but we did enjoy one take on who should replace him, as well as the notion in the same article that Windows and Office "are being assaulted by Apple and Google." Oh yes, assaulted. One of those products might actually drop below 90-something percent market share someday. Tragedy!

Anyway, the best part about the San Francisco Chronicle's list of potential Ballmer replacements is that your editor is just about the only person in the industry who's not on it. Seriously, who are some of these people? And would they really be able to run Microsoft? Well, some might -- but most wouldn't. And it's probably a moot point anyway. But, hey, it's fun to put ol' Steve in the crosshairs from time to time, right? Whatever…

Also this week, and from the same source, the rumor sprang up that Microsoft might be looking to buy AOL, or, more precisely, that AOL might be shopping itself to Microsoft.

Wait…what? AOL? Really? That service that people 70 and older used to use for e-mail? Gosh, we didn't even know that it still existed. Does that mean CompuServe is still around? Now, there was an Internet provider. Anyway, we're not sure whether Microsoft will buy AOL, but we're not holding our breath. The Microsoft-Yahoo buyout rumor lived for years before Microsoft tried to buy the company…and failed. So we'll probably be back here again next time there's a slow week. That's how it works.

And while we're on the subject of randomness, let's unleash a reader e-mail about, oh, say, the Zune. Michael writes:

"I saw your 'joke' about Zune on the blog. [Quick editor's note: We've made fun of Zune so often on here that we don't remember which joke Michael's referring to here…] What I can't figure out is why so many people on your website are against it?

I owned two iPods, and I now own 4 Zune devices. The subscription plan is great, and the Zune HD is as good, if not better, than the iPod touch. I know a lot of people with iPods who love my Zune after they check it out. It also integrates much better with Windows Media Player. It is also nice that you get ten free songs per month that you own.

In any event, the only downside to the Zune is that it is tough to get devices. But, there is a new Kicker device, which is great for playing music at home.

I just thought I'd let you know that not everyone thinks that Zune is a joke."

Michael, thanks for your e-mail. It's not that we think that the Zune itself is a joke. It's a fine device -- and, frankly, your editor is a little miffed that his iPod crapped out recently, this time probably for good. You wrapped things up perfectly, though, when you said that iPod owners love your Zune after they check it out.

How many people bother to check it out in the first place? Not too many. Why? Because it's uncool. Almost everything Microsoft does is uncool. Sure, the Zune might be a better device than the iPod. But cooler trumps better in consumer electronics almost every time. And that's Microsoft's problem.

Have you heard any good rumors about Microsoft lately? Want to praise or bash the Zune? Feel like rambling? Send your thoughts to lpender@rcpmag.com. We've had some truly spectacular reader e-mails lately (thanks to Jeff and Matt in particular) -- so good (and long), in fact, that we're not quite sure what to do with them. We'll figure something out, though. Stay tuned.

Posted by Lee Pender on 06/10/2010 at 1:23 PM


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