Tech Retrospect: Microsoft strikes back

Microsoft is looking for love, your love, and it might just get it. Also, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gets more money, and BlackBerry CEO John Chen makes a ridiculous request. All that and more in this look back at the week in tech.

Tim Stevens Former editor at large for CNET Cars
Tim Stevens got his start writing professionally while still in school in the mid '90s, and since then has covered topics ranging from business process management to video game development to automotive technology.
Tim Stevens
4 min read


Microsoft did something amazing this week: it got people excited about something. That's tough to do as we enter what is a challenging phase of personal computing. The PC itself has long been deemed passe, smartphones have become rather boring, tablets somehow even more so. Wearable devices will be big, but few consumers (myself included) are genuinely excited about the things.

So what, then, can raise the eyebrows of an increasingly cynical buying populace? Augmented and virtual reality, as it turns out, and 2015 is an incredibly important year for both. Yes, the largely negative reaction to Google Glass didn't help the AR side of things, and the endless delays of Oculus Rift have caused some to grow impatient about VR. But this week's debut of the HoloLens by Microsoft showed that the people haven't lost hope.

HoloLens promises to project the digital on top of the real. Microsoft

Okay, so the thing looks ridiculous, and its name is inappropriate as there isn't any actual holography going on here. Forgive my being picky for a moment, but true holograms are 3D images that appear to float in thin air. Think Princess Leia projected by R2-D2. No glasses required. What Microsoft showed off is full-field augmented reality: 3D glasses that overlay flat images on top of the real world. Demos showed people entering into Minecraft to explore from within, or creating Minecraft-like stages that sprawl across coffee tables. NASA engineers explored Mars from inside their offices and cubicle workers enjoyed Skype calls projected on the wall.

It isn't holography, but semantics aside, it was an impressive demo Microsoft showed. People are obviously eager to see more. I'm eager to know more, specifically: how much, and when? Microsoft would only say it will ship within the same timeframe as Windows 10, which is expected this year. Cost? If it's less than $400 I'll eat my smartwatch -- right after I finish ordering a HoloLens for myself, that is.

Hey, Cortana. Welcome to the Windows 10 PC (pictures)

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And what about Windows 10 ? Well, it looks to fill the gap that Windows 8 created, doing a much better job of blending the tablet and desktop user experiences. DirectX 12 is also said to have some significant performance improvements, and overall it seems like a great OS for gaming graphics. It's a shame it's taken us so long to get here. Upgrades from Windows 7 and above will, at least, be free -- for a year, anyway.

Oh, and spare a thought for Internet Explorer. It's being put out to pasture in favor of some new browser hotness called Project Spartan . Only Microsoft would attempt a Halo pun such as this, but the name is meant to imply the lean, simple nature of the browser, a far cry from the bloated beast that IE has become. That said, MS is integrating Cortana, the company's voice assistant, right into the thing. No word on when, however.

SpaceX lands $1 billion in funding from Google, Fidelity

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Dragon V2 in May 2014. Tim Stevens/CNET

It's hard to over-state the potential for a company like SpaceX, which stands poised to drastically decrease the cost of space travel. It has certainly had its failures, but if the company achieves even half of what founder Elon Musk hopes to do, its valuation could soar even higher than its Dragon space capsules. As an acknowledgement of that, this week Google and Fidelity announced a $1 billion investment in the company, in exchange for 10 percent equity. Yes, a $10 billion valuation -- sadly about one-quarter that of Uber at this point.

BlackBerry CEO John Chen makes a ridiculous demand

BlackBerry CEO John Chen CNET

It's over a day later and I'm still shaking my head at this one. BlackBerry CEO John Chen, this week, proposed that our concept of Net neutrality should be extended to include operating systems. More specifically, companies like Netflix and Apple should be required to make their services available on the BlackBerry platform. Legally. I don't even know where to begin pointing out how ludicrous this is, but BBM's historic exclusivity to BlackBerry's devices is a reasonable place to start. Beyond that, I'd hate to be the guy tasked with figuring out exactly how many versions of Android a given app must run successfully upon to avoid legal action.

Google Lunar XPrize updates

Watch this: Google Lunar XPrize: Rovers on the beach with Team Hakuto in Japan

I always like to leave you with a video, and this week I humbly present the latest check-in with the Google Lunar XPrize, a $30 million purse of prizes for private teams competing to put rovers on the moon. I recently made the journey to Japan to see Team Hakuto run their rovers through their paces, but you, dear reader, won't need a passport to come along. Enjoy.