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ExtraBITS for 18 March 2013

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On the Web this week, Andy Rubin of Google’s Android team steps aside, Adam Engst talks about the demise of Google Reader and how tools are becoming platforms on MacVoices, Microsoft walks back a strict and unfriendly licensing scheme for Office for Mac 2011, and our brainboxes are puzzling the implications of Dropbox buying Mailbox.

Android Boss Brushed Aside in Spring Cleaning -- Is it coincidence that Google CEO Larry Page announced that Android head Andy Rubin has “decided it’s time to hand over the reins and start a new chapter at Google” the same day Google released the latest projects that the company is dropping in “spring cleaning,” including Google Reader? It’s impossible to say what caused the replacement of Rubin with Sundar Pichai, who will add Android responsibilities to his Chrome and Apps leadership roles at Google, but it’s possible that Android was essentially getting too popular without actually contributing that much to Google’s bottom line (only $550 million from 2008 through 2011, by some estimates). What changes Pichai will bring to the Android ecosystem — and how that will affect the iOS world — are a matter for speculation.

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Adam Engst Riffs on the Google Reader News at MacVoices -- In this discussion with host Chuck Joiner, Adam Engst delves into some of the more-subtle meanings of the news that Google Reader will disappear in a few months. In particular, Adam talks about the effects of tools morphing into platforms, the psychological effect that change has on users, and pricing models to support the concept that not all change is good for all users.

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Microsoft Reverses Office Licensing Change -- According to MacTech, Microsoft recently changed the original license agreement for Office for Mac 2011 to match Office 2013 for Windows, whose license prevented the transfer of the software from one computer to another. Microsoft reversed course on the Office 2013 licensing policies, once again allowing the software to be moved between computers (but no more than once every 90 days). Although Microsoft said nothing about the Mac version in its Windows Office announcement, MacTech learned that the reversal also applies to the Mac version. In short, we’re back where we’d expect to be, but it’s distressing that Microsoft would even contemplate such an unfriendly license, much less implement it.

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Dropbox Acquires Mailbox -- Some acquisitions make sufficiently little sense when taken at face value that they signal a major future direction, are mostly about acquiring specific talent or technology, or are just utterly misconceived. Dropbox’s acquisition of the company behind the Mailbox iPhone app falls into one of those categories, but it’s unclear which just yet, given that making a quirky iOS email client seems far from Dropbox’s core mission. Despite protestations that the Mailbox app will continue, it seems entirely possible that it could share the fate of the Sparrow email app, which, while still for sale, is no longer being developed after its developers joined Google in July 2012.

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