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News and notes from the Microsoft beat … 

Linux no longer a Windows threat? Microsoft’s latest annual report with the SEC no longer refers to Linux as a competitor for its PC Windows business. Ed Bott at ZDNet does a good job explaining what has changed in the document since last year, and analyzing what it says about Microsoft’s competitive mindset — not only vs. Linux but also vs. Apple and Google.

For the record, Microsoft still lists Linux as a Windows Server competitor.

Back on the blog: Windows chief Steven Sinofsky launched the new “Building Windows 8” blog and @buildwindows8 Twitter feed for the company today, with the stated intent of opening of a dialog about the company’s plans for the next version of the PC operating system.

Steven Sinofsky

One of the more interesting tidbits, in a vague sort of way, is Sinofsky’s reference to Microsoft’s plans to come out with a pre-release version of Windows 8 “over the coming months.”

The company previewed Windows 8 and its tile-based interface in June, and is expected to provide more details at its Build conference in California next month. It’s expected to come out sometime next year, although Microsoft hasn’t given a timeframe.

Microsoft Reader going away: A message on the Microsoft Reader site says the company will be discontinuing the free e-reader application as of Aug. 30, 2012, after a long period of little or no development, officially ceding the market to the likes of Google, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others.

TechCrunch reported the news earlier today.

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