colinneagle writes: Rumors that Microsoft plans to eventually kill the Desktop only increased after the leaked Windows Blue screenshots appeared over the weekend. The upgrade to Windows 8, code-named Windows Blue, is expected to be offered later this year, possibly in late summer. If this is a preview of Windows 9, then Microsoft is sticking firmly to its decision to force people away from the Start button and to deal with the tiled Start Screen. Microsoft went public today, talking about Windows Blue.
Frank X. Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications at Microsoft, started and ended the post with a dig at Google for killing products such as Google Reader. He ended the post with "See, spring isn't just for cleaning/whacking away at things. It's also a time to plant and get ready for summer." He also wrote:
"With a remarkable foundation of products in market and a clear view of how we will evolve the company, product leaders across Microsoft are working together on plans to advance our devices and services, a set of plans referred to internally as "Blue." — N.B. chances of products being named thusly are slim to none. And don't start with the "so you're telling me there's a chance" bit.:)
Our customers have already experienced the ongoing rhythm of updates and innovations over the past six months including new devices, new apps and services, better performance and new capabilities. This continuous development cycle is the new normal across Microsoft — we'll tune everyday experiences as well as introduce bold, connected and exciting new scenarios. Our product groups are also taking a unified planning approach so people get what they want — all of their devices, apps and services working together wherever they are and for whatever they are doing."
colinneagle writes: Microsoft, which is often slow to comment with any substance when mud is flung its way, responded almost immediately after a Wall Street Journal article claimed Microsoft is the subject of probes being conducted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission; allegations were made that kickbacks were given to foreign government officials in China, Italy and Romania for software contracts.
WSJ reported that the kickbacks were allegedly made by a "former Microsoft representative in China" and reported to U.S. investigators in 2012 by an "anonymous tipster" who was responsible for landing "potential new business." This "tipster" claimed that "an executive of Microsoft's China subsidiary instructed the tipster to offer kickbacks to Chinese officials in return for signing off on software contracts."
Microsoft's John Frank, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, responded, "We take all allegations brought to our attention seriously, and we cooperate fully in any government inquiries. Like other large companies with operations around the world, we sometimes receive allegations about potential misconduct by employees or business partners, and we investigate them fully, regardless of the source."
colinneagle writes: After an angry social media stinkfest brought on by Office 2013 licensing terms, Microsoft reviewed customer feedback and today announced a change in the EULA that will allow Office 2013 users to transfer the software from one computer to another once every 90 days.
"This means customers can transfer Office 2013 to a different computer if their device fails or they get a new one. Previously, customers could only transfer their Office 2013 software to a new device if their PC failed under warranty," wrote Jevon Fark from the Microsoft Office Team. "While the license agreement accompanying Office 2013 software will be updated in a future release, this change is effective immediately and applies to Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, Office Professional 2013 and the standalone Office 2013 applications. These transferability options are equivalent to those found in the Office 2010 retail license terms."
The updated transferability agreement for Microsoft Office 2013 desktop software now states:
Can I transfer the software to another computer or user? You may transfer the software to another computer that belongs to you, but not more than one time every 90 days (except due to hardware failure, in which case you may transfer sooner). If you transfer the software to another computer, that other computer becomes the "licensed computer." You may also transfer the software (together with the license) to a computer owned by someone else if a) you are the first licensed user of the software and b) the new user agrees to the terms of this agreement before the transfer. Any time you transfer the software to a new computer, you must remove the software from the prior computer and you may not retain any copies.
colinneagle writes: Microsoft and Hortonworks, the spinoff company of ex-Yahoo employees who developed the Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) used in Big Data deployments, announced today the availability of a beta version of HDP for Windows Server. The announcement involves two core products: HDInsight Service on Azure and HDInsight Server for on-premise deployments. Both are available for download from the Hortonworks site. Data is stored in the HDFS file system, so HDP can coexist with your current server installations and there is no conflict between the two. Microsoft plans for integration between its own products and services and HDP in a future release. General availability of HDP for Windows Server is slated for the second calendar quarter of 2013.
Up to now, the HDP platform has only been available on Linux. While Linux has grown into a formidable server platform, it accounts for 21% of the market, according to IDC. Windows Server accounts for 51% of the market and was a logical choice to expand the platform. HDP for Windows Server is 100% open source and is the result of 18 months of work between Hortonworks and Microsoft.
colinneagle writes: Once upon a time, Microsoft claimed that falling prey to social engineering tactics and then being hacked was a "rookie mistake." But now is the time for companies to jump on the bandwagon, to admit they were targeted by cyberattacks and successfully infiltrated. The stage is so crowded with 'giants' at this point, that there are fewer 'bad press' repercussions than if only one major company had admitted to being breached. Microsoft now admitted, hey we were hacked too.
"As reported by Facebook and Apple, Microsoft can confirm that we also recently experienced a similar security intrusion," wrote Matt Thomlinson, General Manager of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing Security. Unlike the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal there was no mention of Chinese hackers. Is there a moral to these sad tales? Perhaps only that anyone can become a victim.
However, back in 2011, John Howie, Microsoft's senior director in the Online Services Security & Compliance (OSSC) team, basically claimed that unlike RSA or Sony, Microsoft sites are unhackable and can't be DDoSed. In regards to the breach at RSA, Howie told Computing News, "RSA got hacked because someone got socially engineered and opened a dodgy email attachment. A rookie mistake." Furthermore "Sony was coded badly and failed to patch its servers. These are rookie mistakes." Howie added, "At Microsoft we have robust mechanisms to ensure we don't have unpatched servers. We have training for staff so they know how to be secure and be wise to social engineering."
colinneagle writes: The retail license agreement for Office 2013 locks it to the PC on which you install it forever. If you buy a new PC, you can't reinstall Office 2013. The same applies when reinstalling Windows. If you have to reinstall Windows for whatever reason, that Office 2013 DVD is now a drink coaster. This is a change from all previous versions of Office. I used Office 2003 until necessity and an end of support forced me to move to 2010. As you know, Microsoft introduced that pesky activation feature with its predecessor, Office XP.
But ReadWrite Enterprise notes that Office 365, the online, on-demand subscription-based version of Office, will be available for a whole household (five PCs total) for $99.99, while Office 2013 will cost $139.99. Plus, Microsoft told RW that upgrades would come out immediately on Office 365 while Office 2013 users would have to wait for the features to come in a service pack.
Subscriptions are a nasty trend in the industry, first started by the antivirus guys and now spreading into traditional software. In an attempt to keep Wall Street happy, software firms are looking for ways to keep making you pay instead of buying it once. I'm in no rush to upgrade from Office 2010. Is anyone?
colinneagle writes: Microsoft's new Surface Pro tablet was almost impossible to open for the traditional tear-down by iFixIt.
It all begs the question of how open should it be. There are times when you need to be able to do just that, like adding memory or storage. Laptops are designed with the memory located behind one specific door on the underside (usually) to make upgrades simple. But given that the Surface loses much of its storage to Windows 8 to begin with, you'd think they would want to make it somewhat upgradeable.
Does it matter to you that the Surface Pro is virtually inaccessible and upgradable? Do you want to be able to replace and upgrade, like on a laptop, or would you prefer it stay sealed?
colinneagle writes: How sweet would it be to dump that monthly cellphone bill in favor of making calls over free Wi-Fi networks, so powerful it would be like "Wi-Fi on steroids"? Microsoft and Google are working together to support the FCC's powerful Wi-Fi for free proposal.
Now, the Washington Post reports that Google, Microsoft and other tech giants "say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor."
Meanwhile, AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are lobbying hard against the FCC's proposal. These wireless carrier companies are opposed to using the spectrum for free Wi-Fi to the public and insist that the airwaves should instead be sold to businesses.
But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has designed the free Wi-Fi plan. If you are interested, you can read Genachowski's Presentation on White Spaces for Wireless Broadband and Genachowski's remarks to the President's Council of Advisors on Science & Technology.
colinneagle writes: Phys.org, a "news portal [that] provides the latest news on science including: Physics, Space Science, Earth Science, Health and Medicine," has admitted to being a security threat. Google search results warn that "this site may harm your computer," while Chrome and Firefox browsers show users a splash page warning against visiting the site. Even StopBadware has blacklisted phys.org.
However, as of this afternoon, searches on Bing don't warn users against the threats of clicking a link to Phys.org, and, unlike its browser counterparts, Internet Explorer accesses the site without warning.
colinneagle writes: The Next Web reports that the two are at loggerheads over a new version of SkyDrive, which has a paid storage option because Microsoft doesn’t pay Apple a 30% cut of subscription revenue generated by paid storage services. A main sticking point is that Microsoft does not want to pay Apple the 30% cut, which runs in perpetuity regardless of whether users continue to use an iOS device or not, because the billing is done through their Apple account.
So if a user signed up for the enhanced-capacity drive on their iOS device and then moved to a non-iOS phone (say, a Windows Phone), Apple would still collect 30% of their fee for storage even though they aren’t using the iOS device any more. Microsoft is understandably not keen on this.
The problem is not limited to just SkyDrive. AllThingsD reports that this fee is also applied to Office 365 subscriptions sold through Microsoft Office for iOS, which Microsoft has all but acknowledged will be launched sometime next year.
Now the real test for Microsoft will be how it behaves when the shoe is on the other foot.
colinneagle writes: Now armed with a phone that isn't immediately obsolete, Windows Phone 8 is picking up a little steam. It won't displace Android or Apple anytime soon, but at least the figures are headed in the right direction.
Sales of the Nokia Lumia 920 are better than expected, according to a financial analyst, and have caused him to raise his predictions for WP8 sales drastically for 2013. Ilkka Rauvola, an analyst with Danske Bank, sent a note to clients in late November predicting 36 million Windows Phone 8 smartphones will be sold in 2013, up from an earlier estimate of 23 million devices.
At the annual shareholder meeting in Seattle last week, CEO Steve Ballmer said that WP8 was selling at four times the rate of WP7 phones during the same period last year. Numbers from Gartner don't quite back that up, but they do definitely point to an upside. In Q3 of 2011, Microsoft sold 1.7 million WP7 devices. In Q3 of 2012, it sold 4 million.
Of course, context is everything. Nokia still sold more Symbian phones (4.4 million) and RIM sold twice as many phones despite being in a death spiral. Still, it helps. Every little bit helps. Nokia went from one carrier (AT&T) to three (Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile). Now what they need is positive momentum, as opposed to being the last phone standing after Android and Apple kill off the competition.
colinneagle writes: Innovation is in the eye of the beholder. Take the Xbox 360, for example. That piece of hardware has been dominating the console market for about seven years now. In fact, just this past Friday, Microsoft sold 750,000 Xbox 360 consoles. That’s huge for a product that’s been around in one form or another for the better part of a decade. Microsoft did that by constantly advancing the platform and continuing to innovate with the Xbox’s software and adjacent products like the Kinect. For now and the foreseeable future, Microsoft’s got the game console market locked up tight.
Although it’s technically the new kid on the block, Bing is now No. 2 in search behind Google and has been slowly, but consistently, gaining ground. Microsoft is not likely to ever catch Google in search, but they may not have to if Bing becomes the default alternative. Then there’s Microsoft Office. Office is about as ubiquitous an application suite as there ever has been. Everyone from grade school students to large enterprise relies on Microsoft Office and no one has fully embraced any of the alternatives. Why? Because they are inferior.
All of this talk of irrelevance revolves around the ever-changing PC and the smartphone markets. Windows Phone has yet to gain any serious traction in the smartphone space. It was not until a few weeks ago, however, with the release of Windows Phone 8 that Microsoft was really ready to do battle. Windows Phone 7 had some things going for it, but Windows Phone 8 is clearly a better product and it’s running on devices that can finally compete with the best from Apple and Google; Windows Phone 8’s app ecosystem is also far better than it was just a year ago. It’s late to the game, but Windows Phone 8 is not irrelevant. It’s going to be another year or so before we have a clear idea of Windows Phone’s fate, but early sales indicators are fairly positive, especially outside the U.S.
colinneagle writes: Last night Microsoft spent what must have been a healthy chunk of the rumored $1 billion marketing budget for its Windows 8 Surface tablets with one of the most comprehensive product placements ever seen in a TV sit-com. The tablet was actually written into the script of ABC’s "Suburgatory" as the love interest for the lead character, Tessa, who at one point refers to the device as "sexy" and "the man in my life."
While the tablet with a blue touch cover appears in dozens of shots, it is never referred to as a Surface tablet. In one scene, though, its Windows 8 logo is clearly shown on the device’s kickstand.
In another scene the main character removes the keyboard/cover to use it as a tablet with an e-reader client. Tessa is shown leaping into bed with the tablet after shedding herself of her annoying girlfriend, and later holds the product up and recites some of its specs, including proudly noting its "really sizeable hard drive."
In addition to hijacking the plot of the episode, Microsoft bought spots for two showings of a Surface ad and a commercial for Windows Phone.
colinneagle writes: Back in 2002, then-Microsoft CTO and senior vice president Craig Mundie authored a whitepaper on what would become the framework of the company's Trustworthy Computing program. Over a decade later, it seems Microsoft has done a better job of embracing these principles than the competition.
Antimalware vendor Kaspersky has released its latest IT Threat Evolution report with some very interesting information. Some products are hotbeds of insecurities and vulnerabilities, but Microsoft products aren't among them. Java, Acrobat and iTunes are far worse.
A whopping 56% of exploits blocked in Q3 use Java vulnerabilities while another 25% use exploits in Acrobat Reader. Windows and IE accounted for just four percent of exploits.
So good job to the TwC team, formed during that so-called "lost decade."
colinneagle writes: Microsoft has promised that cross-platform development across the 8s – from Windows 8 on a desktop to Windows Phone 8 – will be a simple matter, but that's still not enough to get some developers moving on Windows Phone 8 support. The Windows Phone platform has made a remarkable recovery since its reset with version 7. Since then, WP7 has grown to 100,000 apps.
But that pales in comparison to the 675,000 in Google Play and 700,000 in the Apple App Store. Granted, there's a ton of redundancy – how many weather or newsfeed apps does one person need? – but it points to availability and developer support. A report from VentureBeat points out what should be obvious: that while developers like Windows 8, they aren't as excited about Windows Phone 8 software because they have already made huge investments in other platforms and don't want to support another platform.
A survey by IDC and Appcelerator found 78% of Android developers were "very interested" in programming for Android smartphones, a slight drop from the 83% in a prior survey. Interest in the iPhone and iPad remained undiminished, with 89% and 88% interest, respectively.