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Submission + - Windows 8 to include Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, Media Center as an add-on feature (

suraj.sun writes: On Buidling Windows 8 blog Bernardo Caldas of Windows Business Group explains that, given the changing landscape, and the cost of decoder licensing, we’ve decided to make Windows Media Center available to Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel. Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support. Metro style apps can use any of the decoders included in Windows. These decoders are optimized for system reliability, battery life, and performance, and cover all key playback scenarios for mainstream content such as YouTube video, Netflix video, Amazon audio/video, H.264 web browsing/streaming, Hulu video, MP4 video, AVCHD video from camcorders, Ultraviolet video, and the HTML5 video tag. Metro style apps can also include additional decoders (such as FLAC, MKV, OGG, etc.) in their apps package for use within the apps.

Microsoft will offer two ways to acquire Windows Media Center, either as a Windows 8 Media Center Pack to add on Windows 8 Pro or as Windows 8 Pro Pack to add on to Windows 8. Acquiring either the Windows 8 Media Center Pack or the Windows 8 Pro Pack gives you Media Center, including DVD playback (in Media Center, not in Media Player), broadcast TV recording and playback (DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC), and VOB file playback. The company also signed an agreement with Dolby Laboratories to include Dolby Digital Plus 5.1-channel decoding and Dolby Digital two-channel encoding in all editions of Windows 8.


Submission + - Microsoft's Biggest Cloud Deployment: 7.5 Mil Students & Faculty at 10,000 I ( 1

suraj.sun writes: Microsoft’s Biggest Cloud Deployment: 7.5 Mil Students & Faculty at 10,000 Institutes Across India:

In an ambitious plan Microsoft is rolling out a set of cloud apps to 7.5 million students and faculty members at 10,000 institutes across the India for India’s body for technical schools, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). These students anticipate becoming users of Microsoft’s Live@edu, a set of apps that includes e-mail and calendars with a 10GB inbox, 25GB of file storage, document sharing, instant messaging and video chat. Microsoft says Live@edu already has about 22 million users. What’s missing from the storyline? How such a large installation will take place. What are the realities and challenges behind “the largest cloud deployment ever”?

“The two largest issues are concurrent requests and cooling. In order to handle concurrent requests Microsoft will most likely need to use a two-tier server architecture that requires two servers for each request: one to process the request and one to serve the data,” says the network consultant Nick McElhinney of MacTech Solutions. Shriram Natarajan of software developer Persistent Systems, pointed out geography and access concerns and the issue of availability. “With the user population so widespread and presumably using a variety of access networks, it’s going to be a challenge to ensure uniformity of access,” Natarajan said.

While Dave Laurello, CEO of Stratus Technologies said, “If ever there was the perfect cloud deployment this could be it, with its massive consumer base using a constant, static application set that’s not mission-critical.” With an application this large, there will be the challenge of supporting high availability. “High availability deployments are tricky to coordinate because you need to handle things like load balancer configuration and update certain groups of servers at a time. Because deploying a multi-component system to support 7.5 million users can’t rely on any manual steps it must be automated,” says XebiaLabs’ Phillips.


Submission + - Windows Live to be rebranded as Microsoft Account (

suraj.sun writes: In a blog post, Steven Sinofsky, and Chris Jones details the cloud services integration that will be featured in Windows 8 and Windows Phone and will serve as an update to Microsoft's Windows Live platform, which has not met Microsoft's expectations of "a truly connected experience." At the forefront of the company's cloud services will be a Microsoft account, which creates an identity to be used across Microsoft services, from the Xbox to SkyDrive and beyond. Microsoft accounts were previously known as Windows Live IDs. In Windows 8, a user's account settings will roam across PCs via the user's Microsoft account.

Windows 8 and Windows Phone will make use of the following Microsoft cloud services: Microsoft accounts, SkyDrive, Mail/Hotmail, Calendar, People, Messaging and Photos. According to Sinofsky, Windows Live services are currently used by more than 500 million users a month. Additionally, Hotmail has 350 million, Messenger has 300 million and SkyDrive has 130 million, active users.


Submission + - Microsoft to offer $99 Xbox 360 Kinect bundle with two-year subscription (

suraj.sun writes: According to TheVerge, Microsoft is planning to launch a $99 Xbox console package with a monthly subscription as early as next week. The company will offer the 4GB console with a Kinect sensor at its range of Microsoft Stores in the US, subsidized with a monthly cost of $15. We're told that the two-year subscription will provide access to the Xbox Live Gold service and possibly some additional streaming content from cable providers or sports package providers. Customers who sign-up for the deal will also be covered under a two-year warranty. With E3 2012 on the horizon, and Microsoft working on a "Woodstock" music service — it's clear that the company wants to ensure as many people as possible have an Xbox in their living rooms.

Submission + - Microsoft Makes $300M Investment In New Barnes & Noble Subsidiary

suraj.sun writes: Barnes & Noble has found a new, major partner in its fight to get an edge over Amazon and Apple in the market for e-books and the devices being used to consume them: it is teaming up with Microsoft in what the two are calling a strategic partnership, name yet to be determined. It will come in the form of a new subsidiary of B&N that will include all of its Nook business as well as its educational College business. Microsoft is making a $300 million investment in the subsidiary, valuing the company at $1.7 billion in exchange for around 17.6 percent equity in the subsidiary.

The new company, referred to for the moment as Newco, will contain B&N’s digital business, as well as its College division. While Microsoft will take 17.6 percent, B&N will own 82.4 percent of the venture. And there is a legal twist to the deal, too: the two companies say they have definitely sorted out their patent litigation now: “Moving forward, Barnes & Noble and Newco will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft’s patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products,” the two write in the release below.

Submission + - Microsoft forges ahead with new home-automation OS, HomeOS (

suraj.sun writes: More than a decade ago, Microsoft execs, led by Chairman Bill Gates, were touting a future where .Net coffee pots, bulletin boards, and refrigerator magnets would be part of homes where smart devices would communicate and interoperate. Microsoft hasn't given up on that dream. In 2010, Microsoft researchers published a white paper about their work on a HomeOS and a HomeStore — early concepts around a Microsoft Research-developed home-automation system. Those concepts have morphed into prototypes since then, based on a white paper, "An Operating System for the Home," (PDF) published this month on the Microsoft Research site.

The core of HomeOS is described in the white paper as "a kernel that is agnostic to the devices to which it provides access, allowing easy incorporation of new devices and applications. The HomeOS itself "runs on a dedicated computer in the home (e.g., the gateway) and does not require any modifications to commodity devices," the paper added. Microsoft has been testing HomeOS in 12 real homes over the past four to eight months, according to the latest updates. As is true with all Microsoft Research projects, there's no guarantee when and if HomeOS will be commercialized, or even be "adopted" by a Microsoft product group.


Submission + - Microsoft, Apple being asked to explain higher music & game prices in Austra (

suraj.sun writes: The Ahe is reporting on, Microsoft and Apple being asked to defend their pricing policies at a federal parliamentary inquiry into why Australians pay far more for music and game downloads than overseas customers. Labor MPs hope publicity generated by challenging the companies will result in lower prices and put an end to local consumers being ''fleeced''. The Minister for Communications, Stephen Conroy, has signed off on the inquiry, which will begin later this year, will also consider the pricing of software and other IT-related material.

The excuses overseas technology companies use to justify the higher prices, such as the small size of the Australian market, the cost of setting up support centres here and the imposition of local taxes and duties, were not acceptable to local customers, spokeswoman Ingrid Just said. The debate over pricing surfaced again last week when global software giant Adobe revealed Australians would pay up to $1400 more than US residents for the latest version of its Creative Suite software.


Submission + - Microsoft backs away from CISPA support, citing privacy (

suraj.sun writes: Microsoft has been counted as a supporter of CISPA since the beginning. Now the company tells CNET any new law must allow "us to honor the privacy and security promises we make to our customers" and protect "consumer privacy." Microsoft is no longer as enthusiastic about a controversial cybersecurity bill that would allow Internet and telecommunications companies to divulge confidential customer information to the National Security Agency. The U.S. House of Representatives approved CISPA by a 248 to 168 margin on Thursday, in spite of a presidential veto threat and warnings from some House members that the measure represented "Big Brother writ large."

Microsoft added that it wants to "ensure the final legislation helps to tackle the real threat of cybercrime while protecting consumer privacy." That's a noticeable change — albeit not a complete reversal — from Microsoft's position when CISPA was introduced in November 2011. To be sure, Microsoft's initial reaction to CISPA came before many of the privacy concerns had been raised. An anti-CISPA coalition letter (PDF) wasn't sent out until April 16, and a petition that garnered nearly 800,000 signatures wasn't set up until April 5.

What makes CISPA so controversial is a section saying that, "notwithstanding any other provision of law," companies may share information with Homeland Security, the IRS, the NSA, or other agencies. By including the word "notwithstanding," CISPA's drafters intended to make their legislation trump all existing federal and state laws, including ones dealing with wiretaps, educational records, medical privacy, and more.


Submission + - Microsoft patches major Hotmail 0-day flaw after widespread exploitation (

suraj.sun writes: Microsoft quietly fixed a flaw in Hotmail's password reset system that allowed anyone to reset the password of any Hotmail account last Friday. The company was notified of the flaw, by researchers at Vulnerability Lab, on April 20th and responded with a fix within hours—but not until after widespread attacks, with the bug apparently spreading "like wild fire" in the hacking community.

Hotmail's password reset system uses a token system to ensure that only the account holder can reset their password — a link with the token is sent to an account linked to the Hotmail account — and clicking the link lets the account owner reset their password. However, the validation of these tokens isn't handled properly by Hotmail, allowing attackers to reset passwords of any account.

Initially hackers were offering to crack accounts for $20 a throw. However, the technique became publicly known and started to spread rapidly with Web and YouTube tutorials showing the technique popping up across the Arabic-speaking Internet.


Submission + - Microsoft Xbox 360 found to infringe Motorola patents in preliminary ITC ruling (

suraj.sun writes: A judge at the US International Trade Commission has just ruled that Microsoft's Xbox 360 infringes four of Motorola's patents. The ruling isn't unexpected, since many of the patent cover H.264 video encoding, which is a standard — the ITC wasn't persuaded by Microsoft's argument that Motorola will "kill video on the web" by failing its obligation to license the patents under fair and reasonable terms. In a statement, Microsoft said it "remains confident the Commission will ultimately rule in Microsoft's favor in this case and that Motorola will be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms."

The ruling is preliminary and subject to review by a full panel of ITC judges, so there will be little immediate impact, but Motorola's strategy of litigating with standard-related patents seems to be paying early dividends even as it invites international scrutiny.


Submission + - Microsoft releases SkyDrive app for Windows and Mac, lowers its storage to 7GB (

suraj.sun writes: Today Microsoft has released SkyDrive preview for Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista users in 106 different languages worldwide, which was avilable for Windows Phone, iPhone and iPad since December 2011. The company has also provided a preview version for Mac OS X Lion users too, providing access to SkyDrive documents directly within Finder. SkyDrive for Windows will allow users to drag-and-drop files (up to 2GB in size) to and from SkyDrive folders. Similar to Dropbox, all files and SkyDrive content will be managed in one central folder that syncs with Microsoft's online cloud storage. There is also a new fetching files option that allows SkyDrive desktop users to access, browser, and stream files from a remote PC running the latest preview of SkyDrive desktop — handy if you forgot to sync a particular file from your desktop PC while you away from your PC. Microsoft also announced changes to its free and paid storage plans up to 100GB. All new SkyDrive users will be offered 7GB of free space, a reduction from the usual 25GB of storage, while for a limited time, any registered SkyDrive user who has uploaded files to SkyDrive as of April 22nd can opt in to keep 25GB of free storage while still getting all of the benefits of the new service.

Submission + - Windows 8 Enterprise SKU to feature Windows To Go and side-load Metro-style apps (

suraj.sun writes: In addition to Monday's announcement of three Windows 8 SKUs, on Wednesday Microsoft introduced Windows 8 Enterprise, which will include a number of features not found in Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, the ARM-oriented Windows RT. These Enterprise edition exclusive features include the ability to create Windows To Go portable USB installations, DirectAccess VPN-less remote access to corporate networks, BrancheCache cached access to remote fileservers, AppLocker software restrictions, enhanced 3D, USB, and touch performance in VDI deployments, and the ability to side-load internal, Windows 8 Metro style apps.

To make full use of these features, Software Assurance usage rights are changing too. Any employee with a company PC with a Software Assurance license will also have a corresponding Windows To Go license, so that they can boot a secure, corporate-controlled environment on their home PCs. This can be extended further with Companion Device licenses (for extra cost), allowing employees to access corporate environments through either Windows To Go or VDI on up to four personally-owned systems.


Submission + - Windows 8 Start button isn't coming back, but there will be a tutorial (

suraj.sun writes: The Start button won't be coming back, no matter how much detractors of Windows 8's new user interface would like it to. Windows 8 removes the Start button and instead depends on hot corners( for essential functionality, but to make the new operating system easier to understand for mouse and keyboard users, it will contain a tutorial to explain how things work.

Investment firm Nomura has hosted a series of meetings with Tami Reller, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Marketing Officer of the Windows and Windows Live division, to talk about what's coming up for Microsoft's next operating system. In these meetings, Reller confirmed that the Start button will remain gone, but that the discoverability problem will be addressed through a tutorial for users(, so that when they first run the operating system they will be guided through the new interactions.


Submission + - Microsoft Launches Touch-centric, Metro-style Windows 8 Consumer Preview (

suraj.sun writes: Microsoft on Wednesday made Consumer Preview of Windows 8 available for download to the general public( ). Built with touch computing and apps in mind, Windows 8 is crucial to Microsoft's efforts to make inroads against Apple and Google in the red-hot tablet market, where the company is significantly behind rivals.

Windows 8 marks the biggest change( ) to the OS since the aforementioned 95 flavor (which, shockingly, turns 17 this year). With Windows 8 comes the introduction of a Metro-style interface, inspired by the lovely and intuitive presentation found in Windows Phone. In it, apps and functions are pinned to tiles and, to interact with those apps, you simply tap those tiles. The former Start Menu has been replaced by a full-screen view of tiles that you can scroll through horizontally. You can pin applications, shortcuts, documents, webpages and any number of other things, customizing the interface in any way you like — so long as what you like is rectangular and only extends from left to right.


Submission + - Microsoft Research shows Holoflector - a blended reality mirror ( 2

suraj.sun writes: Andy Wilson and Stevie Bathiche are two of the guys behind the original concept of Microsoft Surface, so it’s no surprise to see they’re cooking up new ideas that push the boundaries of display technology. Our next post will show what Stevie and his team are up to in their quest to build the magic window( ). This post focuses on the latest project from Andy – Holoflector( ).

Never appeal to a man's "better nature." He may not have one. Invoking his self-interest gives you more leverage. -- Lazarus Long