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Submission + - Microsoft unfurls patent lasso, snares Linux servers (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft’s crusade to lock Linux companies into patent protection deals has netted Redmond’s first service provider.

Amdocs Software Systems is paying Microsoft to license undisclosed Redmond patents in a deal that "provides mutual access to each company’s patent portfolio".

The deal extends to the Linux servers running in Amdoc’s data centres, with the unidentified boxes receiving a licence under Microsoft’s patent portfolio. Specific terms of the deal were not announced, including how much Amdocs will pay Microsoft.

Until now, Microsoft has focused its efforts on device makers whose systems run Android Linux – HTC, General Dynamics Itronix, Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro – in addition to Acer, ViewSonic and Casio. To our knowledge, this is Microsoft’s first strike at the server market. Amdocs specialises in customer and network management and service delivery systems for operators such as cable TV companies.


Submission + - If VLC can ship a free DVD player, why can't Microsoft? (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft’s decision to remove support for playing DVD movies in Windows 8 has caused some confusion. If the VLC media player can provide DVD support for free, why can’t Microsoft? For starters, Microsoft isn’t French. Microsoft announced this week that Windows 8 will not support playback of DVD movies unless you explicitly add software that supports that feature. The economic reasons for doing so are compelling (see Microsoft’s follow-up FAQ for details ), but it’s also a potentially disruptive move for some Windows enthusiasts. So it’s not surprising that some of the initial reactions have been heated and even angry. I look at the big numbers and walk through the math in a follow-up post; How much do DVD and digital media playback features really cost?

Submission + - Windows 8 Consumer Preview Tops 1 Million Downloads (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Not bad for a day's work. A day after Microsoft posted its Consumer Preview of Windows 8, users have downloaded it 1 million times.

Microsoft broke the news in a tweet on Thursday: "One day million downloads of the consumer preview," it said via its BuildingWindows8 account.

Microsoft unveiled the Windows 8 preview in Barcelona during the Mobile World Congress show, alongside the Windows Phone platform. Windows chief Steven Sinofsky took to the stage at a press event to talk up the "bold re-imagining of Windows."

"Our goal with Windows 8 is to deliver PCs without compromise," Sinofsky said, which means that the OS scales with you depending on how you want to use the OS and with what gadget — tablet, PC, or touch-based PC.


Submission + - Microsoft's Voice Search for Xbox (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft said Sunday night that it plans to launch its fall update for its Xbox 360 game console, complete with voice search via Xbox Kinect, this week.

Microsoft also announced a significant number of related content partnerships, bringing most major services to the Xbox platform this week or by early 2012. On Dec. 6, Starting Dec. 6, a free Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone will let also let users find, learn more about and control content from popular entertainment services on Xbox LIVE.


Submission + - Microsoft at the heart of TV viewing (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft will push out an update to Xbox consoles Tuesday, designed to get consumers to turn on the device every time they flip on their televisions, not just when they want to play games.

Though most gamers will notice a dramatically different interface, and some will take advantage of more advanced voice-recognition controls, the real significance of the update is how boldly the software giant is putting itself at the core of the TV entertainment experience. Microsoft is partnering with 40 content providers from around the globe to significantly increase the amount of live and on-demand content available on Xbox.

Over the next month, Microsoft will add content in the United States to the Xbox from Verizon's FiOS TV, ESPN, and the Syfy channel among others. Next year, HBO Go and Comcast's Xfinity on Demand will come to U.S. customers. Many of the apps from partners are only available to customers who purchase an Xbox Live Gold Membership.

Microsoft is also adding new programming to the Xbox experience abroad. Canadian customers will get content from Rogers Media, Maple Leaf Sports, and TMZ, among others. And new programming will roll out in Europe, Australia and Asia.


Submission + - Microsoft-Skype Deal Poised to Win EU Approval (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft's proposed $8.5 billion acquisition of Skype has earned the approval of the European Union, the Financial Times reported Thursday.

The European Commissioner for Competition, Joaquin Almunia, is expected to rule that the acquisition won't harm competition or turn Skype into a Microsoft-exclusive platform.

The decision ignores accusations that Microsoft is simply bundling services on Windows to drown out smaller competitors, as argued by Italian Skype rival Messagenet last week. Messagenet also urged the Commission to require Microsoft to unbundle Skype from its Windows Office Suite.

The FT reports that Microsoft "promised" the Commission it would keep Skype interoperable and supported on rival operating systems.

"We're committed to the Skype user base," said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer back in May, addressing antitrust concerns at the time. "We want to continue to build and engage that base. Part of that commitment is continuing to support Skype on non-Microsoft platforms."


Submission + - Internet Explorer 9 safest Web browser? (

Pigskin-Referee writes: When it comes to blocking malware, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 seems to come out on top, by leaps and bounds, over other browsers.

Tests by NSS Labs to "examine the ability of five different web browsers to protect users from socially-engineered malware" showed that IE9 was able to block this kind of threat 99 percent of the time, beating out Apple Safari 5, Google Chrome 12, Mozilla Firefox 4 and Opera 11.

The closest another Web browser got to that blocking-the-bad stuff rate was Chrome, at a very distant 13.2 percent. At the low end of the blockers was Opera, with a 6.1 percent rate.

NSS also tested socially engineered malware targeted at users in Asia Pacific and in Europe and found IE9 again seemed to blow the others away, with a 95 percent mean block rate in Asia and 92 percent in Europe. Chrome was again second, with a 15.4 percent block rate in Asia being its highest score. Opera again finished last.


Submission + - Only the Stupid Believed It (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft bashers fooled again. In what has become overly obvious, Microsoft's pundits will believe anything as long as it is anti Microsoft.

Stupid is as stupid does with IE user hoax 'study'
A silly hoax 'study' claiming that Internet Explorer users have below-average IQs makes some people happy as pigs in slop.

The other day I was reading through the CNN site when I came across an article entitled "Are Internet Explorer users dumb?" It references a Vancouver, B.C.-based psychometric consulting company — which was revealed today to be a hoax — that claims to have given an IQ test to 100,000 people, and the results indicated that IE users scored less than average compared to users of other browsers, who tested as slightly above average.

I mulled this over for a day or two and wanted to respond in my column but decided to drop it. I thought, "This is exactly the kind of tabloid tech journalism that I've spoken out against for years. Why bother with a trip to the gutter?" — until my InfoWorld colleague Robert X. Cringely decided to jump on the "IE users are stupid" bandwagon. It must have been a slow week for technology that he would champion this prejudicial and utterly idiotic study. It's offensive. And the fact that so many tech journalism sites played up this story without verifying the alleged consulting company's existence shows who's really stupid.


Submission + - Boeing taps motion sensor power of MS Kinect (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Thanks to Microsoft Kinect, Boeing doesn't have to lug around a real 737 to trade shows.

The commercial aircraft giant is using the software giant's technology to create a virtual tour of the next-generation Boeing 737 plane, using Kinect, Silverlight Deep Zoom, and Windows 7 Touch and Azure.

Digital marketing agency Wire Stone created Boeing 737 Explained, an interactive marketing tool to help Boeing pitch the aircraft to potential buyers. While Wire Stone is based in the Silicon Valley, the Boeing Kinect work took place at the agency's Seattle office.

In what is being billed as an early commercial non-entertainment use of Kinect, Wire Stone says it integrated Kinect and other Microsoft technology for Boeing to use in trade shows and other venues that can support massive displays where Boeing 737 Explained can be viewed in real-world dimensions.

From selling jetliners to training surgeons, it is already apparent that Kinect has applications beyond games.

The 737 project uses the technology behind Kinect motion controller for Xbox 360 to let a viewer move around and explore the 737.

With Kinect, Boeing is able to turn a dry, technical pitch into a virtual tour of the aircraft.

"If we look at all the approaches that we use to communicate about the 737, most of them are very analytical, enabling us to talk about the financial operating costs, maintenance costs and other attributes," Diana Klug, Director of Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement. "We wanted to take the marketing for the 737 to the next level, and the set of tools that we had did not allow us to convey the full range of new features and improvements that we've made to the product."

Using Kenect and other Microsoft technology, [wire] stone created Boeing 737 Explained, an interactive marketing to help Boeing to pitch the aircraft to potential buyers.


Submission + - Windows 8 to RTM in April 2012 (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft’s game plan is to deliver a beta build– not a pre-beta or preview — of Windows 8 around the time of the Build conference in mid-September. This allegedly will be the one and only Windows 8 beta, my contact said. In January 2012 or thereabouts, Microsoft will deliver a final Release Candidate (RC) test build of Windows 8.

Submission + - Microsoft Buys Video & Messaging Company, Skyp (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft to Acquire Skype

Seemingly out of nowhere, Microsoft has acquired Skype for $8.5 Billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. There were rumors last night of the deal, and that was the first I’d heard of this possible deal. Now, half a day later, it’s official. The move is seen as an attempt by Microsoft to remain competitive with rivals Apple and Google, both of whom have major communications pieces integrated into their services–Facetime for Apple, and Google Voice for Google.


Submission + - Microsoft patent details a 3D desktop interface (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft patent details a 3D desktop interface with a room for your windows

Many have tried and failed to bring a 3D desktop interface to an otherwise 2D operating system, but that certainly hasn't stopped others from trying. The latest example to crop up comes courtesy of none other than Microsoft, which recently received a patent for what it describes as a "method and apparatus for providing a three-dimensional task gallery computer interface." In other words, it's an interface intended to help you better manage multiple tasks, which the patent suggests could be done in a 3D environment with a floor, walls and a ceiling. Apparently, you'd be able to group multiple windows at various spots in the "room," which would let you rely on your spatial memory to easily find a given task — with the room getting deeper and deeper to accommodate more tasks. In the patent's claims, the only means described for navigating around that room is a set of icons that would adjust to suit the 3D environment, although it certainly seems like it could easily be adapted to accommodate gesture controls as well.


Submission + - Microsoft kicks off third-party bug warnings (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft has expanded its vulnerability disclosure policy to include not only those in its own products, but also flaws in third party software that runs on Microsoft operating systems. These will follow the same practices as the advisories issued for Microsoft's products, and it makes sense, because many users look to Microsoft to ensure that their computers are secure, even when the problem lies with a third party program. The company will coordinate with the third party vendor.

Submission + - Internet Explorer 10 Drops Vista Support (

Pigskin-Referee writes: This week at Microsoft's MIX11 Web developer conference, the company surprised many by making a pre-release version of Internet Explorer 10 available—less than a month after IE9 came out in its final form. But another surprise was uncovered by Computerworld's Gregg Keizer: the next IE won't run on any OS before Windows 7, including Vista.

Microsoft took some heat when it came out that Internet Explorer 9 would leave millions of Windows XP users in the lurch, as the new browser would only run on Windows 7 and Vista. But the company confirmed that IE10 won't even run on Vista. In a statement to Computerworld, the company said "Windows Vista customers have a great browsing experience with IE9, but in building IE10 we are focused on continuing to drive the kind of innovation that only happens when you take advantage of the ongoing improvements in modern operating systems and modern hardware."


Submission + - Spam Network Shut Down (

Pigskin-Referee writes: Microsoft Corp. and federal law enforcement agents seized computer equipment from Internet hosting facilities across the U.S. in a sweeping legal attack designed to cripple the leading source of junk email on the Internet.

Microsoft launched the raids as part of a civil lawsuit filed in federal court in Seattle in early February against unnamed operators of the Rustock "botnet," a vast network of computers around the globe infected with malicious software that allows its masterminds to distribute enormous volumes of spam, peddling everything from counterfeit software to pharmaceuticals.

In recent years, Microsoft has stepped up legal actions against a variety of Internet nuisances like spam that it believes inflict harm on its product and reputation. Spam taxes the servers of its Hotmail email service, and impacts the Internet experience of users of Microsoft software like Windows and Office. The malicious code used to form spam botnets often exploits security vulnerabilities in products like Windows.

A collection of hard drives Microsoft seized in Kansas City, Mo., as part of a nationwide takedown of a leading source of spam.

That lawsuit was unsealed late Thursday by a federal judge, at Microsoft's request, after company executives said they dealt a seemingly lethal blow to the botnet in their raids on Wednesday.

As part of that dragnet, U.S. marshals accompanied employees of Microsoft's digital crimes unit into Internet hosting facilities in Kansas City, Mo.; Scranton, Pa; Denver; Dallas; Chicago; Seattle and Columbus, Ohio. The Microsoft officials brought with them a federal court order granting them permission to seize computers within the facilities alleged to be "command-and-control" machines, through which the operators of the Rustock botnet broadcast instructions to their army of infected computers, estimated by Microsoft at more than one million machines world-wide.

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