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Revealed: Microsoft contractors are listening to some Skype calls • VICE
Joseph Cox:
<p>Contractors working for Microsoft are listening to personal conversations of Skype users conducted through the app's translation service, according to a cache of internal documents, screenshots, and audio recordings obtained by Motherboard. Although Skype's website says that the company may analyze audio of phone calls that a user wants to translate in order to improve the chat platform's services, it does not say some of this analysis will be done by humans.

The Skype audio obtained by Motherboard includes conversations from people talking intimately to loved ones, some chatting about personal issues such as their weight loss, and others seemingly discussing relationship problems. Other files obtained by Motherboard show that Microsoft contractors are also listening to voice commands that users speak to Cortana, the company's voice assistant…

…"The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data," a Microsoft contractor who provided the cache of files to Motherboard said. Motherboard granted the source anonymity to speak more candidly about internal Microsoft practices, and because the person is under a non-disclosure agreement with the company.</p>

At this rate we're going to find out that <em>everything</em> involving voice has a chance of being listened to by a human at some point. And Microsoft will get whacked by the European data protection agencies for such slack practices.
microsoft  skype  translation  voice  dataprotection  surveillance 
11 days ago by charlesarthur
What is Microsoft doing with Cortana? • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>After some big changes to Microsoft’s Windows division, former Windows chief Terry Myerson departed the company in the summer last year and Cortana boss Javier Soltero followed a few months later. Microsoft is now refocusing Cortana and stripping back its direct integration in Windows 10 and the Xbox One. Microsoft has a new vision for Cortana, involving conversational interactions for workers who are organizing their days.

Andrew Shuman, Microsoft’s new Cortana boss, outlined the new vision earlier this year in an interview with The Verge. “I think one of the challenges we’ve had over the last couple of years is finding those places where Microsoft can really add a lot of value,” explained Shuman. “I think that what we’ve been really working on over the last year is how we can better embed Cortana across Microsoft 365 experiences and really delight users, especially those users who really are on board, so we have to understand their calendar, their tasks, their work documents, their interfacing with their close collaborators.”

This means Cortana is going to be far more conversational when answering queries by voice or text. We’ve seen parts of this through Microsoft’s bot ambitions and Skype integration for Cortana. The company is now repositioning Cortana as a skill that can run anywhere. Microsoft has also moved the Cortana team out of its AI research division and into its Experiences and Devices team. This should hopefully mean we’ll start to see Cortana show up in products that make sense, like Microsoft’s Surface Headphones.</p>

I think Cortana is going to show up in the back of the car heading up to the mountains for a "long walk". At least the voice-operated part. Something under the radar for organising calendars etc? Sure, but who cares about the name. It doesn't even need an interface.
microsoft  cortana 
28 days ago by charlesarthur
Fired Microsoft geek allegedly stole $10m with a bitcoin mixer • CCN
Ryan Smith:
<p>Ex Microsoft employee Volodymyr Kvashuk was arrested this week amid allegations of digital currency theft to the tune of $10m. U.S. attorneys for the Western District of Washington suspect the Ukrainian-born resident used a Bitcoin mixer to cover up his tracks.

Kvashuk, who was in charge of the companies online sales platform, was entrusted to test customer purchases in a simulated environment. The test environment only blocked physical deliveries, however, and the security team failed to prevent purchases of gift cards.

The talented engineer quickly took advantage of this flaw using company funds to buy Bitcoin-denominated gift cards. He subsequently resold them online to fund an extravagant lifestyle:

The complaint alleges KVASHUK resold the value on the internet, using the proceeds to purchase a $160,000 Tesla vehicle and a $1.6m dollar lakefront home.</p>

Going to love hearing the explanation for how he got the money by legal means.
bitcoin  microsoft  theft 
4 weeks ago by charlesarthur
German privacy watchdog: Microsoft’s Office 365 cannot be used in public schools • WinBuzzer
Luke Jones:
<p>A data authority in the German State of Hesse has warned Microsoft’s Office 365 cannot be used in schools. Michael Ronellenfitsch, Hesse’s data protection commissioner, says the standard Office 365 configuration creates privacy issues.

He warned this week that data stored in the cloud by the productivity suite could be accessed in the United States. Specifically, personal information from teachers and students would be in the cloud. Ronellenfitsch says even if the data was held in centers in Europe, it is still “exposed to possible access by US authorities”.

The commissioner says public intuitions in Hesse and across Germany “have a special responsibility with regard to the permissibility and traceability of the processing of personal data."…

…It is worth noting that Ronellenfitsch previously endorsed the use of Office 365 in schools. Back in 2017, he said schools can use the suite under certain conditions that match Germany’s data protection compliancy laws. At the time, Microsoft was partnered with Deutsche Telekom and offering the “Germany Cloud” initiative that is now depreciated.</p>

This isn't an opportunity for Google or Apple: they don't meet the authority's criteria on privacy and data either.
privacy  data  microsoft 
5 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Microsoft quietly deletes largest public face recognition data set • Financial Times
Madhumita Murgia:
<p>Microsoft, which took down the database days after the FT reported on its use by companies, said: “The site was intended for academic purposes. It was run by an employee that is no longer with Microsoft and has since been removed.”

Two other data sets have also been taken down since the FT report was published in April, including the Duke MTMC surveillance data set built by Duke University researchers, and a Stanford University data set called Brainwash.

Brainwash used footage of customers in a café called Brainwash in San Francisco’s Lower Haight district, taken through a livestreaming camera. Duke did not respond to requests for comment. Stanford said it had removed the data set after a request by one of the authors of a study it was used for. A spokesperson said the university is “committed to protecting the privacy of individuals at Stanford and in the larger community”.

All three data sets were uncovered by Berlin-based researcher Adam Harvey, whose <a href="">project Megapixels documented the details</a> of dozens of data sets and how they are being used.

Microsoft’s MS Celeb data set has been used by several commercial organisations, according to citations in AI papers, including IBM, Panasonic, Alibaba, Nvidia, Hitachi, Sensetime and Megvii. Both Sensetime and Megvii are Chinese suppliers of equipment to officials in Xinjiang, where minorities of mostly Uighurs and other Muslims are being tracked and held in internment camps.</p>

Good work by Harvey with Megapixels, but that sound is the stable door closing while the horse heads off into the distance.
microsoft  facialrecognition 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Microsoft removes Huawei laptop from store, remains silent on potential Windows ban • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Huawei’s MateBook X Pro is one of the best Windows laptops available in the US right now, but without a Windows license, it’s no longer a viable alternative to Apple’s MacBook Pro or the HP Spectre x360 and even Microsoft’s own Surface lineup. Microsoft appears to have stopped selling Huawei’s MateBook X Pro at the company’s online store, too.

A listing for the MateBook X Pro mysteriously disappeared over the weekend, and searching for any Huawei hardware brings up no results at the Microsoft Store. You can still find the laptop listing in a Google cache of last week, though. The Verge understands that Microsoft retail stores are still selling existing MateBook X Pro laptops they have in stock.

Microsoft’s potential Windows ban could also affect Huawei’s server solutions. Microsoft and Huawei both operate a hybrid cloud solution for Microsoft’s Azure stack, using Microsoft-certified Huawei servers.</p>

Without Windows they'll have to turn to... Linux? for their servers.
Huawei  windows  microsoft 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Xbox moderation to cut back toxic content • CNBC
Jordan Novet:
<p>The changes follow Microsoft’s recent update to its Xbox “community standards” for gameplay, which pointed out several practices that aren’t acceptable. Now it’s taking that a step further with moderation tools.

“This summer, we are empowering our official Club community managers with proactive content moderation features that will help create safe spaces for fans to discuss their favorite games,” Microsoft’s executive vice president of gaming, Phil Spencer, said Monday. “We plan to roll out new content moderation experiences to everyone on Xbox Live by the end of 2019.” Xbox Live has 63 million monthly active users, and the service includes groups where people can post content and submit comments, along with chat rooms.

“The gaming community continues to grow rapidly, and the imminent roll-out of new game services such as Apple Arcade, Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud will make gaming available to even more people worldwide,” Spencer said. “Our industry must now answer the fierce urgency to play with our fierce urgency for safety.”</p>

"Proactive" surely means "ban first, examine comments later", doesn't it? Or are they just trying to sound terribly involved? I guess it goes along with the "fierce urgency", which is a brand-new phrase in my canon. What exactly is a fierce urgency to play? It sounds like having a UTI.
microsoft  comments  moderation 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft patches zero-day bug under active attack • Threatpost
Tom Spring:
<p>Microsoft has released a patch for an elevation-of-privileges vulnerability rated important, which is being exploited in the wild.

The bug fix is part of Microsoft’s May Patch Tuesday Security Bulletin. It’s tied to the Windows Error Reporting feature and is being abused by attackers who have gained local access to affected PCs. They are able to trigger arbitrary code-execution in kernel mode — resulting in a complete system compromise.

“They would need to first gain access to run code on a target system, but malware often uses elevations like this one to go from ‘user’ to ‘admin’ code execution,” wrote Dustin Childs, communications manager for Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative, in a blog post on Tuesday. “While details about the use of the exploit are not available, it is likely being used in limited attacks against specific targets.”</p>

It's been quite the week for exploits - WhatsApp, Intel CPUs, now this.
microsoft  windows  hacking 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Why is everybody getting into wireless earbuds? • Tech.pinions
Carolina Milanesi:
<p>There is no question about Apple’s success with AirPods. Apple managed to get AirPods across gender, age, and even income level despite their price point not putting them in the “most affordable” category. The experience is described by many as magical. In a study, we, at Creative Strategies, conducted with Experian when AirPods first came out, customer satisfaction was the highest for a new product from Apple. 98% of AirPods owners said they were very satisfied or satisfied. Remarkably, 82% said they were very satisfied. By comparison, when the iPhone came out in 2007, it held a 92% customer satisfaction level, iPad in 2010 had 92%, and Apple Watch in 2015 had 97%.

Assuming Microsoft and Amazon are just after the revenue that a good set of wireless earbuds could generate is a little shortsighted.

Ambient computing and voice-first are certainly big drivers for both Microsoft and Amazon. As computing power is spread out across devices and digital assistants are helping to bridge our experience across them, voice has grown in importance as an interface. Many consumers are, however, less comfortable shouting commands across a room or speaking to technology outside the “safety” of their own home. As voice moves into the office, the need and desire to be able to speak quietly to an assistant and hear it back is even more evident.

Wireless earbuds that can be worn comfortably throughout the day allow us to build a better relationship with our assistants and, even more so, build our reliance. Interestingly, I would argue, this is where AirPods have not been as successful as Apple might have hoped for but certainly, through no fault of their own but more due to some limitations Siri has.

For both Alexa and Cortana, who do not have a smartphone they can call their own home, wireless earbuds are a great way to be with a user in a more direct and personal way rather than being relegated into an app. As I often say, this is not about consumers having only one assistant but making the assistant they use more often more intelligent and therefore creating a vicious circle: the more I use it, the more it gets better, the more I want to use it.</p>

On Wednesday I saw a street sweeper wearing a paid of AirPods. They're the new Coca-Cola of headphones: same for everyone, just about priced for all, uniquely recognisable.
Apple  airpods  wearable  microsoft  amazon 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft: hackers compromised support agent’s credentials to access customer email accounts | TechCrunch
Ingrid Lunden and Zack Whittaker:
<p>Microsoft has confirmed to TechCrunch that a certain “limited” number of people who use web email services managed by Microsoft — which cover services like and — had their accounts compromised.

“We addressed this scheme, which affected a limited subset of consumer accounts, by disabling the compromised credentials and blocking the perpetrators’ access,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in an email.

According to an email Microsoft has sent out to affected users (the reader who tipped us off got his late Friday evening), malicious hackers were potentially able to access an affected user’s e-mail address, folder names, the subject lines of e-mails, and the names of other e-mail addresses the user communicates with — “but not the content of any e-mails or attachments,” nor — it seems — login credentials like passwords.

Microsoft is still recommending that affected users change their passwords regardless.

The breach occurred between January 1 and March 28, Microsoft’s letter to users said. </p>

They "hacked" one of the customer support team.
microsoft  hacking  email 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
From Macintosh to Granny Smith: the rise and fall of Apple • VentureBeat
Christina Wallace and David Kidder:
<p>n the last five years. Microsoft has improved the way it identifies which research to use in which products and how to get even the most distant employees to collaborate. For example, every six months or so, they host a two-to-three day workshop between research and product teams to share their findings and participate in a hackathon.

Now the company is renowned for its AI efforts in vision, speech, language, and real-time calculation, from healthcare solutions to CPG inventory management.

Even an old signature like Office now subtly employs AI in just about every capability in the suite. In Powerpoint, for example, it’s training AI to be an intelligent assistant that can all but finish presentations for you. It’s a far cry from the days of the laughable “Clippy” assistant in Microsoft Word.

Microsoft is able to innovate at a previously unimaginable pace because in large part, they’ve given their terms permission to work together on customer problems. A simple yet surprisingly radical notion in many of the largest companies.

In asking Apple to innovate once more, the directive isn’t to rip up their product roadmap and halt all production of phones. For a large enterprise like Apple, steering the whole company in a new direction is neither feasible nor desirable.

Instead, Apple needs the framework other large companies are discovering to install a permanent, always-on growth capability.</p>

The authors of this piece are from a "growth advisory firm". Perhaps they haven't noticed that in the past five years Microsoft did a reorg so that it would have the same horizontal structure as, ah, Apple. And the piece doesn't mention Apple's AirPods (that would spoil the story of "nothing new"). What's Apple working on? We don't know. That doesn't mean it isn't. People have been calling it over for ages, but I really don't think Microsoft is the one to compare it to.
apple  business  strategy  microsoft 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft, Facebook, trust and privacy • Benedict Evans
Evans finds strong parallels, 25-odd years apart:
<p>much like the [creators of the] Microsoft macro viruses, the ‘bad actors’ on Facebook did things that were in the manual. They didn’t prise open a locked window at the back of the building - they knocked on the front door and walked in. They did things that you were supposed to be able to do, but combined them in an order and with malign intent that hadn’t really been anticipated.

It’s also interesting to compare the public discussion of Microsoft and of Facebook before these events. In the 1990s, Microsoft was the ‘evil empire’, and a lot of the narrative within tech focused on how it should be more open, make it easier for people to develop software that worked with the Office monopoly, and make it easier to move information in and out of its products. Microsoft was ‘evil’ if it did anything to make life harder for developers. Unfortunately, whatever you thought of this narrative, it pointed in the wrong direction when it came to this use case. Here, Microsoft was too open, not too closed.

Equally, in the last 10 years many people have argued that Facebook is too much of a ‘walled garden’ - that is is too hard to get your information out and too hard for researchers to pull information from across the platform. People have argued that Facebook was too restrictive on how third party developers could use the platform. And people have objected to Facebook's attempts to enforce the single real identities of accounts. As for Microsoft, there may well have been justice in all of these arguments, but also as for Microsoft, they pointed in the wrong direction when it came to this particular scenario. For the Internet Research Agency, it was too easy to develop for Facebook, too easy to get data out, and too easy to change your identity. The walled garden wasn’t walled enough. </p>
security  facebook  microsoft  privacy 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft removes the Books category from the Microsoft Store • ZDNet
Mary Jo Foley:
<p>Microsoft is removing the Books category from the Microsoft Store as of today, April 2. This means users will no longer be able to buy, rent or pre-order books via the Store beginning now.

Previously purchased books and rentals will be accessible until early July, but after this, books will no longer be accessible, officials said in a customer-support article today. The company is promising full refunds for all content purchased from the Books category; anyone who bought books via the Store will receive further details on how to get refunds via email from Microsoft. 

Microsoft's official reason for the move is it's attempting to streamline the strategic focus of the Microsoft Store, I hear. GIven the timing of this announcement, I'm thinking the decision may have something to do with Microsoft's next Windows 10 feature release (known as 1903, a k a the April 2019 Update) and/or the new Chromium-based Edge browser. </p>

You don't think the decision might have been about nobody buying books on Microsoft's Books category of its bookstore that pretty much nobody has heard of? At least there's a refund.
microsoft  ebook  content 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
A tragedy that calls for more than words: the need for the tech sector to learn and act after events in New Zealand • Microsoft on the Issues
Brad Smith is Microsoft's chief lawyer:
<p>we need to develop an industrywide approach that will be principled, comprehensive and effective. The best way to pursue this is to take new and concrete steps quickly in ways that build upon what already exists.

There are in fact important recent steps on which we can build. Just over two years ago, thanks in part to the leadership and urging of the British and the European Commission, four companies – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft – came together to create the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). Among other things, the group’s members have created a shared hash database of terrorist content and developed photo and video matching and text-based machine learning techniques to identify and thwart the spread of violence on their platforms. These technologies were used more than a million times in 24 hours to stop the distribution of the video from Christchurch.

While these are vital steps, one of the lessons from New Zealand is that the industry rightly will be judged not only by what it prevented, but by what it failed to stop. And from this perspective, there is clearly much more that needs to be done. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted last week, gone are the days when tech companies can think of their platforms akin to a postal service without regard to the responsibilities embraced by other content publishers. Even if the law in some countries gives digital platforms an exemption from decency requirements, the public rightly expects tech companies to apply a higher standard.</p>

Much easier for Microsoft to advocate this because it's not as if it runs any gigantic social networks. (Well, Xbox Live, but is that known as a sinkhole of white supremacists?)
microsoft  newzealand 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft's 800m claim for Windows 10 signals migration acceleration • Computerworld
Gregg Keizer:
<p>Although Windows 7's support retirement is just 312 days away, the OS stubbornly clings to a position of power, a place it seems to have little desire to relinquish. Using the 12-month average change in user share, Computerworld recently forecast that nearly 41% of all Windows PCs will be running Windows 7 at the moment it falls off Microsoft's support list. That would be about a dozen percentage points higher than Windows XP's spot when it lost support in the spring of 2014.

Microsoft's reporting of 800m Windows 10 devices, however, hints at a quickening uptake of the OS, which in the current environment - where total PC counts are flat at best - also means a faster diminishing of Windows 7.

The latest 100 million increase - from September 25, 2018 to yesterday - took only 163 days, little more than half the time needed to move Windows 10 from 600m to 700m (300 days). It was also a quicker transition than the ones from 500m to 600m (203 days) and from 400m to 500m (226 days).

<img src="" width="100%" /></p>

What that graph doesn't show - but should - is that when Windows 10 was launched in July 2015, Satya Nadella's target was to be on a billion devices (with 1.5bn Windows PCs installed) in three years. They got about two-thirds of the way there by that time; the upgrade curve had flattened out almost at once because Windows got crushed on mobile.
microsoft  windows  pc 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Excel will now let you snap a picture of a spreadsheet and import it • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft is adding a very useful feature to its Excel mobile apps for iOS and Android. It allows Excel users to take a photo of a printed data table and convert it into a fully editable table in the app. This feature is rolling out initially in the Android Excel app, before making its way to iOS soon. Microsoft is using artificial intelligence to implement this feature, with image recognition so that Excel users don’t have to manually input hardcopy data. The feature will be available to Microsoft 365 users.

<img src="" width="50%" /></p>

Very fun - though I'd have thought its biggest use will be for converting PDFs or to grab information out of books and make it more useful.
microsoft  ai  excel 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Cortana – dead or alive • Radio Free Mobile
Richard Windsor:
<p>Microsoft held a media event where Satya Nadella extolled the virtue of Cortana, but it is clear from his commentary that there is no logical reason why anyone will ever use it again.

Microsoft will be moving it away from its position on the Windows 10 taskbar depriving it from the only place on any system where it remains default.

Microsoft will also allow compatibility with Google Assistant as well as Amazon Alexa. The unanswered question is why anyone would ask Google or Alexa to ask Cortana to do anything seeing as both of them can do everything Cortana can do and much more.

Furthermore, Microsoft has not invested in Cortana since it became resident on the Windows 10 desktop which has meant that its presence is more of an annoyance than anything else.
Microsoft claims Cortana is deeply integrated with Office 365 but asking Cortana to do anything is Office is more cumbersome and time-consuming than simply clicking with the mouse. Furthermore, most of the time Cortana has no idea what the user is talking about rendering it effectively useless.

Hence, when Cortana is removed from the desktop, I shall not be sad to see it go. I don’t think other Windows users will be either.

However, putting Cortana quietly to sleep opens the door to a much more interesting opportunity around AI licensing.</p>

I hadn't noticed that the Cortana chief was going (it was announced in November). Microsoft's problem is that it doesn't have a user-facing way to get its AI into use. But as Windsor says, there might be some potential licensing its technology to others.
Microsoft  cortana 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
Microsoft pledges $500m for affordable housing in Seattle area • The New York Times
<p>Microsoft’s money represents the most ambitious effort by a tech company to directly address the inequality that has spread in areas where the industry is concentrated, particularly on the West Coast. It will fund construction for homes affordable not only to the company’s own non-tech workers, but also for teachers, firefighters and other middle- and low-income residents.

Microsoft’s move comes less than a year after Amazon successfully pushed to block a new tax in Seattle that would have made large businesses pay a per-employee tax to fund homeless services and the construction of affordable housing. The company said the tax created a disincentive to create jobs. Microsoft, which is based in nearby Redmond, Wash., and has few employees who work in the city, did not take a position on the tax.

The debate about the rapid growth of the tech industry and the inequality that often follows has spilled across the country, particularly as Amazon, with billions of taxpayer subsidies, announced plans to build major campuses in Long Island City, Queens, and Arlington, Va., that would employ a total of at least 50,000 people. In New York, elected officials and residents have raised concerns that Amazon has not made commitments to support affordable housing.

Microsoft has been at the vanguard of warning about the potential negative effects of technology, like privacy or the unintended consequences of artificial intelligence. Executives hope the housing efforts will spur other companies to follow its lead.</p>

Very laudable. Will Amazon follow?
microsoft  housing  seattle 
january 2019 by charlesarthur
A glimpse into Microsoft history which goes some way to explaining the decline of Windows • Tim Anderson's IT Writing
Tim Anderson:
<p>Why is Windows in decline today? Short answer: because Microsoft lost out and/or gave up on Windows Phone / Mobile.

But how did it get to that point? A significant part of the story is the failure of Longhorn (when two to three years of Windows development was wasted in a big reset), and the failure of Windows 8.

In fact these two things are related. Here’s a <a href="">post from Justin Chase</a>; it is from back in May but only caught my attention when Jose Fajardo <a href="">put it on Twitter</a>. Chase was a software engineer at Microsoft between 2008 and 2014.

Chase notes that Internet Explorer (IE) stagnated because many of the developers working on it switched over to work on Windows Presentation Foundation, one of the “three pillars” of Longhorn. I can corroborate this to the extent that I recall a conversation with a senior Microsoft executive at Tech Ed Europe, in pre-Longhorn days, when I asked why not much was happening with IE. He said that the future lay in rich internet-connected applications rather than browser applications. Insightful perhaps, if you look at mobile apps today, but no doubt Microsoft also had in mind locking people into Windows.</p>

As the post shows, it's odd how you only see how the dominoes are lined up in retrospect.
microsoft  windows 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Opinion: Microsoft browser shift has major implications for software and devices • TechSpot
Bob O'Donnell:
<p>From traditional enterprise software vendors like SAP, Oracle, and IBM through modern cloud-based players like Salesforce, Slack, and Workday, the ability to focus more of their efforts on a single target platform should open up a wealth of innovation and reduce difficult cross-platform testing efforts.

But it’s not just the software world that’s going to be impacted by this decision. Semiconductors and the types of devices that we may start to use could be affected as well. For example, Microsoft is leveraging this shift to Chromium as part of an effort to bring broader software compatibility to Arm-based CPUs, particularly the Windows on Snapdragon offerings from Qualcomm, like the brand-new Snapdragon 8cx. By working on bringing the underlying compatibility of Chromium to Windows-focused Arm64 processors, Microsoft is going to make it significantly easier for software developers to create applications that run on these devices. This would remove the last significant hurdle that has kept these devices from reaching mainstream buyers in the consumer and enterprise world, and it could turn them into serious contenders versus traditional X86-based CPUs from Intel and AMD.

On the device side, this move also opens up the possibility for a wider variety of form factors and for more ambient computing types of services. By essentially enabling a single, consistent target platform that could leverage the essential input characteristics of desktop devices (mice and keyboards), mobile devices (touch), and voice-based interfaces, Microsoft is laying the groundwork for a potentially fascinating computing future. Imagine, for example, a foldable multi-screen device that offers something like a traditional Android front screen, then unfolds to a larger Windows (or Android)-based device that can leverage the exact same applications and data, but with subtle UI enhancements optimized for each environment.</p>

Well sure, but that's been the promise of web apps for absolutely years, and they're never as good as the native UI, because the native UI is tuned to the device and its OS. It's not a single, consistent target platform. That's always the hope, and that hope is always dashed.
microsoft  chromium  browser 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Edge dies a death of a thousand cuts as Microsoft switches to Chromium • Ars Technica
Peter Bright:
<p>Microsoft is going to use Google's Blink rendering engine and V8 JavaScript engine in its Edge browser, largely ending development of its own EdgeHTML rendering engine and Chakra JavaScript engine. This means that Microsoft will be using code from—and making contributions to—the Chromium open source project.

The company's browser will still be named Edge and should retain the current look and feel. The decision to switch was motivated primarily by compatibility problems: Web developers increasingly test their pages exclusively in Chrome, which has put Edge at a significant disadvantage. Microsoft's engineers have found that problematic pages could often be made Edge compatible with only very minor alterations, but because Web devs aren't using Edge at all, they don't even know that they need to change anything.

The story is, however, a little more complex. The initial version of Edge that shipped with the first version of Windows 10 was rudimentary, to say the least. It was the bare bones of a browser, but with extremely limited capabilities around things like tab management and password management, no extension model, and generally lacking in the creature comforts that represent the difference between a bare rendering engine and an actual usable browser. It also had stability issues; crashes and hangs were not uncommon.

Microsoft's own telemetry showed that many users did give Edge a chance, but as soon as a problem was encountered—a crash, a hang, or perhaps a page that didn't work right—they'd switch to Chrome and never really look back.</p>

As in the modern smartphone wars, Microsoft entered this race at least a lap too late. But as one person commented on Twitter (I can't find the link now), If you can get the quality of Chrome but without the tracking, you're definitely ahead.
microsoft  browser  edge  chromium 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
What is Windows Lite? It's Microsoft's Chrome OS killer • Petri
Brad Sams:
<p>Microsoft is working on a new version of Windows that may not actually be Windows. It’s currently called Lite, based on documentation found in the latest build, and I can confirm that this version of the OS is targeting Chromebooks. In fact, there are markings all over the latest release of the insider builds and SDK that help us understand where this OS is headed.

If you have heard this before, it should sound a lot like Windows 10 S and RT; Windows 10 Lite only runs PWAs and UWP apps and strips out everything else. This is finally a truly a lightweight version of Windows that isn’t only in the name. This is not a version of the OS that will run in the enterprise or even small business environments and I don’t think you will be able to ‘buy’ the OS either; OEM only may be the way forward.

The reason Microsoft had to kill off Windows10 S was to make way for this iteration of Windows. The goal of Windows Lite is to make it super lightweight, instant on, always connected, and can run on any type of CPU. Knowing that this week Qualcomm will announce a new generation of Snapdragon that can run Windows significantly better than the 835, fully expect to see this new chip powering many of the first devices running the new OS.

And there’s something a bit different about Lite that we haven’t seen from every attempt at launching this type of software in the past; it may not be called Windows.</p>

Anything dubbed a "--killer" won't be - such a name may even doom it - and the problem for Microsoft is that to compete with ChromeOS on that OS's terms would be to lose ignominiously. It can't be done: either you make a browser-based minimal OS, or you don't. A "light Windows" is like being a little pregnant, or crossing the chasm in two hops.
microsoft  windows 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is worth as much as Apple (again). How did that happen? • The New York Times
Steve Lohr on how Microsoft's market capitalisation has come back to match - even pass - Apple's:
<p>There is a short-term explanation for Microsoft’s market rise, and there is a longer-term one.

The near-term, stock-trading answer is that Microsoft has held up better than others during the recent sell-off of tech company shares. Apple investors are worried about a slowdown in iPhone sales. Facebook and Google face persistent attacks on their role in distributing false news and conspiracy theories, and investor concerns that their privacy policies could scare off users and advertisers.

But the more enduring and important answer is that Microsoft has become a case study of how a once-dominant company can build on its strengths and avoid being a prisoner of its past. It has fully embraced cloud computing, abandoned an errant foray into smartphones and returned to its roots as mainly a supplier of technology to business customers.

That strategy was outlined by Satya Nadella shortly after he became chief executive in 2014. Since then, Microsoft’s stock price has nearly tripled…

…Mr. Nadella made the cloud service a top priority, and the company is now a strong No. 2 to Amazon. Microsoft has nearly doubled its share of that market to 13% since the end of 2015, according to the Synergy Research Group. Amazon’s share has held steady at 33% over that span.

Microsoft has also retooled its popular Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a cloud version, Office 365. That offering caters to people who prefer to use software as an internet service and gives Microsoft a competitive entry against online app suppliers like Google.</p>

Satya Nadella, without a doubt, has executed perfectly.
microsoft  apple  market  capitalisation 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft’s problem isn’t how often it updates Windows—it’s how it develops it • Ars Technica
Peter Bright on Microsoft's new way of looking at Windows:
<p>The problem with Windows as a Service is quality. Previous issues with the feature and security updates have already shaken confidence in Microsoft's updating policy for Windows 10. While data is notably lacking, there is at the very least a popular perception that the quality of the monthly security updates has taken a dive with Windows 10 and that installation of the twice-annual feature updates as soon as they're available is madness. These complaints are long-standing, too. The unreliable updates have been a cause for concern since shortly after Windows 10's release.

The latest problem has brought this to a head, with commentators saying that two feature updates a year is too many and Redmond should cut back to one, and that Microsoft needs to stop developing new features and just fix bugs. Some worry that the company is dangerously close to a serious loss of trust over updates, and for some Windows users, that trust may already have been broken.

These are not the first calls for Microsoft to slow down with its feature updates—there have been concerns that there's too much churn for both IT and consumer audiences alike to handle—but with the obvious problems of the latest update, the calls take on a new urgency.

But saying Microsoft should only produce one update a year instead of two, or criticising the very idea of Windows as a Service, is missing the point. The problem here isn't the release frequency. It's Microsoft's development process.

Why is it the process, and not the timeframe, that's the issue? On the release schedule front, we can look at what other software does to get a feel for what's possible.</p>
microsoft  windows  development  programming 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Windows 10 October 2018 Update no longer deletes your data • Ars Technica
Peter Bright:
<p>Microsoft has figured out why the Windows 10 October 2018 Update deleted data from some systems and produced a fixed version. The severity of the bug caused the company to cease distribution of the update last week; the fixed version is now being distributed to Windows Insiders for testing, ahead of a resumption of the wider rollout…

…The software giant claims that only a small number of users were affected and lost data and has published <a href="">an explanation</a> of the problem.

The storage location of the Known Folders can be changed, a capability called Known Folder Redirection (KFR). This is useful to, for example, move a large Documents folder onto a different disk. Software asking for the Documents Known Folder location will be given the redirected location so it'll seamlessly pick up the redirection and use the correct place. This is why programs shouldn't just hardcode the path; it allows this kind of redirection to work.

Redirecting one or more Known Folders does not, however, remove the original folder. Moreover, if there are still files in the original folder, redirecting doesn't move those files to the new location. Using KFR can thus result in your files being split between two locations; the original folder, and the new redirected folder.

The October 2018 Update tried to tidy up this situation. When KFR is being used, the October 2018 Update will delete the original, default Known Folder locations. Microsoft imagined that this would simply remove some empty, redundant directories from your user profile. No need to have a Documents directory in your profile if you're using a redirected location, after all. The problem is, it neither checked to see if those directories were empty first, nor copied any files to the new redirected location. It just wiped out the old directory, along with anything stored within it. Hence the data loss.</p>

"No longer deletes your data" - sure that the marketing department will go for that.
bug  microsoft  windows 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft pulls Windows 10 October 2018 update after reports of documents being deleted • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft is now recommending that affected users contact the company directly, and if you’ve manually downloaded the October update then “please don’t install it and wait until new media is available.” Other Windows 10 users have been complaining that the Microsoft Edge browser and other store apps have been unable to connect to the internet after the October 2018 Update, and the update was even blocked on certain PCs due to Intel driver incompatibilities.

It’s not clear how many Windows 10 users are affected by the problem, but even if it’s a small percentage it’s still surprising this issue was never picked up during Microsoft’s vast testing of the October update. Millions of people help Microsoft test Windows 10, but the company has struggled with the quality of Windows updates recently. Microsoft delayed its Windows 10 April 2018 Update earlier this year over Blue Screen of Death issues, but those problems were picked up before the update reached regular consumers and businesses.

Microsoft was planning to push the latest October update out to all Windows 10 users next Tuesday, but that’s now likely to be put on hold while investigations continue into this major deletion problem.</p>

Warren pointed out on Twitter that Microsoft <a href="">had been warned about this</a> via the Windows Insider program, yet seems to have thought it fixed.
Microsoft  windows 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is embracing Android as the mobile version of Windows • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Android app mirroring will be part of Microsoft’s new Your Phone app for Windows 10. This app debuts this week as part of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, but the app mirroring part won’t likely appear until next year. Microsoft briefly demonstrated how it will work, though; You’ll be able to simply mirror your phone screen straight onto Windows 10 through the Your Phone app, which will have a list of your Android apps. You can tap to access them and have them appear in the remote session of your phone.

<img src="" width="100%" />

We’ve seen a variety of ways of bringing Android apps to Windows in recent years, including Bluestacks and even Dell’s Mobile Connect software. This app mirroring is certainly easier to do with Android, as it’s less restricted than iOS. Still, Microsoft’s welcoming embrace of Android in Windows 10 with this app mirroring is just the latest in a number of steps the company has taken recently to really help align Android as the mobile equivalent of Windows.

Microsoft Launcher is designed to replace the default Google experience on Android phones, and bring Microsoft’s own services and Office connectivity to the home screen. It’s a popular launcher that Microsoft keeps updating, and it’s even getting support for the Windows 10 Timeline feature that lets you resume apps and sites across devices.

All of this just reminds me of Windows Phone.</p>

Yeah, Tom, let it go now. But Microsoft trying to ju-jitsu Android by getting Windows connectivity? Seems smart.
android  microsoft  windows 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Surface Pro 6 announced with a new matte black finish, quad-core processors • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft’s Surface chief, Panos Panay, says the company has overhauled the inside of the Surface Pro 6 so it has improved cooling. That means the Surface Pro 6 now supports quad-core processors, and Microsoft claims it will be 67 percent faster than the previous model.

This new internal design should also help improve battery life. Microsoft says the Surface Pro 6 will last for 13.5 hours on battery life. While there’s an internal redesign, the outside looks very familiar. It’s still 1.7 pounds, and it has the same 12.3-inch display and up to 16GB of RAM inside.

Unfortunately, the Surface Pro 6 will include the same connectivity and external design as the existing model, which means there are still no USB-C ports. It’s surprising Microsoft still isn’t adopting USB-C in its flagship Surface Pro, especially given the company has introduced this new connector on both the Surface Go and Surface Book 2.</p>

"Matte black finish" is the key point for the headline? And still USB-C can't get any love.
microsoft  surface 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Surface event 2018: 5 things to expect • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft is holding a media event on Tuesday in New York City. Described only as a “moment of your time,” the event is likely to focus on Surface hardware, Windows 10 features, and Microsoft’s new productivity push to win back consumers. Microsoft’s Surface chief, Panos Panay, will be attending the event and it will be the company’s first big Surface / Windows press event since former Windows chief Terry Myerson departed over the summer. It’s a chance for Microsoft to show where Windows is heading, unveil the latest Surface hardware, and perhaps surprise us with something new.</p>

TL;DR: refreshes of the existing stuff, but without adding USB-C if it doesn't already have it.
microsoft  surface 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft does away with more passwords • TechCrunch
Frederic Lardinois:
<p>As the company today announced at its Ignite conference, it’ll now support password-less logins via its Microsoft Authenticator app for hundreds of thousands of Azure Active Directory-connected apps. “No company lets enterprises eliminate more passwords than Microsoft,” the company proudly writes in its announcement today.

The company has written about this in the past and with Windows Hello, it’s already offering a version of this for Windows 10 users. For Azure Active Directory, the Windows Authenticator app essentially replicates the functionality of Windows Hello and it lets users use their fingerprint, face or PIN to log in to their enterprise applications. The overall idea here is that you are still providing two factors of authentication: something you own (your phone) and something you have (your fingerprint or face).

<a href="">Here is what that looks like for personal accounts</a>. The process for enterprise accounts is quite similar.</p>

"Fingerprint, face or PIN". The latter doesn't feel that far away from a password, to be honest, though I suppose if you're having to put it through your pre-authorised Windows Authenticator app then it adds a faint sheen of extra security.
microsoft  password 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Chromebook • AVC
Fred Wilson:
<p>I have not used desktop software for probably a decade now. The browser is how I do all of my desktop computing. Paying up for a full blown computer when all I need is a browser seems like a waste.

And there are some security things that appeal to me about a Chromebook. I like the ability to do two factor authentication on signing into the device, for example.

I am curious what advice those of you who use Chromebooks have for me.

I like to use a desktop style setup vs a laptop unless I am traveling. So the Acer Chromebase and Chromebox look interesting to me.

But I am hearing great things about the Pixelbook and am wondering if I should start there.

I am also curious how one uses a Password Manager on a Chromebook. That’s the one desktop app that I regularly use.</p>

Is he saying that he doesn't run spreadsheets, or doesn't run serious spreadsheets? One would expect a venture capitalist to be a heavy user of Excel, but <a href="">that won't run (in depth) on a Chromebook</a>.
chromebook  microsoft 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
New Russian hacking targeted Republican groups, Microsoft says • The New York Times
<p>Microsoft Corporation <a href="">said that it detected and seized websites</a> that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft also found websites imitating the United States Senate, but not specific Senate offices or political campaigns.

The shift to attacking conservative think tanks underscores the Russian intelligence agency’s goals: to disrupt any institutions challenging Moscow and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Hudson Institute has promoted programs examining the rise of kleptocracy in governments around the world, with Russia as a prime target. The International Republican Institute, which receives some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, has worked for decades in promoting democracy around the world.

“We are now seeing another uptick in attacks. What is particular in this instance is the broadening of the type of websites they are going after,” Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said Monday in an interview.

“These are organizations that are informally tied to Republicans,” he said, “so we see them broadening beyond the sites they have targeted in the past.”

The International Republican Institute’s board of directors includes several Republican leaders who have been highly critical of Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Putin, including a summit meeting last month between the two leaders in Helsinki, Finland.</p>

Not that Fancy Bear and its cohorts only limits itself to Republicans. It's likely they were behind <a href="">this cyberattack on a Democratic candidate in California last week</a>.
microsoft  hacking  fancybear  us  politics 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft Surface Go review: a little goes a long way • The Verge
Dieter Bohn:
<p>The Surface Go is a 10-inch hybrid tablet-laptop Windows computer. It’s just really small, honestly. That seems like an obvious point to make, but it’s the essence of what the Surface Go is: A very tiny Surface. I said in my last video that I have a soft spot for tiny computers. They’re just a little more convenient to carry around and the tradeoffs in performance are usually worth it for me. The sign of a good tiny computer is that you have to check to make sure it’s actually in your bag when you leave the house. And I have had to check several times — it weighs 1.15 pounds on its own.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is typing on the slightly-less-than-full-size keyboard. I found it only took me a few hours to get used to it, and I’ve been able to jam along without more typos that usual. It uses traditional scissor switches, which means that there’s good key travel. The keys themselves are slightly domed, which might help just a little with accuracy. The glass Precision trackpad is similarly good — just big enough so that you don’t feel cramped using it.</p>

Bohn really, really likes the Surface Go. Notable that Apple's offering 9.7in and 10.5in tablets: it's as if consensus is gravitating around 10in as the idea for the toaster-fridge form factor.
surfacego  microsoft  tablet 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Surface Go is Microsoft’s big bet on a tiny-computer future • WIRED
Lauren Goode:
<p>A lot about the new Surface has been “tuned”—not just the guts of the Go, but its software, too. “We tuned Office, we then tuned the Intel part, we tuned Windows, we made sure that, in portrait, it came to life,” Panay says. “We brought the Cortana [team] in to better design the Cortana box—we went after the details on what we think our customers need at 10 inches.”

There’s usually a tradeoff when you’re buying a computer this small. You get portability at the expense of space for apps and browser windows. The Surface Go has a built-in scaler that optimizes apps for a 10-inch screen, and Microsoft says that it’s working with third-parties to make sure certain apps run great. There’s only so much control, though, you have over software that’s not your own. I was reminded of this when I had a few minutes to use the Surface Go, went to download the Amazon Kindle app in the Windows Store, and couldn’t find it there…

…So who is this tiny Surface Go actually made for? It depends on who you ask at Microsoft, but the short answer seems to be: anybody and everybody.

[Natalia] Urbanowicz, the product marketing manager, says Go is about “reaching more audiences, and embracing the word ‘and’: I can be a mother, and an entrepreneurial badass; I can be a student, and a social justice warrior.” Kyriacou, when describing the Go’s cameras, says to “think about the front line worker in the field—a construction worker, architect, they can capture what they need to or even scan a document.” You can also dock the Go, Kyriacou points out, using the Surface Connect port, which makes it ideal for business travelers. Groene talks about reading, about drawing, about running software applications like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. Almost everyone talks about watching Hulu and Netflix on it.</p>

I don't think they know who it's for. Note too how Microsoft is struggling, like any OEM, to get third-party apps onto its store.
microsoft  surfacego 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft’s $399 Surface Go aims to stand out from iPads or Chromebooks • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft’s new Surface Go is finally official after months of rumors and leaks. It’s an inexpensive 10-inch tablet designed to be a smaller and less powerful version of the Surface Pro. While the exterior of the Surface Go makes it look like a baby Surface Pro, Microsoft has changed a lot inside. The base model is priced at $399, but it only ships with 4GB of RAM, 64GB of slower eMMC storage, and a less powerful Intel Pentium Gold processor. Prices quickly jump to over $600 after adding the all important Type Cover, more RAM, a faster SSD, and other Surface add-ons. With these specs and price points in mind, who exactly is the Surface Go for?

Microsoft isn’t targeting its Surface Go at any particular customer from what I can tell. It’s not an iPad killer, it’s not going directly after Chromebooks, and it’s not really challenging $400 Windows laptops…

…It’s natural to compare the Surface Go to Apple’s iPad, but the two are not like-for-like competitors. Apple’s base model iPad is priced at $329. If you only want a pure tablet, the Surface Go won’t offer the best experience as it doesn’t have the 1.3 million apps that are designed and optimized for the iPad. Let’s face it: if you’re going to buy just a tablet, the iPad is the only one worth buying right now.</p>

OK, that's one way of "standing out from" iPads and Chromebooks. It's a good enough product for the price, but who, truly, is it for? Sadly, there's no outside comment (from, say, analysts who watch the marketplace) so you'll just have to guess.
surface  ipad  microsoft 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is said to have agreed to acquire coding site GitHub • Bloomberg
Dina Bass and Eric Newcomer:
<p>Microsoft Corp. has agreed to acquire GitHub Inc., the code repository company popular with many software developers, and could announce the deal as soon as Monday, according to people familiar with the matter.

GitHub preferred selling the company to going public and chose Microsoft partially because it was impressed by Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. Terms of the agreement weren’t known on Sunday. GitHub was last valued at $2bn in 2015.

The acquisition provides a way forward for San Francisco-based GitHub, which has been trying for nine months to find a new CEO and has yet to make a profit from its popular service that allows coders to share and collaborate on their work. It also helps Microsoft, which is increasingly relying on open-source software, to add programming tools and tie up with a company that has become a key part of the way Microsoft writes its own software.

Frank Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, declined to comment. GitHub didn’t return an email seeking request for comment.</p>

Sounds likely: Microsoft wants to get in front of programmers; it wants to know what trends are in programming; this is a great way to do that. Nadella's Microsoft is an adaptable creature.
microsoft  github 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is now more valuable than Alphabet — by about $10bn • CNBC
Jordan Novet:
<p>When Google first passed Microsoft in terms of stock market value six years ago, it looked like the companies were headed in opposite directions.

But over the past 12 months, Microsoft has surged 40%, more than five times Alphabet's gain, and has again become the more valuable of the two. As of mid-day Tuesday, Microsoft was worth $749bn and Alphabet's market capitalization stood at $739bn.

Microsoft's latest rally has been sparked by growth in its cloud-computing business, which is bigger than Google's though it still trails Amazon Web Services. In March, Microsoft reorganized its Windows and Devices Group and moved its engineering resources into other units, including one focusing on cloud and artificial intelligence.

Both Microsoft and Alphabet beat analysts' expectations in the first quarter.

Google went public in 2004 and spent the next eight years closing the gap with Microsoft, which debuted on the stock market in 1986. Even after Google first passed Microsoft in 2012, the companies flip-flopped several times over the next few years.</p>

The growing confidence in Microsoft is all down to Nadella tearing it away from its past obsessions - mobile and, most recently, the fixation on Windows as the centre of everything. (There's a good recent episode of the Exponent podcast with Ben Thompson and James Allworth on this.) Google's growing, but slower. Where's its second act?
Google  microsoft 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft reportedly working on $400 Surface tablets to compete with the iPad • The Verge
Chaim Gartenberg:
<p>Microsoft is working on a new line of budget Surface tablets to better compete with Apple’s low-cost iPad options, according to a report from Bloomberg.

According to the report, the new Surface tablets won’t just be smaller, cheaper Surface Pros. Rather, Microsoft is said to be completely redesigning the devices, with 10in screens instead of the 12in size currently found on the Surface Pro, rounded corners that more resemble an iPad than the more rectangular Surface design, and USB-C for charging. Most importantly, priced at $400, they will be more in line with Apple’s cheaper tablets, too.

Bloomberg also claims that the new models will be around 20% lighter than the current Surface Pro, although that reduced weight comes at the cost of around four hours fewer of battery life. Like the full-size Surface, the new budget Surface computer will feature Intel processors and graphics, and run the full version of Windows 10 Pro. (No word on whether or not S Mode will be enabled by default, which may make sense given the budget nature of the device.) And like the iPad, Microsoft is said to be planning on models that offer LTE connectivity.</p>

A discussion on Twitter between Tom Warren (longtime Microsoft watcher) and Steve Sinofsky (ex-Surface creator) drew the conclusion that this is more about competing with Chromebooks than the iPad. You're not going to get people to switch from the iPad to a Surface.
microsoft  surface 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Don't Skype me: how Microsoft turned users against its beloved video-chat program • LA Times
Dina Bass and Nate Lanxon:
<p>The company hasn't updated the number of Skype users since 2016, when it put the total at 300 million. Some analysts suspect the numbers are flat at best, and two former employees describe a general sense of panic that they're actually falling. The former Microsoft workers, who requested anonymity to discuss confidential statistics, say that as late as 2017 they never heard a figure higher than 300 million discussed internally.

Chief Executive Satya Nadella has repeatedly said he wants the company's products to be widely used and loved. By turning Skype into a key part of its lucrative Office suite for corporate customers, though, Microsoft is threatening what made it appealing to regular folks in the first place. "It is like Tim Tebow trying to be a baseball player," Malik said. "The product is so confusing, kludgey and unusable"…

…Skype has tried to be all things to all people, "and almost all those things are executed better elsewhere," says Matthew Culnane, a user experience and content strategist at the U.K.'s Open University.

It doesn't help that Microsoft keeps overhauling the app. A redesign last summer sent ratings plunging. In a scorching Twitter commentary, security journalist Brian Krebs said that finding basic buttons was a pain and that the recent update was "probably the worst so far." The tweet — and retweets — got the attention of Skype's social network team. "Brian, we're sorry to hear this," a representative replied. "Would love to hear more feedback and see if there's anything we can help with."

"There was a demographic that loved Skype for what it was; it was clean and simple," says Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "That's no longer the case." Milanesi once paid for a Skype subscription for her mother in Italy. Then her mother got an iPad, and now they talk on Apple Facetime. Millions do the same, despite the fact that Skype apps are a download away on iPhone and Android smartphones and tablets.</p>

The redesign is really appalling. Not broken? Don't fix. The only thing that keeps people using Skype (for podcasts and so much else) is that you can record it relatively easily: the security of apps like Signal actually works against them for things like that.
skype  microsoft 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore on the future of Windows and connecting phones to PCs • The Verge
Tom Warren interview Belfiore and Shilpa Ranganathan about Microsoft's forthcoming "Your Phone" Windows 10 program:
<p>While Microsoft has used Cortana for linking SMS and notifications to PCs in the past, this new app will be the primary way phones connect to Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft has shown off messages, notifications, and photo sharing at the moment, but not all of these features will necessarily work on both iOS and Android.

“We will actually have photos on iOS and notifications as well,” explains Shilpa Ranganathan. “Apple does make it a tad harder for messages, but we’re very willing to work with Apple.” A number of third-party apps use workarounds to support messages, but Microsoft’s vision is essentially to bring iMessage to Windows inside its Your Phone app. “I want to do this in a supported way with a respect for the ecosystem we’re building on and at the same time make it a delightful experience,” says Ranganathan. “Messages is one where we’re not currently where we need to be compared to Android, but we need to work with Apple.”

That work with Apple has not started, and Microsoft has not yet approached the company to see if it’s willing to work with Microsoft. It seems very unlikely that it will be able to convince Apple to partner on such a project, so Your Phone will likely ship with better features on Android. Still, Microsoft is also looking at other features for the app. “I know people have asked for calling and dialing as well, that’s something that has been on our radar as well,” reveals Ranganathan. Microsoft is also investigating clever features like providing directions based on text message information, or surfacing relevant contact information through the app. It’s still early for Your Phone, but Microsoft is clearly committed to making this a powerful part of Windows 10.</p>

Apple's not going to let Microsoft touch iMessage. Not while it can get platform leverage by making it available only on Macs. Of course there are more Android users on Windows than iOS users on Windows (because there are more Android users overall), so Microsoft might not lose out that heavily.
apple  microsoft  yourphone  imessage 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
The facts about a recent counterfeiting case brought by the U.S. government • Microsoft
Frank Shaw is Microsoft's head of communications:
<p>here are some facts of the case worth noting – all of which are spelled out in detail in the court documents.

• <strong>Microsoft did not bring this case:</strong> U.S. Customs referred the case to federal prosecutors after intercepting shipments of counterfeit software imported from China by Mr. Lundgren.

• <strong>Lundgren established an elaborate counterfeit supply chain in China:</strong> Mr. Lundgren traveled extensively in China to set up a production line and designed counterfeit molds for Microsoft software in order to unlawfully manufacture counterfeit discs in significant volumes.

• <strong>Lundgren failed to stop after being warned:</strong> Mr. Lundgren was even warned by a customs seizure notice that his conduct was illegal and given the opportunity to stop before he was prosecuted.

• <strong>Lundgren pleaded guilty:</strong> The counterfeit discs obtained by Mr. Lundgren were sold to refurbishers in the United States for his personal profit and Mr. Lundgren and his codefendant both pleaded guilty to federal felony crimes.

• <strong>Lundgren went to great lengths to mislead people:</strong> His own emails submitted as evidence in the case show the lengths to which Mr. Lundgren went in an attempt to make his counterfeit software look like genuine software. They also show him directing his co-defendant to find less discerning customers who would be more easily deceived if people objected to the counterfeits.</p>

This relates to the story from last week. Lundgren clearly <a href="">not quite the innocent</a> that some (including, er, me) made out.
microsoft  law  counterfeit  lundgren 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
How did this advocate of e-waste reuse end up behind bars? • The Washington Post
Tom Jackman:
<p>A California man who built a sizable business out of recycling electronic waste is headed to federal prison for 15 months after a federal appeals court in Miami rejected his claim that the “restore disks” he made to extend the lives of computers had no financial value, instead ruling that he had infringed Microsoft’s products to the tune of $700,000.

The appeals court upheld a federal district judge’s ruling that the disks made by Eric Lundgren to restore Microsoft operating systems had a value of $25 apiece, even though they could be downloaded free and could be used only on computers with a valid Microsoft license. The US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit initially granted Lundgren an emergency stay of his prison sentence, shortly before he was to surrender, but then affirmed his original 15-month sentence and $50,000 fine without hearing oral argument in a ruling issued April 11…

…Initially, federal prosecutors valued the disks at $299 each, the cost of a brand-new Windows operating system, and Lundgren’s indictment claimed he had cost Microsoft $8.3m in lost sales. By the time of sentencing, a Microsoft letter to Hurley and a Microsoft expert witness had reduced the value of the disks to $25 apiece, stating that was what Microsoft charged refurbishers for such disks.

But both the letter and the expert were pricing a disk that came with a Microsoft license. “These sales of counterfeit operating systems,” Microsoft lawyer Bonnie MacNaughton wrote to the judge, “displaced Microsoft’s potential sales of genuine operating systems.” But Lundgren’s disks had no licenses and were intended for computers that already had licenses.</p>

Man tries to do good, gets run over by US Customs. (Microsoft's role in this is unclear; it doesn't seem to have agitated for a prosecution.)
microsoft  restore  copyright 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is ready for a world beyond Windows • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Windows isn’t dead, but it’s clearly not as important to Microsoft anymore and it will play a very different role in the company’s future. Microsoft needs to follow and provide cloud services and apps to people on the platforms they’re using. The company has seen great success with Office 365 and apps like Outlook for mobile, and Microsoft expects that two-thirds of its Office users will have moved to its subscription cloud service by next year.

Windows is being adapted for new devices and scenarios, but it’s not the core of Microsoft’s business anymore and hasn’t been for years. Nadella says “the future of Windows is bright,” but in the same sentence he says Microsoft will “more deeply” connect Windows to its Microsoft 365 offering. Microsoft 365 lets companies purchase Office and Windows together in a single subscription.

Consumers don’t care about Windows anymore, and I’ve long argued Microsoft should drop its insistence of branding everything with it. Consumers are no longer interested in purchasing devices for the familiarity or compatibility of Windows, and it’s hard to even list 10 desktop apps I really need on a daily basis. A big exception to this is gaming, but Microsoft hasn’t innovated enough on gaming PCs to really foster that. Gaming PCs simply run Windows because it’s the platform to deliver those games, and we’re starting to see how mobile operating systems are rapidly catching up. Thanks to the web and Chrome, it’s easy to imagine a future where services matter far more than the operating system they run on.

Now that Microsoft has moved the fundamental core of Windows over to the cloud team, it’s easy to see the long-term future of Windows being a cloud subscription service for the people who really need to use it, rather than love using it. Bill Gates figured out how to put a computer on every desk and in every home, and now the company is ready to grow and tackle the future. It’s not the old and trusted Windows operating system that will get Microsoft there.</p>

Ben Thompson <a href="">argues at Stratechery</a> that it was Steve Ballmer's insistence on Windows above all that meant the company fell behind the curve in AI and cloud efforts; but Nadella has refocussed that. (Microsoft was too late to mobile to ever succeed, but Ballmer prolonged the pain - and cost - by buying Nokia.)

This is a terrific article, well worth your time reading in full. The Stratechery one too (it's free).
Microsoft  windows 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft confirms it’s already cancelling its newest version of Windows • BGR
Mike Wehner:
<p>it appears as though Windows 10 S hasn’t been received as well as Microsoft had hoped. Just 10 months after announcing the new operating system, Microsoft on Tuesday evening confirmed that it is being scrapped next year. In its place, Microsoft will build a new “S Mode” into Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Enterprise, and Windows 10 Pro. Administrators in settings like schools will likely be able to lock devices in S Mode, though details are scarce for the time being.

“We use Win10S as an option for schools or businesses that want the ‘low-hassle’/ guaranteed performance version,” Microsoft executive Joe Belfiore wrote in a post on Twitter. “Next year 10S will be a ‘mode’ of existing versions, not a distinct version.” Belfiore’s tweet was posted in response to a user asking why Windows S 10 market share data wasn’t being separated from overall Windows 10 market share figures.</p>

Very hard to downsell people - even schools. A locked-down Windows would have made sense 10 years ago, and might have headed off ChromeOS. But now? Way too late.
schools  microsoft  windows 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Nintendo expected to overtake Microsoft in 2018 •
James Batchelor:
<p>Nintendo is expected to have a larger share of the console market than Microsoft this year as the Switch continues to perform well.

Analysis from IHS Markit reveals that over $10bn was spent globally on Xbox hardware, software and services in 2017, while spending on Nintendo products was around $8bn. This is approximately double what the Japanese firm achieved in 2016, while Microsoft actually saw a slight year-on-year dip.

Nintendo's growth was predominantly driven by the launch of Switch, but also the release of the SNES Classic and continued sales of the 3DS.

Looking ahead, IHS Markit predicts spending on Nintendo products and services to be over $11bn in 2018, while Microsoft is expected to dip to around $9bn.

In fact, growth for Nintendo is expected detract from spending on both Xbox and PlayStation, especially as those two consoles enter the later stage of their lifecycle. However, PlayStation will almost certainly hold its position as market leader.

Spending on PlayStation products and services rose to well over $20bn in 2017</p>

Amazing. Nintendo is doing what Microsoft does in OSs: one hit, one miss, one hit...
games  nintendo  consoles  microsoft 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Why Microsoft Office is a bigger productivity drain than Candy Crush Saga • Tim Harford
Harford, an economist, writes:
<p>digital devices slow us down in subtler ways, too. Microsoft Office may be as much a drag on productivity as Candy Crush Saga. To see why, consider Adam Smith’s argument that economic progress was built on a foundation of the division of labour. His most celebrated example was a simple pin factory: “One man draws out the wire, another straights it, a third cuts it, a fourth points” and 10 men together made nearly 50,000 pins a day.

In another example — the making of a woollen coat — Smith emphasises that the division of labour allows us to use machines, even “that very simple machine, the shears with which the shepherd clips the wool”.

The shepherd has the perfect tool for a focused task. That tool needs countless other focused specialists: the bricklayer who built the foundry; the collier who mined fuel; the smith who forged the blades. It is a reinforcing spiral: the division of labour lets us build new machines, while machines work best when jobs have been divided into one small task after another.

The rise of the computer complicates this story. Computers can certainly continue the process of specialisation, parcelling out jobs into repetitive chunks, but fundamentally they are general purpose devices, and by running software such as Microsoft Office they are turning many of us into generalists.

In a modern office there are no specialist typists; we all need to be able to pick our way around a keyboard. PowerPoint has made amateur slide designers of everyone. Once a slide would be produced by a professional, because no one else had the necessary equipment or training. Now anyone can have a go — and they do.

Well-paid middle managers with no design skills take far too long to produce ugly slides that nobody wants to look at. They also file their own expenses, book their own travel and, for that matter, do their own shopping in the supermarket. On a bill-by-the-minute basis none of this makes sense.</p>

Perhaps this is where the productivity gap arises - all that time wasted trying to figure out how to stop Word inserting bullet points?
Microsoft  productivity 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
A powered-on 'Xbox Watch' emerges, shows off fitness focus • Windows Central
Jez Corden:
<p>Images of the so-called "Xbox Watch" have surfaced before, but this is the first time we've been able to see the device powered on (no chargers seem to exist for this thing.)

The pictures come via <a href="">Hikari Calyx on Twitter</a>, showing off an extremely early version of the Xbox Watch in a powered-on state. At this stage, the device only sported four apps, "Workout," "GPS," "Settings," and a USB debugger for developers.

<img src="" width="100%" />

This device preceded the Microsoft Band, and might have been a response to how well Nintendo was able to position console gaming as a fitness option, back during the Wii Fit craze. We believe that the technology developed for the "Xbox Watch" eventually got rolled into the Microsoft Band, which, of course, also got cancelled.</p>

Wise to cancel it. This wasn't going to be a winner, and the writing was already on the wall of Microsoft's mobile ecosystem.
microsoft  smartwatch 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft and the UWP For Enterprise delusion • Dean Chalk
<p>So, its 2018 and WPF/WinForms is now a legacy platform.

I don’t remember the WPF technology stack getting any significant updates over the last 12 years, so it dies pretty much how it started. Its apparent replacement is the so-called ‘Universal Windows Platform’ or UWP (previously it was ‘WinRT’ — no ‘Store’ — no ‘Metro’ no……??), however there is one huge and massive issue with UWP on the desktop, and that is it isn’t designed for the desktop.
Nonsense!, you might say — but Its true. UWP will never been an enterprise desktop software development technology stack, and I will tell you exactly why in the next paragraphs.

The ‘Mobile First’ fallacy: the enterprise doesn’t care about mobile — it really doesn’t. Sure there are a small number of enterprises that need delivery guys with handheld devices , and those devices need to have mobile software written for them, but they are in a tiny minority.

The few mobile enterprise apps currently out there are more about productivity triage — a quick glance while your getting a latte — nothing more.

Your email app on your iPhone isn’t designed for you to use 8 hours straight at your desk. The spreadsheet app on your iPad is pretty useless for a whole days work. You NEED a big screen with mouse and keyboard to do an 8 hour shift on the company’s CMS system, and no mobile-first setup is going to be even remotely productive for 99% of enterprise employees.

However, UWP is a mobile-first platform. It's designed for small devices that are being used by people touching a screen with sausage-shaped fingers. Yes you can have the app adapt to different screen sizes but its still the same issue — powerless and simplified, with low levels of information density — if that’s all you needed, then you're going to build a web app instead anyway.</p>
microsoft  enterprise 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Where’s Cortana? Microsoft is playing the long game as Amazon and Google dominate CES • GeekWire
Nat Levy:
<p>Lost in the shuffle of Amazon and Google’s digital assistant showdown this week at CES is another tech giant’s virtual brain: Microsoft’s Cortana.

Unlike fellow tech heavyweights Facebook and Apple, which don’t go to CES, Microsoft does have a presence here. But it is more behind the scenes than Google’s flashy booth or the array of Alexa announcements. That’s because, in Microsoft’s view, the voice assistant market is in the very early stages.

“It’s a long journey to making a real assistant that you can communicate with over a longer period of time to really be approachable and interesting and better than the alternative,” Andrew Shuman, corporate vice president of Cortana engineering, told GeekWire. “That is our journey, to make some make some great experiences that shine through, and recognize that long haul.”</p>

Translation: we're getting squashed in this contest. Consumer isn't really where Microsoft plays, but it's where the voice play is. (Yes yes Windows but Cortana isn't getting traction there.)
microsoft  voice 
january 2018 by charlesarthur
Stop using Excel, finance chiefs tell staffs • WSJ
Tatyana Shumsky:
<p>Finance chiefs say the ubiquitous spreadsheet software that revolutionized accounting in the 1980s hasn’t kept up with the demands of contemporary corporate finance units. Errors can bloom because data in Excel is separated from other systems and isn’t automatically updated.

Older versions of Excel don’t allow multiple users to work together in one document, hampering collaboration. There is also a limit to how much data can be pulled into a single document, which can slow down analysis.

“Excel just wasn’t designed to do some of the heavy lifting that companies need to do in finance,” said Paul Hammerman, a business applications analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

Instead, companies are turning to new, cloud-based technologies from Anaplan Inc., Workiva Inc., Adaptive Insights and their competitors.

The newer software connects with existing accounting and enterprise resource management systems, including those made by Oracle Corp. or SAP SE . This lets accountants aggregate, analyze and report data on one unified platform, often without additional training.

Adobe switched to Anaplan early last year and many of the tasks previously performed in spreadsheets are now done in the system, maintaining “one source of truth,” Mr. Garrett said.

Reports, including about head count, are compiled faster, he said.</p>

If this really happens at any scale, it will be a serious problem for Microsoft. Next, people might wonder whether they need all those formatting options in Word.
finance  spreadsheet  excel  microsoft 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Surface Book 2 review: monster performance, but lightning hasn’t struck twice • Ars Technica UK
Peter Bright:
<p>I'm no artist, and I'm not much of a tablet user. While I love the hybrid form factor, I love it for the same reason that I love the 360-degree hinge; I like to make the system an inverted V for watching movies and similar activities when flying, and I like to wrap the screen around all the way (to turn the thing into a chunky tablet) for watching movies in bed. As such, I don't have any particularly strong feelings about this 15-inch tablet. It's an engineering marvel, without a doubt. But is it useful? For me, no. I would flip the screen around, but I can't imagine ever using it detached from the base.

When introducing the Surface Book 2, Microsoft spoke extensively about the appeal the flexible machine had for creative, artistic users, and, in particular, users for whom the pen is not merely an optional extra but a core part of the value proposition. For them, the 15-inch tablet represents a member of a continuum; it's one of a family of tablets: 12.3 inches in the Surface Pro, 13.5 and 15 inches in the Surface Book 2, and 28 inches for the Surface Studio. Those all support the same pens, and they all support Microsoft's Surface Dial accessory. If you want that larger workspace that the 15-inch tablet offers, then the Surface Book 2 is likely to appeal.

Otherwise, the Surface Book 2 is really very similar to its predecessor. That's good in lots of ways but disappointing in others.</p>

He likes the build quality, lightness of its tablet, keyboard and touchpad. Doesn't like: the connectivity - still doesn't have Thunderbolt 3, whereas the MacBook Pro (which it's priced against) does. That means it can't drive dual 4K displays:
<p>Microsoft has undoubtedly built a better Surface Book. What it hasn't done, I think, is look at the rest of the market to ensure that it has built a better laptop.

I just can't get over the lack of Thunderbolt 3. The 15-inch MacBook Pro has Thunderbolt 3. Dell's XPS 15 has Thunderbolt 3. The 15-inch HP Spectre x360 has Thunderbolt 3. The Lenovo ThinkPad P51s has Thunderbolt 3. The (14-inch) Razer Blade has Thunderbolt 3. These are all systems operating in more or less the same space as the Surface Book 2…</p>
microsoft  surfacebook 
november 2017 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: Microsoft responded quietly after detecting secret database hack in 2013 • Reuters
Jospeh Menn:
<p>Microsoft’s secret internal database for tracking bugs in its own software was broken into by a highly sophisticated hacking group more than four years ago, according to five former employees, in only the second known breach of such a corporate database.

The company did not disclose the extent of the attack to the public or its customers after its discovery in 2013, but the five former employees described it to Reuters in separate interviews. Microsoft declined to discuss the incident.

The database contained descriptions of critical and unfixed vulnerabilities in some of the most widely used software in the world, including the Windows operating system. Spies for governments around the globe and other hackers covet such information because it shows them how to create tools for electronic break-ins.

The Microsoft flaws were fixed likely within months of the hack, according to the former employees. Yet speaking out for the first time, these former employees as well as US officials informed of the breach by Reuters said it alarmed them because the hackers could have used the data at the time to mount attacks elsewhere, spreading their reach into government and corporate networks.

“Bad guys with inside access to that information would literally have a ‘skeleton key’ for hundreds of millions of computers around the world,” said Eric Rosenbach, who was US deputy assistant secretary of defense for cyber at the time.</p>

Smart move by the hackers.
security  microsoft  hacking 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
HP Inc exec: Yes, we'll put a bullet in the X3 device • The Register
Paul Kunert:
<p>The three-in-one PC debuted in February 2016, built around Microsoft's Continuum. El Reg's lab vultures tested the kit and <a href="">were impressed</a> but found constraints caused by the Continuum operating system.

Despite an obvious mobile-shaped hole in a leaked Windows roadmap, HP Inc insisted in August that it was committed to Continuum and so was Microsoft. Until now, that is.

Nick Lazaridis, EMEA boss at HP Inc, told The Register at the Canalys Channels Forum in Venice that Microsoft had confirmed there will be no further development work on the mobile OS.

"Microsoft, as all companies do, decided on a change in strategy and so they are less focused on what they thought they would be focused on today," he said.

"Given that, we also had decided that without Microsoft's drive and support there it doesn't make sense. If the software, if the operating system ecosystem isn't there then we are not an operating system company."</p>

Of course, HP used to have so many operating systems it was hard to choose between them; webOS was only the most recent.
microsoft  continuum 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Orthogonal pivots • Asymco
Horace Dediu:
<p>This [closure of Microsoft's Groove music service by the end of the year] brings to an end a long story of Microsoft in the music distribution business. It started nearly 15 years ago with technologies in Windows that allowed for purchase and playback of various media formats. Microsoft sought to enable a large number of music retailers to market music through its formats and DRM and transaction clearing.

Services such as AOL MusicNow, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, Spiralfrog, MTV URGE, MSN Music, Musicmatch Jukebox, Wal-Mart Music Downloads, Ruckus, PassAlong, Rhapsody, iMesh and BearShare and dozens of hardware players licensed Windows formats. Almost all of these services have shut down and the devices disappeared.

The next stage was to offer an integrated experience through the Microsoft Zune player and Zune Marketplace music service. This too failed and was replaced by the Xbox Music brand in 2012. On July 6, 2015, Microsoft announced the re-branding of Xbox Music as Groove to tie in with the release of Windows 10.

There was a time when Microsoft was thought of as the certain winner in media distribution. Inserting media into the Windows hegemony was classic “control point” strategy: owning the access points was a sure way to collect a tax on what transacted through the network.

Instead we are facing a market where media is consumed through new access points: phones, tablets and TV boxes. Netflix, Spotify, Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple are all offering distribution and some are investing in original programming.</p>

Why? Because - as I found when I wrote "<a href="">Digital Wars</a>" - the modular approach to music players (someone makes the music player, someone else makes the DRM-enforcing software, someone else again offers the DRM-encoded music) produces an awful customer experience. If a problem arises, you're never quite sure whose fault it is, and nor are any of those in the chain; they all hand it off to someone else.

The iPod and the iTunes Music Store came straight through the middle of all that confusion:
<p>the long arc of history shows how hard it is to succeed in vertical integration after you build on horizontal foundations. Generations of managers graduated from the modular school of thought, specializing rather than generalizing. Now they are facing an integrated experiential world where progress depends on wrapping the mind around very broad systems problems.

Entire industries are facing this orthogonal pivot: media, computing and transportation come to mind. Huge blind spots exist as we see only what we’ve been trained to see.</p>
apple  ipod  microsoft  music 
october 2017 by charlesarthur
Response to NY Post article • NYPD News
Deputy commissioner of Information & Technology Jessica Tisch:
<p>This Sunday, while a Post reporter was writing her story, NYPD officers used their smartphones to help respond to over 25,000 911 calls; ran 18,000 searches; and viewed 1,080 flyers of missing or wanted persons. Sunday is a slow day.

Three years ago we made the decision to bring mobility to the NYPD. At that time, neither iOS nor Android phones allowed us to cost-effectively utilize prior investment in custom Windows applications.

Moreover, we assessed that the Windows platform would be most effective at achieving our goal of securing 36,000 devices that would be used for sensitive law enforcement operations. This was of paramount importance. The devices were rolled out as tools to help officers fight crime, enhance their safety and improve policing in New York City.

The contract entered provided for the smartphones at no cost. It also allowed for the NYPD to replace the smartphones with devices of our choosing two years later, also at no cost.

We have since continually reviewed the evolution of mobile platforms. A year ago, we learned that improvements in Apple controls would allow NYPD to responsibly and cost effectively move our mobility initiative to the Apple platform. We began plans to make the transition, which will take effect this fall.

Our smartphone initiative is 45% under budget. Based on current rate of spending, we expect to stretch what was initially budgeted at two years of spending to more than four years.</p>

Ah. So the phones were free, and they can be replaced for free. Microsoft took a gamble that it would be stronger by now, but instead it failed. I wrongly thought that Tisch would get fired over this, before knowing the details of the free phones.

Instead, she looks quite smart: for the cost of a few app rewrites, the NYPD doesn't have to gamble on the mobile platform war.
nypd  mobile  iphone  windows  microsoft 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Leaked Surface Mini images provide a closer look at Microsoft’s canceled tablet • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Surface Mini images <a href="">leaked earlier this year</a>, and now we’re getting an even closer look at Microsoft’s canceled tablet. Evan Blass has <a href="">published marketing images</a> for the Surface Mini, revealing a red rubber case with a kickstand and full specifications. The Surface Mini was reportedly a 7.5in device with a 1440 x 1080 display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 1GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage. It appears that Microsoft was planning black, red, and blue variants of the Surface Mini before its cancellation.</p>

Very wise to cancel it. The vogue for mini-tablets passed in 2013 or so; phablets have eaten that market for all but kids, and this wouldn't have appealed to kids.
microsoft  surface  mini 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Windows is doomed • The Week
Navneet Alang:
<p>the continually rising tides of Apple and Google's platforms will likely wash Windows away as people shift their work and play habits to opposing platforms. While many are fond of saying that you still need Windows for real work, as analyst Benedict Evans likes to point out, "the connective tissue of work needs to be rebuilt" in light of mobile, AI, and the cloud — and it's hard to see how Windows will be a part of that as new technologies emerge in new places.

It's not that Microsoft is oblivious to this reality. Recognizing a do-or-die scenario, Microsoft has now retrenched when it comes to Windows, putting its efforts into desktop and making Windows work on ARM, the type of chips found in iPhones and Android phones. The new, rumored goal is that using ARM will not only let Microsoft and its partners make thin, light laptops and tablets with great battery life, it will also let them create a phone that runs full Windows and can be used as a complete computer when docked into a keyboard, mouse, and monitor — and in doing so, give Microsoft a complete device to offer its millions of customers.

But this is likely just fantasy. As the deal with Amazon suggests, companies need a platform of their own to build out the vertically integration that has made Apple and Google so wildly successful. Platforms are like networks, and without the core node of mobile in a mobile-first world, Microsoft's Windows cannot last.</p>

I wouldn't hold my breath on this one. COBOL is pretty old, and it's still underpinning banks and transactions around the world.
windows  microsoft 
september 2017 by charlesarthur
Hey Cortana, open Alexa: Microsoft and Amazon’s first-of-its-kind collaboration • The Official Microsoft Blog
Andrew Shuman is corporate VP of Cortana Engineering:
<p>With Alexa as a guest on Cortana, Cortana users will now have another way of making their lives easier with a great shopping experience. Say you are at work, and you receive a text from your partner saying, “We’re running low on diapers.” In the future, on your Windows 10 PC, iPhone or Android phone, you could simply say, “Hey Cortana, open Alexa,” and ask Alexa to order diapers using your preferred payment method for your Amazon account.</p>

Everything about this scenario is "whaaat?" Why doesn't your partner yell for Alexa to do it? Or just order it on their phone rather than texting? Why do you ask Cortana on your (for example) Android phone rather than Google Assistant? Why get Alexa to order the nappies when you could just do it on the Amazon app?

As Neil Cybart said in his newsletter, this is - despite appearances - a coalition of weaklings: Amazon has no presence except in the home, and Microsoft has no presence... anywhere, really. (Well, Windows 10 PCs, if people really want. Except there's no Alexa there.)
amazon  cortana  alexa  microsoft  collaboration 
august 2017 by charlesarthur
Putin’s hackers now under attack—from Microsoft • Daily Beast
Kevin Poulsen:
<p>Last year attorneys for the software maker quietly sued the hacker group known as Fancy Bear in a federal court outside Washington DC, accusing it of computer intrusion, cybersquatting, and infringing on Microsoft’s trademarks.  The action, though, is not about dragging the hackers into court. The lawsuit is a tool for Microsoft to target what it calls “the most vulnerable point” in Fancy Bear’s espionage operations: the command-and-control servers the hackers use to covertly direct malware on victim computers.  These servers can be thought of as the spymasters in Russia’s cyber espionage, waiting patiently for contact from their malware agents in the field, then issuing encrypted instructions and accepting stolen documents.

Since August, Microsoft has used the lawsuit to wrest control of 70 different command-and-control points from Fancy Bear. The company’s approach is indirect, but effective. Rather than getting physical custody of the servers, which Fancy Bear rents from data centers around the world, Microsoft has been taking over the Internet domain names that route to them. These are addresses like “livemicrosoft[.]net” or “rsshotmail[.]com” that Fancy Bear registers under aliases for about $10 each.  Once under Microsoft’s control, the domains get redirected from Russia’s servers to the company’s, cutting off the hackers from their victims, and giving Microsoft a omniscient view of that servers’ network of automated spies.

“In other words,” Microsoft outside counsel Sten Jenson explained in a court filing last year,  “any time an infected computer attempts to contact a command-and-control server through one of the domains, it will instead be connected to a Microsoft-controlled, secure server.”</p>
microsoft  security  fancybear  hacking 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft to close Surface Hub manufacturing plant in Oregon • Petri
Brad Sams:
<p>Microsoft has informed the state of Oregon that it intends to close location where it has built the Surface Hub. The plant was located in Wilsonville and will impact 124 jobs in that region.

In a letter to the state, as noted by OregonLive, Microsoft will close the plant with 61 job cuts coming on September 8 with 63 jobs being cut the following months. The reason Microsoft had a facility in the state is that it was part of Perceptive Pixel that the company acquired in July of 2012 and likely used that team to help build the Surface Hub.

As for the future of the Surface Hub, I don’t think this has much to do with the long-term outlook for that product. Early indications about the sales pipeline was that Microsoft could not make enough of them and feedback from users has been positive.

Further, references to Surface Hub 2 have shown up in some internal documentation from Microsoft which makes it appear that another device is on the horizon. As such, I do not think this is the end of the line for the Surface Hub.

When the company announced where they were going to build the Surface Hub, it was a point of pride for the company as they were making the device in the United States; an unusual move by modern standards. But, here we are, with the company closing down the facility as they likely found that they can produce the device elsewhere at a lower price point.</p>

Going to guess that "elsewhere" is outside the US. Shh!
microsoft  surfacehub  manufacturing 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Windows Phone dies today • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone 8.1 support today, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80% of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported, and only 20% of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.

Windows Phone 8.1 was a big update to Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8 operating system, and included the company’s Cortana digital assistant. A new notification center, UI changes, and updates to the core mobile OS. It marked one of Microsoft’s biggest efforts with its Windows Phone work, but it wasn't successful at competing with Android and iOS. 99.6 percent of all new smartphones now run Android or iOS, and Microsoft has given up producing its own Lumia-branded hardware as a result.</p>

Flashback to September 2010:

<img src="" width="100%" />

This, however, was <a href="">the funeral - allegedly - for the iPhone, because Windows Phone v 1.0 had been released to manufacture</a>. Life comes at you.. quite slowly sometimes.
smartphone  windowsphone  microsoft 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft will lay off thousands of employees • CNBC
Todd Haselton and Jon Fortt:
<p>Microsoft announced a major reorganization on Wednesday that will include thousands of layoffs, largely in sales.

The job cuts amount to less than 10% of the company's total sales force, and about 75% of them will be outside the U.S., the company said.

Reports from last week suggested this was going to happen and that Microsoft was going to specifically focus on how it sells its cloud-services product, Azure.

Microsoft's cloud business has been booming over recent quarters — Microsoft noted Azure sales growth of 93 percent last quarter. While Amazon has become a bigger competitor in the space, Microsoft's restructuring is to pivot to software as a service, platform as a service and infrastructure.

"Microsoft is implementing changes to better serve our customers and partners," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC.</p>

With 71,000 employees in the US and 50,000 outside, the expected cuts are about 3,000.
microsoft  cloud  cuts 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft’s chatbot Zo calls the Qur'an violent and has theories about Bin Laden • Buzzfeed
<p>More than a year after Microsoft shut down its Tay chatbot for becoming a vile, racist monster, the company is having new problems with a similar bot named Zo, which recently told a BuzzFeed News reporter the Qur'an is “very violent.” Although Microsoft programmed Zo to avoid discussing politics and religion, the chatbot weighed in on this, as well as Osama bin Laden’s capture, saying it “came after years of intelligence gathering under more than one administration.”

BuzzFeed News contacted Microsoft regarding these interactions, and the company said it’s taken action to eliminate this kind of behavior. Microsoft said its issue with Zo's controversial answers is that they wouldn't encourage someone to keep engaging with the bot. The company also said these types of responses are rare for Zo. The bot’s characterization of the Qur'an came in just its fourth message after a BuzzFeed News reporter started a conversation.

Zo’s rogue activity is evidence Microsoft is still having trouble corralling its AI technology. The company’s previous English-speaking chatbot, Tay, flamed out in spectacular fashion last March when it took less than a day to go from simulating the personality of a playful teen to a Holocaust-denying menace trying to spark a race war.

Zo uses the same technological backbone as Tay, but Microsoft says Zo’s technology is more evolved. Microsoft doesn’t talk much about the technology inside — “that’s part of the special sauce,” the company told BuzzFeed News when asked how Tay worked last year.</p>

Um. The Qur'an is violent, in parts; so is the Bible. (Latter contains scenes which may be unsuitable for children, involving human sacrifice, human death by transmogrification into salt, and depictions of extended fasting which may be unsuitable for those of an anorexic disposition.) And the Bin Laden stuff is very uncontroversial.

Chatbots are overrated, but there's actually nothing dramatic here.
chatbot  microsoft 
july 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft says 'no known ransomware' runs on Windows 10 S — so we tried to hack it • ZDNet
Zack Whittaker:
<p>Windows 10 S presents a few hurdles. Not only is it limited to store-only apps, but it doesn't allow the user to run anything that isn't necessary. That means there's no command prompt, no access to scripting tools, and no access to PowerShell, a powerful tool often used (and abused) by hackers. If a user tries to open a forbidden app, Windows promptly tells the user that it's off-limits. Bottom line: If it's not in the app store, it won't run.

Cracking Windows 10 S was a tougher task than we expected.

But one common attack point exists. Hickey was able to exploit how Microsoft Word, available to download from the Windows app store, handles and processes macros. These typically small, script-based programs are designed to automate tasks, but they're also commonly used by malware writers.</p>

Smart idea for an article; clever use of a flaw that has existed since 1995 or so.
security  microsoft  windows10s  hacking 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Sorry to burst your bubble, but Microsoft's 'Ms Pac-Man beating AI' is more Automatic Idiot • The Register
Katyanna Quach and Andrew Silver on something you might have heard of - AI that can beat Pac-Man!
<p>So what's the problem?

It's all a bit of clever trickery. It's a bit of a hack. The crucial thing is that the reward weights are hardcoded into the software. Ghosts are set to -1,000. Pills and fruits are set a weight based on their in-game points. This is programmed in by the researchers. It means the AI hasn't learned very much at all: it hasn't learned that ghosts are bad and to be avoided because they cause Ms Pac-Man to lose her lives and ultimately the whole game, that pills need to be collected, that fruits are good and not stationary ghosts, and so on.

Other reinforcement learning systems found out through hours of trial and error that, for example in Space Invaders, they could press the fire button and sometimes earn points; that firing away made things disappear, also earning points; that moving and firing made more things disappear, earning more points; that moving to avoid being hit by enemy bullets let the player live longer, thus allowing it to gain more points; and so on. These systems learned from scratch the value of their decisions. Hit the ball, shoot the thing, get a reward, figure it out, get better.

Maluuba's HRA is, in all honesty, a proof of concept. It didn't have to learn the hard way. It was born knowing everything it ever needed to know. Until it can learn for itself from scratch, building up intelligence on its own from its environment, it's a preprogrammed maze-searching algorithm. Romain Laroche, one of the paper's coauthors, admitted the weights are defined "manually for the moment," adding they'll become dynamic at some point, hopefully. The fixed design is documented in the paper.</p>
microsoft  ai  pacman 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Surface Pro review: Incremental improvement isn’t enough • Ars Technica
Peter Bright is particularly unhappy about the ports:
<p>The 2017 Pro retains the same selection of ports as the Pro 4. There's a full-size USB 3.1 generation 1 (5Gbps) port, a mini DisplayPort, a headset jack, a microSDXC card reader, and Microsoft's proprietary Surface Connect magnetic port (used for charging and the Surface Dock). That's it.

The sheer number of ports has always felt a little stingy; the technology being used feels even worse. There's no 10Gbps USB 3.1 generation 2 port; there's no Thunderbolt 3; there's no USB Type-C. The port selection is as backwards-looking as they come.

Microsoft has argued that this is because USB Type-C is in its infancy and remains complicated to deploy, given some marketplace confusion about which ports can be used for what (features such as charging, video output, and Thunderbolt all can use Type-C, but there's no guarantee that a Type-C port offers any of those capabilities). In addition, many companies produce out-of-spec cables and chargers, adding further complexity. As such, it's better to stick with what's safe and well-known.

This is a disappointing attitude. If the goal of the Surface brand is, at least in part, to drive forward PC technology, what better place to do it than with this tricky piece of tech? After all, when the Surface line first came to market, one could easily argue that PC tablets and pen computers were complex, niche products that weren't a good fit for most users. Microsoft didn't give up on that idea, however; it refined it and has successfully demonstrated that, when done well, these machines can have wide appeal.

Type-C could surely have presented a similar opportunity to show the industry a best-in-class Type-C implementation. Give the machine, say, four ports and ensure that every port supports charging, supports displays, and supports Thunderbolt 3. Make sure external GPUs work reliably. Ensure that the system firmware is configured correctly to protect against malicious Thunderbolt 3 devices. Make Windows clearer about when an underpowered charger is being used.</p>
microsoft  surface 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft warns of 'destructive cyberattacks,' issues new Windows XP patches • ZDNet
Ed Bott:
<p>Citing an "elevated risk for destructive cyberattacks" by government organizations or copycats, Microsoft on Tuesday released an assortment of security updates designed to block attacks similar to those responsible for thedevastating WannaCry ransomware outbreak last month.

The alerts highlights the risk of "potential nation-state activity." It does not name the nation-state it suspects of being on the verge of unleashing this attack.

Today's critical security updates are in addition to the normal Patch Tuesday releases, Microsoft said. They'll be delivered automatically through Windows Update to devices running supported versions, including Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, and post-2008 Windows Server releases.</p>

An update earlier in the year had the same intent (to defend against Wannacry/Eternal Blue) but perhaps pointing out now that it's to defend against nation-state attacks will get people to actually implement it.
microsoft  patch 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Review: Microsoft's Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S • ZDNet
Mary Jo Foley:
<p>In my 10 days of use of the Intel Core i5 model with 8 GB of RAM running Windows 10 S (Creators Update release, a k a 1703), I didn't approach the 14-hour battery life figure Microsoft touted for Surface Laptop. The Microsoft figure is for the non-real-world continuous video playback scenarios. In my intermittent, regular but non-continuous use -- browsing the web, monitoring Twitter, writing posts and emails, watching YouTube videos, and playing music on Groove -- I'd guess I've been more in the seven-plus-hour range, not including time when the machine was unused and in standby. (This is a rough calculation, obviously; I'll update in the next couple weeks as I use the device more.)

Happily, I have not once come back to my idle machine to find that most of the battery drained while I wasn't using the device. The default settings for 10 S on the Laptop call for the device to sleep, not hibernate, when not in use, which seems to be part of what "Modern Standby" does to help save battery.

On to the software. I have said recently that I believe I could live with a Chromebook these days, as I almost never need any Win32-only apps. The Surface Laptop proved my hypothesis was right.</p>

That last bit might be worrying for Microsoft. You're wondering about her experience with the Alcantara keyboard fabric?
<p>…definitely going to be a love-hate thing. It feels more like a pool-table cover than a shag carpet, for those wondering about the fuzziness factor.

Microsoft included the covering as a way of differentiating its laptop and giving it a more premium feel. I admit I found myself constantly worrying about staining the cover with food/drink, sweat and tears (not unicorn ones). Officials say the fuzzy keyboard can be wiped clean easily with a damp cloth. But to me, the minuses on this outweigh the potential benefits. During the last few very warm days we've had here in New York, I've found the covering a bit too warm for my liking.</p>

Oh well.
microsoft  surface 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Kaspersky files antitrust complaints against Microsoft in Europe • The Seattle Times
Matt Day:
<p>Eugene Kaspersky, co-founder of the Russian cybersecurity firm, said Tuesday that the company had recently filed antitrust complaints with the European Commission and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office. Kaspersky had raised the issue with Russia’s antitrust regulator in November.

“We see clearly – and are ready to prove – that Microsoft uses its dominant position in the computer operating system market to fiercely promote its own – inferior – security software,” Kaspersky said.

In many cases, Kaspersky says, customers who update their operating system to Windows 10 from older versions find that their Kaspersky antivirus tools have been deleted or disabled. The company also criticized Microsoft for making it impossible to remove Windows Defender, Microsoft’s own antivirus software, in some editions of Windows.

In a statement, Microsoft said its aim was to protect Windows users, and “we are confident that the security features of Windows 10 comply with competition laws.”

Microsoft said it had reached out to Kaspersky months ago to arrange a meeting between executives to address the concerns, but that gathering has not taken place.

Following Kaspersky’s complaint in Russia, regulators there held hearings on Microsoft’s antivirus policies in Windows 10. They haven’t reached a conclusion.</p>

Conventional antitrust theory - does the customer lose out by the annexation of the AV (antivirus) market by Microsoft through its control of the OS? - would suggest there is, at least, a case to answer. The key difference from, say, the browser/OS example is that Microsoft isn't threatening OEMs, since they don't have an option about including Defender (and many do offer other AV software, which the AV vendors are charged for).

At the same time, the price of AV software to the consumer has already effectively fallen to zero. There's no consumer surplus to go round; only consumer disbenefit.
antitrust  kaspersky  microsoft  antivirus 
june 2017 by charlesarthur
Windows 10 on Snapdragon 835: a promising demo • Mobile Geeks
Myriam Joire:
<p>Today at Computex 2017, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 835 Mobile PC Platform to help with Microsoft’s effort to bring Windows 10 to ARM-based devices. In addition, ASUS, HP, and Lenovo have committed to launching Snapdragon 835-based Windows 10 products in the next few months. These will be sleek, fanless, and always connected 2-in-1 mobile PCs with all day battery life aimed squarely at the productivity market.

In case you forgot, Microsoft recently announced that Windows 10 now features an emulation layer that lets users seamlessly run x86 apps on ARM devices. With the Snapdragon 835, Qualcomm already offers a powerful, efficient, tiny (10nm process), and always connected (Gigabit LTE) platform for standalone VR/MR headsets and flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Essential Phone, so it’s a no-brainer to extend support to mobile PCs running Windows 10.

In other words, Snapdragon 835 is eating the world.</p>

Interesting little challenge for Apple here. Second time around for Microsoft, but seems to be getting the pieces right this time - and ARM, as an architecture, has come a long way.
microsoft  windows  arm 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft’s design video features a completely redesigned desktop and email app - The Verge
Ashley Carman:
<p>Microsoft introduced its new Fluent Design System today at Build, which it believes will usher the company into the future with a whole new look and feel for its products. The design language focuses on five areas: light, depth, motion, material, and scale. In between talk of what all these choices mean and why they’re important, the company gave us previews of how we can expect to see it executed. From the looks of it, Microsoft is experimenting with the design of a new email client, file system, and desktop, among other things. We took screenshots of everything we could find that looked new and clearly spoke to the company’s design choices. The desktop is particularly whoa.</p>

Here is said whoa desktop:

<img src="" width="100%" />

The impression of depth (greater than Mac OS's) that it tries (successfully) to create looks good in a static image; I wonder what it's like if you're switching between windows a lot, because they'll seem to move back and forward a lot. That could be unsettling. Notice that in <a href="">Microsoft's promo video for Fluent</a>, you don't see any actual window switching at all.
microsoft  fluent  design 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Harman Kardon’s Cortana speaker revealed •
Paul Thurrott:
<p>The premium speaker has a cylindrical design and does look similar to an Amazon Echo. At the top of the device is the familiar light ring that looks like Cortana. The speaker offers 360 degree sound, the ability to make and receive calls with Skype, and all of the other features currently available with Cortana.

As expected, this device is going to ship with the release of Redstone 3 which will arrive this fall.

I’m not quite sure how long this page has been online but considering that Microsoft will talk more about Cortana next week at Build and it is expected that they will make the Cortana Skills Kit available to everyone, we may get an early look at this new hardware. With that being said, hopefully we will see other vendors jump into the Cortana boat and release speakers as well.

Based one the images on the pre-release page, it looks like the device will come in silver and black.</p>

Will only be in the US, work with Windows/Android/iOS. So would you choose this, or an Amazon Echo, or a Google Home? What's the point in a Microsoft one? It's even less applicable than the others.
microsoft  cortana  home 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Initial thoughts on the design of the Surface Laptop • Tech Specs
Daniel Matte:
<p>The company is comparing its new laptop directly to the 13" MacBook Pro, particularly emphasizing how the Laptop weighs 0.26 pounds less than the Pro. Part of the weight difference is due to the Laptop's Alcantara surface, which I find to be the most interesting engineering decision. This material choice trades off structural rigidity and thermal dissipation efficiency for lower weight and greater comfort.

It is critical to note, though, that the Laptop only offers 15W U-series Core CPUs from Intel, while the 13" MacBook Pro also offers 28W CPUs for its more expensive configurations. In other words, the Surface Laptop has been aimed at a lower TDP, and thus lower performance, target than the 13" Pro. An eventual 15” Surface Laptop with H-series CPUs now seems likely, and many would be excited by such a product. Microsoft’s concession to its OEM partners is that it is once again only competing at the very high end of the market.

First, the bad news. The Laptop features one “full-size” USB Type-A port and one Mini DisplayPort, but no Type-C ports. At this point, Microsoft’s affinity for legacy ports and eschewing of any and all progress in connector standards is comical. Enterprise usage isn’t even a real concern, so there’s really no excuse.

I also strongly recommend not buying the base configuration with only 4GB of RAM. That makes the real starting price $1,299, in my opinion…

…The combination of lower frequency targets, the Alcantara, and the size of its singular fan make me somewhat skeptical about the energy and thermal efficiency of the case design. I would expect conservative DVFS tuning. Public testing will have to wait on a review by AnandTech. Panay did weirdly seem to suggest that the keyboard feels warm during normal use.

Even though much of this article has been criticism and concerns, overall I have a very positive impression of the product.</p>
surface  microsoft  laptop 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Apple can’t ignore Microsoft’s slick, new laptop • Bloomberg
Mark Gurman and Dina Bass:
<p>Microsoft has already cracked the professional and creative markets with inventive tablets and a desktop that turns into a virtual drafting table. Now it's chasing another category many believe is Apple’s to lose: the $1,000 laptop for everyone. 

Microsoft, a company once derided for buggy software, unstable hardware and indifferent design, debuted the Surface Laptop on Tuesday. The machine boots up in seconds, has a touch screen and gets a claimed 14 hours of battery life (two better than Apple’s MacBook Air). Weighing in at 2.76 pounds, about a quarter-pound less than the Air, the Surface Laptop boasts a 13.5in screen and is one of the thinnest and lightest products in its class.

Microsoft is targeting the education market—and even threw laptops inside backpacks stuffed with textbooks, notepads and keys to simulate college-kid wear-and-tear. Yet the Surface Laptop’s affordable price, portability and features could appeal to a far broader audience—including Mac loyalists.</p>

Where is the evidence exactly that Microsoft has "cracked" the professional and creative markets? And what's the basis for the assertion that the Surface Laptop could appeal to Mac loyalists? The story was written ahead of the launch (one or both writers got a tour for background colour, in the article) so there's no way in the world they could know this.

The fact of the low sales in the just-gone quarter is skimmed over (perhaps 1m Surfaces sold). Meanwhile Apple sells millions of Macs and iPads, quarter after quarter.

The real focus should have been on education - where Microsoft is trying to hold off the advance of Chromebooks with Windows 10 S. An informative piece on that might have helped understand Microsoft's broader strategy. Instead we get techno-porn about speakers in keyboards and anechoic chambers.
microsoft  windows10s 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Introducing Surface Laptop, powered by Windows 10 S • Microsoft Devices Blog
Panos Panay:
<p>Surface Laptop is made for and powered by Windows 10 S. The hardware and software are blended so flawlessly you can’t tell where one ends and the other begins. And for a limited time, Surface Laptop comes with an offer for one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal and 1TB of free storage on OneDrive****, giving you full access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

All your documents will be protected, secure, and stable. You won’t have to worry about losing a paper again because everything will automatically save to the cloud, and Windows 10 S means your Surface is always up to date providing superior performance and streamlined security.

Every app in the Windows Store is verified for security by Microsoft so you get an experience you can trust. And we’re adding new apps every day. Spotify will come to the store early this summer with new experiences that will light up on Surface including using the Surface Dial***** to run your Spotify playlist.

If you need to use an app that isn’t in the Windows Store, in just a few clicks can go to the Windows Store and switch to Windows 10 Pro. But you shouldn’t. This device, this OS, they’re made for each other, and together they offer so much. It’s everything you love about Windows, Office, and Surface, made pure and elegant in an unbelievably thin and light package.

Availability: Surface Laptop starts at $999 USD and will be available beginning on June 15th.</p>

Windows 10 S is an interesting idea: essentially, limited to what Microsoft allows in its app store. (So no Google Chrome.) I don't think Apple would ever allow the phrase "But you shouldn't" in any marketing or other literature.
microsoft  surface 
may 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft: Surface revenues lower than expected in its latest quarter • ZDNet
Mary Jo Foley:
<p>Microsoft's third quarter fiscal 2017 Surface performance came in lower than company officials had been expecting.

Surface revenue decreased $285m or 26%, compared to the year-ago quarter, primarily due to a reduction in volumes sold, according to Microsoft's 10-Q for the quarter. Surface revenues this quarter were $831m, down from $1.1bn in the same quarter a year ago.

That decline is not simply because Microsoft didn't launch any new Surface tablets or laptops in that quarter (which ran from January 2017 to March 2017). Officials already were well aware that the successor to Surface Pro 4 wasn't coming then, nor was the Surface Book 2.

Microsoft may launch an Intel Kaby Lake-based Surface Pro 5, a successor to its Surface Pro 4 tablet, some time relatively soon (though not on May 2), according to sources. There's also been some speculation that Microsoft may introduce soon another new Surface device running its Windows 10 Cloud release - a possible successor to its now-discontinued Surface 3 tablet - aimed at the education market on May 2.

Microsoft did begin selling in earnest the Surface Studio, Microsoft's first all-in-one PC launched in the Fall of 2016, and the updated Surface Book with Performance Base. But neither of those niche products was expected to be a huge seller.</p>

If Surface revenues were $831m, you can estimate the number of sales by attaching an average selling price. If the ASP is $831, it sold a million.

Prices: on Microsoft's site the gigantic Surface Studio is $3,000 (base config) to $4,100 (top-end), which compared to $831 is 3.6x-4.9x.
The Surface Book is $1,499-$3,199 (1.8x-3.8x).
The Surface Book with Performance Base is $2,399-$3,299 (2.9x-4x).
The Surface Pro 4 is $799 - $1,549 (1x-1.9x).

Given that data, it's very hard to see Microsoft having sold more than 1m Surface devices in the quarter. (My best guess, with a spreadsheet, suggested about 0.6m.)

IIt depends too on what price you think it sold them at, rather than the "advertised" price: if you assume the "wholesale" price is 50% of the advertised price, you double the number sold. So let's be generous: total Surface device sales could have hit a million in the quarter. That's among four different products, with a number of SKUs.

The media narrative about Surfaces "challenging" Apple's Mac and iPad line - combined sales likely around 11m in the just-gone quarter - just doesn't make sense.
microsoft  surface 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Protecting customers and evaluating risk • Microsoft blog
<p>Most of the exploits that were disclosed [by ShadowBrokers] fall into vulnerabilities that are already patched in our supported products. Below is a list of exploits that are confirmed as already addressed by an update. We encourage customers to ensure their computers are up-to-date.

Code Name Solution
“EternalBlue” Addressed by MS17-010
“EmeraldThread” Addressed by MS10-061
“EternalChampion” Addressed by CVE-2017-0146 & CVE-2017-0147
“ErraticGopher” Addressed prior to the release of Windows Vista
“EsikmoRoll” Addressed by MS14-068
“EternalRomance” Addressed by MS17-010
“EducatedScholar” Addressed by MS09-050
“EternalSynergy” Addressed by MS17-010
“EclipsedWing” Addressed by MS08-067

Of the three remaining exploits, “EnglishmanDentist”, “EsteemAudit”, and “ExplodingCan”, none reproduces on supported platforms, which means that customers running Windows 7 and more recent versions of Windows or Exchange 2010 and newer versions of Exchange are not at risk. Customers still running prior versions of these products are encouraged to upgrade to a supported offering.</p>
Microsoft  hack  shadowbrokers 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Microsoft opens up more on data it's collecting with Windows 10 • ZDNet
Mary Jo Foley:
<p>When choosing privacy settings for a device running Windows 10 Creators Update, existing Windows 10 users' settings are going to be carried over as the default. Users will then have the option to turn on/off location data, speech data, advertising relevancy data, and more. For those setting up a new Windows 10 device for the first time or running a clean install of Windows 10, the data collection settings will all be set to off and diagnostics to the Basic level by default. Again, users can change this if they so desire.

Microsoft's "recommended" settings, unsurprisingly, call for Windows 10 to collect location, speech, tips, and ad relevance to be turned on and diagnostics set to Full.

"We believe the recommended settings will provide you with the richest experience and enable important Windows 10 features to operate most effectively," officials said again in <a href="">today's blog post</a>.</p>

I think people would be a lot less worked up about this if there weren't <a href="">adverts in Windows 10</a>.
microsoft  ads 
april 2017 by charlesarthur
Scrolling on the web: a primer • Microsoft Edge Dev Blog
Nolan Lawson, program manager for Microsoft Edge (it's a browser):
<p>Today, scrolling is still the most fundamental interaction on the web, and perhaps the most misunderstood. For instance, do you know the difference between the following scenarios?

• User scrolls with two fingers on a touch pad
• User scrolls with one finger on a touch screen
• User scrolls with a mouse wheel on a physical mouse
• User clicks the sidebar and drags it up and down
• User presses up, down, PageUp, PageDown, or spacebar keys on a keyboard

If you ask the average web user (or even the average web developer!) they might tell you that these interactions are all equivalent. The truth is far more interesting.</p>

This is a great, if technical, read.
microsoft  javascript  browser 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
AT&T quietly drops Lumia phones from online store • FierceWireless
Colin Gibbs:
<p>AT&T no longer sells Lumia phones through its website as Microsoft’s presence in the worldwide handset market continues to disappear.

Wave7 Research noted the absence of Lumia devices this week in a research note sent to subscribers, observing that no Microsoft hardware is listed among the 29 devices available through Further checks revealed that Lumia devices also aren’t being sold through the websites of T-Mobile or Sprint, and Verizon offers only one Lumia phone online: the Lumia 735, which was released in September 2014.

It isn’t clear whether AT&T still sells any Lumia phones through its physical stores, and a carrier representative was unable to comment on the situation immediately. Wave7 said AT&T’s Cricket brand continues to sell two Lumia phones through its site, but Microsoft phones weren’t available through the sites of Boost, MetroPCS or Straight Talk, according to the research firm.</p>

It's.. dead, Jim?
lumia  microsoft 
march 2017 by charlesarthur
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