Posts Tagged ‘ Microsoft ’


Big tech firms back Wi-FAR for remote broadband

Written by admin
August 7th, 2014

802.22 standard, approved in 2011, promises low-cost broadband for remote areas

Google, Microsoft and Facebook are cranking up an emerging wireless technology known as Wi-FAR to help reduce the digital divide in remote and unconnected regions of the world.

Wi-FAR is a recently trademarked name from the nonprofit WhiteSpace Alliance (WSA) that refers to the 802.22 wireless standard first approved by the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) in 2011.

The standard shares the underused TV band of spectrum called whitespace to send wireless signals, typically over distances of six to 18 miles in rural and remote areas. It has a theoretical download speed of more than 22 Mbps per TV channel that serves up to 512 devices, according to the WSA. That could result in speeds of about 1.5 Mbps on a downlink to a single device.

While such speeds are far slower than for the gigabit fiber-optic cable services that Google and AT&T are building in some U.S. cities, the speeds could theoretically begin to compete with some 3G cellular speeds, although not 4G LTE speeds. For an impoverished or sparsely populated region where businesses and schoolchildren have little Internet access, Wi-FAR could be a godsend when used to link base stations (typically found at the ground level of cell towers) in a distributed network.
Students in South Africa
Students at the University of Limpopo in South Africa use laptops connected to the Internet using Wi-FAR wireless technology. (Photo: Microsoft)

About 28 million people in the U.S. don’t have access to broadband, while globally, about 5 billion people, nearly three-fourths of the world’s population — don’t have broadband Internet access, said Apurva Mody, chairman of both the WSA and of the 802.22 Working Group.

“This is cheap Internet access and there are dozens of trials underway, with Google in South Africa, Microsoft in Tanzania and other continents, and even Facebook’s interest,” Mody said in an interview. “You have 1.2 billion people in India who need cost-effective Internet access. There’s a lot of enthusiasm for Wi-FAR.”

Wi-FAR will be cheaper for access to the Internet than LTE and other wireless services. The lower cost is partly because Wi-FAR works over unlicensed spectrum, similar to Wi-Fi, which allows network providers, and even government entities, to avoid paying licensing fees or needing to build as many expensive cell towers, that can cost $50,000 apiece, Mody said. “The prices for Wi-FAR service will be very small, perhaps less than $10 per month per household.”

The 802.22 technology can be low cost because the whitespace spectrum is shared with conventional users, including TV stations on UHF and VHF bands. Thanks to sophisticated databases that track when a whitespace channel will be in use in a particular region, a cognitive (or smart) radio device can determine when to switch to another channel that’s not in use. Testing in various Wi-FAR pilots projects, many of them in Africa, is designed to prove that Wi-FAR devices won’t interfere with other existing users on the same channel.

“We have yet to have an interference problem,” said James Carlson, CEO of Carlson Wireless Technologies, a Sunnyvale, California-based company that is working with Google on two six-month trials of 802.22 in the UK, among other areas. The company completed a successful trial with Google serving students in South Africa in 2013. Carlson, in an email interview, said the company is working with five database providers, noting that the “prime purpose of the database is to protect the incumbent spectrum user.”

Whitespace spectrum sharing, coupled with the use of the databases, is generally called dynamic spectrum allocation technology. In January, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission approved Carlson’s RuralConnect TV whitespace radio system for use with a Spectrum Bridge TV whitespace database, effectively bringing the first dynamic spectrum sharing product to market.

In the U.S., RuralConnect is authorized for use in the UHF TV band, running from 470 MHz to 698 MHz. The FCC opened up the band in 2010.

At the time, Carlson said the FCC’s approval would give a boost to global efforts to use whitespace technology. “Providing connectivity to underserved populations worldwide is more than an interest to us,” he said in a statement. “It’s our corporate mission.”

RuralConnect will get competition from products in other companies, including Redline, Adaptrum and 6Harmonics, Carlson said. In addition to other providers, Google has built a whitespace database that Carlson is testing.

In all, Carlson Wireless has piloted dozens of whitespace projects, and expects to start its largest yet for 30 base stations and 5,000 users near New Delhi in the next six months, Carlson said.

“India is the next big boom for online needs, and the rural areas are not getting [Internet service] with [typical] mobile systems,” Carlson said. “So they are choosing to go with the TV whitespace because the UHF band is almost all vacant in rural areas and 600 MHz propagation is superb.”

While Carlson has been working with Google, Microsoft separately announced in June a whitespace pilot project at the University of Limpopo in South Africa. It is part of a Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative to help ignite economic development in Africa.

In May, Microsoft and Facebook joined with SpectraLink Wireless to announce a whitespace project for students and faculty at universities in Koforidua, Ghana. That project brought the number of nations where Microsoft has whitespace pilots to 10 countries on four continents.

In the Microsoft and SpectraLink partnership, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab team will lead efforts to better understand how TV whitespace spectrum can support wireless Internet users, according to a statement.

Microsoft and others believe that TV whitespace technology will best work in combination with Wi-Fi and other low-cost wireless technologies. While much of whitespace technology is focused on building specialized bridge hardware for use in base stations, Mody said some companies are developing fixed wireless 802.22 routers, similar in appearance to Wi-Fi routers, that will be placed inside of homes.

Microsoft also spearheaded the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, which Google and Facebook joined last November. The alliance is exploring many uses for whitespace spectrum, including Internet of Things device connectivity.

Craig Mathias, an analyst and wireless consultant for The Farpoint Group, said 802.22 devices may compete against or complement a number of other technologies, including cellular and Wi-Fi.

“802.22 is not a pipe dream, but so far there’s not a lot of evidence of its success,” Mathias said in an interview. “It does make sense. The rate of innovation in wireless is so high that you hear something exciting every week. But not all wireless standards are successful in terms of having [successful] wireless products.”


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Windows 8’s uptake was stuck in reverse for the second straight quarter as the reputation-challenged operating system fell behind the pace set by Windows Vista six years ago, according to data released Friday.

Web metrics firm Net Applications’ figures for July put the combined user share of Windows 8 and 8.1 at 12.5% of the world’s desktop and notebook systems, a small drop of six-hundredths of a percentage point from June. That decline was atop a one-tenth-point fall the month before, the first time the OS had lost user share since its October 2012 debut.
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Windows 8 accounted for 13.6% of the personal computers running Microsoft’s Windows. The difference between the numbers for all personal computers and only those running Windows was due to Windows powering 91.7% of all personal computers, not 100%.

While in June Windows 8’s user share came dangerously close to the sluggish uptake tempo of Windows Vista, in July Windows 8’s pace fell below Vista’s for the first time. (Computerworld erred in calling Windows 8’s uptake slower than Vista’s in the early stages of the former’s lifespan based on incorrect comparisons.)

At the point in Vista’s post-release timeline that corresponded to July, the 2007 operating system ran on 13.6% of all personal computers — a larger percentage than Windows 8’s last month — and on 14.3% of all Windows PCs. The latter is the most credible, as it accounts for the slightly-greater dominance of Windows at the time. (When Vista was in its 21st month after launch, Windows powered 94.9% of all personal computers.)

That Windows 8’s uptake performance has not matched Vista’s is important because the latter, widely panned at the time, has earned a reputation as one of Microsoft’s biggest OS failures. By association, then, Windows 8 looks to be the same.

While Windows 8 again lost user share in July, Windows 7 gained another seven-tenths of a percentage point to close the month with 51.2%. It was the fifth straight month that the 2009 operating system has grown its share. The surge has not been surprising, since most industry analysts have said that the recent uptick in computer sales has been due to businesses replacing the now-retired Windows XP with Windows 7.

Windows 7 has grown by nearly twice the amount of Windows 8 in the past six months.

Windows XP’s user share fell half a percentage point in July, accounting for 24.8% of all personal computers, and 27.1% of only those running Windows. The decline came after a month where the aged OS remained flat. In the last six months, XP has contracted by 4.4 points.

Computerworld now projects that Windows XP will still be running between 20% and 22% of the world’s personal computers at the end of 2014.

Another analytics company, Ireland’s StatCounter, had different numbers for Windows. StatCounter’s figures are typically at odds with those from Net Applications because they measure with dissimilar methodologies: StatCounter tallies “usage share” by counting page views to show how active users of each OS are on the Web, while Net Applications estimates “user share” by collating unique visitors, which more closely resembles user base than does StatCounter’s data.

StatCounter pegged July’s Windows 8 and 8.1 usage share at 15%, Windows 7’s at 55.3%, XP’s at 15.2% and Vista’s at 3.5%.

A second straight month of user share decline in Windows 8 put the newest OS behind the post-launch trajectory of the company’s Vista flop. (Data: Net Applications.)


 

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Just because BYOD has become normal operating process in most workplaces doesn’t mean the practice has stopped up causing dispute for IT.

Take San Francisco-based law firm Hanson Bridgett LLP, for example, whose attorneys perform legal work in the healthcare business and must adhere to the federal HIPAA and the HiTech Act standards, amongst others. According to the firm’s IT director Chris Fryer, that income the Apple and Android smart phones and tablets that its attorneys use need to be managed so that the business data on them is encrypted and can be wiped if wanted. But no one wants to interfere with the personal data on those privately owned mobile devices.

“We run just the business data and leave the rest alone,” says Fryer. That’s done by using mobile-device management (MDM) software from Good Technology and its “containerization” part so that the business apps and data on every machine is encrypted and cordoned off from the individual data.

But as much as Fryer has establish the Good Technology MDM to be effectual, there are still hurdles, he says. Each MDM vendor’s APIs for containerization need to be supported in the mobile apps, which is not always the case, he says.

“It’s an imperfect word,” says Fryer, noting that lack of standards in MDM and mobile apps combined with the plethora of MDM vendors — by some counts there are more than 150 — has made this a tough terrain.

In addition, Fryer points out his law firm relies on Microsoft Office applications to prepare complex legal documents. But Microsoft didn’t launch Office for iPad until late March, and in a way that’s tied to a subscription for Microsoft 365 cloud service. Fryer is watching how that will unfold. “We’re trying hard to edit documents on an iPad,” says Frye. “We want to make sure that will happen in a container.”

Fryer says there also can be issues with how e-mail clients work with MDM.

“Some MDM vendors allow you to use the native e-mail client,” says Fryer. “You can put up Google mail and also your corporate e-mail for that.” But Frye says the Good Technology containerization requires the use of Good’s email component to securely control e-mail, which can be problematic to end users accustomed to something else.

All of these challenges mean that despite the positive experience that the law firm has had with Good’s MDM technology, there’s still cause to keep an eye out for something new. Many businesses are up for trying new BYOD security possibilities for e-mail and calendaring.

First United Security Bank, based in Alabama, has long been in the practice of making sure any desktop e-mail with sensitive data is encrypted when sharing with business partners. That’s done with the ZixCorp e-mail encryption service that lets pre-authorized senders and receivers encrypt and decrypt e-mail.

Now, about two dozen employees have received approval for BYOD use, says Phillip Wheat, CIO at First United Security Bank. But these BYOD-approved employees must add the Zix Mobile App 1.0 to their personal Apple or Android device. This allows them to view e-mail attachments but not save attachments to their mobile devices. Wheat says this eliminates the need to have to remotely wipe an employee’s device if it’s lost or stolen.

Several security vendors are coming up with ways to extend their basic product or service to accommodate BYOD security. Dell is tying BYOD security controls to its SonicWall E-Class Appliance by introducing enterprise mobility software for Google Android or Apple iOS. This Dell software, called Secure Mobile Access 11.0 with Mobile Connect App, lets the IT manager set up a way to selectively apply customized VPN controls only to the corporate apps, not the employee’s personal apps. Dell is looking at adding the Windows mobile platform.

Jay Terrell, chief technology officer for Fulton County in Georgia, is a SonicWall customer who may start using this BYOD mobility approach. But he adds the county is still working on devising a BYOD strategy as it migrates off corporate-issued BlackBerries primarily to Android use. In the past, the county has allowed some limited BYOD use if the employee consents to use AirWatch MDM software.

However, not all organizations are migrating off BlackBerry. In fact, parts of the Australian government, for instance, are adopting the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 for mobility, with a big emphasis on BYOD, because of its secure multi-platform containerization technology, called BlackBerry Secure Work Space for iOS and Android. In March, this BlackBerry containerization technology received the U.S. government’s Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2 certification issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Gary Pettigrove, chief information officer at the Australian National Audit Office, which has 350 employees, is supporting BYOD for over 50 staff members and expects to have more than 200 in BYOD mode later this year. User preference in BYOD dictates the technology choices, but users must allow their personal devices to be managed for security purposes by the IT group.

“The IT team controls the BlackBerry service and fleet through a central administration portal,” says Pettigrove. “No one can join the service without first submitting their handset for configuration and setting up BlackBerry’s Secure Work Space. This is containerization, application-wrapping and secure connectivity options, allowing us to secure and control employees’ iOS and Android devices via the BES10 administration console.”

Pettigrove says BYOD is clearly benefiting staff productivity and employee satisfaction. It also appears to be helping reduce technology costs.
BYOD and network-access control

What might be surprising to some is how Microsoft actively supports a BYOD program that doesn’t deny employees any choice of mobile computing device, including smartphones and tablets from Apple and Android.

BYOD on a large scale was a decision made a few years ago to “embrace what’s coming” in terms of worker preferences and productivity, says Bret Arsenault, chief information security officer at Microsoft. Today, about 90,000 devices are “personally owned” by Microsoft employees and used for business purposes, including email and document editing. But it’s not that just anything goes with BYOD, Arsenault emphasizes. “Security is not an afterthought.”

Microsoft does mandate encryption and can extend a wipe capability to corporate data through use of its own service, Windows Intune. “We’re effectively securing the data — segregating and protecting the data on the device when it’s not owned by the business,” says Tim Rains, Microsoft directory of Trustworthy Computing. Microsoft uses Intune across the enterprise, testing out new features before they’re generally available.

According to Arsenault, the Microsoft BYOD strategy involves “certifying a set of capabilities, not the device.” Through the certificate-based Intune agent software, Microsoft can set limits related to a PIN timeout policy and manage the key that provides access to encrypted data. Education and training on use of BYOD in business is also an element in all this. “It’s the base minimum,” he notes.

But BYOD is not usually accorded the same level of trust as corporate-issued devices. And BYOD is subject to specific network-access controls on the Microsoft enterprise network which is set up under a model called “variable user experience” based on the identity of the device and the location, says Arsenault. In this, Microsoft recognizes security levels tied to on-network, off-network, wireless and Internet. Sometimes BYOD users don’t get the same access as they might with a corporate-issued device, depending on the sensitivity of the resource.

Gartner analyst Lawrence Orans says it’s a common security practice associated with BYOD to set up policies for mobile-device management based on network-access control. But one of the challenges in all this is that the various MDM vendors have specific partnerships with specific NAC vendors and when you pick NAC, “you’re also picking the MDM. If you pick the MDM first, you also limit the NAC partnership,” he points out.

The big players in NAC, including Cisco, ForeScout and Aruba Networks, each have several partnerships with MDM vendors, typically partnering with the MDM vendor to create integrated NAC and MDM client software. But there are a lot more MDM vendors than NAC vendors, Orans points out, advising enterprise IT managers to choose carefully if they’re supporting NAC, too.


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The company suffers in comparison to the same period last year, but sales of tablets and Windows help it beat expectations

Microsoft’s profit dropped and its revenue was almost flat in its third fiscal quarter, during which the company replaced Steve Ballmer with Satya Nadella as CEO.

Revenue came in at US$20.40 billion, down slightly from $20.49 billion in the same quarter last year. Net income was $5.7 billion, or $0.68 per share, down from $6.1 billion, or $0.72 per share.

However, Microsoft’s revenue matched the forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Reuters and exceeded their earnings-per-share estimate by $0.05. Sales growth for tablets and Windows helped Microsoft’s results.

On a pro forma basis, which excludes certain one-time items, revenue increased 8 percent and earnings per share rose 5 percent.

“I sum up this quarter in two words: execution and transition,” Nadella said on a conference call to discuss the results. “We delivered solid financial results and we took several steps to reorient Microsoft.”

Nadella was appointed CEO in early February, before the quarter was halfway through, and sounded upbeat on his first earnings call since taking over.

He said the results reflect Microsoft’s strengths and opportunities in a “mobile-first, cloud-first world,” a phrase he has used constantly since becoming CEO.

Keeping the staff and products focused on that idea is one of his priorities, he said on Thursday.

Asked on the call if any significant strategy changes are in the works, Nadella didn’t mention any particular area but said his philosophy is to have the company on a continuous cycle of planning and execution, and to revise plans as frequently as needed based on the market.

“We’ve picked up the pace on asking the hard questions,” he said.

Nadella said he was particularly satisfied with the adoption of Microsoft cloud services, which he considers key for the company’s long-term outlook.

He cited recent moves to boost the Office and Windows franchises, such as the launch of Office for the iPad, the update to Windows 8.1, the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 upgrade and the decision to license Windows for free to hardware vendors making smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 9 inches.

The shift from PCs to mobile creates opportunities for Windows and Office, according to Nadella, but requires a different approach to licensing, pricing and technology.

“We are committed to ensuring that our cloud services are available across all device platforms that people use. We are delivering a cloud for everyone on every device,” he said.

The Devices and Consumer division’s revenue grew by 12 percent to $8.30 billion, while gross margin fell 1 percent to $4.71 billion. Some highlights were a 4 percent revenue increase in Windows OS sales to hardware vendors, and a 50 percent increase in Surface tablet revenue, to $500 million.

Windows sales to hardware vendors weren’t uniform. The regular consumer version of Windows saw revenue drop 15 percent, while Windows Pro, which ships with business PCs, posted a 19 percent gain. Microsoft attributed that growth to strong sales in developed markets and in enterprises, and higher penetration in small and midsized businesses.

Microsoft also highlighted that Office 365 Home, the subscription-based version of Office for consumers, ended the quarter with 4.4 million subscribers, almost 1 million more than in the previous quarter, and that Bing’s search ad revenue went up 38 percent.

Despite that spike in search ads, total online ad revenue was up only 16 percent, crimped by a 24 percent drop in display ad sales.

Revenue for the traditional Office suite, sold via perpetual licenses, rose 15 percent, thanks primarily to sales in Japan. Combined with Office 365 Home sales, revenue for those consumer-focused versions of Office increased 28 percent. Microsoft cited the April 8 end-of-support deadline for Windows XP for spurring sales of Windows and Office.

The Hardware segment of the Devices and Consumer division had revenue growth of 41 percent, reaching $1.97 billion and driven by Xbox and Surface. Microsoft sold 2 million Xboxes during the quarter, and the Xbox business had revenue growth of 45 percent.

The Commercial division’s revenue rose on a pro forma basis by 7 percent to $12.23 billion, and gross margin rose 6 percent to $9.91 billion. The division’s performance was helped by a more-than-100-percent revenue increase from Office 365, the cloud and subscription suite of server and desktop productivity applications for businesses, and by a 150 percent hike in revenue from the Azure cloud platform services. Overall, the Commercial division’s cloud revenue more than doubled.

Other highlights from the Commercial division include an 11 percent revenue increase in Windows volume licensing for business customers and “double-digit” revenue growth for on premises collaboration and communication server products Lync, SharePoint and Exchange, as well as for the SQL Server database and Windows Server OS. Taken together, on-premises server products had a revenue increase of 10 percent. Revenue from traditionally licensed Office was up 6 percent.

Microsoft estimates that about 90 percent of enterprise desktop PCs worldwide now run either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Overall gross margin rose 3 percent during the quarter to $14.5 billion, while operating expense grew 2 percent to $7.5 billion. Microsoft expects to include in its next quarterly report the impact of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s devices business.


 

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Microsoft created a virtual assistant, made Windows free on small devices, and brought back the Start button – but it’s still playing catch-up

This has been a big week for Microsoft, with a flood of new announcements and changes of direction. Along with its Build conference, new CEO Satya Nadella has made a number of moves designed to reverse the public perception that the company is an aging also ran in the technology races.

The changes include
Rolling out its new Cortana digital voice assistant
Announcing that Windows would be free to manufacturers of devices with small screens
Coming out with “universal” Windows technology that helps developers build apps that run on multiple versions of Microsoft’s operating system
Reviving the popular “Start” menu for Windows 8.1

Though some of those moves are more important than others, they’re all good things. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ll be enough to solve Microsoft’s problem of being seen as your father’s technology vendor. Here’s why:

Consumers vs. IT
As noted above, Microsoft’s issues right now revolve around how the company is perceived by consumers, and it’s unlikely that these initiatives will be enough to change those perceptions. While all useful, none of them are truly new. Instead, they’re playing catch-up to existing products and services from Microsoft’s competitors, perhaps with incremental improvements, or acknowledgements that previous Microsoft strategies simply weren’t working out.

Technology professionals will welcome these changes, but the IT community isn’t where Microsoft’s problems lie. In my experience,, enterprise IT generally likes and trusts the company. Microsoft’s challenges lie in convincing fickle consumers that it’s as cool and innovative as Apple and Google. I can’t imagine these moves being exciting enough to do that.

Better, but not better enough
While initial reports suggest that Cortana is a credible or even superior alternative to Apple’s Siri and Google Now, the fact remains that other companies pioneered the voice assistant idea. Cortana would have to be light-years better than its already-in-place rivals to truly give Microsoft a significant advantage.

Similarly, making Windows free for mobile devices may help spark more device makers to adopt the platform, but it’s not like it will make an immediate difference to consumers. Besides, Android is already free to license. Once again, Microsoft is playing catch up.

Universal Windows app development may pay off with more app choices in the long run, but it’s a pretty geeky concept for most end users. Finally, bringing back the Start menu will ease the transition to Windows 8 for some holdouts, but let’s face it, the cool kids aren’t really interested in desktop Windows at this point.

Put it all together and you’ve got a collection of tweaks and that could change the substance of what Microsoft does, but won’t dent the way most people think of the company.

More, please!
Still, there’s a big ray of hope here. The fact that Microsoft was willing and able to make these changes could signal that more are on the way. If Microsoft can keep shaking things up and continue to show that things really are different now, eventually people will begin to notice and perhaps change their minds about the company. And then it truly won’t be your father’s Microsoft any more.


 

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New CEO Satya Nadella comes out swinging on ‘cloud first, mobile first’ strategy

As expected, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today hosted a press conference where the company unveiled Office for iPad, breaking with its past practice of protecting Windows by first launching software on its own operating system.

CEO Satya Nadella expounded on Microsoft’s ‘cloud first, mobile first’ strategy today as his company unveiled Office for iPad as proof of its new platform-agnosticism.

Three all-touch core apps — Word, Excel and PowerPoint — have been seeded to Apple’s App Store and are available now.

The sales model for the new apps is different than past Microsoft efforts. The Office apps can be used by anyone free of charge to view documents and present slideshows. But to create new content or documents, or edit existing ones, customers must have an active subscription to Office 365.

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Microsoft labeled it a “freemium” business model, the term used for free apps that generate revenue by in-app purchases.

Today’s announcement put an end to years of speculation about whether, and if so when, the company would trash its strategy of linking the suite with Windows in an effort to bolster the latter’s chances on tablets. It also reversed the path that ex-CEO Steve Ballmer laid out last October, when for the first time he acknowledged an edition for the iPad but said it would appear only after a true touch-enabled version had launched for Windows tablets.

It also marked the first time in memory that Microsoft dealt a major product to an OS rival of its own Windows.

“Microsoft is giving users what they want,” Carolina Milanesi, strategic insight director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, said in an interview, referring to long-made customer demands that they be able to run Office on any of the devices they owned, even those running a Windows rival OS. “The connection to Office 365 was also interesting in that this puts users within Microsoft’s ecosystem at some point.”

Prior to today, Microsoft had released minimalist editions of Office, dubbed “Office Mobile,” for the iPhone and Android smartphones in June and July 2013, respectively. Originally, the iPhone and Android Office Mobile apps required an Office 365 subscription; as of today, they were turned into free apps for home use, although an Office 365 plan is still needed for commercial use.

Talk of Office on the iPad first heated up in December 2011, when the now-defunct The Daily reported Microsoft was working on the suite, and added that the software would be priced at $10 per app. Two months later, the same publication claimed it had seen a prototype and that Office was only weeks from release.

That talk continued, on and off, for more than two years, but Microsoft stuck to its Windows-first strategy. Analysts who dissected Microsoft’s moves believed that the company refused to support the iPad in the hope that Office would jumpstart sales of Windows-powered tablets.

Office’s tie with Windows had been fiercely debated inside Microsoft, but until today, operating system-first advocates had won out. But slowing sales of Windows PCs — last year, the personal computer industry contracted by about 10% — and the continued struggles gaining meaningful ground in tablets pointed out the folly of that strategy, outsiders argued.

Some went so far as to call Windows-first a flop.

Microsoft has long hewed to that strategy: The desktop version of Office has always debuted on Windows, for example, with a refresh for Apple’s OS X arriving months or even more than a year later.

Microsoft today added free Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps for the iPad to the existing OneNote.

On his first day on the job, however, Nadella hinted at change when he said Microsoft’s mission was to be “cloud first, mobile first,” a signal, said analysts, that he understood the importance of pushing the company’s software and services onto as many platforms as possible.

Nadella elaborated on that today, saying that the “cloud first, mobile first” strategy will “drive everything we talk about today, and going forward. We will empower people to be productive and do more on all their devices. We will provide the applications and services that empower every user — that’s Job One.”

Like Office Mobile on iOS and Android, Office for iPad was tied to Microsoft’s software-by-subscription Office 365.

Although the new Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps can be used free of charge to view documents and spreadsheets, and present PowerPoint slideshows, they allow document creation and editing only if the user has an active Office 365 subscription. Those subscriptions range from the consumer-grade $70-per-year Office 365 Personal to a blizzard of business plans starting at $150 per user per year and climbing to $264 per user per year.

Moorhead applauded the licensing model. “It’s very simple. Unlike pages of requirements that I’m used to seeing from Microsoft to use their products, if you have Office 365, you can use Office for iPad. That’s it,” Moorhead said.

He also thought that the freemium approach to Office for iPad is the right move. “They’ve just pretty much guaranteed that if you’re presenting on an iPad you will be using their apps,” said Moorhead of PowerPoint.

Moorhead cited the fidelity claims made by Julie White, a general manager for the Office technical marketing team, who spent about half the event’s time demonstrating Office for iPad and other software, as another huge advantage for Microsoft. “They’re saying 100% document compatibility [with Office on other platforms], so you won’t have to convert a presentation to a PDF,” Moorhead added.

Document fidelity issues have plagued Office competitors for decades, and even the best of today’s alternatives cannot always display the exact formatting of an Office-generated document, spreadsheet or presentation.

Both Milanesi and Moorhead were also impressed by the strategy that Nadella outlined, which went beyond the immediate launch of Office for iPad.

“I think [Satya Nadella] did a great job today,” said Milanesi. “For the first time I actually see a strategy [emphasis in original].

“Clearly there’s more to come,” Milanesi said. “It was almost as if Office on iPad was not really that important, but they just wanted to get [its release] out of way so they could show that there’s more they bring to the plate.”

That “more” Milanesi referred to included talk by Nadella and White of new enterprise-grade, multiple-device management software, the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS).

“With the management suite and Office 365 and single sign-on for developers, Microsoft is really doing something that others cannot do,” Milanesi said. “They made it clear that Microsoft wants to be [enterprises’] key partner going forward.”

Moorhead strongly agreed. “The extension of the devices and services strategy to pull together these disparate technologies, including mobile, managing those devices, authenticating users for services, is something Microsoft can win with. It’s a good strategy,” Moorhead said.

“This was the proof point of delivering on the devices and services strategy,” Moorhead concluded. “And that strategy is definitely paying off.”

Office for iPad can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store. The three apps range in size from 215MB (for PowerPoint) to 259MB (for Word), and require iOS 7 or later.

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According to leaked screenshots and secret sources, Microsoft will scrap ‘Metro’ and roll boot-to-desktop as the default in the Windows 8.1 update coming in March.

If you hated the Live Tiles presented as the default on the Windows 8.x Start screen, then Microsoft allowed users to tweak the setting in Windows 8.1 to bypass the “Metro” interface at boot and instead boot to desktop. But boot-to-desktop will be the default, according to leaks from Microsoft insiders and screenshots of the upcoming Windows 8.1 update. Rumor has it that the update will roll out on Patch Tuesday in March.

The Russian site Wzor first posted leaked Windows 8.1 test build screenshots showing the change enabled by default.

Leaked Windows 8.1 test build, no more Metro Start screen, boot to desktop as default
Then Microsoft insiders, or “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans,” told The Verge that Microsoft hopes to appease desktop users by bypassing the Start screen by default, meaning users will automatically boot straight to desktop. “Additional changes include shutdown and search buttons on the Start Screen, the ability to pin Windows 8-style (“Metro”) apps on the desktop task bar, and a new bar at the top of Metro apps to allow users to minimize, close, and snap apps.”

Of course, Microsoft continues to lose millions upon millions of customers to iOS and Android. That desperation is likely what drove Microsoft to force a touch-centric operating system on customers. If customers can’t easily use a Windows OS on a traditional desktop, then Microsoft hoped its “make-them-eat-Metro” strategy would force people to buy its tablet to deal with the touch-based OS. For Microsoft, it was like killing two birds with one stone. But despite the company’s “One Microsoft” vision, we’re not birds and we don’t like having stones thrown our way.

Microsoft claimed that telemetry data justified the removal of the Start button in Windows 8, and then its return in Windows 8.1. That same telemetry data shows “the majority of Windows 8 users still use a keyboard and mouse and desktop applications.” The Verge added, “Microsoft may have wanted to push touch computing to the masses in Windows 8, but the reality is that users have voiced clear concerns over the interface on desktop PCs.”

“Microsoft really dug a big hole for themselves,” Gartner’s David Smith told Gregg Keizer, referring to the Redmond giant’s approach with Windows 8. “They have to dig themselves out of that hole, including making some fundamental changes to Windows 8. They need to accelerate that and come up with another path [for Windows].”

Back in December, NetMarketShare stats showed that more people were still using the hated Windows Vista than Windows 8.1. January 2014 stats showed Windows 8.1 on 3.95% of desktops with Vista on 3.3%. Despite Microsoft warning about the evils of clinging to XP, and the April death of XP support, Windows XP, however, was still on 29.23%. Many people still hate Windows 8, which may be why the company plans to jump to the next OS as soon as possible.

Microsoft plans to start building hype for “Windows 9″ at the BUILD developers’ conference in April. The new OS is supposedly set to come out in the second quarter of 2015. While it seems wise for the company to want to ditch the hated Windows 8.x as soon as possible, Microsoft had better to do something to encourage developers as the expected boot-to-desktop change will mean folks won’t see the Metro apps on the Start screen.

Windows 8.1 update leaked screenshot of test build
According to the test build screenshot, Microsoft is urging people to “switch to a Microsoft account on this PC. Many apps and services (like the one shown for calendar) rely on a Microsoft account to sync content and settings across devices.” Note that “sign into each app separately instead” is “not recommended” by Microsoft. Of course, setting up a Windows 8 computer without it being tied to a Microsoft email account was “not recommended” either…but it can be done with about any email address or set up as a local account tied to no email address. If you use SkyDrive, aka the newly dubbed “OneDrive,” then why not just log in when you need it?

Trying to keep its developers “happy,” may be part of the reason Microsoft does not recommend signing into your Microsoft account on an individual app basis. Sure there’s still the Windows Phone Store, but some people complain that the Windows Phone Store is full of junk and fake apps. Of course, since Windows 8’s dueling tablet-PC interface was a flop, perhaps Microsoft will follow Apple’s lead and come up with a separate OS for tablets. That move might help out Microsoft and developers; without developers, there’s no apps. Without good apps, even a new OS for tablets won’t help Microsoft from continuing to decline and falling into the abyss of irrelevancy.

 


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The Syrian Electronic Army hacked all of Skype’s social media accounts and accused Microsoft of helping the government spy and monitor our email.

It’s said there is no rest for the wicked, and New Year’s Day had Skype social media managers scrambling to scrub evidence of being hacked off of its Skype blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts. That evidence was planted by the Syrian Electronic Army and accused Microsoft of spying for the “governments.”

After the SEA’s attack, Skype sent out a pair of tweets to its 3 million Twitter followers, warning:

Hacked Skype tweet warns against using Microsoft products

Skype tweet stop spying on people

Those Skype tweets were deleted and then replaced with this tweet: “You may have noticed our social media properties were targeted today. No user info was compromised. We’re sorry for the inconvenience.”

The SEA also hacked the Skype blog:

Skype blog, Facebook, Twitter hacked by Syrian Electronic Army

Hacked Skype blog says don’t use Microsoft products

These posts were mirrored on Skype’s Facebook page before quickly being deleted.

Skype Facebook hacked posts removed

Then reporter Matthew Keys tweeted this screenshot “proof” of the Skype hack sent to him by the SEA.

Screenshot Skype hack

The SEA also tweeted Steve Ballmer’s contact information along with the message, “You can thank Microsoft for monitoring your accounts/emails using this details. #SEA”

Although the SEA has successfully hacked many major companies, the Skype hack seems to be referring to Microsoft’s alleged cooperation with the NSA. Microsoft denied providing backdoor real-time access, but revelations provided by Edward Snowden indicated that the NSA can successfully eavesdrop on Skype video calls. Although Microsoft vowed to protect users from NSA surveillance, the Redmond giant “forgot” to mention Skype in its promises.

As security expert Graham Cluley pointed out, “Chances are that Skype didn’t read my New Year’s resolution advice about not using the same passwords for multiple accounts.”

In fact, Skype seems to have disregarded its parent company’s advice. Microsoft’s Security TechCenter has a post regarding “selecting secure passwords.” Regarding “Password Age and Reuse,” it states:

Users should also change their passwords frequently. Even though long and strong passwords are much more difficult to break than short and simple ones, they can still be cracked. An attacker who has enough time and computing power at his disposal can eventually break any password. In general, passwords should be changed within 42 days, and old passwords should never be reused.

Skype itself has a few password “rules” such as:

A password must:

Be at least 6 characters and not longer than 20 characters.

Contain at least one letter and one number.

Not have any spaces.

Not contain your Skype Name (case insensitive).

Not be a part of Skype Name (case insensitive).

Your password also cannot contain any of the following words:

1234, 4321, qwert, test, skype, myspace, password, abc123, 123abc, abcdef, iloveyou, letmein, ebay, paypal.

However, after the Skype hack gave Microsoft a black eye with spying accusations, it’s a pretty safe bet that whoever controls Skype social media will no longer resuse the same password to protect all of the company’s accounts. And if you reuse the same password on different sites, it would be a great 2014 resolution to change all your passwords, keep them in a password safe, and make sure you don’t use the same one for multiple sites.

 


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Tutorial on Using Windows 8

Written by admin
December 27th, 2013

Finding things and doing things from the new Windows 8 interface.

The first time I sat in front of the Windows 8 interface, I have to admit I was not thrilled; no Start button, I couldn’t find the control panel, things just weren’t what I was used to. That was over two years ago in the early adopter program for Windows 8, and now when I use Windows XP or Windows 7, I find it very inefficient to “have to click through so many menus” to find and do basic stuff.

The focus of this article is to share with you not simply how to make Windows 8 work like Windows XP/Windows 7 “the old way” (which I will go through and give you tips on how to find stuff and configure stuff to work the old way), but instead to really focus on how to do things better and more easily, effectively helping you shortcut the learning process that makes Windows 8 actually extremely easy and efficient to use.

Note: I’ve made a copy of this Tutorial available in PDF format so you can easily download and print/keep a copy, the PDF is up in my SkyDrive at https://skydrive.live.com/redir?resid=C99D5C694EA9E532!109&authkey=!ACC7qwl6DQle-SM

First of all, some basic terminology and “old way” of finding things so that I can take you through Windows 8 in a way you have learned how to use Windows. As I’m sure you are aware, Windows 8 no longer has the “Start Button” at the bottom left of the screen. Instead, Microsoft has the “Windows 8 Style Menu” (that they formally called the Metro style menu, until Microsoft was informed Metro Style was copyrighted, so they’re just calling it the Windows 8 Style menu). This is the menu that Windows comes up with.

If you are in the middle of an application (browser, Word, or any other app) and you want to get back to the menu, on a tablet, you press the “Home” button (usually a physical button on the bottom middle of the tablet device) or from a keyboard system, you press the “Windows-key.”

The “start button” for the most part (the thing that gives you access to the Control Panel, shutdown/restart, etc) is called the “Charm” and it pops up on a touchscreen tablet when you swipe your thumb from right to left on the right side of the screen (basically swiping the charm menu out from the right edge and into your screen of view). On a keyboard system, the charm menu pops up when you move the move cursor all the way to the right bottom of the screen.

From the charm menu, you can click on the top most icon (“search”) and it shows you all of your applications installed (this would be similar to doing a Start/All Programs in Windows 7). You’ll see the search bar (circled in red) and on the left you can scroll through all of your apps.

When you search/find the app you want or simply just scroll through the apps off this Charm/Search view, you can right-click the application, and at the bottom of the screen you are given options to Pin to Start, which adds the app to your Windows 8 Style Menu (THIS is a good idea as it puts a shortcut on your main menu screen so that every time you press the Home button or press the Windows-key, your apps show up on the main menu). You can also Pin to Start things like Control Panel, Command Prompt, Run, etc. I usually Pin everything I usually use/access to the Start which makes it easy for me to just go back to the main Windows 8 style menu to launch my apps!

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, you can also Pin to Taskbar (this pins to the old Windows 7 style taskbar at the bottom of the “Desktop” screen). I used to Pin stuff to the Taskbar, but now that more and more apps are coming out with Windows 8 menu icons (like Office 2013, SkyDrive, Box.net, Real Player, etc), I no longer find myself working from the older Win7 “taskbar.” This is one of those crutches you can continue to use, or just move into the 21st Century and start using the native Windows 8 menu.

Note: You’ll also see when you right click an app, at the bottom of the screen you can choose to run the app as an Administrator, uninstall the app, find the file/application location. These are helpful “things” we used occasionally in Win7 in the past that you now have shortcuts to run.

Another option off the Charm Menu (when you move your mouse cursor to the bottom right, or swipe your thumb right to left off the right edge of a tablet) is the Settings options (the bottom-most option on the charm) when you click on Settings…

…this is where a LOT of common things are found, such as Control Panel…

…Power (where you choose to shutdown/restart the computer/device), Network (where you select the WiFi connection you want to connect to), Change PC Settings (where you can change other things that are not in the Control Panel like desktop background, the photo you associate to your logon…

…add printers, etc).

Basically click on this Settings place and you’ll get to a lot of things you may normally access for configuration.

Okay, so with the basics under your belt, here’s where you learn to be a Windows 8 person and not a WinXP/Win7 person trying to run Windows 8. Instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click on Search to then find your application, or instead of moving your cursor to pop up the charm to then click Settings to then go to the Control Panel…you would do one of two things. If you are on a Tablet (or a keyboard-based Win8 device), ADD all of your apps, control panel, etc. to your Windows 8 style menu. It’ll take you a couple minutes to right click and “Pin to Start” all of your apps and utilities, but once they are pinned, you will almost never have to go fiddle with the charm thing. You’ll just press the Home button (on a tablet) or press the Windows key (on a keyboard-based system) and from the menu, click/tap the app and you run the app. To “switch” to another app, press the Home button or press the Windows key and click/tap the other app you want to run. All apps stay in memory; you just “toggle” between apps by simply pressing the Home button or pressing the Windows key to get to your apps.

Note: On a keyboard system, you can still Alt-Tab between apps, so toggling between apps is really easy. No more Start/Programs to get to applications. No need to Charm/Settings/Control Panel to get to the Control Panel if you simply pinned the Control Panel onto your Windows 8 style main menu!

So what happens if you want to access an app that you did not pin to your menu? On a keyboard-based system, at the Windows 8 Menu, just start typing a few letters of the app or function you want to do, and the “search” starts working immediately. For example, at the Windows 8 menu, if I start typing the letters n-o-t-e-p, the search bar will appear in the upper right and it’ll zero in on the Notepad application on the left.

Assuming the app is highlighted on the left, just press the Enter key any time and it’ll launch that app, no key clicking, nothing extra. If it pops up several apps with n-o-t-e-p, then either keep typing to zero in on “the app” you want and press Enter to launch, or you can arrow around/tap-touch/click on the app name on the left side to select “the app” you want. Fiddle with this, but effectively this is a very quick way to launch apps that may not be on your Windows 8 menu (yet).

If I start typing w-o-r-d, if I have Microsoft Word on the system, it’ll show me Word, or e-x-c-e-l will give me the option of launching Excel. Or even things like p-r-i-n-t-e-r will pop up under Settings the option for me to “Add a Printer,” or n-e-t under search settings will show me options like “Connect to a Network.”

Between Pinning things to Start and simply typing a few letters of something, I can launch apps, run utils, add printers, and do things on a Win8 system FASTER than what I thought was super efficient in WinXP or Win7. This was the trick to making Windows 8 easy to use.

Now that you have the navigation thing figured out, go to the Windows Store and download “apps” for your most common things you do, so things like there are Box.com apps, Acrobat reader apps, Picture viewers, Real Media Player app, etc.

Note: When you are in the store looking for apps, as much as you can scroll through the “Popular” apps or “Top free” apps it shows you on screen, if you wanted to “search” for an app to download, it’s not intuitive how to search for an app. The way to search for an app is when you are in the Store, pull up the “charm” thing (move mouse to the bottom right, or on a tablet, swipe your right thumb right to left to have the “charm” menu on the right side pop out and then use the “search” function in the charm). So just as you “searched” your apps earlier in this blog to find stuff on your local computer, when you are in the Store app and do a search, it’ll now search for apps in the Store (ie: searching for Acrobat, or Box, or Alarm Clock, or USA Today or the like).

When you install the app, it shows up on your Windows 8 Style menu. Simply clicking the app launches the application. However, from your Windows 8 Style menu, you might want to move your most commonly used apps to the left side of your menu so they are visible to you more frequently when you pop up the Windows 8 menu. To move the app with a mouse/keyboard, just click and hold down the mouse button down and “drag” the app to the left. On a touch tablet, you touch the app with your finger and then slide the app “down” and then to the left. This took me a while to figure out as I logically tried to push the app with my finger and immediately drag to the left which would tend to just launch the app. The trick is to touch the app with your finger, drag down a bit, then to the left to move it around! Move any non-commonly used apps from the left side over to the right side so they are out of your way.

Many times apps take up two spaces on the menu. I hate that. I’d rather have all of my apps as the small 1-square wide icon. All you do is right-click the app icon and at the bottom it’ll show you “larger” or “smaller” to make the icon a different size. Some have this option to make small icons larger. Oddly, you cannot tag multiple icons and make them all “Smaller” at the same time, you have to right click and “make smaller” one by one. It takes a few seconds to do, but buys you back more real estate on your Windows 8 menu to get more apps 1 click away to run. (Note: if you have a touch tablet, some of these first time configurations are BEST off doing with a mouse. I would usually plug a USB mouse into my tablet and run through some of these basic right-click configuration things, or drag/drop icon things as it is a LOT faster with a mouse. Everything “can” be done with your finger on a touch screen; it’s just not as efficient if you have a lot to configure/setup).

When you are in a Windows 8 app, you likely find there are no application configuration options, settings, things you can do with the app that you have in Windows XP or Windows 7 apps might have found as Tools/Options, or Options/Settings. With Windows 8, apps typically DO have configuration settings, you just have to know how to find them. Here’s the trick, app settings are in the Charm/Settings on Windows 8. Launch and sit in the Windows 8 application, and then with a touch tablet, swipe your right thumb from right to left off the left edge of the tablet screen, and press Settings; with a keyboard system, move your mouse cursor to the bottom right to pull up the Charm menu, then click Settings. With the Charm/Settings exposed, you’ll see configuration settings for that app!

Also, when you are in a Windows 8 application, there are frequently more options when you “swipe down” from the top of the tablet, or “swipe up” from the bottom of the tablet screen (or on a keyboard-based system, you position your mouse cursor at the top of the screen where a bar appears, or you move the mouse cursor at the top of the screen and right-click). As an example, when I’m in the Internet Explorer in Windows 8 and want to have the Address Bar appear, or I want to switch between IE “tabs”, things like the below pop up and give you additional application options…

For applications on your Windows 8 menu, there’s also this thing called “Live Tile,” in which the icon changes screens, like the way the CNN news live tile shows you the latest news and flips through things, or the Photos “Live Tile” flips through your pictures. You can turn Live Tile off (again, right click the icon, choose to turn Live Tile on/off). I find it annoying to have the thing flip through stuff when I don’t remember what icon is what, but it’s really your call.

To flip through running apps, you can Alt-Tab from a keyboard-based system, or from either a mouse or touch tablet, move the cursor to the upper left hand corner and little tiles of the running apps show in the left margin of the screen. You can right-click and “close” any of those running apps. I used to close apps all the time as I’m old school and after running an app and don’t need it anymore, I close it. But after a while, I just leave the apps running. They don’t take up processing power and with 4-8GB of RAM in my systems these days I have plenty of memory. Every now and then I reboot my device/tablet/system but on occasion, and I will run my finger to the upper left and choose apps to close.

And a hidden thing in the bottom left corner of the screen is a “start”-type button thing that when right clicked will show you a list of common tasks like Event Viewer, Disk Management, Command Prompt, Task Manager, Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Run, etc. It’s sometimes helpful to use that, although these days with most stuff on my Windows 8 Menu or I just type a few letters, I don’t bother with these various other menu things, but just FYI…

Logging Out of a system is done by click on your name from the Windows 8 Style menu as shown in the Figure here:

To shutdown or restart the computer, you can navigate the menus (like Charm, Settings, Shutdown), or what I did was create a Windows 8 style menu “app” that I simply click that’ll shut down my computer. You effectively create a “shortcut” on the “desktop” and then you “Pin to Start.” That’ll add the shortcut to your Windows 8 menu. Here’s what it looks like:

1) From the Windows 8 menu, click Desktop to switch to the old Windows 7 style desktop
2) Right click on the desktop and choose New | Shortcut
3) When prompted for the Location of the item, enter in c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /p as shown below, then click Next
4) For the name of the Shortcut, type in something like Shutdown, then click Finish
5) Right click on the shortcut that is on your desktop and choose Pin to Start

You now have an icon on your Windows 8 menu that allows you to shutdown your system with a single click.

You can change the command syntax in #3 above to restart the computer by making that c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe /r or /h at the end (instead of /r) will hibernate a system.

Oh, and one more thing – so once I tricked out my Windows 8 menu with all of the icons I wanted, how do I transfer my icons, menu items, etc. to other systems? Microsoft came out with this thing called the User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) that is the new generation of “roaming profiles.” However, unlike roaming profiles of the past where EVERYTHING was moved from system to system whether you wanted it or not (ie: registry settings, apps, icons, junk on your desktop, etc), with UE-V profiles, you can specifically just note to “roam” your Windows 8 menu. Microsoft did a case study on my organization’s experience with UE-V [link download].

More information on UE-V is available on the Microsoft site. UE-V isn’t free; it’s part of what Microsoft calls its Desktop Optmization Pack (MDOP) that includes a bunch of other tools like RemoteApp, App-V (application virtualization), VDI, etc. Any case, you might find your organization owns MDOP as part of the Software Assurance for Windows client licensing, and if so, explore UE-V where you can roam your Win8 menu from your desktop, to your laptop, to your tablet, to your VDI guest session, to your Remote Desktop (terminal server) guest session, etc.

Hopefully, this is a place to start. I REALLY fought the whole Windows 8 menu thing for a long time, even filed several “bug reports” during the early adopter program noting that the whole Windows 8 menu was a major “bug,” although with a bunch of these tips and tricks I’ve noted in this article, I think you’ll find this whole Windows 8 menu thing to actually be a LOT easier to use and definitely faster than having to fiddle through a bunch of menus.

Questions and Answers
As the “comments” section below has gotten pretty massive, I wanted to create a little index of some of the more helpful questions/answers that people have asked about (and I have answered). Scroll down to the appropriate Comment/Reply below for more info:

Having Windows 8 “forget” the WiFi passcode and WiFi default connection so you can re-enter in a new key or choose a different WiFi default connection (see response to posting from “Sara” from January 5, 2013)
Accessing POP3 email from Windows 8 (see response to post from reedfunchap from January 4, 2013)
Re-associating Windows 8 with a new email / logon / local account without having to restore the whole new system (see response to post from catey44 from January 1, 2013)
Difference between a Windows 8 Store “App” and downloading an app from a vendor’s site (see response to post from Scott Schulte from January 1, 2013)
Disabling the “Charm” from popping out all the time see response to post from Jesse A Vasquez from December 23, 2012)
Adjusting the timezone in Windows 8 (see response to post from Sabir Ali from December 17th-ish, 2012)
Choosing a different “response” when a device is plugged into a system, ie: setting a new default action for a device (see response to post from Ken Reynolds from early December 2012)
As I respond to “comments” with information of value, I’ll continue to add the info in here for a quick summary…

Several other postings I’ve done on Windows Server 2012, Exchange 2013, Intune, System Center, etc. Just click the Next Article or Previous Article buttons on this blog post to get to other articles I’ve covered, or click here to see a listing of all of the various blog posts I’ve done over the years. Hopefully this information is helpful!


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Hyper-V V3 resources can be aggregated into clusters, and through the use of new VHDX sharable disk stores, can create islands internally — or for cloud-hosted purposes, external clouds whose resources should be opaque to other cloud components. We were not able to successfully find constructs to test the opaque nature of what should be isolated clouds, but rudimentary tests seemed to prove isolation. The VHDX format can also be dynamically re-sized as the need arises; we found that the process is fast, although during that period, disk and CPU resources can peak until the modification is over. Heavy CPU/disk-imposed limitations thwart resizing by slowing it.

We also tested Hyper-V and 2012R2 IPAM and Microsoft’s SDN successfully under IPv4 (other limitations prevented heavy IPv6 testing). Software defined networks (SDN) cross a turf that is divided in many organizations: virtualization and network management teams. Network management staff have traditionally used IPS, routing, switching and infrastructure controls to balance traffic, hosts, even NOC hardware placement. SDN use means that what were once separate disciplines are now forced to work together to make things work inside the host server’s hypervisor, where the demarcation was once where the RJ-45 connector meets the server chassis.

IPAM allowed us to define a base allocation of routeable and/or non-routeable addresses, then allocate them to VMs hosted on Hyper-V hosts or other hosts/VMs/devices on our test network. We could in turn, allocate virtual switches, public private or internal, connected with static/blocked and sticky DHCP. Inter-fabric VM movements still require a bit of homework, we found. Using one IPAM is recommended.

[ALSO: Windows 8.1 cheat sheet]

What we like is that the SDN primitives and IPAM can work well together, with well-implemented planning steps. We could create clouds easily, and keep track of address relationships. A Microsoft representative mused over the spreadsheets that carry IP relationship management information in many organizations, calling it crazy. We would agree, and believe that hypervisor or host-based IPAM is a great idea. If only DNS were mixed in more thoroughly — and it’s not — we’d be complete converts to the concept. We found it very convenient nonetheless, although errors were more difficult to find when they occurred, such as address pool depletions. Uniting networking and virtualization/host management disciplines isn’t going to be easy.
The Bad News

We found head-scratchers and limitations. We found several initial foibles installing the operating system on bare metal to what should be generic hardware. We were able to overcome them, but warn installers that they’ll need to consider that Windows 2012 and especially R2 might require updated server BIOS firmware to UEFI-compatible, as happened with our Lenovo ThinkServer and HP DL 380 Gen8 servers. When Windows 2012 R2 can’t install (R2 or Hyper-V V3-R2), we received an inarticulate flash of an error message. We actually took a video of it to capture that there was a problem with ACPI — and not UEFI. The turf between platform providers and OS/hypervisor makers is still real and strong, but Microsoft isn’t alone, as we’ve incurred driver/platform mysticism with VMware and Oracle, too.

We found the Hyper-V role cannot be re-instantiated. This means that no hypervisor on top of a hypervisor. Microsoft claims that there has been no customer demand for this, but it also imposes a limitation. Although running a hypervisor atop a hypervisor seems silly, there are cases where it’s useful. One role often cited is in production test labs, and another where Microsoft’s SDN is used — Hyper-V V3 must always be the base layer talking to the metal and silicon of a server, precluding other schemes direct access to the metal and therefore impeding other SDN schemes.

The Azure Pack uses the same Hyper-V infrastructure as Windows Server 2012 R2. Microsoft offers a sample of what other third party providers may offer in the form of services and ready-to-deploy pre-built appliances. We were reminded of what TurnKeyLinux started several years ago, in terms of usable appliances built from Linux substrates. There isn’t a huge variety of appliance samples available, but what we tested, worked — full WordPress websites that were ready for skins and customizations.

A Service Bus, actually message bus, connects components in the clouds serviced by the Azure Pack and Hyper-V. The Service Bus connects Microsoft-specific API sets, after a framework “namespace” is created. Communications can be subscribed and published to the framework and its members in the namespace talk via REST, Advanced Message Queueing Protocol/AMQP, and Windows instrumentation APIs. The Service Bus reminds us of products like Puppet, Chef, and others in the Linux world, communicating in a stack-like framework for rapid deployment and ease of VM and infrastructure fleet management.
Windows 8.1

Where Windows 8.1 is upgraded on Windows 7 or Windows 8 platforms, the upgrade was fast and made no mistakes. Windows XP can be run atop Hyper-V or in a Type 2 hypervisor application, but we didn’t test this, as we’ve retired Windows XP completely and we hope that readers have, too. Like Windows 8.0, 8.1 can use the latest version of Hyper-V V3 as a foundation, so that other OS versions can be used on the same host hardware, with resource limitations to guests or 8.1, SDN, IPAM, and other Hyper-V features.

The Windows 8.1 UI is initially identical to Windows 8.0, but with the addition of a desktop icon that can be touched/chosen to be optionally or subsequently a resident resource more familiar to XP and Windows 7 users. We found it’s also possible to boot directly to an Apps screen that allows apps to be easily chosen, although not with the same vendor topical drop-boxes that Win XP and Windows 7 might be used to. If there are many applications, the screen must be scrolled. Windows XP/7 users who have accumulated many dozens of applications might be scrolling frequently as long lists of applications can fill many screens.

We found more UI customization choices, and discovered we could make very busy combinations of Live Tiles. It’s possible to insert RSS feeds into tiles where supported, allowing what we feel is an addicting amount of information available within just a handful of tiles, and the appeal of moving tiles combinations on tablets to suit differing use situations. Apps that use “traditional” windows are easier to manage, and users can now move multiple windows adjacent to each other (especially handy on multiple monitors) without having snap behavior crater their placement choices, as occurred in 8.0 and even Windows 7 editions.

Desktop/notebook users have now taken second seat to tablets in this upgrade, and some of the hoped for bridges to Windows 7-ish look-and-feel are missing as we found the 8.1 changes more easily demonstrated on tablets. However, mouse or touch sweeps are more customizable, although consistencies can be imposed in Group Policy. If you’re looking for the familiar Start button, you’ll still need to garner it from a third party app provider. Microsoft, like Apple and Google, would really prefer that you obtain Start Buttons and other third party applications from Microsoft’s online store, which is far more filled with new, familiar, and diverse applications than when Windows 8.0 was released. You can still install from “unauthorized” sources if preferred or forbid that if you’re draconian or simply worried about security.

Recent changes to 8.1 in terms of speed weren’t dramatic, in our subjective analysis. Windows 8.1 uses Server Message Block V3/SMB3 features when connecting to Windows 2012+ network resources that allow several features, including SMB Encryption, SMB traffic aggregation for speed, and TPC “signing” for ostensibly trustable, ostensibly non-repudiating host and client relationships. We say ostensibly, as we’re unsure of a comprehensive methodology to test these, and therefore, have not.
Overall

Microsoft has been very busy. Windows Server 2012 R2, while a strong operating system update, is perhaps more about Hyper-V V3 and Azure Pack, and represents a trend towards platform strengthening on Microsoft’s part as platform flexibility starts to replace the operating system as the functional least common denominator for applications infrastructure. Towards these ends, Hyper-V now controls more of the network than the operating system, more of the storage connectivity and options then the operating system, and more of the application availability and administrative control nexus than ever before.

For its part, Windows 8.1 is now the client-side of the experiences rendered by web access, and client/cloud-based services, which become increasingly location-irrelevant where persistent connectivity is available. The Windows 8.1 release comes in fewer forms than Window 8.0, which comes in fewer forms than Windows 7. The shrinking forms betrays that the versions must now be synchronized across a wide variety of platforms, from traditional desktops and notebooks, to tablets, phones, and VDI/Desktop-as-a-Service platforms. More attention to this variety of user device in Windows 8.1 also includes attention paid to criticisms of the seemingly lurching change from former Windows UIs to the tiled interface of Windows 8.

Windows as a client is no longer like the old leaky Windows, but it’s approachable in a more familiar way. Whether the 8.1 client changes can re-enamor disaffected users, and roll with new competitive punches, remains to be seen.
How We Tested Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1

For Windows Server 2012 R2, we tested the RTM version downloaded from the MSDN website. We deployed and tested the DataCenter version on both bare metal servers from HP (DL580G5, 16core, iSCSI, Dell (Compellent iSCSI SAN and older Dell servers), and Lenovo (ThinkServer 580 with 16 cores, 32GB) and various hypervisors. Windows 2012 R2 installed basic operations successfully atop VMware vSphere 5.1 and 5.5, Oracle VirtualBox 4.2, aforementioned Hyper-V V3, and Citrix XenServer 6.2, and we found much flexibility and a few servers that needed the aforementioned firmware upgrades for Hyper-V or 2012 R2.

Windows 8.1 was tested on a Microsoft Surface Pro, Lenovo T530 notebooks, and as virtual machines, upgrading from Windows 7 Professional and Windows 8.0 Enterprise versions, as well as fresh installs on UEFI the T530 notebooks hardware.

Testing was performed between the Lab (Gigabit Ethernet switched infrastructure) connected via Xfinity Broadband to our NOC at Expedient/nFrame in Indianapolis (Gigabit Ethernet switched infrastructure with 10GB links on Extreme Switches, connected via a GBE backbone to core routers, Compellent iSCSI SAN, with numerous hosts running VMware, XenServer, BSD, various flavors of Linux, Solaris, in turn connected to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft’s Azure Cloud).


 

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Microsoft has long planned on one store to bind them, and that is now getting closer.

Microsoft’s cross-platform strategy is no secret. Much of the same code found in Windows 8.1 is also in Windows Phone 8, including the kernel. So it stands to reason that, in time, apps should be easily portable between platforms, especially WP8 and Windows RT.

Well, Microsoft is continuing that effort. The company just announced it is creating a unified developer registration experience for the two platforms. The site has nothing to do with the developer end; it handles the business side of things. The idea is to make it easier for developers who want to create apps for both Windows and Windows Phone by giving them one point of registration instead of two.

Under the new registration program, Windows Phone developers will have access to the Windows Dev Center, which handles PC and tablet sales, for no additional cost. The same works both ways, as Windows developers now have access to the Windows Phone Dev Center for no additional cost. In both cases, the developer uses the same Microsoft Account to log in on either site and has access to both Centers.

So, existing developers can now submit apps to both stores at no additional cost under one Microsoft account while new developers can register under just one account. The registration fee is a very modest $19 for an individual developer and $99 for a company account. Developers already registered for both stores will receive a code via email this month for a free one-year renewal when their existing registration is up for renewal.

The process of submitting apps will remain slightly different due to the differences in platforms, but Microsoft aims to have a single submission process as well. And of course, there is the effort to make one developer platform, so apps can be generated across the board from a single code base. But, one thing at a time.


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A decade after it started, Microsoft excels at addressing security concerns when compared with its competitors

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of Microsoft’s Patch Tuesday program, through which it would regularly issue fixes to its software on the second Tuesday of every month. It had been possible to check for updates via the Windows Update application in Windows XP, but now Microsoft was actually going to push out fixes.

Steve Ballmer introduced Patch Tuesday at the Worldwide Partner Conference in New Orleans in October 2003. “Our goal is simple: Get our customers secure and keep them secure,” Ballmer said in a statement. “Our commitment is to protect our customers from the growing wave of criminal attacks.”

RELATED: Microsoft finally patches gaping IE exploit with Patch Tuesday update

Patch Tuesday brought order to the patching process but allows network administrators to plan for network-wide upgrades ahead of time, since Microsoft would put out an alert the Thursday before Patch Tuesday to say what was coming. Microsoft always had to be judicious in how much information it released ahead of time because it didn’t want to tell the bad guys where it found a problem.

The day after the patches are pushed out, Microsoft holds a live chat, usually at 11 am Pacific time, to discuss the fixes.

In addition to Patch Tuesday, there has been the occasional Super Patch Tuesday, where Microsoft issues optional and non-security updates. Plus, if a really bad exploit is found, Microsoft has been known to ship what are called out-of-band patches.

It’s also had to issue patches of patches, because sometimes things get fouled up. Just this past August Microsoft had to recall six patches because they introduced new problems that, in some cases, rendered the PC unusable.

In 2008, Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Exploitability Index, which told people how severe the exploit was and whether or not an IT manager should rush out the fix. While most of us just update on patch day without a second thought, some people do actually have to be careful that the fix doesn’t break their existing apps.

At the same time, Microsoft introduced security-related programs to share early information with partners to help coordinate efforts to protect them from attacks in the wild before they become widely known. The program also provides additional information and guidance to help customers evaluate risks and prioritize the deployment of Microsoft security updates.

Critics have accused Patch Tuesday of being a gift to hackers, because if they have an exploit that isn’t fixed in one month, they have a full month to exploit it with their malware. Also, by issuing so many fixes at once, Microsoft tells the bad guys where the bugs are. They very well might rush out malware to exploit the hole in PCs that are slow to patch. This led to the term “Exploit Wednesday.”

All of this is true; and Microsoft has on a few occasions let Patch Tuesdays go by with big exploits unpatched. But compared to the track record of other firms, Microsoft is on top of things. Apple has had several instances in the last few years where exploits went for many months before being fixed. It doesn’t have a structured patch cycle like Microsoft does.

And then there’s Oracle. Since inheriting a complex and often-buggy piece of software in Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems, Oracle has been very sluggish in responding to Java problems. The result of Oracle’s flat-footed responses is that Java is the top target for hackers, according to a report from security software developer F-Secure (PDF).

Java is so insecure that 95 percent of all exploit attacks can be found in five security flaws, four of which are in Java (the fifth is a Microsoft True Type font exploit). The best thing you can do to secure your infrastructure is turn off Java, F-Secure says. That’s sad, especially given that Oracle has a huge investment in Java-based products. You’d think it would move heaven and earth to secure Java.

You can see by the fact that most exploits are in apps, browsers and Java that the company has hardened the OS significantly. Patch Tuesday isn’t flawless or without its share of problems, but it did force Microsoft to move a lot faster in addressing its problems, certainly faster than Apple and Oracle.


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Windows 8 brushes up against 10% user share mark

Written by admin
October 2nd, 2013

In the last two months, Microsoft’s newest OS has added 3.5 points to its share of all computing devices powered by Windows

Windows 8 powered almost 10% of all devices running Microsoft’s OSes last month, even as its uptake pace slowed, according to analytics company Net Applications today.

Meanwhile, Windows XP’s decline continued as customers, prodded by the upcoming April 2014 support deadline, again ditched the veteran operating system in droves.

Windows 8’s user share of all computing devices running Windows, a tally that includes Windows 8.1, the update slated to ship in two weeks, jumped to 9.8% in September, Net Applications said. The 1.4-point gain was down from the record one-month increase set in August, but nearly double the OS’s 12-month average.

The August-September surge of Windows 8 may have been driven by sharp back-to-school sales of touch-based notebooks, which accounted for a quarter of all sales from June 30 through Sept. 7, the NPD Group said last week.

About one out of 10 devices running Windows 8 ran the Windows 8.1 upgrade last month, said Net Applications. Microsoft launched a public preview of Windows 8.1, the restart to the problem- and perception-plagued OS, in June. The update will hit the Windows Store, where it can be downloaded by current users, on Oct. 17, and hit retail on Oct. 18, when many of Microsoft’s OEM (original equipment manufacturers) partners are expected to unveil and start selling new hardware.

Microsoft will launch its revamped Surface tablets several days later.

Windows 8 also increased its lead over Windows Vista, the oft-derided flop from 2007, when each OS’s share was compared 11 months after launch. At that point in its release cycle, Vista accounted for 8.5% of all Windows PCs. The gap between Vista and Windows 8 — 1.1 percentage points in August — widened in September to 1.3 points.

Windows 8 will certainly pass the 10% mark of all Windows PCs this month.

Part of the rise of Windows 8 must also be credited to the decline of Windows XP, the 12-year-old operating system slated to drop off Microsoft’s support radar next April.

For the second month running, Windows XP shed several percentage points of user share, ending at 31.4% of all personal computers worldwide. That was equivalent to 34.6% of all systems running one Windows flavor or another.

The rapid two-month decline of Windows XP hints at the final push to dump the “walking dead” OS that many analysts predicted would accelerate as the April deadline looms. Microsoft will issue its final security update for XP that month; after that, while the operating system will continue to run, it will do so in an increasingly dangerous environment because Microsoft will not provide patches to the general public for any vulnerabilities, critical or otherwise.

Some security experts have speculated that cyber criminals will unleash attacks in the months after April 2014, having saved up their “zero-day” vulnerabilities and associated exploits until the deadline has passed.

Using the trends in Net Applications’ data, Computerworld now predicts that XP will power between 18% and 26% of the world’s personal computers at the end of April 2014. The lower number assumes that the accelerated decline of the last few months continues, while the higher user share assumes XP’s drop-off resembles the more stately 12-month slide.

Microsoft has aggressive plans for deprecating XP, although it has not shared any new specifics. “We have plans to get [XP’s share] to 13% by April when the end-of-life of XP happens,” said Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO, during a half-day presentation last month in front of Wall Street analysts. “This has been a major and multi-year initiative for us, and one that we’ve worked very hard on to make sure we can execute towards.”

While Windows powered nine out of 10 personal computers in September, Apple’s OS X — the foundation of its desktop and notebook Macs — ended the month with a record 7.5% user share. Linux, which has never made good on its loyalists’ hopes that it would dominate desktop PCs, finished September up slightly, to 1.6%.

Net Applications measures operating system user share by tracking unique visitors to approximately 40,000 sites it monitors for clients.

 


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Yes, Bill Gates finally admitted that Ctrl+Alt+Del ‘was a mistake,’ but it was because the IBM design guy wouldn’t give him a single button.

At a Harvard fundraising campaign, Harvard Campaign co-chair David Rubenstein, asked Bill Gates, “Why, when I want to turn on my software and computer, do I need to have three fingers on Ctrl+Alt+Delete? What is that — where does that come from? Whose idea was that?”

Ctrl+Alt+DeleteGates began with a “complex” reply, “Basically, because when you turn your computer on, you’re gonna see some screens and eventually type your password in – you want to have something you do with the keyboard that is signaling to a very low level of the software – actually hard-coded in the hardware – that it really is bringing in the operating system you expect, instead of just a funny piece of software that puts up a screen that looks like a login screen, and then it listens to your password and then it’s able to do that.”

Then Gates finally cut to the chase and just admitted, “So we could have had a single button, but the guy who did the IBM keyboard design didn’t want to give us our single button and so we programed it low level that you had to — it – it’s – it was a mistake.”

Gates (again) says “no” about returning to the helm of Microsoft

Despite rumors that Gates will return to Microsoft to replace the departing Steve Ballmer, Gates told Business Insider, “No, I ran Microsoft for a period of time. And, now I’m the chairman helping out on a part-time basis.”

When asked if he was tempted to return to the path of technology in order to rid the world of Apple devices, or at least replace iPads with Microsoft’s Surface tablets, Gates stated, “Well, I’m part-time involved and Microsoft’s got a lot of stuff, the industry is doing a lot of cool things, and I keep my hand in that, but I won’t be full-time doing that.”

Meanwhile, like many others, Forbes’ Anne Marie Squeo hammered on Microsoft’s lack of a CEO succession plan. Then a piece in the New York Times suggested that Gates should follow Ballmer out the door. Robert Cyran wrote that Gates’s “many talents don’t include effectiveness as chairman. Under his leadership, Microsoft’s board left Mr. Ballmer in place too long. Now that Mr. Ballmer is to retire as chief executive within a year, Mr. Gates doesn’t have a replacement ready, an important task for any chairman.”


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Microsoft insists on selling us its Surface laptop/tablet hybrid, but it needs to take user preference into account.

With the announcement of the second version of Microsoft’s Surface tablet coming up later this month in New York City, this might be a good time to ask a pertinent question: What’s really important in a hybrid tablet?

Hybrid devices like the Surface and Surface Pro, the HP Split 13 x2, the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11s, along with many others, fall somewhere between a classic iPad-style tablet and an Ultrabook-style laptop like the Macbook Air or Sony Vaio T Series. They are designed to work as both standalone tablets and keyboard-equipped laptops. The idea is that one device can take the place of both, saving money and the hassle of carrying and switching between multiple devices.

The Problem With Hybrids
It’s a nice theory, but the devices haven’t really caught on yet, and I’m pretty sure I know why.

The problem, as I see it, is that most of these hybrid devices are trying to too hard to do it all, and that’s pretty hard to pull off. Hybrid makers would do better to concentrate on one aspect of the device, and then make the other capability a nice add-on for extra functionality.

But here’s the kicker: The laptop, not the tablet, needs to be the core of this combo.

I’ve used many of these devices, including the Surface and Surface Pro and the HP Envy x2, as well as touchscreen “laptops” like Google’s Pixel Chromebook. They’re all interesting devices, but none of them is perfect. Working through each one’s compromises, though, made it abundantly clear that for the device to have a chance of replacing a separate laptop and tablet, it had to ace the laptop portion of the test.

A hybrid with a strong laptop function that also works as a mediocre tablet could still find a home in many business users’ kits. After all, having a second-rate tablet at hand is often better than not having a tablet at all.

But if the device can’t cut it as a laptop, all bets are off. What good is a hybrid laptop/tablet if you still have to lug along your laptop to do your real work?

A Tale of Two Surfaces
The differences between the two existing Surface models make the point obvious. The Surface is lighter and enjoys longer battery life than the Surface Pro, but its Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 chip is underpowered for a laptop. Worse, relying on Windows RT means it may not run all the Windows programs a laptop would. It simply won’t replace a laptop for anyone who really needs one.

The Surface Pro, while bigger, heavier, more power-hungry and much more expensive, sports an Intel Core i5 chip like those in many traditional laptops. If you can live with its relatively small screen and those snap-on keyboards (I could), then it might actually be able to replace a standard laptop for you. And it’s still usable as tablet. Sort of, anyway.

And that’s what these hybrids are all about: Replacing what you absolutely need to have, and doing a good-enough job at the add-ons that would be nice to have. Or, that’s at least what they should be doing. Let’s hope the upcoming Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro do a decent job.


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Tablet flop hits earnings, which missed Wall Street’s expectations by large margin

Microsoft today took an unexpected $900 million charge to account for what it called “inventory adjustments” for the Surface RT, the poor-selling tablet that debuted last year.

Later today, Microsoft will hold a conference call with Wall Street analysts, but its fourth-quarter fiscal numbers — published on its website shortly after the U.S. financial markets closed — pointed out the massive write-down.

The company has been aggressively discounting the Surface RT, which runs the scaled-down Windows RT, a tablet-specific version of Windows 8 that relies exclusively on the “Modern,” nee “Metro,” tile-based user interface and app ecosystem.

On Sunday, for instance, Microsoft chopped the price of the Surface RT by $150, or 30% for the 32GB model, to bring it down from the original $499 to $349. The 64GB Surface RT was also discounted by $150, a 25% price cut from $599 to $449.

Today’s $900 million write-down reflects not only those discounts, but also the extended inventory that Microsoft believes it may never sell.

Microsoft today reported revenue of $19.9 billion for the quarter ending June 30, a 10.3% increase over the same period the year before. But earnings of $5 billion, or 59 cents a share, were significantly below the Street’s expectations of 75 cents a share.

During the second calendar quarter of 2012, Microsoft recorded earnings of just $192 million because of a pair of one-time charges: a $540 million revenue deferral tied to the then-upcoming Windows 8 upgrade program, and a $6.2 billion write-off to account for the loss of goodwill for its online services group.

Amy Hood, the company’s new CFO, acknowledged in a statement that, “Our fourth [fiscal] quarter results were impacted by the decline in the PC market” and added, “While we have work ahead of us, we are making the focused investments needed to deliver on long-term growth opportunities like cloud services.”

Last week, Microsoft announced a corporate overhaul and spelled out its new strategy to become a devices-and-services seller after nearly four decades of selling packaged software.


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Don’t waste any time – get that thing rolled out quick because it’s wide-ranging and already being exploited.

Normally companies should proceed at their own pace when deploying Microsoft’s monthly updates, known as Patch Tuesday, since they come out on the second Tuesday of every month.

This month’s batch, though, is pretty hefty in terms of impact and volume, so you may want to make them a priority. This month’s Patch Tuesday consists of seven bulletins addressing a total of 34 vulnerabilities, and half of them are in Internet Explorer. Six of the seven bulletins are critical, a little more than usual, that can give attackers power to execute code on victim machines.

Fortunately, the bugs in Windows and IE require the end user to do something, like use their browser to visit an infected site or click on a link in an instant messenger. “So they all require end-user actions. If you don’t browse or use instant messenger, it won’t affect you. So on servers you can take your time, they are not that urgent,” said Wolfgang Kandek, CTO of the security firm Qualys.

For desktop users, however, these are critical because that’s how most PCs get infected – by user interaction of one form or another. Kandek called attention to two of the Bulletins. Bulletin MS13-055 rounds up 17 known vulnerabilities and exploits in Internet Explorer. The most severe vulnerabilities could allow remote code execution if a user views a specially crafted webpage using Internet Explorer.

Kandek said at least one of the vulnerabilities is already being exploited by hackers, so either patch IE or use another browser until you do.

MS13-053 handles two publicly disclosed and six privately reported vulnerabilities in Windows, the most severe of which could allow remote code execution if a user views shared content that embeds TrueType font files.

With so many critical fixes to the OS and browser, Kandek said the desktop users should prioritize rolling out the fixes. “I don’t see why you would extensively need to test it,” he said.

Lost in the hoopla of Patch Tuesday was a trio of important bulletins from Adobe Systems, which issued significant fixes for Flash, Shockwave and ColdFusion.

Also, there will be a Java patch issued by Oracle next week, which appears to be running its own Patch Tuesday cycle, except it’s on the third Tuesday of every month.


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Memo from Steve Ballmer to Microsoft Employees: Let’s go!
Microsoft high priority: enterprise information assurance

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today announced a reorganization of the company around four areas: operating systems; devices and studios; applications and services; and cloud and enterprise.

He says in a memo to all Microsoft Employees that the reshuffling will give priority to corporate custom

The sweeping changes will be phased in over the rest of 2013, keeping existing teams that are in charge of Windows 8.1, Xbox One, Windows Phone and other top-priority products firing on all cylinders until a smooth transition can be made, he says.

After the reorganization teams that span groups will be in charge of key technologies and services with each team headed by a champion who reports directly to Ballmer or to someone else who reports directly to Ballmer.

“We will also have outgrowths on those major initiatives that may involve only a single product group,” he says. “Certainly, succeeding with mobile devices, Windows, Office 365 and Azure will be foundational. Xbox and Bing will also be key future contributors to financial success.”

Here’s the full note Ballmer sent to employees to describe the reorganization:

From: Steve Ballmer

To: Microsoft – All Employees

Date: July 11, 2013, 6 a.m.

Subject: One Microsoft

Today, we are announcing a far-reaching realignment of the company that will enable us to innovate with greater speed, efficiency and capability in a fast changing world.

Today’s announcement will enable us to execute even better on our strategy to deliver a family of devices and services that best empower people for the activities they value most and the enterprise extensions and services that are most valuable to business.

This company has always had a big vision — to help people realize their full potential. In the earliest days, it was by putting a PC on every desk and in every home. We’ve come farther than we could have imagined. The impact we have collectively made on the world is undeniable, and I am inspired when talented new hires say they chose Microsoft because they want to change the world — that’s what we do today, and that’s what we’ll do tomorrow.

Sharpening Our Strategy
About a year ago, we embarked on a new strategy to realize our vision, opening the devices and services chapter for Microsoft. We made important strides — launching Windows 8 and Surface, moving to continuous product cycles, bringing a consistent user interface to PCs, tablets, phones
and Xbox — but we have much more to do.

Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.

We will do this by leveraging our strengths. We have powered devices for many years through Windows PCs and Xbox. We have delivered high-value experiences through Office and other apps. And, we have enabled enterprise value through products like Windows Server and Exchange. The form of delivery shifts to a broader set of devices and services versus packaged software. The frontier of high-value scenarios we enable will march outward, but we have strengths and proven capabilities on which we will draw.

This memo shows you how far we have developed our thinking on our strategy for high- value activities based on devices and services delivery.

Driving Our Success
It is also clear to me and our leadership that we must do an extraordinary job to succeed in this modern world. We have delivered many great products and had much success in market, but we all want more. That means better execution from product conceptualization and innovation right through to marketing and sales. It also means operational excellence in cloud services, datacenter operations, and manufacturing and supply chain that are essential in a devices and services world. To advance our strategy and execute more quickly, more efficiently, and with greater excellence we need to transform how we organize, how we plan and how we work.

Improving our performance has three big dimensions: focusing the whole company on a single strategy, improving our capability in all disciplines and engineering/technology areas, and working together with more collaboration and agility around our common goals.

This is a big undertaking. It touches nearly every piece of what we do and how we work. It changes our org structure, the way we collaborate, how we allocate resources, how we best empower our engineers and how we market.

One Strategy, One Microsoft
We are rallying behind a single strategy as one company — not a collection of divisional strategies. Although we will deliver multiple devices and services to execute and monetize the strategy, the single core strategy will drive us to set shared goals for everything we do. We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands. We will allocate resources and build devices and services that provide compelling, integrated experiences across the many screens in our lives, with maximum return to shareholders. All parts of the company will share and contribute to the success of core offerings, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, Office 365 and our EA offer, Bing, Skype, Dynamics, Azure and our servers. All parts of the company will contribute to activating high-value experiences for our customers.

We will reshape how we interact with our customers, developers and key innovation partners, delivering a more coherent message and family of product offerings. The evangelism and business development team will drive partners across our integrated strategy and its execution. Our marketing, advertising and all our customer interaction will be designed to reflect one company with integrated approaches to our consumer and business marketplaces.

How we organize our engineering efforts will also change to reflect this strategy. We will pull together disparate engineering efforts today into a coherent set of our high-value activities. This will enable us to deliver the most capability — and be most efficient in development and operations — with the greatest coherence to all our key customers. We will plan across the company, so we can better deliver compelling integrated devices and services for the high-value experiences and core technologies around which we organize. This new planning approach will look at both the short-term deliverables and long-term initiatives needed to meet the shipment cadences of both Microsoft and third-party devices and our services.


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IT departments won’t exist in five years

Written by admin
June 6th, 2013

Generation gap between new technologists and old is widening, say experts at CITE conference

SAN FRANCISCO — Consumerization of IT and self-service trends will lead to a restructuring of the today’s IT shop, leaving behind a hybrid model consisting of tech consultants and integrators.

“The business itself will be the IT department. [Technologists] will simply be the enabler,” said Brandon Porco, chief technologist & solutions architect at Northrop Grumman.

Porco was part of a four-person panel of technologists who answered audience questions during a town hall-style meeting at the CITE Conference and Expo here this week.

Among concerns raised is whether IT is losing control as consumer technology becomes part and parcel of everyone’s work in the enterprise, and the data center is left behind.

Others said they are not sure how to address a growing generation gap between young and veteran workers, each of whom are comfortable with different technologies.

“Interns coming in for the summer are asked if they’re familiar with Google Apps. They say, ‘Of course we are,'” said Nathan McBride, vice president of IT & chief cloud architect at AMAG Pharmaceuticals. “Then we have other employees coming in who worked for other companies who say, ‘I need Outlook.’ We have to say we don’t use that anymore.”

McBride said 75 Fortune 100 companies now use Google Apps along with most Ivy League schools, meaning that the next generation of workers won’t be users of Microsoft Exchange or Office.

In five years, McBride said, companies will have to ensure they’re matching their enabling technology to the demographic of that time.

Kathleen Schaub, vice president of research firm IDC’s CMO Advisory Practice, said many corporate IT organizations now report to the head of the business unit it’s assigned to.

“The premise is that wherever IT sits in an organization will dictate what they care about,” she said. “If they’re in finance, they’ll care about cost cutting. If they’re in operations, they’ll care about process management. If [the company] decides it wants to focus on the customer, they’ll put it in marketing.”

While the CIO position will likely remain in an enterprise, his or her role will morph into a technology forecaster and strategist, rather than a technology implementer, according to Porco.

John Mancini, CEO of the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), agreed with Porco, saying that in the consumer technology era, it’s the business side that has all the tools, so it will be able to trump IT’s desire to control who uses what and how.

While the business can dictate the service or technology it wants, McBride said IT can still decide the flavor of technology.

For example, when AMAG business users asked for Microsoft’s Visio tool set for diagraming and creating flow charts, McBride’s team found a less expensive, web-based tool, LucidChart. “That was only $15 a seat,” he said, adding that users were just as happy.

“We’re not trying to be ahead of the technology curve and we don’t’ want to be behind, but we’re trying to maintain pace in order to know what they’re going to ask for next before they ask for it,” McBride said.

Porco said he takes advantage of university partnerships and take cues from entrepreneurial centers throughout the U.S. such as Seattle and Denver to keep his finger on the pulse of tech innovation.
 


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Band to help Microsoft open more retail outlets, one right down the street

The radio ad caught my attention: Microsoft is opening a retail store in the nearby Natick Mall on June 8 and the ceremonies will be followed by a free concert that evening by … Weezer?

Really?

I shouldn’t have been surprised, as it turns out that Weezer has been Microsoft’s house band of sorts for going on two decades. The mall store openings appear to be a steady gig; for example, there was one Sept. 29 in Newark, Del., and shows are planned in Portland, Ore., June 21 and Schaumburg, Ill. June 22.

But a look at the band’s Wikipedia page showed me something about the Microsoft/Weezer relationship that was genuinely surprising: It dates back to Windows 95, the installation CD for which includes Weezer’s most famous music video, “Buddy Holly.” You’ll remember that video as the one where the band plays at Arnold’s Drive-in Diner from the TV show Happy Days, which ended its decade-long run in 1984. And, of course, a clip of that installation CD can be found on YouTube.

 


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