Microsoft Archive

Microsoft Exchange breach from 2023 was Microsoft’s fault

In May and June 2023, a threat actor compromised the Microsoft Exchange Online mailboxes of 22 organizations and over 500 individuals around the world. The actor—known as Storm-0558 and assessed to be affiliated with the People’s Republic of China in pursuit of espionage objectives—accessed the accounts using authentication tokens that were signed by a key Microsoft had created in 2016. This intrusion compromised senior United States government representatives working on national security matters, including the email accounts of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China R. Nicholas Burns, and Congressman Don Bacon. The Board finds that this intrusion was preventable and should never have occurred. The Board also concludes that Microsoft’s security culture was inadequate and requires an overhaul, particularly in light of the company’s centrality in the technology ecosystem and the level of trust customers place in the company to protect their data and operations. ↫ Cyber Safety Review Board’s report The Cyber Safety Review Board reviewed the attack on Microsoft Exchange from last year, with Microsoft’s cooperation, and it turns out it was kind of a complete and utter shitshow inside Microsoft – a cascade of failures, as the report calls it – and concludes that it was an entirely preventable attack. The report is not kind to Microsoft, and it’s a very interesting read if you’re into this sort of post mortems of security breaches.

Microsoft is working on an Xbox AI chatbot

Microsoft is currently testing a new AI-powered Xbox chatbot that can be used to automate support tasks. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the software giant has been testing an “embodied AI character” that animates when responding to Xbox support queries. I understand this Xbox AI chatbot is part of a larger effort inside Microsoft to apply AI to its Xbox platform and services. ↫ Tom Warren at The Verge I’m convinced. This is the future. Artificial intelligence, AI, no quotation marks. Please, Microsoft. Train this AI on Xbox voice chat and messages. What could possible go wrong?

Microsoft to separate Teams and Office globally amid antitrust scrutiny

Microsoft will sell its chat and video app Teams separately from its Office product globally, the U.S. tech giant said on Monday, six months after it unbundled the two products in Europe in a bid to avert a possible EU antitrust fine. The European Commission has been investigating Microsoft’s tying of Office and Teams since a 2020 complaint by Salesforce-owned competing workspace messaging app Slack. ↫ Foo Yun Chee at Reuters I honestly misread this as Microsoft selling Teams off, which would’ve been far bigger news. Unbundling Teams from Office globally is just Microsoft applying its recent European Union policy to the rest of the world. All we need now is Microsoft to stop trying to make Teams for families and friends happen, because nobody will ever want to use Teams for anything, let alone personal use.

The Microsoft Graveyard

Microsoft Graveyard is the virtual graveyard for all products killed by Microsoft; a free and open source collection of dead Microsoft products built by a passionate and nostalgic community. Our objective as a community is to provide factual, historic information for the products listed here. If something is missing, inaccurate, or you have a suggestion, visit and contribute to the project on GitHub. ↫ Victor Frye Heavily inspired by Killed by Google, but definitely incomplete for now, especially the further back in time you go.

Microsoft contributes Azure RTOS to open source

We’re pleased to share an important update regarding Azure RTOS – an embedded development suite with the ThreadX real-time operating system that has been deployed on more than 12 billion devices worldwide. Reinforcing our commitment to innovation and community collaboration, Azure RTOS will be transitioning to an open-source model under the stewardship of the Eclipse Foundation, a recognized leader in hosting open-source IoT projects. With Eclipse Foundation as the new home, Azure RTOS becomes Eclipse ThreadX – a comprehensive embedded development suite including a small but powerful real-time operating system that provides reliable, ultra-fast performance for resource-constrained devices. It’s easy-to-use, market proven, and trusted by developers and manufacturers for over two decades. It also supports the most popular 32-bit microcontrollers and embedded development tools so teams can make the most of their existing skills. The Eclipse’s Foundation announcement post has more details.

Microsoft is finally making custom chips — and they’re all about AI

The rumors are true: Microsoft has built its own custom AI chip that can be used to train large language models and potentially avoid a costly reliance on Nvidia. Microsoft has also built its own Arm-based CPU for cloud workloads. Both custom silicon chips are designed to power its Azure data centers and ready the company and its enterprise customers for a future full of AI. Microsoft’s Azure Maia AI chip and Arm-powered Azure Cobalt CPU are arriving in 2024, on the back of a surge in demand this year for Nvidia’s H100 GPUs that are widely used to train and operate generative image tools and large language models. There’s such high demand for these GPUs that some have even fetched more than $40,000 on eBay. Amazon and Google, the two other major cloud providers, are already using all kinds of custom, in-house silicon in their datacentres, so it’s not exactly surprising Microsoft is following in their footsteps.

A quick look back at the MSX PC platform, including Microsoft’s role, on its 40th birthday

We have written articles in the past year about some of Microsoft’s different product launches, like how its first real hardware device was an add-in card for the Apple II, or its not-so-smartwatch platform, SPOT. However, many people may not be aware that Microsoft had a small involvement in a movement to create a standardized PC platform that evolved into a huge video game platform in Japan. The platform is called MSX, and on October 21, 1983, just over 40 years ago, the first such PC that used the platform went on sale in Japan, the Mitsubishi ML-8000. The launch price for the PC was 59,800 yen or close to $400. One of my oldest computer memories is using an MSX with a friend at his parents’ house. I must’ve been 7 years old or something like that. The MSX was weirdly popular in The Netherlands due to Philips building quite a few of them.

Microsoft CEO admits he should’ve fought harder with Windows Phone

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was interviewed by Business Insider, and when asked about his greatest strategic mistake, the answer was obvious. The decision I think a lot of people talk about – and one of the most difficult decisions I made when I became CEO —was our exit of what I’ll call the mobile phone as defined then. In retrospect, I think there could have been ways we could have made it work by perhaps reinventing the category of computing between PCs, tablets, and phones. Microsoft’s failures to anticipate the mobile market is legendary at this point, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard a Microsoft CEO state they should’ve tried harder and stuck with it. I was a huge fan of Windows Phone 7 and 8, and even imported the first devices running those platforms from the US, because the platforms were not available in The Netherlands at the time. However, Windows Phone was a dead end. Even regular Windows has a big application problem, and it was a millions of times worse on Windows Phone. I doubt any amount of money or development resources would’ve changed the fate of Windows Phone. It would’ve been good for the industry as a whole had Microsoft not failed, but the reality of it is that Android and iOS were already so far ahead it was impossible for anyone, even someone as large and wealthy as Microsoft, to catch up. Add to that the countless terrible business and technological decisions the company made with Windows Phone, and it just wasn’t meant to be. I understand that Nadella pines for the slice of the money pie they’ve could’ve had, but I doubt he sincerely thinks things could’ve turned out any differently.

Sealed in glass

Storing data on glass might sound futuristic, but it’s a concept that dates back to the 19th century when single photographic negatives were preserved on panes of glass. Fast forward to today, technology has remarkably expanded the storage capabilities of this sustainable material. A small sheet of glass can now hold several terabytes of data, enough to store approximately 1.75 million songs or 13 years’ worth of music. Elire, a sustainability-focused venture group, has collaborated with Microsoft Research’s Project Silica team to harness this technology for their Global Music Vault in Svalbard, Norway. Using silica-based glass plates, they’re creating a durable archive that is not only resistant to electromagnetic pulses and extreme temperatures but also environmentally friendly. This vault will complement repositories like the Global Seed Vault and the Arctic World Archive, offering a comprehensive sanctuary for musical heritage—from classical operas to modern hits and indigenous compositions. Looking to the future, Elire plans to expand this enduring musical repository by establishing accessible locations worldwide, inviting the public to interact with this extensive and ever-growing archive. There are so many avenues of study and research that we haven’t fully explored yet, that could lead to revolutions, big and small, in how we do even relatively basic things like store data. This project reminds me of the data rods the Cardassians use, making this yet another example of reality chasing Star Trek.

Microsoft talks up Copilot in OneDrive and SharePoint

Get ready for the contents of your files in Microsoft OneDrive to be scanned and ingested by Microsoft’s “AI” efforts. As announced at Build in May and again in September we are bringing Copilot to your files in SharePoint and OneDrive so you can ask open-ended questions related to an individual file or get a summary of the content. And you can do this without opening the file and no matter where it lives, in OneDrive, SharePoint or Teams. We expect Copilot in OneDrive to become available by December for all customers who have a Microsoft 365 Copilot license. I have still not used any of these “AI” tools, other than like twice to see what the fuss was about. Nothing they can supposedly do entices me, and the amount of nonsense they spew on a daily basis would make a Russian troll farm manager blush. I genuinely feel for all those Windows users who’ll have to deal with this nonsense.

Apple held talks with Microsoft about acquiring Bing in 2020

But come 2020, a new round of talks opened between Apple and Microsoft. Bloomberg reports that Microsoft executives met with Apple’s Services VP Eddy Cue to “discuss the possibility of acquiring Bing.” These talks were reportedly “exploratory” and “never reached an advanced stage,” Bloomberg says. The revenue generated from its deal with Google was a “key reason” Apple’s talks to acquire Bing never advanced beyond that stage. “The company also had concerns about Bing’s ability to compete with Google in quality and capabilities,” today’s report explains. Apple Bing sounds like something from hell. Imagine being forced to use Bing on every Apple device you own. That has to be one of the circle of hell Dante decided to not tell us about.

Microsoft announces new Copilot Copyright Commitment for customers

To address this customer concern, Microsoft is announcing our new Copilot Copyright Commitment. As customers ask whether they can use Microsoft’s Copilot services and the output they generate without worrying about copyright claims, we are providing a straightforward answer: yes, you can, and if you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved. This new commitment extends our existing intellectual property indemnity support to commercial Copilot services and builds on our previous AI Customer Commitments. Specifically, if a third party sues a commercial customer for copyright infringement for using Microsoft’s Copilots or the output they generate, we will defend the customer and pay the amount of any adverse judgments or settlements that result from the lawsuit, as long as the customer used the guardrails and content filters we have built into our products. Copilot is the biggest copyright infringement case in human history, but at the same time, it will be very difficult for the thousands and thousands of individual projects and developers on Github to fight Microsoft in court of this infringement. Microsoft knows nobody powerful enough to challenge them is going to sue them over this, so they can easily offer this indemnification.

Microsoft’s results of major technical investigations for Storm-0558 key acquisition

On July 11, 2023, Microsoft published a blog post which details how the China-Based threat actor, Storm-0558, used an acquired Microsoft account (MSA) consumer key to forge tokens to access OWA and Outlook.com. Upon identifying that the threat actor had acquired the consumer key, Microsoft performed a comprehensive technical investigation into the acquisition of the Microsoft account consumer signing key, including how it was used to access enterprise email. Our technical investigation has concluded. As part of our commitment to transparency and trust, we are releasing our investigation findings. Our investigation found that a consumer signing system crash in April of 2021 resulted in a snapshot of the crashed process (“crash dump”). The crash dumps, which redact sensitive information, should not include the signing key. In this case, a race condition allowed the key to be present in the crash dump (this issue has been corrected). The key material’s presence in the crash dump was not detected by our systems (this issue has been corrected). We found that this crash dump, believed at the time not to contain key material, was subsequently moved from the isolated production network into our debugging environment on the internet connected corporate network. This is consistent with our standard debugging processes. Our credential scanning methods did not detect its presence (this issue has been corrected). After April 2021, when the key was leaked to the corporate environment in the crash dump, the Storm-0558 actor was able to successfully compromise a Microsoft engineer’s corporate account. This account had access to the debugging environment containing the crash dump which incorrectly contained the key. Due to log retention policies, we don’t have logs with specific evidence of this exfiltration by this actor, but this was the most probable mechanism by which the actor acquired the key. That is one hell of a unique string of unfortunate events.

Under EU pressure, Microsoft unbundles Teams from Office in the EU

Last month, the European Commission announced that it had opened a formal investigation regarding Microsoft’s bundling of Microsoft Teams with Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites for business customers. As we said at the time, “we will continue to cooperate with the Commission and remain committed to finding solutions that will address its concerns.” Today we are announcing proactive changes that we hope will start to address these concerns in a meaningful way, even while the European Commission’s investigation continues and we cooperate with it. These changes will impact our Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites for business customers in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. They are designed to address two concerns that are central to the Commission’s investigation: (1) that customers should be able to choose a business suite without Teams at a price less than those with Teams included; and (2) that we should do more to make interoperability easier between rival communication and collaboration solutions and Microsoft 365 and Office 365 suites. Simply the threat of litigation is enough to get these massive corporations to fall in line. This will once again only benefit customers in the EU/EEA, so consumers in the US and elsewhere will still be forced to pay more for the inclusion of Teams, even if they don’t want it.

Microsoft brings Python to Excel

Python is one of the most popular programming languages today, loved by businesses and students alike and Excel is an essential tool to organize, manipulate and analyze all kinds of data. But, until now, there hasn’t been an easy way to make those two worlds work together. Today, we are excited to introduce the Public Preview of Python in Excel – making it possible to integrate Python and Excel analytics within the same Excel grid for uninterrupted workflow.  Python in Excel combines Python’s powerful data analysis and visualization libraries with Excel’s features you know and love. You can manipulate and explore data in Excel using Python plots and libraries, and then use Excel’s formulas, charts and PivotTables to further refine your insights. The preview is available now.

A quick look back at Microsoft’s first PC hardware product back in 1980, the Z80 SoftCard

However, many people at the time didn’t realize was that Microsoft had actually sold a PC hardware product, well before it launched Windows, and even before it released MS-DOS. Then Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer actually mentioned this fact at the first Surface press event in June 2012. It was called the Z80 SoftCard, and it was first released 43 years ago this month, on April 2, 1980. In an even more ironic twist, the product was made as an add-in card for the Apple II PC. I’ve always been fascinated by expansion cards that contain entire computers to make it possible to run one architecture inside another – Apple had a DOS card, for instance, and Sun sold the SunPCi line of cards that could run x86 operating systems on SPARC systems, and there were countless more. They’re not as needed today, and you’ll have a hard time finding, for instance, an ARM PCI-e card to stick in your PC.

Microsoft just laid off one of its responsible AI teams

Microsoft laid off its entire ethics and society team within the artificial intelligence organization as part of recent layoffs that affected 10,000 employees across the company, Platformer has learned.  The move leaves Microsoft without a dedicated team to ensure its AI principles are closely tied to product design at a time when the company is leading the charge to make AI tools available to the mainstream, current and former employees said. Oh so that’s totally not worrying at all or anything.

Bing AI can’t be trusted

Bing AI did a great job of creating media hype, but their product is no better than Google’s Bard. At least as far as we can tell from the limited information we have about both. I am shocked that the Bing team created this pre-recorded demo filled with inaccurate information, and confidently presented it to the world as if it were good. I am even more shocked that this trick worked, and everyone jumped on the Bing AI hype train without doing an ounce of due diligence. Bing AI is incapable of extracting accurate numbers from a document, and confidently makes up information even when it claims to have sources. It is definitely not ready for launch, and should not be used by anyone who wants an accurate model of reality. Tools like ChatGPT are fun novelties, and there’s definitely interesting technology underpinning them, but they are so clearly not very good at what they’re supposed to be good at. It is entirely irresponsible of Microsoft, OpenAI, and Google to throw these alpha versions out there where the Facebook boomers can find them. Have they learned nothing from social media and its deeply corrupting influence on the general population’s ability to separate truth from fiction? And now we have “artificial intelligences” telling these very same gullible people flat-out lies as truth, presented in a way that gives these lies even more of a veneer of reliability and trustworthiness than a tweet or Facebook post ever did? These tools are going to lead to a brand new wave of misinformation and lies, and society is going to pay the price. Again.

Microsoft returns to the Altair

The Altair 8800 arguably launched Microsoft. Now Dave Glover from Microsoft offers an emulated and potentially cloud-based Altair emulation with CP/M and Microsoft Basic. You can see a video of the project below. One thing that makes it a bit odd compared to other Altair clones we’ve seen is that the emulator runs in a Docker environment and is fully cloud-enabled. You can interact with it via a PCB front panel, or a terminal running in a web browser. Neat.

Excel gets formula suggestions

We are excited to announce the release of Formula Suggestions and Formula by Example for Excel web users – a couple exciting capabilities designed to help save you time and learn more about Excel formulas as you use them. Also for web users are suggested links, IMAGE function, and a new search bar in the queries pane. For Windows users, a new keyboard shortcut is available to open the Power Query editor, and Insiders users on Windows can now get data from dynamic arrays and create nested Power Query data types to better organize your data. There’s this whole massive community of wizards out there, and their school of magic is Excel. It baffles me what people can do with this program, yet it’s often ridiculed and ignored despite the sheer skill needed to get the most out of it.