Microsoft Archive

Microsoft Search will search across Office, Windows, more

Microsoft is unveiling an ambitious effort to overhaul its search experience in Office, Windows, Bing and more today. Dubbed Microsoft Search, the new search experience will first start appearing on Bing and Office.com today. Bing isn't going away, but Microsoft Search is the new name for a combination of Bing and the search results you might expect to find in Windows applications. It's designed to combine traditional search results with commands, app features, and personalized results. Search is being moved to a central area in Office apps, allowing Excel users to find commands and features in results alongside documents and other search results.

I've never been a fan of combining web and local search results on my operating system's search tool - the two are clearly separated in my mind and I regard them as two entirely different and distinct entities. I'm sure I'm revealing my age here, and that younger generations don't perceive this distinction at all, but I'm just hoping I can turn this off.

FrontPage 98: elegant and exquisite

How about a throwback to 1997?

I've used and tinkered with every HTML Editor out there and I can say without qualification or pause that Microsoft FrontPage 98 is the easiest and most powerful suite of Web Design and Management tools available today -- and the fact that it's presently only in a beta state must make the competition shiver -- for the bar of excellence has not just gently risen with the debut of FrontPage 98.

That bar of excellence has been crushed through to the uppermost level by FrontPage 98 and few website HTML programs have the means or inspiration to meet that new watermark of exquisite elegance in creating websites.

Microsoft FrontPage 98 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Web Creation and Site Manipulation can, finally and without excuse or caveat, be friendly while providing hardcore functionality in the same brilliant stroke.

Those were the days.

Microsoft will require suppliers to offer paid parental leave

In a move that could prompt more companies to offer paid parental leave, Microsoft is announcing today that it will require all of its U.S.-based suppliers and vendors with more than 50 employees to offer such benefits.

Having your health and healthcare benefits tied to your employer is an incredibly stupid system - it keeps unhappy people tied to your company because they're too dependent to leave, and it raises healthcare costs for everybody else. No wonder the US healthcare system is a complete and utter disaster.

What the hell was The Microsoft Network?

I've got kinda sidetracked here waffling on about the history of dial-up BBS systems. What I really want to be concerned with is what made The Microsoft Network unique and interesting: the interface.

The big thing in Windows 95 was their new shell. They wanted everything to go through this. They had this vision of every object in the computer being represented as a shell object, so there would be a seamless intermix between files, documents, system components, you name it. They had this project called Cairo that was supposed to throw out that scruffy old file-based filesystem and bring in a shiny new Object Based File System instead. It never happened, so we'll never know exactly how it might have turned out. But the brave lads at MS didn't give up that easily and so the idea stayed on, admittedly without the tech to back it up, and the principles wormed their way into such glorious developments as The Microsoft Network.

And so The Microsoft Network wasn't a program you loaded like CompuServe. It was part of the OS, with folder icons that looked just like real folders. It was a kind of version of the Web where you could browse online data the same way you browsed your file system. This is what made it cool.

I vaguely remember something about this project - and of course, the whole concept of integrating literally everything into the Windows 95 shell did see some adoption here and there in the early days of Windows 95. Looking at it from today's perspective, I still kind of like it - Microsoft would try the concept again with Windows Phone 7, where services like Twitter and Facebook were supposed to be integrated into the operating system, without having to use crappy applications to access them.

That is still a good idea today.

Intel convinced Microsoft not to choose ARM for Surface Go

Microsoft launched its new Surface Go device earlier this month with an Intel Pentium Gold processor inside. It's been one of the main focus points for discussions around performance and mobility for this 10-inch Surface, and lots of people have wondered why Microsoft didn't opt for Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors and Windows on ARM. Paul Thurrott reports that Microsoft wanted to use an ARM processor for the Surface Go, but that Intel intervened.

Intel reportedly "petitioned Microsoft heavily" to use its Pentium Gold processors instead of ARM ones. It's not clear why Microsoft didn't push ahead with its ARM plans for Surface Go, but in my own experience the latest Snapdragon chips simply don't have the performance and compatibility to match Intel on laptops just yet. Microsoft has been working hard to improve this though, despite Intel's threats it would sue competitors like Qualcomm if they attempt to emulate Intel's x86 instruction set architecture.

The chip world is in serious disarray - not only is ARM making inroads into traditional x86 strongholds, RISC-V is putting the thumb screws on ARM as well.

Microsoft’s vision: Hard- and software should conform to the user

Microsoft, Apple and Google are three of the world's most influential tech companies. Billions of people use personal computing platforms, tools, or devices they supply or inspire.

From cloud, AI, smartphones, PCs, apps and more they've created a multi-ecosystem personal computing world that supports an increasingly-interconnected, and overlapping range of computing scenarios.

Personal computing is no longer restricted to desks as a sedentary experience. Nor are users completely liberated from that setting and capable of existing fully in the mobile space. They regularly transition from desktop to mobile and across ecosystems and devices because no single platform and device moves seamlessly with them across contexts. Microsoft, through Windows 10 and Surface, has embraced a platform and hardware philosophy that drives devices that conform to users' contexts. Despite the smartphones success as mobile computing's focus, Microsoft's rivals may be missing an important industry shift.

Their platforms are not mutually exclusive, though - I use Google, Apple, and Microsoft platforms every single day. Take what suits you best from each of the platforms.

Microsoft kills Win32 Skype client in favour of UWP version

Coming over the summer, Microsoft is going to add integrated call recording (something that previously required third-party applications and a deprecated API), read receipts to show when a message recipient has read a message, and end-to-end encryption of text and audio chat using the Signal protocol.

Microsoft is also making Skype audio and video calls easier to integrate into streams such as those used on Mixer and Twitch. Support for the NDI API means that streaming applications such as Xsplit and OBS can use a Skype call as an audio/video source. That means they can be overlaid on games or other content, just as is already done with webcam input.

There is, however, a price to pay for this: the traditional Win32 Skype client is being end-of-lifed and will not be supported beyond the end of August this year. Users of the Win32 client will have to upgrade to Skype 8.0 (the desktop version of the new unified app) in order to be able to continue to use the network.

Another staple Win32 application bites the dust. Don't read anything into it though, since people still seem convinced Win32 has a future.

Microsoft really shouldn’t cancel Surface Andromeda

After a lot of news recently about Microsoft's rumoured Andromeda device, Mary Jo Foley poured cold water on my hope by publishing a story based on her usually well-informed Microsoft sources that Andromeda's future is hanging by a thread, that the software is far, far from ready, and that Andromeda could very well be cancelled. In response, Neowin's Rich Woods published a passionate plea for Microsoft to make Andromeda a reality.

Microsoft talks about innovating and exploring new device types and form factors a lot. It clearly doesn't want to miss out on the next big thing, in the same way that it missed out on phones and it's now missing out on smart speakers.

But the only way to do that is to actually experiment with new things. It's also important to iterate on these things until they actually work, taking feedback from customers and implementing it into a better product. Few new products are an immediate success, but they can be with some work.

Andromeda is one of these things. It's an exciting product, whether it's successful or not.

The Surface Book 2 is everything the MacBook Pro should be

I'm back to say I was wrong, and I've found a machine that not only matches Apple's standard of hardware quality, but goes far beyond it to demonstrate how a laptop of the future should work.

That machine is the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and somehow Microsoft has made the 2-in-1 that Apple should've been building all along, to the same level of quality I'd expect from anyone other than Microsoft.

I've used the Surface Book 2 as my daily computer for three months now and it's consistently blown me away with how well considered it is across the board, how great the software works and has completely converted me into the touchscreen laptop camp.

That's what happens when Apple ignores its Mac product line - people start looking at alternatives, only to realize that Apple's laptops weren't nearly as far ahead of the rest - if at all - as they once thought.

Microsoft details its ‘pocketable’ Surface device in leaked email

Microsoft has been working on a new mysterious Surface device for at least two years. Codenamed Andromeda, the device has appeared in patents, reports, and in operating system references multiple times and will include a dual-display design. According to a Microsoft internal document obtained by The Verge, it's also going to be a pocketable Surface device.

I find this a very exciting device, and I can't wait to see its final incarnation. It's supposed to be released this year, so expect it to appear somewhere this Autumn.

A legend reborn: Microsoft brings back the Classic IntelliMouse

Inspired by the Microsoft IntelliMouse Explorer 3.0 from 2003, Microsoft has recently released the new Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse. Offering the same classic ergonomic look and feel, the new Microsoft Classic IntelliMouse offers improved performance and additional features made possible by technology today.

In remembering the classic mouse, we sat down with Simon Dearsley, Devices Design Director at Microsoft, to discuss the legacy of the Microsoft IntelliMouse and what you can expect from the newest version of the iconic IntelliMouse range.

The IntelliMouse is iconic - I don't know anyone who hasn't used one at some point in their lives. I used them in the various schools and university I attended, at my DIY store job, at friends' places - this thing was everywhere.

Microsoft ports Windows 10, Linux to homegrown CPU design

Microsoft has ported Windows 10 and Linux to E2, its homegrown processor architecture it has spent years working on mostly in secret.

As well as the two operating systems, the US giant's researchers say they have also ported Busybox and FreeRTOS, plus a collection of toolkits for developing and building applications for the processor: the standard C/C++ and .NET Core runtime libraries, the Windows kernel debugger, Visual C++ 2017's command line tools, and .NET's just-in-time compiler RyuJIT.

Microsoft has also ported the widely used LLVM C/C++ compiler and debugger, and related C/C++ runtime libraries. The team wanted to demonstrate that programmers do not need to rewrite their software for the experimental chipset, and that instead programs just need to be recompiled - then they are ready to roll on the new technology.

I had no idea Microsoft was working on its own instruction set - even if only for research purposes. The Register has some more information on what E2 is like.

The Register understands from people familiar with its development that prototype E2 processors exist in the form of FPGAs - chips with reprogrammable circuitry that are typically used during the development of chips. For example, a dual-core implementation on Xilinx FPGAs exists, clocked at 50MHz. The team has also developed a cycle-accurate simulator capable of booting Windows and Linux, and running applications.

Qualcomm researchers were evaluating two EDGE chip designs with Microsoft: a small R0 core, and an R1 core running up to 2GHz fabricated using a 10nm process. The project, we must stress, is very much a work in progress.

It seems to be a radical departure from the norm, and I'm very interested to see where this will lead.

Microsoft is rebuilding the Office interface

Office today has a whole bunch of versions - the traditional, fully featured Win32 desktop applications and their near counterparts on the Mac, along with various simpler versions for the Web, mobile, and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Presently, these various incarnations all have similarities in their interfaces, but they're far from consistent.

That's set to change. Microsoft is overhauling the interfaces of all the Office versions to bring a much more consistent look and feel across the various platforms that the applications support. This new interface will have three central elements.

I use Office every day, and I just want one thing from Microsoft: the ability to open multiple instances of the UWP Office applications. The UWP version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are faster, smoother, and easier to use than their slow, cumbersome Win32 counterparts. I'm convinced the only reason Microsoft artificially limits the UWP versions to one instance per app is so they won't tread on the hallowed, sacred Win32 ground.

It's high time Microsoft removes this purely artificial limitation.

Microsoft’s devices roadmap leaks

Microsoft's device roadmap has been leaked, and it contains a lot of information about upcoming devices. The most interesting one is the mythical pocketable dual-screen Andromeda.

They do, however, say that Andromeda, Microsoft's mythical pocketable, two-screen, hand-held device that's supposed to carve out a whole new market for itself, is due for release in 2018. The documents also say that, after Andromeda, Microsoft OEMs will produce their own comparable products, just as they've done with Surface Pro.

The big question for Andromeda is the same as it has always been: why? To define a new hardware form factor, as appears to be the intent, its design needs to be particularly suitable for something. Surface Pro, for example, has appealed particularly to groups such as students (taking notes with OneNote) and artists, thanks to its form factor and multimodal input support. To succeed, Andromeda needs to offer similar appeal - it needs to enable something that's widely useful and ill-suited to existing hardware. But presently, there are few ideas of just what that role might be.

From what I understand, it will look something like this, and its entire UI is Modern/Fluent Design/Metro - there's no Win32 here, no traditional Start menu, and so on. With the device being pocketable, my biggest open question is whether or not it will have phone functionality, effectively making it a Surface phone, and a new attempt at breaking into the smartphone market.

Microsoft announces Visual Studio 2019

In a blog post, Microsoft announced Visual Studio 2019.

Because the Developer Tools teams (especially .NET and Roslyn) do so much work in GitHub, you'll start to see check-ins that indicate that we're laying the foundation for Visual Studio 2019, and we're now in the early planning phase of Visual Studio 2019 and Visual Studio for Mac. We remain committed to making Visual Studio faster, more reliable, more productive for individuals and teams, easier to use, and easier to get started with. Expect more and better refactorings, better navigation, more capabilities in the debugger, faster solution load, and faster builds. But also expect us to continue to explore how connected capabilities like Live Share can enable developers to collaborate in real time from across the world and how we can make cloud scenarios like working with online source repositories more seamless. Expect us to push the boundaries of individual and team productivity with capabilities like IntelliCode, where Visual Studio can use Azure to train and deliver AI-powered assistance into the IDE.

Our goal with this next release is to make it a simple, easy upgrade for everyone - for example, Visual Studio 2019 previews will install side by side with Visual Studio 2017 and won't require a major operating system upgrade.

The company doesn't have a release date yet.

It’s official: Microsoft is acquiring Github

That is why we are so excited about today's announcement. More than 28 million developers already collaborate on GitHub, and it is home to more than 85 million code repositories used by people in nearly every country. From the largest corporations to the smallest startups, GitHub is the destination for developers to learn, share and work together to create software. It's a destination for Microsoft too. We are the most active organization on GitHub, with more than 2 million "commits," or updates, made to projects.

Microsoft has been a developer-focused company from the very first product we created to the platforms and tools we offer today. Building technology so that others can build technology is core to our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

It's official now.

Microsoft has been talking about buying GitHub

Microsoft has recently held talks to buy GitHub, reviving on-and-off conversations the two have had for years, according to people close to the companies.

The talks have come as GitHub, a popular platform for software developers, has struggled to hire a new CEO.

Even as a non-developer, I 'use' GitHub almost daily to check out new projects or download some piece of software. This would be a pretty major acquisition.

Microsoft extends GDPR’s rights to all of its customers

Microsoft is extending the GDPR's rights to all of its customers across the world.

That's why today we are announcing that we will extend the rights that are at the heart of GDPR to all of our consumer customers worldwide. Known as Data Subject Rights, they include the right to know what data we collect about you, to correct that data, to delete it and even to take it somewhere else. Our privacy dashboard gives users the tools they need to take control of their data.

Good move, but these controls and options should've been there from the start. Goes to show that corporations are terrible at self-regulation - something everybody should know by now. In any event, I'll be spending some time this weekend digging through all the data Google, Apple, and Microsoft have on me.

Microsoft reflects on the failures of Courier, KIN, Courier

Microsoft's had a variety of weird and wonderful consumer devices over the years that haven't gone so well. Jon Friedman, now chief designer of Office 365, has been at the center of Microsoft's notorious product failures, including the SPOT watches from 2004, ultra mobile PCs, the KIN phone, and the unreleased Courier device. At Microsoft's Build developer conference this week, Friedman reflected on his personal career at the software giant and why some of these products weren't successful.

The Courier always seemed like a fascinating device to me, even though I wouldn't really know what to do with it.

Microsoft’s bid to secure the IoT: custom Linux, chips, Azure

Microsoft has released details on Azure Sphere, their bid to make IoT devices secure by default:

First is a new class of microcontrollers (MCUs) that supports seven critical hardware features that Microsoft says are a necessary foundation to build secure systems. These include support for unforgeable encryption keys protected by hardware, the ability to update system software, and hardware-enforced compartmentalization between software components. Microsoft has some track record in building such systems, in particular with the Xbox, which is designed to have tamper-proof hardware that's securely updatable.

Second is a new operating system: Azure Sphere OS. The company says this OS combines a custom Linux kernel with Windows-inspired security features, providing a secure platform that scales down to smaller systems than Windows can reach. Application code is run within containers to provide isolation, and Microsoft will have a custom security monitor running beneath the Linux kernel to protect system integrity and arbitrate access to critical resources.

The third part is Azure Sphere Security Service, a cloud service that will detect security issues (by recognizing failures and errors on devices), act as a source of software updates, and mediate secure communications between devices and to the cloud.

The Microsoft-made microcontroller designs will be available to manufacturers under royalty-free licenses.

Additionally, the big news is Microsoft's own Linux distribution, a first for the company. They do have a custom Linux build they us in-house for Azure's networking stack, but that isn't available outside of the company.