Microsoft Archive

Office Mobile is much more than a simple set of mobile apps

Microsoft's set of Office Mobile apps are great. I prefer them over the full Office suite. I realize that a lot of people find the Office Mobile apps to be subpar. But there are people out there for whom the Office Mobile apps are more than fine. Why isn't Microsoft doing anything with them?

I posed this same question not too long ago. The Metro Office applications are the best Metro applications out there, and they prove it's definitely possible to build good, useable, fast, and useful Metro applications. I find it entirely baffling that Microsoft is doing whatever it takes to push users to the slower, more cumbersome, overloaded, and entirely overkill Win32 Office applications. If Microsoft implemented the ability to open multiple instances of each app, most people would get by just fine with the Metro ones.

What Microsoft is saying internally about Surface reliability

Multiple senior Microsoft officials told me at the time that the issues were all Intel's fault, and that the microprocessor giant had delivered its buggiest-ever product in the "Skylake" generation chipsets. Microsoft, first out of the gate with Skylake chips, thus got caught up by this unreliability, leading to a falling out with Intel. Microsoft’s recent ARM push with Windows 10 is a result of that falling out; the software giant believes that Intel needs a counter to its dominance and that, as of late 2016, AMD simply wasn't up to the task.

Since then, however, another trusted source at Microsoft has provided with a different take on this story. Microsoft, I'm told, fabricated the story about Intel being at fault. The real problem was Surface-specific custom drivers and settings that the Microsoft hardware team cooked up.

What a train wreck for Microsoft. Incredible.

How Microsoft researchers used AI to master Ms. Pac-Man

Microsoft researchers have created an artificial intelligence-based system that learned how to get the maximum score on the addictive 1980s video game Ms. Pac-Man, using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities.

These AIs are relatively simple and single-purpose now, but just remember what computers looked like only a few decades ago.

Microsoft is placing a big bet on its new Surface family

A week after introducing the Surface Laptop to the world, he's sitting in a room in Microsoft's Building 88 ready to show off his team's latest creation: the new Surface Pro. At first glance, it looks a lot like 2015's Surface Pro 4, but it's part of a bigger lineup of the entire Surface family that Microsoft is now ready to take worldwide.

For the first time in Surface history, Microsoft will start shipping two new products (Surface Pro and Surface Laptop) worldwide at launch. June 15th will see these new products launch, and a big expansion for the Surface Studio all-in-one PC, too. It's clearly a date that Microsoft has been working toward for quite some time, and as I walked around Microsoft's secretive Surface building located at its Redmond, Washington, campus, it's easy to see that the Surface family of devices is now coming to life.

Be honest with yourself: which line of devices feels more innovative and exciting: Surface or Mac?

Easy answer.

Microsoft unveils Windows 10 S, Surface Laptop

Microsoft's education press event just wrapped up, and two announcements stood out. First and foremost, the company unveiled Windows 10 S. Windows 10 S is exactly the same as regular Windows 10, except in that it's locked to applications available in the Windows Store. Note that this doesn't mean it can't run Win32 applications; it runs Win32 applications, but only those available in the Windows Store. Users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for 50 dollars to allow the use of non-Windows Store applications.

The second announcement that stood out was a new hardware device: the Surface Laptop. Aimed straight at college/university students currently probably buying MacBooks, the Surface Laptop is a downright beautiful machine with all the current specifications we've come to expect from a modern laptop, such as Core i5 and i7 processors, SSD storage, a 2250x1500 13.5" display, and a battery life of 14.5 hours. Starting price will be $999. Americans can order today, and it will ship 15 June.

It's available in four colours, and one of those colours is burgundy, so everything else is invalid and a waste of time, because the burgundy model is the only model that counts. I really don't want to go back to a laptop with a fixed keyboard, but at the same time, burgundy. All your arguments and facts and reasoning and fake news are irrelevant now.

In all seriousness, this looks like a great laptop, aimed directly at Apple's popularity among college students. As usual, there's no word on when this thing comes to The Netherlands (nobody cares about us), but once it does, I'm going to have a seriously hard time not buying a specced-out burgundy model.

Why is Microsoft turning its Surface business into the next Nokia?

If Microsoft wants to make PC hardware, it needs to do so properly and commit to the same kinds of updates as other PC OEMs.

Almost every other PC OEM has refreshed its systems for Kaby Lake. Almost every other PC OEM has adopted, at least for machines in the premium space that Surface occupies, USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3. Surface Pro - a machine which, in its early generations, arguably defined that particular style of two-in-one systems - is no longer unique. HP, Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and others all have solid two-in-one offerings. These machines are modeled after the Surface Pro concept, but they now embody that concept better than Microsoft's own system. The Surface has been out-Surfaced.

The failure to do anything with Surface for so long makes us wonder just what Microsoft is up to. If the company is serious about its hardware ambitions - and officially, at least, it still says that its intent is to produce market-leading systems under the Surface brand - then it has to take its hardware seriously. That means refreshing it to keep pace with the competition.

He's exactly right. I love my surface Pro 4 - no way I'm ever going back to cumbersome laptops with fixed, stand-in-the-way keyboards - but it definitely leaves a few things to be desired hardware-wise. Although not a huge problem for me since I don't use it, the pen tracking is pretty terrible, the display has some light bleeding issues here and there, the processor is nice but definitely a generation behind, and battery life is decent, but not exceptional. Except for the pen, these are all things that could be addressed by refreshing the device with Intel's latest.

So, Microsoft - what will it be?

Microsoft’s latest open source servers shown off

At the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, today, Microsoft showed off the latest iterations of Project Olympus, its open source data center server design. Until now, the servers in Microsoft's data centers have all used Intel x86 processors, but now both of those elements - "Intel" and "x86" - have new competition.

In news that's both surprising and unsurprising, Microsoft demonstrated Windows Server running on ARM processors. Qualcomm and Cavium have both designed motherboards for the Project Olympus form factor that use ARM chips: Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 processor, a 10nm 48 core part, and Cavium's ThunderX2 ARMv8-A, with up to 54 cores. In addition to offering lots of cores, both are highly integrated systems-on-chips with PCIe, SATA, and tens of gigabits of Ethernet all integrated.

Intel missed the boat on mobile, and is now feeling pressure from both AMD on desktops and ARM in servers. Great for competition.

Microsoft Word for Windows version 1.1a source code

Clearly there was something extraordinary about Word for Windows. Part of its success was due to Microsoft's marketing acumen. But it was also a stunning technical achievement, and its ability to run on ordinary PCs created the first popular vanguard of the new graphics-oriented style of document preparation.

Remember, this was a time when a typical personal computer might have an 8 Mhz processor, 1 megabyte of memory, a 20 megabyte hard disk, and a floppy disk drive. How did Word accomplish so much with so little?

There's only one way to understand the magic in detail: read the code. With the permission of Microsoft Corporation, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use, the source code of Word for Windows version 1.1a as it was on January 10, 1991.

Quite amazing that we're getting access to the source code for pivotal software like this.

Microsoft, Linux, patents, and tweets

Microsoft recently joined the Linux Foundation while still asserting its patents against the rest of the membership. As I found that odd, I tweeted some casually-calculated statistics about Microsoft’s patent revenues that seemed to me to simply be the aggregation of common knowledge. But maybe not - at least two respondents asked me to substantiate the figures. Having struck a nerve, this post is by way of explanation.

I, too, find it odd that Microsoft is now a 'higher' member of the Linux Foundation than, say, Red Hat, yet it still asserts its patents against various companies using Linux. It just doesn't sit right.

Microsoft formally announces Visual Studio 2017

Microsoft held the keynote for its Connect() developer conference today, where it announced the next version of its integrated development environment (IDE), Visual Studio 2017. The company is also offering a release candidate, which you can grab from VisualStudio.com.

The company's latest IDE has a heavy focus on mobile cross-platform development, coming with an iOS Simulator, a feature that used to be exclusive to developing on a Mac.

In addition, as accidentally spoiled earlier this week, Visual Studio for the Mac has also been released. Technically, it's Xamarin, but Microsoft is rebranding it as Visual Studio.

Xenix: Microsoft’s forgotten Unix-based operating system

Long before Linus Torvalds wrote Linux, Microsoft was the king of Unix world. The company, somehow, developed Xenix, the most popular version of Unix of its time. However, IBM's decision to go ahead with MS-DOS in its PCs acted as a death blow to Xenix and Microsoft lost interest in the OS.

The article's light on details and content, but I figured it'd be an interesting excuse to ask if any of you ever used Xenix in any serious fashion. So, did any of you?

PowerShell is open sourced and is available on Linux

I am extremely excited to share that PowerShell is open sourced and available on Linux. (For those of you who need a refresher, PowerShell is a task-based command-line shell and scripting language built on the .NET Framework to help IT professionals control and automate the administration of the Windows, and now Linux, operating systems and the applications that run on them.) I’m going to share a bit more about our journey getting here, and will tell you how Microsoft Operations Management Suite can enhance the PowerShell experience.

Secure Boot snafu: Microsoft leaks backdoor key

Microsoft has inadvertently demonstrated the intrinsic security problem of including a universal backdoor in its software after it accidentally leaked its so-called "golden key" - which allows users to unlock any device that's supposedly protected by Secure Boot, such as phones and tablets.

The key basically allows anyone to bypass the provisions Microsoft has put in place ostensibly to prevent malicious versions of Windows from being installed, on any device running Windows 8.1 and upwards with Secure Boot enabled.

I am out of snarky remarks. Yes, it's possible.

Why Microsoft is betting its future on AI

Microsoft is proud of its work on AI, and eager to convey the sense that this time around, it's poised to win. In June, it invited me to its campus to interview some of Nadella's top lieutenants, who are building AI into every corner of the company's business. Over the next two days, Microsoft showed me a wide range of applications for its advancements in natural language processing and machine learning.

The company, as ever, talks a big game. Microsoft's historical instincts about where technology is going have been spot-on. But the company has a record of dropping the ball when it comes to acting on that instinct. It saw the promise in smartphones and tablets, for example, long before its peers. But Apple and Google beat Microsoft anyway. The question looming over the company's efforts around AI is simple:

Why should it it be different this time?

I know we're just at the very beginning of this whole thing, but so far, I'm not particularly impressed with the fruits of all this AI work for us as end users. Things like Cortana and Siri generally just offer more cumbersome ways of doing something achieved quicker with other methods, and they demonstrate little to no "intelligence". Knowing I have a translation deadline at 15:00 and reminding me of it is not really intelligence; it's just a talkative alarm with an annoying attitude.

Much like VR, this just needs way, way more technological progress and breakthroughs to really be what its name implies.

Microsoft to acquire LinkedIn

Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn Corporation on Monday announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion, inclusive of LinkedIn's net cash. LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence. Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn, reporting to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Reid Hoffman, chairman of the board, co-founder and controlling shareholder of LinkedIn, and Weiner both fully support this transaction. The transaction is expected to close this calendar year.

This deal is so incredibly boring I can't even be bothered to finish this sen

Microsoft stop spamming Android users with notification tray ads

Remember the story about Microsoft spamming the Android notification tray with ads for applications I had already installed? BetaNews talked to Microsoft about this, the company first said this:

Our team is actively investigating the occurrences of these notifications.

However, after BetaNews pressed on, Microsoft changed its tune and said this a few days later:

Microsoft is deeply committed to ensuring that we maintain the best possible experience for our customers in addition to complying with all applicable policies. We have taken the action to turn off these notifications. This update will be reflected in the coming days.

Well, I guess I indirectly actually did something useful.

Microsoft layoffs signal definitive end of Nokia adventure

Microsoft is signalling the end of its Nokia experiment today. After acquiring Nokia's phone business for $7.2 billion two years ago, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion last year and cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its phone efforts. Microsoft is now writing off an additional $950 million today as part of its failed Nokia acquisition, and the company plans to cut a further 1,850 jobs. Most of the layoffs will affect employees at Microsoft's Mobile division in Finland, with 1,350 job losses there and 500 globally. Around $200 million of the $950 million impairment charge is being used for severance payments.

Everything about this entire deal needs to be investigated for all kinds of shady practices. My gut is telling me there's a bunch of people that perhaps ought to be in jail on this one. Meanwhile, this is absolutely terrible for all the people involved. I've got the feeling thousands of people's jobs have been used as a ball in a very expensive executive game.

Luckily, the remnants of Nokia in Finland seem to be doing well, so that's at least something, and in case you've got a hunkering for the good old days: there's a video out of Nokia Meltemi on a device called the Clipr - a very rare look at a Linux-based mobile operating system Nokia was developing around 2012.

Microsoft spams Android notification tray with Office ads

Update: it happened again today. Here's the ad, and here's the "proof" it's coming from Word (when you long-press the notification and tap 'i').


It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.

Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.

I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?

I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?

Right?

I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.

Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.