Microsoft Archive

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.

Microsoft releases free preview of Quantum Development Kit

Microsoft is releasing a free preview version of its Quantum Development Kit, which includes the Q# programming language, a quantum computing simulator and other resources for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. The Q# programming language was built from the ground up specifically for quantum computing.

Read the announcement blog post for more information.

Did Microsoft manually patch their Equation Editor executable?

Really, quite literally, some pretty skilled Microsoft employee or contractor reverse engineered our friend EQNEDT32.EXE, located the flawed code, and corrected it by manually overwriting existing instructions with better ones (making sure to only use the space previously occupied by original instructions).

This... This is one hell of a story. The unanswered question is why, exactly, Microsoft felt the need to do this - do they no longer have access to the source code? Has it simply become impossible to set up the correct build environment?

Amazing.

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.