Microsoft Archive

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.

Announcing Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition

HoloLens is fully untethered and self-contained. It's the only device that enables holographic computing natively with no markers, no external cameras, no wires, no phone required, and no connection to a PC needed. And it's a Windows 10 device - the interface is familiar, and connected by the power of a unified ecosystem of Windows devices.

The device consists of multiple environment understanding sensors and it's powered by a custom-built Microsoft Holographic Processing Unit (HPU) and an Intel 32-bit architecture. The HPU is custom silicon that allows HoloLens to understand gestures and gaze while mapping the world all around you, all in real time.

Microsoft today announced that the Microsoft HoloLens Development Edition will start shipping on 30 March, at $3000 a piece. They also offer a look at the hardware powering HoloLens.

Microsoft acquires Xamarin

As part of this commitment I am pleased to announce today that Microsoft has signed an agreement to acquire Xamarin, a leading platform provider for mobile app development.

In conjunction with Visual Studio, Xamarin provides a rich mobile development offering that enables developers to build mobile apps using C# and deliver fully native mobile app experiences to all major devices - including iOS, Android, and Windows. Xamarin's approach enables developers to take advantage of the productivity and power of .NET to build mobile apps, and to use C# to write to the full set of native APIs and mobile capabilities provided by each device platform. This enables developers to easily share common app code across their iOS, Android and Windows apps while still delivering fully native experiences for each of the platforms. Xamarin's unique solution has fueled amazing growth for more than four years.

Microsoft acquires SwiftKey

I'm pleased to announce that Microsoft has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SwiftKey, whose highly rated, highly engaging software keyboard and SDK powers more than 300 million Android and iOS devices. In this cloud-first, mobile-first world, SwiftKey's technology aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands, and directly supports our ambition to reinvent productivity by leveraging the intelligent cloud. SwiftKey estimates that its users have saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes, across 100 languages, saving more than 100,000 years in combined typing time. Those are impressive results for an app that launched initially on Android in 2010 and arrived on iOS less than two years ago.

The 'saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes' thing sent shivers down my spine.

Microsoft is bringing the Windows Phone keyboard to iOS

In an email to some Windows Insider testers, obtained by The Verge, Microsoft is looking for iPhone users to trial the Word Flow keyboard. It's not clear when Word Flow will be released publicly on iOS, but Microsoft is already ready to test it more broadly so it will likely arrive in the coming months. Microsoft's Windows Phone version of Word Flow includes autocorrect, suggestions, gestures, and the ability to swipe letters (like Swype) to type out words.

I'm actually excited about this. I can't stand the iOS keyboard, but I consider the Windows Phone keyboard to be the best one around.

The year that Microsoft started getting the benefit of the doubt

In both cases, what is unusual for Microsoft is the positivity the gizmos have generated. Fair or not (and I'd argue probably not), Microsoft isn't expected to blaze new trails and develop hot new products that have the potential to create new markets or shake up existing ones. We know Microsoft's history - too early with tablets, too early with smartphones, too early with wearables - and this generates a degree of skepticism around what it does. But with HoloLens and Surface Book, much of that cynicism seems to have evaporated.

Desktop operating systems (Windows, Linux, OS X - all of them) are in a pretty piss-poor state right now for various different reasons, and in the case of Windows, I find this truly sad because Microsoft seems to be doing some really cool stuff in the laptop and tablet front. Sadly, the software just isn't up to par.

Much like the Apple, we can hope 2016 brings some major improvements, but considering Microsoft's endless promises and failures to deliver, I'm not holding my breath.

‘Microsoft’s software is Malware’

Malware means software designed to function in ways that mistreat or harm the user. (This does not include accidental errors.) This page explains how Microsoft software is malware.

Malware and nonfree software are two different issues. The difference between free software and nonfree software is in whether the users have control of the program or vice versa. It's not directly a question of what the program does when it runs. However, in practice nonfree software is often malware, because the developer's awareness that the users would be powerless to fix any malicious functionalities tempts the developer to impose some.

Discuss.

Blogging about Midori

Enough time has passed that I feel safe blogging about my prior project here at Microsoft, "Midori". In the months to come, I'll publish a dozen-or-so articles covering the most interesting aspects of this project, and my key take-aways.

Midori was a research/incubation project to explore ways of innovating throughout Microsoft's software stack. This spanned all aspects, including the programming language, compilers, OS, its services, applications, and the overall programming models. We had a heavy bias towards cloud, concurrency, and safety. The project included novel "cultural" approaches too, being 100% developers and very code-focused, looking more like the Microsoft of today and hopefully tomorrow, than it did the Microsoft of 8 years ago when the project began.

The first two articles have already been published. This looks like it's going to be an excellent series.

Microsoft launches Arrows, its Android application launcher

Paul Thurrott, on Microsoft's new Android launcher Arrow:

Consider the following.

You can now unlock your Android device with Microsoft’s Next Lock Screen or Picturesque Lock Screen. Interact with your apps, contacts, reminders, and recent items with the Arrow home app replacement. Access first-class Microsoft experiences via Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Groove. Use mobile-specific solutions such as Microsoft Wi-Fi, Health, Office Lens, Office Remote, and MSN News, Sports, Money and Weather. And even test-drive Android-/mobile-only Microsoft apps like Microsoft Translator, Send, Tossup, and Xim. You could configure a fully-functioning Android handset that used almost nothing but Microsoft apps (plus a few stragglers like the phone, messaging and camera apps, plus Google Maps).

It's really happening. And Arrow is a big piece of the puzzle.

The Microsoft Android phone is incoming.

Why does Microsoft exist? An interview with Satya Nadella

Yesterday's Windows 10 hardware launch event was without question the best Microsoft in ages - and arguably the tech launch event of the year. Microsoft unveiled its first-ever laptop, showed off an updated Surface Pro 4, and announced a new lineup of phones, all while articulating a confident, aggressive strategy of turning Windows 10 into the underlying software service and platform for virtually everything in your life.

That huge bet might not pay off - Apple and Google are still formidable competitors, and the road back to mobile relevance will be a long one - but it's more vision and purpose than we've seen from Redmond in years. So I sat down with new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the soon-to-open Microsoft flagship store in Manhattan to ask him how he'd changed the entire vibe at Microsoft in the past 18 months, and what he hopes to accomplish in the next 18 months. We also talked about how he plans to keep his Windows OEM partners happy even as Microsoft's Surface Book laptop competes directly with their high-end products, and just how he plans to get back in the phone game.

I like Nadella, and I like what Microsoft is doing right now. Even though I can't really put my finger on it, I have a fondness for the Surface line-up, and if it wasn't for Metro being useless, I would not have opted for a MacBook Pro. I've also always liked Windows Phone, and even though I don't believe it's going anywhere, and despite the many, many stumbles Microsoft has made along the way, I still think it's definitely the most unique of the three major mobile platforms.

By letting go of 'Windows everywhere' and instead focussing on making great products for everyone - no matter your platform of choice - I think Microsoft has a real shot at getting back in the consumer game.

Microsoft also improves parental leave

As we ask our employees to bring their "A" game to work every day to achieve our mission, we believe it's our responsibility to create an environment where people can do their best work. A key component of this is supporting our employees with benefits that matter most to them. This is why today we're announcing enhancements to our U.S. corporate employee benefits in three areas that employees consistently rank among the most important: having time to renew; saving for the future; and flexibility needed to spend time with new children.

And yet another technology company investing just a little bit more into its employees. I think these changes bring Microsoft more in line with Google's policies, and from a European point of view this is still pretty abysmal, but it's a major step forward for new fathers and mothers, and that's a great thing.

Microsoft said to consider funding Uber

Microsoft Corp. is considering an investment in Uber Technologies Inc. at a valuation of about $50 billion, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

The WSJ confirms the report.

I'm not so sure what to think of Uber. They are disrupting the horrible, horrible taxi market with a clearly superior product - I loved using Uber when I was in New York late last year - but at the same time, they are incredibly slimy. Not sure I would want to be associated with a company like this.

Microsoft Dumping Windows Phone, Nokia

In a move that shouldn't surprise OSNews readers that much, Microsoft is writing off most of what it acquired from Nokia less than two years ago and will be laying off 7,800 people in its hardware division. According to Ars: "The hardware division includes the lion’s share of former Nokia employees, who became part of Microsoft last year. Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is leaving--this much we knew from last month--and Reuters says that Microsoft is also going to record an "impairment charge" of $7.6 billion dollars from the Nokia acquisition and perform a complete restructuring of its phone business. It's a shame, considering that Windows Phone has actually shaped out to be a pretty good OS, and a mobile OS landscape with only two players is good for neither consumers nor OS enthusiasts.

Stephen Elop leaves Microsoft

Former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is leaving Microsoft as part of a fresh reorganization. "We are aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions," says Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in an email to employees today. "This change will enable us to deliver better products and services that our customers love at a more rapid pace."

And not a single tear was shed.

A closer look at the Microsoft HoloLens hardware

We demonstrated a number of exciting new scenarios, made possible through HoloLens powered by Windows 10. Among other things, we announced that for the very first time, we would provide an opportunity for thousands of developers at Build to experience our hardware.

So far, the feedback we have received has been pretty incredible and the possibilities that we asked people to imagine are coming to life. The era of holographic computing is here and today I'm honored to share more information about our HoloLens hardware and how it works to make holograms real.

Awesome stuff. Yesterday at Build, they demonstrated how regular Windows 10 universal applications load up just fine inside HoloLens, with 'windows' that you can move around and place around your environment. Pretty neat.

Visual Studio Code for Windows, OS X, and Linux

At its Build 2015 developer conference, Microsoft has announced a new member of its Visual Studio family of products, a code editor called Visual Studio Code. It is a cross-platform, lightweight environment that developers can use to do basic tasks from any machine running Windows, a Linux distribution, or OS X.

During the keynote, Microsoft was demonstrating Visual Studio Code running on Ubuntu. Considering the Microsoft from yore that we all remember, this was such a surreal experience, my heart actually skipped a beat. This is a huge victory for open source and the Linux project in particular, after all these years of FUD from Microsoft.

Today, Linux won.

Microsoft turns 40

Over the Easter weekend, a little company called Microsoft turned 40. Bill Gates sent a letter to all Microsoft employees, and The Verge posted it online

In the coming years, Microsoft has the opportunity to reach even more people and organizations around the world. Technology is still out of reach for many people, because it is complex or expensive, or they simply do not have access. So I hope you will think about what you can do to make the power of technology accessible to everyone, to connect people to each other, and make personal computing available everywhere even as the very notion of what a PC delivers makes its way into all devices.

I'm still not sure if Microsoft's positive contributions outweigh its negative ones. Sure, they played a vital role in making computers popular and affordable, but at the same time, they've illegally harmed the competition - and thus the advancement of the entire industry - and played a huge role in strengthening one of the biggest threats the industry faces today: patents.

Tough call.