Microsoft Archive

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.

Microsoft’s Cortana to head to Android, Apple devices

Microsoft is working on an advanced version of its competitor to Apple's Siri, using research from an artificial intelligence project called "Einstein."

Microsoft has been running its "personal assistant" Cortana on its Windows phones for a year, and will put the new version on the desktop with the arrival of Windows 10 this autumn. Later, Cortana will be available as a standalone app, usable on phones and tablets powered by Apple's iOS and Google's Android, people familiar with the project said.

Does anybody actually use these digital assistants? Google Now is kind of useful because it actually anticipates what you need, but even then, it seems like it's for a niche group of people (e.g. those who travel a lot). Aside from the gimmick factor of asking Siri or Cortana funny questions, and the occasional setting of an alarm - does anybody actually use these things?

Office 2016 for Mac catches up to its Windows equivalent

It's slowly approaching five years since Microsoft first released Office for Mac 2011 in October 2010. While a final version of Office 2016 for Mac isn't ready just yet, Microsoft is announcing a preview program today for Mac users to get an early look at the company's work. Microsoft has been doing some great work with Office, bringing it to the iPad, extending it to Dropbox, and even acquiring impressive apps like Acompli to power Office on iOS and Android. Office 2016 for Mac is the latest result of Microsoft's focus on cross-platform apps, and it finally matches its Windows equivalent.

Considering Office is the primary tool for my work - and thus, my livelihood depends on it - I recently jumped from Office 2011 to Office 2013. However, I decided to not buy the traditional software package, opting for an Office 365 subscription instead. For €99 a year, you get the full Office 2013 suite, and you can install it on 5 PCs and 5 tablets/phones. So, as a heavy user, I'm very glad Office for Mac is finally getting a new version. For us Office 365 subscribers - we get this new version "for free".

Now that I've made the jump to Office as a subscription, I wonder how I ever did without.

Microsoft announces Windows Holographic and HoloLens

Update: And here's the video.

Microsoft has just revealed its next great innovation: Windows Holographic! It's an augmented reality experience that employs a headset, much like all the VR goggles that are currently rising in popularity, but Microsoft's solution adds holograms to the world around you. The HoloLens headset is described as "the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen." It's a self-contained computer, including a CPU, a GPU, and a dedicated holographic processor. The dark lenses up front contain a see-through display, there's spatial sound so you can "hear" holograms behind you, and it also integrates a set of sensors. HoloLens, says Microsoft, will be available in the Windows 10 timeframe.

They showed Minecraft as a holographic world draped over your coffee table and the rest of the house. The user placed Minecraft TNT blocks on a real world, and detonated them to reveal a minecraft world behind the exploded wall. And so, much, more. And this is no tech demo: it's working right now, and the people in the audience will be able to use it once the presentation is over. Even regular universal Windows applications can run inside this environment. Heck, they showed a simple holographic MS Paint-like application which allows you to create all kinds of fun holographic objects that you can manipulate with your hands. Scientists at NASA are using HoloLens to walk on Mars.

While this requires a clunky headset now, this can eventually power real holographic displays. This is so exciting. I'l add video once they're up, but for now, Wired and Engadget have more.

Microsoft BASIC for 6502 original source code from 1978

This is the original 1978 source code of Microsoft BASIC for 6502 with all original comments, documentation and easter eggs:

Given all this, it is safe to assume the file with the Microsoft BASIC for 6502 source originated at Apple, and was given to David Craig together with the other source be published.

Which, coincidentally, makes it quite illegal, since this code is being published without Microsoft's or Bill Gates' permission. Still, a very interesting look at a very crucial bit of code - at least, from an industry perspective.

Meet Nokia 215

Helping more and more people around the world get online and stay connected, Microsoft introduces the Nokia 215 and Nokia 215 Dual-SIM.

With a price tag of just $29 before taxes and subsidies, Nokia 215 is our most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet, perfectly suited for first-time mobile phone buyers or as a secondary phone for just about anyone.

I think I'm going to buy one of these, just to see how it holds up. It has most of the services I use on my phone, so I'm wondering if I can take the downgrade while enjoying the crazy awesome battery life.

Skype will translate your speech in real time

Microsoft's Skype software will start translating voice calls between people today. As part of a preview program, Skype Translator makes it possible for English and Spanish speakers to communicate in their native language, without having to learn a new one. It sounds like magic, but it's the result of years of work from Microsoft's research team and Skype to provide an early working copy of software that could help change the way the world communicates in the future.

Pretty cool. I don't speak Spanish, so I can't test just how good it is.

Skype for web beta unveiled

Skype has been breaking down barriers to communication for more than a decade by being at the forefront of real-time voice and video. In this time we've made Skype available on computers, mobile phones, TVs and even games consoles. Expanding to different platforms has helped us grow to over 2 billion daily minutes (that's over 33 million hours) of voice and video calls. Today, we've got some exciting news. We're starting to roll-out a brand new way of using Skype. Now, not only can Skype be used on just about any screen you lay your hands on, but you can also enjoy Skype on a browser. Welcome, Skype for Web (Beta).

First thought?

Great for Chromebooks.

Microsoft’s Android, iOS focus leaves Windows users in the cold

Microsoft is sending a clear message that it wants to reach consumers on popular mobile platforms. That's an understandable move, but with a lack of a true Windows Phone flagship this holiday and hints that unique features like Cortana will make their way to Android and iOS, it leaves Windows Phone in an odd spot. If all of Microsoft's core apps and services work better on Android and iOS, it makes Windows Phone a lot less appealing. If Microsoft can’t even make good apps for Windows, there's not a lot of hope left for third-party app developers to build for Microsoft's mobile platform. Couple that with the Windows tablet and phone app gap, and the future looks increasingly bleak. Appealing to Android and iOS users might be Microsoft's goal, but there's only so long Windows users will remain loyal.

While Microsoft has shifted focus back on traditional desktop Windows, Windows' Metro environment and Windows Phone seem to be on a path towards irrelevance. Microsoft's own applications for these platforms suck, third party applications generally suck or do not exist at all, while Microsoft's applications on iOS and Android are thriving and well-received.

It's easy to read too much into this - but it's also very hard not to.

Microsoft Office now free for iPad, iPhone, Android

Microsoft's Office suite for iPad, iPhone, and Android is now free. In a surprise move, the software giant is shaking up its mobile Office strategy to keep consumers hooked to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. Starting today, you'll no longer need an Office 365 subscription to edit documents or store them in the cloud. The move comes just days after Microsoft announced a strategic partnership with Dropbox to integrate the cloud storage service into Office across desktop, mobile, and the web. You can now download Office for iPad and store all your documents on Dropbox without paying Microsoft anything at all. Microsoft is also releasing a brand new iPhone app today, alongside a preview of Office for Android tablets, all with Dropbox integration.

The news I've been waiting for. The fact that it's going to be free is very nice, but the Android tablet version specifically has me very excited. Office is the number one tool with which I earn my living, and having the proper Office on my Xperia Z2 Tablet is a godsend.

The past decade of sweeping changes in the computing industry is finally truly taking hold inside Microsoft.