Microsoft Archive

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.

Microsoft debuts $25 Nokia 130

When Microsoft announced its plans to scrap its Asha feature phones and shift its Android-based Nokia X to Windows, it appeared the company might be getting out of the low-end phone business entirely.

That's apparently not the case, though, as Microsoft is introducing the Nokia 130, a 19 euro ($25) cellphone that lacks an Internet connection but includes the ability to play digital music and movies along with an FM radio and flashlight. The new device sits in between the even more basic Nokia 105 and the Nokia 220, which does have some Internet abilities.

I'm glad Microsoft will continue to make phones like this. They are very important in large parts of the world, and these are the kinds of phones that made it possible for Nokia to bring the mobile phone to every corner of the world.

Microsoft kills Series 40, Asha

This news will probably fall through the cracks in most reporting about Microsoft's massive layoffs, but aside from the Nokia X, Microsoft is also killing off Series 40 and Asha.

Nokia might have been famous for its feature phones, but Microsoft is planning to wind that business down over the course of the next 18 months. In an internal memo sent to Microsoft employees, Jo Harlow, who heads up the phone business under Microsoft devices, reveals the focus is very much on Windows Phone. Development and investment for Asha, Series 40, and Nokia X handsets will shift to what is described as "maintenance mode," and services to support existing devices will be shut down over the next 18 months. "This means there will be no new features or updates to services on any mobile phones platform as a result of these plans," says Harlow, in the internal memo seen by The Verge.

The story of Series 40 started in 1999 with the iconic Nokia 7110, and it will now end with the Nokia Asha 210 (I think?), or the Nokia Asha 230 if you consider the Asha Software Platform to be Series 40 (nobody really seems to know for sure just how related the two are). In 2012 Nokia announced it had sold over 1.5 billion Series 40 devices, making it one of the most successful software platforms of all time.

It makes sense for Microsoft to kill these platforms. Windows Phone handles devices with lower specifications relatively well, something which the company will hopefully only improve. It does mean the end of an iconic operating system that is intrinsically tied to Nokia, a company who spread the mobile phone and its infrastructure to all four corners in the world, paving the way for pompous phone upstarts like Apple and Google.

One small tidbit I will always associate with Series 40 and Nokia are the signal reception and battery life bars flanking the sides of the early Series 40 user interface like the pillars of the Parthenon. Beautifully elegant and clever use of the limited screen real estate available at the time.

Microsoft announces massive layoffs, kills Nokia X phones

As expected, Microsoft's CEO Satya Nadella has just announced an absolutely massive amount of layoffs.

With this in mind, we will begin to reduce the size of our overall workforce by up to 18,000 jobs in the next year. Of that total, our work toward synergies and strategic alignment on Nokia Devices and Services is expected to account for about 12,500 jobs, comprising both professional and factory workers.

It's clear where the focus of the layoffs lies: Nokia Devices and Services. When Lumia sales couldn't keep up with the rest of the market or Nokia's collapsing Symbian sales, people stated "Nokia is fine!". When Microsoft had to bail out Nokia's devices division to make sure it wouldn't die or be sold off to a competitor, these same people maintained that "Nokia is fine!". Now that Microsoft will layoff half of the Nokia staff it acquired, I'm sure people will still maintain that "Nokia is just fine!".

Sarcasm aside, the fact that 66% of the layoffs will consist of former Nokia staff further confirms what I have been saying all along: Microsoft purchased Nokia's devices division to make sure that Nokia wouldn't go Android (Nokia X!), that Nokia wouldn't sell its troublesome devices division to a competitor, or, worse yet, that Nokia would eventually be forced to shut it down altogether. In short, Microsoft acquired Nokia's devices division to save Windows Phone. The evidence is out there for all to see, and denying this at this point borders on the pathetic.

Anywho, this is terrible news for all the people involved, but with this industry doing relatively well, I hope they will be able to find new jobs easily. There are quite a number of companies who would love to get their hands on Nokia talent, so let's all wish them the best of luck in the weeks and months ahead.

Not unsurprisingly, Nadella specifically announced the end of the Nokia X Android endeavour.

In addition, we plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows. This builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space and aligns with our focus on Windows Universal Apps.

Microsoft plans to continue selling and supporting existing Nokia X products, so if you've bought one you'll at least continue to get support. If you were thinking about buying one - I really, really wouldn't.

Microsoft launches a price assault on Chromebooks

Microsoft has announced a pricing offensive versus Google's Chromebooks.

Microsoft is aiming straight for Google's Chromebooks this holiday season. At the company's partner conference today, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed that HP is planning to release a $199 laptop running Windows for the holidays. Turner didn't provide specifications for HP's "Stream" device, but he did detail $249 laptop options from Acer and Toshiba. Acer's low-cost laptop will ship with a 15.6-inch screen and a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron processor, and Toshiba's includes a 11.6-inch display. It appears that Intel's Celeron chips will help Microsoft's PC partners push out cheaper devices in the race to the bottom.

Turner also revealed that HP is planning to release 7- and 8-inch versions of its new "Stream" PCs for $99 this holiday season, both running versions of Windows.

Any takers?

Satya Nadella’s letter to Microsoft employees

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a letter to employees about... Uh, yeah, about what exactly?

The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition - it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul - our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done.

I've read through the whole thing - twice - but I still have no idea what I'm supposed to take from this. There's nothing concrete, nothing we haven't heard before - it's so vague that I'm not really sure it even has a point to begin with. I think it's supposed to announce some sort of change in direction, but that's the problem - there isn't one.

Especially these two successive paragraphs are startling.

More recently, we have described ourselves as a "devices and services" company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

What's the difference between "devices and services" and "mobile-first and cloud-first"?

That's the problem with vague, abstracted drivel from company executives. It's essentially homeopathic communication - so watered down it's essentially just water with zero medicinal effects.

Is Microsoft readying a Lumia device that runs Android?

While most leaks concerning the Lumia series fall under the purview of Windows Phone, a recent rumor by @evleaks suggests that Microsoft may be considering launching a Lumia branded handset that runs on Android.

There is no further information regarding the handset, when Microsoft intends to launch it. Nokia had previously launched Android powered handsets under the X series, but those devices ran a forked version of Android with Nokia's own digital store in lieu of Google's services.

Do Lumias running Android exist? No doubt. Will they actually make it onto shelves? Honestly, I don't think anybody knows for sure at this point. The Nokia X is weird enough as it is, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Microsoft releasing an Android Lumia. If they do, however, the real question is going to be if it'll come with the suite of Google applications, or with nothing but Microsoft services - greatly reducing its usefulness, at least here in the west.

I'd be very interested in a Lumia running Android, but only if it's got Google services. I don't think we need another Frankendroid.

AnandTech’s Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

The only review of the Surface Pro 3 that matters - as always, from AnandTech. They conclude:

Surface Pro 3 is easily the best design Microsoft has put forward. If you were intrigued by the previous designs, this is the first one that should really tempt you over. I was a fan of the original Surface Pro, and with Surface Pro 3 I think Microsoft has taken the hardware much closer to perfection. At this point the design needs more help on the software side than hardware, which is saying a lot for the Surface Pro hardware team. Personally I'd still rather carry a good notebook and a lightweight tablet, but if you are looking for a single device this is literally the only thing on the market that's worth considering. I don't know how big the professional productivity tablet market is, but it's a space that Microsoft seems to have almost exclusive reign over with its Surface line. With its latest iteration, Microsoft is serving that market better than ever.

Coincidentally, Microsoft is going for the tackle: you can trade in your MacBook Air and get up to $650 from Microsoft. Any takers? Anyone...?

Microsoft is paying bloggers to write about Internet Explorer

Why in the world is Microsoft (through an agency) trying pay bloggers to write about Internet Explorer? Do people still do this? And given my position on paid posts, why would they think I'd be willing to participate?

This is just layers of stupid.

Yes, people still do this. It's always hard to prove, but when you see the same (sometimes word-for-word) pro-Apple, pro-Microsoft, or pro-Google comments show up on multiple sites from different users in a timespan of a few hours or days, you know the coffee ain't pure.