Microsoft Archive

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.

Chinese gov’t reveals Microsoft’s secret list of Android-killer patents

A list of hundreds of patents that Microsoft believes entitle it to royalties over Android phones, and perhaps smartphones in general, has been published on a Chinese language website.

The patents Microsoft plans to wield against Android describe a range of technologies. They include lots of technologies developed at Microsoft, as well as patents that Microsoft acquired by participating in the Rockstar Consortium, which spent $4.5 billion on patents that were auctioned off after the Nortel bankruptcy.

These are the secret patents Microsoft's patent mafia uses as a club to beat other companies into paying protection money.

Microsoft unveils Surface Pro 3

Microsoft has unveiled a new Surface Pro 3 device at a press event in New York City today. Like the previous Surface tablets it still includes a kickstand, but Surface chief Panos Panay says it's designed to remove the conflict of buying a laptop or a tablet. The kickstand on the device is multi-stage, and the device is just 9.1mm thick. "This is the tablet than can replace your laptop," claims Panay. Microsoft has moved to a 12-inch screen on the Surface Pro 3 with a 3:2 aspect ratio and HD display, but the new tablet also has thin bezels with a silver and black design. Microsoft will start accepting pre-orders on the Surface Pro 3 tomorrow starting at $799.

It's an amazing piece of hardware, and Microsoft really deserves praise for the amount of power it has managed to pack in such a slim and light package, but the same could be said of the previous Surface Pro - and that one hasn't exactly taken the market by storm either. The problem, is software - something Microsoft was remarkably hush-hush about during the unveiling.

Something else Microsoft was hush-hush about: Windows RT and ARM. No new RT/ARM-based Surface device, and I have a feeling that particular experiment has met its end today.

Microsoft officially closes Nokia deal

Microsoft announced it has completed its acquisition of the Nokia Devices and Services business. The acquisition has been approved by Nokia shareholders and by governmental regulatory agencies around the world. The completion of the acquisition marks the first step in bringing these two organizations together as one team.

Nokia's mobile era has now officially come to an end. One day, books will be written about the rise and fall of one of the greatest mobile technology companies of all time - one that played an instrumental role in the development and spread of the mobile phone, and the one company that put a phone in every corner of the world, in every person's hands - whether they were rich or poor. This is a sad day.

On a positive (?) note, Stephen Elop has stated that Microsoft will continue to support Asha and Nokia X, but only time will tell what "support" exactly means.

And we are committed to continuing our support for feature phones, the Asha family, and the Nokia X family of devices, announced at the Mobile World Congress in February.

Microsoft is finally catching up to the future

It looks like the Internet of Things could be the next big computing battleground, and Microsoft seems willing to sacrifice a few battles in order to win that war. Facebook is chasing virtual reality; Google wants home automation, smartwatches, and internet-connected glasses. More than 200 billion devices are likely to be connected to the internet by 2020, a huge example of the way the technology industry will shift and new battles will emerge. Satya Nadella believes the future isn't Windows desktops, Windows tablets, and Windows Phones. It's not Windows everywhere, it's Microsoft everywhere, offering software and services for every device - including an entire world of interconnected devices that have yet to be built.

The speed with which is doing this u-turn makes it quite clear that people within the company wanted to do this for a long, long time (otherwise it could not have been done this quickly), which implies that Ballmer may have simply held these changes back.

The elephant in the room here is that while people talk about Microsoft as if the company is down and out, it's still hugely profitable and has consistently been posting great financial results. It's just that Microsoft's money isn't coming from sexy products like smartphones and tablets, but from enterprise and backend stuff - stuff the technology press either can't write about, doesn't understand, or both. It's very similar to all those articles claiming Apple no longer innovates and disrupts, even though the company sent shockwaves through the microprocessor world.

In any case, it seems like Microsoft finally found the right direction in this new world.

‘Announcing the Office you love, now on the iPad’

We know you've been wanting it, and starting today, you can download Word, Excel and PowerPoint for iPad from the App Store. The apps have the robust capabilities and familiar look and feel that is unmistakably Office, while offering a fantastic touch experience built from the ground up for iPad. With the free versions of the apps, you can read your Word documents, view your Excel data and present with PowerPoint. Your documents will look as good as they do on your PC and Mac®, and better than ever on your iPad. With an Office 365 subscription, you can edit and create new documents with the iPad.

It looks pretty good, and as a heavy Office users, I can't wait until this hits Android tablets. On a related note: Office for phones (both iOS and Android) has gone completely free.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that iOS got touch Office before Windows. I feel like I'm in the twilight zone.

Source code for MS-DOS 1.1, 2.0 and Word 1.1a released

The Computer History Museum announced today that it has, with permission from Microsoft Corporation, made available original source code for two historic programs: MS-DOS, the 1982 "Disk Operating System" for IBM-compatible personal computers, and Word for Windows, the 1990 Windows-based version of their word processor.

Great move by Microsoft - this ensures these programs remain available for eternity.

Don’t use Microsoft’s web mail to receive Microsoft leaks

One of the revelations in this week's case of a Microsoft worker who leaked pre-release Windows 8 software was that Microsoft accessed the Hotmail account of the blogger to whom the data was leaked. And it did so without a court order.

Well, it turns out Microsoft was apparently within its rights to do so, having explicitly carved out the right to access communications to protect its own intellectual property.

Yahoo and Google have similar clauses.

Microsoft Office for iPad will be unveiled this month

Satya Nadella is planning to host his first press event as Microsoft CEO next week. The software maker has been inviting members of the media to a special cloud- and mobile-focused event in San Francisco on March 27th. Nadella is expected to discuss Microsoft’s "mobile first, cloud first" strategy, and there will be some major news ahead of the company’s Build conference in early April. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the event will mark the introduction of Office for iPad.

Meanwhile, Office for Metro is nowhere in sight.

What ever happened to MSX computers

Not too many people will recall the short-lived era of the "MSX" initiative which was slated to pretty much take over the non-existent middle world where consumer electronics met personal computers. It was always believed, back then, that this is where the sweet spot of profits would emerge. What emerged was instead laughable MSX. It was one of Microsoft's greatest flops.

The MSX was one of the first computers I ever used. I did basic BASIC stuff on it when I was a kid.

Microsoft is using your data to target political ads on Xbox Live

Microsoft is trying to convince politicians to take out targeted ads on Xbox Live, Skype, MSN and other company platforms as midterm elections begin heating up around the country. To plug the idea, Microsoft officials handed out promotional materials Thursday at CPAC, the annual conference for conservatives.

It's the latest move by tech companies to seize a piece of the lucrative political ad market. The ads, which would appear on the Xbox Live dashboard and other Microsoft products, combine Microsoft user IDs and other public data to build a profile of Xbox users. Campaigns can then blast ads to selected demographic categories, or to specific congressional districts. And if the campaign brings its own list of voter e-mail addresses, Microsoft can match the additional data with individual customer accounts for even more accurate voter targeting.

This from the company behind "Scroogled".

On a more general note, hypocrite company behaviour like this should be illegal. A company should not be able to say "leave company Abc behind because they do xyz, and come join us!", only to then turn around and do xyz as well. This is lying, and should be punishable in some way.