Microsoft Archive

Microsoft launches redesigned Bing website

With this release we've created a modern Bing.com experience - one that is faster, cleaner and more visually appealing. We believe that search can be beautiful as well as functional and efficient. With that as our goal, we evaluated fonts, spacing, color, visual scan patterns, the search box and even the underlying code.

My problem with this and recent moves by Google: when I do a regular search, I do not want my search results to be spammed by news, picture, and video results. Bing seems to follow in Google's footsteps by adding irrelevant crap to search results for the sake of looking cool, but at the cost of usability.

I mean, check this screenshot. How much of the page is reserved for actual search results, and not pictures, info boxes, news items, and god knows what else?

Exactly: none.

Microsoft raced to deal with soul-searching Nokia

Microsoft's agreement to buy Nokia's handset business, codenamed Project Gold Medal, was more of a sprint than a marathon.

Talks between the two companies began in February after both sides agreed a two-year-old collaboration on smartphone development wasn't working, according to people familiar with the deal.

This cannot be true. Internet commenters told me in no uncertain terms that Nokia and Windows Phone were doing just fine. And internet commenters are always right.

Tide rolls in: Microsoft acquires Nokia’s devices unit

Ever since Stephen Elop became CEO of Nokia we knew this outcome was inevitable. It was his job to make it as easy as possible for Microsoft to acquire the vital parts of Nokia, and here we are: Microsoft is acquiring Nokia's devices unit for 3.79 billion euro, and another 1.65 billion euro for its patents. It's a bit of a complicated deal in that Microsoft buys the Asha feature phone brand and Lumia smartphone brand outright, but will only license the Nokia name for current Nokia products; the Nokia brand will remain under the control of Nokia the company. This means Nokia as a phone brand is effectively dead.

In addition, Stephen Elop will return to Microsoft. I'm sure entirely coincidentally, Ballmer announced recently that he's stepping down.

All this was as inevitable as the tides rolling in. Nokia has been going downhill and has stagnated ever since the announcement it would bank its future on Windows Phone. It went from being the largest smartphone manufacturer to an also-ran, which is made painfully clear by the fact that Microsoft paid more for Skype than it does for Nokia's devices unit.

A painful end for a once-great phone brand. This was the plan all along, and in essence, Nokia's board has executed it masterfully; the Finnish company has switched core markets several times in its long, long history (it started out as a paper company), and the unprofitable phone business was a huge liability for the company, despite claims by some that Nokia was doing just fine. Nokia's board has masterfully gotten rid of this money pit so it can focus on the parts that are profitable.

And, as always, the next Lumia will turn it all around.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer retires

Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

This was long overdue. Microsoft needs fresh blood at the top - not a salesman, but a visionary.

Microsoft took a $900 million hit on Surface RT this quarter

The Verge, reporting that Microsoft lost almost a billion dollars with Surface RT, in this quarter alone. "At the end of the day, though, it looks like Microsoft just made too many Surface RT tablets - we heard late last year that Microsoft was building three to five million Surface RT tablets in the fourth quarter, and we also heard that Microsoft had only sold about one million of those tablets in March." That's catastrophically bad.

Revealed: how Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages

Documents released by Snowden show the extent to which Microsoft helped the NSA and other security agencies in the US. "Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal; The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail; The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide; Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio; Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a 'team sport'." Wow. Just wow.

Microsoft confirms major reorganisation

"In a large staff memo, Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer details how the company is aiming for a 'One Microsoft', by altering its organization around the 'devices and services' vision. Terry Myerson will lead a new operating systems engineering group that will span across console, mobile device, and PC. Myerson used to lead the Windows Phone group at Microsoft. Julie Larson-Green takes over a new devices and studios engineering group."

The importance of sound in technology

"In the first episode of Microsoft's new film series 'On the Whiteboard', Editor Pamela Woon chats with two-time Oscar winner Randy Thom about the (often underestimated) importance of sound in human-technology interactions. Thom, the lead sound designer at Skywalker Ranch who worked on films such as The Incredibles, Castaway and Forrest Gump, says that people rarely consider the significance of those signature sounds that come from their trusty devices, whether it be a cell phone, a computer or a tablet."

‘Microsoft gives zero-day exploits to US government’

From Bloomberg: "Microsoft, the world's largest software company, provides intelligence agencies with information about bugs in its popular software before it publicly releases a fix, according to two people familiar with the process. That information can be used to protect government computers and to access the computers of terrorists or military foes." The lid has officially been blown off.

Microsoft launches Office 365 for iPhone

"Overall the app is really basic, and designed for on the go editing. Microsoft says it's not planning to create an iPad version, noting that tablet users can utilize the Office Web Apps instead. We'd like to see some additional options for editing, including more clear options for text formatting and the ability to insert and change images, but it's a solid attempt for something you're only really going to use for editing in emergencies." A resounding meh can be heard from all over the world.

A perspective: developers vs. Microsoft

"Most people understand that Windows is used by a variety of people who have a variety of needs, ranging from corporate server to workstation to POS terminals to home PC and beyond. Most people accept that whenever Microsoft updates Windows, it has to balance the competing requirements to find some kind of workable compromise. There is however another set of competing requirements that many do not really register, even those that call themselves power users or are IT admins. It is a conflict between developers/programmers and Microsoft itself."

Microsoft scores biggest patent licensee yet: Foxconn

"One company - Taiwan's Foxconn - makes a staggering 40 percent of the world's consumer electronic devices. Starting now, Microsoft will be getting paid a toll on many of those devices. The company's long patent-licensing campaign has landed its biggest client yet in licensing Foxconn, formally named Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. Foxconn has agreed to take a license for any product it produces that runs Google's Android or Chrome operating systems." More protection money for the Microsoft patent mafia.

Microsoft’s tricky strategy to strike back at Apple, Google

"After years of domination, Microsoft is finally facing serious threats at the cores of its business, Office and Windows. Consumers and businesses alike are largely purchasing devices based on their capabilities and form factors rather than the software contained within. Windows is slowly becoming commoditized and Microsoft's traditional allies are looking at Android and Chrome OS as viable alternatives, a trend that threatens the Windows monopoly. Microsoft faces a tricky balancing act as it faces a future that's very different from its existing business." Good article by Tom Warren.

The reason we don’t have Metro Office yet

One of the major lacking features in the newest Office: no Metro applications. In fact, the only reason Windows RT has a desktop at all is because the Office team was unable to create Metro applications in time for the release of Windows RT. I often thought this was a classic case of two important divisions within Microsoft not getting along and not being aligned, but now that I have my own Surface RT, I'm starting to realise that there's a far simpler, and thus more likely, explanation: Metro is simply not ready for anything serious - or for anything at all, really.

Microsoft at the crossroads: evolve or divide

As PC prospects decline, Microsoft has been moving toward a hybrid, cross-platform future with an eye toward opportunities in the server closet and the cloud. But the question remains, How might Microsoft evolve to get there? "It's tempting to say the past five years has seen Microsoft's desktop-centric strategy slowly give way to a pell-mell free-for-all made up of equal parts desktop, server, mobile hardware and software, cloud services, and auxiliary systems like the Xbox. Truth is, intention has always been present. It's only now, thanks to major upheavals in consumer tech and the cloud, that Microsoft's broad-spectrum plays are becoming more evident and critical. What may be new for Microsoft is the need to better cohere its strategy around an ever-widening array of services and technologies, especially as the breadth of competition it faces widens. Most of all, if there ever comes a time to stop being a consumer-oriented company, Microsoft shouldn't flinch. A future where Microsoft doesn't make hardware or end-user programs seems remote, but there was a time when IBM abandoning its PC business seemed jarring, too." And if Microsoft can't quite cohere its strategy, the best means to this end may be to divide.

Bill Gates ‘not satisfied’ with Microsoft’s innovations

"Although Bill Gates stepped away from his day-to-day role at Microsoft nearly five years ago, he still keeps a close eye on the company he co-founded - and he isn't always happy with what he sees. During a recent interview broadcast this morning on CBS This Morning, the Microsoft chairman was asked by Charlie Rose whether he was happy with Steve Ballmer's performance as chief executive. Noting that there have been 'many amazing things' accomplished under Ballmer's leadership in the past couple of years, Gates said he was not satisfied with the company's innovations." It's impossible to deny by this point that Microsoft hasn't done well in mobile. It would be more surprising if Gates had denied it.

Who’s being dishonest with storage space?

"Microsoft has been absolutely pummeled in the press and in reader comments this week by pundits and customers alike. They feel cheated by the amount of free storage space available to them on the new line of Surface Pro devices. But is that criticism fair or even valid?" Spoiler alert: turns out, it isn't. Both devices have about the same free space available, and by creating a USB restore drive for Windows on the Surface, you can actually get a little more on the Surface Pro. Interestingly enough, Microsoft confirmed on Reddit that their original numbers - which caused the ruckus - were wrong, because they were based on pre-production hardware, with debug code and other additional stuff on it. Oh Microsoft.