"Microsoft's Surface RT is getting price cuts across the world this week as the company looks to boost sales of its first ever tablet hardware." Great vote of confidence on a platform barely out the door.
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.
"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."
"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."
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.
"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.
"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 today announced quarterly revenue of $20.49 billion for the quarter ended March 31, 2013. Operating income, net income, and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $7.61 billion, $6.06 billion, and $0.72 per share."
"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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"As we've known for a few months, the Windows client team at Microsoft is working on its first 'feature-pack' update for Windows 8, supposedly due this summer/fall, which is codenamed 'Blue'. But it turns out Blue isn't a Windows thing only, according to one very accurate tipster of mine who doesn't want to be identified. Blue also is the way Microsoft is referring to the next substantial platform update for Windows Phone, the Windows Services (like SkyDrive, Hotmail, etc.), and Windows Server, according to my source. In other words, Blue is a wave of product refreshes which are not expected to arrive exactly all on the same day, but which are meant to be released more or less around the same time."
Microsoft has released Office 365 Home Premium. Ars has a review up: "Just like Windows 8, this cloud-tethered version of Office may have a hard time convincing home users it's time to upgrade. There are many useful new features in some of the most heavily used applications of Office, and the new add-in apps provide a useful way to pull external content into documents and presentations. The real question is whether customers - especially consumers - will buy into the service format." You're looking at EUR 100 per year for Office 365 Home Premium. Sure, it's for five PCs - but one, who has that many PCs these days other than families, two, even among those families, how many need Office for five PCs, three, who doesn't buy Office once and just installs it on all PCs in the house, and four, you can't use it for commercial stuff. In other words, virtually everyone is better off buying regular, non-subscription Office 2013 Home & Student. You pay EUR 139 once (instead of EUR 100 every year), and it's yours forever. I really don't understand who the subscription service is for - it's screaming for a single-license, EUR 25 per year option. Also, lose that ridiculous non-commercial bullshit.
Microsoft's legal chief: "We continue to be dogged by an issue we had hoped would be resolved by now: Google continues to prevent Microsoft from offering consumers a fully featured YouTube app for the Windows Phone." Utter nonsense, since MetroTube offers a complete and full YouTube experience on Windows Phone (it's one of the best Windows Phone applications), and YouTube+ on Windows 8. Two fantastically rich applications, built by small ISVs - yet Microsoft can't do the same? Don't make me laugh. Coincidentally, Microsoft is also whining some more about Google's removal of ActiveSync - Redmond again refuses to acknowledge that all it needs to do is implement the open standards CalDAV and CardDAV, just like everyone else has done. Times have changed, Ballmer. You don't get to dictate the industry anymore.
"In a move that has raised eyebrows, Microsoft has submitted a patch to the WebKit project to extend the open source rendering engine with a prototype implementation of the Pointer Events specification that the company is also working on together with Google, Mozilla, and Opera. WebKit is the rendering engine used in Apple's Safari and Google's Chrome browsers, making Microsoft's work a contribution to products that are in direct competition to its own."
Microsoft has just responded to Google's move regarding Exchange ActiveSync. Sadly, instead of addressing the very real problems consumers are about to face, Microsoft starts talking about switching to Outlook.com.
Financial analyst Charles Sizemore predicts that over time, a persistent Microsoft will come to not only thrive but dominate in the mobile computing space, because Apple has no "moats" to prevent customer attrition and its insistence at heavily controlling the ecosystem will drive customers away, while Google's offerings are too "shoddy." It's a bold prediction, but I suppose betting on Microsoft to be persistent and build on its strengths is a safe bet. But will persistence and flexibility be enough?