Big and surprising news this morning. Some considered him the crown prince of the Microsoft empire, slated to take over after Ballmer's eventual departure, but this morning, Steven Sinofsky announced his resignation from Microsoft. His role will be taken over by Julie-Larson Green. Persistent sources indicate that we're looking at a Forstall-esque situation; Sinofsky was, supposedly, not a good team player.
"Last week I overheard two of the top Microsoft 'watchers' discuss the Office group having bet against Windows 8, presumably because Office 2013 is not fully a (set of) Metro (a.k.a., Windows Store) apps. Ok, as much as it pains me to defend Office I'm going to do so. I'm going to defend them because they are more right than wrong. Especially when you take a shareholder perspective. Not only will I defend what Office did for Windows 8, I'm going to defend some of their licensing decisions. Oh that should be fun." Insightful analysis of the current state of Office within the great context of Microsoft's current challenges. Written by Hal Berenson, former distinguished engineer and general manager at Microsoft.
Bart Eppenauer, Microsoft's chief patent guy, in an interview with The Verge: "We believe our patent laws have served the country very well." Loosely translated, this reads: "This system that gives me my six-figure income and is a fine anti-competitive tool for my company have served me and my company well, the damage to the industry be damned."
Another (this time, unsurprising) scoop by The Verge: "Office Mobile will debut in the form of free apps that allow Android and iOS users to view Microsoft Office documents on the move. Like the existing SkyDrive and OneNote apps, Office Mobile will require a Microsoft account. On first launch, a Microsoft account will provide access to the basic viewing functionality in the apps. Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents will all be supported, and edit functionality can be enabled with an Office 365 subscription." Smart move to get users to go subscription.
The Verge is reporting Microsoft is building its own gaming tablet. "The Xbox Surface will likely include a custom ARM processor and high-bandwidth RAM designed specifically for gaming tasks. We're told these specifications could be altered to accommodate an unannounced Intel SoC and that the Xbox Surface is being developed independent of specific hardware architecture. Microsoft's Xbox Surface won't run a full version of Windows, rather this 7-inch tablet will run a custom Windows kernel. Messaging and other tablet functions may be supported, but the focus is on gaming." Custom kernel. So, incompatible with Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Question. Why?
Microsoft's applied sciences department manager Stevie Bathich explains why the 1366x768 Surface RT screen is actually better than the iPad's Retina display - fancy display technology talk. Conclusion? "Doing a side by side with the new iPad in a consistently lit room, we have had many people see more detail on Surface RT than on the iPad with more resolution." I'm sure there's some truth behind the sciency talk, but I highly doubt that the Surface's display bests the iPad's. Seeing is believing, but since The Netherlands is not important, I won't get the opportunity to compare for a long time to come.
Microsoft's first Surface television advertisement debuted last night in the US. Apparently, it's for an iPad keyboard that makes a clicking sound. Honestly - I have no idea what non-techies are supposed to take home from this.
"Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek has confirmed that the software maker is planning to release native iOS and Android versions of Office 2013 next year. Speaking at a press event in the Czech Republic earlier today, Bobek told Czech site IHNED that native apps will be made available from March 2013." Smart move. There's money to be made here, but I am wondering what kind of functionality they're going to reserve for Windows users.
Steve Ballmer's annual letter to shareholders makes it very clear Microsoft is at a point of no return - and in the middle of a transition into a hardware company. "This is a significant shift, both in what we do and how we see ourselves - as a devices and services company. It impacts how we run the company, how we develop new experiences, and how we take products to market for both consumers and businesses." Line. Sand.
"This week marked the real launch of the new Microsoft.com home page. And as someone who has been involved on and off with the project from the moment it was conceived, I thought I'd tell you the story, albeit extensively abridged, behind the new Microsoft.com. Grab a seat." I love the new Microsoft site. It looks very clean and focused.
Microsoft Office 2013 has received its pricetags. Home and Student - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote - is $140, while Home and Business, which adds Outlook into the mix, is $220. Professional jumps to a whopping $400, but adds Access and Publisher. For $100 per year, you can get the subscription version, which can be installed on up to 5 PCs (both Windows and OS X PCs). In related news, Microsoft still thinks it's 2001.
"Microsoft this week updated its services agreement with subtle, yet potentially significant changes to its policy on privacy and dispute settlement. The company notified users of the changes in an e-mail sent Friday, informing them that the new Terms of Service would go into effect on October 19th. Apparently taking its cue from Google, Microsoft's revised policy allows the company to access and display user content across all of its cloud properties." Microsoft said, when Google announced an identical policy change: "Google is in the midst of making some unpopular changes to some of their most popular products. Those changes, cloaked in language like 'transparency', 'simplicity', and 'consistency', are really about one thing: making it easier for Google to connect the dots between everything you search, send, say or stream while using one of their services." Let me guess: no outraged blog posts from the usual suspects this time around.
Microsoft's response to Apple's win is probably the most cringeworthy of all. Blatantly admitting Windows Phone can't make a dent in the market on merit, but instead requires the court room to do so, Bill Cox, senior director of Windows Phone marketing communications, said: "Windows Phone is looking gooooood right now." Nauseating.
For the first time in eons, Microsoft has changed its logo. "The logo has two components: the logotype and the symbol. For the logotype, we are using the Segoe font which is the same font we use in our products as well as our marketing communications. The symbol is important in a world of digital motion. The symbol's squares of color are intended to express the company's diverse portfolio of products." Nice logo, clean, concise. With Windows Phone 8, Office 2013 and Windows 8 on the way, the company could use a fresh coat of paint. Confusing that they're using what would've been a better Windows logo than the Windows 8 logo, but alas.
"'We have said think it over. Think twice', Wang is quoted as saying, 'It will create a huge negative impact for the ecosystem and other brands may take a negative reaction. It is not something you are good at so please think twice.' Wang went on to suggest that if Microsoft moves ahead with its tablet plans, the Taiwan-based Acer might replace the software giant as a partner. 'If Microsoft is going to do hardware business, what should we do? Should we still rely on Microsoft, or should we find other alternatives?', he is quoted as saying." Or, you could just build stuff that doesn't suck. Just a suggestion, Acer.
Eh. Microsoft has instructed its employees to drop the name 'Metro', due to a trademark conflict with an 'an important European partner'. The Verge has learned that Microsoft plans to unveil a new name next week. Considering Microsoft has been beating the Metro drum for quite a few years now, this all seems a bit silly. The European partner in question is believed to be Metro AG, a huge collection of electronic retail stores covering several different chains (I've got a few within a few kilometres of my middle-of-nowhere hick hometown). Depending on what they come up with, I will continue to use the Metro name. I like it, and I don't give a rat's bum about trademark disputes.
Microsoft launched a preview of Outlook.com - a Metro web email client that will eventually replace Hotmail. Looks pretty good (but then, that's Metro for you). Ironically, it seems to work better, and is more smooth, than the mail client in Windows 8. Would be awesome - although obviously unlikely - if Microsoft allowed you to add accounts to Outlook.com (instead of being tied to your Microsoft account). I'd love to use this for my personal email account. Update: I'm being an idiot - you can actually do this! Nice.
"Microsoft today announced quarterly revenue of $18.06 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2012. Operating income and loss per share for the quarter were $192 million and $0.06 per share. The financial results reflect the previously announced non-cash, non-tax-deductible income statement charge of $6.19 billion for the impairment of goodwill and the deferral of $540 million of revenue related to the Windows Upgrade Offer."
"Microsoft and Perceptive Pixel Inc. (PPI) today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire PPI, a recognized leader in research, development and production of large-scale, multi-touch display solutions." Yes, Jeff Han is now a Microsoft employee. This demo still amazes me - from 2006. Before the iPhone. Before Android. Before the iPad. Remember that the next time you wind up in a discussion about who supposedly invented what.
"Analyzing one of American corporate history's greatest mysteries - the lost decade of Microsoft - two-time George Polk Award winner (and V.F.'s newest contributing editor) Kurt Eichenwald traces the 'astonishingly foolish management decisions' at the company that 'could serve as a business-school case study on the pitfalls of success'."