Tag: microsoft

Microsoft: partners want Microsoft cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeMicrosoft is going nuts over an IDC report that claims customers like a catch-all, single cloud provider, because it’s confident it can fill that gap.

The study, which was sponsored by… Microsoft, says as companies are dragged into the cloud,63 percent of customers want a provider that can do it all. Meanwhile, 67 percent are after a wide variety of services from a single vendor, and 74 percent expect their data to be moved back on premises if they want it to.

Veep at Microsoft’s worldwide partner group, Jon Roskill, boasted that Office 365 is bringing in tonnes of annual revenue and the company has over 250,000 customers on Windows Azure, so partners should really exploit the trend and sell Microsoft kit in particular.

Microsoft’s calling its efforts a hybrid approach: offering services on site and cloud for public and private. Of course, it’s not the only company offering such services.

While it is an increasingly common opinion that European businesses would be insane to put too much stock in US servers, Microsoft is sure that its partners will be able to win Redmond more business and turn a buck or two themselves by pushing its cloud offerings.

Microsoft and Solidsoft go for medical system

pillMicrosoft’s Windows Azure cloud platform has been selected to power the new European Medicines Verification System (EMVS).

The system will be developed by Solidsoft, a Microsoft Gold Partner. The system was conceived by European Stakeholders Model (ESM) Partners, which represents the majority of the European pharmaceutical industry. 

The system will handle information on more than 10 billion medicines dispensed throughout all 28 European Union member states. All meds will feature a unique, encrypted product identifier which will be scanned at the point of dispensation and then verified for authenticity in the Azure cloud.

“We look forward to the start of the implementation of the European Medicines Verification System. Patients need to be able to trust in the medicines they take and this is a timely and important step towards finding a solution to the urgent problem of counterfeiting in the EU,” said Richard Bergstrom, Director General of ESM partner, The European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). 

Solidsoft CEO Garth Pickup said the cloud has changed the dynamics of large IT projects forever.

“The almost limitless scale provided via the Microsoft Windows Azure platform means that this massive project can be delivered to the EFPIA at much lower cost than on-premises. It will also easily scale to the 10 billion+ transactions it will handle each year in real time,” he said.

Mark Smith, Director for Health & Life Sciences at Microsoft UK, said the Windows Azure platform innovative companies to take on large projects, leveraging the vast computing resources of Microsoft’s data centres.

Microsoft channels Surface to businesses

surface-rtIn what can only be described as a last ditch effort to keep Surface tablets from flopping, Microsoft has launched a new channel programme in the United States. The programme should push sales of Surface tablets to businesses and other organisations. 

For the time being, the programme is limited to the US, but it will expand over the next few months. Under the programme, Microsoft’s channel partners stateside will offer the Surface RT to schools and universities at steep discounts, reports PC World. Private sector companies and government agencies are being pursued as well.

The partners will also be able to offer technical support, on-site assistance, data protection, recycling and asset tagging. Independent software vendors are also being encouraged to develop apps for Windows RT and Windows 8. The latter just crossed the 100,000 app milestone, but on the whole the choice of RT and Win 8 apps remains rather limited when compared to competing platforms. The software part of the programme is called AppsForSurface and developers who sign up will receive Surface devices and funding.

Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data, CDW, CompuCom, En Pointe, Softchoice and Zones are already on board, while Citrix, Airstrip and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have signed up for the software part of the programme.

However, although businesses don’t tend to shy away from Microsoft, they aren’t exactly lining up for Redmond’s tablets. Demand remains soft and enterprise adoption is anything but spectacular. Windows tablets have one thing going for them, IT departments seem to like them a bit more than Android gear when it comes to BYOD. But many love Apple even more.

Microsoft’s starts Surface move to the Channel

Surface-ElementaryMicrosoft has launched Surface partner programmes for tablet resellers and software developers in a small scale to its US channel.

Writing in his bog, Cyril Belikoff, director, Surface marketing, said Microsoft was launching what he called the “first phase” of expansion into the business channel.

It will allow customers to purchase Surface and commercial services through a small number of authorised resellers.

There is also a new ISV program, called AppsForSurface, which provides devices and funding for app design intended to get key enterprise apps on Surface and Window 8.

While there is no news yet about what Microsoft’s plans are in other parts of the world, it is starting to look like there is a thaw in its plans.
When the Surface came out, Vole’s hardware partners screamed blue murder claiming that Microsoft was treading on its toes.

In response to that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer  said that its channel could sell Surface but only if they order it from a Microsoft store or Microsoft.com. There will be no formal channel programme.

Now it seems that Vole is starting to branch out in a small way and test the water and close to home.

The Surface will be going to Microsoft’s bigger US partners first and Vole does not seem to be that keen to have a huge push.

In the United States that means CDW, CompuCom Systems, En Pointe Technologies, Insight Enterprises, Softchoice, Softmart, SHI International, PC Connection, PCM and Zones Inc. are the first Surface authorised resellers.

That is a tiny drop in the market of the US channel.

Microsoft says the initial Surface resellers bring a variety of value-added services to tablet family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection.

In other words, Microsoft really does need the channel to push its surface but it wants to do it without isolating its hardware chums.

Android consoles stumble

nvidia-shieldSony, Microsoft and Nintendo have rolled out their latest generation consoles and although they feature very impressive hardware, some analysts are already saying that they could be the last generation of big consoles on proprietary operating systems.

Sales of mobile consoles have also taken a hit, as more and more consumers traded them in for smartphones and tablets. It’s nothing new, we saw the same trend with personal media players and compact cameras.

However, if mobiles are indeed cannibalising consoles, isn’t it time for smartphone makers to capitalize on the trend? Google seems to think so. Late Thursday several reputable outlets reported that Google is indeed working on some sort of Android console. It is apparently loosely based on the Nexus Q, a streaming device which flopped before it hit the market. Google is starting to take hardware quite seriously. A couple of years ago it only sold a single product, the developer friendly Nexus smartphone series. However, over the past 12 months Google also introduced two Nexus tablets and Google Glass. Let’s not forget about the company’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility, either.

On the other hand, it must be said that Google’s idea is anything but original. Kickstarter sensation Ouya is about to hit the market, after a couple of delays. Based on Nvidia’s old Tegra 3 chip, the Ouya was envisioned as a homebrew Android console with a $99 price tag. The first reviews weren’t impressive, but then again this is hardly surprising given the nature of the project.

Nvidia also entered the fray with Project Shield, a handheld console based on the much more powerful Tegra 4 SoC. It’s a bit bigger than Sony’s or Nintendo’s handhelds, but it also has a unique trick up its sleeve. It can be used to stream PC games, but the feature is still not ready for prime time. It has a 720p screen and a $299 price tag, but yesterday Nvidia announced that Shield would be delayed by a few weeks due to a mechanical fault.

The delays illustrate that Android consoles are bound to face a number of teething problems. Android still lacks truly compelling games designed to attract hardcore gamers. Most Android games are made with the casual gamer in mind, and with relatively poor hardware. However, hardware shouldn’t be an issue in the long run. Mobile chips are evolving at a much faster pace than their PC counterparts. New SoC designs like the Snapdragon 800 and Tegra 4 feature vastly improved GPUs and they are capable of delivering a pleasant gaming experience at 720p and even 1080p, with some caveats. The level of detail still can’t come close to PC or console games, regardless of what spinners would have us believe. Although a 1080p game could look lovely on a 4.8-inch smartphone, it wouldn’t be much to look at on a 40- to 50-inch television.

Software might be a tougher nut to crack. Piracy is rampant on Android and even if that wasn’t a problem most users prefer casual games on the go, rather than big budget games that can generate plenty of revenue to pay for the eye candy needed for 1080p televisions. Attracting big developers won’t be easy, but someone has to make the first step and in this case it seems as if Nvidia has the best chance of getting some devs on board, as it is trying to get the best of both worlds, with PC streaming on a portable Android console with pretty good hardware. To make Android consoles truly attractive, developers must start coming up with titles specifically designed to make good use of physical controllers and fast chips used in such devices. The one size fits all approach, used to develop tablet and smartphone games, just won’t work. With next to no Android consoles on the market, this won’t happen anytime soon.

If Android consoles do take off, and we believe they will, sooner or later, the gaming market could be in for a frugal surprise. An average high-budget Xbox game costs about $60, yet the Ouya is priced at $99 and the Shield should sell for $299. This is a massive difference that won’t go unnoticed in emerging markets, or in the West for that matter. The Play Store could also democratize the market, allowing small outfits with good ideas to publish their games with ease, ending up with a runaway hit. Such success stories are not uncommon in the iOS and Android universe, as the market is not dominated by huge developers with endless budgets. The openness also means other software can be developed and put to good use, transforming Android consoles into proper home entertainment centres, capable of handling rudimentary computing, thus putting even more pressure on the embattled PC market.

All this leaves us with a very interesting emerging market, with plenty of pitfalls and opportunities for all involved. As tablets and smartphones mature, hardware makers will start exploring smaller niches. Samsung already has Android cameras and a strange phone-camera hybrid with a zoom lens. Smaller outfits are building dirt cheap Android sticks and some are experimenting with other form factors, like gaming tablets.

Although the first generation of Android consoles doesn’t seem too impressive, the market will be anything but boring over the next few years.

Firms face XP migration nightmare

framedwindowsWindows 8.1 is around the corner – a reshaping of Windows 8, which received a lukewarm reception since its October 2012 launch. However, critics warn that the key question for businesses will be migration from Windows XP, when support for that operating system ends in early 2014.

Considering the poor economic conditions of much of the world, particularly in Europe, there are plenty of companies who simply cannot afford to, or do not want to, upgrade from their Windows XP boxes. But they will have to.

UK based IT efficiency company, Sumir Karayi, believes that Windows 8.1 could well be the post-XP iteration of Windows that businesses will seriously consider.

As support runs out for XP, these organisations will be faced with sky-high support costs or migration to a newer operation system, and as such, most should be planning a migration strategy, Karayi says.

Aside from the daunting financial risk in keeping XP on life support, Microsoft will no longer be patching critical security flaws. As such, companies still running XP could find themselves exposed to disaster.

“Most large enterprises are unaware of all the software applications they already have, let alone how many are actually being used, and how many licences they should pay for during a migration process,” Karayi warns. “The licensing issues surrounding software applications are complicated”.

“There is little consistency in the agreements and businesses are often left paying for far more than they actually require,” Karayi says.

As companies upgrade, then, they should make sure their migration strategies are compatible with their software licences.

The message, then, is “loud and clear” according to Karayi – if IT decision makers are to avoid shooting themselves in the foot, organisations must move away from XP before the deadline’s up.

Nokia about to be eaten by a larger shark

Finding-Nemo-Shark-Wallpaper-HDIt is starting to look like Nokia is about to be eaten by a larger player.  Already software giant Microsoft considered buying Nokia, until it realised how much it would cost.

The Wall Street Journal claimed that Microsoft was in “advanced talks” to buy Nokia. According to the report, Microsoft would have used its substantial reserves of offshore cash for the deal. It’s estimated that Microsoft has about 89 percent of its cash parked abroad to avoid paying US taxes.

But it turned out this morning that Redmond could not get close to the price it wanted for Nokia, which is worth $14.3 billion and pulled out.

Ironically Microsoft was unhappy about Nokia’s weak market position and only wanted to buy the company if it was at a bargain basement price. Arguably Nokia is in a weak position because it packed in making Symbian phones to become a Microsoft only shop.

But if Microsoft does not buy Nokia there is a good chance that Huawei might. It is only a rumour but the Chinese company is said to be interested.

Huawei’s Richard Yu told the Financial Times this morning that it was considering these sorts of acquisitions but he did not confirm it.

One of the reasons that Huawei has not been rushing to Finland with its chequebook in its hand is because of the poor showing of Windows phones, and Nokia’s dependence on its deal with Microsoft.

Yu said that Huawei expected the industry to go through a period of consolidation. If he is correct than Nokia is almost certain to be for the chop.

 

Time to make a quick buck on PRISM fiasco

National-Security-Agency--008While the big internet companies are wringing their hands about being caught helping the US snoop on its citizens, there are some companies who are turning this into a money making opportunity.

DuckDuckGo, a service that does not does not keep a record of searches or tailor them to what its users have looked for in the past, said it took the company four years to get one million searches a day, but this had tripled to three million in the eight days after the PRISM surveillance scandal broke.

A tweet from the company said: “It took 1445 days to get 1M searches, 483 days to get 2M searches, and then just 8 days to pass 3M searches.”

While this is nothing in comparison to Google, it could be the tip of the iceburg for companies who are concerned about the deals that US companies made with their government.

The Patriot Act, under which PRISM was developed, has already been helping fledgling European Cloud companies see off much larger US competition.

This is because the US companies would have to guarantee to the Europeans that their data will not leave Europe, otherwise they would have to give it to the US government. This created a rush to build European data centres to support US cloud operations in the “old country.” However there is still some concern that a strict interpretation of the Patriot Act could force those US suppliers to hand over foreign data whether it is stored in Europe or not.

While all this is a mess for the likes of Amazon and Microsoft, it is great news for European Cloud providers such as the French Sovereign Cloud.

While there are fears that local spooks might also want to look in corporate clouds, that is a better option that giving the data to a foreign power.

As F-Secure chief research officer Mikko Hypponen pointed out: “If you are going to have a Big Brother, it is better to have a domestic Big Brother than a foreign Big Brother.”

Meanwhile European Union could force US cloud suppliers to give up the European customers. At the moment they are asking the US some fairly sticky questions, and could turn to regulating the American cloud users from the market.

At very least, it could recommend that companies opt for European cloud providers instead. In Germany they take such recommendations very seriously. One security recommendation nearly killed off the use of Internet Explorer and gave Firefox a significant boost.

Telecoms groups such as Orange and Deutsche Telekom have announced that they are trying to exploit the concerns as they build their own cloud businesses.

Government agencies and municipalities, especially in more privacy-conscious countries such as Germany, are more likely to turn to local alternatives for cloud services.

Sweden banned Google Apps in the public sector over concerns that Google had too much leeway over how the data was used and stored and PRISM could be a final nail in the service’s coffin in that country.

 

Forrester says yes to Microsoft retail plans

StorePhoto_05Microsoft’s push into retail could just pay off, according to a report from Forrester.

Redmond has been buying up retail space in the Best Buy stores to get its message out to consumer clients. In doing so it is not following Apple, but Samsung which is trying a similar operation.

Writing in his bog, J. P. Gownder, a Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, said that the Windows Store represents a complete take-over of the PC department. Windows Stores will effectively replace the computer department at these 600 Best Buy locations.

They will offer a wider range of Microsoft consumer products including tablets.

Gownder thinks that the Windows Store represents a vital strategic step forward in its retail strategy and ought to yield some benefits.

But it might be a little too late for that and it should have been a lot more ambitious.

Gownder thinks that the non-Apple Store North American retail channel for consumer electronics is broken and it is imploding. In a pattern which can be seen in Europe, a spiral of disappearing margins has made direct investment in improving stores challenging.

Retailers have resisted attempts to create better, more integrated shopping experiences and some are addicted to the incentives paid by vendors seeking preferential placement, like pricey end-caps.

In the consumer market, users are a little confused by the new computing form factors. Windows used to be one size fits all, but now they have to deal with touchscreen convertibles, hybrid PC/tablets with detachable keyboards and pure tablets running Windows RT. This is not even taking into account giant tablet-like desktop convertibles.

At the moment, it appears that the PC resellers have not managed to find their consumer-centred feet. As a result consumers just can’t figure out what all the Windows 8 options represent, Gownder wrote.

Microsoft’s move will upgrade its retail capabilities significantly, but it’s not as powerful a move as rolling out 600 Microsoft Stores would have been.

It also creates a channel conflict between Microsoft Store and Redmond’s Windows Store. Buyers familiar with Microsoft Stores could face a different experiences when visiting a Windows Store. Microsoft Stores will give technical help and customer service at their Answer Desks, but shoppers with PC problems could end up in Best Buy’s Geek Squad instead.

The scheme also creates OEM conflicts within the Windows ecosystem. Microsoft’s Windows OEM partners, who are already miffed with Microsoft concerning the Surface are now going to have to compete with Redmond’s hardware in a Windows Store managed by Microsoft itself.

Gownder was optimistic about the move, but it is not clear if it can be exported to other countries.

Microsoft to bundle Office with Win 8.1

windowscomputexSoftware giant Microsoft said at Computex today that when Windows 8.1 launches towards the end of this year, it will bundle Office with the operating system.

It also said that Windows 8.1 will support smaller form factor tablets and it will vary its licensing model to reflect that change.

Nick Parker, OEM VP at Microsoft, said: “We’re increasing our investment by providing Office in the box. That gives OEMs and their channel partners a premium sale, rather than an aftersale.”

But he seemed to imply that other than these changes, there will be no other licence changes.

Despite analysts reporting that there is a widespread fall in PC sales, Parker refused to be drawn on how that had affected sales of Windows 8. Nor did he accept the view of some analysts that disappointment about the original rev of Windows 8 had itself affected sales.

“We’re an industry going through transformation,” Parker said. “If you look at the categories where we have growth. it is up to us in the PC industry to be more agile”.

Microsoft will also bundle Office with RT, when the time comes.

Microsoft doles out gongs to its chums

msMicrosoft announced the winners of the 2013 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Awards.

According to the company the awards recognise the skills and hard work of companies in Microsoft’s global partner network.

It said that this year’s competition had attracted over 3,000 entries, but only 11 UK partners made it on to the list of finalists, of which there were six award winners.

In the UK, partners were awarded the “coveted” Cloud Partner and SMB Cloud Partner awards, with Solidsoft and Tech Quarters respectively winning these titles. Microsoft said the UK wins  demonstrated that the UK channel is leading the way in global cloud adoption. Is it?

Other UK winners included the IM Group, which scooped the Microsoft UK Partner of the Year, while Global Knowledge was named Learning Partner of the Year. Oxford Computer Group, was the Identity and Access Partner of the Year and eBECS, ERP Partner of the Year.

The winning partners will be presented with their awards in Houston at this year’s Worldwide Partner Conference. Furthermore, Microsoft will continue to work closely with the winners as part of its ongoing investment to champion the fantastic work achieved in the UK channel.

Janet Gibbons, Director Partner Strategy and Programmes at Microsoft said she was delighted to see so many UK winners: “I would like to congratulate all of the winning parties. It is great to see the UK partners achieving recognition for their hard work across many different categories.”

Handset sales up, Samsung gains share

nexus4-ceSmartphone wars are becoming rather predictable. Every quarter sales notch up and every quarter Samsung emerges as the big winner. The last quarter was no exception. However, growth is slowing as the market matures, although there is still plenty of room for growth in emerging markets. 

Worldwide phone sales totalled 426 million units in the first quarter, up 0.7 percent year-on-year. Smartphones saw a lot more growth, with sales totalling 2010 million units, up 42.9 percent from a year ago, according to a Gartner survey.

Sales of feature phones are down in all regions except Asia, while smartphones accounted for 49.3 percent of all phone sales worldwide, up from 34.8 percent in Q1 2012. At the same time feature phone sales contracted 21.8 percent.

“Feature phones users across the world are either finding their existing phones good enough or are waiting for smartphones prices to drop further, either way the prospect of longer replacement cycles is certainly not good news for both vendors and carriers looking to move users forward,” Gartner analyst Anshul Gupta said.

Samsung saw its market share go up from 21.1 percent to 23.6 percent. Apple also did well, growing from 7.8 to 9 percent, while Nokia’s share dropped from 19.7 to 14.8 percent. However, looking at smartphone sales, Samsung’s share was 30.8 percent, up from 27.6 percent. It was trailed by Apple at 18.2 percent, down from 22.5 percent. LG grabbed the bronze, with a 4.8 percent share. Huawei also had a good quarter, upping their share to 4.4 and 3.8 percent respectively and outperforming former heavyweights like Nokia, Sony and HTC.

Android is still the dominant mobile operating system, with a share of 74.4 percent, up from 56.9 a year earlier. Apple’s iOS share stands at 18.2 percent, down from 22.5 percent a year ago. Just so it wouldn’t look like a two-horse race, Blackberry is still in the game with a 3 percent share, down from 6.8 percent last year. Apparently BB10 did not make a huge difference. Windows Phone has a 2.9 percent share, up from 1.9 percent last year. It is growing, but at a painfully slow rate.

Haswell notebooks head to retail channel

Intel-logoManufacturers are hoping that a new crop of notebooks based on Intel’s Haswell processors and Windows 8 can help them buck negative trends in the PC market. A torrent of announcements is expected at Taipei’s Computex next month and the first designs are ready and shipping.

The first Haswell-based notebooks have already shipped and they are expected to arrive in retail channels by the end of the month, which means we shouldn’t see many paper launches at Computex.

However, most vendors are playing it safe and they don’t appear to be placing huge orders. With the PC market contracting by double digits, one can hardly blame them for such caution. As a result, ODMs are expected to see little growth in May, but if vendors regain their confidence they could place more substantial orders in June and beyond. Digitimes reports that Quanta, Compal and Wistron all saw their shipments decline by 10 to 20 percent in April.

Intel is trying to rekindle interest in notebooks by issuing new design guidelines and trying to keep prices down. This is especially true of Ultrabooks, which failed to catch on due to their relatively high prices.

Intel is hoping to shave off a couple of hundred dollars from Ultrabook manufacturer suggested retail prices by the end of the year. In addition to new Haswell chips, a growing number of vendors are choosing to integrate touchscreens in their next-gen Ultrabooks.

It’s not just Intel’s skin on the line, either.

Microsoft is already taking a lot of flak over lacklustre Windows 8 sales, Nvidia is hoping to grow its discrete GPU market share on Haswell notebooks, Seagate and Western Digital have both rolled out Ultrabook friendly 5mm hard drives and hybrid drives and the list goes on.

With so much at stake, plenty of big players have a vested interest in helping Intel’s Haswell push, which offers some hope of good news for consumers as it should translate into better value for money.

Microsoft readies a Surface re-run

Microsoft SurfaceWhile Microsoft’s Surface tablets proved completely underwhelming, a report suggests that the company might have another bash at the platform.

According to Taiwanese wire Digitimes, the company is expected to announce next generation Surface machines at the end of June.

The company only managed to shift 1.5 million tablets of the first generation Surface – way beyond what it expected to achieve.   But the pricing was all wrong and the competition in this field is now very intense.

The wire claims that the second generation Surface will largely retain the same suppliers as Surface Mark I – including microprocessors from Intel and Nvidia, screens from Samsung and LG and touch panels from TPK.

The report also said that displays for Surface Mark II will be smaller – supposedly because there’s more demand for these type of devices, although it’s entirely possible that Microsoft wants to bring down the bill of materials (BOM) costs. It will certainly have to do something spectacular to make Surface tablets fly – particularly on retail costs.