Tag: microsoft

China irritates tech firms

chinaflagA law set to be passed by Chinese authorities would make tech vendors provide the government with encryption keys and put backdoors in systems.

According to Reuters, the law relates to counter terrorism and the legislation is likely to be passed into law in the near future.

Other elements of the counter terrorism law include a reqirement for companies to locate their servers and user data in China, as well as forcing vendors to censor content that China believes is related to terrorism.

China already forces banks to buy from home grown vendors, rather than buying abroad.

Reuters said that the implications of this new piece of legislation would be to forbid secure VPNs, to send financial information securely, and to hide any detail of a commercial business.

Google might find itself thanking its lucky stars that it doesn’t do business in mainland China, but other vendors including Apple, Intel and Microsoft will certainly be hit by the legislation.

Microsoft gives kids a cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeAs part of its push to dominate the cloud, software giant Microsoft is giving away free Office 365 subscriptions to students outside the US.

Schools will have to buy subscriptions for staff and faculty, but once they do, students  – and even teachers – can self-install for no charge by using a school-issued email address at the Office in education website.

This will give Microsoft a huge customer base for its products, after signing up, kids will get access to the newest Office, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Access and Publisher, and be able to install them on up to five computers and five phones or tablets.

An account also comes with Office Online and a 1TB of OneDrive storage.

The move could totally kill off moves by Google to get its cloud storage system into schools, or for that matter Apple’s push to get its expensive tablets into the education market.

The advantage of Microsoft giving away the software to school kids is that it instils a generation with training on its software which will be carried over to business decisions made later in life.

In the US, Apple and Google have been making inroads into the schools market, based on marketing in Apple’s case and cheaper software in Google’s.

US tech economy suffering because of paranoia

Senator McCarthy On 'Face The Nation'The US economy is officially suffering because its government is not reigning in its paranoid security services.

One of the world’s biggest markets, China, has said that it is no longer using high-profile US technology brands for state buys, amid ongoing revelations about mass surveillance and hacking by the US government.

That means that key brands, including Cisco, Intel, Apple and McAfee — among others — have been dropped from the Chinese government’s list of authorised brands.

The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list.

Chinese companies were said to offer “more product guarantees” than overseas rivals. Some claim it has cost the US government many billions of dollars figure on the impact of the leaks.

US companies have been moaning that the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. However, the US government has claimed that its aggressive spying plan meant that Americans were safer and spying on everyone was the only way to catch terrorists.

This included backdoors being placed in US products sold overseas. Those revelations sparked a change in Chinese policy by forcing Western technology companies to hand over their source code for inspection. That led to an outcry in the capital by politicians who accused Chinese companies of doing exactly the same thing, when they hadn’t.

Microsoft said its fourth-quarter earnings that China “fell short” of its expectations, which chief executive Satya Nadella described as a “set of geopolitical issues” that the company was working through.

HP said its fiscal first-quarter earnings had “execution issues” in China thanks to the “tough market” with increasing competition from the local vendors approved by the Chinese government.

However Cisco has been suffering the most. Earlier this month at its fiscal second-quarter earnings, the networking giant said it lost 19 percent of its revenue in China, amid claims the NSA was installing backdoors and implants on its routers in transit.

Microsoft used Cortina to predict the Oscars

motoring-graphics-g_844446aThis years’ Oscars were a reasonably successful test bed for Microsoft’s new predictive technology — Cortina.

Microsoft predicted 20 of the 24 Oscar winners which is not a bad average and follows its accurate prediction of almost all of the World Cup’s knockout matches – a little better than the octopus.

Cortina could not work out who would win the original screenplay, original score, animated feature and film editing categories. It got all the rest.

The software uses Bing-analysed historical data and Vole told us in advance who it thought would win.

Microsoft uses a prediction model for the Oscars that is managed by Microsoft researcher David Rothschild at the company’s New York City research lab. Rothschild correctly predicted 21 of 24 Oscar winners last year, and 19 of 24 winners in 2013.

In comparison, Vegas odds from the Wynn casino weren’t nearly as good. The Wynn predicted best picture, best actress, best actor, best supporting actress, best supporting actor, and best director, but only managed to guess four of six correctly. Microsoft predicted all six accurately.

Practically this goes beyond fortune telling for vacuous entertainment events. This is Microsoft’s chance to prove the company’s abilities to manipulate data sets is better than anyone else’s.
Its main goal is to show that Bing algorithms and data itself is pretty powerful. These things are an interesting way to show users that Bing has a lot of horsepower beyond just providing good search results, a spokesVole said.

 

Open saucy Microsoft puts Azure on Ubuntu

Every silver has a cloudy liningMicrosoft has released its Azure hosted service so that it can run Linux.

Microsoft showed off a preview of Azure HDInsight running on Ubuntu and the makers of the open saucy gear Canonical claims that it is a recognition that Ubuntu is great for running Big Data solutions.

For those who came in late, Azure HDInsight, is Microsoft’s Apache Hadoop-based service in the Azure cloud. It is designed to make it easy for customers to evaluate petabytes of all types of data with fast, cost-effective scale on demand, as well as programming extensions so developers can use their favourite languages.

The big idea is that people that already use Hadoop on Linux on-premises like on Hortonworks Data Platform, because they can use common Linux tools, documentation, and templates and and now they can extend their deployment to Azure with hybrid cloud connections.

It is not all one way traffic.  Canonical has Juju which  is a Cloud Orchestration tool. This is the result of years of effort to optimize Big Data workloads on Ubuntu. This will mean that Azure will effectively gain access to this.

Ballmer is still excited about Microsoft

ballmerThe shy and retired former Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer has been quietly supporting Microsoft’s new Windows 10 software in his usual understated manner.

Last week after the Windows 10 event Ballmer expressed his continued love for the company, despite the fact he was forbidden to take to the stage and bounce anymore.

For those with memories like goldfish, Ballmer was chief executive at Microsoft for 14 years before Satya Nadella took over last year. In August, Ballmer resigned from Microsoft’s board, to concentrate on a basketball team he had bought so he could have something to shout at.

Nadella appears to be making all the sorts of changes that shareholders want, but Ballmer was not delivering.  However Steve does not seem to be flinging chairs about now that Nadella is undoing all his hard work.

He made one of his rare tweets saying that:

“Today made all MSFT employees proud, customers excited and shareholders salivate. The wave of windows 10 hw, services OS rocks. I love MSFT.”

It seems like Ballmer is just as excited about the reborn Microsoft as he always was. Still he does have a lot of shares in the outfit, so we guess he still has to be.

 

Microsoft snaps up Israeli firm

Microsoft campusMicrosoft has spent $200 million on an Israeli firm that makes digital pens and semiconductors for touch screens.

According to financial news website Calcalist, the 190 people who work for N-trig will work for Microsoft’s Israeli division.

N-trig makes pens for use in smartphones, for tablets and for slim notebooks.

Microsoft already owned a 6.1 percent chunk in N-Trig to incorporate its pen in the Surface Pro 3 tablets it makes.

Reuters said N-trig revenues in the first half of 2014 amounted to $20.6 million. Its customers include Sony, HP, and Lenovo.

Microsoft is keen to re-position itself in the next wave of the IT market.

Microsoft and Samsung settle over royalties

 9545A court case between Microsoft and Samsung over patent royalties appears to have sorted itself out.

Microsoft  sued Samsung last year claiming the spy TV maker had breached a collaboration agreement by initially refusing to make royalty payments.

This was soon after Microsoft bought Nokia’s handset business in September 2013.

The lawsuit claimed Samsung still owed $6.9 million in interest on more than $1 billion in patent royalties it delayed paying. Samsung has countered that the Nokia acquisition violated its 2011 collaboration deal with Microsoft.

Microsoft has not said how much Samsung is paying it. In 2011, a technology analyst at Citigroup estimated that Microsoft was getting $5 per Android handset sold by phone maker HTC under a patent agreement, and that Microsoft was looking for up to $12.50 per phone from other handset makers it had yet to come to an agreement with.

Microsoft denied this figure but if it applied the $5 price to Samsung, the Korean company could be paying Microsoft about $1.6 billion per year.

Samsung said it had agreed in 2011 to pay Microsoft royalties in exchange for a patent license covering phones that ran Google Android operating system. Samsung also agreed to develop Windows phones and share confidential business information with Microsoft, according to court filings.

 

Windows on subscription gets closer

windows-10-technical-preview-turquoiseMicrosoft seems to be moving closer to the idea that its Windows operating system will be sold using a subscription as a service.

The subscription, much like Office 365, will be paid once a year but appeared to have been abandoned when Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be free, for anyone upgrading from Windows 7 or 8.

Even though Microsoft has not fully detailed its Windows 10 pricing strategy, it recently filed for a trademark for ‘Windows 365’, which adds a bit of fuel to the subscription based version of Windows.

A trademark might have been lodged to stop other people using it, but when Microsoft does announce a subscription version of Windows, ‘Windows 365″ would likely be the name.

So far, there has been no sign that Redmond is rushing to release ‘Windows 365’ in the immediate future, as it is pushing Windows 10 at every possible instance. For now, know that Microsoft has claimed this branding right, it could be something seen in the future.

 

Qualcomm faces billion dollar fine

qualcomm-snapdragonUS tech giant Qualcomm may face a fine of as much as $1 billion after antitrust regulators decide on its future.
And it may also face sanctions that make it cut its royalties by a third.
Reuters reports that talks between Qualcomm and the authorities in China are close to reaching a conclusion.
The article quotes Xu Dunlin, head of China’s antitrust agency, as saying his authority will soon release details of the settlement.
The ruling will have a significant effect on Qualcomm because nearly fifty percent of its worldwide revenues from from the country.
Further, much of its profits come from royalties through its licensing division.
Reuters says that it’s not just Qualcomm that faces a problem from the Chinese agency.  It is also investigating Microsoft and Samsung to see if they infringe its antitrust rules.
It’s estimated that Qualcomm generates over $25.5 billion in revenues from the Chinese mainland.

 

Adblock Plus asks for “security” money

shut-up-and-take-my-moneyThere have been howls of derision on the interwebs after it was revealed that ad-blocking browser Adblock Plus  has been paid off by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Taboola.

What appeared to have been a brilliant bit of software which kept adverts out of your browser, has turned into something of a debacle.

PC Mag said that  that one digital media company, which asked not to be named, said Eyeo had asked for a fee equivalent to 30 percent of the additional ad revenues that it would make from being unblocked.

What this means is that all you need to do to make a bit of dosh is write an ad-blocking code, it does not even have to work that well, and show up at the Big IT companies and say: “That is a nice bit of advertising, it would be terrible if something happened to it” and collect your cheque.

PC Mag ummed and ahed about how advertising drives the free Web and sites were not staying in business long these days, but the fact that you have to pay people who write anti-advertising software to look the other way does strike us as the central part of the story.

What this means is that the big companies who can afford to pay,  can run adverts while the smaller magazines will see their sites blocked.  In short the big guys win and the little sites are stuffed.

Notebook sales plummeted in January

notebooksMajor and minor vendors saw precipitous falls in shipments of notebooks  in January.
That’s according to Digitimes Research, which said HP saw its shipments fall by 45 percent and Lenovo fall by 30 percent compared to the previous month.
It wasn’t just the big names that suffered – the original design manufacturers – including giant Compal – saw its shipments fall too.
However, Compal supplies machines to both HP and Lenovo, the market research firm said.
Microsoft has been forced by incursions from Chromebooks to slash its licensing rate – but these machines are not immune to a more general decline in notebooks.
The news may be bad for HP and Lenovo but could be good news for people looking for notebook bargains – most of the machines sitting in warehouses are aimed at home use.
It’s still not entirely clear how Microsoft will approach the thorny matter of Windows 10 when that’s launched in the third or fourth quarter of this year.  It also hasn’t disclosed how many different varieties of Windows 10 it will offer at launch.
There is some sentiment that people are holding off buying notebooks until they have a clearer picture of what is going to emerge from Redmond.

 

Lenovo pips Amazon at the tablet game

cheap-tabletsApple continued to be the market leader for tablets in 2014 but it, in common with other vendors, showed a drop in sales.
A report from Trendforce said that the tablet industry has no reached the maturity point with shipments globally totalling 192 million units. That’s a fall of 2.2 percent compared to 2013.
Apple fared rather worse, it shipped 63.4 million units, a drop of 13.6 percent.
Number two in the pack was Samsung, but its shipments at 41 million units dropped only 2.5 percent.
Lenovo beat Amazon to take third place, and now has 5.6 percent market share.
Both Amazon and Google trailed behind, and Microsoft hasn’t really hit the numbers with its Surface Pro 3.

 

Some analysts believe that not only has the market reached maturity, but it’s hard to persuade people to upgrade.  Others think that tablets are being squeezed on the one hand by larger screen size smartphones and others by low cost notebook PCs.

Microsoft reveals cloud roadmap

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeSoftware company Microsoft said it has introduced a web site that reveals details of its roadmap for its Cloud Platform.
Microsoft has been aiming to move to the cloud as fast as it can and now offers cloud services including Azure, Intone, Visual Studio and server platforms including Windows Server, SQL Server.  It also has covered system appliance offerings including Analytics and Stor System.
Takeshi Numoto, corporate vice president of the cloud and enterprise marketing group at Microsoft said the company wanted to be transparent about its cloud strategy.
He said that the web site, which you can find here, is intended to show what technology it’s developing and what’s coming in the next few months.
It also will include products in public preview.
Microsoft isn’t the only company struggling to re-invent itself as a cloud player.  Others in the game include SAP, Oracle and IBM.
Analysts predict that over the next few years the majority of enterprise IT users will use cloud computing and services more and more.

 

Raspberry Pi 2 goes on sale

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 14.26.35The people who make popular do-it-yourself circuit board said that they’ve released a new version of the device.
The Raspberry Pi 2 sells for $35 – the same price as before, but now comes with a 900MHz quad core ARM Cortex A7 CPU, 1GB of SDRAM, and retains compatibility with the Raspberry Pi 1.
The board, popular with schools and enthusiasts can run all ARM GNU/Linux distributions as well as Microsoft Windows 10  – when it comes out.
The company said that Broadcom has created a new system on a chip BCM2836 for the device, which includes the 900MHz ARM chip – meaning there’s no upgrade difficulties.
The company said that it has worked with Microsoft over the last 10 months to prepare for the arrival of Windows 10.  The Raspberry Pi 2 compatible version of Windows 10 won’t cost anything to manufacturers.