Tag: microsoft

China puts anti-western tech law on hold

1900-intl-forces-including-us-marines-enter-beijing-to-put-down-boxer-rebellion-which-was-aimed-at-ridding-china-of-foreigners-A law, China claimed was all about counter-terrorism but stopped US technology companies selling so much behind the bamboo curtain, has been put on hold.

A senior US official welcomed the move which he said was a good sign for Western businesses that saw the rule as a major impediment to working in the world’s second largest economy.

President Barack Obama said in an interview with Reuters on March 2 that he had raised concerns about the law directly with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said the Chinese have decided to suspend the third reading of that particular law, which has put the law on hiatus.

“We did see that as something that was bad not just for U.S. business but for the global economy as a whole, and it was something we felt was very important to communicate very clearly to them,” Daniel said.

The law would require technology firms to hand over encryption keys, the passcodes that help protect data, and install security “backdoors” in their systems to give Chinese authorities surveillance access.

The move has given companies “some breathing room, but not complete relief” because the bill could be picked up again at any point.

The thought is that the Chinese are not ready to kick out all foreign companies, and because they weren’t ready to take that step, they backed off.

The initial draft, published by the NPC late last year, requires companies to also keep servers and user data within China, supply law enforcement authorities with communications records and censor terrorism-related Internet content.

Although the law would apply to both domestic and foreign companies, officials in Washington and Western business lobbies complained that the combination of that law, the banking rules and anti-trust investigations amounted to unfair regulatory pressure targeting foreign companies.

 

Microsoft migrates tech to competitors

windows-10-technical-preview-turquoiseThe artificial intelligence project called Einstein and used in its so called personal assistant Cortana is set to be ported to Android and to Apple’s iOS.

That’s according to a report from Reuters, which said in an exclusive interview that Cortana will eventually become a stand alone application.

But in the interim and widely flagged, Cortana will be rolled out as part of its Windows 10 desktop, not due until the autumn of 2015.

Microsoft has been boasting about Cortana’s abilities and a few weeks ago the company managed to predict a large number of Oscar winners.

Microsoft wants to get away from being considered a proprietary company and the new CEO broom at the company, Satya Nadella, wants to sprained the appeal of the company’s tech.

Certain differs from Google Siri because that trawls the web and its own server for information that it believes people want.

Certain is being projected as super duper artificial intelligence (AI). But although AI has been touted now for many decades it still faces many challenges.

What’s certain is that in the quest for the perfect AI agent, Microsoft faces many challenges from its competition – in particular Google – which has fairly deep pockets too.

US advances cyber threat bill

National-Security-Agency--008A move that would allow the US government to share cyber information with private companies has been given the nod by a key committee.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee voted 14-1 on Thursday to approve a bill intended to enhance information sharing between private companies and intelligence agencies about cybersecurity threats.

The Bill will go to the Senate where it is expected to get a full backing – after all many private companies would like all that data that the US intelligence services collect and are quite happy to pay their tame Senators to change the law to get it.

Privacy advocates opposed the bill, worrying that it would do too little to prevent more data collection by the National Security Agency and other US intelligence agencies.

Privacy concerns were cited by the only member of the committee who voted against the bill, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon who saw it as another surveillance bill.

In practice the law is targeted at preventing the major cyber attacks and co-ordinate companies and government departments better. Microsoft, Lockheed Martin and Morgan Stanley, had pushed for a such a threat-sharing bill.

 

More gloom ahead for the PC market

A not so mobile X86 PCThere’s still no light at the end of tunnel for PC sales, market research company IDC has predicted.

It estimates that world wide shipments of PCs will drop by 4.9 percent this year, but it suggests things may be slightly better in 2016 and 2017.

Total shipments of PCs this year are expected to total 293.1 million, but the underlying trend remains poor.

IDC said that some sectors of the market saw an uptick in demand during the second half of last year, but volumes were up because the supply chain was inflated by Microsoft’s plan to cut subsidies in its Windows 8.1 + Bing scheme early this year.

The strong US dollar makes PCs more expensive and there’s a continuing move to other form factors. Intel won’t release its Skylake processor and Microsoft won’t ship Windows 10 until later this year, so many will wait buying until they see which particular writing is on the wall.

Emerging markets don’t offer much either. IDC said that these markets ended 2014 with a decline of 9.5 percent in PC shipments.

Loren Louverde, VP of PCs at IDC, said opportunities for long term growth depend largely on growth in the emerging market. “That seems unlikely with the shift towards mobile devices. Vendors can focus on growth segments of the market such as All in One, slim and convertible PCs, or consolidate share, but pressure on pricing and from competing devices will continue to make it a challenging market.”

Microsoft opens up Visual Studio to Java developers

microsoft-in-chinaMicrosoft has opened its Visual Studio Application Insights cloud software telemetry service so that Java developers can come up with new Azure designs.

For those who came in late, Application Insights is part of the Visual Studio Online set of services that Redmond announced in November 2013. It gathers and generates reports on usage and performance data for online applications.

These can be accessed through the Microsoft Azure Portal – which means you need an Azure subscription to use Application Insights.

The service had only allowed for the connection web applications and apps written using Microsoft’s own ASP.Net framework. But the new rules allow the same kind of monitoring to Java applications.

Microsoft is also offering support for Application Insights in its new version of the Azure Tookit for Eclipse.

A free trial of Application Insights is available. After that, pricing depends on the level of Visual Studio Online service you need and the amount of Azure resources you consume each month.

You’re trapped by mobile ads

330ogleA frenzy of competition from major vendors for advertising revenue including the mobile market means growth between now and 2020 compared to the conventional advertising market.

That’s the conclusion of ABI Research today, which said in a report the competition is between Yahoo, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and others to push adverts at you through your mobile device.

Growth in the mobile advertising market is set to grow 16 percent CAGR between 2015 and 2020, compared to the total advertising market at 11 percent.

ABI thinks that mobile advertising will represent over 50 percent of total advertising revenue in the next few years.

Right now, Twitter and Facebook have the largest chunk of the market and so the strongest mobile advertising revenues.

The research company believes that there will be plenty of acquisitions as the different players jockey for position to grow their revenues.

Google is the clear leader in the search advertising sector but it faces increasing competition in the years to come, too.

Microsoft Freaks out over security

Microsoft campusSoftware giant Microsoft said that people using all versions of Windows could be affected by the recent Freak phenomenon.

Freak is a vulnerability caused by software engineers making encryption weaker in operating systems as a result of an order by the USA in the 1990s.

Previously, it was known that the Freak vulnerability affected devices such as Apple and Android operating systems.

Microsoft described Freak “as an industry wide issue that is not specific to Windows operating systems”.

Microsoft doesn’t believe that peoples’ computers have yet been publicly exploited.

Microsoft said it is working with its partners to give information to customers to help them secure their machines. The security advisory can be found here.

Microsoft tech support scammer had a bad day

Microsoft campusA tech support scammer managed to present two different types of fail by losing his temper with the person he was trying to rip off.

Tech support normally requires the patience of Job and the art of being a scammer involves convincing another person that you really are who you claim.

However one scammer took things to a new level by threatening to kill a man who twigged what he was doing.

Jakob Dulisse of British Columbia had been called by people pretending to be Microsoft tech support before, so when a scammer called him and tried to ask for access so he could install malware on his computer that would steal banking information, passwords, and PayPal credentials he told him to go forth and multiply.

Apparently the scammer was a little shocked at that and resorted to threats to kill – as you do.
“You do understand we have each and every information, your address, your phone number,” the scammer said in the recorded call. (You can listen to excerpts at the CBC link.) “We have our group in Canada. I will call them, I will provide your information to them, they will come to you, they will kill you.”

But that  was only part  of it when Dulisse asked why the man would try to steal from unsuspecting people that the conversation took what Dulisse calls a “sinister turn.”
“He admitted that he was in India… and then he said, ‘If you come to India, you know what we do to Anglo people?’ I said, ‘No.’

“He said, ‘We cut them up in little pieces and throw them in the river.'”

Dulisse found the threats “chilling, but hard to take seriously.”

What was amusing about the call was while he was making those sorts of threats he was still trying to get Dulisse to give him remote access to his computer.

It was probably better that the scammer find a new occupation, as he is clearly in the wrong career.

Android ruled the smart roost in 2014

Android building, WikimediaIn 2014 Android was dominant as the operating system for smart devices – including smartphones and tablets.

And while Google’s Android OS will rule the roost this year too, as more “intelligence” goes into cars, glasses, and watches, ABI Research thinks its dominance will reach its peak between 2014 and 2019, showing only a modest CAGR of 10 percent.

Android will have competition from Chrome and Firefox, according to Stephanie Van Vactor, an analyst at ABI Research.

She predicts that those will show CAGRs of 29 percent and Chrome respectively in that time period.

Of course Chrome is also a Google product, but she thinks Android will work well with it.

The move to smart devices means that people will have a lot more choice in choosing an operating system. The research company didn’t say how well it thinks Microsoft’s OS for smartphones and the like will do.

 

Alibaba gets its own US cloud

Clouds in Oxford: pic Mike MageeAlibaba is launching a cloud computing hub in Silicon Valley which is the first that the e-commerce giant has set up outside of China.

The new California data centre marks the Chinese company’s latest expansion onto an US market dominated by Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Alibaba’s Aliyun cloud division intends the new data centre to cater initially to Chinese companies with operations in the United States. Later it will target US businesses seeking a presence in both countries.

Ethan Yu, a vice president at Alibaba who runs the international cloud business said that it was all part of Alibaba’s international expansion plans. The next stage would be a cloud on the East Coast, or somewhere in the middle of the US.

Aliyun is similar to Amazon Web Services and was part of the company’s in-house technical infrastructure. It has since expanded to lease processing and storage space for small and medium Internet businesses in China.

Aliyun, also known as Alibaba Cloud Computing, holds about a 23 percent market share in the Chinese market. It faces both Chinese and foreign competitors, from carriers like China Telecom to Microsoft and Amazon. Its existing data centers span the Chinese cities of Hangzhou, Qingdao, Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

Schmidt triggers Euro debate

Google's Eric "Google Glass" SchmidtThe chairman of Google was summoned to meet the European Competition Commissioner yesterday, as investigations continue into alleged monopolistic habits.

Margarethe Vestager called Eric Schmidt in to discuss a number of complaints about Google, according to a report by Reuters.

Vestiges has already met a number of people complaining about Google, including executives from Microsoft and German press Axel Springer.

Google has, according to the report, has tried to settle the complaints about search engine three times, but all blandishments from the behemoth have been rebuffed.

If the competition commissioner finds that Google has been squeezing out other players in the European market, she could decide that the company has to dish out a tenth of its global revenues, that’s around $6 billion or so.

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.