Subject: General Tech | August 23, 2013 - 06:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, Steve Ballmer
The world, it feels, has been calling for this moment years running. Steve Ballmer has announced he will be stepping down from CEO position at Microsoft within the next twelve (12) months. This transition, appointing a successor and so forth, will occur within this window.
Not saying, "next six months or, if necessary, the six thereafter" is a shame...
... because then it would be... transition... windows.
We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.
This should be demonstrably false, apart from some grandiose fluke, if his successor is any of the newly appointed division leads. It would not make sense to be placed at the head of a division, intentionally, for such a short time before becoming the new CEO; it would be too damaging to bungee-boss a whole division unless it was an unplanned decision. The other possibility would be placing candidates as division heads to groom them into lead-executive material; this, too, does not make sense as it would be a very abrupt, short, and disruptive grooming.
Then again, I am only running off logic, not business experience. Maybe I am wrong?
Speaking of selection, Bill Gates confirmed that he would be on the "succession planning committee". Other members include: John Thompson, committee chair; Steve Luczo, chairman of compensation sub-committee; Chuck Noski, chairman of audit sub-committee; and Heidrick & Struggles International Inc, a recruiting firm for executives... trust them, Struggles is their middle name. They are not only considering promotions for existing staff but also candidates from outside the company.
There will be a lot of cheering, especially in the comments, about this event... but not for me. Replacing Ballmer could be a good or a bad move for Microsoft; it could also be a good or a bad move for us, as PC users. Microsoft could become more focused on certification, even more than it currently threatens; they could also be more hostile to the open-source community.
On the other hand, they could be more open to those issues.
Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2013 - 08:09 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, valve, xbox, pc gaming
A half of a year, almost to the day, passed since Valve removed two dozen employees. Jason Holtman, then Director of Business for Valve, was among those released. Despite the flat-by-design corporate structure, with even game credits listed alphabetically versus title and department, Holtman is considered key to the success of Steam.
Games for Windows has not been a success. Microsoft Game Studios, and even Microsoft Hardware, had high respect in the PC gaming industry with extremely popular franchises and lines of peripherals. Their image has since regressed far enough for Microsoft to give up, two years ago, and roll Games for Windows into the Xbox brand.
As Microsoft fell, Valve climbed. Steam, largely credited to efforts by Jason Holtman, distributes games for basically every major publisher. It has a respected position on the hard drive of gamers which is an enviable feat. The Windows Store has not received any uptake. Microsoft feels the need to change that and, it would seem by accepting the job, Holtman believes he can accomplish that.
I do wonder how Microsoft will be influenced by this hire. The major concern with Windows Store is its certification process and I doubt anything will change on that front. I expect the hope is his contributions to publisher relationships but he might also, on the side, induce change in visible ways.
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 14, 2013 - 08:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows rt, mouse, microsoft, keyboard
I would normally begin a product announcement with some introduction but, this time, a quote from Mary Jo Foley seems a better fit:
These new peripherals work with Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows RT, though only "basic functionality" is provided when used with Windows RT.
Problems with Windows RT, it is now obvious, go beyond Ethernet dongles and I would be shocked if Microsoft Hardware are the only ones suffering. We have already heard Plugable, an adapter and peripherals company, complain about Microsoft and their demand for Plugable to pull Surface RT drivers from their website. I cannot see this being a few localized issues.
These are the problems you will experience with a platform where the owner has complete control. Imagine how bad Windows RT will be if Microsoft slips behind, again, in Internet Explorer development; the only browsers allowed must be Internet Explorer reskins. But I digress.
The Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop is a mouse, keyboard, and number pad with a unique appearance. Non-uniform keys pushing upward to a split should conform to the hand of a typical home row typist. WASD gamers might as well stop reading by this point. Microsoft is not known for mechanical switches so I would expect this keyboard to be typical membrane-based activation.
Side-on shows off the depth better.
That said, most Microsoft peripherals I have used tends to keep up with mechanical in terms of durability and performance... except wired Xbox headsets. Those little turds snap within a matter of hours.
The mouse, on the other hand (literally), does not seem to include extra mouse buttons except for a dedicated Windows button. If you have not figured it out by now: gamers are not the target audience. It seems fairly standard otherwise, from a feature standpoint, although comfort and durability are the big deciding factors for many users which we are not in a position to give an honest opinion on.
Together, the devices are available within the week and retail for $129.95. The keyboard, separately, will be available in September for $80.95; the mouse, separately, will be available for $59.95. High price, but it might just be worth it for dedicated typists.
Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2013 - 12:38 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, winRT, fail, Surface RT
Predicting the next best thing in mobile computing is not an easy task, nor is convincing people that your run of the mill product is in fact the second coming of sliced bread. However some products are doomed to failure from their inception, regardless of the quality of the product due to the company in question attempting something that does not fit with their specialization. Ask Ryan about his Zune, a quality product doomed to failure thanks to the fact that it was hardware born to a software company that has not previously needed to worry about package design or producing physical products.
Surface RT on the other hand was full of warts to begin with and doesn't have any of the saving graces that Microsoft's audio player did, it does nothing well and some things 'just good enough'. MSI came out against Microsoft's plans to produce hardware in direct competition to the companies that have been licensing Windows for their products from the beginning and ASUS also expressed doubts not only about the success of the product but the wisdom of trying to steal business from your customers. Surface for the most part has been successful but the WinRT version has been an overpriced failure. This is probably why the inevitable has happened, it will be lawyers at dawn. You can read the complaint that was filed over at The Register if you wish.
"According to a press release issued by the law firm of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd on Monday, the suit charges Microsoft with violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, including failing to disclose "then presently known trends, events, or uncertainties" in its filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- There she blows! Mid-October release date for Windows 8.1 sighted @ The Register
- Facebook's request to the flash industry: 'Make the worst flash possible' @ The Register
- Android 4.3 Based CyanogenMod 10.2 Nightlies Arrive @ Slashdot
- Leap Motion Controller exploit demoed by Malwarebytes @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Systems, Mobile | August 6, 2013 - 04:18 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Surface RT, microsoft
It has been a month, to the day, since I picked on Windows RT for being more locked down than a Nintendo console. Devices, including Microsoft's own Surface RT, did not allow USB to Ethernet dongles for wired internet access. Compared to the Wii, that is quite pathetic.
Certain users have been able to use adapters until apparently, according to Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft helped ensure they are broke as intended. They are also demanding hardware manufacturers, who otherwise could support the operating system, to withhold drivers from their customers.
If you were one of those people who managed to get an Ethernet dongle working with your ARM-based Surface RT, you've probably since discovered that it no longer works.
I did not see any confirmation of Microsoft disabling any drivers so, bare in mind, I might have just misunderstood the above quote. Apparently, though, the issue arises from Connected Standby conflicts with those dongles.
But that does not mean Microsoft will continue to prevent Ethernet dongles.
According to the same article from Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft is quietly working on a fix for the issue. They are currently working, along with hardware manufacturers, on creating devices which can support the instant-on, instant-off feature. The cynic in me, of course, wonders if Microsoft will be first to market with the, albeit rumored, corrected peripheral.
Personally, I feel that a consumer who purchases one of your devices should be allowed to install hardware understanding the tradeoff. It would not be too difficult to pop up a warning, "Your USB device is not compatible with Connected Standby; the feature will resume when your accessory is removed".
Just another advantage for truly personal PCs.
Subject: General Tech | July 31, 2013 - 02:10 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, surface, winRT, fail
The future of Windows RT and the Surface tablet are bleak, maybe bleaker than you think as Microsoft made $853 million in sales on the non-Pro Surface. That number is lower than the hit that Microsoft's prospective sales took in lowering the price of the Surface by $150. Acer warned them a year ago that they should stick with software and ASUS has just announced that they have no interest in making any more Surface devices until demand appears. You can see the actual numbers of the immense loss for Microsoft that Surface created at The Register. If that wasn't bad enough, British courts have ruled that Microsoft can not use the term SkyDrive for their online storage solution anymore.
"Got that? Microsoft spent more in a single year advertising the Windows 8 and Surface launches than it took in from Surface sales that same year."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- AMD's newest chip: Another step toward 'transformation' @ The Register
- FreeBSD Can Compete With Ubuntu Linux, Windows 8 @ Phoronix
- Micron completes purchase of Elpida and increases share of Rexchip @ The Inquirer
- The least-timely, shoddiest review of Final Cut Pro X @ The Tech Report
- Mozilla teams with Blackberry on fuzzing Firefox @ The Inquirer
- Intel's homage to Raspberry Pi: The much pricier Minnowboard @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | July 21, 2013 - 02:21 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, productivity, outlook, office 365, microsoft, gaming, deals
Microsoft recently posted a new offer that seeks to sweeten the pot for customers interested in trying out the company’s Office 365 Home Premium subscription. Under the new promotional offer, users that purchase an annual Office 365 subscriptions will also receive a year of Xbox Live Gold for free. Not a bad deal, at all considering Office 365 Home Premium is $100 a year and Xbox Live Gold is $60 by itself.
The offer is eligible for customers in the United States who purchase a yearly subscription to Office 365 Home Premium. The promo runs from July 18, 2013 to September 28, 2013. That eligible version of Office 365 Home Premium normally includes a basic suite of Office applications for up to five PCs and five mobile devices, 20GB of additional SkyDrive storage, 60 Skype minutes (per month), and a web version of Office.
Office applications include:
- Word 2013
- Excel 2013
- PowerPoint 2013
- Outlook 2013
- OneNote 2013
- Access 2013
- Publisher 2013
With the promo, users can get a year of XBL Gold as well. Once Office 365 has been purchased, users will need to activate the subscription and then log into Office.com/xbox (before October 31, 2013) with the same Microsoft account that purchased the subscription to get a code that can be redeemed on Xbox.com or the console itself for a year of XBL Gold which gives users access to streaming services and multi-player gaming for the company’s Xbox 360 (and presumably the upcoming Xbox One) gaming console.
To find the full list of terms and conditionss for the promo, head over to this FAQ page.
Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2013 - 10:37 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, Surface RT, microsoft, financial results
Software giant Microsoft recently released its financial report for its fiscal Q4 2013 (FY13 Q4) ended June 30, 2013. The financial results cover both quarterly and yearly results.
Microsoft saw quarterly revenue of $19.09 billion of fiscal Q4 2013 as well as $77.85 billion of revenue for fiscal year 2013. Quarterly revenue of $19.09 billion fell approximately 7% from fiscal Q3 2013 revenue of $20.49 billion. Further, yearly revenue increased 6% versus fiscal year 2012.
Additionally, Microsoft had quarterly operating income and net income of $6.07 billion and $4.97 billion respectively.
As far as annual financial results, Microsoft’s operating income and Earnings Per Share both increased to the tune of 23% and 29% respectively versus the previous fiscal year.
The reduced performance in fiscal Q4 2013 is partially attributed to a $900 million charge for Surface RT “inventory adjustments,” and a $733 million European Commission fine which reduced operating income. On the positive side, Microsoft was able to count $782 million worth of defrred revenue from its Office Upgrade Offer.
According to the Microsoft press release:
“Our diverse business continues to deliver solid financial results, even as we navigate the evolving device market,” said Peter Klein, chief financial officer at Microsoft. “Looking ahead, we will continue to invest in long-term growth opportunities to drive our devices and services strategy forward and deliver ongoing value to shareholders.”
Looking forward, Microsoft has announced that CFO Peter Klein will be leaving the company at the end of the current fiscal year after 11 years total at Microsoft and 4 years in the Chief Financial Officer role. Further, Microsoft expects operating expenses to grow by as much as 6% over fiscal year 2014.
More information can be found in the full financial report.
Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2013 - 01:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: winRT, price cuts, microsoft
Translated into US currency the new price of WinRT tablets is around $350, putting it on par with the price of an iPad Mini and making it significantly less expensive than a full sized iPad. That might help it meet the expectations of prospective buyers, providing a Windows based iPad alternative with more storage space as opposed to the previous price point which implied that the WinRT based Surface was almost a real laptop in terms of processing power. That price does not include the base with keyboard which is more than a little disappointing for those who might consider a Surface at the new price. The Register and other sites feel that the price drop is indicative of a new model in the works sometime in the near future.
"Probably to make way for a refreshed Surface RT device tipped to be on its way soon, the 32GB Surface RT now costs £120 less than Apple's 16GB iPad with Retina display, with double the storage, and just £10 more than an iPad Mini."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- The TR Podcast 137: The long reach of ARM
- The App Store heads to kindergarten @ The Tech Report
- ARM Steps Into Networking, Running Linux @ Linux.com
- Botch Tuesday: Redmond frags video codec @ The Register
- Microsoft to upset tech floggers: SO SORRY about our broken tools @ The Register
- Desktop Computer System PC Hardware Component Predictions @ Benchmark Reviews
- Valve taps teens for project Pipeline @ The Inquirer
- No sale, Yahoo! Hulu goes off the auction block @ The Register
- Maplin's Velleman K8200 3D printer demo @ The Inquirer
- Ninjalane Podcast – MOA 2013 Semi Finals, De-lidding Haswell and Death of Point and Shoot
- Recharge Your Mobile Device Using Pedal Power with Weekend Projects @ MAKE:Blog
- Win An Anidees AI-6B Mid-Tower Computer Case @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2013 - 02:50 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 8.1, tpm 2.0, mwpc 2013, microsoft, hardware certification, certification, 802.11ac
At the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference this year Microsoft detailed updated hardware certification requirements for Windows 8.1 systems. Among the changes, Microsoft is pushing for better security, media playback, video conferencing, and input precision in an effort to position Windows 8.1 as the best tablet platform. Hardware does not technically need to meet all of the standards in order to run the operating system, but OEM machines will need to check all the boxes in order to have their hardware branded as being Windows 8.1 certified.
According to an article over at ZDNet, Microsoft will be rolling out the certification changes over the next two years. In 2014, Windows 8.1 certification will require systems with Wi-Fi capability to also have Bluetooth functionality. Further, in machines with integrated displays such as laptops, tablets, and all-in-one desktops, OEMs will need to include at least an integrated 720p webcam with microphone. The bar for microphone and speaker hardware quality has also been raised, so systems with integrated speakers will need to pass a certain threshold of minimum quality to get Windows 8.1 certification. Mary Jo Foley expects that Microsoft is pushing the webcam and microphone requirements in an effort to entice business customers and push its Lync video conferencing platform.
Further, machines that come with NFC (Near Field Communication) will need to conform to the NCL standard which defines how an NFC controller communicates with the host device via drivers. ARM-powered Windows 8.1 devices will be required to have so-called “precision touchpads” while the more accurate touchpad hardware is merely optional for x86-64-based Windows 8.1 systems. Microsoft is also pushing for 802.11ac support, though it does not appear to be a hard requirement in order to get certification. Systems that support connected standby mode will also need to support at least 6 hours of video playback at the display's native resolution, and if the system has a fan used for cooling it will need to report its status to the Windows 8.1 OS.
Finally, by 2015 OEMs will need to support TPM 2.0 security technology into their systems in order to qualify for Windows 8.1 certification. The 2.0 standard is an update to the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) security specification and relates to a hardware chip on the motherboard that is used to store encryption keys.
In all, the certification requirements seem logical and are a step in the right direction. More details on the changes can be found on this Microsoft MSDN page on hardware certification requirements.