Microsoft, Along with AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, Will Announce DirectX 12 at GDC 2014

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 5, 2014 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, nvidia, microsoft, Intel, gdc 14, GDC, DirectX 12, amd

The announcement of DirectX 12 has been given a date and time via a blog post on the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) blogs. On March 20th at 10:00am (I assume PDT), a few days into the 2014 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California, the upcoming specification should be detailed for attendees. Apparently, four GPU manufacturers will also be involved with the announcement: AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm.

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As we reported last week, DirectX 12 is expected to target increased hardware control and decreased CPU overhead for added performance in "cutting-edge 3D graphics" applications. Really, this is the best time for it. Graphics processors are mostly settled into highly-efficient co-processors of parallel data, with some specialized logic for geometry and video tasks. A new specification can relax the needs of video drivers and thus keep the GPU (or GPUs, in Mantle's case) loaded and utilized.

But, to me, the most interesting part of this announcement is the nod to Qualcomm. Microsoft values DirectX as leverage over other x86 and ARM-based operating systems. With Qualcomm, clearly Microsoft believes that either Windows RT or Windows Phone will benefit from the API's next version. While it will probably make PC gamers nervous, mobile platforms will benefit most from reducing CPU overhead, especially if it can be spread out over multiple cores.

Honestly, that is fine by me. As long as Microsoft returns to treating the PC as a first-class citizen, I do not mind them helping mobile, too. We will definitely keep you up to date as we know more.

Source: MSDN Blogs

Microsoft wants you to browse the web ... on your walls

Subject: General Tech | March 4, 2014 - 12:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surroundweb

Microsoft is working on a new way to display the web to you, projecting it onto your walls. They make use of Kinect to map your walls so that they can pick where to beam your content.  According to what Microsoft told The Inquirer, they can manage to project sites at 30 frames per second with up to 25 screens and up to a 1440x720 resolution.  They make a nod to security concerns, it seems that the information about what your room contains will not be sent back to the website you are viewing.

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"Called Surroundweb, the software is peddled by Microsoft as an "immersive room experience". However, as far as we can see, it's simply a means of projecting different parts of a web page on different surfaces around a room."

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Source: The Inquirer

The Reorganization After Microsoft's Reorganization

Subject: General Tech | March 2, 2014 - 07:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft

According to Kara Swisher at Re/code, two of Microsoft's Executive Vice Presidents are leaving the company. Tony Bates, EVP of Business Development and Evangelism, and Tami Reller, EVP of Marketing, are expected to have their departure announced to the public on Tuesday. Tony Bates joined the company during the Skype acquisition in 2011, while Tami Reller has been with Microsoft since it acquired Great Plains Software in 2001. While Bates is expected to depart immediately, Reller is expected to remain for a while and "help with the transition".

Video Credit: Dilbert Youtube Channel

Seeing the Microsoft reorganization, it should be quite obvious how expensive they can become. They are struggling to find a path for their products that their customers actually want to go down. At the same time, people seem to be flying in every direction. I just wonder if these are the final movements.

Source: Re/code

Microsoft's Windows Store Growing Rapidly, Now At 4 Million Downloads Per Day

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2014 - 11:16 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Windows Store, appstore

Microsoft introduced its own application download repository with Windows 8 along with an SDK for developers to put together touch friendly applications around the formerly-Metro-No-Longer-Modern-Whatever-It-Is-Called-This-Month user interface. Dubbed the Windows Store, it would be the source of applications for Windows RT, Windows Phone, and Windows x86/64 alike.

Since the release of Windows 8 Consumer Preview in February 2012, users have been able to use the Windows Store application to search for and download both free and paid-for apps. The Windows Store is a curated marketplace with applications that must be certified for compatibility by Microsoft who takes a percentage of sale price (30% or less depending on number of downloads).

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At the end of last year, Microsoft had approximately 142,000 apps listed in the Store. Further, the company is seeing as many as 4 million application downloads per day from the Store. The 4 million downloads per day number was uncovered by Alex Wilhelm at TechCrunch, and is a 134.6% increase over the downloads/day number from October 2013. The breakdown of application type is pre-dominately free with paid applications acconting for less than half of the daily downloads (which makes sense).

At the current download rate, Microsoft could push as many as 1.46 billion app downloads a year. All things considered, the Windows Store is still dwarfed in downloads, number of apps, and popularity by the iOS, Google, and Mac app stores, but it is showing a surprising amount of growth lately. Hopefully this rise in popularity will beget more popularity from the cycle of developers getting interested in the Store and users getting new applications. (Ideally, as the Windows Store userbase grows, developers will have increased incentive to program new, or port existing, apps to Metro which should further bring in new users and so on).

Have you used the Windows Store to find new Start Screen apps?

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft is hoping price cuts will make Win8 more attractive

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 09:19 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, win8

DigiTimes does not specifically mention Surface but there are not too many devices running Windows 8 which can be purchased for under $250.   By reducing the licensing fee by $35 for machines that are at that price level Microsoft might make system builders a little more interested to include low cost Windows 8 machines in their lineup as they can sell at a higher margin or at a lower MSRP.  Of course consumers would still have to buy them for those companies to make a profit and it seems very unlikely that a 10% price reduction will convince people they need a Surface or similar device when there are so many other alternatives available.  It does make you wonder if you could get your hands on a Win8 license at a lower cost if you promise to install it on a cheap system.

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"Microsoft plans to further decrease Windows 8.1 licensing rates for entry-level PCs priced below US$250 and tablets, from nearly US$50 currently to about US$15, according to Taiwan-based PC supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

Six Months Later: Jason Holtman Leaves Microsoft

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2014 - 06:10 PM |
Tagged: pc gaming, microsoft

PC Gamer reports that Jason Holtman has left Microsoft after being there just six months. Little is known about his departure, or even what he accomplished at Microsoft beyond his "Head of PC Gaming and Entertainment Strategy" title, but the publication hopes to have more details soon.

It does appear as if he chose to leave.

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Image Credit: Microsoft-News

Prior to joining Microsoft, Holtman served as the director of business development for seven years at Valve. He is credited with a lot of Steam's success, from content deals to their wildly successful "Summer Sales".

We do not really have much beyond that, yet.

Readers, how do you think this reflect Microsoft's stance toward PC gaming?

Source: PC Gamer

Microsoft's Begging Now

Subject: General Tech | February 8, 2014 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: windows xp, windows, microsoft

Windows XP will be end-of-life in just 59 days and Microsoft is concerned. They want to enlist their blog readers as tech support who encourages the upgrade to Windows 8.1 directly, or by the purchase of a new PC. Of course, they are not going to provide any incentive or discount. They just hope that a little peer pressure is all they need.

I will not beat someone up for being a dreamer, but...

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The security nightmare is real, however. It is expected that attackers are hoarding vulnerabilities until after April 8th, when open security holes will remain without patch. Some customers will be allowed paid extra support, apparently at the price of $200 per PC for a year. Of course, this is common practice and can limit the number affected by the rumored malware apocalypse.

Then again, I expect that plenty of those machines are already ripe with infection.

Microsoft seems to be hoping that the exodus from Windows XP will land in Windows 8.1 and solve two problems at once. Windows 7 is still available in devices and resellers who stocked up on old installation media, both in spite of Microsoft (rather than endorsed).

For the rest of us, sit back and watch. I will make a crazy prediction and claim that, sometime between now and June, Microsoft should flinch in some way. It could be the re-introduction of Windows 7, some promotion or discount for retailers or system builders, or whatever.

I think they will be disappointed by April.

Source: Windows Blog

Satya Nadella is Microsoft's New CEO

Subject: General Tech | February 5, 2014 - 11:34 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, CEO

We are a little late on this news, but the hunt for a new Microsoft CEO is over. Satya Nadella, an internal choice from the enterprise division, will take over the entire company. Apart from a little buzz around Stephen Elop, and a lot of it around Allan Mulally, he was the figure on the rumors. Even though the decision was not shocking, it does question Microsoft's role in consumer devices.

Satya only mentioned devices and services twice in his first email to employees.

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Speaking of his introductory email, Satya claims to have asked Bill Gates to "devote additional time to the company". He has been a Microsoft employee for over two decades and he will be supported by its famous co-founder. All of this follows the attempts to discover outside candidates and re-invent the company.

More confusingly, the aforementioned first email contained the line, "This is a software powered world", as a single-line paragraph. He wanted to make this sentence perfectly clear. He believes that Microsoft is the only company with routine success developing platforms and ecosystems. Microsoft has not felt this much like Microsoft in quite some time, which contrasts the last two years of corporate soul-searching.

Then again, those were some of their best years.

Source: Microsoft

What will survive from Games for Windows Live?

Subject: General Tech | January 22, 2014 - 11:58 AM |
Tagged: gaming, microsoft, G4WL

With the ending of Microsoft's Games for Windows Live service many people are understandably worried that they will no longer be able to access games that they have legitimately purchased.  Some games, such as BioShock 2 have been made available via Steam and so will continue to be available but there is a long list of other games for with the future is uncertain.  The list HEXUS provides is far from complete as many companies have yet to respond to inquiries about the future of their games and for quite a few the only thing we know is that the game is not currently slated to be removed.  Check the current list and keep your eyes open for updates.

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"We last mentioned the closure of the Games for Windows Live (G4WL) service back in October when we heard about BioShock 2 being updated and the main game and all its DLC being made available upon Steam so it could continue to be enjoyed."

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Source: Hexus

If it didn't work the first dozen times just keep doing it anyways; Win 9 will be Modern too

Subject: General Tech | January 13, 2014 - 10:52 AM |
Tagged: win 9, win 8.1, threshold, microsoft, dumb

Even if one literal definition of insanity is to repeat the same process exactly while expecting different results, that doesn't prevent that strategy from occasionally being effective when working with PCs.   It is not always the best way to deal with all issues however, something Microsoft may not be willing to admit if the rumours about Windows 9 are true.  What was once going to be a major update to Win 8 may now be released as a newly named version of Windows according to the info at The Inquirer.  The rebranding of the Win 8.1 Service Pack implies that the changes made to the OS will be mostly cosmetic; though a facelift to the GUI would be good the chances that Microsoft will drop their new Modern interface are quite slim.  At least Microsoft is still able to claim this release did not go as badly as Vista.

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"We reported on Friday that the Threshold project was being tipped as a major update for Windows 8, however according to Winsupersite it will instead be billed as a new Windows operating system version slated for release in April 2015."

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Source: The Inquirer