Microsoft brings SSO to AD, even for competitor's apps

Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2013 - 02:01 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, sso

In a fairly bold move to block out Amazon's attempt to sell Single Sign On to businesses, Microsoft will upgrade AD in Azure to support SSO for a variety of products, up to and including competitors such as Google who also offer an Office Suite in the cloud.  This will allow users access to most of their online resources as soon as they have logged onto a machine using their AD credentials.  For admins comes the ability to monitor the SSO system, including the ability to monitor suspicious logins.  Check out The Register for more.

windows-azure.jpg

"Microsoft has expanded the capabilities of its identity and access management infrastructure to allow for single sign-on of a multitude of corporate apps.

The upgrades to Windows Azure Active Directory were announced on Sunday, and bring pre-integrated single sign-on for apps from Office 365 to Box.com, Salesforce.com, and even Redmond-nemesis Google Apps."

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Source: The Register

Windows 8 Market Share Outpaces Vista, but Is Still Far Below Windows 7 and Windows XP

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7, microsoft, desktop market share

A recent report by NetMarketShare indicates that Windows 8 is having a difficult time displacing Microsoft's older operating systems. Of the total market, Windows occupies 91.50% across all existing versions. Windows 7 and Windows XP dominate the Windows market share at 44.37% and 37.17% respectively. Microsoft's latest operating system, Windows 8, is sitting at 5.1%, which barely scratches past Windows Vista at 4.62%. Having more market share than Windows Vista and Windows 98 is good, but it is hardly proving to be as popular as Microsoft hoped for. 

Desktop Operating System Market Share 2013.jpg

June 2013 Desktop Operating System Market Share, as measured by NetMarketShare.

Granted, Windows 8 is still a new operating system, whereas XP and Windows 7 have had several years to gain users, be included on multiple generations of OEM machines, and be accepted by the enterprise customers. The free Windows 8.1 update should alleviate some users' concerns and may help bolster its market share as well. However, Windows XP simply will not die and Windows 7 (if talk on the Internet is to be believed, hehe) seems to be good enough for the majority of users, so it is difficult to say when (or if) Microsoft's latest OS will outpace the two existing, and entrenched, Windows operating systems.

YoY, Windows 7 lost 0.33% market share while Windows XP lost 6.44% market share. Meanwhile, Windows 8 has been slowly increasing in market share each quarter since its release. Netmarketshare reported 1.72% market share in December of 2012, and in six months the operating system has grown by 3.38%. There is no direct cause and effect here, but it does suggest that few people are choosing a Windows 8 upgrade path, and that despite the growth, the lost market share for Windows 7 and XP is not solely from people switching to Windows 8, but also some small number of people jumping to alternative operating systems such as Mac OS X and Linux. The historical data is neat, but it is difficult to predict how things will look moving forward. If adoption continues at this pace, it is going to take a long time for Windows 8 to dethrone Microsoft's older Windows XP and Windows 7 operating systems.

How you made the switch to Windows 8 or gotten it on a new machine? Will the Back-to-School shopping season give Windows 8 the adoption rate boost it needs?

Microsoft and Steven Sinofsky come to Terms

Subject: General Tech | July 6, 2013 - 04:39 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Steven Sinofsky, windows 8

Steven Sinofsky, the man who supervised the development of Windows 7 and Windows 8, left Microsoft almost immediately following 8's release. When someone of his rank and 23-year tenure leaves the company, lawyers make sure it is . Just a few days ago, an SEC filing publishes the terms of his resignation; inside baseball, but might be worthwhile at least for some of our viewers.

StevenSinofsky.jpg

Image Credit: Wikipedia

We assumed, but just recently had confirmed, that Sinofsky is currently unable to compete with Microsoft via terms of his former employment contract. This means that, until December 31st of this year, he will be unable to:

  • Work for a Microsoft competitor
  • Disparage Microsoft
  • Sway customers to competing products
  • Headhunt Microsoft employees or otherwise encourage them to quit

Sinofsky will also be immune to legal action as a result of any events, if they should ever arise, which relate to his employment at Microsoft. This is likely no more than a typical formality. He is not wholly decoupled from Microsoft litigation, however, as he will continue "assisting with intellectual property litigation until January 1, 2017".

As final compensation, Sinofsky will receive outstanding shares prior to Fiscal Year 2013 and half of those awarded FY2013. These 418,361 shares are estimated at about $14.2 million and will arrive, over time, between now and August 2016.

He is currently teaching at Harvard Business School.

Source: ZDNet

Microsoft Ending TechNet Subscription Program August 31, 2013

Subject: General Tech | July 3, 2013 - 01:18 AM |
Tagged: windows server, technet, microsoft, IT, evaluation software, enterprise

In a surprising announcement, Microsoft stated that it will be retiring the TechNet software evaluation subscription service. The TechNet service gave IT professionals and enthusiasts the ability to evaluate its software products before committing to buying licenses and doing a full roll out on production machines. It also provided support and information labs to subscribers.

Fortunately, it is not being shut down immediately. Microsoft will cease offering new subscriptions on August 31, 2013.

Microsoft TechNet Subscriptions No More.png

Therefore, if you are interested in renewing an existing subscription or buying a new TechNet subscription, you have a little under two months to purchase one. Microsoft will stop selling subscriptions on August 31, 2013. If you are purchasing the subscription as a renewal to an existing one, you must buy the subscription before August 31, 2013 but do not need to activate it immediately. You will need to activate your purchased TechNet sub by September 30, 2013.

Further, TechNet subscribers will retain access to all of their traditional benefits until either the end of the subscription or September 30, 2014 (whichever comes first, depending on when you activate your subscription). After that point, users will lose access to the subscriber's portal which gives out downloads and keys.

It should be noted that the TechNet website itself is not going away, at least not for awhile. The paid benefits are being discontinued, however.

According to Microsoft, the company is discontinuing its services as a result of a combination of factors that includes a transition towards free evaluation software as opposed to putting evaluation copies behind a pay-wall. Microsoft also mentioned piracy and concerns with those subscribers abusing the system and selling keys (ie. on eBay), but that it was not the primary motivator in favor of shutting down TechNet.

Retiring TechNet is a bit surprising, but Microsoft has been moving in the direction of offering more free trials and evaluations in the past few years. Windows 7 and 8 enjoyed quite a few free testing software releases at various development stages. The company also offers up trials its Azure cloud computing platform and electronic/sample labs of its server software. TechNet did have the benefit of licenses that did not expire after 90 days (or thereabouts), as well as providing access to multiple copies of software, downloadable ISOs, and a catalog of all its software SKUs in a centralized place.

Considering MSDN and its various spark subscriptions are still alive and well, canceling TechNet seems like an odd choice, but at least Microsoft is giving IT departments and enthusiasts advanced warning and up to a year to prepare to transition to one of the other (unfortunately more expensive) subscription services or see if the company's free offerings are "good enough" by next year.

More information can be found on the official TechNet website.

What do you think about Microsoft's decision to axe paid TechNet subscriptions?

Source: Microsoft

Xbox Division Lead, Don Mattrick, Leaves to Join... Zynga? Steve Ballmer, Himself, Scabs the Void.

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | July 2, 2013 - 03:33 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, xbox, microsoft, consolitis

Well that was unexpected...

Don Mattrick, a few months ahead of the Xbox One launch and less than two months after its unveiling, decided to leave his position at Microsoft as president of Interactive Entertainment Business. This news was first made official by a Zynga press release, which announced acquiring him as CEO. Steve Ballmer later published an open letter addressed all employees of Microsoft, open to the public via their news feed, wishing him luck and outlining the immediate steps to follow.

Mattrick.jpg

While subtle in the email, no replacement has been planned for after his departure on July 8th. Those who report to Don Mattrick will report directly to Steve Ballmer, himself, seemingly through the launch of Xbox One. As scary and unsettling as Xbox One PR has been lately, launching your flagship ship without a captain is a depressingly fitting apex. This would likely mean that either: Don gave minimal notice of his departure, he was being abruptly ousted from Microsoft and Zynga just happened to make convenient PR for all parties involved, or there is literally no sense to be made of the situation.

However the situation came about, Xbox One will likely launch from a team directly lead by Steve Ballmer and Zynga will have a new CEO. Will his goal be to turn the former social gaming giant back on course? Or will he be there to milk blood from the company before it turns to stone?

I wonder whether his new contract favors cash or stock...

Source: Zynga

Microsoft Surface Pro With 256GB SSD Now Available For $1,199.99

Subject: Mobile | July 1, 2013 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: windows 8 tablet, windows 8, Surface Pro, microsoft, 256GB

A recent product listing at CDW indicates that Microsoft is adding a new Surface Pro tablet SKU to its existing lineup of 10.6" tablets. The new SKU ups the storage ante to a 256GB solid state drive.

The Surface Pro tablet is otherwise identical to the existing Surface Pros, however. Specifications include an Intel Core i5 3317U processor with HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 10.6" 1080p display wrapped in a magnesium chassis.

The 256GB model continues to run Windows 8 Pro, which means that users will have a bit more than 200GB to play around with after Windows, Office, and a few apps are installed.

The 256GB Surface Pro will cost $1,199.99, which means that the extra 128GB of storage comes at a $200 premium over the existing 128GB Surface Pro ($999.99).

Personally I find the Surface Pro to be too expensive for my taste, especially when $1,200 does not even get me a physical keyboard. I would rather grab one of those Windows 8 convertible tablets I've covered recently. On the other hand, if you are using the Surface Pro for business and you need as much built-in storage as possible, at least the new Surface Pro SKU with 256GB SSD is an option now.

Source: CDW

DirectX 11.2 Will Be Exclusive To Windows 8.1 and Xbox One

Subject: General Tech | July 1, 2013 - 02:20 PM |
Tagged: xbox one, Windows 8.1, tiled resources, microsoft, gaming, directx 11.2, DirectX

The release of a Direct X 12 API may still be uncertain, but that has not stopped Microsoft from building upon the existing DX 11 API. Specifically, Microsoft has announced an update in the form of DirectX 11.2, which makes some back-end tweaks and adds some new gaming-related features.

First shown off at BUILD last month, Antoine Leblond demonstrated Direct X 11.2, and one of the API's major features: tiled resources. He did not go into specifics, and Microsoft has not yet released documentation on DX 11.2, but during the presentation Leblond described tiled resources as a mechanism for supporting very high resolution texutres by allowing the game engine to use both dedicated graphics memory and system memory to store and read texture data. The demo reportedly featured 9GBs of texture data, which was shared between GDDR5 and DDR3 memory.

Microsoft DirectX Logo.jpg

I am not certain on exactly how this "tiled resource" technology differs from what current games and hardware is already capable of, where the graphics card can use some amount of system RAM for its own purposes when it has data that cannot be stored in the limited GDDR5 space. Perhaps Microsoft has found a way to make the swapping process more efficient, or it could be a completely new way of enabling shared memory that would support HUMA/HSA-like strategies behind the DX abstraction layer to make it easier for game developers. This is all speculation, however.

The other major takeaway from the announcement is that the new DirectX 11.2 API will be exclusive to Windows 8.1 PCs and the company's Xbox One gaming console. It is suprising that Windows 8 is not included, but seeing as Windows 8.1 will be a free update it is not that big of a deal. Windows 7 users are not likely to be pleased with Microsoft witholding it as an incentive to get gamers to upgrade to its latest operating system. Hopefully some good will still come out of the exclusivity in the form of better ported games. Because the Xbox One supports DX 11.2, I'm hopeful that it will encourage game developers to take advantage of the latest technology and support it on the PC version as well when they do the port of the game.

Source: Bit-Tech.net

E3 2013: Microsoft can ban your Xbox One library

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Shows and Expos | June 17, 2013 - 03:16 AM |
Tagged: xbox one, microsoft, ea, E3 13, E3

Update: Microsoft denies the statements from their support account... but this is still one of the major problems with DRM and closed platforms in general. It is stuff like this that you let them do.

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Electronic Arts knows that they need to shake their terrible public image.

Welcome to Microsoft's PR strategy for the Xbox One.

Consumers, whether they acknowledge it or not, fear for the control that platform holders have over their content. It was hard for many to believe that having your EA account banned for whatever reason, even a dispute with a forum moderator, forfeited your license to games you play through that EA account. Sounds like another great idea for Microsoft to steal.

Not stopping there, later on in the thread they were asked what would happen in the event of a security breach. You know, recourse before destroying access to possibly thousands of dollars of content.

While not a "verified account", @xboxsupport is.

They acknowledge ownership of this account in the background image there.

Honestly, there shouldn't have been any doubt that these actually are Microsoft employees.

... Yikes.

At this point, we have definitely surpassed absurdity. Sure, you typically need to do something fairly bad to have Microsoft stop charging your for Xbox Live. Removing access to your entire library of games, to me, is an attempt to limit cheating and the hardware community.

Great, encourage spite from the soldering irons, that works out well.

Don't worry, enthusiasts, you know the PC loves you.

Gaming as a form of entertainment is fundamentally different than gaming as a form of art. When content is entertainment, its message touches you without any intrinsic value and can be replaced with similar content. Sometimes a certain piece of content, itself, has specific value to society. It is these times where we should encourage efforts by organizations such as GoG, Mozilla and W3C, Khronos, and many others. Without help, it could be extremely difficult or impossible for content to be preserved for future generations and future civilizations.

It does not even need to get in the way of the industry and its attempt to profit from the gaming medium; a careless industry, on the other hand, can certainly get in the way of our ability to have genuine art. After all, this is the main reason why I am a PC gamer: the platform allows entertainment to co-exist with communities who support themselves when the official channels do not.

Of course, unless Windows learns a little something from the Xbox. I guess do not get your Windows Store account banned in the future?

Windows 8.1 for Enterprise? Most companies don't approve of working blue.

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2013 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: win8, win 8.1, microsoft

Microsoft has moved from promoting Win 8.1 for consumers and is now trying to convince Enterprise users that the coming upgrade makes Win8 business friendly.  From The Register we heard about improvements to BYOD support, something that many Enterprise sized businesses are fighting tooth and nail to resist.  Near Field Communication, and Wi-Fi Direct sharing are touted as something that Enterprise should want, thus making internet enabled printers even more of a security risk and while Miracast offers a way to connect to displays wirelessly it is unlikely that many users will have hardware which supports WiDi or the upcoming HSA standard.  Workplace Join will allow limited access to the corporate network for machines that are not actually members of the domain but at least Biometric authentication support is improved which could make that less of a risk.  The automatic launching of VPN when a network resource is requested while the user is outside of the corporate network could be useful with automatic authentication, something not commonly implemented in Enterprise level VPNs.

The Inquirer tells of a few other features, from the boot straight to desktop that has cheered many consumers and a confirmation of the date of June 26th being the initial preview release.  They do mention native device encryption being bundled in Win8, perhaps the only feature in this list that Enterprises might see as advantageous as it would mean they would not need additional software to encrypt machines; Endpoint Encryption is a common solution and as Microsoft now owns the security vendor the migration to native encryption could theoretically be quick and easy.

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"Much of Microsoft's marketing push for Windows 8 has focused on consumers, but Redmond took time at its annual TechEd conference in New Orleans to explain that its forthcoming Windows 8.1 update will include lots of new enhancements for enterprises, as well."

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Source: The Register

Ubuntu bug #1 closed with a sense of humour

Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2013 - 02:34 PM |
Tagged: ubuntu, linux, microsoft

The first bug reported about Ubuntu has been closed, it was titled "Microsoft has a majority market share" and could be easily reproduced.

"1. Visit a local PC store
2. Attempt to buy a machine without any proprietary software"

The bug has now been updated to "Fix Released", thanks to the fact that the definition of computer has greatly increased in breadth over the past few years.  Smartphones are running predominantly non-Microsoft OSes and the availability of iOS and Android tablets have really turned the market in a new direction.  Now it is possible to pick up a computer that is good enough for casual usage which has no Microsoft software installed whatsoever.  Finding white box laptops with no installed OS is still uncommon but nowhere near as rare as it once was.  Slashdot links to his full post here.

ubiuntu.jpg

"Mark Shuttleworth of Ubuntu fame has closed the primal bug on Launchpad, standing since 2004 and titled 'Microsoft has a majority market share,' due to the 'changing realities' of tablets, smartphones, and wearable computing."

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Source: Slashdot