Microsoft Releases Financial Results For Fourth Fiscal Quarter 2013 (Q4'13)

Subject: General Tech | July 19, 2013 - 10:37 PM |
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.

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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.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft cuts the price of non- Pro Surface tablets

Subject: General Tech | July 15, 2013 - 01:40 PM |
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.

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"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:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

New Hardware Certification Requirements For Windows 8.1 Coming In 2014 and 2015

Subject: General Tech | July 14, 2013 - 02:50 AM |
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.

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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.

Windows 8.1 System Update Hardware Certification Requirements Microsoft.png

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.

Windows 8.1 System Update Hardware Certification Requirements Microsoft Connected Standby.png

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.

Source: ZDNet

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.

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"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."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

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.

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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.

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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.

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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