Microsoft May Be Dropping the Windows Branding In Future Operating Systems

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2011 - 10:14 AM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, branding

Microsoft and their Windows brand have always been synonymous where it comes to Operating Systems. As someone who grew up with Windows 3.1, I have grown up seeing Microsoft through the proverbial Window(s). As such, Windows has been a brand that has always been around, and one that I assumed would always be around. In a surprise twist; however, This Is My Next reports that Microsoft may be dropping the Windows brand for their future operating systems after Windows 8.

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Look how far the MS OS logo has come.  What does the future hold?

Windows 8 is already incorporating tile elements of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 and Xbox elements in the form of a re-branded Games For Windows Live service. It seems logical; therefore, that Microsoft would want to even further integrate their mobile, gaming, and computing platforms into one cohesive unit. This Is My Next reports that the future OS will present a single Operating System and UI features across all devices and platforms. They further quote Andy Lees in stating that the single ecosystem would facilitate consistency across all Microsoft powered platforms and “the goal isn’t just to share UI, but also core technologies like Internet Explorer.”

You can read more about the “Next Next” OS over at This Is My Next. What are your opinions on the proposed branding theme? Do you have any fold memories of the Windows brand?

What an odd time to be a .NET programmer

Subject: General Tech | June 24, 2011 - 12:08 PM |
Tagged: .net, longhorn, microsoft, windows, winfx

Way back in the beginning of the 00's, before Win7 was Win7, Microsoft announced the development of a new OS that was named Longhorn.  This was an ambitious plan to move from the old Win32 programming interface to a newcomer called .NET which Microsoft had designed to be an alternative to both Win32 and VisualBasic.  There would still be backwards compatiblity with Win32 apps but no more extensions to the API would be created.  Of course as we know this project never saw the light of day and Win7 remained dependant on the two old, if familiar APIs.

As if that was not bad enough for those programmers who chose .NET for their specialty, a few weeks ago Microsoft gave them another kick when they announced the upcoming Windows 8 OS will utilize HTML5 and JavaScript, not .NET nor even the old pair that programmers are familiar with.  This was not well recieved by those who had spent significant time and money becoming adept programming .NET applications.

Now, in a move that is hard to judge if it is a mean trick or an honest attempt to placate the hoards of fuming .NET programmers, Microsoft has announced that Longhorn is not dead; it was just resting.  Windows 8 will ship with a pair of runtimes, .NET 4.5, and a C++ implemention which will be called WinRT and do everything Win32 could do and more and will work with the new user interface design tool they're calling DirectUI.  Even Silverlight is being integrated into the APIs, which means all that training in Microsoft programming may pay off in the end.  Drop by Ars Technica and decide if this is bull or not.

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"Early this month, Microsoft dropped something of a bombshell on Windows developers: the new Windows 8 touch-friendly immersive style would use a developer platform not based on .NET, which Microsoft has been championing for the past decade. Instead, it would use HTML5 and JavaScript. Since then, the company has refrained from making any further comment on the issue. In particular, the question that has many Windows developers particularly concerned—how can I make use of my existing skills and experience when developing these new applications?—remains unanswered; the company plans to reveal nothing until its BUILD conference in September."

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Source: Ars Technica

Microsoft updates Skydrive, teases me personally

Subject: General Tech, Storage | June 21, 2011 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: skydrive, microsoft

There are a number of reasons for which someone would desire to have their data accessible from the internet and there are a number of services that provide that capability in many different ways. If you are looking to collaborate on a small project with automatic syncing then you will probably find your way to Dropbox. If you are looking to access your music collection from your variety of devices then you will probably like Amazon or Google’s music lockers. Should you be looking to migrate a business to a really large online storage system then Amazon S3 might be worth hooking into. If you are a home user who wishes to store and share your photos, documents, and videos with friends and family then Microsoft recently updated their Skydrive service to help users like you; it should be available to you right now.

Why start the video from the desktop, Microsoft? A guy has feelings you know.

One feature I wished that Microsoft would have implemented to Skydrive at some point over the last few years is an easy method to map your Skydrive account to a drive letter on your computer. Sadly this feature is still not present in Skydrive. What are present are features to make Microsoft’s service look much more user friendly and much more like a native application. Their new photo browser looks quite a bit like their Windows Phone 7 tile interface with photos shown in their original aspect ratio fitting together like a puzzle. There is also a nice looking content browser that slides both pictures and videos across a viewing screen with thumbnails below for selection. With features like these with a focus on cross-browser support it is obvious that Microsoft is looking to be your family’s content hub and prevent Facebook from getting that much more powerful in this space.

What do you use, if anything, to share content with friends and family?

Microsoft reiterates stance on 'harmful' WebGL

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 17, 2011 - 04:35 AM |
Tagged: webgl, microsoft

Microsoft has made substantial efforts lately to increase their support of open standards even to the point of giving them first class treatment ahead of their home-grown formats. Internet Explorer 9 shows the best support for web standards such as HTML 5, CSS, and Javascript that the browser line has ever had. One feature set, however, has been outright omitted from Internet Explorer: WebGL. Microsoft has very recently made a more official statement on the subject, claiming it harmful from a security standpoint.

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WebGL: Heaven or Hell?

(Image from MrDoob WebGL demo; contains Lucy model from Stanford 3D repository)

WebGL is an API very similar to OpenGL ES 2.0: the API used for OpenGL features in embedded systems, particularly smart phones. The goal of WebGL is to provide a light-weight, CSS obeying, 3D and shader system for websites that require advanced 3D graphics or even general purpose calculations performed on the shader units of the client’s GPU. Mozilla and Google currently have support in their public browsers with Opera and Apple shipping support in the near future. Microsoft has stated that allowing third-party websites that level of access to the hardware is dangerous as security vulnerabilities that formerly needed to be exploited locally can now be exploited from the web browser. This is an area of expertise that Microsoft knows all too well from their past attempts at active(x)ly adding scripting functionality to the web browser evolving into a decade-long game of whack-a-mole for security holes.

But skeptics to Microsoft’s position could easily point to their effort to single out the one standard based on OpenGL, competitor to their still-cherished DirectX standard. Regardless of Microsoft’s motives it seems to put to rest the question of whether Microsoft will be working towards implementing WebGL in any release of Internet Explorer currently in development.

Do you think Microsoft is warning its competitors about its past ActiveX woes, or is this more politically motivated? Comment below (registration not required.)

Source: Microsoft

AFDS11: Microsoft Announces C++ AMP, Competitor to OpenCL

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2011 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: programming, microsoft, fusion, c++, amp, AFDS

During this morning's keynote at the AMD Fusion Developer Summit, Microsoft's Herb Sutter went on stage to discuss the problems and solutions involved around programming and developing for multi-processing systems and heterogeneous computing systems in particular.  While the problems are definitely something we have discussed before at PC Perspective, the new solution that was showcased was significant.

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C++ AMP (accelerated massive parallelism) was announced as a new extension to Visual Studio and the C++ programming language to help developers take advantage of the highly parallel and heterogeneous computing environments of today and the future.  The new programming model uses C++ syntax and will be available in the next version of Visual Studio with "bits of it coming later this year."  Sorry, no hard release date was given when probed.

Perhaps just as significant is the fact that Microsoft announced the C++ AMP standard would be an open specification and they are going to allow other compilers to integrated support for it.  Unlike C# then, C++ AMP has a chance to be a new dominant standard in the programming world as the need for parallel computing expands.  While OpenCL was the only option for developers that promised to allow easy utilization of ALL computing power in a computing device, C++ AMP gives users another option with the full weight of Microsoft behind it.

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To demonstrate the capability of C++ AMP Microsoft showed a rigid body simulation program that ran on multiple computers and devices from a single executable file and was able to scale in performance from 3 GLOPS on the x86 cores of Llano to 650 GFLOPS on the combined APU power and to 830 GFLOPS with a pair of discrete Radeon HD 5800 GPUs.  The same executable file was run on an AMD E-series APU powered tablet and ran at 16 GFLOPS with 16,000 particles.  This is the promise of heterogeneous programming languages and is the gateway necessary for consumers and business to truly take advantage of the processors that AMD (and other companies) are building today. 

If you want programs other than video transcoding apps to really push the promise of heterogeneous computing, then the announcement of C++ AMP is very, very big news. 

Source: PCPer

Don't you love it when Patch Tuesday hits double digits

Subject: General Tech | June 13, 2011 - 11:47 AM |
Tagged: microsoft, patch tuesday, security, windows, internet explorer, silverlight

Tomorrow will see the arrival of 9 critical security patches and 7 recommended ones, covering Windows, IE, Silverlight and Office.  The critical patches all resolve remote code execution vulnerabilities, the recommended vary from the same type as well as privledge escalation and denial of  service vulnerabilities.  WinXP through Win7 as well as server OSes will all be affected so be warned that your Tuesday and Wednesday might not be very fun.  Follow the link from The Register to see Microsoft's pre-release document for yourself.

Adobe, obviously not wanting to seem lazy, is also pushing out a patch for both Reader and Acrobat.

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"Microsoft is preparing a bumper Patch Tuesday for next week, with 16 security bulletins that collectively address 34 vulnerabilities.

Nine of the bulletins earn the dread rating of critical, while the other seven grapple with flaws rated as important. All supported versions of Windows will need patching on 14 June along with various server-side software packages and applications, including the .NET framework and SQL Server. Internet Explorer, which is affected by two bulletins, will also need some fiddling under the bonnet."

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Source: The Register

Is The Wintel Era Coming To an End?

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2011 - 11:21 PM |
Tagged: wintel, microsoft, Intel, asustek

DigitTimes reports that the so called “Wintel” era is over. With Wintel representing the fusing of a Windows operating system on Intel x86 processors, Asustek Jonney Shih believes that the time period where Windows and Intel processors dominated the PC, tablet PC, and handset markets have passed. This is due in part to the rise of Android and ARM on the mobile front and increased mind share (and in some cases competitive market share) of the Mac OSX and iOS ecosystems on the PC and mobile platforms respectively. Shih further stated that the rising market share of once-smaller operating systems from competitors encourages healthy competition and innovation in the industry.

As mobile hardware advances to once-unprecedented levels of performance, Asustek sees the lines between what constitutes mobile handsets, ultra-portable computing devices and traditional computers breaking down. All these devices will soon start to coalesce into a new IT market where computing is more about productivity and entertainment more so than choosing differing classes of hardware as they will all be “good enough” machines.

DigiTimes states that the rise of the tablet PC will likely increase manufacturers abilities to try new things and sell numerous units; however, it will also impact and “significantly reshuffle the ranking of the whole IT market.”

With Microsoft currently commanding approximately 88.69% of the client OS market share (according to Net Market Share at time of writing), and Intel being the leading manufacturer of x86 CPUs, the “Wintel” relationship still has a good deal of weight to throw around and influence the market; however, on the mobile front the market is much more competitive with other operating systems and hardware advancing rapidly. Will the mobile market have an effect on traditional computing, and do you feel as though the Wintel era is coming to an end?

Source: DigiTimes

... but NVIDIA, how can we have fun with Microsoft always staring at us like that?

Subject: General Tech | June 6, 2011 - 11:52 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, microsoft, lawyers

It turns out that while NVIDIA did not quite sell its soul to get its GPU into the first XBox, it did give up its right to go out unchaperoned.  As part of the deal Microsoft can block any large purchase of NVIDIA shares by another company.  If a company tries to purchase 30% or more of NVIDIA's shares then had and still has Microsoft has the right to put kybosh on the deal.  A decade ago when the deal was first inked the agreement would have made a lot of sense to Microsoft; they were going to depend on NVIDIA's GPU and did not want to have another company buy a majority share in NVIDIA to get a grip on Microsoft's new gaming console.  This deal makes NVIDIA rather unattractive to many companies as the investment of time and money necessary to set up a large deal could be utterly wasted if Microsoft decides it doesn't like the look of NVIDIA's new bedmate.  The Inquirer has more here, and are currently awaiting a response to the article from Microsoft.

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"AN UNLIKELY BETROTHAL between Microsoft and Nvidia has been uncovered that gives Microsoft the right of first and last refusal to buy Nvidia.

Microsoft entered into an agreement with Nvidia back in 2000 when the chip design outfit was brought in to work on the GPU of what would then become Microsoft's Xbox. That in itself isn't particularly surprising, but Information Week dug up a 10K filing with the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) in which Nvidia reported that Microsoft had first and last rights of refusal should a third party make an offer to buy 30 per cent or more of Nvidia's shares."

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Source: The Inquirer

Skype fall down, go boom ... doubtful Microsoft has anything to do with it

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2011 - 12:12 PM |
Tagged: fud, skype, microsoft

According to The Inquirer, at 12:15 GMT (+1 hr thanks to daylight savings), Skype suffered a major network failure that seems to not only have taken out the Skype VoIP client but also impacted the availablitity of their site.  As of right now there is no work around or solution, Skype is investigating the cause but for now other clients are your best bet for communicating over the web. 

Since this has occured 2 weeks after Microsoft purchased Skype, speculation is running rampant that this is some sort of planned interruption.  It seems a little far fetched to think that even a company with as much financial power as Microsoft would dump $8.5 billion just to shut down a competing service.  They are going to want some return on their investment and simply using Skype's patents, some of which are still under review now or its infrastructure to prop up Sharepoint is not going to return that money.  Ad generated revenue on the sidebar of the client and hooking this up to Microsoft's various social and gaming applications seems more likely, which implies that shutting down Skype is the last thing on their mind.

Hopefully it will be fixed in time for This Week in Computer Hardware.

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"VOICE OVER IP (VoIP) and chat service Skype has crashed throughout the world and continues to crash on login, leading many to suspect that its recent acquisition by Microsoft is a definite disaster.

The service began to crash around 12:15pm UK time, kicking people offline and freezing when they tried to log back in again. Other users who remained online had difficulties making calls. Restarting your PC or reinstalling Skype has no effect, as the problem is clearly on Skype's end."

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Source: The Inquirer

Your company lost $7 million last year? Can we buy it for $8.5 billion? Microsoft buys Skype.

Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2011 - 12:51 PM |
Tagged: ballmer, microsoft, boomtown, skype, purchase, billion

The rumour mill really dropped the ball on this one, as just a few hours ago it was Facebook that everyone was muttering would one day buy Skype.  Turns out that in just a few hours the new rumour that Microsoft was going to buy Skype for $7 billion became a reality at an $8.5 billion price tag. 

Skype lost $7 million dollars last year, though that number seems rather small compared to their overall balance sheet to date which puts them $686 million in the hole.  As All Things Digital is quick to point out, that is slightly less than what Microsoft Online Services Division lost last Quarter, proving all things are relative even at very high amounts of dollars.

On the plus side, Microsoft gets its hands on Skype's 763 million registered users, about twice as many as there are MSN users and significantly more that there are XBox Live users.  Toss in the TechNet people and you still have nowhere near the user pool that Skype brings.  That huge increase in the number of people Microsoft can reach possibly gives them the ability to recoup the money they spent to buy them.  Consider that 8 million users pay actual money for their Skype account, which Wired considers as at least a hint of Microsoft's strategy.

Most PC users who already use Windows, such as those at Ars Technica, are scratching their heads over the purchase while Linux users at Slashdot are very concerned about continuing support for the Skype Linux Client.

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"The Wall Street Journal reported earlier tonight that Microsoft–in what would be its most aggressive acquisition in the digital space–was zeroing in on buying Skype for $8.5 billion all in with an assumption of the Luxembourg-based company’s debt.

Sources told BoomTown tonight that the deal for the online telephony and video communications giant is actually done and will be announced early tomorrow morning."

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