Posts tagged Microsoft
Microsoft made a case this week for Windows RT. Is it necessary? Microsoft made a case this week for Windows RT, its stripped down version of Windows 8. But do we need a third version of Windows? It’s been about five months now since Windows RT debuted. And this week Microsoft made a case to CNET for the new operating system.
Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president, Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem, told CNET: “It was a ton of work for us and we didn’t do the work and endure the disruption for any reason other than the fact that there’s a strategy there that just gets stronger over time.” And he went on to spell out reasons why RT is necessary.
Some of those reasons included:
- Allowing the development of a product that’s competitive with the iPad.
- Providing a way for a PC-class Windows OS to tap into the dynamic ARM chip ecosystem that powers the world’stablets and smartphones.
- Having a Windows PC that uses only “modern apps,” i.e., apps downloaded from the Microsoft Store, and is not encumbered by legacy software.
- A “propensity” for a much higher percentage of devices that ship with mobile broadband, i.e., 3G/4G.
As a counterpoint, Tom Mainelli, research director of tablets at market researcher IDC, toldCNET earlier this month that “Microsoft decided to have a smartphone OS, then have Windows RT and Windows 8. I think the distinctions get lost on folks. I think they might be better served by putting more muscle behind Windows 8. Try to make that successful rather than trying to do three OSes.”
And observers have pointed to the lack of RT apps and the fact that Intel’s Atom chip offers pretty much the same benefits of ARM chips — including long battery life and the ability to build ultrathin “fanless” tablets — but with full Windows 8 compatibility. What do you think?
BlackBerry. Windows Phone. Firefox. Tizen. Ubuntu. There’s a lot of interest in creating an alternative to Android and iOS. But the lack of concentrated industry support may spell doom. There’s no better illustration of the intense competition in the wireless industry than the race to establish another legitimate operating system behind Android and Apple — where else is third place considered a lofty goal for so many major players? Yet that’s exactly what nearly a dozen companies are trying to achieve. While this year’s Mobile World Congress wireless trade show was light on blockbuster smartphone and tablet announcements, it was heavy on burgeoning operating systems and new ways of thinking about mobile devices.
Mozilla’s FireFox OS made a big splash at the show, as did Tizen, shepherded into reality by Samsung Electronics and Intel. The Ubuntu mobile OS, which won CNET’s best of show award, popped up here and there if you knew where to look. Jolla CEO Marc Dillon talked up his Sailfish OS during a keynote address. Nokia continued to roll out new smartphones running on Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform. BlackBerry, meanwhile, is scheduled to release its BlackBerry Z10 in the U.S. in the coming weeks. It’s a natural reaction to the increasing dominance of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems, which combined accounted for 91 percent of the market in the fourth quarter, according to IDC. As much as the industry players want to publicly play nice with each other, the carriers and vendors are all working to wrest back some of the control.
While I applaud their efforts, I can’t help but think that most of them are doomed to failure. It’s not that any of the operating systems are particularly bad — although the early builds of Firefox and Tizen I tried out were both pretty rough — but there seems to be a lack of any cohesive support behind any of them. It’s all scattershot; which only leads me to believe that Android and iOS, which both have tons of consumer, developer, and carrier support behind them, will continue to thrive for a while.
“If there’s going to be a big three, it won’t happen if the industry players are themselves fragmented,” Rajeev Chand, an analyst at Rutberg & Co., told me in a recent interview. Just look at the two largest potential third players: Microsoft and BlackBerry. Both make a great case for why their operating system will be No. 3, but the lack of committed support from the carriers is telling. Sure, AT&T sells the Lumia phone and related Windows 8 products, but are any of the other carriers as enthusiastic? It’s still unclear just how much support BlackBerry will get, but we should get more of an indication in the coming weeks.
When you get through the rest of the operating systems, the support fragments even further. Firefox has rounded up 18 carriers to support the OS, although few have committed to actually selling the devices. A different set of carriers, meanwhile, have committed to Tizen, which they believe will power high-end smartphones. Another issue is whether the need for a third operating system is an industry problem or a consumer problem. It’s clear the carriers and other vendors want an alternative OS to get behind to reduce their reliance on Android and iOS, but do consumers really care about that? For now, most are perfectly happy with their Android and iPhone choices.
AT&T Mobility CEO Ralph de la Vega told me that he believes there’s room for more than three mobile operating systems, and even left the door open for an OS like Firefox – as long as there is consumer demand for it. And while choice is good for the consumer, too much choice isn’t necessarily a good thing. ”For consumers, it’s going to be all about confusion,” Chand said. “You show up at a retail store, and there are a bunch of things going on. It’ll just be confusion.”
Ultimately, I believe consumers will clamor for different options. The issue of “iPhone fatigue” has started to crop up, especially with Apple only making incremental improvements to each subsequent product. That creates an opening for something different to emerge. Whether any of these operating systems will fill the gap remains to be seen. This year’s show was seemingly about throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. I suspect there will be a clearer indication of a potential winner in a year’s time. Hopefully, it gets the full backing of the industry. Otherwise, that elusive third great OS will remain just that.
The software maker has convinced another device maker using Android as an embedded OS to pay it patent royalties. Microsoft has signed patent-protection deals with a number of PC and tablet makers in the past couple of years. Now it’s also forging similar deals with more companies embedding the Android operating system inside consumer devices. Yesterday, Microsoft announced that it has signed a patent-licensing agreement with Nikon. The agreement “provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for certain Nikon cameras running the Android platform,” according to Microsoft’s press release.
Microsoft and Nikon have agreed not to disclose specifics, but Microsoft is acknowledging that it will receive undisclosed royalties from Nikon as part of the deal. Like Microsoft’s other Android, Linux and Chrome OS patent deals, exactly which Microsoft-patented technologies the vendors are licensing is unknown. At least some, if not all, of Nikon’s Coolpix cameras are using Android inside.
This isn’t the first embedded vendor with which Microsoft has signed an Android patent deal. In December 2012, Microsoft announcedan Android patent deal with Hoeft & Wessel, a German manufacturer of devices and terminals for the public transportation, logistics and retail industries that use Android as their embedded operating system. It also signed a patent-licensing agreement with TomTom, a GPS maker, as part of a patent-infringement settlement. Previously, Microsoft signed patent-licensing deals with a number of key OEMs and ODMs (original design manufacturers) using Linux, Android and Chrome OS, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Buffalo, Compal, General Dynamics, HTC, LG Electronics, Pegatron, Samsung, and Velocity Micro, among others.
News of Microsoft’s latest Android patent deal came the same day that Microsoft and Oracle met with lawmakers in Washington to defend software patents. The pair are proposing thatlosers in software patent suits pay the winners’ legal costs as a way to try to discourage dubious patent suits. Microsoft also is promising the company will publish on the Web as of April 1 information that enables anyone to determine which patents Microsoft owns. This story originally appeared at ZDNet under the headline “Nikon signs patent deal with Microsoft for Android-based cameras.”
Software giant’s chairman tells CBS This Morning that Microsoft’s earlier strategies in the mobile phone sector were “clearly a mistake.” Although Bill Gates stepped away from his day-to-day role at Microsoft nearly five years ago, he still keeps a close eye on the company he co-founded — and he isn’t always happy with what he sees. During an interview broadcast this morning on CBS This Morning, the Microsoft chairman was asked by Charlie Rose whether he was happy with Steve Ballmer’s performance as chief executive. Noting that there have been “many amazing things” accomplished under Ballmer’s leadership in the past couple of years, Gates said he was not satisfied with the company’s innovations.
“Well, he and I are two of the most self-critical people — you can imagine,” Gates said during the interview (see video below). “And here were a lot of amazing things that Steve’s leadership got done with the company in the last year. Windows 8 is key to the future. The Surface computer. Bing, people are seeing as a better search product. Xbox.” But is — is it enough?” he said. “No, he and I are not satisfied that in terms of, you know, breakthrough things, that we’re doing everything possible.” Gates was especially critical of Microsoft’s position in the smartphone sector, where the company currently holds just 2.4 percent of the market, according to recent IDC data.
“There’s a lot of things like cell phones where we didn’t get out in the lead very early….We didn’t miss cell phones, but the way we went about it didn’t allow us to get the leadership. So it’s clearly a mistake.” The primary focus of the interview was the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, the philanthropy to which Gates has dedicated most of his attention since stepping away from Microsoft in 2008.
Microsoft’s call app increased its traffic in 2012 by twice the amount of all international phone carriers combined — it’s calls are now equal to one third of all global phone traffic. Microsoft’s Skype is making some serious headway into the international phone traffic scene. New data (PDF) from telecom market research firm TeleGeography shows that Skype broke records in 2012 by hosting the same amount of calls as one third of the world’s phone traffic.
International phone traffic typically grows slowly, for example in 2012 it increased by 5 percent to 490 billion minutes. However, voice and messaging call apps are growing at a breakneck pace. Skype voice and video traffic grew 44 percent to 167 billion minutes in 2012. This increase is more than twice that of all international carriers combined. According to TeleGeography, if Skype’s traffic were included in the numbers for international phone traffic, there would have been 13 percent growth in 2012, rather than just 5 percent. This type of surge seems like it would make some carriers fear for their wallets.
“The pressure on carriers will continue to mount in the coming years,” TeleGeography analyst Stephan Beckert said in a statement. “While Skype is the best-known voice application, it’s far from the only challenger to the PSTN. Google (Talk and Voice), WeChat (Weixin), Viber, Nimbuzz, Line, and KakaoTalk have also become popular. And, perhaps most ominously for telcos, Facebook recently added a free voice calling feature to its Messenger application.” The Skype team rolled out two new updates for Windows and Mac yesterday, both labeled as version 6.2. The updates include “eGifting,” or the ability to send Skype credits to friends, which the recipients can use anytime.
Tami Reller, one of the pair of Microsoft execs running Windows, provides a few new insights into what’s happening — and coming — with Windows 8 and Windows RT. Microsoft’s new Windows management team is coming into its own. Last week, I met with Tami Reller, the chief financial officer and chief marketing officer for the Windows/Surface teams. Reller was on a New York City tour, meeting with financial analysts and press. Reller is one of the pair of executives running Windows, following the departure from Microsoft of Windows President Steven Sinofsky late last year.
My sit-down with Reller — my first meeting with Windows management in a number of years — was more interesting for the between-the-lines tidbits and nuances than it was for the parade of PCs and tablets that she and Aidan Marcuss, principal director, Windows Research, pulled out of their bags to show off. Here are a few of the topics upon which we touched during our conversation:
How well is/isn’t Windows 8 selling? Reller didn’t veer from Microsoft’s message that Windows 8 is on pace with Windows 7 in terms of number of licenses sold during its first few months. (Microsoft sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses to original equipment manufacturers and to consumers as upgrades by early January 2013, executives have said. ) But she did share one new metric during our meeting: OEM revenue Microsoft is deriving from sales of Windows 8 is even with OEM revenue garnered from Windows 7 licenses sold during the same period of time. We don’t know if Microsoft charged OEMs the same per copy for Windows 7 and Windows 8, but the implication is OEMs are buying Windows 8 licenses at the same pace as they bought Windows 7 ones.
A Windows 8/Windows RT “mini?” To date, word was that Microsoft didn’t see a need for tablets and PCs with screens smaller than the 10.6-inch Surfaces. Microsoft’s stance was tablets equals PCs and thus must be able to do all consumption and creation tasks that “real” PCs can do. When I asked Reller last week about the possibility of 7-inch “mini” Windows 8 and Windows RT PCs, I received a less rigid answer — more along the lines of “let’s see what customers want.” Windows 8 was designed to run on smaller and bigger screens and at different resolutions. Theunderlying app-platform/app model is what enables this, Marcuss emphasized. So, again, no announcement today, but it seems as though one or more Windows 8/Windows RT “mini” tablets are likely waiting in the wings…making rumors of products like a 7-inch HTC tablet and the rumored Xbox Surface more believable.
First-party Windows 8 and Windows RT apps: Yes, Microsoft knows thatMail/Calendar/People and Xbox Music on Windows 8 and Windows RT need real work, and not just a few minor updates. Reller didn’t share any kind of time table as to when these apps will be updated in a significant way. But it was encouraging to hear that Microsoft is committed to making these “first-party”/built-in apps best-of-breed. Happily, the team isn’t pretending these apps are good enough.
Where are all the Windows 8/Windows RT PCs and tablets? Why more than three months after Windows 8 “launched” (and about six months after it was released to manufacturing) are there still relatively few new Windows 8/Windows RT touch tablets and PCs available to consumers? OEMs have known for years what Microsoft was planning for Windows 8. So what happened? Reller isn’t attributing the relatively slow ramp-up to any kind of components shortage. She said the Windows team is trying to figure this out themselves. She said the team is looking at every communication between the OEMs and Microsoft during the Windows 8 development period. Was there a program, a campaign, a missive that would have convinced OEMs to put more muscle behind touch sooner rather than later? Reller said the team is looking into this.
Also, for the record, Reller isn’t blaming the relatively slow ramp-up to any kind of components shortage. She is emphasizing the positive: The number of Windows 8 certified devices (1,000 at launch in late October) is now double that. Lots of new Windows 8 form factors from Lenovo, HP, ASUS, Acer, and others are coming to market in the February-through-spring time frame, she reiterated.
The Microsoft-Intel relationship: “It feels like we’re doing better aligning with Intel on messaging,” Reller told me last week. For a while, it’s felt as though Microsoft was highlighting its work on Windows RT and ARM to push Intel to speed up its chip-delivery timing. Now that the Intel Core i5-based Surface Pro is poised to start shipping on February 9, the Wintel partnership seems to be back, front and center, in Microsoft’s positioning and thinking.
The Windows distribution connundrum: While Microsoft is continuing to staff more Microsoft Stores, the pace is still too slow for those of us who consider Best Buy, Staples, and other retail chains not-so-optimal showcases for Microsoft’s and its partners’ hardware and software. But the Windows team seemingly isn’t writing off these other retailers. “We need to get Surface RT and Surface Pro in retail and do it really well,” Reller told me. She said Microsoft believes it can make the buying experience in retail chains a positive one for those shopping for Microsoft or OEM PCs and tablets.
I haven’t seen customers busting down doors to buy any kind of Windows 8 or Windows RT PCs or tablets in the admittedly small number of retail stores and Microsoft Stores I’ve visited. Reller said Microsoft has seen the dynamic for PC purchasing changing. The retail store experience is more of an exploratory, educational “try before you buy this online” one these days, she said. (That’s not so different from what’s happening in the book-selling world.) There you have it. No earth-shattering revelations (sorry, Windows Blue watchers). But it’s still good to have a chance to ask questions and get some answers from the Windows brass in person.
As Microsoft continues to overhaul its approach to, well, everything, the Internet Explorer team offers a mea culpa and a carrot to Web developers with modern.IE. In case you weren’t sure, Microsoft wants you to really, really understand that Internet Explorer 10 isn’t just any old update to the much-maligned browser. The latest example: “modern.IE,” a set of tools to help Web developers, the company announced today. ”It’s still too hard to test sites across the different OSes and browsers,” said Ryan Gavin, Internet Explorer’s general manager, in a phone interview. “On our part, we can encourage best practices. We know we can do better here, so we’re providing the tools and support so that developers spend more of their time innovating and less of their time testing.”
“More time innovating, less time testing,” was Gavin’s watch-phrase of the day, something he repeated throughout our conversation. Microsoft clearly believes that modern.IE’s toolset will appeal to developers. Drop a URL into the scanning tool text field, and it kicks back a report with suggestions on how to improve your site split into three categories. The first is a long-overdue bit of housekeeping that breaks down problems that have arisen from supporting legacy versions of Internet Explorer. Microsoft is putting money and manpower behind modern.IE. Gavin explained that if the tool finds known bugs or issues with a site, the tool will assign them bug IDs and allow the developers to request access to the IE engineering team. “We’ll work with you on those specific bugs,” he said. “Right now, we’re running on a 48-hour turnaround from the e-mail to when we get back to you.”
The scanner also will pick up on other problems that developers can fix on their own. This includes things like outdated jQuery frameworks, which is important since 91 percent of developers now use jQuery, Gavin said. In this case, the report would recommend the next compatible version of jQuery to minimize testing. Other problems the scanner will look for include common compatibility issues, CSS prefixes, database library issues, conditional comments, and browser detection including legacy versions of IE instead of the now-preferred feature detection. “40 percent of the top 5,000 sites [by traffic and volume] are using outdated libraries,” Gavin said.
The second component to the modern.IE report is a set of virtual testing tools for making it easier to update and maintain standards. To that end, Microsoft is working in conjunction with browser-testing emulator BrowserStack to test any combination of hardware, operating system, and browser. Usually, the service runs around $20 per month, Gavin said, but Microsoft will cover the first three months.
Microsoft has built Firefox and Chrome add-ons for BrowserStack to provide one-click access to the service, streamlining its use. The third component in the modern.IE report is a suggestion of best coding practices going forward. While Gavin cautioned that the recommendations can not encompass every aspect of coding for the modern Web, he did say that if developers follow Microsoft’s suggestions they will, “avoid 99 percent of the coding problems.”
The list of recommendations has some heft behind it, too. It’s being curated by Dave Methvin, president of the jQuery Foundation, and Rey Bango, a technical evangelist at Microsoft and former member of the jQuery Project. ”We’re going to be iterating and improving this over time,” Gavin said. “We’re looking for developer feedback to continue to make this useful.” Whether developers are willing to forgive Microsoft for its previous heavy-handed approach to Web development is another story entirely. We have reached out to individual developers for their take on modern.IE, and will update with comments from them when they get back to us.
The company founder is planning to kick in $500 million to $1 billion of his personal funds to try to get majority control of Dell, Bloomberg reports. Just weeks after reports surfaced that Dell was looking to go private, the company’s founder appears willing to put his personal funds where his mouth is. Michael Dell may kick in equity financing of $500 million to $1 billion combined with his 15.7 percent stake in the company to seek majority control of the company, according to Bloomberg. That would push his ownership stake past 50 percent.
With the investment, Dell would be contributing more than half of the total $8 billion to $9 billion equity check. The remainder of the takeover would be financed by debt and “possibly some of the $11 billion of cash Dell reported it had as of September 30,” according to Bloomberg. This follows on the heels of reports that Microsoft may contribute $1 billion to $3 billion and was in talks with Silver Lake Partners to help take Dell private.
However, the WSJ today reported that Microsoft’s role in the new company has been a sticking point in negotiations. Though the deal is still expected to stay on track, Microsoft wants to have a say in some of Dell’s operations rather than just being a source of funding, according to the WSJ’s sources. Dell, a one-time leading PC maker, has hit hard times of late. The company’s stock has continued to lose value as it defends itself against rivals, and despite the many acquisitions it’s made over the past several years, there are concerns about how fast those businesses are taking off. Some industry watchers are hoping that going private could give it the reboot that it needs.
With its serious processor, and its guts-behind-the-glass design, Microsoft’s Surface Pro may well be the template for the new PC. And device makers should pay attention. PC makers take note. Microsoft is pioneering the next PC. Here are two simple reasons why the Surface Pro makes a good case as the template for the new PC. One, Microsoft realized that the device’s electronics should go behind the glass, not under the keyboard. Two, the device uses a real processor. Let’s address the electronics first. Most of the newfangled laptops I saw at CES were convertibles. That is, the displays are not detachable because the core electronics are under the keyboard, just like your father’s laptop.
And most of them were unimpressive. The mechanics necessary to flip and/or slide the screen and convert the laptop to tablet mode were more often than not kludgy and some seemed destined for mechanical problems down the pike. And the more problematic designs weren’t thin or light, either. At least not when compared with popular tablets like Apple’s iPad or Google’s Nexus. One of the few exceptions – as I noted before – was the HP EliteBook Revolve. That 11.6-inch design was about as well conceived as a convertible can be. But there’s a reason for that: HP has been building Windows convertibles for ages. The EliteBook 2700 series and its progenitors have been around since the dawn of Windows XP. So, HP has this down to a science.
But, again, that’s a rare exception at present. The future leans more toward a PC with the electronics behind the glass. And there’s no better example right now than the Surface Pro. Microsoft was bold enough to go with a mainstream third-generation Core Intel “Ivy Bridge” chip, not the slower Atom processor that most Windows 8 tablet and detachable makers have opted for. Yeah, the battery life won’t be great, but Microsoft, I think, knew (rightly so) that it would be crucified if it opted for the performance-challenged Atom chip, which isn’t up to the task of running serious desktop applications on Windows 8.
Remember the netbook? That’s one way to look at the first crop of Atom-based Windows 8 tablets: a netbook in tablet clothing. Microsoft didn’t want to go there. And give Lenovo some credit too. It showed off the ThinkPad Helix detachable at CES that separates from the base to become a full-fledged Ivy Bridge-based tablet, not unlike the Microsoft Surface Pro. And Intel, I think, in its heart of hearts knows Atom isn’t really up to the task. Thus, the revelation at CES of the most power-efficient Ivy Bridge yet. One of Intel’s goals is to get these new Ivy Bridge chips — as well as upcoming “Haswell” chips — behind the glass, as Intel’s Adam King told me at CES.
So, I would expect to see an increasing number of Windows 8 tablets and/or detachables sporting Intel’s mainstream Haswell Core processors later this year. And battery life will improve with Haswell. I would be fine with a Windows 8 tablet packing a real Intel chip that gets six hours of battery life. And a Haswell-based Surface tablet should meet or exceed this.
Existing Windows licensees have until January 31 to get Windows 8 Pro on the cheap. After that, the promo price vanishes and upgrade costs head upward. When Microsoft announced last year a ”limited time offer” for Windows 8 upgrade pricing, some thought — or at least hoped — the discounted price might be indefinite. Microsoft officials announced on January 18 that this will not be the case. After January 31, the $40 upgrade price will end. Starting February 1, the Windows 8 upgrade (from previous Windows home/consumer SKUs) will cost $120. The Windows 8 Pro upgrade will cost $200.
Currently, Microsoft is charging $40 for an upgrade license to Windows 8 Pro from Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Testers who’ve been working with Windows 8 preview builds also have been eligible for the $40 upgrade price. The Windows 8 preview builds (Developer Preview, Consumer Preview, and Release Preview) all expired earlier this week. After that time, users with those builds will notice that Windows 8 will restart every hour “until they’ve installed a released (RTM) version of Windows,” a Microsoft representative confirmed earlier this week. Here’s information on what users upgrading from XP, Vista, and Windows 7 can expect to migrate (and not) when upgrading to Windows 8. This story originally appeared on ZDNet under the headline “Microsoft’s Windows 8 upgrade promotion really is ending on January 31.”