Jun 17

Microsoft acquires Wand Labs

Microsoft has announced that it has acquired messaging app developer Wand Labs. The Wand team will join the Bing engineering and platform team to add their expertise to the work Microsoft is doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots. The acquisition is intended to help accelerate the development of Conversation as a Platform.

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Dec 16

Microsoft rebrands Bing Pulse

Microsoft has announced that Microsoft’s Bing Pulse is changing its product name and brand identity to Microsoft Pulse. Microsoft Pulse has also become a multi-platform service, integrating with several products within the Microsoft family, including: Azure Media Services (video), Skype for Business (meetings), OneNote (sharing), Yammer (enterprise communications), and Power BI (analytics). In addition to a new and upgraded producer app, the brand now offers new features to the current services line-up, which include Pulse for Broadcast, Events & Conferences, Market Research and Pulse in the Classroom.

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Dec 01

View on Microsoft’s November activities

A relatively quiet month for Microsoft with much of its marketing energies focused on promoting Office 365, Windows 10 and associated devices as well as more in-depth information about its latest cloud service offerings.

Microsoft has announced plans to deliver commercial cloud services from datacentre regions in multiple cities within the UK and announced the expansion of regional hubs in Ireland and the Netherlands. General availability of Azure and Office 365 from local UK datacentres is expected in late 2016, with Dynamics CRM Online following shortly thereafter.

Red Hat has recognised Azure as a Certified Cloud and Service Provider, which enables customers to migrate Red Hat subscriptions to Azure and maintain their direct relationship with Red Hat.

FieldOne from Microsoft is available for purchase and can be installed directly within Office 365. FieldOne was acquired by Microsoft and provides field service management capabilities for delivering services to customers in the field.

Microsoft has announced plans to enhance its protection of customer data with a Cyber Defence Operations Centre and the new Microsoft Enterprise Cybersecurity Group. The company also revealed that its annual investment in security research and development is more than a billion dollars.

Microsoft has published its Security Intelligence Report Volume 19, which includes threat data from the first half of 2015 as well as longer term trend data on industry vulnerabilities, exploits, malware and malicious websites.

Microsoft HoloLens has partnered with Volvo Cars to explore automotive and technology scenarios in the context of people’s car buying experience. In addition Microsoft HoloLens has announced a partnership with Autodesk Fusion 360 on a solution focused on how industrial designers, mechanical engineers and other product development fields work together.

Microsoft has released 30 feature updates to “Get & Transform” in Excel 2016 and the Power Query add-in for Excel 2013 and 2010. The company has also released a new Bing app for iPhone.

Finally, in the spirit of the forthcoming holiday season, Microsoft’s Halo World Championship starts on 6 December with a $1.7 million prize pool.

Oct 01

View on Microsoft’s September activities

Microsoft has announced that, in early 2016, it will no longer support RC4 cipher in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer 11. Google and Mozilla have also announced that they are ending support for RC4 in Chrome and Firefox.

This month saw a range of updates to Microsoft’s Cloud Platform product portfolio that included releases and previews covering the GS-Series virtual machines, Advanced Threat Analytics (ATA, Revolution R Enterprise in Azure Marketplace, SQL Server 2016 CTP 2.3, new JDBC 4.2 for SQL Server Driver, Visual Studio 2012 Update 5, Power BI content packs for Adobe Analytics and Azure Mobile Engagement, Azure SQL Database as well as previews of Azure SQL Database Elastic Database Basic and Premium tiers.

Microsoft has announced upcoming previews of its Azure Data Lake offerings, which will include Azure Data Lake Store (a single repository to capture data of any size, type and speed), Azure Data Lake Analytics (a service built on Apache YARN that dynamically scales and introduces U-SQL) as well as Azure HDInsight (a fully managed Apache Hadoop cluster service). Azure Data Lake Tools for Visual Studio will support development projects for Azure Data Lake.

While we are on topics of interest to developers, Microsoft has issued an updated Developer’s Guide to Windows 10 video series with a focus on building Universal Windows apps. The Virtual Academy training courses also allow downloading of source code from GitHub.

Under the auspices of focusing on core Windows 10 Camera and Photo apps, Microsoft has announced the end of support for some of the Lumia apps, which have been removed from the Windows Phone Store.

The apps include Lumia Storyteller, Lumia Beamer, Photobeamer, and Lumia Refocus (which will no longer work due to the termination of the online services) as well as Lumia Panorama and Video Uploader (which will continue to work).

The company continues its strategy of embracing non-Microsoft platforms and has even developed its own Linux distribution for Azure networking, which will be made available as the Azure Cloud Switch (ACS). OneNote now provides support for multitasking, Spotlight search and Apple Pencil on iOS 9 and iPad Pro. There were also demonstrations of a number of enhancements for Office running on the iPad Pro. In addition, Microsoft released HDInsight on Linux.

On the hardware front, Dell is to sell Surface Pro and Surface accessories in the United States and Canada followed by expansion into other worldwide markets. Acer has unveiled PCs and phones designed for Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile respectively. Lenovo and Toshiba have also announced their hardware line-up for Windows 10.

For residents in the UK, Microsoft has introduced the display of UK Ordnance Survey Maps to Bing Maps.

Microsoft Office 2016 has been released and focuses on productivity and integration rather new product specific feature additions. The installation has been simplified to the point of creating great frustration (for me), in that you are not even able to specify where it should be installed. So be careful if you have a multiple drive system and your C drive is a small SSD with limited space.

Sep 03

Microsoft releases Bing Ads for Android

Microsoft has announced the availability of Bing Ads for Android that, like the iOS app, allows viewing performance of your accounts, campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords; monitoring multiple performance metrics concurrently; editing budgets and bids; pausing and enabling campaigns, ad groups, ads, and keywords as well as receiving critical alerts, such as notice of an expiring credit card.

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May 01

View on Microsoft’s April activities

Just a reminder that support for Windows Server 2003 ends on 15 July. Talking of endings, Microsoft has disabled SSL 3.0 in its April update for Internet Explorer 11, although Enterprise customers can choose to enable SSL 3.0 for compatibility with their Web applications.

Microsoft announced that Bing Ads will adopt Google AdWords’ upgraded URLs, which will help advertisers move campaigns between the Bing Ads and Google AdWords platforms.

On the Office front, Microsoft has enabled Office 365 administrators to set a maximum message size from 1 MB up to and increased maximum of 150 MB. The Office Universal apps preview for Windows 10 for phone is expected to be available by the end of April. Microsoft has added Italian and Chinese (Mandarin) to the Skype Translator preview programme, which already supports Spanish and English.

Microsoft has announced new features in Windows 10 and unveiled a set of software development kits (SDKs) to help developers bring their code for the Web, .NET, Win32, Android and iOS to Windows 10. At the company’s annual Build developer conference, Microsoft also announced new Azure data services (Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Data Lake and elastic databases); Visual Studio and .NET tools and runtimes for Windows, Mac and Linux; and APIs that enable developers to build apps with Office 365.

The conference keynote devoted a lot of attention in explaining the benefits of the Universal Windows Platform, the new name for the Universal App Platform (UAP). The demonstration of Office apps running on a Windows phone and then, by connecting a Bluetooth screen, keyboard and mouse, transformed the Office experience into a full desktop application (still running on the phone) certainly revealed the vision extremely well.

Other Windows 10 news includes the release of a new insider build (10074), which sees the reintroduction of some Aero Glass elements in the UI as well as a number of subtle enhancements. Microsoft also announced the availability of Windows 10 IoT Core Insider Preview with support for Raspberry Pi 2 and Intel’s Minnowboard Max. The final version will be available for Makers and commercial device builders for free.

Microsoft is making every effort to encourage developers and software firms to develop and provide offerings on the Windows 10 platform. The company has stated their objective to have Windows 10 on 1 billion devices within three years of release. In addition, they announced several new capabilities coming to Windows 10, which includes carrier billing across all Windows 10 devices, an updated Advertising SDK with support for video ads and install tracking as well as in-app purchase subscription support.

Microsoft is planning a phased rollout for Windows 10, with the desktop and tablet clients scheduled for summer (probably late July according to rumours), with additional platforms (such as Windows Phone) and features to follow in later months. Interestingly, the insider programme will continue after the release, which highlights Microsoft’s new approach to its operating system development lifecycle.