Nov 03

View on Microsoft’s October activities

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that Windows 10 is the start of creating a platform that can run on multiple screens as well as the Internet of things. He also said that the “one” Windows strategy could be as much about running sensors as well as the familiar form factors of today.

Windows Intune will be renamed Microsoft Intune as part of Microsoft’s ongoing strategy for Intune as a cloud-based mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM) solution for both Microsoft and non-Microsoft devices.

Talking of rebranding, Microsoft plans to phase out the Nokia brand in favour of Microsoft Lumia.

An interesting rumour published on Bloomberg news that Microsoft is developing an ARM version of Windows Server. There are unsubstantiated reports that the company is already running a test version of Windows Server on ARM-based servers.

Microsoft has been holding its TechEd Europe event in Barcelona and has used this occasion to make a wide range of Azure and Office 365 announcements.

Azure announcements include the general availability of Azure Automation, Runbook Gallery, Event Hubs, and Microsoft Antimalware, plus the public previews of Azure Data Factory, Stream Analytics, Azure Batch, Marketplace, Hortonworks and Cloudera images, and SQL Database business continuity features. Related pricing changes have also been publicised.

Office 365 announcements emphasised new capabilities for developers of Windows, iOS, Android and web applications. These included the general availability of Office 365 APIs for mail, files, calendar and contacts; mobile SDKs for native app development; and visibility for developers’ apps through the new Office 365 app launcher.

Microsoft has embarked on a strategy of encouraging a subscription client operating system service (Windows 10) and untying Office from the Microsoft world to target a variety of popular non-Microsoft platforms. All of this backed by an array of services and capabilities delivered by a rapidly evolving Microsoft Azure.

Sep 01

View on Microsoft’s August activities

Microsoft kicked off its first //oneweek, a global event that is part of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s effort to reinvent the way the company does business and encourage employees to adopt a challenger mind set and collaborate on the ideas and technologies of the future.

August saw a focus on Azure with the release of a range of updates and previews for Microsoft’s Azure offerings. These included a Virtual Machine preview portal support as well as SharePoint Farm Creation, a public preview of the Azure Machine Learning service, a public preview of the Azure Event Ingestion Service, Mobile Services updates. Notification Hub price reductions and new features in addition to SQL Database Geo-Restore, Geo-Replication and auditing support.

Rollout of a number of updates to Xbox One started in August. In addition, the Digital TV Tuner will be available in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain providing Xbox One users in those markets with an over-the-air digital terrestrial TV experience through the USB single tuner.

Gartner has named Microsoft as a leader in four Magic Quadrants. Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (Amazon Web Services the leader), x86 Server Virtualisation Infrastructure (VMware the leader), Enterprise Application Platform as a Service ( the leader) and Public Cloud Storage Services (Amazon Web Services the leader).

Significantly, Microsoft has stated that it will not deliver a Windows 8.1 Update 2. Instead, the company intends to use the existing monthly update process to deliver more frequent improvements along with the security updates normally provided as part of Update Tuesday.

This new approach is also being applied to Internet Explorer, with a number of new features and improvements being released as part of the August Update.

Microsoft is expected to make a public technical preview of the next version of Windows (code name Threshold) available towards the end of September or early October. Threshold could be the last major release of the Windows operating system and might be the foundation on which updates and new features are delivered via the monthly Windows Update mechanism.

Perhaps this heralds the dawn of a subscription model for Microsoft’s operating system and the end of the major release fanfare of the past. This approach would be consistent with the way Office 365 and Azure based server offerings are being developed and released.

Aug 01

View on Microsoft’s July activities

Satya Nadella started Microsoft’s new financial year by announcing that it will reduce its workforce by some 18,000 employees. Its Nokia division will lose 12,500 people as well as reductions of around 1,300 staff based in the Seattle region. These changes see a return to a Windows Phone focus with the demise of the Nokia X family (Android).

At the same time, Satya changed the Devices and Services company message, introduced by Steve Ballmer, to one of context for the Productivity and Platform message. His philosophy brings Microsoft back to its roots within the context of a mobile and cloud-first world. The headcount reductions reflect his desire to see Microsoft’s divisions act more like lean start-ups rather than the behemoth organisation that Microsoft has become.

The Operating System Group (OSG) has started a reorganisation that sees a departure from its traditional programme management, development and software testing structure to one that reduces the “silo” mentality and is more aligned to the “lean start-up” aspiration.

Microsoft also announced its unified operating system vision, which is not one operating system for all devices, but rather a unified experience for developers to build and publish apps on all windows devices.

Microsoft’s annual partner event saw a focus on the Internet of Things (IoT), which Satya sees as a core element of an expanded productivity vision using its Intelligent Systems Solutions banner for a variety of industries including manufacturing and health.

The Skype team continues to advance support across multiple platforms with releases that included support and enhancements for Android, Amazon’s Fire phone, Xbox and TV. July saw OneNote updates for Mac, iPad and iPhone as well as support for Kindle Fire and Fire phone.

Microsoft and BesTV have announced that Xbox One will launch in China during September 2014. This will be the first gaming and entertainment console approved for sale in China. Microsoft has acquired SyntaxTree, owner of the Unity cross-platform game engine, and will integrate the platform into its Visual Studio offering.

Nokia are working on using background sounds to charge its mobile phones – let’s hope that this project comes to fruition. Microsoft Research shows how artificial intelligence can be used to recognise breeds of dogs (as well as other objects) with Project Adam, whose goal is to enable software to visually recognise any object.

As Microsoft starts its new financial year under new leadership, expect to see an increase in the frequency of product updates and releases as well as integrated capabilities that span devices using cloud offerings as the platform for changing experiences at home and in the workplace. This change in direction and emphasis must be made tangible in today’s volatile world of technology with fierce competition in every aspect of Microsoft’s business.

May 01

View on Microsoft’s April activities

Microsoft reached a significant milestone in April when it completed the acquisition of Nokia Devices and Services. This is a fundamental element of Microsoft’s devices and services strategy and continuing Nokia’s Android offerings will be an interesting proof point.

Satya Nadella delivered a keynote at Microsoft’s “Accelerate your insights” event. He spoke about “ambient intelligence” in a mobile first, cloud first world. His session offers an indication of where he sees Microsoft’s data driven future. His blog post provides some additional detail.

Windows Phone 8.1 preview is now available for developers and focuses on features for enterprise organisations as well as the new digital assistant Cortona, Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now. The release also heralds Microsoft’s Universal App, which is designed to encourage app developers to build apps that will run on Windows Phone and Windows 8 devices.

Microsoft has announced that the Kinect for Windows v2 sensor and SDK will be available in the Northern Hemisphere in summer. This has very interesting potential for both consumer and business scenarios.

Amidst all the press regarding data privacy, the European Union’s data protection authorities have found that Microsoft’s enterprise cloud contracts meets EU privacy law standards. The approval covers Azure, Office 365, Dynamics CRM and Windows Intune.

In response to Google Hangouts, Microsoft announced free Skype group video calling for users of Windows desktop, Xbox One and Macs.

Microsoft and BesTV New Media (a subsidiary of Shanghai Media Group) will launch Xbox One in China in September.

Windows XP support has now ended. Interesting to see a blog post providing guidance for a vulnerability that affects all versions of Internet Explorer, which emphasises that security updates will not be made available to XP users.

Microsoft continues to drive its cloud services on all fronts. New data centres in Asia and Brazil, Azure price cuts to match the competition, Project Lite cloud service, an Azure automation preview, Word online updates as well as new services tiers for Azure SQL database.

Microsoft Research Silicon Valley lab hosts the Silicon Valley TechFair, an open-door event for customers, academia, and partners to learn more about the inner workings of Microsoft Research. There is a good summary of some of the projects Microsoft research is engaged in here.

At a first-floor bank of elevators at Microsoft Research, a “smart elevator” opens its doors, sensing that you need a ride. When you reach the third floor, a humanoid robot is ready to guide you where you need to go. And if it happens to be Eric Horvitz’s office his virtual admin named Monica, an onscreen avatar with a British accent, greets you. “I was expecting you,” she says. “The robot told me you were coming.”

Apr 01

View on Microsoft’s March activities

A busy month for Microsoft as it prepares for its BUILD conference, the traditional forum for significant product disclosures. The new CEO, Satya Nadella, has already set the theme for the event: “A cloud for everyone, on every device”.

Microsoft held its SharePoint Conference and Dynamics Convergence Conference. Some strong messaging about the importance of Social and the role that Yammer will play going forward – Service Pack 1 for SharePoint includes support for Yammer as the chosen social network.

The Office team have been unusually prolific and their release of Office for the iPad demonstrates a new direction for the team as it ends its Windows first tradition – perhaps stimulated by Google’s threat to Microsoft’s crown jewels. Oslo, an integrated personal search based on Office activities and relationships, looks impressive.

Microsoft and Oracle announce their pricing for Oracle on Azure – a partnership to fend off their AWS mutual adversary.

The Nokia acquisition has taken longer than expected, but is due to be finalised at the end of April. Satya has named Stephen Elop as the Executive Vice President of Microsoft Devices Group.

SQL 2014 was released to manufacture and will be generally available in April. Key area of focus is in-memory technology and hybrid cloud scenarios.

For gamers, Titanfall was released on Xbox One with the usual flamboyant launch campaign. March also saw Xbox, Xbox Live, Xbox Music and Xbox Video teams, as well as Microsoft Studios combined under Phil Spencer’s leadership.

Microsoft has been running a “demise of Windows XP” campaign with promotional offers to migrate to the latest versions of its operating system as well as dire warnings about threat exposure when security patches stop being produced.

Of note, is How to get free Microsoft Office 365 resources, training, virtual courses, and more, which has some very useful links and resources.

On sustainability, Microsoft’s supply chain for hardware and packaging (Manufacturing, Supply Chain and Information Services (MSCIS)) has been ISO 14001 certified.

The source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows has been made public with the help of the Computer History Museum – shows our age when code we used to use becomes history 😉

Mar 03

View on Microsoft’s February activities

The really big news for February is the appointment of Satya Nadella as Microsoft’s new CEO, who wants to accelerate product delivery by transforming the organisation. The change includes Bill Gates stepping down as Microsoft’s Chairman to become Founder and Technology Advisor supporting Satya.

Microsoft released a range of Windows Azure enhancements, which included a rather subdued announcement about virtual machines. This could be a rather significant direction because it starts the process of blurring the lines between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

The demise of Windows XP and Office 2003 support in April is gaining momentum in terms of the amount of coverage and warnings Microsoft is issuing. Partially associated is the announced 70 percent price reduction for Windows 8.1 that is specifically targeted at low cost computers and tablets to address competition from Google’s Chromebooks.

Forrester Research has positioned Microsoft as a Leader in The Forrester Wave: Enterprise Data Warehouse (Q4 2013).

Microsoft demonstrated video calling between Skype and Lync as a step towards its universal communications vision. Alongside this demonstration were a number of associated releases of Lync, Skype and Yammer targeted at a variety of platforms including Skype for Nokia’s recent Android-based mobile phone offering.

February saw some key rebranding with the rollout of Microsoft’s OneDrive and Office Online as well as the release of service pack 1 for Office 2013, Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013.

Microsoft Research has been publishing some items of interest that included the Lab of Things and a range of initiatives discussed at a workshop for the Swiss Joint Research Centre.

10 years ago, in February 2004, Bill Gates announced a detailed vision and proposals on how technology can be used to help put an end to spam and Microsoft launched its preview of Windows XP 64-bit OS. How is your spam count looking today?

Feb 04

Microsoft Board names Satya Nadella as CEO

Microsoft has announced that its Board of Directors has appointed Satya Nadella as Chief Executive Officer and member of the Board of Directors effective immediately. Nadella previously held the position of Executive Vice President of Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise group.

Microsoft also announced that Bill Gates, previously Chairman of the Board of Directors, will assume a new role on the Board as Founder and Technology Advisor, and will devote more time to the company, supporting Nadella in shaping technology and product direction. John Thompson, lead independent director for the Board of Directors, will assume the role of Chairman of the Board of Directors and remain an independent director on the Board.

Feb 01

View on Microsoft’s January activities

During January, Microsoft posted a deluge of Windows Phone app promotions via its News Centre.  This has become a feature of its articles every month as the company tries to persuade consumers that apps should not be the deciding factor when choosing phones.

With the UK government’s renewed threat of migrating from Office to open source productivity tools, Microsoft announces that it will open a “transparency centre” where government representatives can review its source code.

Having lost the SkyDrive trademark battle with BSkyB, Microsoft has launched its OneDrive rebranding and has also taken the opportunity to rename Office Web Apps as Office Online – Word Online, Excel Online, PowerPoint Online, etc.

Cloud competition has driven Microsoft to reduce its Azure storage costs to match Amazon’s pricing.  Microsoft continues its drive to win developers with updates for Visual Studio and Linux Integration Services.

January saw Microsoft promoting Windows embedded devices and the tablet form factor as point of sales devices.

Gartner published its Enterprise aPaaS Magic Quadrant, which shows Microsoft as a Leader in the Enterprise Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) market.

Interesting items include Microsoft and Accenture demonstrating the “Connected Fitting Room” and how a photographer made his Windows Phone fly.

Latest rumour on the CEO search has Satya Nadella (executive vice president of the Cloud & Enterprise group) as the man for the job – speculation at its best!

Jan 02

View on Microsoft’s December activities

December saw Microsoft extending support for some of its key offering on non-Microsoft platforms such as iOS and Android.  This has been a trend throughout 2013 and highlights the impact that competing platforms have had on Microsoft’s traditional breadwinners.

This theme is strengthened by some competitive migration offerings such as a service to make it easier to switch from Gmail to and Microsoft Virtualisation Certification for VMWare experts.

Microsoft also joined in on the anti-government surveillance campaign initiated by a range of service providers that included Google, Facebook and Apple.

Unsurprisingly, the Christmas period saw significant publicity and drive for new games on the Xbox One as well as continued promotion of a range of Windows Phone apps.

During 2013 Microsoft has relentlessly been improving its Azure offerings to combat strong competition in this area.  In terms of capability and cost, Microsoft has achieved parity with its competition and, in some areas, has overtaken its rivals.

These efforts have been complimented by a drive to attract developers to build on its Azure platform supported by an array of service and development tool releases to make it easier to focus on functionality rather than plumbing.

Expect an appointment of a new CEO in the first quarter of 2014 and the implications that this will have on Microsoft’s business.  Will Microsoft continue its drive to unify the phone, tablet and PC with a shared experience, or will the new CEO have very different ideas?  2014 is certainly going to be an interesting and exciting year!