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.

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.

Apr 01

View on Microsoft’s March activities

Microsoft racked up six awards at Mobile World Congress 2015, including Best Mobile Tablet (Surface Pro 3), Best of Mobile World Congress 2015 (Lumia 640) and Top Pick of Mobile World Congress 2015 (Lumia 640 XL).

The company has released a new Universal Foldable Keyboard, which is designed to work with iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Windows tablets and select Windows Phones. They also released the Designer Bluetooth Desktop keyboard and mouse set.

Microsoft also announced their new Surface 3, which is a smaller less powerful version of the Surface Pro 3 and has been priced at $499.

The company continues to expand its cloud service data centres, with announcements of Dynamics CRM Online served from datacentres located in Japan as well as Office 365 and Dynamics CRM Online from datacentres in Australia.

CRM has been a key area for Microsoft’s strategy and the company announced its Spring ’15 release of Dynamics CRM, which focuses on providing enhancements and features in productivity, social, mobility, analytics, and knowledge.

The “Microsoft on non-windows platforms” initiative continues with an expanded global partnership with Samsung to deliver Microsoft mobile productivity services to both consumer and business customers. The company has also expanded strategic agreements with global OEM Dell, and regional OEMs including TrekStor of Germany, JP Sa Couto of Portugal, Datamatic of Italy, DEXP of Russia, Hipstreet of Canada, QMobile of Pakistan, Tecno of Africa, and Casper of Turkey, as well as original device manufacturer Pegatron. These 11 hardware partners will pre-install Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype on Android devices coming to market later this year.

Microsoft has announced that the Azure IoT Suite will be released in preview later this year. The suite is an integrated offering incorporating all the relevant Azure capabilities to connect devices and other assets (i.e. “things”), capture the diverse and voluminous data they generate, integrate and orchestrate the flow of that data, and manage, analyse and present it as usable information as well as intelligently automate operations.

Windows 10 will include a new IoT edition for small devices that is tuned to run Windows universal apps and drivers and will be royalty free to makers and device builders.

On the Windows 10 front, Microsoft has introduced Windows Hello, a biometric authentication which can provide access to Windows 10 devices using face recognition or fingerprints. For independent hardware vendors (IHVs), a single universal driver that can be deployed across all Windows 10 device families (e.g., PCs, phones, IoT). Microsoft also provided information on their Windows 10 universal app platform, which is designed to take the pain out of accommodating a range of form factors and devices.

Microsoft has also released their latest build of Windows 10 as part of the Windows Insiders programme. The release is focused on Microsoft’s new browser, Project Spartan, and is the first time the new browser has been included in Windows 10. The company will include IE 11 and Spartan in Windows 10, but Windows 10 Mobile will only run Spartan.

Finally, Microsoft has announced that Windows 10 will be available this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages.

Nov 04

Microsoft announces RemoteIE preview

Microsoft has announced the preview availability of RemoteIE via Azure RemoteApp. This is a free service from Microsoft that allows running the latest version of Internet Explorer on the Windows 10 Technical Preview from your Windows, Mac OS X, iOS or Android devices, without the need to run a new OS or virtual machine on a device. This is Microsoft’s recommended approach for developers to test the latest IE preview versions.

View source article.

Oct 28

Microsoft announces the Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit for Internet Explorer 11

Microsoft has announced the availability of the Enterprise Site Discovery Toolkit for Internet Explorer 11. The toolkit allows Internet Explorer (IE) to collect data on computers running IE 11 on Windows 8.1 or Windows 7 and helps build a list of websites used within companies as an aid to browser deployment planning.

View source article.

Oct 10

Microsoft reveals Windows 10 A JavaScript performance improvements

Microsoft has revealed that it has made advances to JavaScript performance in the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Chakra (the JavaScript engine for Internet Explorer and store based Web apps) has an improved execution pipeline to deliver faster start up, supports various new and augmented optimisations in Chakra’s Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler to increase script execution throughput, and has an enhanced Garbage Collection (GC) subsystem to deliver better UI responsiveness for apps and sites.

View source article.

Oct 08

Microsoft announces top level domain name parsing for Internet Explorer

Microsoft has announced that it is changing the way Top Level Domains (TLD) names are parsed. Internet Explorer will use the Public Suffix List instead of the private list of domain name parsing exceptions, which required domain name owners to notify Microsoft of any exceptions. This change is included in the Windows 10 Technical Preview and Microsoft is evaluating introducing this change to earlier versions of Internet Explorer.

View source article.

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 (Salesforce.com 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.

Jun 02

View on Microsoft’s May activities

May saw the launch of Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 with a bigger screen and more powerful processor options while being thinner and lighter as well as having a longer battery life than its Surface Pro 2 predecessor. The device is positioned as a laptop and tablet replacer with some clever work done on delivering an excellent digital pen experience.

There were no on premise product announcements at TechEd North America 2014. The only announcements made were for cloud services. These included general availability of Azure ExpressRoute, Virtual Networking enhancements, compute-intensive A8 & A9 Virtual Machines, IP Reservation, Import/Export Service, Managed Cache Service, Traffic Manager support for external endpoints, and several other features. In addition, Microsoft announced the public preview of RemoteApp, API Management, Redis Cache, Files, BizTalk Hybrid Connections, and Internal Load balancing. Support plans from the providers of top Linux distributions were also announced.

Gartner now sees Microsoft as a leader in their Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Enterprise Application Platform as a Service (aPaaS) market Magic Quadrants. Although these quadrants are led by Amazon Web Services and Salesforce.com respectively, the reports show Microsoft’s progress towards their vision of an end-to-end service across all the cloud service models.

Microsoft’s latest cybersecurity report shows a 70 percent decline in the number of severe vulnerabilities exploited in Microsoft products between 2010 and 2013. However, the number of computers impacted as a result of deceptive tactics more than tripled in the last quarter of 2013.

Microsoft released a security update outside its normal Update Tuesday cycle to fix a critical vulnerability in Internet Explorer for Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and, surprisingly, Windows XP.

The company reported that Office for iPad has been downloaded over 27 million times. Perhaps this highlights that Satya (Microsoft new CEO) has fewer ties to old dogma and is willing to decouple Office from Windows in the same way he ensured that support for Linux on Windows Azure was delivered at a competitive price.

In a similar vein, May saw the announcement of a strategic partnership with Salesforce.com. Once again the focus is wining customers for its platforms and services rather than believing that it has to be exclusive to Microsoft products.

An interesting perspective from James Whittaker, Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft: “What made Microsoft successful wasn’t thinking about competitors, or market share, but thinking about changing the world”. He went on to say “We’re starting to think about changing the world again. It’s the one attitude that I think will get us to where we need to be, and once again make us the most relevant software company in the world.”

May 08

What’s new in Internet Explorer 11 for Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft has published information about IE11 on Windows Phone 8.1. Features include improvements in URL specification and prediction, unlimited tabs, live pinned sites, performance improvements, in-line video playback, Reading View plus a range of additional enhancements.