Microsoft’s Xbox team has announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire Beam, an interactive livestreaming service that gives viewers the ability to watch and play along with game streamers in real-time.
July brings the end of support for Windows Server 2003 and news that the US Navy is to pay Microsoft around $9m to continue to provide security fixes for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.
Microsoft has been notifying customers of changes to its Services Agreement and Privacy Statement. The Services Agreement will now cover most of Microsoft’s consumer services, including Bing, Cortana, Microsoft account, OneDrive, Outlook.com, Skype and Xbox Live. The privacy statement is being updated to reflect Microsoft’s commitments for protecting individual privacy with these services, and will also cover new technologies like the forthcoming Windows 10.
Skype activity continues with the release of Skype 5.13 for iPhone that includes preview links in chat. Skype Translator adds French and German to the line-up of spoken languages and now supports 50 instant messaging languages. Microsoft also plans to introduce Skype Translator preview technology to the Skype for Windows desktop app towards the end of summer 2015.
Microsoft has announced a significant Xbox One update due this autumn, which sees the start of the Windows 10 influence, and includes Cortana, speed improvements and a revised home screen.
Microsoft plans to deliver Windows 10 developer tools for Visual Studio 2015 with the release of Windows 10. Designed for developers to build Universal Windows Platform apps and submit them to the Windows Store. July will see a range of release previews of the Windows 10 SDK as well as releases of a matching version of the Windows 10 Mobile emulator.
In preparation for the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has announced the availability of A Developer’s Guide to Windows 10, an on-demand Virtual Academy training course.
NASA and Microsoft are developing Sidekick, a new project using Microsoft HoloLens, to help astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).
Microsoft held its first Ignite conference in May and announced a range of new products and services for enterprise computing, including the next generation of Windows management, Microsoft Office, hybrid cloud infrastructure and SQL Server. Microsoft also announced that Windows Update for Business will be a free service for Windows Pro and Windows Enterprise devices and has been designed to keep Windows devices in organisations up to date with security defences and Windows features.
NetSuite, a provider of cloud-based financials, ERP and omnichannel commerce software suites, announced a strategic cloud alliance with Microsoft to create solutions connecting NetSuite’s cloud ERP to Microsoft Office 365, Windows and Microsoft Azure.
Microsoft has started the global transition of Nokia-branded stores and Care centres around the world. Nokia retail stores will be called Microsoft Authorised Resellers and will showcase a range of Microsoft experiences and products including Lumia, Surface, Xbox and various accessories and services such as Office 365. In addition, general trade or multi-branded stores will be known as Microsoft Mobile Resellers.
Microsoft has continued its initiative to support non-Windows platforms. Support includes the release of OneNote for the Apple Watch, OneNote for Mac’s audio recording, support for Windows phone, Android phone and iPhone in the new Windows 10 Phone Companion app, the availability of Office Lens Android on Google Play Store as well as the expansion of cross-platform services through agreements with additional non-Microsoft device partners.
The company has produced a nine minute video that provides an early look at Office 2016 Public Preview for Windows desktop and phone.
For gamers Microsoft has released the Xbox One May System Update and includes voice messages and improvements to party chat.
Windows 10 will be released on 29 July. Microsoft has started rolling out an icon to “reserve” your free upgrade, which is the start of a campaign to have 1 billion devices running Windows 10 within 3 years of its initial release. Microsoft has said that Azure AD support will be included in Windows 10 and that Microsoft Edge (the new browser) will support Dolby Audio.
Of interest, is the progress Microsoft Research has made in automatically creating captions for photographs using neural network technology.
Microsoft makes the Office 365 ProPlus Benefit available to all students and educators on a worldwide basis. Eligible organisations can provide Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions at no extra cost for all students, faculty and staff. Yammer Enterprise is now included in the Office 365 kiosk plan.
Microsoft will be providing Dynamics CRM services in Japan from local datacentres and are planning to offer Office 365 Dynamics CRM Online from datacentres in Australia by the end of March 2015. Microsoft has also announced the U.S. general availability of Azure Government and upcoming availability of Dynamics CRM Online for Government.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has been getting Microsoft’s attention. The company has been offering half-day IoT Quick Start workshops in partnership with Aditi, CGI, Cognizant, Rockwell and Tata to help galvanize industry activity that utilises Microsoft’s Azure IoT Services.
January will see changes to Visual Studio Online pricing and licensing. From 1 January, Visual Studio Online users will no longer have to pay any per-processor (or any other per deployment environment) charge for Release Management.
Microsoft has said that that there over 1.5 million registered Windows Insiders and have hinted that the next preview release of Windows 10 in 2015 will include a range of new features.
In with the new and out with the old – Windows Server 2003 extended support ends on 14 July 2015 and extended support for SQL Server 2005 will end on 12 April 2016.
The Windows Store now enables carrier billing for app purchases in China through China Mobile, India with Idea and Brazil via Claro. U.S, Verizon Wireless, has also added Windows Phone to the platforms it supports with carrier billing.
Bitcoins gain Microsoft’s support. You can exchange bitcoins to buy apps and games for Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox. In the U.S. you can use BitPay to trade-in bitcoin (at current market value) and add it to your Microsoft account. Those funds can then be used to purchase content in the Windows Store, or in stores that house Xbox Games, Xbox Music or Xbox Video.
Microsoft has released Windows SDK 2.0 for the Kinect v2 sensors and enabled commercial deployment of Kinect apps in the Windows Store. Microsoft also announced the Kinect Adapter for Windows that allows the Kinect for Xbox One to be used with Windows 8.0 and Windows 8.1 through a USB 3.0 port.
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.
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.
Microsoft has announced the availability of its Xbox Music API for third party developers. The API is a set of REST methods, including CORS, JSONP and Flash cross domain support, that enable to developers to use the services on Windows 8.1, Xbox One, Windows Phone, the Web, Android and iOS. Features include metadata, deeplinking, playback and collection management.
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.”
Microsoft Advertising has announced that it has been chosen by Emirates Airline and its media agency Havas Media Group as one of the key partners for its global brand campaign. The large-scale campaign spans 25 markets and runs across services including MSN, Xbox, Windows 8 and Skype on four different screens (PC, TV, tablet and mobile).