Category: Microsoft


Almost exactly a month ago, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 11 as part of the Windows 8.1 preview and today, it is also launching a developer preview of IE11 for Windows 7.

Sandeep Singhal, Microsoft’s group program manager for IE, told me earlier this week that IE11 for Windows 7 will bring all of the advances of IE11 for Windows 8.1 to users of Microsoft’s older operating system. One area Microsoft has focused on with this release is speed, including a much-improved JavaScript engine and a stronger emphasis on GPU hardware acceleration for 2D and 3D content, including fonts, JPG images and WebGL-based experiences.

IE11 is Microsoft’s first browser to embrace the WebGL standard for accessing the computer’s GPU for rendering advanced 2D and 3D experiences. As Microsoft’s senior program manager for IE Frank Olivier told me, his team has worked hard to ensure that WebGL in IE (both on Windows 7 and 8.1) is as safe as possible and can’t crash the system (it does, after all, allow very low-level access to your hardware). Indeed, Olivier showed me a demo that stressed IE11 s WebGL implementation to the point where it crashes. IE11 handles this situation gracefully and simply restarts its WebGL core as needed.

To show off IE11 s WebGL features, the company teamed up with GlacierWorks, a site that aims to raise awareness about the effect of climate change in the Himalayas, to add more WebGL content to its site.

Fast, But Not SPDY On Windows 7

All of these features will also be available to Windows 7 users and Singhal expects the Windows 7 version to offer virtually the same performance as on the new operating system. One feature Microsoft doesn’t bring to Windows 7, though, is support for Google’s SPDY networking protocol.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft tells me that it will ship IE11 with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. Microsoft clearly expects most Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 and it doesn’t look like it plans to make IE11 available as a standalone download for 8.

With today’s update for Windows 7, Microsoft is also updating modern.IE, its site for tools and resources for developing for IE. The site now features virtual machines for testing IE11 on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, as well as a new screenshot tool that lets you see how your sites look across different browsers and devices. For a limited time, Microsoft is also offering developers a 25 percent discount on Parallels for Mac so they can run these virtual machines. IE11 itself, it’s worth noting, also includes a number of updated developer tools.

ps4 xboxone 520x245 NPD November numbers: Sony says PS4 was the top selling console, Microsoft says Xbox One was fastest selling

Sony and Microsoft today both issued separate statements on how their next-generation consoles sold in November, based on data from market research firm NPD. Unsurprisingly, both companies spun the story to say they won.

Sony said its PlayStation 4 was “the top-selling console for November and PlayStation was #1 in sales overall for home consoles.” Microsoft said its Xbox One was “the fastest selling console on the market in the U.S.”

As always, the devil is in the details. The PlayStation 4 launched on November 15 while the Xbox One debuted on November 22, and these figures are only for one region, not worldwide.

Unfortunately, Sony didn’t share how many PS4s were actually sold according to NPD. Microsoft said the group found 909,132 Xbox One units were sold in the US in the console’s first nine days of availability, or an average of more than 101,000 consoles per day.

That doesn’t really tell us which console is selling better. Sony’s “top selling” angle means nothing because more console units will sell given more days of availability, so it’s no surprise the PS4 came out on top if it arrived earlier in the month. Microsoft’s “fastest selling” angle means nothing because more console units will of course sell closer to launch, so it’s no surprise the Xbox One comes out on top if it arrived later in the month.

All that we do know is that Sony has sold more than 2.1 million units of the PlayStation 4 while Microsoft has sold over 2 million units of the Xbox One.

The real question will be which console hits the next milestone, like say 10 million, significantly ahead of the other. December figures for the US will of course be highly scrutinized, given that it will be the first full month of sales for both consoles, but it won’t be the deciding factor.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to hear Sony’s and Microsoft’s PR teams battle it out with statistics about gameplay broadcasts and total hours played. The early winner, if there is one, won’t be revealed till 2014.

See also: PlayStation 4 review: Technical issues hold back Sony from greatness and Xbox One review: A multimedia extravaganza that also plays games

148459125 520x245 Microsoft debuts Bing Offers Card Linked test in Seattle, saves your credit card details for automatic discounts

Microsoft today launched a Bing Offers test in Seattle that aims to automate and simplify using and redeeming deals found through the service. The rather poorly-named program “Bing Offers Card-Linked” is a partnership with transaction processing leaders First Data, but more importantly extends to payment networks like Visa and MasterCard.

The Bing move is part of a broader initiative also announced today called the CardLinx Association. Founding members include Microsoft, Bank of America, Discover, Deem, Facebook, First Data Corp., Linkable Networks, LivingSocial, MasterCard, Affinity Solutions, CardSpring and Cardlytics.

Here’s the idea in a nut shell:

As the “offers” space has become more popular, consumers have often found it cumbersome to take advantage of the variety of offers, which has slowed growth in the industry. Card linked offers help solve that problem by giving merchants and advertisers the ability to deliver an offer or deal to consumers via their credit, debit or other payment cards without having to use a paper coupon, voucher or promotion code on their mobile devices. The mission of The CardLinx Association is to establish increased interoperability, eliminate friction and promote the growth of the card linked offers industry.

In short, Microsoft is trying to respond to Bing Offers feedback from users who do not want to pre-purchase deals that they might forget or not use due to inflexible redemption options. Furthermore, there are also frequent complaints about having to print up coupons or display QR codes to redeem savings.

Microsoft thus figured the best way to address these problems is to link your credit card to all its offers. This may require more effort on your part to get started, but once you’re set up, the whole deal-savings business should be much easier.

Bing Offers Card-Linked is a three-step process:

  1. Sign Up. You can sign up by adding just 2 pieces of information (Microsoft Username/Password and Credit/Debit card) on the website (1-time requirement). All available deals are then linked to your card and ready to use right away.
  2. Discover. You will be reminded about local deals on the Bing Offers website, via email subscriptions, and on a variety of Microsoft devices and services, such as Skype and Bing Apps.
  3. Shop & Save. When you use your card to make a qualified purchase at participating local business, just as you normally would at a retail store or a restaurant, you are immediately notified about your savings and you will receive the discounts directly on your card statement.

Microsoft says Bing Offers currently gives you access to more than 200,000 unique offers in over 14,000 US cities. The service assembles leading offers from sites such as Groupon, Living Social, and so you can see the best deals in your area all in one place.

Bing Offers Card-Linked aims to make the redemption part of the deal-hunting process easier as well, as long as you use a credit card for your deal purchases (and make sure it’s the same one). Hopefully the test works out, and Microsoft scraps the awful name by bundling this feature into all of Bing Offers.

Top Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images


At an internal meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that the company overproduced the Surface RT tablet, leading to its recent $150 per unit price cut. As quoted by The Verge’s Tom Warren, Ballmer plainly explained that the company “built a few more devices than [it] could sell.”

But we already knew that.

In its most recent quarterly earnings release, Microsoft took a $900 million charge relating to the Surface RT tablet line, essentially admitting that the inventory that it has on hand was not worth its previous internal valuation; you can’t cut the market price of a product that you have in a warehouse and not lower its value on your books. The write down cost Microsoft $0.07 per share. It missed expectations for the quarter.

Microsoft has been on a mission to clear Surface RT inventory for some time. As I wrote earlier this year, through a combination of giveaways and discounts, Microsoft was moving to liquidate what appeared to be mountainous superfluous unit volume of its ARM-based Windows tablet hybrid.

At that time, Microsoft released a bland statement, saying that the offers and handouts were in “response” to the “positive reaction” Surface had enjoyed since launch. That felt a bit backwards: If response had been so strong, why give away a single device or discount? Wouldn’t organic demand be sufficient? Well, as it turns out, reaction hasn’t been overly positive, so the entire argument was logically moot.

Ballmer said something else during the meeting that is a non-surprise: Microsoft is not selling as many Windows devices as it would like. We knew that, too. The figures released quarterly that describe the PC market are brutal – and dropping. Even Apple is suffering from declining Mac sales in the face of nearly insurmountable headwinds that it helped to create with its leadership of post-PC product categories.

Next-generation Surface devices are being designed and tested. I suspect that Microsoft learned its lesson regarding production volume: Prove product-market fit first, and then kick the afterburners.

Top Image Credit: BUILDWindows


Foursquare is getting some help from Microsoft as it seeks to turn its location-based mobile app into a sustainable business. Microsoft has invested $15 million and agreed to a strategic partnership with the New York-based startup, Chief Executive Dennis Crowley said in an interview. The investment will be added to the $35 million investment round Foursquare announced last December and which valued the company at about $650 million. In addition to an equity investment, Microsoft has signed a multi-year contract to license Foursquare data in services such as its mobile operating system and Bing search engine. With that deal, Microsoft becomes Foursquare’s single biggest data licensee, though Crowley declined to specify how much the contract is worth. Foursquare has collected a trove of data about more than 60 million restaurants, shops and other points of interest within cities.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


A betting service has compiled a list of potential candidates for Microsoft’s soon-to-be-vacant CEO role that you can wager on. It’s a partially serious, partially silly list. Microsoft COO Kevin Turner as CEO? Perhaps. Apple CEO Tim Cook as the new Microsoft boss? Probably not.

But Turner pays out but 6 to 1 while Cook is a 100 to 1 longshot, so place your bets accordingly.

In the thinking of betting group Ladbrokes, Steven Sinofsky might make a return to Microsoft (8 to 1 odds), Stephen Elop might leave Nokia to run his former employer (5 to 1), Marissa Mayer might ditch Yahoo for Big Redmond (33 to 1), and Jack Dorsey might head up a company whose products he likely hasn’t used in years (40 to 1).

Yes, you can bet that Bill Gates will come back to Microsoft as its chief, but it pays out 50 to 1, which is a pretty decent indication that the boys at Ladbrokes aren’t utterly silly. But they have “Cheryl Sandberg” [sic] on the list at 40 to 1, so I doubt their savvy.

CNET jokingly notes that “bookie’s algorithms are more finely tuned than a first violinist’s Strad,” which makes the above fun, as the bookies in this case have created a few bets that they know won’t pay out. Hell, they could offer Cook at 1,000 to 1 and it would still be a decidedly negative EV bet for the average piker.

We here at TechCrunch recently played Ballmer Bingo ourselves, noting that Google’s Vic Gundotra might be in play. Ladbrokes will pay out 25 to 1 if that happens.

In reality, a short list of candidates has not been leaked yet, probably because Microsoft is early in the process of picking its next CEO. Who will it be? I know it’s not me or you. The list of candidates – people with enough experience and knowledge and charisma to run a technology company at the scale of Microsoft – is small, but not vanishing. For now, bet away – current Windows boss Terry Myerson pays out 12 to 1.

Top Image Credit: Aanjhan Ranganathan

2013 03 01 10h33 25 520x245 This week at Microsoft: Hacks, Internet Explorer market share, and the Surface Pro

It’s Friday yet again dear friends, which means we have the time to repine and take a look back at the last week of Microsoft news. This week’s theme is numbers, market share numbers to be precise.

Before we dive into the news, ensure that you are following TNW’s Microsoft channel on both Twitter and Facebook.

Microsoft hacked

Along with Facebook and Apple, Microsoft admitted to being hacked this week, noting the same attack vector that the other two were compromised along. The company held off informing the public until after its “initial information gathering process.”

No customer data was impacted. Some units in its Mac division were infected. At the heart of the attacks – which included Twitter – involved the iOS development site iPhone Dev SDK. For a full explanation of how the infections were carried out, head here.

The situation came at an interesting time, given that the company had issued a new statement on the progress of cybersecurity legislation. The issue of hacking, and cyberwarfare, is one germane to not just the halls of Congress, but also on the campuses of our most key technology firms.

Surface expansion

The Surface Pro and RT tablet hybrids will enjoy expanded reach in the coming weeks. Microsoft is continuing the Surface project at what would appear to be full steam. Here’s the list of new markets for each device, as detailed by Microsoft:

  • Surface RT: Australia, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the UK.
  • Surface Pro: Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan.

The Surface Pro expansion is both boon to the Surface brand, and potential woe to those in the United States and Canada who have yet to get their hands on one; supply has been tight. Microsoft stated that it has that issue in mind.

Internet Explorer rising

From our earlier coverage of the latest browser market share:

Between January and February, Internet Explorer gained 0.68 percentage points (from 55.14 percent to 55.82 percent) and Firefox was up 0.18 percentage points (from 19.94 percent to 20.12 percent). Chrome meanwhile fell a huge 1.21 percentage points (from 17.48 percent to 16.27 percent). Safari was up 0.18 percentage points to 5.42 percent and Opera picked up 0.10 percentage points to grab 0.55 percent.

Internet Explorer 10 was released for Windows 7 this week, changing the landscape of browsing technology; Microsoft’s newest technology is now available on both its key Windows platforms. Chrome is in a long decline, hitting a 17 month low. Once ascendant, Microsoft has managed to blunt its rise, and regain market share.

Three years ago, this would have been unthinkable.

Windows 7 flat, Windows 8 on the move

Last month, Windows 7 slipped for the first time in its history. However, in the last month, Windows 7 was all but flat as Windows 8 picked up 0.43 percentage points to end January at 2.79%. Here is the current lay of the land:

windows february 2013 730x4981 This week at Microsoft: Hacks, Internet Explorer market share, and the Surface Pro

For perspective, current Windows 8 market share amounts to nearly 40% of total OS X market share. Given the current stabilization of Windows 7, it appears, in the estimation of our own Emil Protalinski, “may never reach [the 45%] point again.”

You can still buy a PC with Windows 7 installed, just as enterprise customers are continuing their upgrade cycles to the now dated operating system. Given that, Windows 7 won’t decline quickly. Windows 8 growth rate will be a key metric to watch in the coming year – just how well does it resonate with consumers?

Top Image Credit: Amit Chattopadhyay

2013 02 08 13h31 03 520x245 This week at Microsoft: SkyDrive, the Surface Pro, and Wine

Happy Friday dear friends, I do trust you are ready for the weekend’s imminent arrival. As a note, Mary Jo Foley and myself were the first guests of the Redmond Post’s new podcast today. The Redmond Post, previously Zunited, is a relaunched site with the same guys you might have read before. When the podcast lands, tune in and support their indie effort to keep the conversation going.

Now, ensure as always that you are connected to TNW’s Microsoft channel on both Twitter, and Facebook. Let’s get into it.

Surface Pro: Hands On

TNW was fortunate to have been given a Surface Pro by Microsoft for short-term testing, which we undertook with some gusto. The device, quite similar in a number of ways to its brother, the Surface RT, packs a Intel i5 processor, and runs a full build of Windows 8; Windows RT and its limitations are no where to be seen.

Here’s a the wrap-up from our review:

The Surface Pro is a very cool device, in that it’s neat to use, test, and generally tool around with. However, I cannot imagine making it my main work machine, which is where Microsoft is placing it: in the middle of my desk, hooked up to one of my external displays.

The Surface RT, in being an unabashed tablet that has a nifty keyboard to extend its usability and value, succeeds more than the Surface Pro in being something worth owning.

The Surface Pro is too much hybrid for its own good, losing to cheaper devices for each of its use cases, leaving it too expensive, and almost beached in its audacity. That said, the devices will find limited, but perhaps meaningful adoption in certain enterprise circles.

Enterprise adoption will be the deciding factor for the product. The Surface Pro can be touched at many big-box electronics stores, including Microsoft’s own retail locations. Go test one.

SkyDrive: We’re big!

Today SkyDrive announced a key milestone: it now has over 1 billion Office documents stored in its servers. Not bad, we say.

However, that new record for the service pales in comparison to its other piece of news, as TNW reported: “ you can now share and edit documents in the company’s Office Web Apps without having to sign in to your Microsoft account.”

This opens the use of Office Web Apps to any person online, a almost strange loosening of the ties that hold together Microsoft’s new cloud-OS-productivity-communications web that is all firmly tied together with Microsoft Accounts.

Microsoft is likely doing this in order to drive adoption of its web applications, which it expects will in turn convert users into Microsoft account holders. We’ll see.

Tami Reller: Smart

I was lucky enough to spend time with Microsoft’s Tami Reller, half of the duo that currently runs Windows. She was predictably intelligent and well spoken. She declined to detail new Windows 8 or Surface sales numbers, sadly.

Our talk involved a lengthy run-through of OEM-built Windows-based devices. She was typing on a Surface, however. The talk ended with us concluding the following:

Microsoft faces a unique set of challenges: OEMs that have been too slow to adapt to market demands, a new operating system that requires user adaptation, and weak market fundamentals that could slow PC demand and thus the roll out of Windows 8. Still, from the short views into the company that we have been afforded, through the rose-tinting of structured meetings, Microsoft appears as confident as ever in its product choices.

Thus, if you had been hoping for a retreat from the company’s Metro-based Start Screen, prepare to be disappointed.

WINE for Linux goes Android

The WINE project, which brings Windows applications to the Linux environment, is being built to allow for the running of Windows apps on the Android platform. This means that tablets running Android, could, in theory, play League of Legends as well.

The technology is still very nascent, basically at a proof-of-concept stage. If this becomes more real, we’ll let you know.

Now knock of and have a bourbon with a twist.

Top Image Credit: Dell Inc.

Microsoft and Symantec take down Bamital

Bamital wasn’t the biggest botnet around, but its operators were still up to no good — and that ultimately put it in the crosshairs of both Microsoft and Symantec.

The two companies decided to partner up and take action, raiding locations in New Jersey and Virginia. Several servers that were believed to be issuing commands to zombie systems were taken offline, including one that had been pinpointed in The Netherlands.

Just prior to the takedown, Microsoft and Symantec estimate that Bamital was in control of somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million computers. Users of compromised systems were then hijacked while browsing the web — redirected away from legitimate websites like Symantec’s own products pages and deposited instead on sites pushing fakeAV software and other malware.

Now that the servers in charge of those redirects have been shut down, users will be sent to a Microsoft alert page instead. The page provides links to two cleanup tools (one from Microsoft and another from Symantec) to help users get rid of the malicious Bamital code that’s still residing on their systems.

This is just the latest victory in a series of strikes against major botnets. Microsoft has participated in a half dozen such actions in recent years, helping to shut down nasty networks like Zeus, Rustock, and Waledac.

Richard Boscovich of Microsoft’s digital crimes unit believes that the Bamital operation was a complete success, but notes that “only time will tell.” The criminals behind Bamital may not have shown all their cards yet, and it’s possible that the botnet could rise from the ashes. The good guys will be waiting and watching, however, and they’ll surely strike again if that happens.

Australian consumer advocacy group CHOICE is a bit exercised about Windows 8, an not in a good way. Australian John Hollow is alleging that Microsoft is intentionally misleading retail shoppers with its packaging for the Windows 8 Professional upgrade. Specifically, he takes issue with the fact that the actual word “upgrade” doesn’t appear anywhere on the packaging. Compounding the confusion, says CHOICE, is the fact that Microsoft announced that Windows 8 would be made available as a “full packed product” and then later backpedaled and said that only the upgrade would be sold in stores.

The Windows 8 Pro upgrade can be used to perform a full installation, but the purchaser needs to have a valid license sticker for a previous Windows version. It’s not really a full version, and that’s something that really should be spelled out right on the box.

Hollow and CHOICE aren’t the only folks who think Microsoft could have done a much better job with its Windows 8 editions. After ditching the maze-like product map of Windows Vista for a more focused Windows 7 SKU line-up, it was hoped that Microsoft would keep a good thing going with Windows 8. Yet the reality doesn’t seem to have changed much. Most folks who head to a retail store or pop onto Newegg or TigerDirect are probably going to be confused as to which copy they should buy. It’s still not as simple as it should be for the average consumer to buy Windows.

And with the recent revelation that Microsoft is going to start offering new Windows versions on an annual basis, this is a problem that the company needs to fix now. With Steven Sinofsky gone and Julie Larsen-Green and Tami Reller now in charge of Windows, hopefully finding a permanent solution to version confusion is a top priority at Microsoft.

More at Sydney Morning Herald

%d bloggers like this: