Friday, September 30, 2011

Windows Phone "Mango" Tools Released


Windows Phone "Mango" Tools Released

The Release to the Web of the free tools coincides with the rollout of Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" and the first Web version of the Windows Phone Marketplace.

Microsoft launched the final version of its free Windows Phone Software Development Kit (SDK) 7.1 for building mobile applications that run on the Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" operating system on Wednesday. The highly anticipated "Mango," which is rolling out to customers worldwide starting this week, is the first major software update of the platform since Windows Phones first appeared in October 2010.

The new features and capabilities that "Mango" offers, combined with the launch of a host of devices, is "stunning" compared to Windows Phones a year ago, observed IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "Being able to showcase data and numbers in a home screen tile with the prominence that the Metro interface [offers] has to be exciting," he said in an email. "Other capabilities like taking advantage of XNA and Silverlight in one app or finally being able to write augmented reality apps thanks to the camera APIs should also be big draws."

The final release of the free tools coincides with the widespread release of Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" by mobile operators worldwide, an announcement made by Microsoft on Tuesday, when it launched the first Web version of its Windows Phone Marketplace.

The Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Release to the Web (RTW) adds seven languages bringing the total of supported languages to nine. The RTW also fixes bugs and improves the installation process, according to Microsoft. The SDK is used to build Windows Phone 7.0 and Windows Phone 7.5 applications. The SDK includes Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, Windows Phone Emulator, Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Assemblies, Silverlight 4 SDK and DRT, Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Extensions for XNA Game Studio 4.0, Microsoft Expression Blend SDK for Windows Phone 7, Microsoft Expression Blend SDK for Windows Phone OS 7.1, WCF Data Services Client for Window Phone and the Microsoft Advertising SDK for Windows Phone.

Developers who used the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Release Candidate to build 7.0 and 7.5 apps do not need to recompile their apps or to resubmit them to the Windows Phone Marketplace, noted Cliff Simpkins, Microsoft senior product manager, Windows Phone Experience, in a Windows Phone Developer blog post about the RTW of the tools.

Beta 2 to Mango RTM
Windows Phone developers using the 7712 beta of Windows Phone 7.5 may want to check out Microsoft's RTM update process in the Windows Phone 7.5: Updating OS from Beta 2 to RTM forum. Simpkins explains how to receive the "Mango" RC build 7720 and clean up the pre-production provisioning on developer devices. The final step, according to Simpkins, is to "repoint" the developer phones to the production servers of their respective carriers/handset manufacturers to receive the updated drivers and firmware. Developers, who commented on the forum, reported smooth transitions from Beta 2 to the Mango OS RTM.

Microsoft is using a phased rollout strategy for Windows Phone 7.5 customers to prevent any widespread problems with the updates. Roughly 10 percent of customers are expected to be notified of its availability this week. The Mango update could take four weeks to reach 100 percent of users, according to Microsoft.

In August Microsoft started to test and certify applications for Windows Phone 7.5. The company originally planned to freeze Windows Phone 7.0 apps and prohibit updates of their functionality as soon as the "Mango" versions of the applications were published.

Updates for 7.0 Apps
Based on developer feedback, Microsoft is changing its update policy for 7.0 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. By the end of October, Microsoft will provide functionality in its App Hub that allows developers to publish updates to 7.0 versions of their apps, according to a Windows Phone Developer blog authored by Todd Brix, senior director of the Windows Phone Marketplace. The company is also providing "New for 7.5" screenshots and text overlay graphics, according to Brix, which developers can use to help consumers identify Mango applications.

More than 70,000 developers have updated their developer devices to the Mango OS in recent months, according to Simpkins. New devices, including phones from Nokia, may increase developer interest further, especially if the market responds.

"What do developers want?" said Hilwa. "Well, as they look at the multi-lingual Windows 8 development model, they may feel jealous, but the good news is that their skills and most of their code should move nicely and quickly to Windows 8. The ecosystem convergence between phone and PC will prove a huge Microsoft asset in its battle the next few years."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Carriers Start to Roll Out Windows Phone "Mango" Worldwide


Carriers Start to Roll Out Windows Phone "Mango" Worldwide

All carriers have started to deliver Windows Phone 7.5 but it could take four weeks for some customers to be notified. Microsoft is planning a gradual roll out to head off any problems with its first major upgrade.

Mobile phone operators are starting to release Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" updates to customers worldwide, Microsoft announced on Tuesday.

The Mango rollout is planned in stages and it is expected to take at least a month before the updated platform is available to all existing Windows Phone 7 customers, according to the company. 

This week, the free platform update is only available to about 10 percent of customers. The distribution will be gradually broadened if "everything looks good," according to Eric Hautala, a Microsoft general manager on the customer experience engineering team.

Hautala, in a blog post, explained that the update contains Mango plus other updates, including firmware updates from smartphone manufacturers, and that's why a gradual release approach is being taken. Mango will be released in a second stage to 25 percent of users and held "for one or two weeks." After that period, the release will be opened to 100 percent of users.

Windows Phone 7 customers can expect to get a message that Mango can be downloaded within about four weeks. Hautala previously explained in an earlier blog post that users will need either Zune software for PCs or the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac installed in order to perform the Mango update.

Microsoft offers a phone update tracker for the U.S. market here, which currently shows all mobile carriers as delivering the Mango update. However, as noted above, these notices just mean that the carriers have started to deliver the updates to some users, but not necessarily to all users.

Mango is Microsoft's biggest update release so far. It adds expected features such as multitasking, which apparently has little effect on draining the phone's battery power, according to this Microsoft blogger. The Mango update also includes Internet Explorer 9 Mobile, which uses the same rendering engine as Microsoft's desktop version of IE 9. The mobile version of the browser can tap into the power of the hardware and supports HTML 5-based graphics, allowing video to run without browser plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight. One other difference with IE 9 Mobile is that Microsoft has moved the address bar to the bottom of the screen and tucked away access to tabs and favorite sites. That seemingly radical change to the mobile browser was based on Microsoft's research about user preferences, as this blog explains.

The Mango update also includes a new synchronization capability with Office 365, which is Microsoft's cloud-based suite of applications delivered as services. Synchronization support also works with SkyDrive, which is Microsoft's free 25 GB of storage and sharing space in the cloud. SharePoint synchronization is also supported with this Mango release.

The Speech feature in Mango lets smartphone users command their phones via speech commands. Voice commands such a "call," "text," "find" and "open" can be spoken as verbs with some objective in mind, enabling hands-free operations in many cases.

Mango also includes threading capabilities across social networking apps, instant messaging and texting. Users can start a conversation using one app and then finish it in another app, and the conversation will stay in a single thread. The same conversation grouping capabilities in the desktop version of Outlook 2010 are available in the Mango update for Windows phones. Microsoft provides a full list of the new Mango features at this page.

Microsoft doesn't seem to describing the build number for this Mango update. The build prior to this release was Build 7392, which was released in April. It fixed a security problem with a certificate.

Microsoft also opened up its Windows Phone Marketplace today. The Marketplace offers free apps as well as apps that get charged to a Windows Live ID account backed by a credit card, as this blog explains.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" Updates Could Start Next Week


Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" Updates Could Start Next Week

By the end of October, Microsoft will provide functionality in its App Hub that allows developers to publish updates to 7.0 and 7.5 versions of their apps.

Microsoft expects carriers and handset manufacturers to begin rolling out Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" updates to customers in one to two weeks, the company announced on Wednesday.

The first major update to the Windows Phone 7 operating system arrives a year after the consumer smartphones were launched in October 2010. The Mango update adds multitasking, multiple live tiles, app connect and "fast" application switching, among other features.

The rollout announcement, which attempts to narrow the estimated timing of the updates for existing Windows Phone customers, comes on the same day as a report in the Wall St. Journal's AllThingsD blog that Apple is likely to unveil iPhone 5 at a "special event" on Oct. 4.

According to Eric Hautala, Microsoft general manager of customer experience engineering, who made the "Mango" rollout announcement in the Windows Phone blog on Wednesday:

I’ll have more details to share about the update once it begins in the next week or two. But by "roll out" I mean we’ll be starting the actual delivery process--emphasis on starting.

Microsoft released the Mango operating system to manufacturing in July. The company released a Mango Beta 2 Refresh (Build 7712) for developers in conjunction with the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK Beta 2 Refresh, one day after Mango was released to manufacturing. In mid August, the company offered the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 Release Candidate with a "Go Live" license. The Windows Phone SDK 7.1 includes all of the tools for building Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 apps, according to Microsoft.

Mango RTM for Developers
Developers will receive the Mango RTM on developer phones from their mobile operators. On Wednesday, Microsoft indicated that it will provide Mango RTM update instructions to developers who are using Mango Beta 2. The company has not released the final version of the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK for Mango.

Microsoft started to certify Mango application updates and new submissions in the App Hub last month. The company created some controversy, however, when it announced plans to freeze Windows Phone 7.0 app updates when the Mango 7.5 versions of applications were published in the Windows Phone Marketplace. Developers expressed concerns because the release schedule of Windows Phone operating system updates has varied dramatically by carrier and handset manufacturer. In the case of "NoDo", a minor update to Windows Phone 7.0, some Windows Phone consumers had not received it four months after the initial rollouts had started in March.

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced in the Windows Phone Developer blog that based on developer feedback, it is changing its policy. By the end of October, according to Todd Brix, senior director of Windows Phone Marketplace, Microsoft will provide functionality in its App Hub that allows developers to publish updates to 7.0 and 7.5 versions of their apps. The company is also providing "New for 7.5" screenshots and text overlay graphics that developers can use to help consumers identify Mango applications. The graphics and screenshots meet app certification requirements, according to Brix.

In anticipation of new devices supporting Mango from key partners such as Nokia, Microsoft is increasing its efforts to attract Nokia Symbian developers to Windows Phone. On Wednesday, Microsoft started its Nokia Windows Phone Training roadshow for Symbian developers, first stop – Paris. The company is also releasing materials to help Nokia Symbian developers get up to speed on developing applications for Windows Phone. Microsoft added Symbian Qt to the Windows Phone Mapping API and is promoting a 100-page white paper, Windows Phone Guide for Symbian Qt Application Developers.

At its BUILD conference last week, Microsoft reported that it had 50,000 registered developers for Windows Phone and roughly 30,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace. AT&T also announced plans last week to offer three Mango phones: HTC Titan and Samsung Focus S and Focus Flash devices. Mango phones are already available in Japan and Russia.

Matt Bencke, general manager for Windows Phone apps, blogged about Metro style apps on Windows Phone and the PC, and alluded to what developers can expect with the next-gen mobile platform:

As the Windows Phone Runtime evolves, we plan to align the PC and Windows Phone platforms as much as possible. For example as demonstrated [at BUILD], developers will soon be able to easily share XAML and C# code between the PC and Windows Phone. And for developers building Windows Phone apps today, those apps will work on Mango and on the next major release of Windows Phone as well.

Existing Window Phone customers will need to have the latest Zune 4.8 software, released in August, to support Mango updates. The Zune software now supports 22 display languages, more countries and regions and helps streamline the update and backup process, according to Microsoft. In the coming weeks, Windows Phone customers can check the Where's my phone update table for more information on mobile operators' Mango delivery schedules.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

IE10 Preview 2 Shows HTML5/CSS3 Progress


IE10 Preview 2 Shows HTML5/CSS3 Progress

Internet Explorer 10 is the first browser to support several new performance APIs coming out of the W3C's working groups, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft released another glimpse of its upcoming Internet Explorer 10 browser technology to Web developers on Wednesday to facilitate testing of HTML5, CSS3 and related features.

IE10 Platform Preview 2 is based on the same HTML5 engine as recent Windows 8 demonstrations, according to an IE blog announcement authored by Dean Hachamovitch, Microsoft corporate vice president of Internet Explorer.

This platform preview is a browser prototype that runs alongside other IE browser installations. It illustrates what's to come in the final product, mostly for the benefit of Web developers. Platform Preview 2 can be downloaded at Microsoft's test drive site here. The preview lacks the true functionality of a browser, but it shows Microsoft's technical progress to date.

For those who want to see the new IE 10 Platform Preview 2 features illustrated and discussed by Microsoft, check out this collection of Microsoft Channel 9 videos.

Microsoft released the first version of IE 10 Platform Preview in April, and is committed to future platform preview releases every 12 weeks or so. Possibly, Platform Preview 3 will appear near the end of October, according to that schedule.

New Features
Microsoft provides a Guide for Developers on the improvements to be found in the IE 10 platform preview 2. As of June 29, 2011, Microsoft highlighted these improvements in the new preview:

"Positioned Floats "CSS3 Gradients (on all image types) "CSS stylesheet limit lifted "CSSOM Floating Point Value support "Improved hit testing APIs "Media Query Listeners "HTML5: Support for async attribute on script elements "HTML5 Drag and Drop "HTML5 File API "HTML5 Sandbox "HTML5 Web Workers "Web Performance APIs: requestAnimationFrame, Page Visibility API and setImmediate."

The IE 10 Platform Preview 2 adds support for "HTML5 Sandbox and iframe isolation," which will improve the security of Web applications, according to Hachamovitch.

The new HTML 5 Web Workers feature in Platform Preview 2 enables Web applications to off-load JavaScript processes. Doing so can help improve the frame rates in animations. Microsoft provides a fountain demo in IE 10 Platform Preview 2 showing how that works, but it has also lodged a complaint at the Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C) about security implications when third-party presences on Web sites are able to access the Web Workers information.

Hachamovitch claims that "IE10 is the first browser to support several new performance APIs coming out of the W3C's working groups." Those APIs supported in this platform preview 2 include requestAnimationFrame, Page Visibility and setImmediate.

The HTML 5 spec isn't a W3C final Recommendation quite yet, but stable features in it are being implemented by browser makers. Currently, the HTML 5 spec is at the W3C's Last Call review stage, having reached that point in May. Last Call is a final stage for reporting bugs and will end on Aug. 2.

Microsoft advocates that Web developers create "sniffer" code on their sites to check whether the visiting browser will support a particular HTML 5 feature or not, rather than checking for a user's browser version. The company doesn't support all of the features proposed before the W3C HTML 5 Working Groups. For the ones that seem promising but yet are still considered unstable for public use, Microsoft provides its HTML5 Labs resource page for developers to do testing work.

Same Markup
Supposedly, the same HTML 5 markup is supported by both Microsoft and other browser makers, who follow the same W3C spec when building their browser engines. However, Microsoft typically demonstrates the shortcomings of other browsers in running the platform preview tests, which were devised by Microsoft and contributed to the W3C.

For this second platform preview of IE 10, Microsoft devised "270 new test cases," adding to a grand total so far of 6,669 submitted test cases, according to a Microsoft IE test center page description.

Hachamovitch said, "HTML5 is the first version of HTML to define the behavior of invalid markup." He added that "Rather than relying on 'fix-up' rules that vary from browser to browser, HTML5 parsing behavior is now specified in a way that developers can count on it."

Microsoft hasn't disclosed when the final IE 10 browser will be released. It could be tied to Windows 8's release, since Microsoft typically associates the lifecycles of its browsers with a particular Windows release. However, the release dates of Microsoft's browsers and associated Windows operating systems haven't always corresponded in the past.

If a tip given to veteran Microsoft observer Mary-Jo Foley proves true -- that Windows 8 will be released to manufacturers in April 2012 -- IE 10 could appear in its final form somewhat near that April 2012 time frame. IE 10, when released, will run on Windows 7 (and presumably Window 8), but it will not run on Vista.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Microsoft Previews Windows To Go for Windows 8


Microsoft Previews Windows To Go for Windows 8

The early release of Windows To Go runs the Windows 8 developer preview.

Microsoft offered a preview of its Windows To Go product, with an imaged version of Windows 8 on a USB device, at its Build conference on Thursday.

The early release of Windows To Go runs the Windows 8 "developer preview" version of the OS.

Windows To Go will enable IT organizations to provide users with an imaged version of Windows 8 that reflects the corporate desktop. The image resides on a USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 memory stick or drive, providing support for mobile workers. Users just plug the memory stick into a noncorporate or unmanaged laptop or PC and they will get access to the full managed corporate desktop experience, along with Windows Update patching, BitLocker support and any security and antimalware protections that exist on the corporate desktop.

While Windows To Go was mentioned in one of Microsoft's keynote talks at Build, the details were explained on Thursday in a session talk by Steve Silverberg, a Microsoft principal lead program manager. He said that Microsoft is targeting Windows To Go to enterprises, which might be expected to buy in bulk, although the licensing details aren't being announced yet.

"We did this in Windows 8 because we felt the demand was right," Silverberg said, without elaborating.

Silverberg outlined a few scenarios for the use of Windows To Go. It might be used by people who work at home for various reasons, including after snowstorms or natural disasters that prevent them from traveling to work. Windows To Go can be handed to contractors visiting an organization, allowing them access to the corporate network. It could be used by people who need to share their PCs or laptops on a routine basis, such as police or emergency workers.

If a user pulls out the Windows To Go thumb drive without shutting it down, there is a one-minute period in which the session can be restored by just plugging the drive back in again. The kernel freezes the operating system for that one-minute period. During a demo, a video playing off Windows To Go was interrupted by pulling out the drive. The video instantly resumed when the device was reattached.

Microsoft Previews Windows To Go for Windows 8

[Click on image for larger view.]


Windows To Go USB device handed out to developers at Microsoft's Build Conference. 

One catch mentioned by Silverberg is that the machine using the Windows To Go memory stick has to be an x64-based device. However, Windows To Go will take advantage of the underlying hardware that it shares with the installed client operating system. In a demo, Silverberg plugged Windows To Go into an ASUS machine that lacked touch-screen capability, and so that feature wasn't available in the Windows To Go desktop in the demo.

Windows To Go will start automatically if the user selects the "boot to USB" option on the client device. Typically, that means pressing the F12 key during bootup. However, Windows 8 will have a boot-to-USB option that will make this process easier, Silverberg said, although that feature is not currently a part of developer preview bits. Windows To Go can be configured to boot on both the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) and BIOS-based computers, Silverberg said.

It's not clear when the product might be available since Microsoft has not yet announced the timeline for Windows 8 general availability.

Microsoft handed out Kingston 32-GB USB memory sticks with Windows To Go on it at the end of Silverberg's session (see photo). Microsoft is targeting the 32 GB size, but Silverberg said it might be possible to squeeze down the size of the drive.

Silverberg described how IT pros can set up Windows To Go drives. They can create a master image, provision the drive and use a duplicator to make duplicate USB drives. He said that Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager or a home-grown management system can be used for that process. The imaging process can be scripted or ImageX can be used. Volume activation can be accomplished using the KMS service or Active Directory.

Windows To Go includes a roaming feature, but other than that, it's the same as any other copy of Windows 8, Silverberg said, and it is managed the same. IT pros can set Group Policy and set it up so that anytime a user logs onto the network with Windows To Go, updates will get pushed down to that user.

Microsoft also envisions partner opportunities with Windows To Go. In addition to having BitLocker security support, partners could add value to Windows To Go by specializing in adding hardware encryption capabilities, Silverberg said. USB drives were mostly not designed for the Windows To Go scenario. They were built for copying files. Flash drives have to be up to speed to run Windows To Go and Microsoft hasn't yet seen flash Secure Digital (SD) drives that are robust enough to run it.

"For flash drives in particular, we will have a certification program," Silverberg said. "Drives need to be fast, and have random read/writes with low latency, plus have a two year minimum [warrantee]."

Windows To Go worked when plugged into a couple of machines, according to this Microsoft blog, although it worked slowly. Windows To Go will actually keep track of a machine based on its hardware imprint. Silverberg explained that Windows To Go will boot faster the second time it is inserted into a laptop or PC because of this device recognition capability.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Windows Phone GM To Exit Microsoft


Windows Phone GM To Exit Microsoft

Charlie Kindel was the general manager of Microsoft's Windows Phone Developer Experience, where he was responsible for growing the third-party apps ecosystem for Windows Phone 7.

The general manager of developer experience in Microsoft's Windows Phone business is leaving the company to found his own startup. Charlie Kindel, a 21-year Microsoft veteran, announced his departure plans on Monday on his blog.

Kindel posted the farewell letter (worth reading) he sent to "several thousand of old friends and colleagues at Microsoft."

"July 2, 1990 was my first day at Microsoft and September 2, 2011 will be my last," Kindel's letter read.

Windows Phone GM To Exit Microsoft


Charlie Kindel. Source: Microsoft  

As the GM of Microsoft's Windows Phone Developer Experience, Kindel was responsible for growing the third-party apps ecosystem for Windows Phone 7. Microsoft's smartphone OS currently has 28,133 apps worldwide in its marketplace, according to WP7applist. That number is still dwarfed by the avalanche of apps available for Android and iOS, though Windows Phone 7 had the distinction of being the fastest OS to reach the 10,000-app milestone in March.

"I may stop using some Microsoft products now that I'm out of here. But not Windows Phone. The BEST product Microsoft has ever built," Kindel wrote in his letter.

Kindel began his career at Microsoft as part of a support team for third-party software developers. He held a variety of program manager positions before being named group manager of the Cosumer Windows Home Networking group in 1999. In that role, Kindel oversaw the design of the home networking features that were found in several consumer versions of the Windows operating system, including Windows ME and Windows "Neptune," which later shipped as Windows XP.

Kindel's Microsoft bio also also credits him with creating the Windows Media Center Edition while working within the eHome Platforms Group as group program manager. He subsequently became a technical assistant to then-Microsoft Senior Vice President Bob Muglia. Muglia himself left Microsoft early this year and has since joined Juniper Networks.

In 2004, Kindel was promoted to general manager of the Windows Home Server division, a position he held for five years before moving to the Windows Phone division.

Kindel kept mum about the nature of his new company on his blog post, only saying that it will be in the Seattle, Wash. area and "[i]t has to do with sports, advertising, mobile, social-networking, and, of course, the cloud. I'm insanely excited to get started."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Attachmate and Xamarin Announce Mono Partnership


Attachmate and Xamarin Announce Mono Partnership
Mono Project originator Miguel de Icaza announced a deal with Attachmate to continue commercial support of the open source .NET technology.

Attachmate acquired Novell earlier this year and then laid off virtually all members of the company's Mono team. de Icaza, who lead the Mono development at Novell, left Attachmate soon after and founded Xamarin to continue to support the Mono Project.

Implemented through Attachmate's SUSE division, the deal grants Xamarin a broad, perpetual license to all intellectual property covering Mono, MonoTouch, Mono for Android and Mono Tools for Visual Studio. Xamarin will provide technical support to SUSE customers that use Mono-based products, and it will assume formal stewardship of the open source Mono Project and lead the community.

de Icaza announced the partnership Monday on his blog. "We are a young company, but we are completely dedicated to these mobile products and we cannot wait to bring smiles to every one of our customers," de Icaza wrote.

Mono is an open source implementation of the .NET Framework based on C# and the Common Language Runtime (CLR). Novell had been the main commercial supporter of Mono since it acquired Ximian, a company founded by de Icaza and Xamarin co-founder Nat Friedman.

Attachmate, a maker of terminal emulation software, legacy modernization systems, managed file transfer apps and enterprise fraud management solutions, completed its acquisition of Novell in April. The company now operates Novell's assets as two separately branded business units: SUSE, which includes the SUSE distribution of the Linux operating system, and Novell, which comprises the rest of the company's assets.

Among other things, the partnership aims to reassure customers using Mono Enterprise products on SUSE Linux Enterprise Servers (SLES) and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop (SLED) systems will continue to receive "great support backed by the engineering team at Xamarin," de Icaza wrote. "Current SUSE customers using Mono developer tools, including MonoTouch, Mono for Android and Mono Tools for Visual Studio, will receive support and updates directly from Xamarin for the remainder of their subscription period," the two companies said in a statement.

Under Novell, the Mono team created MonoTouch, which allows developers to create C# and .NET apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices, and Mono for Android for developers creating apps for devices running that OS. Novell owned both of those technologies, which would have meant that Xamarin would be building some of its initial products from scratch.

MonoTouch for iOS and Mono for Android are available now from the Xamarin store.

Xamarin is also continuing development of the Moonlight Project, an open source implementation of Microsoft's Silverlight media framework.

Nils Brauckmann, president and general manager of Attachmate's SUSE business unit, characterized the partnership as a "triple win."

"[It's] a win for SUSE, a win for Xamarin but, most importantly, a win for our customers, users and community," he said in a statement. "Our partnership ensures SUSE customers continue to get the best support possible, enables the bright team at Xamarin to achieve success in their promising new venture, and provides continuity of stewardship for the Mono open source community project in the very capable hands of its most passionate evangelists."

Xamarin's Mono stewardship will include "the larger Mono ecosystem of applications," de Icaza said, including MonoDevelop and other Mono-centric projects on the GitHub Web site.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Windows Server 8 Optimized for Cloud


Windows Server 8 Optimized for Cloud

The developer preview bits for the new server are currently available to MSDN subscribers.

Microsoft highlighted its next-generation server technology, code-named "Windows Server 8," during the Day 2 keynote at its Build conference for developers on Wednesday. Windows Server 8 is designed to support the transition from client/server applications to continuous services running in the cloud, according to Microsoft.

"You need to run a continuous service, and that means you want to be able to build continuously, deploy continuously, monitor continuously, said Satya Nadella, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. "There's going to be a sea change for us as developers in terms of how we triage, for example, the operational metrics of your code performance, the bug database, as well as the build that you have from either IT or a service provider. This world of dev ops is something that's going to really change how we think about application architecture. This design point is the core motivation that has led to us building our deep and broad platform across Windows Server 8 and Windows Azure," he said.

Windows Server 8 shares some symmetries with Windows Azure, Nadella said. Microsoft is making changes in Windows Server 8 to address how cloud or virtualized infrastructures are provisioned to support workloads. Microsoft is improving Windows Server 8 to leverage high-availability infrastructures using high-scale clusters. Nadella also said Microsoft is continuing to invest in supporting scale-up infrastructures, without going into the details.

A new Windows Server 8 capability highlighted at Build Day 2 is "storage spaces." It will allow users to take just-a-bunch-of-disks (JBOD) collections and carve out a space or pool that shows up as drive using the new Server Manager. Users can use this feature to simply attach JBODs to Windows Server 8, explained Brian Surace, a senior program manager on the Windows team. No external storage array was used to create the pool. The improved Server Message Block 2.1 (SMB 2.1) protocol was used to help make this pooled storage available, he said.

With regard to Windows Server 8 networking using Hyper-V, Surace noted that the system drive for a virtual machine can be supported by a remote file share in Windows Server 8, which is a new feature. Performance can be improved by using the SMB 2.1 protocol and remote direct memory access (RDMA) technology along with multiple high-speed network interface cards (NICs). Surace demonstrated how the data transfer rate of a 1 GB NIC can bump up to 2 GB via the use of SMB 2.1 and RDMA technologies. The improved throughput was accomplished by using only 15 percent of the NIC's throughput and one percent of the CPU processing power on the server, Surace said.

On the virtualization front, Microsoft has improved its live migration feature that was first delivered in Windows Server 2008 R2. Live migration in Windows Server 2008 R2 allowed users to move virtual machines from one physical computer to another with little service disruption. However, the migration presumed that "the virtual hard disk always remained consistent on shared storage," Surace explained.

"Now, with Windows Server 8, we can actually move that virtual hard disk from one storage device to another without any service downtime or interruption." In the demo, he showed how to move a virtual hard disk from local storage to a remote file share without disrupting services.

Nadella signaled that Microsoft will have a lot more to say about Windows Server 8 in the near future. The bits for the new server, which are currently available at the "developer preview" stage, were released today just for Microsoft's MSDN subscribers.

Bill Lang, corporate vice president of the Microsoft Server and Tools Division, has given some hints about the efforts that have gone into building the Windows Server 8 in a blog post today. Microsoft used multiple customer surveys and meetings to formulate its plans, which were based on receiving more than 6,000 customer requirements, he indicated.

Lang, who spearheads the engineering efforts on Windows Server and Windows Azure, had kicked off a two-day Microsoft event called the "Windows Server 8 Reviewer Workshop," which was held late last week in Redmond, Wash. The event featured presentations by Windows Server 8 team members. More details from that event will be described.

It's not clear when Windows Server 8 will be available, but it may arrive close to the Windows 8 client product delivery schedule since the server and client share a common code base. Microsoft has released no details, but experts predict April 2012 as an early estimate for delivery of the Windows 8 product or sometime in 2013.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Development Team Structure Sheds Light on Windows 8 Features


Development Team Structure Sheds Light on Windows 8 Features

The features handled by each team represent broad architectural aspects of Windows.

The structure of the development teams working to build Microsoft Windows 8 could offer clues about what's coming in the next operating system.

On Wednesday, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, explained the general team structure in his latest entry to the Building Windows 8 blog, which was launched on Monday. The planning, coding and testing efforts comprise about 35 teams, with each team responsible for a single feature area of the operating system. Each team consists of between 25 and 40 developers, according to the blog post, putting the number of Windows 8 developers somewhere in the range of 875 to 1,400 people worldwide. Microsoft also has program management, product designers and testers on each team.

The "features" handled by each team represent broad architectural aspects of Windows, Sinofsky explained. They don't just concentrate on a particular aspect of the operating system's user interface.

Sinofsky provided very few details in the blog, but the presence of an "App Store" team on his list implies that Windows 8 will have a center for developers to sell their Windows 8 applications. "Hyper-V" is on the team list for Windows 8, which is inline with earlier reports by Redmond contributor Mary-Jo Foley about client integration of Microsoft's hypervisor. However, a Windows 8 dev team can work on both client and server technologies, so client integration is not confirmed.

"For example, all of our kernel, networking, storage, virtualization, and other fundamental OS work is also part of Windows Server -- that’s right, one team delivers the full Windows Client OS and much of the foundation for the Windows Server OS," Sinofsky explained. "And some features are built in the core OS but are ultimately only part of the Server product."

An Extensible Application Markup Language (XAML) team will contribute, and that fact possibly indicates that Silverlight support won't go away with Windows 8's release. XAML is a Microsoft XML-variant markup language that works with Microsoft's Windows Presentation Foundation graphics subsystem. Silverlight uses XAML for Web graphics. Microsoft is also planning to make Silverlight work with Internet Explorer 10, which is the browser version expected to ship with Windows 8.

Microsoft created a lot of confusion among developers by not talking about its .NET and Silverlight platforms when announcing Windows 8. Instead, Microsoft stressed the importance of HTML 5 and JavaScript for Windows 8 application development. Possibly, this point will be further clarified at Microsoft's Build event in September.

So far, Sinofsky has only vaguely promised that Windows 8 will support hardware and software requirements that worked with Windows 7-capable systems. He didn't explain when a build of Windows 8 would be available.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Microsoft Disables Supercookie Code


Microsoft Disables Supercookie Code

The use of the supercookie code isn't inline with the company's privacy policies, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft's Web sites were among the sites identified by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley as using "supercookie" code. Microsoft claims, however, that it has since disabled the tracking code, which persists even after visitors have deleted cookies from their browsers., and's TV entertainment portal site, among others were found to use persistent tracking according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Microsoft's use of supercookie code was identified by Stanford researcher Jonathan Mayer. He also found that Time Warner's social-networking service uses a "history stealing" tracking service produced by the Epic Media Group. This same history stealing system is used by Charter Communications Inc. for its portal, according to the WSJ story.

Mike Hintze, associate general counsel for regulatory affairs at Microsoft, told the WSJ that the use of the supercookie code didn't follow Microsoft's privacy policies and that the code has been removed. Hulu issued a statement to the WSJ indicating that it is investigating its use of the supercookie code.

Hintze provided further clarification about the code in a Microsoft blog post on Thursday. He claimed that the code was just old and scheduled for being disabled.

"Mr. Mayer identified Microsoft as one among others that had this [supercookie] code, and when he brought his findings to our attention we promptly investigated," Hintze explained in the blog. "We determined that the cookie behavior he observed was occurring under certain circumstances as a result of older code that was used only on our own sites, and was already scheduled to be discontinued.  We accelerated this process and quickly disabled this code."

Hintze further claimed that Microsoft had no plans "to develop or deploy any such 'supercookie' mechanisms" and referred people to Microsoft's privacy policies.

The Microsoft ad-tracking process is described in an October 2007 white paper, titled "Privacy Protections in Microsoft's Ad Serving System and the Process of 'De-identification'" (PDF). In that paper, Microsoft claims that Windows Live or MSN IDs are associated with anonymous IDs (ANIDs) via one-way encryption. That one-way encryption scheme makes it "extremely difficult" for Microsoft to associate a user's online click behavior with their identity, the document asserts.

"In other words, it is extremely difficult to use a given ANID (with or without knowing the hashing algorithm) to derive the original LiveID value," the document states (p. 5). "Because all personally and directly identifying information about a user is stored on servers in association with a LiveID rather than an ANID, there is no practical way to link data stored in association with an ANID back to any data on Microsoft servers that could personally and directly identify an individual user."

While Microsoft appears to have been quick to respond to the supercookie disclosure, the issue of consumer trust seems problematic going forward, given that a whole industry is devoted to tracking online consumer click behavior.

Last year, Microsoft announced a volunteer effort to limit third-party advertiser click-stream tracking with an opt-in "tracking protection" mechanism that was introduced in Internet Explorer 9. However, that method just applies to third-party advertisers. Microsoft's tracking protection approach was under consideration earlier this year by the Worldwide Web Consortium, which oversees Web standards. Google and Mozilla also have proposed their own tracking protection schemes for browsers.

Government involvement on the issue seems fairly dormant so far. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission offered up a very general exploratory document (PDF) on the issue of consumer tracking in December of 2010, but apparently nothing has since emerged from that effort.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Windows 8 Changes Highlighted in Opening Build Keynote


Windows 8 Changes Highlighted in Opening Build Keynote
To kick off its long-awaited Build conference today, Microsoft's Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, lead the two-hour long keynote offering details on the developer preview of Windows 8, a tour of the diverse hardware destined to run the new operating system and applications, and insight into building Metro-style apps based on HTML 5 and Javascript.

Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Experience division, demoed the new Metro-inspired UI of Windows 8, showing off many of the touch- and gesture-based features first seen at a pair of industry conferences in June.

The demo kicked off with Larson-Green authenticating onto a Windows 8 PC using the new Picture Password feature, which accepts touch and gesture inputs rather than keyboard characters to authenticate the user. Larson-Green then demonstrated how users can navigate the panel-based interface, swiping between screens and zooming in and out of screen elements.

She also showed off Windows 8 "charms," a set of five icons (Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings) that are accessed by swiping from the right edge of the screen. The charms provide access to application and system functionality previously nested within the Start button in Windows 7. (See this article for more information.)

The new expanded Search feature reaches beyond traditional desktop and Web search to provide context-savvy search of applications, as well as to plumb user-connected services like Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Share functionality exposes what Sinofsky called "a semantically rich clipboard" for applications to share content with each other.

Said Sinofsky: "You don't have to try figure out how to get connected to everything else, we'll help you do that through sharing contracts."

Sinofsky said Microsoft focused on creating a "fast and fluid" experience in Windows 8, while emphasizing the richness that can occur when applications become fully aware of each other.

"What we set out to do is not what you see with so many other platforms where the apps are these silos and they barely know about each other. They go through tiny APIs to do things," Sinofsky concluded. "We have this bold notion that apps should work together as a web of apps. That when you get additional apps the system gets richer and richer."

The Developer Story
Sinofsky then dove into the development infrastructure driving Windows 8 application development. He noted the siloed structure of development across Web,with managed and unmanaged development today, and how Windows 8 is poised to change that.

"We've got the C#and VB world built on top of .NET and Silverlight, we've got the C and the C++ world built on the strong Win32 API, and then we built the silo of HTML and JavaScript built on top of Internet Explorer," Sinofsky said of Windows 7, adding. "The Windows 8 platform lets you pick the language you want to use to build your applications."

Windows RT provides 1800 objects for building applications, said Sinofsky, all based on native code and built to reflect in different languages. The native Windows RT API and objects reflect into C, C++, C#, Visual Basic and JavaScript, enabling developers to define views in XAML or HTML as they wish.

"We've done a huge amount of work to reimagine the whole way that we think of tools, languages and the platform, so they call come together as a unified story for you."

Antoine Leblond, senior vice president of Windows Web Services, then came on stage to build an HTML 5 application using a developer preview of Visual Studio 11 Express. The demo showed how Visual Studio provides equivalent template support across all the supported language.

"You are going to get the same templates in each one," Sinofsky interjected. "The Windows RT just supports all the languages out of the gate."

Leblond also showed off HTML support in the developer preview of Expression Blend. "Blend is a tool for editing XAML, not a tool for editing HTML. Well, the new version of Blend can take all the great stuff it can do in XAML and is able to do it in HTML and CSS as well," Leblond said.

Leblond also showed how applications can be surfaced on the Windows Store, using a simple, template based process that is embedded within Visual Studio 11. "We are going to have a certification process for applications," said Leblond, who also showed a certification status screen that provides information on where an application is in the process.

Sinofsky said that Windows Store will support for Metro-style applications and Win32-based programs.

Hardware Madness
Michael Angiulo, corporate vice president of Windows Planning, Hardware & PC Ecosystem then took the stage to provide an energetic rundown of a variety of Windows 8-ready devices and PCs, ranging from light tablets to a powerhouse PC that produces 4.7-teraflops.

Angiulo showed off the fast and secure boot UEFI process. A current notebook booted from shutdown in just 8 seconds during the demo. "It can boot almost faster than the monitor can start up," Angiulo said.

He also showed how UEFI can prevent a rootkit infection from a bootable USB thumbdrive.

The biggest round of applause came when Sinofsky and Angiulo announced that all attendees would receive a Samsung Windows Developer Preview PC. This tablet system is loaded with developer preview versions of Windows 8, Visual Studio and other tools and applications to allow developers to work with the emerging platforms and technologies.

The developer preview of Windows 8 is going live Tuesday night. For more coverage of what's coming in Windows 8, go here.

A video of the full keynote is currently available for replay on the Build Web site here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ballmer: 'Microsoft Office Meets the Cloud'


Ballmer: 'Microsoft Office Meets the Cloud'
Microsoft announced the global availability of Office 365, the cloud-based counterpart to its Office desktop suite, on Tuesday at a launch event in New York.

CEO Steve Ballmer said, "We're here to introduce Microsoft Office 365, where Microsoft Office meets the cloud." Microsoft has its sights on large enterprises, but small and medium businesses are a prime target of Office 365. Ballmer pointed out that 70 percent of the beta testers were SMBs and that two-thirds of global job growth comes from small and medium businesses. "To compete, small and medium-sized businesses do need an edge, an edge that doesn't require huge upfront capital investment or complex IT systems to manage and maintain," Ballmer said.

Office 365, the successor to Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) is available in 40 markets, according to the company. Microsoft said it has signed on 20 global service providers to offer Office 365. Among them are: Bell Canada, Intuit Inc., NTT Communications Corp., Telefonica S.A., Telstra Corp. and Vodafone Group Plc.

Paul Rowe, vice president of marketing and business development at Bell Canada, said in an interview that he is bullish that there will be an immediate spike in demand for Office 365. "We are expecting a fast adoption rate of Office 365," Rowe said. "We have over 400,000 small and midsized customers and we are launching Office 365 in August to those customers. We will bundle it with our voice, Internet and value-added services."

Rowe emphasized that SMBs are the primary target for Office 365. "SMBs will see the fastest uptake, absolutely," he said. "Some large customers will use this product but it will be a hybrid model where they integrate with some of their own IT messaging and collaboration systems."

Others said there's plenty of interest from larger enterprises, as well. Dave Cutler, general manager of Chicago-based Slalom Consulting, is among those. "We are kind of seeing interest across the board," Cutler said in an interview. "We've seen sales all the way up from the largest customers. We don't see it as a phenomenon on one specific market."

With Office 365, Microsoft is offering various plans in which customers can subscribe to Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online.

Higher-end SKUs enable customers to subscribe to Office 2010 as part of a monthly fee. The plans range in price from $2 per month, which gives kiosk workers access to Exchange Online, to $27 a month for the top SKU that includes Microsoft Office Professional Plus and PC-to-PC calling with Lync Voice.

More important is that the desktop Office suite integrates with the new service regardless of how it's licensed, although it must be Office 2007 SP2 or later. Ballmer talked up the collaboration capabilities in Office 365, where users can simultaneously edit documents using the traditional Office suite or Office Web Apps.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Build: Microsoft Reveals Windows 8 Details


Build: Microsoft Reveals Windows 8 Details
Microsoft pulled back the curtain on its new operating system, code-named "Windows 8," at a preview during its Build conference, being held this week in Anaheim, Calif.

These demonstrations held Monday at a Build preview for press offer the deepest view yet of what looks like a radical departure from past desktop operating system designs. Those attending got a look at an x86-based Windows 8 preview tablet PC, which isn't for sale yet, and Microsoft displayed a "developer preview" of Windows 8 at the event.

Microsoft describes Windows 8 as a "reimagining" of its operating system, although the tile-based user interface looks a lot like the one seen in the Windows Phone 7 mobile OS. The resemblance isn't a coincidence since Microsoft is pressing developers to create "Metro-style" apps, which are going to be based on HTML 5, JavaScript or XAML. These Metro-style apps will port from x86 metal to Windows 8 running on the ARM platform, which is a new platform for Microsoft's flagship desktop OS.

"If you use HTML 5, JavaScript or XAML, it just runs on ARM," said Julie Larson-Green, corporate vice president of Windows experience, at a Build press event. She noted that there is a large existing install base of x86 software out there, but Microsoft isn't necessarily working to port it to ARM. The hardware is different, so while ARM may enable great power management, porting an x86 app to ARM might just drain the battery.

The ARM devices for Windows 8 are still being developed. No ARM demo was shown at the press event. However, "all of the apps for ARM will be Metro-style," according to Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, in response to a question.

Larson-Green described classic x86 apps as "desktop apps," explaining that they are different from Metro-style apps. Microsoft will still enable those desktop apps to run on Windows 8, and they'll still have the same familiar controls through mouse and keyboard, with chrome borders, buttons and standard menu systems. Microsoft has also promised that any Windows 7 app will be able to run on Windows 8. However, Metro-style apps will have a different look. They will fill every inch of the screen and will typically have no chrome borders at all.

Metro-style apps are fully touch enabled and users can even use a pen device, which Microsoft is reviving with Windows 8. If you swipe your finger toward the right, it brings up the "charms," which are five icons (Search, Share, Start, Devices and Settings). The charms appear to be all that's left from the Windows 7 "control panel" approach. Microsoft standardized one place to change the settings both for the OS system and for applications, making things easier for users, according to Jensen Harris, director of program management for Windows experience.

Windows 8 for Developers
Windows 8 introduces a new API surface called "Windows runtime APIs," which are part of the OS' services, according to AleŇ° Holecek, distinguished engineer for the Windows developer experience. Microsoft wants developers to access these APIs, which are written in native C++ code, through various languages.

"Developers will be able to make a choice based on the best technology," Holecek said. "We don't want anyone to go and learn an esoteric language."

Microsoft is putting XAML and HTML/CSS on an equal footing in that regard, he explained. He added that Microsoft "will preserve all of the investments" in platforms like Silverlight. He did note that the API surface isn't good for some things, such as building drivers. It's mostly there to benefit application developers. 

The programming platforms needed to build Windows 8 Metro-style applications include C++, C#, Visual Basic, JavaScript and HTML/CSS for x86, x64 and ARM machines. Visual Studio version 11 provides templates that represent fully functional Metro-style apps that support these various languages. Converting XAML apps into Metro-style apps is easy to debug, Holecek contended, after copying the XAML code into a C# template. He said developers just need to look for three categories of errors involving namespaces, networking code and browser navigation to make the conversion.

Microsoft also has been working with the Worldwide Web Consortium to improve Web apps via adding gradients, SVG filtering, grid and flex-box layouts, and column-text layouts, as well as local storage, Web Workers and WebSockets, Holecek said. The canvas element is being used to create freehand graphics on Web pages, he added.

Creating a sharing contract in an app using JavaScript took just two lines of code to do, according to a demo performed by Holecek. A developer might use this technique to share the content of a canvas element to whomever might request it. 

Holecek showed off some of the controls enabled in Microsoft Expression Blend, noting that "it is important to note that we are making all of the controls available to the XAML and JavaScript communities."

The various form factors used for Windows 8 can be found in Expression Blend. Developers don't have to purchase various devices to test their code. Developers also get some support within the Windows Store certification process. Microsoft added a link to the Windows Store directly from the start menu in Windows 8, allowing users to quickly find and buy apps.

Apps submitted by developers to Windows Store are run through a series of tests, which demonstrate their technical compliance.  The Windows Store also has an application dashboard that shows the number of app downloads. This dashboard also provides telemetry data to developers that may be useful for debugging their apps, Holecek said.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Microsoft Adds Android to Windows Phone API Mapping Tool


Microsoft Adds Android to Windows Phone API Mapping Tool
Microsoft released API mapping tools for Android developers, as promised this week, to make it easier to port Android apps to Windows Phone 7.

In April, Microsoft released API mapping tools for Apple iOS developers and indicated that similar tooling was on the way for Android sometime this summer. The Apple iOS tools provide the same API lookup and mapping functionality, according to the company.

The mapping tools enable developers to look up Android API calls and find "the equivalent classes, methods and notification events in WP7," according to a Windows Team Blog post. Developers can also find sample C# code and API documentation relating to specific Android API calls.

"With the API Mapping tools, Microsoft is making it easier for smartphone developers to extend the reach of their applications to the Windows Phone platform," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an email.

Jean-Christophe Cimetiere, a senior technical evangelist for interoperability at Microsoft, wrote in the post announcing the Android Mapping tool that Microsoft will add support for Windows Phone 7 "Mango." That update is "planned for this summer," Cimetiere wrote.

Additional support for developers looking to port applications to Windows Phone 7 can be found at Microsoft’s Windows Phone Interoperability site, which provides whitepapers, case studies and developer insights. The site also aggregates forum discussions relevant to Windows Phone 7 development, drawn from sources such as Stackoverflow and the MSDN Windows Phone 7 community forums. Called "App Guy," the service pulls porting-related discussions from these forums and surfaces them on the Windows Phone Interoperability site.

"The goal here is to help developers learn [to] maximize their time spent building applications for Windows Phone," the Microsoft spokesperson wrote.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Google Blinks: Judge Sides with Microsoft on Expert Testimony in Android Lawsuit


Google Blinks: Judge Sides with Microsoft on Expert Testimony in Android Lawsuit

The judge, acting on behalf of the U.S. International Trade Commission in the Microsoft vs. Motorola dispute, indicated that Google failed to document its "good-faith effort to resolve the matter with Microsoft."

Google's attorneys cried foul last week, claiming that a Microsoft expert witness improperly reviewed confidential Android code to bolster its patent ligation case against Motorola. The judge disagreed, despite the search company's pending acquisition of Motorola Mobility in a $12.5 billion deal announced on Monday.

Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex issued an order indicating that Google had not documented its claims. The case involves Microsoft and its complaint against Motorola over the use of the open source, Linux-based Android mobile operating system. Microsoft contends that Motorola's use of Android infringes on some of Microsoft's intellectual property holdings.

Google, which helped to develop Android, is indirectly involved in this legal dispute, having been ordered to provide its confidential Android code for review. Google's attorneys contend the company was supposed to have received advance notice from Microsoft that the expert, Dr. Robert Stevenson, would review the code. Microsoft failed to provide that notice, according to Google, so the expert's testimony should be excluded from consideration.

The administrative law judge, acting on behalf of the U.S. International Trade Commission in the Microsoft vs. Motorola dispute, indicated that Google had failed to document its "good-faith effort to resolve the matter with Microsoft." The judge specifically noted that Google had not included a copy of the letter to Microsoft notifying Microsoft of the protocol breach. Consequently, Judge Essex denied Google's petition.

The legal squabbling was overshadowed by Google's announcement about the Motorola Mobility acquisition. Google's motivation for picking up Motorola is to increase its patent portfolio as a legal defensive maneuver, particularly with regard to Android patents.

Android is considered to be the No. 1 consumer mobile operating system on the market in terms of volume sales. Android is offered royalty free to mobile device makers, but the OS has also been subject to multiple lawsuits. The lawsuits aren't just coming from Microsoft. Apple is also suing device makers over Android use. Google also faces direct litigation from Oracle, which contends that Android use infringes Oracle's Java intellectual property holdings.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Windows 8 Copy Feature Unveiled


Windows 8 Copy Feature Unveiled

Windows 8 is designed to handle high-volume copy jobs better than the current Explorer command system found in Windows 7.

Microsoft is slowly starting to reveal more about Windows 8, showing planned changes to the file management system on Wednesday.

Windows 8 is designed to handle high-volume copy jobs better than the current Explorer command system found in Windows 7. Microsoft highlighted a new dialog box that is capable of displaying information and handling multiple copy operations at the same time. Copy progress, bandwidth and time-to-completion details are illustrated in the dialog box.

A demo of the new feature is shown at the "Building Windows 8" blog.

Currently, users moving big files might prefer third-party add-ons for those tasks, such as using Copy Handler, FastCopy or TeraCopy products. Microsoft's new Windows 8 copy-and-move capabilities aren't "aiming to match the feature sets of these add-ons," explained Alex Simons, director of program management on the Windows engineering team, in the blog post.

Copying can be paused by users if they want to prioritize a job. Currently, paused processes are highlighted in yellow, but Simons said that Microsoft hasn't finalized the color scheme yet.

[Click on image for larger view.]

Windows 8 Copy Feature Unveiled

[Click on image for larger view.]  

Windows 8 copy dialog box. 

There's also an overwrite warning feature that will compare source and destination files within the same dialog box. Users can then decide if they want to copy and replace, abandon the copying process or opt to insert another versioned copy of the file into a folder.

On top of this advanced copying process, higher transfer rates will be enabled on external drives by the time Windows 8 makes its appearance on devices in around mid-2012 or 2013. That's because Windows 8 will be designed to support USB 3.0, which is expected to enable external data transfers at up to 4.7 Gbps, or 10 times the current USB 2.0 standard's speed.

One commenter in the building Windows 8 blog noted that the new copy dialog box does not appear touch friendly. Microsoft has projected that Windows 8 will have a touch screen much like Windows Phone 7's tile-based user interface, but Windows 8 is also expected to support a more classic Windows menu system.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Gartner: Windows 7 Installed on 42 Percent of PCs Worldwide


Gartner: Windows 7 Installed on 42 Percent of PCs Worldwide

Despite economic headwinds, 94 percent all PCs will ship with Windows 7 in 2011, predicts Gartner.

Gartner Inc. is forecasting that Windows 7 will be the dominant operating system worldwide by the end of 2011.

Despite economic headwinds, the market researcher's latest model predicts 94 percent of all PCs will ship with Windows 7 in 2011. By year-end, Windows 7 will be the leading OS version worldwide, according to Gartner, installed on 42 percent of all PCs.

"By the end of 2011, nearly 635 million PCs worldwide are expected to be shipped with Windows 7," said Annette Jump, research director at Gartner, in a statement Tuesday.

Gartner's highly precise prediction comes just as global stock market turmoil reflects dramatically souring moods about economic prospects for growth in the second half of 2011.

"Steady improvements in IT budgets in 2010 and 2011 are helping to accelerate the deployment of Windows 7 in enterprise markets in the U.S. and Asia/Pacific, where Windows 7 migrations started in large volume in 4Q10," Jump said.

But she nodded to the economic headwinds, indicating that they might already be factored into Gartner's projections. "The economic uncertainties in Western Europe, political instability in selected Middle East and Africa countries and the economic slowdown in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 will likely lead to slightly late and slow deployment for Windows 7 across those regions," Jump said.

The Gartner forecast follows real-time numbers released by Net Applications earlier this month showing that the decade-long run for Windows XP had passed a milestone in its ride into the sunset: The OS dipped below 50 percent share. Windows 7's share, according to Net Applications, was almost 28 percent and Windows Vista's was about 9 percent.

During the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Microsoft executives told partners that 400 million copies of Windows 7 have been shipped already. Tami Reller, a Windows executive, urged partners to help customers move to Windows 7, warning that support for XP would end in 1,000 days (see "Windows XP Deathwatch: 1,000 Days to End of Life").

In discussing earnings later that month, Microsoft executives offered analysts context on enterprise deployments of Windows 7. "Enterprise deployments [of Windows 7] have increased almost 50 percent since March," said Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein during the earnings call. Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investment relations, added that 25 percent of enterprises have deployed Windows 7.

On the same call, Microsoft acknowledged a rare drop in Windows revenue. The 1 percent decrease in revenues for the quarter came on a 2 percent decline in consumer PC sales and an 8 percent increase in business PC sales. The most striking factor was plummeting netbook sales, which dropped 41 percent.

Those results followed Apple's record earnings, in which the company argued that its 10 million iPad sales in the quarter were making inroads in the enterprise (see "Apple Continues To Move Devices Like Crazy"). Apple COO Tim Cook was quoted as telling analysts in the earnings call, "It's clear that some customers chose to purchase an iPad instead of a new Mac, but what really excites us is more customers chose to buy an iPad than a Windows PC."

The new Gartner forecast, which doesn't cover tablets, also called for strong growth in Apple Mac share over the next few years, but the desktop OS was not expected to make much of a dent in Windows share on the PC.

"The adoption of Mac PCs and Mac OS is a result of Apple's ability to grow well above the market average in the last 12 to 24 months, thanks to its ease of use from the user interface point of view and ease of integration with other Apple devices, such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and the existing Apple ecosystem of applications and programs," Jump said.

The Gartner forecast calls for Mac OS to ship on 4.5 percent of new PCs worldwide in 2011 and 5.2 percent in 2015.

Gartner does not expect Google Chrome OS, Google Android or HP's webOS to get "any significant market share" on PCs in the next few years, and expects Linux operating systems to remain in its niche of less than 2 percent share over the next several years.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Integrates More Managed Code


Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 Integrates More Managed Code

Dynamics AX 2012 enables developers to compile the product's X++ language into the Common Immediate Language of the .NET Framework for the first time.

Microsoft released its Dynamics AX 2012 enterprise resource planning software earlier this month, touting features that will enable greater customization by developers and partners.

Dynamics AX 2012 was released in 25 countries on August 1 with more locations expected to be added in the coming months. according to a Dynamics community blog post. An eventual roll out to 36 countries is planned, according to this Microsoft-sponsored white paper (PDF).

Some product details about the new ERP solution were described in January at the Microsoft Dynamics AX Technical conference. Microsoft touted a model-driven layered architecture in Dynamics AX 2012 to enable greater customization by developers and partners while writing less code. Microsoft also promoted the interoperability capabilities of Dynamics AX 2012 with other Microsoft products, such as Microsoft Office 2010, SharePoint 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2 and Visual Studio 2010.

Visual Studio Tools for Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 integrate the application explorer from the product's MorphX IDE. Dynamics AX 2012 enables developers to compile the product's X++ language into the Common Immediate Language (CIL) of the .NET Framework for the first time. Several enhancements are focused on managed code interoperabilty; .NET and X++ projects are stored in the same repository.

The product can be deployed on premises today, but Microsoft eventually plans cloud-based versions of all of its ERP systems. At the 2011 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in July, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Dynamics NAV will go into the cloud early next year, with the rest of Microsoft's ERP solutions to follow. (Dynamics ERP solutions include AX, NAV, GP and SL.) Microsoft is also highlighting interoperability with its Dynamics CRM products, both on-premises and online, via a new connector that was announced in February.

Out of the box, Dynamics AX 2012 supports up to 40 roles in an organization. In addition, security can be assigned by IT pros based on those roles, according to Microsoft's white paper. The system supports business intelligence capabilities through interoperability with Excel and PowerPivot. In addition, it works with SQL Server Reporting Services to deliver "over 800 out-of-the-box reports," according to the white paper.

Microsoft is also claiming that Dynamics AX 2010 can be easily set up using Microsoft Dynamics ERP RapidStart Services. This questionnaire-like setup system, announced at the Worldwide Partner Conference, is designed to make life easier for partners setting up systems for clients. A Microsoft blog claims that the setup time was reduced from four to five days to less than 15 minutes. RapidStart Services run via Microsoft's cloud-based Windows Azure platform.

The city of Redmond, Wash. piloted an early launch of Dynamics AX 2012 in July. Microsoft also announced a few other deployments by its Technology Adoption Program early adopters, including Hydra-Power Systems and Ferranti Computer Systems.

Microsoft is planning a "global launch event" for Dynamics AX 2012 on September 8. This showcase event will feature talks by CEO Steve Ballmer and Kirill Tatarinov, president of the Microsoft Business Solutions Division.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Microsoft Phases Out Windows Mobile Apps


Microsoft Phases Out Windows Mobile Apps

Last week Microsoft began notifying Windows Mobile 6.x developers that the company will no longer accept new Windows Mobile applications for the Windows Marketplace for Mobile starting July 15, 2011.

Last week Microsoft began notifying Windows Mobile 6.x developers that the company will no longer accept new Windows Mobile applications for the Windows Marketplace for Mobile starting July 15, 2011.

The company also announced a transition plan to move Microsoft My Phone customers onto Windows Live SkyDrive storage service.

The moves come as Microsoft is winding down support for its Windows Mobile 6.x operating systems, following the release of the Windows Phone 7 OS last October. Citing company sources, veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley reported that Windows Mobile 6.5.3 will be the final release of the Windows Mobile OS.

"Microsoft has said Windows Mobile 6.x support for customers ends January 8, 2013," Foley wrote. "End of distribution date (for Microsoft partners) is October 31, 2013 for smartphones using the WM 6.x operating system, and April 30, 2017 for embedded handheld devices using the WM 6.x core."

A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed the dates given to Foley for the end of support for Windows Mobile 6.x. Starting July 15, 2011, the company will begin phasing out the Microsoft My Phone and Windows Marketplace for Mobile services. According to the Microsoft spokesperson, "On this date, the Windows Marketplace for Mobile website will be taken offline and users will no longer be able to browse, buy or download applications for older Windows Mobile operating systems via the Web. The Windows Marketplace for Mobile service will continue to be available on-device via the Marketplace client, however. The impacted Microsoft My Phone service and Web-based Windows Marketplace are exclusive to Windows Mobile 6.x platforms."

Transition to SkyDrive
Microsoft posted a notice and a support article last week describing a transition from the Microsoft My Phone Service for Windows Mobile 6.x to Windows Live SkyDrive. In essence, Microsoft will automatically move contacts, text messages, calendar items and photos to Windows Live SkyDrive on Aug. 7, 2011. It will be up to users to move everything else before that date. So, users will have to move their own items such as documents, videos, music, tasks and favorite URLs or they won't be available.

In its FAQ as part of the announcement, Microsoft indicates that users can request physical media (DVD or CD) with their data if they can't move those files themselves. That offer will be available until Oct. 5, 2012.

Microsoft plans to shut down My Phone automatic backups on Aug. 7, 2011 and it plans to close the My Phone Web site on Oct. 6, 2011.

Microsoft provides additional information for Windows Mobile users at this Microsoft Answers Forum page.

SkyDrive 'Mango' Benefits
Microsoft offers free document and media file storage space on its Internet cloud-based Windows Live SkyDrive of up to 25 GB for each user. The service enables syncing for mail, contacts and calendar. Those using Windows Live SkyDrive with Windows Phone 7 and waiting for the so-called "Mango" update coming this fall will be seeing some improvements when using SkyDrive, according to Microsoft.

Users will be able to share SkyDrive-stored photos via e-mail, Microsoft Messenger (with Facebook) or text, according to a recent Microsoft blog post. In addition, users will be able to add captions to video stored on SkyDrive and share those videos with others. The same folder structure used in SkyDrive will also be available on the Windows Phone 7 Mango-based smartphone, Microsoft announced. In addition, users can search using the Windows Phone 7's Office hub to quickly find documents stored on Windows Live SkyDrive.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Microsoft Forms Cloud Partnership with Chinese Linux Vendor


Microsoft Forms Cloud Partnership with Chinese Linux Vendor

The deal with China Standard Software Co., which is designed around cloud computing, involves a technical collaboration on Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology.

Microsoft formalized its alliance with Linux server provider China Standard Software Co. Ltd. (CS2C) this week, with an interoperability and legal agreement designed to promote cloud computing in mixed environments.

The goal of the partnership, which is centered around CS2C's NeoKylin Linux Server, according to Microsoft, is to "jointly develop, market and sell solutions for the booming cloud-computing market in China."

The agreement, which was formalized in Beijing on Monday, involves technical collaboration on Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization technology, plus the signing of a "mutually beneficial customer covenant agreement." The deal follows Microsoft's renewal of its interoperability agreement with Attachmate's SUSE, in which Microsoft promises not to sue Linux users for perceived IP violations as part of a licensing and interoperability deal for customers with mixed environments.

However, an attempt to clarify whether the CS2C agreement offers similar protections by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary-Jo Foley received no response from Microsoft, which described that part of the deal as "confidential." Foley did confirm that the CS2C "Hyper-V Open Cloud" agreement, is part of the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track partner program. Under that program, partners build "certified" private clouds using Microsoft-stack technologies and their own technologies. Microsoft's current partners on that program include Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, NEC, and NetApp with Cisco.

The agreement with CS2C will include interoperability certification of the NeoKylin operating system running on Windows Server 2008 R2 using Hyper-V. In addition, System Center management packs will be created for the NeoKylin OS.

It's unclear exactly what software will be used as CS2C sells cloud products in China under this deal. According to descriptions of the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track program, the software stack used can vary. Microsoft's reference architecture white paper for the program is fairly general, except that Hyper-V is included.

Some other software that may be prescribed by Microsoft under the Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track program are Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Operations Manager, as well as Microsoft SQL Server, according to this Microsoft blog summarizing the architectural requirements. However, Microsoft's announcement provided no such details in the case of the CS2C deal.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Smartphone Sales Up 74 Percent Worldwide, Microsoft Loses Share


Smartphone Sales Up 74 Percent Worldwide, Microsoft Loses Share

Samsung's proprietary smartphone OS Bada passed Microsoft Windows Phone in unit sales in the second-quarter.

Smartphone sales worldwide rose 74 percent year-over-year in the second-quarter but unit sales of Microsoft Windows Phones slipped, falling behind the Samsung Bada, according to Gartner research.

Smartphone unit sales exploded, reaching 429 million in Q2 2011, compared to 368 million during the same time period in 2010. Microsoft's mobile platforms bucked the trend, however. Windows Mobile and Windows Phone went from 3 million units in the year-ago quarter to 1.7 million units in Q2 2011. 

Windows Phone fell behind Bada, Samsung's proprietary smartphone OS, which moved 2 million units in the quarter. Samsung launched Bada in June 2010.

The year-over-year figures for Microsoft compare the mature but lame-duck Windows Mobile platform of Q2 2010 against Windows Phone 7, which launched in Q4 2010.

While the smartphone market is way ahead of the year-ago quarter, growth is relatively flat sequentially. Gartner's estimate for global smartphone sales in Q1 was 101 million units and in Q2 was 108 million units.

That sequential flatness probably extends to Windows Phone 7. Gartner broke out Windows Phone 7 sales from Windows Mobile sales in Q1, estimating them at 1.6 million units. The Q2 number of 1.7 million units is presumably nearly all Windows Phone 7.

Google and Apple were on a tear in Q2, with 47 million Android-based smartphones and 20 million iPhones sold during the quarter, according to Gartner. "The combined share of iOS and Android in the smartphone operating system (OS) market doubled to nearly 62 percent in the second quarter of 2011, up from just over 31 percent in the corresponding period of 2010," according to Gartner's news release about the results.

Nokia, the partner whose devices Microsoft executives hope Windows Phone 7 will ride to huge market share gains, bled more share in the quarter. Nokia's Symbian platform went from 41 percent share in Q2 2010 to 22.1 percent share in Q2 2011. The market share loss included a drop in the number of units, as well, from over 25 million to under 24 million.

"The sales efforts of the channel, combined with Nokia's greater concentration in retail and distributors' sales, saw Nokia destock more than 9 million units overall and 5 million smartphones, helping it hold onto its position as the leading smartphone manufacturer by volume," said Gartner analyst Roberta Cozza in a statement. "However, we will not see a repeat of this performance in the third quarter of 2011, as Nokia's channel is pretty lean."

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Microsoft Releases Avatar Kinect


Microsoft Releases Avatar Kinect

Gamers interacting in chatrooms via live avatars could be the start of a larger trend. The Kinect sensor may one day be miniaturized for laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices, according to Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer.

Microsoft released Avatar Kinect on Monday, a new service for Xbox users of the Kinect sensor.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer first demonstrated Avatar Kinect, which adds limited facial gestures to graphical representations of people, at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Avatar Kinect is free to use from July 25 to September 8 for all Xbox users. After September 8, the service will only be available to Xbox Live Gold members, according to a Microsoft announcement. Xbox Live Gold subscribers can have meetings of up to eight people at a time worldwide using the technology.

Gamers interacting in chatrooms via live avatars could be the start of a larger trend. The Kinect sensor may one day be miniaturized for laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices, according to Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. Mini-Kinect cameras could enable remote telepresence business meetings via avatars. Mundie, who heads Microsoft Research, laid out that vision in response to a question about future mobile device use of Kinect camera technology. Currently, Kinect is sold only as an addition to Microsoft's Xbox 360 gaming console.

"I could dream about a day where anywhere today that you have a camera, which is the back of your cell phone, or the bezel of your laptop, there's no reason to think that over time that camera shouldn't be this kind of camera [Kinect]," Mundie said at the Research Faculty Summit in Redmond this week, according to a Microsoft transcript. "And there's obviously a lot of work yet to go to produce that level of miniaturization, but I don't see any fundamental reason to think that wouldn't happen."

Kinect is one of Microsoft's many recent products that utilize so-called "natural user interface" inputs, enabling human movements to serve as computer commands. Mundie said he started a Microsoft Research project that eventually became Avatar Kinect. Getting more photo-realistic avatars of people is still a ways off, Mundie said.

Avatars can facilitate telepresence business meetings because they avoid the awkward angles of videoconferencing, as well as sound distortion due to distance, Mundie claimed. They're ideal for conducting remote meetings on mobile devices because avatars have "almost a zero bandwidth requirement" and will work in real time over a voice call, he added.

The Microsoft Xbox team deliberately built Avatar Kinect to broaden the Xbox's demographic appeal beyond males between the ages of 12 and 30 and to offer a more simplified user interface as a way to draw more casual game players to use Xbox, Mundie explained.

Ironically, Microsoft is now being sued by Bay Village, Ohio-based Impulse Technology Ltd. over six patents associated with movement tracking and one patent associated with educational systems that tap kinesthetic systems. The case (PDF) was filed on July 1 in a Delaware U.S. district court against Microsoft and eight companies involved in the video game industry. A summary of the case is posted at this Patent Arcade page.

Microsoft shipped 1.7 million Xbox 360 devices in its fiscal fourth quarter. It has about 35 million Xbox Live members, according to recent financials.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Microsoft Beats Q4 Estimates, Windows Sales Lag


Microsoft Beats Q4 Estimates, Windows Sales Lag

Microsoft reported its FY11 Q4 results on Thursday, beating analysts' expectations, despite a dip in Windows revenue for the second consecutive quarter. Total revenue for the quarter was buoyed by Office 2010 sales and continued strength in the Entertainment and Devices division, lead by the Xbox 360 gaming console.

Microsoft reported its fiscal 2011 Q4 results on Thursday, beating expectations, despite a dip in Windows revenue for the second consecutive quarter.

The $17.4 billion in total revenue reported for the quarter, up 8% year over year, was buoyed by Office 2010 sales and continued strength in the Entertainment and Devices division.

The $0.69 earnings per share reported for the quarter, which ended on June 30, 2011, exceeded financial analyst estimates of about $0.58. The net earnings result for the quarter was $5.9 billion, up 30%. Year over year, Microsoft pulled in $69.9 billion, up 12%.

The one surprising moment for this quarter came from Microsoft's Windows and Windows Live Division, which brought in $4.7 billion of revenue. That figure represents a 1% decrease in revenue for the quarter, and a 2% decrease year over year. Microsoft described some of the factors associated with that result in its earnings release. Consumer PC sales declined about 2% during the quarter, influenced by plummeting netbook sales, which dropped 41%. In contrast, business PC sales were up 8% during the quarter.

Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, said during an earnings call that "enterprise deployments [of Windows 7] have increased almost 50 percent since March." Microsoft's overall Windows revenues are being affected by a sales shift to less developed markets, where selling prices are lower. Bill Koefoed, Microsoft's general manager of investment relations, said during the earnings call that over 40 million PCs (about half of all PCs sold) were shipped during the quarter to emerging markets. Koefoed claimed that 25 percent of enterprises have deployed Windows 7.

The Microsoft Business Division, which oversees Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Exchange, Lync and Dynamics products was the star showing for Q4. That division brought in revenue of $5.8 billion for the quarter. Microsoft is claiming that Office 2010 is its "fastest-selling version" of the productivity suite yet, at 100 million licenses sold. However, consumer spending on Microsoft Business Division products decreased 8% in the quarter due to a decrease in consumer spending on PCs. Business spending, in contrast, was up 12%, mostly due to Microsoft Office 2010 sales, volume licensing purchases and a 19% increase in Dynamics revenue.

The Server and Tools Division, which develops Windows Server, Windows Azure, SQL Server, System Center and Visual Studio products, drew $4.6 billion in revenue for the quarter. Revenue for that division was up 12% compared with last year's Q4 result. Microsoft credited sales of Windows Server, SQL Server and its enterprise Client Access Licenses for the division's financial boost. Koefoed said that premium sales of SQL Server grew almost 20 percent.

The Entertainment and Devices Division brought home $1.5 billion in revenue to Microsoft in Q4, led by Xbox 360 entertainment console sales (up 18% in the quarter) and Xbox Live (with about 35 million members). Microsoft shipped 1.7 million Xbox 360 devices during the quarter. Windows Phone 7 is also a part of this division, but Microsoft did not provide a revenue breakdown for it.

Finally, the Online Services Division drew $662 million for the quarter, but it was offset by an operating loss of $728 million. There was no surprise here because Microsoft continues to pour money into chasing No. 1 search provider Google. The Online Services Division includes Microsoft's Bing search and adCenter online advertising platform, as well as the MSN portal.

Microsoft actually described a search and display ad revenue growth of 20% for its fiscal fourth quarter. However, that revenue came with a cost. Microsoft pointed to "challenges associated with optimizing the adCenter platform for a new mix and volume of traffic from the combined Yahoo and Bing properties." Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz had alluded to this adCenter problem in describing Yahoo's revenue decline in the second quarter.

Microsoft and Yahoo had established a search-advertising partnership in July 2009 in which Microsoft's Bing search engine would power Yahoo search portals. Advertising was consolidated under Microsoft's AdCenter platform. So far, the Microsoft and Yahoo search integration has mostly occurred in the U.S. and Canadian markets, with Microsoft planning a later global expansion once its U.S. integration efforts are perfected.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Former Microsoft Exec To Head Juniper Networks' New Software Division


Former Microsoft Exec To Head Juniper Networks' New Software Division

Bob Muglia is the third Microsoft executive to join Juniper Networks since Kevin Johnson left Microsoft to become chief executive of the networking company in 2008.

Veteran Microsoft executive Bob Muglia has joined Juniper Networks, the company announced on Monday, as the vice president of its new Software Solutions Division. 

He is the third Microsoft executive to join Juniper Networks since Kevin Johnson left Microsoft to become chief executive of the networking company in 2008. 

Muglia will play a key role at Juniper Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, which produces software and hardware networking solutions. An announcement issued by Juniper on Monday explained that "by centralizing its software business under Muglia's leadership, Juniper is further sharpening its focus on systems and software as the two core engines of growth for the company."

Muglia worked for 23 years at Microsoft before he exited the company this past January, part of a recent string of high-profile executive departures. In 2009, he was named president of Microsoft Server & Tools Business and became responsible for a number of important Microsoft products, including System Center, Windows Server, Visual Studio and the Windows Azure cloud computing platform. In its earnings report for Q2 2011, the last quarter Muglia served at Microsoft, the Server & Tools Business brought in $4.4 billion.

Muglia was an especially prominent figure in the development of Windows Azure and, later, of the Windows Azure Appliance. In his memo to Microsoft employees announcing his departure from the company, Muglia wrote, "I am incredibly excited by the emergence of cloud computing, and the opportunity it represents to shape business and the way people live for years to come. I have deeply enjoyed my role in positioning Microsoft as a leader and innovator in cloud computing."

In a separate memo to Microsoft employees regarding Muglia's departure, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested that a change in the leadership of the Server & Tools Business group was part of a wider strategy to "accelerate" its growth.

"In conjunction with this leadership change, Bob has decided to leave Microsoft this summer," Ballmer wrote. "He will continue to actively run STB as I conduct an internal and external search for the new leader."

In February, Microsoft appointed Satya Nadella to replace Muglia as the head of Server & Tools Business. Nadella had previously served as the vice president of research and development within Microsoft's Online Services Division. Amitabh Srivastava, the former head of Microsoft's Server and Cloud Division and once the presumptive choice for Muglia's replacement, subsequently resigned from Microsoft after Nadella's promotion. Srivastava ended up joining EMC Corp.

In his new role, Muglia will report to Juniper CEO Kevin Johnson, also a former Microsoft executive. Johnson left Microsoft in 2008 after serving as president of the Platforms & Services Division.

In a prepared statement, Muglia said, "I have long respected Juniper for its disruptive approach to solving the toughest networking problems and for its networking vision that is simple, open and programmable. I am thrilled to be joining Kevin and his team and look forward to contributing to the company's continued success and momentum in the marketplace."

Besides Johnson and Muglia, Juniper is also the current home of a third ex-Microsoft executive, Brad Brooks, the former corporate vice president for Windows consumer marketing and product management who left Redmond early this year.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Microsoft Releases Windows Phone Update 'Mango' to Developers


Microsoft Releases Windows Phone Update 'Mango' to Developers
Microsoft is making the beta of the first major update to its Windows Phone 7 operating system, codenamed "Mango", available to developers for testing applications. It could take weeks for some developers to get it, however.

The company also released the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 beta 2 for Mango.A Microsoft Silverlight SDK blog post described the SDK beta 2 highlights as additions to the isolated storage explorer, as well as improvements to the profiler and emulator.

The finalized Mango update to Windows Phone 7 is expected to be released sometime this fall, according to Microsoft. However, this release-to-manufacturers version will be subject to testing by Microsoft's device and mobile service provider partners before general release to consumers. Because of that testing process, consumers will tend to get updates to their Windows phones in a month's time, or longer, after Microsoft announces the release.

Developers who are registered to work on Windows Phone 7 at the Microsoft Connect site or via the MSDN App Hub can get the Mango beta, but it could take a couple of weeks to arrive for some people, according to Microsoft.

Developers can install the Mango beta on one retail phone to test their application builds. However, a Microsoft blog post by Brandon Watson, senior director for Windows Phone, cautions that installing the Mango update to a phone requires following specific steps. Failure to follow those steps can result in the phone getting "bricked."

The device destined to receive the Mango beta should be reserved for testing. Users should take preparations to be able to roll back the device to an earlier operating system image if they want to continue to get future Windows 7 Phone updates on that device, Watson explained in response to a question on the blog.

Microsoft had released the Mango beta first to reviewers before giving it out to the general developer pool. The reason the company did that was to get its messaging right to consumers, Watson explained in the blog.

An SDK beta 1 got released by Microsoft back in May, but Mango testers should use the new beta 2 version. Running the Windows Phone SDK 7.1 beta 2 does not require having Visual Studio installed because Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone gets installed with the SDK. However, users should uninstall the Windows Phone Developer Tools 7.1 beta 1 first before installing the beta 2 SDK, according to Microsoft's release notes.

Microsoft packed a lot of new features into Windows Phone SDK 7.1 beta 2. A full list of those features can be found here. Those building ring-tone apps for Mango-based phones can get the specs here.

Microsoft also updated an SDK that supports building advertisements into Windows Phone applications. Microsoft released a new Advertising SDK for Windows Phone June update this week that includes improved APIs for Silverlight and XNA ad controls, among other features. The ads get served up via Microsoft's mobile ad exchange, which the company describes as "the first real-time bidded ad Exchange for mobile." This Advertising SDK includes the Microsoft pubCenter solution, which delivers reports on the performance of ads within an application.

The Mango update is expected to bring improvements such as use of the Internet Explorer 9 Mobile Web browser, plus access to Microsoft's SkyDrive cloud-based storage resource, on Windows Phone 7-based devices. Twitter integration will also arrive with Mango.

"IE9 Mobile," which is Microsoft's new name for IE 9 on Windows Phone 7, will be capable of tapping into the device's hardware acceleration resources. This capability can be leveraged to run HTML 5-based graphics and video. Microsoft has already built a demo page for IE9 Mobile showing those capabilities.

Those experiencing troubles with the Mango beta and the new SDK beta can get help from Microsoft at this App Hub forum space.