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What are the major tech companies doing to win in the cloud, and how might the market shake out?

There’s an old joke that starts: How do you make God laugh?

The answer, of course: Make plans.

Larger services companies bent on world domination have poised a lot of capital into developing cloud resources, and some aren’t doing well. Let’s ignore Software-as-a-service/SaaS and pure-play cloud services companies, and instead let’s focus on some new entrants that staked their claims in other markets beside cloud.
Dell

What They Did: Clouds are made of up disk and virtual stuff, and Dell just bought EMC – whose disk empire is legendary – and with it, a huge chunk of VMware, whose feisty formula for virtualizing all-things-not-nailed-down is legendary.

What Might Happen: In one huge private (not public) transaction, Dell gets The Full Meal Deal, and makes up for a half-decade of losing ground.
Amazon

What They Did: Like all good B-School grads, they took a key success ingredient in their rapidly evolving IT infrastructure and resold excess capacity at such a price as to make it highly attractive to the IT-Maker hybrid community, thus launching still another way to make Amazon more fluid whilst spawning developer and service provider imaginations.

What Might Happen: All leaders are the biggest targets of competitors, who learn by a leader’s mistakes, and find cracks to drive hydraulically powered wedges. They’ve captured imagination, and to keep the pace of that attractiveness and fluidity, must imagine products that don’t go stale easily through a long revenue cycle. I say: spin-off.
Microsoft

What They Did: Dawdled, then attempted to take an increasingly brittle if varied and successful computing infrastructure for businesses, along with a huge user base, then not only adapted it for the web, but also made licensing suitable for actual virtualization—then cloud use. Their cloud offering, Azure, now mimes appliance, DevOps/AgileDev, and ground-floor services of their strongest competitors, if a little green in places.

What Might Happen: Microsoft will continue to try to leverage a huge user base into forward-thinking capabilities to extend but not destroy F/OSS initiatives, gleaning the good stuff and vetting as much as is possible into the user cloud model, and also the hybrid and public cloud models. Profit!
Oracle

What They Did: After the indigestion of Sun and MySQL, Oracle wrestled with evolving their own vertical cloud, knowing that their highly successful DB products required comparative platform (and also customer) control. Attempts at virtualization weren’t very successful, but the oil well in the basement, SQL infrastructure, continued to produce oil. Cloud offerings were designed for their target clientele and no others, holding ground while not losing ground.

What Might Happen: Oracle’s enterprise clientele has a love/hate relationship with Oracle, and migration to another platform makes them shudder and perspire. Core line-of-business functionality continues to evolve but at a comparatively/competitively lower pace than visible progress made in the arena Oracle plays in.
HP

What They Did: HP purchased Eucalyptus, a burgeoning cloud emulation and DevOps/AgileDev integration software organization known for their AWS emulation private cloud capabilities. HP evolved the purchase into the HP Helion Cloud, which offered private, public, and hybrid clouds. Development appeared (to me) to languish at least in the public space as smaller competitors, notably Rackspace (and other pure-play cloud services organizations) evolved. HP announced last week that they’re dropping the public portion of their Helion Cloud, after changing management earlier.

What Might Happen: As a hardware company, HP competes potentially with cloud services organizations on the cloud front. Its support for initiatives like OpenStack may change. Now that competitor Dell will digest EMC and VMware, the game has changed.

“If you do one thing, do it very well.” That mantra seems to ring true, and each of these organization has struggled to keep up with the pace of change and competitive pricing, all while attempting to gain, rather than hold, ground. Juggling clouds, to coin a metaphor, isn’t easy.

There’s one motivating a migration to the cloud that must be absorbed by cloud services organizations that no one likes to talk about: shifting depreciation. Each of these organizations (and more like them) faces cost models while the sands of depreciation fall through the ROI glass.

 

 

 

 

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With the release of Windows 10 coming almost exactly 20 years after Microsoft introduced Windows 95, now is as good a time as ever to look at Microsoft’s broad impact on the tech industry, particularly the lesser-known facts.

40 years of Microsoft
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Windows 95, the seminal Windows release which firmly cemented Microsoft’s position as the market leader in desktop computing. Microsoft, though, has a storied history which stretches all the way back to 1975. During the company’s 40-year existence, it’s been a part of every major computing revolution, even if it sometimes came to the game a little bit late. While there are many aspects of the Microsoft story which are well known, here are 10 interesting and surprising facts about the company which you may not have been aware of.

Microsoft was founded in New Mexico
Though Microsoft is currently headquartered in and has become essentially synonymous with Redmond, Washington, the company was actually founded in New Mexico back in April 1975. It wouldn’t be until 1986 that the company moved to Redmond.

The Windows XP background may be the most viewed photo in history
We’ve all seen it — the Windows XP background. Titled “Bliss,” the photo itself was taken in Sonoma County, California, by Charles O’Rear. Taken in 1996, Microsoft paid O’Rear a pretty penny for the rights to the photo, ultimately making it the default background in Windows XP. It’s since been suggested that “Bliss” may very well be the most viewed photo in the history of the world. Not only did Microsoft have a commanding 90%-plus share of the desktop market at the time of XP’s release, but XP remained in use by a majority of Windows users for years on end.

Microsoft spent hundreds of millions of dollars advertising Windows 95
It wasn’t until Windows 95 was released in August 1995 that Microsoft truly became a dominant force in desktop computing. With an advertising budget that some peg as high as $300 million, Microsoft’s Windows 95 launch event was an exercise in excess. The launch itself featured Jay Leno cracking wise, a Rolling Stones theme song, and all sorts of other extravagant gestures. Though perhaps a bit over the top, the payoff was immense. Over the next 10 years or so, Microsoft’s annual revenue climbed by more than five times.

The Windows 95 startup sound was created by Brian Eno
Again, with Microsoft going all out for Windows 95, it only made sense that they would contract out the OS’s startup chime to a music legend, a role filled by Brian Eno. In describing the framework under which the startup sound was created, Eno said in 1996:

“The thing from the agency said, ‘We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,’ this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said ‘and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.'”

Before coming up with the winning sound, Eno said that he had 84 pieces to choose from.

Microsoft beat Apple to the smartphone market by seven years
While the iPhone undoubtedly crafted the modern-day smartphone market as we know it today, it wasn’t the first company to come out with a smartphone. Somewhat surprisingly, Microsoft was busy putting Windows mobile on PDAs and smartphones as early as 2000, a good seven years before the iPhone was released. Perhaps this disappointing experience, could explain why Steve Ballmer was famously so dismissive of the iPhone upon its unveiling.

Bill Gates wanted to call Windows 1.0 ‘Interface Manager’
The computing world might look a lot different today if Bill Gates followed his gut and named Windows 1.0 ‘Interface Manager.’ As the story goes, Gates had the good sense to abandon his preferred name and instead go with Windows.

Microsoft’s first piece of hardware was the Microsoft Mouse in 1983
Though Microsoft made its billions on software, the company wasn’t completely averse to hardware. In fact, the company’s first ever hardware product — the Microsoft Mouse — dates all the way back to 1983. Notably, this even pre-dates Apple’s foray into the world of mice. In what would become a defining feature of Windows mice, the Microsoft Mouse featured two hardware buttons. A design masterpiece this was not.

Microsoft almost purchased Sega
Before developing and releasing the Xbox, Microsoft was very close to acquiring Sega in an effort to take on Sony’s Playstation. At the time, Sega’s Dreamcast console was extremely popular and Microsoft thought that could serve as a strategic point of attack. But as it would turn out, Bill Gates didn’t ultimately believe that Sega had what it took to truly take on Sony.

Steve Ballmer once starred in a bizarre commercial for Windows 1.0
Former Microsoft CEO and current LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer was involved with Microsoft almost from the very beginning. A Harvard attendee just like Bill Gates, Ballmer graduated with a degree in math, which makes the salesman-y video below all the more surprising.

Microsoft may have spearheaded the notion of free software discs
Remember when AOL flooded the market with CD Roms and floppy disks back in the mid-to-late 90s? Well, Microsoft utilized that same idea way back in 1983. To help market the 1983 launch of Windows 1.0, Microsoft bundled free demos of the software in PC World Magazine.

 

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After surviving a slightly bumpy release, Microsoft is already preparing the first update for Windows 10.

Windows 10 is just hitting desktops and Microsoft is already working on its first update to the OS, which may be released as early as August. This may be out of character with its past, but it fits into Microsoft’s new strategy of faster releases and updates to the OS.

The Verge reports that the first such update is referred to internally as “Service Release 1” (SR1). It will be a maintenance update, focused on fixing the current release rather than adding new features. There are some features promised for Windows 10, such as support for Chrome extensions in the new Edge browser, that did not ship with the final code.

There is also a second, much larger update planned for October that will also deal with stability issues and bugs, but which will also include new features. Formerly known as “Redstone” and now called “Threshold Wave 2,” it will bring an updated Skype experience and the extensions in the Edge browser.

The launch was largely smooth for Microsoft, but not quite optimal. For starters, once again Microsoft and Nvidia can’t seem to get along. If you remember the Vista debacle, many of the crashes were attributed to bad Nvidia drivers.

Well, history is repeating itself. Windows 10’s auto update service is reportedly conflicting with the Nvidia GeForce Experience, which alerts GeForce users of new drivers. Early adopters are having problems, especially with multi-monitor setups, and in some cases are experiencing crashes when Windows 10 automatically updates its graphics card drivers.

The reason, according to Forbes, is that the latest driver version from Windows Update isn’t very stable, yet Windows 10 automatically installs it anyway. The GeForce Experience app tries to download a newer, stable driver, but Windows Update blocks it. Needless to say, Nvidia users are upset. As I run a Nvidia card, this is a showstopper for me.

Also, Windows 10 began sneaking its way onto desktops in the days before the launch. The Verge noted that install files began downloading onto Insiders’ PCs in the days before the launch. A few important files were missing so these users could not do the install ahead of schedule.

You can easily spot them. Turn on hidden files and folders in Windows and look for C:/$windows.~BT. I found the folder on my personal PC, weighing in at 4.04GB. That’s a pretty big download to sneak past me, but I leave my PC on all the time so it could be done pretty easily at night time.

At 4GB, that means the majority of the OS is on your PC so you don’t have to sit through a download if you install it during prime time. That’s the good news. The bad news is a black eye on Microsoft’s part; it got busted for using customers’ bandwidth for distributing the content without permission.

Pushing out a 4GB download to end users is going to require a lot of bandwidth. Neowin says Microsoft acquired as much as 40Tbps with all of the major content delivery networks (CDNs) to push Windows 10 down to end users.

Microsoft used something called Windows Update Delivery Optimization, which works similarly to a torrent. Once the files are on your machine, you then become a seeder for other PCs, starting with your local network.

The problem is that no one told the end users or gave them the option to opt out. This is an appropriation of people’s resources without permission and people will not like it, although I would expect that the early adopters (IDC puts first day installs at 14 million) are probably power users who were not significantly impacted. But I expect somewhere along the line a person with a 1.5Gbit broadband and heavily metered service will pop up eventually.

It would be foolish to expect a flawless release. They always have problems. But Microsoft is also much more responsive than in the past. Witness the tone deafness over the hate of Windows 8’s new interface and MIA Start button. But they will get this right in due time.


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Will preview long-awaited touch version next month

Microsoft this week set a loose release date for its next iteration of Office on the desktop and announced that the long-awaited touch-enabled Windows apps will launch around the same time.

The touch-enabled apps will go out as a preview in February when Microsoft debuts Windows 10 for smartphones.

Office 2016, the moniker chosen for the next edition of the classic desktop suite, will launch in “the second half of 2015,” said Julie White, who heads Microsoft’s Office product management, in a Thursday blog.

The name was in line with previous labels for the bundle, which was last upgraded to Office 2013 in January of that year.

White gave little information about Office 2016, which will be the choice for Windows users who work with keyboard and mouse, other than the wide release window. It’s almost certain that Microsoft will offer a public preview of some kind, probably within the next few months, and start selling the suite at the same time it rolls out Windows 10.

Windows 10 has been tagged with various launch itineraries, including “early fall” by Microsoft’s chief operations officer, and most recently, “later this year.”

Nor did White discuss pricing or packaging, but Microsoft commonly defers those details until near the ship date. Microsoft has promised to continue to sell perpetually licensed copies of Office — those customers pay once and can use the software as long as they want — so the dual models of buy-once and Office 365’s rent-not-own will continue.

Office 365 subscribers can upgrade to Office 2016 free of charge when it appears.

Last year, Microsoft also teased a new Office for the Mac, which has not been named — and said then that it, too, would go on sale in the second half of 2015. Microsoft has already previewed Outlook, the email client for the new Office on OS X, to Office 365 subscribers, and updated it earlier this week.

It’s probable that Microsoft will start selling both Office 2016 for Windows and the new, still-unnamed edition for the Mac at the same time, which would be a break with precedent. In the past, the Mac edition has followed the Windows version by several months at minimum.

But White used most of her post to trumpet “Office for Windows 10,” a suite of touch-first apps: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Outlook. The latter will sport both email and calendar functionality, as does the desktop version.

Office for Windows 10 will be pre-installed on new Windows 10-powered smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 8-in. It will also be available for larger-screen devices — tablets and touch-ready notebooks — from the Windows Store.

Sticking to its practice of dribbling out information to keep customers interested — and its wares in the news — Microsoft did not spell out whether the apps would be free to customers who already have a smartphone or tablet and who upgrade their devices to Windows 10. The company also did not say how much the apps would cost to install on larger tablets or touch laptops.

Unless Microsoft turns its Office business model completely inside-out between now and the apps’ release, it will give smartphone and smaller tablet owners Office for Windows 10 for free, perhaps limiting the apps’ features in some ways for larger tablets and touch PCs, and tie full functionality on the latter pair to an Office 365 consumer or corporate subscription.

Users who want to use the apps for business purposes — no matter the device — will need an Office 365 small business or enterprise subscription.

Those are the licensing terms for Office on the iPhone and Android smartphones, and for the iPad and the impending version for Android-based tablets.

Touch-based Office apps for Windows have been on Microsoft’s to-do list for years.

In September 2011, then-CEO Steve Ballmer hinted that the company was working on “Metro-izing” Office, telling Wall Street analysts, “You ought to expect that we are rethinking and working hard on what it would mean to do Office Metro style.” Metro was the brand that Microsoft once used to describe the tile- and touch-based interface that debuted on Windows 8 in 2012.

More than a year ago, Ballmer — by that time on his way out — promised “what I would call not just a touch-enabled, but a touch-first user interface … for Windows 8,” and set the release order as Windows first, iPad second. Ballmer’s replacement, Satya Nadella, flipped the order when he introduced Office for iPad in March. Since then, Windows users have been waiting for word on something similar for them.

Microsoft’s White said that a sneak peek of Office for Windows 10 — not Office 2016 — would be partnered with a Windows 10 Technical Preview update “in the coming weeks,” which fits with what operating system chief Terry Myerson said Wednesday was a February timetable for a first beta of Windows 10 for smartphones.


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Better Business Bureau records show companies blamed scammers, customers’ Internet connections and new software for consumer grievances

Companies sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Microsoft for allegedly defrauding consumers with worthless Windows technical support have spun tales involving flakey Internet connections, it’s-not-us-it’s-scammers, new management software and unanswered emails to counter hundreds of consumer complaints this year, Better Business Bureau (BBB) records showed.

The four companies sued by the FTC in November and by Microsoft this month were reported to the BBB at least 318 times in the last 12 months, according to the organization’s website.

Two of those companies accounted for the majority of the complaints: Customer Focus Services, a California company that operates a number of sites, including omnitechsupport.com; and Inbound Call Experts, a Florida company that ran advancedtechsupport.com and others. The BBB closed 124 complaints against Omni Tech Support in 2014, and 158 against Inbound Call Experts. The number of actual complaints filed may have been considerably larger, as the BBB only reports cases it considers resolved.

Consumer Focus Service was one of two technical support firms Microsoft sued in federal court earlier this month — the other was Anytime Techies of Florida. Microsoft accused the two of infringing numerous Microsoft trademarks and practicing false advertising as they tricked consumers into paying for bogus help.

Inbound Call Experts, along with Vast Tech Support, both of Florida, were shuttered by a federal judge in November after the FTC filed complaints claiming they bilked Americans of more than $120 million.

All four allegedly operated telemarketing scams where consumers were told that their Windows PCs were infected with malware or needed to be optimized to work properly. Some consumers had contacted the companies themselves after seeing their websites or search result ads, while others had been cold-called by the firms.

The “help” provided was largely worthless, and in some cases the companies’ representatives planted malware on the victims’ PCs, the FTC and Microsoft charged. Customers were charged hundreds for the calls or fast-talked into expensive multi-year service contracts.

Such scams have become almost routine because the practice is extremely lucrative: Microsoft estimated that losses to U.S. consumers run $1.5 billion annually, and that a third of those contacted by scammers fall for the ploys.

While accounts of victims are easy to find — Computerworld receives scores of emails each week about scams that readers fell for or narrowly avoided — the alleged scammers’ side is not. But their replies to customer complaints on the BBB website — some, like Customer Focus’s Omni Tech Support are actually members of the business trade group — were illuminating, to say the least.

“The defense given by Omni over, and over and over again (it was given to me at least 12 times during my 6 1/2 hour ‘chat’ with them, as I was trying to set up services with them and had already paid their fee) … is ‘unstable Internet connection’ or ‘fluid Internet Connection,'” wrote Jane D. in a Nov. 30 complaint.

By Jane D.’s account, when she asked questions about Omni’s extended service, the company representative balked at answering, instead telling her, “Just sign the contract.” After she pressed for answers, Omni dropped the connection.

“It is my strong opinion that they use this ‘poor Internet connection/fluid Internet connection’ excuse as a way to wear you down, tire you out, and get your money,” Jane D. said, referring to the numerous times she connected to the company’s chat service and the several technicians she had to speak with.

Computerworld found several instances in Omni Tech Support’s replies to the BBB complaints where it blamed customers’ Internet connections for its inability to provide the services those people had already paid for. “Her Internet connectivity was weak and the chat session were getting disconnected, it was taking a longer time than expected,” Omni said in response to a different complaint filed on Feb. 10.

InBound Call Experts, one of the two companies whose assets were frozen last month after the FTC lodged complaints, told a different story.

In a long reply to the BBB, which in February had asked Inbound for their “voluntary cooperation” in resolving complaints, Inbound threw its new computer software under the bus.

“The new [software] interface had new buttons that [representatives] were not used to and certain parts of the CRM [customer relationship management software] were in different locations,” Inbound told the BBB. “With that said, our average handle time went from 19 minutes per call to 25 minutes per call. Because of this, our phone lines got backed up as we were not able to answer as many phone calls and many customers were calling back over and over because they were unable to reach us.”

Inbound also claimed that its automated tools had a bug and so technicians had to “manually do some of the work that our automated tool normally did.”

Vast Tech Support, the other company closed in the FTC-initiated action, blamed email when a customer said she had not received a promised refund earlier this year. “We have been communicating through email,” said Katie M., a supervisor at Vast Tech Support, in a reply to an August BBB complaint. “The customer has not responded to my last email.”

Not true, the customer countered. “I replied to each response this woman sent. I told her in our last email that I would update status [of the BBB complaint] upon receipt of refund.”

But the most cynical defense by the alleged scammers was that they had not called people and pressured them into buying software and services. Who had? Well, other scammers.

In a familiar-to-victims account, one consumer wrote, “I do not use Omni Tech Support, terminated support more than 1 yr year ago. [But] for 4 months I have received multiple calls alleging that my computer is infected by virus. I have asked numerous times for supervisor to cease any calls because I am not interested in their product. These calls occur 2 and 3 times a day, including evening hours.”

Omni Tech said it wasn’t them. “It was a scam call. It was not us. We simply don’t call people and tell them they have a virus,” the company replied.

The it’s-not-us-it’s-them comeback was used by several of the firms in their responses to complaints registered with the BBB.

One grievance filed with the BBB said that the consumer had contacted Inbound Experts for technical support, which was provided. But just six hours later, the customer was called by someone claiming to work for Microsoft, who said that the Redmond, Wash. firm knew the user’s PC was in trouble. In other words, a classic scam call.

“Obviously, since [Inbound Experts] knew when my computers were worked on, my name and phone number, this appears to be [an] inside issue,” the complaint read. During a conversation with an Inbound Experts supervisor, the complaintant continued, “He said he was sorry about this and that many other customers have complained about this also, and supposedly the FBI was working on it. He was quick to end the phone call which made me even more suspicious. When I told him that this appeared to be an inside problem, he said it was possible.”

Inbound’s official response? “I can assure you that Advanced Tech Support [one of the names that Inbound used, the FTC said last month] is not a scam.”

Neither Omni Tech Support’s parent company or Anytime Techies have replied to Computerworld emails asking for comment about the Microsoft allegations. The two companies have until Jan. 8 to respond to Microsoft’s lawsuit.

Omni Tech is a member of the BBB, but the organization did not give the company a grade-style “A” through “F” ranking. Anytime Techies is not accredited by the BBB, but has been given a “C” rating. Both Inbound Call Experts and Vast Tech Support were graded “F,” and their BBB accreditation was revoked Nov. 26, a week after the FTC announced that they’d been closed by court order.


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While people are banging away at the Windows 10 technical preview, Microsoft is preparing for a real big month come this January, including major updates and a wider release product.

Currently, Windows 10 Technical Preview is on build 9879, although there have been stories of build 9888 being out in the wild. This was described as an interim partner build of Windows 10, not meant for public consumption.

In that build, people noted that Microsoft changed the kernel version number from 6.4 to 10.0. A whole lot of fuss was kicked up over this change, but for the end user it means nothing.

Going forward, things will get interesting. Multiple sites report Microsoft plans to take the wraps off the “consumer preview” of Windows 10 in January 2015. A consumer preview would mean it’s much more stable for casual users and much more feature-complete. This is how Microsoft has always done betas. It does the rougher beta for more technical-minded users who can provide adequate data feedback, then within a few months it comes out with a more stable release for the masses.

The more obvious time to release this preview would be the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), taking place in Las Vegas in early January. However, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella isn’t among the keynote speakers. The CEOs of Samsung and Intel are.

ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley says there will be a press and analysts event at the Redmond HQ on January 20-21, which is when the January Technical Preview, as it is called, will be shown off. One of the key new features is expected to be Continuum, a feature that helps switch the UI on 2-in-1 laptops, so you get a different interface when the display is detached and when it is connected.

Foley and other sites also say that the January preview will be the first to feature Cortana, the digital voice assistant that first appeared on Windows Phone and is a competitor of sorts to Apple’s Siri. Bringing Cortana over to the PC is a logical move, and Microsoft has made no secret of its desire to see Cortana everywhere.

This doesn’t even touch on Windows Phone 10, which is reportedly planned for next year as well. Given how much code is shared between the mobile and PC versions of the OS, a close release schedule makes sense, but at this point it’s all conjecture.

Foley claims there will be a monthly build release, which jives with earlier reports that Microsoft wanted to keep testers up to date with the latest builds. This would be contrary to the Windows 7 and 8 beta cycles, where we had one public test build and didn’t see another until the release candidates hit months later.


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Historically, Microsoft SharePoint has been associated with intranets and content management. But customers are now using it for everything from communications to business intelligence, enterprise search, even process integration and workflow automation.

10 innovative examples of Microsoft SharePoint in action
Since its launch in 2001, Microsoft SharePoint has grown to become a leading enterprise platform for intranets and content management. However, customers are increasingly using it to enable a much broader range of capabilities.

They’re building intranet portals, but they’re also leveraging SharePoint’s system integration, process integration and workflow automation capabilities for knowledge sharing, business intelligence, social collaboration, document and file management, communications and more. Here are 10 success stories built on Microsoft SharePoint.

Aker Solutions
Aker Solutions is a Norwegian provider of oilfield products, systems and services to oil and gas industry customers worldwide. It employs 28,000 people in more than 30 countries. In 2010, management set a goal of doubling its revenues of NOK44 billion ($7.7 billion) by 2015.

To meet those goals, the company hired 13,000 employees in four years. Faced with assimilating many employees in a short period, the company deployed a knowledge-sharing platform based on SharePoint Server 2013.

The platform, dubbed Knowledge Arena, combines personal profiles, employee pages with summaries of current responsibilities, areas of expertise, past experience, blog posts, key documents, newsfeeds and more. Within four months, 56.4 percent of employees had created profiles.

Arkansas Department of Corrections
Contraband is a source of criminal activity within prisons: drugs, money, mobile phones, weapons. Stopping it has fallen to 4,000 statewide guards.

The Arkansas Department of Corrections opted to turn to BI and predictive analytics to identify trends.With Microsoft’s help, it built a Fusion Core Solution based on SharePoint that allows the department to analyze previously siloed databases ranging from population tracking and visitation tracking to banking and telephone records.

“We had access to this data before, but we could not visualize it to see the patterns and trends,” says Daniel Potter, assistant IT administrator. “Our analysts are able to clearly see developments. Over the last two weeks, we have been able to execute 11 confiscations and interdictions on incidents.”

iGATE
iGATE is a global provider of IT services and consulting with more than 300 active global clients, many of them Fortune 1000 companies. It also has 28,500 employees, with an average age of 25.

It needed an internal social collaboration tool that allowed them to share process updates and knowledge more efficiently and effectively. With the help of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS), it deployed SharePoint 2010 for its iSocialize platform, with SQL 2008 as the database management system.

Leveraging an existing license, iGATE was able to connect its global workforce at minimum cost. The company says about 15 percent of employees log in to iSocialize daily and it expects traffic to increase as the content and management improve.

MWH
MWH Global is a “wet infrastructure” firm that provides engineering, construction and management services for some of the world’s largest water-related projects: public water distribution, hydropower, environmental reclamation and more. It has 8,000 employees and believes it must foster innovation by helping them share their talent and experience.

It has an integrated working strategy that calls for keeping collaborative processes and tools simple and universally available. It uses a combination of Lync Server 2013, Yammer, Microsoft Exchange Online and SharePoint Server 2010 as part of its comprehensive collaboration solution.

The company says it is now able to foster creativity within and across organizational boundaries. Federation and external SharePoint team sites are allowing it to extend those benefits beyond corporate borders.

Dutch Public Prosecution Service (DPPS)
With 20 offices in the Netherlands, DPSS investigates crimes and decides whether to bring cases to court, prosecutes offenders and supervises sentences. Its 800 prosecutors spend time out of the office, at crime scenes, meeting colleagues and presenting cases.

DPSS needed a better mobility experience, with easily managed endpoints that met data security and confidentiality requirements. DPSS turned to Windows 8 tablets with applications that connect to data stored on its SharePoint-based intranet and an Oracle database.

The 24/7 Quick Reference Application gives them access to legal protocols and procedures stored on a SharePoint site. The People Guide application connects them to colleagues and their expertise, while the Case File Viewer functions like an offline client for a case management system.

Dutch Public Prosecution Service (DPPS)
With 20 offices in the Netherlands, DPSS investigates crimes and decides whether to bring cases to court, prosecutes offenders and supervises sentences. Its 800 prosecutors spend time out of the office, at crime scenes, meeting colleagues and presenting cases.

DPSS needed a better mobility experience, with easily managed endpoints that met data security and confidentiality requirements. DPSS turned to Windows 8 tablets with applications that connect to data stored on its SharePoint-based intranet and an Oracle database.

The 24/7 Quick Reference Application gives them access to legal protocols and procedures stored on a SharePoint site. The People Guide application connects them to colleagues and their expertise, while the Case File Viewer functions like an offline client for a case management system.

ASB Bank
Based in Auckland, New Zealand and founded in 1847, ASB Bank has 4,500 employees and provides personal and business banking services for 25 percent of New Zealanders. Aiming to give its employments maximum mobility, it needed a comprehensive workflow and social collaboration environment for collaboration tools that work with tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. It also wanted to reduce its dependence on paper by moving most documents online.

It deployed SharePoint 2013 Team Sites to give departments the ability to manage document scanning, storage, archiving and security. It also provided employees with the ability to share information through personal sites, team sites, newsfeeds, wiki sites, forums and blogs.

Toyota Motor Corporation
With 2012 revenue of $181.3 billion, Toyota is the world’s largest automaker by sales volume. Its GAZOO.com website has 1.7 million registered users and delivers car owners and Toyota employees and dealers with vehicle information, social networking, news and entertainment.

Aiming to enhance site content, increase scalability and reduce the cost of ownership, Toyota wanted to leverage the cloud. It turned to Windows Azure for its cloud development environment, with SharePoint 2013 for content management and blogs.

“Toyota has 300,000 pages of content, and the SharePoint 2013 search capability lets us quickly retrieve information,” says Hidehiko Sasaki of the e-TOYOTA division. “We are also using blogs—and, in future releases, other social features like yammer.

Aegon
Aegon is one of the world’s largest insurance and pension groups, with 24,000 employees working in more than 20 international markets. Aiming to build a global intranet that made it easy to search for people and information across businesses, while also facilitating social collaboration and real-time sharing of data, Aegon used SharePoint Server with integrated social networking features from NewsGator Social Sites.

Aegon says it has given its employees easier, more specific access to subject matter experts, and that it allows employees to share experiences and best practices more effectively on their PCs and mobile devices. It also lets the company recognize and reward top contributors to the network while maintaining effective control for governance and regulatory purposes.

Kindred Healthcare
Kindred Healthcare has 76,000 employees and is one of the largest diversified providers of post-acute care services in the U.S. After acquiring RehabCare Group in 2011, the company gained 22,000 mobile employees who used Gmail and needed a solution to integrate them into its communication infrastructure.

Kindred already had an on-premises deployment of Exchange Server 2013 for its existing 54,000 employees. The company opted for Office 365, including SharePoint Online, to meet its needs while also fulfilling security requirements and regulatory and legal compliance.

All of Kindred’s therapists now receive corporate communications directly via a SharePoint portal instead of through their managers. The system allows everyone to send messages more quickly, accurately and consistently.

JSC “Dobeles dzirnavenieks”
JSC is one of the leading cereal products in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. In 2008, it partnered with an international food company, requiring rapidly growing output. Many of its functions are managed electronically, like management of production processes, monitoring, accounting and customer relations.

The company has about 75 computer users, and the growing output meant upgrading and improving its IT infrastructure and eliminating previous infrastructure errors. JSC leveraged SharePoint Online, together with Office 365, Lync Online and Exchange Online to dramatically improve communication between employees.

Employees now use the SharePoint document sharing options, which provide them with reminders when files are updated or republished, while also providing the ability to share files over their mobile devices.


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Scott Charney, of Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing, said the government has “never” asked for a backdoor in Microsoft products. Yet a former engineer working on BitLocker claimed the government does ask, but those requests are “informal.”

Four of Microsoft’s offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu, China, were raided as part of an official government investigation. Microsoft China spokeswoman Joan Li confirmed that Investigators of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce were investigating the company and that Microsoft would “actively cooperate”’ with the Chinese government. The South China Morning Post reported that the investigation may involve antitrust matters.

In May, China cited computer security concerns and banned Windows 8 from being installed on government PCs. After China claimed Microsoft had backdoors in the OS to allow for U.S. government spying, Microsoft issued the following five statements:

Microsoft has never assisted any government in an attack of another government or clients.
Microsoft has never provided any government the authority to directly visit our products or services.
Microsoft has never provided any so-called “Backdoor” into its products or services.
Microsoft has never provided the data or info of our clients to the U.S. Govt. or National Security Agency.
Microsoft has never concealed any requests from any government for information about its clients.

Regarding the raid on Microsoft offices, a Microsoft spokeswoman told NDTV, “We aim to build products that deliver the features, security and reliability customers expect and we’re happy to answer the government’s questions.”

About those alleged backdoors…

Last week, attorneys for the NSA, CIA and DNI joined Microsoft’s Scott Charney, Corporate Vice President for Trustworthy Computing, in “Striking the Right Balance between Security and Liberty,” a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute moderated by the Washington Post’s Greg Miller.

When asked if the government compelled Microsoft to add a backdoor to Skype, Charney replied that the government had “never done that” and that Microsoft “would fight it tooth and nail in the courts.”

The government can use FISA to compel companies “to provide technical assistance,” but if the government said “put in a backdoor,” then Microsoft “would fight it all the way to the Supreme Court.” Charney added, “If the government did that, and I really don’t think they would, it would be at the complete expense of American competitiveness. Because if we put in a backdoor for the U.S. government, we couldn’t sell anywhere in the world, not even in America.”

Yet in September 2013, The New York Times reported the NSA worked with Microsoft “officials to get pre-encryption access to Microsoft’s most popular services, including Outlook e-mail, Skype Internet phone calls and chats, and SkyDrive, the company’s cloud storage service. Microsoft asserted that it had merely complied with ‘lawful demands’ of the government, and in some cases, the collaboration was clearly coerced.”

Mashable followed up these claims by asking the FBI if it had ever asked for backdoors in Microsoft products. Although the feds denied it, Peter Biddle, the head of the engineering team working on BitLocker in 2005, claimed that the government makes “informal requests” for backdoors. Allegedly after making claims about “going dark,” the FBI “informally” asked Microsoft for a backdoor in BitLocker.

A request for a backdoor, whether informal or not, is still a request for a backdoor. That’s quite a bit different than the government having “never done that,” but perhaps the feds didn’t request backdoor access directly from Charney?

If you take what Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith says at face value, then in this post-Snowden era, Microsoft is working hard on transparency and surveillance reforms…especially to “protect Microsoft’s enterprise customers regarding government surveillance.”

Yet you might be wise to recall that Caspar Bowden, the man formerly in charge of Microsoft’s privacy policy for 40 countries, claims he no longer trusts Microsoft or its software; he added that Microsoft’s corporate strategy is to grind down your privacy expectations and that the company’s transparency policies are nothing more than “corporate propaganda.”


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Microsoft and Apple will ship fewer devices in 2014-2015 than earlier estimates, while Android will ship more
Gartner today scaled back its forecast of Windows’ near future, saying that while Microsoft’s operating system will power an increasing number of devices this year and next, the gains will be smaller than it projected six months ago.

For 2013, Windows’ share of the operating systems on all devices — smartphones, tablets, PCs, ultra-light form factors, and PC-tablet hybrids — dropped 5.8% compared to the year before, an additional half-percentage point from the 5.3% the research company pegged in January 2014 for the year prior.

This year, Windows’ share of the device operating system market will grow 2.3% to 333.4 million devices, the bulk of them traditional PCs and what Gartner dubs “ultramobiles, premium,” or the top-tier notebooks. Windows’ growth, however, will come from smaller systems — smartphones in particular.

“Windows phones will exhibit strong growth from a low base in 2014, and are projected to reach a 10% market share by 2018, up from 4% in 2014,” said Annette Zimmermann, a research director at Gartner, in a statement Monday.

In 2015, said Gartner today, Windows will power 373.7 million shipped devices, a year-on-year increase of 12.1%.

Gartner’s numbers today were different than those in January, when it was much more bullish about Windows. Then, analysts projected that Windows device shipments would grow 9.7% in 2014, with another 17.5% increase in 2015. In the latter year, 422.7 million devices of all kinds were to ship that ran Windows.

Although Windows will continue to grow, Gartner’s estimates today were significantly down from those it made six months ago. Most striking was the downgrade of Windows’ 2014 gains to about one-third of the earlier forecast.

The revised estimates also mean that Windows will account for a smaller share in both 2014 and 2015 than projected previously. In January, Gartner said that Windows would capture 14.3% and 16.1% of all device shipments this year and next, respectively. Today’s numbers put Windows’ share at 13.7% (2014) and 14.4% (2015) instead.

The reason Windows forecasts were downgraded, said Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa, was twofold: a softening of tablet shipment growth and the continued reliance of Microsoft on traditional PCs for the bulk of its licensing sales.

“Microsoft will stay in the traditional PC market,” said Kitagawa.

Those systems will continue to struggle, with downturns in 2014 and 2015 of 6.7% and 5.3%; in January, Gartner said that the category would be down 7.2% this year and 3.4% next. Adding in its “ultramobile, premium” numbers, the total personal computer market is now forecast to shrink 2.9% in 2014 and grow by 2.7% in 2015.

Previously, Gartner had pegged ultramobiles to grow much faster, with the total personal computer market believed to be flat this year (0.3% growth), with a more robust 4.6% increase in 2015.

The expected increase in Windows phone shipments will not be enough to make up the difference.

Windows wasn’t the only platform that Gartner said would grow slower than it had believed before: Apple’s iOS and OS X combined number were also downgraded.

For 2014 and 2015, Gartner now forecasts that iOS/OS X will power 271.1 million devices in 2014 — most of them iPhones — and 301.3 million in 2015, for year-over-year growth rates of 14.8% and 11.2%.

Six months ago, Apple’s estimated shipments were more optimistic: 344.2 million and 397.7 million for this year and next, respectively, representing increases of 29% and 15.4%.

Not surprisingly, Android will take up the slack, said Gartner, which predicted Google’s mobile operating system will become even more dominant. Where six months ago Gartner projected that Android device shipments would grow by 25.6% and 13.8% in 2014 and 2015, today it modified those estimates to 30% and 17.3%, respectively.

This year and next, Android will account for 48% and 52.9% of all device shipments, Gartner forecast today, upgrades from January’s numbers of 44.6% and 44.7%.

Gartner is now pegging total Android device shipments for 2014 and 2015 at 1.17 billion and 1.37 billion, up from previous bets of 1.1 billion and 1.25 billion.

 


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Computex is a hardware show, but Microsoft was there to promote Windows as a platform, including recent developments like Windows with Bing, Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows universal apps.

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The keynote was presented by Nick Parker, Microsoft corporate vice president responsible for device partnerships, and Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing. The numbers they listed were impressive.

OK, so he glossed over a few problems. Windows Phone remains stalled at 4% market share, Windows 8.1 numbers were nowhere to be found, and he didn’t get into Xbox One, which is currently lagging behind the PlayStation 4.

What these figures have in common is online/cloud. The OneDrive numbers are not a good measure because a) not every Windows 8 user is using it and b) other platforms like Windows 7 will account for some users. The Bing numbers are not too surprising; Microsoft is focused only on the U.S. for now. If the number was worldwide, that would be far more impressive.

Parker showed off more than 40 new Windows devices on stage, including all-in-ones, laptops, 2-in-1s, tablets, and smartphones, including new devices exclusively for the Chinese market. His talk focused on how Microsoft and its partners can build the next 1 billion devices together. This includes steps like no charge for Windows for devices smaller than 9 inches, relaxed certification requirements, the release of Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows universal apps.

Dr. Hsiao-Wuen Hon, managing director of Microsoft Research Asia and distinguished scientist at Microsoft, joined the two on stage to discuss future computing and key areas of investment for Microsoft Research. They include Big Data, machine learning, datacenter, sensors, computer vision and natural user interface.

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