Microsoft Announces Bing Fund, Here’s The Fineprint

Microsoft has formally unveiled their angel investment fund and incubator called Bing Fund. I wrote about its possible announcement a few days ago, back then I didn’t have a lot of information. My ZDNet colleague, Mary Jo Foley came across a job posting suggesting Microsoft’s intentions of improving their online product portfolio with new projects coming out of Bing Fund. Along with the Bing Fund announcement, Microsoft has shared some  details. The fineprint of the fund is quite interesting since surprisingly using the Microsoft dev stack is not a compulsion. While Microsoft hopes to educate and would like to see startups using Microsoft products, it is not a rejection parameter. Some key points:

  • Startups that have a working product and some momentum will be chosen
  • Microsoft’s already cash-losing Bing will be providing an undisclosed sum of money to a limited number of startups incorporated in the US
  • The exclusive club will add a new startup only after a startup graduates
  • Focus will be on startups developing mobile and Internet products
  • Microsoft does not expect anything in return, or so they claim
  • The company hopes to get into the glamorous startup ecosystem that has so far evaded Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform
  • For startups in infancy, Microsoft suggests BizSpark
  • The incubator is based in Microsoft’s Seattle backyard and for good Microsoft guidance startups are expected to be in the neighboring area

For a while I’ve been wondering why Microsoft was not doing enough to get startups develop apps for Windows Phone along with iOS/Android, the Bing Fund will most likely fix this problem and at the same time help achieve Microsoft’s tablet goals.

 

Microsoft’s Windows 8 Launch Strategy: Pop-Up Microsoft Stores

Day before yesterday, during Steve Ballmer’s keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced Windows 8’s release timeline. Microsoft’s latest and greatest operating system will be available in retail stores towards the end of October, in time for the US holiday season. In addition to Windows 8, Microsoft will also bring Microsoft’s Windows 8 RT tablet—Surface and Windows Phone 8 phones by OEM partners. This holiday season will be Microsoft’s biggest season for the home consumer, and Microsoft realizes this.

To get these products to the end-user, Microsoft will leverage their Microsoft Stores. So far, the few stores that Microsoft has seem to have less footfall compared to Apple Stores on a daily basis but that can be attributed to the lack of attention-drawing devices—there’s only so much Xbox & Kinect can do. Microsoft’s Surface will be exclusively available through Microsoft Sotres (brick & mortar and online) and Kevin Turner announced that for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 & Surface launch, Microsoft will have several small pop-up stores to showcase their products and reach more customers. (There will be a Microsoft Store in Toronto, Canada and somewhere in Puerto Rico.)

The strategy is genius and should help Microsoft reach more customers to promote and sell their products.

Image credit: MIS Laboratory

Microsoft’s 1 Slide That Explains Windows 8

At what will turn out to be the most entertaining keynote at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference, company COO Kevin Turner shared an interesting slide that explains Windows 8. Microsoft’s two-pronged approach to desktop & tablet with Windows 8 has been the focal point of several debates. The two questions that keep coming up are:

  • Is Microsoft compromising the tablet experience by having the legacy desktop?
  • Or, is Microsoft ruining the desktop experience by bringing in the touch-friendly tablet interface?

Which of the two compromises is Microsoft making with Windows 8? According to Kevin Turner, neither. Windows 8 is a no-compromise solution for content consumption and creation, it is meant for home and enterprise use. Kevin Turner’s slide that shows the breadth achieved with Windows 8 and how Windows 8 is a no-compromise solution is quite an interesting one:

Windows 8 RTM: Early August; General Availability: End Of October

Microsoft’s annual Worldwide Partner Conference is underway at Toronto, Canada and the enthusiasts have their eyes on the announcements. Steve Ballmer is on stage with and has so far discussed Office 365, Yammer and Windows 8. As Microsoft’s Tami Reller—VP for Windows—is showcasing several Windows 8 PCs and gave us a Windows 8 release date timeline. According to Microsoft:

  • Windows 8 will RTM in the first week of August (Windows 7 RTMed in the third week of July)
  • Windows 8 will be available for upgrades and off-the-shelf buying towards the end of October

One of the announcements many were expecting was about Office 15 or Office 2013; Steve Ballmer mentioned Office 2013 and said he uses it along with Windows 8 but brushed any product announcements to later this summer.

Microsoft’s Worldwide Developer Conference usually is about their hardware and software partners across the world and Microsoft seems to be pulling off a great show. One of the key topics to start the show was cloud computing and Office 365.

On Surface tablets, Steve Ballmer said he hopes to sell a few millions from the 375 Million PCs expected to sold in the coming year. My expectations for the event were Windows 8 PCs and maybe some Windows Phone 8 devices, hopefully we see some.

Bill Gates Continues Working On Some Projects At Microsoft

Charlie Rose spoke to Bill Gates in an hour long interview. The interview discussed several issues such as the Gates Foundation’s work agains Malaria, Polio and healthcare, topics like Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft. In the interview Bill Gates talked about how they were way ahead their time in tablets and why Apple did a better job. He also blessed the Surface tablet, and according to him this fusion of tablet & PC will help people look at these computing devices differently.

Business Insider has written about the tablet revelations, however, what I found more interesting was Bill Gates’ role at Microsoft. Many pundits have on multiple occasions suggested that Bill Gates should come back and replace Steve Ballmer, in the same breath we’ve all wondered what role does Gates play in Microsoft. As it turns out, he still is active in the company. According to Gates himself he is working some a select fre projects. These projects are staffed and from what Gates mentioned deal with ideas like:

  • digital whiteboards
  • organizing data such as going down memory lane
  • he suggests on new projects

Big Data is a buzzword in the industry much like Web 2.0 was a while back, it is interesting to see Bill Gates is still lending his intellect on solving some consumer technology challenges in addition to his dedication towards solving health problems across the world.

SkyDrive’s New Logo Official, Breaks Away From Windows Live Branding

As Microsoft is rebranding Windows Live it looks like the common golden swish across the products will go away. Without a doubt, SkyDrive is now a first-class citizen in Microsoft’s product line-up. Consistent updates to the service, integration across Windows Phone & Windows, cross-platform availability are some signs of how Microsoft sees SkyDrive integral to their future.

During Microsoft’s Surface announcement, Michael Gillet pointed out the new SkyDrive logo and now Microsoft has applied to trademark it. For those who’ve been following Windows Live would know that around Wave 3, the icons introduced a golden swish for all Live products and this followed into subsequent designs. Here is the current SkyDrive icon:

 

Here’s the new logo as shown on Surface:

The trademarked icon:

The difference is small but for those following Microsoft, goodbye Windows Live, your golden touch will be missed. (The clouds have been moved around too.)

Microsoft Set To Announce Something “Fun” In July

For those who’ve known the computing brand VoodooPC know that they were probably the best designed PCs out there. The company led by Rahul Sood made some exquisite computing devices that ran Windows. It was bought by HP and we haven’t heard a lot about the brand since. Rahul Sood decided to work for Microsoft and moved to Seattle.

At first he worked with the Interactive Entertainment Division—the guys behind Xbox. This move made a lot of sense. And then his Twitter profile said he was working with Bing. I was baffled. I did ask him once as to why is someone who is known for his exquisite taste in hardware design working on a search engine. I got no reply. Today, however, he finally let out something. Rahul’s profile says he is working on a project called Bing Fund. Very little is known about what Bing Fund is except, well, it’s a fund for startups. What sort of companies are in Bing Fund’s portfolio isn’t known and neither is why is it called Bing Fund!

Bing Fund has a splash page and according to Rahul Sood, later this month we shall know what Bing Fund is all about.

Theo Valich writing for Bright Side of News says the companies under bing Fund are focussing on developing applications that offer a better software & hardware experience, given Microsoft’s Surface & Windows Phone 8, this will fill in a lot of gaps between Microsoft’s mobile platform and Apple’s. Microsoft has been trying to get the Silicon Valley to consider Microsoft’s Windows Phone as a platform for their apps but hasn’t been able to make any headway, Bing Fund might just be a way.

But why is it called the Bing Fund?!

At $599, Surface Would Be The Best Value For Money Tablet To Own

While Microsoft has not officially announced the price of the Surface, rumors doing rounds suggest the Windows 8 ARM Surface will start at $599. And that is a great price, it beats the iPad by a huge margin. The iPad starts at $499 for 16GB, while the 32GB model is $599. The iPad does not come preloaded with Microsoft Office and neither does it bundle the cover and a keyboard.

The first thing to understand with the Surface is that the keyboard is NOT a separate device. The engineering geniuses at Microsoft have made the keyboard so thin (3mm) that it is the cover for the Surface. If you want the keyboard, you open the cover and use it as a keyboard, like here:

(Image courtesy Tech Radar)

And if you don’t want the keyboard, you open the cover and it snaps at the back of the Surface, like here:

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s compare the iPad and Surface pricing:

On the specs page for Surface, Microsoft lists the covers as part of the device which would indicate the price when announced will include the covers. I think the rumored price of $599 also comes from the fact that the 32GB iPad starts at $599.

Disclaimer: The $599 price for Surface are rumors and haven’t been confirmed yet.

Microsoft’s Major Mystery Monday Announcement Is A Tablet

Since Thursday everyone following Microsoft has been trying to solve a puzzle, nobody succeeded. Everyone tried guessing and that’s what it has been–just guesses. Nobody knew for sure what was coming and now we know. I summed up the craziness in a post and the roller-coaster we’ve had in the past 4 days.

Now we know.

In an announcement in LA, Microsoft has announced tablet!

This is probably the best kept secret and by far the most interesting news to come out in a few months. Steve Ballmer said

It was always clear that what our software could do would require us to push hardware, sometimes where our partners hadn’t envisioned.

“Much like Windows 1 needed the mouse, we wanted to give Windows 8 it’s own hardware.

We will keep updating this post as we get more details.

Details:

Microsoft calls this the Surface. Why?!

  • 10.6 inch display
  • 1.5 lbs
  • USB 2
  • 9.3mm”
  • Built-in stand
  • Cover is a multi-touch keyboard!
  • Runs Windows RT (most likely) and has another Windows 8 version
  • Supports stylus