All posts by Paul Paliath

I founded and regularly wrote blog posts on GeekSmack from 2008 until 2011, when I failed at running a blog. I now write about Microsoft for Techie-Buzz. When not writing blog posts, I'm usually found designing websites and learning how to code. You should follow me on Twitter here.

Microsoft’s “Keep The Cash” Developer Incentive Program Is Appalling

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One of the major issues plaguing the Windows Phone platform as a whole is the lack of quality apps, primarily the various popular ones that are currently thriving on iOS and Android. But simply porting these apps a few months — or more — to Windows Phone from their release won’t solve the problem. Microsoft needs to improve the platform’s mindshare amongst both developers and consumers.

When developers — big and small — work to release their apps as quickly as possible on Windows Phone, and treat the platform as an equal to iOS and Android, then Microsoft will have succeeded. Obviously, the issue isn’t just the lack of existing awesome apps. It’s the fact that now, when a hypothetical developer of what, unbeknownst to him, will soon be an incredibly popular app sits down to build it, he’ll prioritize getting the app on iOS and Android.

Maybe initially, due to the lack of resources and the need to ship, he’ll select one of these platforms to initially launch on. But then, in most cases, the next priority will be shipping an app on the other. After a year of hit sales on both of these platforms, maybe rumors will surface that a Windows Phone app is in the works.

This is the obvious problem with Windows Phone, and it’s why I’m perplexed as to how Microsoft could think that its latest incentive for people to develop on Windows Phone was a good idea at all.

The program, — aptly named “Keep The Cash” — encourages developers to create and submit up to 10 apps to the Windows Phone Store, offering $100 for each qualifying app. The program is also accepting Windows Store apps, allowing you to submit another 10 apps. That’s a total limit of $2000 in app submission.

Evidently, this drastically favors quantity over quality. The copy on the registration form blatantly encourages developers to make multiple apps. Can we seriously expect nothing less but shitty apps from developers who are developing multiple apps from March 8th to June 30th?

The program boasts that developers can earn up to $2000 per qualifying app. That’s a whopping 20 apps in roughly three months. And yes, the Terms and Conditions makes it clear that you cannot submit apps that have been previously submitted to the store.

Sure, some apps from developers who technically take advantage of this may be good; in that timeframe, developers who are wrapping up apps that have been in the works for some time could enter their creations in this program and claim the reward.

But we all know that this isn’t who the promotion is targeting. Everything is clearly targeted to appeal most to people who will try to pump out apps in this timeframe to gain as much money from the promotion as possible.

The negative image that this gives Windows Phone far outweighs anything positive that can come out of it. A good developer with taste from any platform — including existing Windows Phone developers — will scoff at the program.

With this program, Microsoft actually discourages quality developers from wanting to create Windows Phone apps while encouraging those who wish to make some cash as quickly as they shit out their apps to build on Windows Phone. On top of that, it can look like an incredibly desperate, “we’ll take all the apps we can get” program.

Even the registration form to participate looks sleazy. It’s reminiscent of those Monopoly promotions by McDonald’s, or even those cash for gold ads we occasionally see on TV. It’s aesthetically unpleasing and only serves as foreshadowing to the quality of the apps that will come as a result of it.

And, finally, this shows a lack of focus and awareness from Microsoft in regards to Windows Phone’s true problem, despite the fact that they’re definitely well aware of it.

In fact, Microsoft issued the following comment to AllThingsD regarding this:

We believe the best apps come from those partners who are invested in the platform and own their experience now and in the future. Of course, we are always working to spark creativity with new developer audiences and sometimes try limited incentives or contests, like Keep The Cash. However, it is not representative of an ongoing program.

Except it doesn’t spark creativity, it scares it away.

I largely wrote this article with emphasis on the impact of this program on Windows Phone, but it’s worth once again mentioning that the program also seeks out up to 10 Windows Store apps. The complete disregard of quality that’s projected through this program also impacts one of the company’s most valuable products.

In conclusion, I hope that Microsoft stops hosting programs like this and instead offers incentives that favor quality and innovation. As Long Zheng points out, that is something that the company is no stranger to doing.

Tweetro Forced To Pull Out of Windows Store After Hitting Twitter’s User Token Limit

Following the harsher rules imposed by Twitter on third-party developers, Tweetro has been forced to pull their app from the Windows Store as they have reached their token limit of 100,000.

Since Windows 8’s launch on October 26th, the app saw a massive spike in users, getting 3-4k downloads each day. From Windows 8 Release Preview to now, the app has received over 200,000 downloads. However, in the process, they hit their user token limit and are now uncertain of the future of the app. Here’s the email sent out to users by Atta Elayyan, the co-founder of Lazyworm Applications on November 10th (as reported by Windows Observer):

Since the official launch of Windows 8, we’ve seen a massive spike in downloads.  We are averaging around 3-4K downloads a day and have had well over 200K downloads since Tweetro launched on ‘Release Preview’.  Unfortunately, we’ve been victims of our own success as it appears that the app is now being blocked by Twitter due to the new Token limitations.

The app is now completely crippled and users cannot get past the OAuth screen as they are presented with an error ‘Cannot connect to service’.  We were under the impression that Twitter wasn’t going to enforce the token limits until March next year (when all 3rd party apps are required to migrate to the new API’s) however this doesn’t seem to be the case.

We have reached out to Twitter for confirmation however we haven’t heard back yet.

The future of Tweetro is uncertain at this stage but it’s likely that it will be pulled from the Windows Store until we can figure out the best way moving forward.  At this stage, we are considering to add further polish to Tweetro and re-launch it as an exclusive ‘premium’ paid app.  We would have been more than happy to continue distributing Tweetro for free as the exposure we’ve been receiving from it has been fantastic however being limited by twitter to a maximum of 100,000 users would mean we’d have to justify development via financial means.

We hope that there is a way around the token limitations, at least until the official Twitter app is available on Windows 8 however it seems that Twitter is taking a strong stance on this issue.

We’ll aim to have further announcements in the coming days with regards to what people can expect from future iterations of the app.

In the mean time, for those who are enjoying Tweetro we recommend that they refrain from uninstalling the app, removing accounts from within the app or revoking access from Twitter as there is no method accessing OAuth in its current state.

Today, they dropped the news that they’re pulling the app from the Windows Store entirely while they mull over its future. Twitter’s latest stance towards third-party developers and apps has caused quite a fair amount of outrage from the tech community, and rightfully so. To many users, third-party clients provide a far more favorable experience than Twitter’s own website and apps.

It’s only a matter of time now until other Twitter clients reach their own respective user token limits.

Patch Tuesday: Critical Fixes and Surface Updates

It’s that time of the month again. No, not that time of the month. It’s Patch Tuesday, the day when Microsoft issues various security patches and performance updates for Windows, Office, Internet Explorer, and other products.

This time around, we have a total of six bulletins. Four are critical, one is important, and the last one is moderate in importance. The first five address remote code execution exploits in Windows, Internet Explorer, the .NET Framework, and Office.The final bulletin is for a security update that resolves an information disclosure bug with the Microsoft Internet Information Services (IIS).

On top of these security patches, Microsoft has also released a slew of updates for the Surface and/or Windows RT. Makes sense, seeing that this is the first Patch Tuesday to occur since the launch of the Surface RT and Windows 8 on October 26. Tom Warren over at The Verge installed the Surface firmware update on top of a few Windows RT updates and is reporting performance gains over an unpatched device. He’s also saying that app launch times have improved, which is a good sign; app launch times (and general lag while using them) was a major criticism of the Surface when it was released.

So, if you haven’t already, fire up Windows Update.

Sinofsky and Ballmer’s Full Memos Regarding Microsoft Leadership Changes

Last night, Microsoft announced a pretty significant leadership change: Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows Live, will be leaving the company effective immediately. Julie Larson-Green has been promoted to lead Windows software and hardware engineering, and Tami Reller will wear many hats, taking charge of the business side of Windows while remaining the company’s chief financial officer and chief marketing officer.

While internal politics and disagreements are certainly behind Sinofsky’s leave, the official memos sent out by Ballmer and Sinofsky — which were briefly quoted in the press release — are still interesting to read.

Here’s Ballmer’s memo, courtesy of CNET:

From: Steve Ballmer
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:16 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: Windows Leadership Changes

Over the past few months we have delivered the foundation for a new era for Microsoft. From Office to Bing to Windows Phone and Windows Azure, to Xbox and of course Windows and Surface and everything in between, we’ve unleashed a huge wave of devices and services that people and businesses love. I simply couldn’t be more proud of the effort you have all put in to get us here and to set the foundation for our future. At the Windows launch in New York, at the Windows Phone event in San Francisco, and again at the Build event on Redmond campus, I was struck that while externally many people look at these events as the finish line, they really represent the starting line of a new era.

As we enter this new era, and with the successful launch of Windows 8 and Surface behind us, Steven Sinofsky has decided to leave the company. Steven joined Microsoft in 1989 as a software development engineer and has contributed to the company in many ways from his work as a technical advisor to Bill Gates, to leading the evolution of theMicrosoft Office business, to his direction and successful leadership of Windows and Windows Live as well as Surface. I am grateful for the work that Steven has delivered in his time at our company.

Effective immediately, Julie Larson-Green will lead Windows engineering. She will be responsible for all product development for Windows and Windows Live, in addition to Surface. Julie has been a stalwart leader of building compelling “experiences” from her time on Internet Explorer, through the evolution of Office and most recently to the re-imagination of Windows. Her unique product and innovation perspective and proven ability to effectively collaborate and drive a cross company agenda will serve us well as she takes on this new leadership role. All of the current Windows engineering teams will report into Julie, and Julie will report to me.

Tami Reller will lead business and marketing strategy for Windows including Surface and partner devices. She will provide broad stewardship to our PC marketing efforts while managing the line business functions for Windows. Her work on Windows since 2007 has been exemplary and her strong talents in working with internal groups and partners will also serve us well. Tami also will report to me.

We are facing a time of great opportunity. What we have accomplished over the past few years is nothing short of amazing, and I know we have more amazing in us. I am excited about our people, I am energized by our ability to change and grow, and I look forward to the success which lies ahead. Thank you for all you do, and please join me in congratulating our new leadership and celebrating all that we have accomplished so far.

Steve

Sinofsky’s, also courtesy of CNET:

From: Steven Sinofsky
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2012 5:42 PM
To: Microsoft – All Employees (QBDG)
Subject: RE: Windows Leadership Changes

With the general availability of Windows 8/RT and Surface, I have decided it is time for me to take a step back from my responsibilities at Microsoft. I’ve always advocated using the break between product cycles as an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead, and that applies to me too.

After more than 23 years working on a wide range of Microsoft products, I have decided to leave the company to seek new opportunities that build on these experiences. My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines.

The Windows team, in partnerships across all of Microsoft and our industry, just completed products and services introducing a new era of Windows computing. It is an incredible experience to be part of a generational change in a unique product like Windows, one accomplished with an undeniable elegance. Building on Windows, Surface excels in design and utility for a new era of PCs. With the Store, Internet Explorer, Outlook.com, SkyDrive and more, each of which lead the way, this experience is connected to amazing cloud services.

It is inspiring to think of these efforts making their way into the hands of Microsoft’s next billion customers. We can reflect on this project as a remarkable achievement for each of us and for the team. Our work is not done, such is the world of technology, and so much more is in store for customers.

It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company. I am beyond grateful.

I have always promised myself when the right time came for me to change course, I would be brief, unlike one of my infamous short blog posts, and strive to be less memorable than the products and teams with which I have been proudly and humbly associated. The brevity of this announcement is simply a feature.

Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read–about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.

As I’ve always believed in making space for new leaders as quickly as possible, this announcement is effective immediately and I will assist however needed with the transition.

I am super excited for what the future holds for the team and Microsoft.

With my deepest appreciation,

Steven Sinofsky

Image Credit: Associated Press

Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky Leaves Microsoft

Last night, Microsoft dropped the news that, effective immediately, Steven Sinofsky — President of the Windows and Windows Live division — will be leaving the company. The timing of this announcement was certainly sudden, but it’s hard to say that the move was entirely unexpected. Internally, many employees and executives at the company strongly disagreed with Sinofsky’s methods. While Microsoft’s press release makes his parting with the company seem peaceful, it’s pretty fair to say that this probably wasn’t the case.

“It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company,” Sinofsky said.

So, now that the Windows king has been dethroned, who will be filling his shoes? Julie Larson-Green — formerly Corporate Vice President, Program Management, Windows Client — has been promoted to lead all Windows software and hardware engineering. And Tami Reller will retain her role as CFO and CMO, while also taking charge of the business side of Windows. They will both report directly to Steve Ballmer.

“Leading Windows engineering is an incredible challenge and opportunity, and as I looked at the technical and business skills required to continue our Windows trajectory — great communication skills, a proven ability to work across product groups, strong design, deep technical expertise, and a history of anticipating and meeting customer needs — it was clear to me that Julie is the best possible person for this job, and I’m excited to have her in this role,” Ballmer said.

For more on Julie Larson-Green, Mary Jo Foley posted a pretty awesome overview of her.
This is certainly an interesting turn of events. It will be interesting to see how the new leadership influences the next version of Windows (and its development process.)

Microsoft: 4 Million Windows 8 Upgrades Sold in 4 Days

During a keynote at the BUILD developer conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced that the company has sold 4 million individual upgrade licenses of Windows 8 in the four days that have passed since general availability last Friday. Emphasis on individual; this figure doesn’t include the corporate accounts which amount to tens of millions of additional users of the OS.

During the event, Microsoft showed off a number of different devices — on top of their own tablet, the Surface — to really promote the Windows 8 ecosystem. Both tablets and laptops built for Windows 8 were showcased, some of the latter coming in a convertible form factor, and/or offering a touchscreen. Microsoft also proudly announced that there were over 9,000 apps in the Windows Store by general availability.

It isn’t just about quantity though; they also celebrated quality apps on the platform, such as Skype, Netflix, and Angry Birds Space, while anticipating even more apps headed to Windows 8, such as Dropbox.

Video: Microsoft’s Newest Surface Commercial

On the heels of its special Surface launch event yesterday, Microsoft published yet another Surface commercial to its YouTube channel. While the ad doesn’t really show the device in use, it instead briefly shows off the primary aspects of the Surface: The Touch Cover (and all of the colors its available in), kickstand, and briefly, Windows 8. In that regard, it’s pretty similar to the ad that was released on Wednesday, but with a more futuristic setting (and no people.)

I say that it’s a pretty awesome ad. I’d also love to see a modified version of the initial Surface promo video make it on the air as well.

If you haven’t already pre-ordered your device, the Surface is available now at your nearest Microsoft Store (or holiday pop-up store), or online, if you’re willing to wait a couple of weeks.

Microsoft: 670 Million Windows 7 Licenses Sold

At Microsoft’s Windows 8 launch event in NYC earlier today, Windows President Steven Sinofsky dropped the news tidbit that 670 million Windows 7 licenses have been sold as of now, also praising the operating system’s business adoption rate — which he touted to be the “best ever” — and its status as the “most widely used and widely praised OS ever”.

Here’s a list of other notable Windows 7 sales milestones:

March 4, 2010 – Over 90 million copies sold.

April 23, 2010 — Over 100 million copies sold, six months after general availability.

June 23, 2010 — Over 150 million copies sold, making it the fastest selling operating system in history with approximately (and ironically) 7 copies being sold every second.

July 22, 2010 — Over 175 million copies sold.

October 21, 2010 — Over 240 million copies sold.

January 27, 2011 — Over 300 million copies sold.

July 12, 2011 — Over 400 million copies sold.

January 19, 2012 — Over 525 million copies sold.

June 6, 2012 — Over 600 million copies sold.

It’s definitely well-deserved boasting; the improvements and polish added to Windows 7 led to an overwhelmingly positive launch and reception, one that greatly contrasted that of Windows Vista. Now, the big question is how the public will take to Windows 8, and whether it will be an equally big hit despite its major and risky changes.

Microsoft Surface RT Pricing Revealed, Starts At $499

Through a pre-order page on the Microsoft Store website that appears to have been prematurely made public, the company has revealed the pricing of the much-anticipated Surface RT tablet. The verdict? It’s aptly priced to directly compete against the iPad, though some may be a bit startled at the cost of the infamous Touch Cover which also functions as a keyboard.

The 32GB base model without a Touch Cover is priced at $499, a 32GB Surface RT with a Touch Cover is $599, and a 64GB model with a Touch Cover is $699.

As you can see, it’s suitably priced to compete against the iPad; the 32GB model with a Touch Cover costs exactly the same as a 32GB WiFi-only iPad without any accessories, and the 64GB model with a Touch Cover costs the same as its WiFi-only iPad counterpart that is also well-endowed in the storage department.

Until now, Microsoft has remained largely silent on Surface pricing ever since the company held its mysterious press event back in June where they announced the tablets. As a result, there has been plenty of discussion and speculation as to how the device will be priced, and how that will affect its fate.

At the time of writing this post, the pre-order page for the Surface RT is still offline, but it’s safe to assume that it will be up soon.

Training Videos Leak, Provide Glimpse At Microsoft’s Strategy To Educate Consumers On Windows 8

 

Given the slew of relatively major changes in Windows 8, it’s important that Microsoft makes every effort possible to help educate consumers about the OS. That being said, the company will be training sales associates at Microsoft Stores — and at the temporary holiday popup stores — to educate consumers about Windows 8.

Brad Sams over at Neowin got his hands on a slew of videos showing off the training guidelines for said associates, who will then be offering training to consumers. The three videos are rather simple walkthroughs of the primary new/changed things in the OS.

The first video showcases the Start Screen, and things like tile management, charms, using the system-wide search in the charms bar, and app commands, among other things:

The second video focuses on the Share charm, showcasing how you can use it to share content in different apps and scenarios throughout the OS:

Finally, the third video begins by telling the associate that there are new things in Windows 8, and that consumers are counting on them to demonstrate and teach said new functionality. This video focuses on touch, and how to interact with various aspects of the OS — such as tiles, the charms bar, accessing app commands, and cycling through apps — using gestures:

I think that the videos do an excellent job of briefly — and succinctly — showcasing Windows 8’s new features and paradigms. It’s also admirable that Microsoft is making the effort to help educate potentially change-resistant consumers about the OS to help ease the switch over from previous versions of Windows.