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 Czech Product Manager: Office for iOS and Android Set for March 2013

While speaking to Czech site IHNED, Microsoft product manager Petr Bobek has apparently confirmed that native Office apps on iOS and Android will be released, starting in March of 2013.

The Verge has translated a press release from Microsoft’s Czech Republic team that basically states that in addition to Windows, Office 2013 will also be available on Windows Phone, Windows RT, OS X, Android, iOS, and, interestingly enough, Symbian. The press release also points out that Office 2013 will be made available to businesses in December, with a consumer launch set for the end of February. Finally, it also mentions that a new version of the Office Web Apps is on the way.

A US Microsoft spokesperson refused to verify this completely, vaguely stating that the company is yet to announce retail availability for the new Office. They also pointed out that the company previously stated that Office Mobile will work across Windows Phone, Android, and iOS.

iOS and Android present a huge opportunity to the Office team to further grow their business. I’ve witnessed many in my Twitter timeline question why these apps haven’t already been released on the two major mobile platforms.

There have been countless rumors in the past of Microsoft developing Office apps for iPhone, so it’s nice to see that it may finally be coming to fruition relatively soon.

Does Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules Prevent Filmmakers From Profiting Off Of Game Content?

Yesterday, EGM Now wrote a story pointing out a section in Microsoft’s Game Content Usage Rules, stating that people may not directly profit from videos that contain content from Microsoft games.

Here’s the part of the Game Content Usage Rules in question:

You may post your Item to a page or website that has advertising, but only if you do not earn any money from that advertising. For example, if you post your video on Youtube or Vimeo and there happens to be an advertisement next to it, then as long as you don’t get paid for that advertisement, the fact that there is an advertisement on the page doesn’t break these Rules. But enrolling in the Youtube partner program (or other similar programs), where you are entering into an agreement to get paid, is not allowed. On a similar note, if you create and distribute a free app, then you can’t earn any money from advertising in that app.

On top of being a source of entertainment for millions of people everywhere, games can often become major sources of revenue for popular filmmakers on sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, who frequently use in-game content/footage in their videos. Of course, select big-time producers — such as Rooster Teeth, for example — are unaffected by this; they have licensing deals with Microsoft to use the in-game content. However, it does seem like people who don’t have such deals with the company are in the wrong here… right?

Frank O’ Connor — franchise development director at the Microsoft subsidiary 343 Industries — posted a comment (he goes by “Stinkles”) on the NeoGAF forums saying that this isn’t exactly the case, despite the rather intimidating legal jargon:

As I mentioned in the Halo community thread, these rules actually haven’t really changed, and even the updated and clarified text has been up there for months. I assume somebody just noticed this and posted this morning because it sort of blew up. This has always been the Legal status for the IP (and MOST IPs in fact), and as you also already know, nobody is being sued, or in jail, etc etc etc.

The language isn’t designed to stop kids streaming their games, or covering their costs, it’s designed to stop big companies from using somebody else’s IP to run a business.

We’ll put together some language that will help community people navigate this easily, and give people workarounds.

It’s also interesting how EGM Now reported that this was just recently added to the Game Content Usage Rules; according to O’ Connor, they have been there for months:

These guidelines have been out there for months. How many of you are posting from jail? We’ll get some clarifying messaging out there, but the legalese won’t change, because it’s legalese. We’ll craft a path through the semantic minefield, however.

We’re awaiting comment from Microsoft on this.

Image Source: Alfred Hermida (Flickr)

Microsoft Releases Considerable Windows 8 Update Before General Availability

With roughly two weeks to go until Windows 8 is generally available, Microsoft has pushed out a cumulative update set to make improvements to various aspects of the operating system.

As announced by Steven Sinofsky on Tuesday in a surprisingly brief blog post, the updates address performance, power management and battery efficiency, media playback, and compatibility and are now available on Windows Update for those of you who are already running the RTM bits. The update is rather sizable; Robert McLaws, an enthusiast who downloaded the update pointed out on Twitter that it is roughly 170MB in size.

That’s pretty impressive. In Sinofsky’s post, he talks a bit about how 8-12 weeks usually passes from when Microsoft ships the finalized Windows code to manufacturers, to when the operating system is generally available. This time is usually used by OEMs to ensure that everything works well; drivers are compatible, companion software (i.e bloatware) works fine, etc., but there are times when “changes and improvements” need to be made to the fundamental aspects of Windows.

He also touches on how major “bundles” of updates are traditionally delivered on Windows through service packs. Various changes are made by Microsoft for each OEM and their new PCs, and said changes are deployed during manufacturing and therefore remain unnoticed by consumers. These changes may apply to a wider range of PCs, but there’s no time to properly test and certify these updates. Therefore, they may only be pushed out on a broader scale with the first service pack of Windows.

However, the update process has been improved with Windows 8, as Sinofsky notes:

During the final months of Windows 8 we challenged ourselves to create the tools and processes to be able to deliver these “post-RTM” updates sooner than a service pack. By developing better test automation and test coverage tools we are happy to say that Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at General Availability. If you are an MSDN or enterprise customer, these updates will be available for your Windows 8 PCs via Windows Update as of today (October 9), following our standard cadence for Windows Updates on the second Tuesday of each month at about 10:00am.

Good stuff. I wonder if Microsoft will continue this update pace beyond the interim period of RTM and GA, frequently pushing out significant updates without waiting to bundle them within a service pack.

For more on the update (KB 2756872), check out the Microsoft Support article.

Sinofsky, Ballmer Executive Pay Diminished Over Browser Ballot Issue

On Tuesday, the latest Proxy statement filed by Microsoft to the Securities and Exchange Commission for the fiscal year 2012 was released, providing us with a glimpse at how the company’s “named executive officers” were compensated and graded by the board of directors.

For one, out of the entire lineup of executives, CEO Steve Ballmer was the least compensated, receiving an “incentive plan award” of $620,000 for fiscal 2012; 91% of his eligible target award. When added to his base salary each year of $685,000 and all other compensation, he received a total of $1,318,128. By choice, Ballmer received no equity.

Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, received an incentive award of $7.65 million, which is 90% of his possible incentive award. Sinofsky’s total compensation is $8,583,732. Sinofsky and Ballmer were praised by the board of directors for the completion of Windows 8, Windows 7 enterprise adoption, the Surface, and IE market share growth, but were reprimanded over the European browser ballot issue.

The highest paid executive was Kevin Turner, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, who received a total of $10,683,671 in compensation. Kurt DelBene, President of the Office Division received a total of $7,906,725, and Peter Klein, Chief Financial Officer, received $5,108,836 in total compensation.

Microsoft Holiday Pop-Up Stores Set To Open For Business On October 26

Back in September, Microsoft confirmed that, sometime this fall, it will be opening up 32 pop-up brick-and-mortar stores to better show off its products — namely the much-anticipated Surface — in places where a more permanent Microsoft store is yet to exist. At the time, Microsoft declined to officially comment on speculation that the stores will open on October 26, which is when Windows 8 and Surface RT are set to launch.

Mary-Jo Foley reports that a Twitter user spotted a mention of the New York store opening on the 26th on the official Microsoft Store website. Various other stores are showing a promotional image with the October 26th release date on the website as well.

This is definitely a good move on Microsoft’s part to better showcase Windows 8 and the Surface RT — which will only be officially distributed through Microsoft Stores — but I still think that they should do more bring their retail experience to more locations without opening brick-and-mortar stores. The best way to do this in my opinion is to follow Apple’s strategy; work with big-box retailers like Best Buy, Fry’s, and CompUSA to bring a mini Microsoft Store of sorts within select stores. That way, they can broaden their reach while continuing to build brick-and-mortar stores.

Microsoft will have 44 brick-and-mortar retail stores open by mid-2013.

Here’s a list of the planned U.S. and Canada pop-up stores (no word yet on whether the company has any plans to open up these pop-up stores in other countries):

  • Aventura Mall (Aventura, FL)
  • Beachwood Place (Beachwood, OH)
  • Cherry Creek Shopping Center (Denver, CO)
  • Dadeland Mall (Miami, FL)
  • Eaton Centre (Toronto, Ontario)
  • Fashion Mall at Keystone (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Fashion Show Mall (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Glendale Galleria (Glendale, CA)
  • Mall at Green Hills (Nashville, TN)
  • Mall in Columbia (Columbia, MD)
  • Metropolis at Metrotown (Burnaby, BC)
  • Montgomery Mall (Bethesda, MD)
  • Natick Collection (Natick, MA)
  • North Star Mall (San Antonio, TX)
  • Oakridge Centre (Vancouver, BC)
  • Penn Square Mall (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Perimeter Mall (Atlanta, GA)
  • Roosevelt Field Mall (Garden, City, NY)
  • Ross Park Mall (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Saint Louis Galleria (St. Louis, MO)
  • San Francisco Centre (San Francisco, CA)
  • South Shore Plaza (Braintree, MA)
  • Southpark Mall (Charlotte, NC)
  • Stonebriar Centre Mall (Frisco, TX)
  • Streets at Southpoint (Durham, NC
  • Time Warner Center: The Shops at Columbus Circle (New York, NY)
  • Washington Square (Portland, OR)
  • West Edmonton Mall (Edmonton, Alberta)
  • Westfarms Mall (West Hartford, CT)
  • Westfield Garden State Plaza (Paramus, NJ)
  • Woodland Hills Mall (Tulsa, OK)
  • Woodlands Mall (Woodlands, TX)

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at Microsoft Store, Gets Escorted Out By Police

Microsoft Stores are often associated with performances by artists as the company usually gives away tickets to such events to accompany new store launches. However, when a Microsoft Store in Atlanta served as an event hosted by The Source which featured Machine Gun Kelly — an upcoming rapper — things got a bit crazy.

After shouting profanities like “fuck these computers…” and flicking off the audience, he refused to stop performing when Microsoft Store employees urged him to stop performing. He then proceeded to stomp on at least five computers, at which point the staff cut off his mic and the music. He told the staff that he refuses to get down, and demanded that they “play that shit.” The Microsoft Store employees then called the police, who escorted him to a private area at the back of the store.

He tweeted about what happened after the fact, proudly touting an Instagram photo captioned “Who gon’ stop me? You gon’ stop me?” While initially, there was speculation that Microsoft was the one behind the event, they issued a comment earlier today to The Verge revealing that they were simply offering their store as a venue to use, calling the behavior inappropriate for a store environment:

Microsoft tells us that The Source held a private event at the Microsoft Lenox Square Store. “We offer our stores as a venue for the community to use, and this event was not sponsored by Microsoft,” says a spokesperson. “While the artist’s behavior was appropriate for a concert, some of it was not appropriate in a store environment.”

Here’s a video of part of the performance:

Microsoft Announces 10 Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Startup Finalists

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie has announced the finalists of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure program for startups, where they will become a part of a three-month program in which they build new products and businesses that utilize the Azure platform.

Here’s a list of the ten announced finalists:

  • Advertory – Berlin, Germany. Advertory helps local businesses increase revenue and build customer loyalty.
  • Appetas  Seattle, WA. Appetas’ mission is to make restaurants look as beautiful online as they do on the plate!
  • BagsUp – Sydney, Australia. Find great places from people you trust.
  • Embarke – San Diego, CA. Embarke allows developers and companies the ability to integrate with any human communication channel (Facebook, Email, Text Message, Twitter) without having to learn the specifics, write code, or spend time on any of them.
  • Fanzo – Seattle, WA. Fanzo puts sports fans in the spotlight. Find other fans, show off your fanswagger and get rewarded for your passion.
  • MetricsHub – Bellevue, WA. A service providing cloud monitoring with incident detection and prebuilt workflows for remedying common problems.
  • Mobilligy – Bellevue, WA. Mobilligy revolutionizes how people pay their bills by bringing convenient, secure, and instant bill payment support to mobile devices.
  • Realty Mogul – Los Angeles, CA. Realty Mogul is a crowdfunding platform for real estate where accredited investors pool capital and invest in properties that are acquired, managed and eventually resold by professional private real estate companies and their management teams.
  • Staq – San Francisco, CA. Back-end as a service for APIs.
  • Socedo – Bellevue, WA. A simple and effective web application for lead generation and relationship management on Twitter.

Each startup will be seattle-based, and mentored by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and “leaders” from Azure and other Microsoft organizations. The first month in the program will be spend mulling over ideas and refining their business concepts with input from these experts and other Microsoft customers, and the final two months will be spent designing and developing their products.

All of their ideas will then be presented to investors and Microsoft partners at an event in mid-January.

This isn’t the only program for startups offered by the tech giant. Microsoft also has other programs to help budding companies get off the ground, such as the Bing Fund, BizSpark, and the Kinect Accelerator Program, among others.

Image Credit: Carlos Gutiérrez G. (Flickr)

Microsoft Makes Strategic Investment in Klout, Announces Bing Integration

Microsoft announced today that it has made a strategic investment in Klout, the controversial service that aims to monitor one’s influence on social networks. And, as is the case with its strategic investment in Facebook, there will be a technical partnership between the two companies; Klout scores will crop up in Bing search results, and the amount of times that you’ve been searched for on Bing will be yet another factor in just how influential Klout thinks you are.

On Bing, Klout scores and topics will be displayed next to the experts in the “People Who Know” section of its social sidebar. There will also be a link to each person’s Klout profile in an attempt to provide more context into why these people are experts in their respective fields.

In an attempt to broaden Klout’s scope of data used to determine an individual’s influence, Bing search data will now be factored into how one’s influence is measured on the service. The “experts” who show up in Bing’s “People Who Know” sidebar will be recognized on Klout, and those with a Wikipedia account associated with their profile will be rated based on how often they are searched for on Bing.

 

Windows Store Surpasses 2,000 Apps As Windows 8 Launch Looms

With only a month to go until Windows 8 is generally available, the question is, how are developers taking to the platform? Given the importance of apps — especially with Windows 8’s tablet ambitions in mind — the quality and even quantity of apps in the Windows Store are important metrics to keep an eye on. Thankfully, Directions on Microsoft Vice President of Research Wes Miller is doing just this, regularly blogging about his findings on winappupdate.com.

On September 21st, Miller pointed out that the Windows Store broke the 2,000 app mark, with 2,079 apps available internationally. Out of this, 83% of those apps are free, compared to 89% back on the 9th of September.

Seeing that the pre-release versions of Windows 8 were downloaded by millions — something that Microsoft proudly and rightfully boasted about — and the fact that Windows 8 will definitely be shipped on millions, if not hundreds of millions of PCs and tablets worldwide, why is developer interest so low? Surely people would be wanting to get their apps in before the OS ships, right? The issue here isn’t that the Windows Store isn’t growing; according to the chart created by Miller, it is growing at a rate of roughly 100 apps per day. The problem is that it definitely isn’t growing fast enough.

This is pretty concerning, as Alex Wilhelm points out:

Thus, for Windows 8 to break the five-figure app threshold – in a world in which it’s six figures or bust – by launch, the operating system must undergo a massive burst of developer release before its debut.

However, looking at the above chart, the Windows Store is growing by under 100 apps per day. Thus, at its current rate, given the time until Windows 8 becomes generally available, we can expect around 5,000 apps to populate its virtual shelves. Remember, however, that not all will be available in all places. Thus, under 5,000 apps for everyone.

Given the pretty much guaranteed widespread adoption of Windows, and the insane effort of evangelists to get developers excited about the platform, what gives? It’s a rather peculiar issue, but for its own sake, more apps need to hit the Windows Store. And more quality developers who already create apps for iOS and Android need to get on board as well if Windows 8 wants to be successful in the tablet space.

People Are Desensitized to Product Evolution

Quite a lot of vocal people on social networks are, anyways.

When Apple executives took the stage yesterday to officially announce the iPhone 5, many were underwhelmed, with a feeling of “that’s it?”

This could partially be due to the early leaks over the past few months that preceded the device, but even that only played a relatively small part in it. It’s not a new phenomenon, and we’ve seen it with, well, almost every iPhone release following the first in 2007. Especially with more incremental updates to the device, such as the 3GS and 4S.

Another part of it could be the questioning of Apple’s approach to products, which was even experienced by the first-generation iPhone. What I mean is, the company doesn’t pride itself on being the first to certain features, but rather the best. This approach may not be favorable to enthusiasts who want to have the latest technology as soon as possible, but it clearly works just fine with the masses. To me, this approach can be debated on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes, the amount of time that it takes for Apple to implement something (the ability to take panoramic photos from the native camera app, for example), can be perplexing. One more significant feature that enthusiasts are questioning the omission of in the iPhone 5 is NFC, which fellow writer Manan wrote about on his Svbtle blog.

When the first iPhone was released, it lacked a number of features that competing smartphones on the market already offered, and yet it was still loved by consumers and clearly changed the face of the mobile industry. Apple’s strategy is to focus on getting core features right — nailing the user experience of said features — then playing catch up to implement other features from competing devices. So yes, part of the criticism — from enthusiasts, at least — is based on “x already has this feature, so why should we care again?”

But there’s another, far more significant factor at play here that has little to do with the actual merits of the evolutionary device itself.

Like a drug where people just can’t seem to once again experience the feeling of the first high, people are hoping to relive the experience of the first iPhone announcement with each new iPhone. People passionate about Apple — and even just technology in general — are hoping that the company will reveal something that’s completely game-changing. Something that changes everything once again. Average consumers also want a very, very significant update to the device to justify purchasing it.

Even though Apple changed almost everything with the new iPhone — increased display, better display, revamped design, better camera, new adapter, battery improvements, new headphones, iOS 6 — people are still underwhelmed because these are all things that they expect. Faster, thinner, better battery life, better display; these are all things that we’ve grown to become entitled to of incremental phone updates.

Here’s an excellent analogy that compares Apple’s school of thought with the Porsche 911. While remaining, in a way, similar to the first incarnation, significant steps forward were taken throughout its gradual evolution.

The iPhone 5 is a colossal — still evolutionary — update that was inevitable, really, but people are still underwhelmed. And it’s not because the new device sucks, or lacks NFC, or has too large/small of a screen. It’s because people are desensitized to these incremental, evolutionary updates — no matter how good they may be — and are waiting for Apple to do something revolutionary.