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 Answers Rebranded as Microsoft Community

Microsoft Answers has got a new look and feel as well as a new name starting today. If you head to, you would notice the clean white design, quite a change from the prominently green design before this, and a new name – Microsoft Community – integrating the new Microsoft logo.

Microsoft Answers is now Microsoft Community!

We’ve got a new name and a new look, but the Microsoft Community will continue to provide the same great questions and answers that you rely on to get the most out of your technology.

Microsoft Community are community-supported forums where Microsoft users and customer support agents from around the world connect to share ideas and solve problems. The site allows users to find answers, ask questions, and share their expertise. Users can submit their questions, and other users and agents post helpful replies and step-by-step instructions or add on to the common issues. The support agents moderate the discussions and mark useful replies as answers.

The community is structured in to eight categories based on products and technology: Hotmail, Messenger & SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, Office, Office for Mac. Virus and Malware, Windows, Windows Phone, and Zune.

While the design is neat and visually appealing, this looks like a quick rebranding exercise only. The URL is still At the moment, directs to Microsoft homepage and Microsoft may want to leverage the same. The categories are simply migrated and there has been no effort to refresh the same. For example, ‘Hotmail’ is not replaced by ‘Outlook’ and the URL of this category says ‘windowslive’. Ouch!

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 Announces an All New MSN for Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft has announced a radical refresh of MSN, one of the most popular media destinations on the Internet, with the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft’s flagship website gets about 480 million visitors per month worldwide and is one of the biggest portals on the Internet. The new version is built from the ground up to harness the capabilities that Windows 8 and IE10 offer and built for touch.

The new MSN is a full-screen experience and the user experience is clean and intuitive. Because Internet Explorer 10 was designed to take advantage of the system architecture of Windows 8, Microsoft promises blazing fast speed along with the consistent visual layout providing instant access to the information you want.

Microsoft also intends to establish itself as a small media operation creating its own content. While MSN would aggregate news from premier sources like Reuters and Associated Press, it has been building up a news team on its own. Microsoft sold its 50% stake in news website in July to NBCUniversal, and hence would focus all the capabilities in content creation and aggregation here.

The updated site would be available from October 26, the official launch date of Windows 8. Here are a few expectations that I’d have from the rollout:

  • The design is rolled out to all MSN sites globally simultaneously. Several worldwide MSN sites are slow to adapt a design update.
  • The design is consistent across all sections and sub-sites. Even after the last design refresh, few sections of MSN continue to live with the older design.
  • While Reuters and Associated Press are as good as news sources can get, I’d like to see more content partnerships for lifestyle and other channels; something like MSN Health.

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

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.

Microsoft’s Developer Marathon in India Sets Guinness World Record

Microsoft’s Windows AppFest held at KTPO, Bangalore, has set the Guinness World Record for “Most Participants in a Software Development Marathon in One Location”. A little more than two and a half thousand (2567 to be precise) developers poured their heart and soul for eighteen hours to design, build, and test new Windows 8 apps.


Microsoft has been holding developer events across the world in an attempt to energize the developer ecosystem for Windows 8 ahead of its launch. Windows 8 features an entirely new class of touch-screen friendly apps that leverage web technologies. While Windows 8 makes developing Windows apps easier than ever before, it also eschews backward compatibility. Old apps will still run on desktops, but only in the classic mode, and in ARM tablets, they won’t run at all. Microsoft is making a bold move by redefining what we mean by Windows Apps, and its success hinges on developer participation.

AppFest is an initiative to get developers familiarized and involved with Windows 8, as well as to raise awareness about the opportunities offered by Windows 8. The Bangalore event was filled with activities throughout the day and night including performances from DJRink, rock band Swarathma and morning yoga sessions. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, remarked “The spectacle of thousands of developers toiling through the night has demonstrated great commitment to their work.”








[ Photos courtesy of Abhishek Baxi and Microsoft ]