Category Archives: Microsoft

Patch Tuesday Rolls Around With Six Bulletins

It’s that time of the month again: Today is Patch Tuesday, the one Tuesday of the month where Microsoft releases a set of updates to fix nasty — or mild — security issues with its products, and The Next Web has blogged about the riveting, earth-shattering updates that this month has to offer, along with some shiny charts that Microsoft released to spice up this otherwise boring blog post.

Of the updates — six in all — one is rated as ‘moderate’, four ‘important’, and one ‘critical’. In order of least important to most, at a glance the updates address security issues with DirectWrite, DNS, the Kernel, Visual Studio, Expression Design, and RDP. What’s ‘critical’ about the RDP bug? The Microsoft Security Response Center blog elaborates:

MS12-020 (Windows): This bulletin addresses one Critical-class issue and one Moderate-class issue in Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP). Both issues were cooperatively disclosed to Microsoft and we know of no active exploitation in the wild. The Critical-class issue applies to a fairly specific subset of systems – those running RDP – and is less problematic for those systems with Network Level Authentication (NLA) enabled. That said, we strongly recommend that customers examine and prepare to apply this bulletin as soon as possible. The Critical-class issue could allow a would-be attacker to achieve remote code execution on a machine running RDP (a non-default configuration); if the machine does not have NLA enabled, the attacker would not require authentication for RCE access.

They’ve also included some shiny charts to visually present the fixes in a sleek, attractive manner. Here they are:

Microsoft Hires Former Sony Exec Phil Harrison

Microsoft announced earlier today that it has hired Phil Harrison to be the corporate vice president of its Interactive Entertainment Business team, specifically its European business.

Harrison is no stranger to the gaming industry; beginning his career as the head of development for Mindscape International in 1989, he then went on to join Sony in 1992. Throughout his time at the company from 1992 through 2008, he held various executive positions in both Europe and North America. After departing Sony in 2008, he went on to work for Infogrames Entertainment SA as their “Directeur Général Délégué”. He had also joined the Atari Board of Directors (going on to step down in 2010.) On top of his new job at Microsoft, he is continuing to serve as a special advisor to a venture capital firm that he co-founded, London Venture Partners, LLP.

“I am excited to be joining the senior team at Microsoft at a pivotal time for our industry,” said Harrison. “I am really impressed with the company’s long-term vision for growing the market for interactive entertainment globally and also with the incredible wealth of talent, technology and resources the company has available to succeed.”

With 25 years of experience in the industry under his belt, Harrison certainly is a great addition to Microsoft’s already highly successful IEB division. What will he be doing at the company? He has quite a fair bit of responsibility; the announcement notes that he will be in charge of the Microsoft Studios European organization, along with growing the IEB European business through “strategic partnerships” and by “bringing culturally relevant entertainment experiences to Microsoft platforms, now and in the future.”

Apollo Might Come To Older WP7 Devices… In An Alternate Universe

I hypothesize that there is a timeline where Nanam—me in an alternate universe—has a Samsung Focus from AT&T that sports the latest Windows Phone update known as 8107. In our timeline, I don’t since, well, AT&T won’t release it. If there ever was an award for the worst premiere partner, AT&T is the hands-down winner. Microsoft removed their Where’s My Update page clearly due to pressure from carriers as the page made them look bad and Microsoft could easily wash their hands off the delayed updates problem. For those unaware, Apollo is the codename given to Windows Phone 8, the next major update to Microsoft’s phone OS.

In a conversation with some representatives at Microsoft’s booth at CeBit, Thomas from WP7app.de was told that second and first generation Windows Phone devices will get Apollo. (Some Apollo features won’t work due to hardware limitations.) This confirmation, to me, means little. Even if according to Microsoft, current and older Windows Phone devices support Apollo, there is no guarantee that users will get it. In fact, Microsoft seems to have given up on harassing carriers to push out updates.

via Neowin.net and WMPowerUser

Implications Of No Disc Drive In The Next Xbox

Earlier today news of Microsoft dropping the disc drive in their next version of Xbox started spreading. The news first reported by UK publication—MCVUK—is intriguing. Microsoft backed HD DVD over Bluray (supported by Sony PlayStation) and the move in many ways bombed since Bluray won the format wars. The DVD drive in the Xbox 360 makes the console a complete living room TV accessory, and that is why Microsoft’s decision is interesting. In quote to MCVUK, the source says Microsoft is replacing the optical drive with games on solid state cards.

Here’s what I believe will happen:

  • Bluray drive as an accessory for the Xbox, whenever announced, will support older Xbox consoles
  • Games offered to be downloaded, a process like Steam (if this happens, the 4GB Xbox makes no sense, @keithdsouza agrees)
  • An industry shift within the gaming industry from disc drives to memory cards (like the PlayStation Vita card, as @fishfacemcgee says on twitter, we might be going back to the “cartridge”era.)

The current Xbox supports both USB hard drives and pen drives, at the same time the system offers cloud based game state backup. I wrote recently that the post-PC PC is the TV and the Xbox is of prime importance to Microsoft in this consumer market shift. If Microsoft drops the optical drive, my 4GB console becomes obsolete since, well, it will be interesting to see game publishers offer games on disc drives and Microsoft’s newly supported solid-state cards. It’ll be fun to watch Microsoft in this space, the company has sold more Xbox devices than Apple TVs and has strong Xbox integration in Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

Bing Maps SDK For Metro Style Apps Released

So, now that the shiny new Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been out for some time now, surely you’re eager to develop for it. If any of your preliminary, tinker-with-WinRT apps involves mapping, here’s something to take a look at: On Tuesday, Microsoft released the Bing Maps SDK for Metro-style apps, which packs a set of controls that will let you integrate mapping into your Windows 8 apps quite easily.

For those of you who wish to code your WinRT Metro app using Javascript, you may have run into some issues pertaining to “sandboxing of the web context” when embedding the current AJAX Bing control (during my recent Metro app hackathon with Rafael Rivera and David Golden, I ran into this issue with my app that pulls data down from Reddit.) Not to worry however, the new SDK offers a Javascript control that you can use in your JavaScript WinRT apps without issue. The control is heavily based on the existing AJAX v7 control, but it’s tailored for the “app context” instead of the “web context”. It would be interesting to see what the differences between these controls are.

Unfortunately, some other modules such as directions, traffic, and overlays are currently unavailable, but data can still be rendered through their REST APIs. Head on over here to learn more about developing with the new JavaScript control.

If JavaScript doesn’t tickle your fancy, a control written in C++ was also released for those of you who would prefer to use C#, C++, and Visual Basic along with some XAML. This control offers client vector rendering and full hardware acceleration. And head on over here to learn more about developing with this control.

Microsoft Announce New Lineup Of Artist Edition Mice

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it will be introducing five new designs into its “Artist Edition” lineup of mice, produced by a diverse array of artists from around the world, including Kenzo Minami, Stina Persson, Oh Joy!, Tchmo, and Sally Zou.

The patterns produced by these artists will make their way onto the surface of the Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500 and Arc Touch Mouse. On top of this, Microsoft also lifted the curtain on new special edition colors for the Microsoft Explorer Touch and Wireless Mobile Mouse 3500. The former is available in Dahlia Pink and White, and the latter will be available in Aqua Blue, Citron Green, Cobalt Blue, Dahlia Pink, Flame Red, White and Black.

No specific date was given for when these mice are set to hit the shelves, but Microsoft did note that they’re “coming soon”.

Nokia Has Home Court Advantage With Nokia World 2012

On Tuesday, Nokia announced that it will be holding its annual Nokia World conference on home turf for the first time since the conception of the event in 2006. Set to take place in Helsinki, Finland, the conference will be happening in a city that was just dubbed the World Design Capital of 2012 by the International Council of Societies Of Industrial Design.

Nokia World 2012 will be taking place on September 25 through the 26th, which is interesting timing given that the Windows Phone 8 ‘Apollo’ update is set to touch down at the end of this year; Nokia will almost certainly be showing off, or at the very least discussing its plans for the new software update during the event. It’s only right that they do, it is a conference centered around the company’s latest products.

The event isn’t open to the general public, but it is to bloggers (among analysts, carriers, developers, partners, and Nokia employees of course), so there definitely will be coverage about what the company discusses during the event. Let’s just hope that there’s less Symbian, and more Windows Phone in Nokia’s future.

Microsoft Details Tango Features, Limitations

Through the announcement of the Lumia 610 and ZTE Orbit at the Mobile World Congress, we discovered that the rumors about Tango lowering its standards, so to speak, for lower-end devices were true. But beyond knowing that the minimum amount of requirement memory was being lowered to 256MB, we knew little about what other changes would be made to accommodate lower-performance devices.

Thankfully, LiveSide stumbled upon some stealthily-made updates to the Windows Phone How-To website, in which some new Tango features and limitations were detailed. They took the trouble of rummaging through the documentation and compiling this list of the limitations that will affect these lower-end devices:

  • Windows Phone Marketplace app restrictions – Some processor-intensive apps have memory requirements, and won’t work on phones with 256 MB of RAM. You can check how much memory you have on your phone by tapping Settings > About.
  • Podcast Subscriptions and Video Podcasts – You won’t be able to manage podcast subscriptions on your phone or watch video podcasts if your phone has 256 MB of RAM.
  • Local Scout – You won’t be able to use Local Scout if your phone has only 256 MB of RAM.
  • Fast app switching – This feature will not work if your phone has 256 MB of RAM.
  • SkyDrive automatic photo upload – You won’t be able to upload pictures automatically to SkyDrive if your phone has only 256 MB of RAM.
  • HD video playback – You won’t be able to play video compressed with some of the listed codecs if your phone has 256 MB of RAM.
  • Background agents – To free up RAM for the foreground on 256MB devices, generic background agents (PeriodicTasks/ResourceIntensiveTasks) are disabled.
Some new features were also spotted within the documentation:
  • Better media messaging. Now you can attach multiple pictures and videos—along with voice notes and ringtones—to text messages. You can include a video, picture, voice note, or ringtone in an instant message, too.
  • Location awareness icon. When an app is accessing your phone’s current location information, an icon will appear next to the battery status indicator
  • Export and manage contacts to SIM card. All Windows Phones allows you to import contacts from a SIM card, but only some phones allows you to export contacts to a SIM card, or create and edit individual contacts on the SIM card. For more information, please contact your mobile operator. (Strangely, this feature is only documented on the Chinese version of the website. The English version states that “you can’t save contacts from a Windows Phone to a SIM card.”)
Now, bear in mind that there may be some additional limitations and features that weren’t mentioned in this documentation; it isn’t a complete and comprehensive list. Still, it’s good to get an idea of some of the limitations that these lower-end devices will face.

Dell Tablets To Be Available Same Day As Windows 8

A day after Apple announcing their latest iPad creatively called the new iPad, Dell’s CEO, Michael Dell spoke to Bloomberg about their plans to compete in the tablet space.

Recently, Michael Dell told Forbes that he doesn’t see Dell as a PC company but an end-to-end IT—a significant focus shift for Dell. In his conversation with Aaron Ricadela and Emily Chang, Michael Dell said that they will be competing with the iPad in the enterprise market. Michael Dell’s key statements about the company’s plan for Windows 8 tablets are:

  • Target the enterprise customer with Windows 8 tablets
  • Tablets market a priority for Dell
  • There is demand for a tablet that supports Windows applications
  • Dell tablets to be available same day as Windows 8 launch (this can be significant)
If Dell is planning to launch tablets on launch day, I am assuming other OEM partners will too. I am looking at Samsung in particular. Dell’s focus on enterprise client might give them a market segment to concentrate and target. It will be interesting to see how things play out.

Office 15: Upcoming Features We Know

 

At the Windows 8 Consumer Preview launch event, Microsoft talked about their next Office version, codenamed Office 15. Steven Sinofsky gave us a preview of the product and while the company isn’t talking about the product just yet, a limited test trial is underway. Tom Warren at The Verge has gathered a lot of information about the upcoming Office suite and here’s a list of features we know so far:

  • Bundled Metro versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote on WOA (Windows on ARM) devices
  • Touch Mode for the Office suite
  • Reading Mode in Word (with Resume Reading function that bookmarks where you were last time on the document)
  • Object Zoom (click to zoom into images, charts etc.)
  • Expand and Collapse (hide contents of a paragraph)
  • Insert pictures from Facebook, Flickr
  • Embed and view videos from within Word
  • Open and read PDF like Word files (at least that’s what I understand from Tom’s post)
  • Weather bar in Outlook
  • Broadcast Word documents online (like PowerPoint presentations in Office 2010)
  • Quick Analysis Lens for visualizing data
  • Flash Fill to work with spreadsheets formatting
  • Better Excel and PowerPoint love-making while working with charts
  • Peeks—quick look at schedule, tasks, and contacts
  • Auto updating and viewing of Visio and Excel files within a OneNote notebook
To some these might appear as inconsequential additions, but features like the weather bar, better collaboration, enhancements in working with media, and the touch interface are additions that the Office suite needs. Bundling Office 15 with WOA is probably the single best decision made by Microsoft to sell their tablets.

Microsoft Mentions New Business Features In Windows 8

In a Windows for your Business blog post yesterday, Microsoft began delving into some of the new improvements in Windows 8 that will benefit business and enterprise users of the new OS. Here’s a run-down of what they began touching on in the blog post:

Microsoft Reminds Us That Windows 8 Does Not Compromise

Emphasizing their “no-compromise” motto once again, Microsoft point out that the inclusion of the legacy desktop in Windows 8 is something that will allow you to use the applications you know and love today (presumably on an x86 device; on ARM, you’ll be restricted to Office and the applications bundled in Windows), along with the new tasty Metro goodness. While we can argue endlessly about this approach, the familiarity of Windows 7 can be considered a pro in the business scene.

Windows To Go

IT departments can configure Windows 8 on a bootable USB flash drive, providing users the ability to securely boot into and use the OS anywhere, on any machine. One trend — at least in the case of mobile devices — that has been increasing in the workplace is BYOD (bring your own device). With more people wanting to ditch those nasty BlackBerries for modern alternatives, this is something that more and more companies have been embracing. With Windows To Go, this can also apply to PCs as well, as users would be able to utilize their USB flash drive to boot into a secure Windows 8 corporate environment.

Trusted Boot

Trusted Boot is a new security feature in Windows 8 that essentially signs, measures, and validates the integrity of the boot process. “Antimalware” is also in-advance of non-critical Windows components, allowing it to largely assist with malware prevention.

VDI Re-Imagined

Improvements have been made in Windows 8 that will allow virtualized, thin-clients to have a far more enjoyable rich user experience. You will now be able to enjoy responsive touch capabilities, local USB device support, and improved performance.

On top of its many new (and somewhat controversial) consumer offerings, Windows 8 does also have some lucrative new features that will benefit business and enterprise users. Time will tell just how well it fares in that sector, though.

Rumor: Nokia To Launch ‘AC/DC’ And ‘Prodigy’ Apollo Handsets

According to The Verge, Nokia are readying two new Windows Phone 8 ‘Apollo’ handsets that they plan to launch later this year on AT&T. The Prodigy — aptly codenamed — is geared to be a high-end flagship device that runs the new, major Windows Phone release in all its glory. The AC/DC on the other hand will be a mid-range device.

The device names — Prodigy and AC/DC — are believed to be codenames; they will probably be branded as Lumia devices when they officially hit the shelves later on this year. While we now have an idea of what Nokia may be planning as far as Apollo handsets for AT&T, we’re still in the dark when it comes to their plans for other major carriers in the U.S. are.

We know that Verizon is, for the most part, holding off on Windows Phones until Apollo — in fact, they terminated plans to offer a Nokia handset this January/February. And from what we’re hearing, Sprint have the same ‘wait until Apollo’ thinking when it comes to their Windows Phone strategy.

One thing’s for sure: It’s definitely cropping up to be a major update. Even HTC are holding out until Windows Phone 8 before releasing any serious devices to the market.

Verizon Reportedly Scrapped Plans To Sell A Nokia Windows Phone

According to a report published on Monday, Verizon was contemplating launching a Nokia device — called the ‘Om’ — around January, but axed plans to do so primarily due to Windows Phone’s — at the time — lack of support for Verizon LTE (the Nokia Lumia 900 will likely be launching on AT&T’s own LTE network.)

Thus far, Verizon doesn’t seem to be quite enthusiastic about the Windows Phone platform; they currently only offer one Windows Phone  — the HTC Trophy — which is one of the first Windows Phones ever released. While they probably could release a Windows Phone 7.5 device in the interim, The Verge are hearing that Windows Phone won’t have Verizon LTE support until the big ‘Apollo’ update that’s due later this year.

That being said, it’s truly interesting how massive this update is; in fact, many are speculating that it will only run on new Windows Phone hardware. These behaviors of manufacturers and carriers all seem to line up with this rumor as well. HTC are holding off until Apollo before releasing any serious flagship devices, and Sprint are also in the ‘wait for Apollo’ boat.

Microsoft To Fix Windows Phone SDK On Windows 8

One unfortunate consequence of installing Windows 8 that some developers have encountered is the inability to properly use the Windows Phone SDK on the OS. Of course, it is pre-release software after all — expecting everything to work perfectly is insane — but for those of you crazy people out there who are using it in a production environment, no worries; Microsoft are well-aware of the Windows Phone SDK incompatibility issues and will have more to share on a fix in the “coming weeks.”

On the Windows Phone Developer Blog, Larry Lieberman went ahead and elaborated on the three issues that are currently affecting the Windows Phone SDK on Windows 8: XNA Game Studio (an error message when the user attempts to install; components fail to install), the Windows Phone Emulator (doesn’t run at all), and .NET 3.5 (capability.exe and slsvcutil.exe doesn’t run on Windows 8 unless you separately install .NET 3.5).

On top of Windows 8 incompatibilities, the Windows Phone SDK also has issues with the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview. For those of you who, for whatever reason, actually thought that Visual Studio 11 would not support the Windows Phone SDK when it RTMs, rest assured; Microsoft has confirmed that it will.

Nokia Thinks A Tablet “Would Be Good For The Company”

With Nokia looked upon by many as one of the best-quality Windows Phone handset manufacturers out there, it should come as no surprise that people are hoping that they’ll enter the tablet business.

Though careful to not confirm any plans to produce a device at this time, they did tell Pocket-lint that “a tablet would be good for the company” during a one-on-one briefing at the Mobile World Congress with Niklas Savander, an executive vice-president at the company.

“The tablet is an interesting market for someone like Nokia because it is not cannibalising handset sales, it is cannibalising PC sales. If we are going to be in that market we need to have a [different] point of view, because being the 101st maker isn’t really a commercial or consumer proposition,” said Savandar. He is emphasizing the need to be unique and different from the others, so that Nokia can be a top tablet manufacturer. One can argue that the design and build quality alone would set the company apart from competitors.

He was quick to note that there are no solid product plans yet, though: “It is a potential growth market for someone like Nokia, but there are no plans so far.”

Perhaps, prior to investing in the development of a tablet, they wish to see how Windows 8 — and ARM tablets that will utilize the OS — will fare when it hits the shelves later this year.

With hardware quality being an important factor in purchasing a tablet for some, I think that there’s definitely a market out there for a beautiful, well-built Nokia tablet. Being spoiled by the hardware build quality of iOS devices myself, I hope that there will be comparable options when it comes time to purchase a WOA tablet.