Category Archives: Microsoft

Surface with Windows RT: Likes

After an agonizing wait, I finally got a chance to play with my new Surface with Windows RT, or as I will call it for sanity’s sake, Surface RT or simply, Surface. It has been a few days, and I thought instead of writing a full-fledged review, I’d focus on some key likes and a long list of dislikes. Nits that I picked. I discuss the likes here, and dislikes in a second post.

Surface RT

Overall, I really like the device. I was determined to evaluate its use as an iPad replacement in my house. To be clear, in our house, the iPad is used for Facebook, Twitter, web browsing (between my wife and I), and some Netflix/PBS Kids/kid games (our kids, 4 and 6 years old). We are not using the iPad as a computer, or a “creation device”. It is a pure consumption device, unless you call writing a tweet, “creation”.

In that use case, the Surface has ably fit in place of the iPad for the kids. The kids have enough games that they know of, and enough games that are new, that they actually like using the Surface. My wife has not used it much, but that is because at this point of time, she considers the Surface “my baby” so she is almost afraid to some extent, of using it. However, it is only a matter of time :-)

Last night, I saw my kids fight to get to use the Surface. Mind you, we got our second iPad 2 just so they can both have their own. So, despite having two iPads, they preferred to use the Surface. Granted, it could be a novelty thing, but still, it bodes well for me that they are actually liking the device with all its oddities, like the 16:9 aspect ratio.

I replaced my iPad too, almost

As for me, the Surface has almost replaced the iPad. The big gap at this point? Twitter app! I like Tweetro, but because of their recent issue with API token limit, I was unable to sign in on the Surface despite having used it (extensively) on my Windows 8 desktop. The other two big names, Rowi and MetroTwit are both far behind what I would call a basic Twitter experience, so to me they are unusable. I am forced to use the People app and Twitter website meanwhile, and that makes for a highly sub-optimal experience for a “power user” like yours truly.

The other small issue which makes me use the iPad when the PC is not being used, is access to my work email and calendar. My work has an app which allows me to access Exchange with native iOS mail, calendar and reminders apps. They haven’t yet provisioned it for Windows 8/RT.

Besides those two missing pieces, I am extremely happy with the device. I haven’t yet experienced some of the performance issues that many others have experienced, nor have I found any major app missing. It is thin enough, and light enough for me to use it like I used my iPad. (Important to note, my iPad has a strong Speck case which makes the iPad feel heavier.)

Windows 8 (and Windows RT)

Some part of why I like the Surface so much is due to Windows 8. For example, all my settings including my lock screen image, theme, pinned websites, favorites, web history, etc. automatically came through as I signed in with my Microsoft account. This is because I had set up my account and settings on my desktop PC earlier and set it up so all those settings were synced across devices via the cloud.

Also, thanks to Xbox Music Match, a service that is yet to officially roll out but works anyway, all my music was available on the Surface as soon as I signed in with my Microsoft account. This includes some playlists I created just the day before. Again, this is because my music was matched from my desktop PC (which in turn is connected to my home server where all my music, photos and videos are stored). In addition, I was able to impress some of my family members by searching for and playing a bunch of songs on-demand via the Xbox Music subscription service. While I have the Xbox Music Pass, the unlimited streaming (with some, ahem, limits) is automatically included with all Windows 8 and Windows RT devices.

The last thing I want to mention why I love the Surface and why I replaced my iPad with it? Office. I use Excel and Word in addition to OneNote, for various purposes. Things like tracking expenses, creating birthday lists, sending formal letters, etc. are all done on Excel, Word and OneNote. Having “real” Office on my tablet with a constant sync to SkyDrive (which allows me to collaborate with my wife for some of those items) is a huge benefit. Not what I would call the #1 reason to buy a Surface, but definitely a huge plus when considering a Surface over an iPad.

Suffice to say, I really like my Surface. I think it is money well spent, for my use of such a device. Having said that, there are issues I have with the device and I list them in my next post.

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.)

How to Order a Surface in India

While Microsoft has made it’s flagship Windows RT tablet – Surface – available in seven countries, India has been left out from the list. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India gave no definite answers on the availability when I put the question to him at the launch event of Windows 8. While the strategic decision to keep Surface off India might please the OEMs in India, it certainly is irking the Windows 8 fans and early technology adopters in the country. 

Unless you have an uncle or a good friend travelling from the US who can carry a Surface for you, here are all the ways to buy a Surface RT online in India. While all the three options promise a similar delivery time-frame (around two weeks), there is no option yet to buy either the Type Cover or other Surface accessories.

eBay India

The premier shopping portal for anything that’s not available on the retail shelves, eBay of course was the first to have Surface listings. The price starts at INR 38,490 for the base 32GB model without a cover. The popular seller also lists Surface with Touch Cover in different colors. Amongst the three options, eBay is the only one that provides EMI facility for certain credit cards.

Tradus

Tradus.com, another one of India’s growing online malls, also lists Surface at a similar price of INR 38,840 (Link). There is no listing for the product with keyboard cover though.

ShopYourWorld

ShopYourWorld, an online store that offers Indian consumers the ability to shop from a wide range of products from the US and the UK, also lists the base 32GB model for INR 36,783 (Link). Again, like Tradus, there is no option to buy the tablet with the keyboard cover.

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.

Three Important Pages From Microsoft’s Windows 8 Booklet

Microsoft representative are quite enthusiastic about showing Windows 8 and OEM devices to people at Times Square. Microsoft understands that Windows 8 has a learning curve, and the representatives are asking everyone who walks up to them if they’ve used Windows 8.

At the stations, Microsoft has Windows 8 booklets, 20 pages of images and text elaborating on the various new features in Windows 8. The first 3 pages are the same how-to that is shown when you run Windows 8 for the first time, however, the last 3 pages are the important ones. The 3 pages have a list of 10 interaction features and how they can be performed using touch, keyboard or mouse. Useful for both pro and regular Windows users, these lists should get everyone up to speed with how to efficiently interact with the new Windows 8:

Microsoft Releases Windows 8 Cover Photo App For Viral Facebook Promotions

With Windows 8 available to download and purchase, Microsoft wants its users to tell their friends about Windows 8. And what better way than Facebook. Microsoft has a Facebook app that generates an image of the new start screen using your Facebook information, and this image can be used as your cover photo. You don’t need to be running Windows 8 for the app but you can get a customized Metro start screen as your Facebook cover picture.

Creating the cover pic is a simple one-click process with the app doing most of the work. Once a cover has been created, you have the option of changing any of the pictures and the color:

Microsoft has done similar promotions for Windows Phone 7. An app loaded Facebook information into a Windows Phone 7 mockup and let users try what Windows Phone 7 is like. The promotion isn’t useless since Windows 8 has Facebook integration such as adding Facebook friends to the people hub and Facebook Messaging–which happens to be one of my favorite feature.

Microsoft Shows The Future Of Times Square & Art

Microsoft spared no expense for their Windows 8 launch in New York City. The street in front of their Times Square pop-up store was cordoned off, Times Square is filled with display stations showcasing Windows 8 PCs and tablets by partners, and there were a lot of sales people. As any New York City tourist or local would tell you, Times Square is filled street side sketch artists. Every street has them, and the next one is always right around the corner. You sit on a chair with a consistent facial expression while a guy uses old school pencil & paper to sketch a portrait of you. Then there are the more creative spray painters that will create beautiful portraits of New York using spray paint, it’s just fun watching them do it. So how does the future look like for these creative geniuses? Well, Microsoft’s New York City promotion blitz gave tourists a sneak peak at this:

For those who’ve been following Microsoft, this isn’t new. We’ve seen this before but getting this technology out there, in front of people–showing them what is possible with Windows 8, it’s a statement from Microsoft. Big screen multitouch devices that can be used to create art just like it is done on the street today but with more capabilities because it is all digital, makes a good sales pitch for Windows 8.