Upgrade To Windows 8 Pro For Only $19.99/Rs 1,999

Yesterday, Microsoft unveiled its much-awaited successor to Windows 7 – Windows 8. The company has been working hard on Windows 8 for the last few months, and aims to change how people use a computer with its new Modern UI, inspired from its own Windows Phone 7 UI.

Unlike Apple which usually charges around 20$ for its operating system upgrades, Microsoft is known to charge a couple of hundred dollars for a Windows license. Thankfully, with Windows 8, Microsoft has kicked off a new promotional campaign that will allow existing Windows XP, Vista or 7 users to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $19.99 or only Rs 1,999 for us Indians.

The promotional offer is, however, only valid from October 26th to 31st January, 2013 and is limited to five licenses per customer. Keep in mind that this promotional offer is only for users who already have a genuine license of Windows XP, 7 or Vista and are interested in upgrading to Windows 8. The full terms and conditions for the promotional offer and other information are available here.

If you got a new Windows based PC after June 2 with Windows 7 pre-loaded, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for only $14.99 or Rs. 700 INR. Head over to Windows Upgrade Offer to register yourself and get a Windows 8 Pro license copy for cheap.

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 Reports Earnings: $16 Billion in Revenue, $4.5 Billion in Net Profit

Microsoft has announced its earnings for Q3 2012 (Q1 FY2013). It generated $16.01 billion in quarterly revenue, and operating income of $5.31 billion. It made a net profit of $4.47 billion. The revenue numbers don’t include $1.36 billion in deferred revenue related to Windows 8 upgrades and pre-sales.

Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, said:

“The launch of Windows 8 is the beginning of a new era at Microsoft. Investments we’ve made over a number of years are now coming together to create a future of exceptional devices and services, with tremendous opportunity for our customers, developers, and partners.”

Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s COO, said:

“We’re incredibly excited to be approaching general availability of Windows 8 and Windows RT. We’ve already certified more than 1,000 systems for Windows 8 from our hardware partners, ranging from the smallest tablets and convertibles to touch-enabled ultrabooks and all-in-ones to the most powerful desktop computers.”

Microsoft’s Business Division posted $5.5 billion in revenue in the last quarter, a marginal decline of 2% year-over-year. SharePoint, Exchange and Lync continued to show double-digit revenue growth. Operating income was slightly lower at $3.646 billion.

Server and Tools continued to grow, generating around $4.55 billion in quarterly revenue, up 8% year-over-year. Operating income increased to $1.748 billion.

Windows made $3.24 billion in quarterly revenue, down 33% year-over-year. This is expected to show a significant rise this quarter as Windows 8 launches, right before the holiday season. Operating income nearly halved to $1.646 billion.

Online Services was a money sink as usual. It reported revenue of $697 million, up 9% year-over-year, but had nearly $364 million in operating losses.

Entertainment & Devices reported revenue of $1.946 billion, with an operating profit of $19 million. With Windows Phone 8 launching this fall, Microsoft is banking on it to drive revenue growth in the coming quarters, but that seems unlikely.

Microsoft ended the quarter with around $66.6 billion in cash. cash equivalents and short-term investments.

via Microsoft – SEC

Google To Hold An Android Event On October 29th

Today, Google has sent out press invites for an Android related event, which the company is going to hold on October 29th in NYC at 10AM.

The invite from Google contains a picture of Google Now welcome screen, with the line “The playground is open” written in the search bar. It might be possible that Google is opening up the Nexus program for other Android OEMs? Or maybe the company will work on adding AOSP support for all the existing high-end Android devices from various OEMs?

Google will also be unveiling a new Nexus handset at the event, manufactured by LG this time. The leaks and rumors suggest that the Nexus handset from LG will be known as the Nexus 4, and will pack a quad-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Krait processor, Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, a 8MP camera, and a 4.7-inch IPS HD display. The new Nexus handset will also be accompanied by a new Android version, 4.2 in all probability, and hopefully, a 32GB variant of the Nexus 7.

For all unlucky souls like us, Google will also be live streaming the event at youtube.com/Android.

Microsoft is also holding an event on October 29th where it will be unveiling Windows Phone 8.

Xbox Price Cut By $50, Holiday Bundles Announced

Today, Microsoft has begun gearing up for the holidays as they’ve announced a $50 price cut for all their current system bundles. All major retailers including Amazon, Best Buy, Toys ‘R Us and others will be taking part in this price cut. As of now, the only Xbox that isn’t getting the price drop is the baseline 4GB Xbox without Kinect. These price cuts are said to be for a limited time only, so make sure to purchase your Xbox soon.

Microsoft has also announced that they will be selling multiple holiday bundles this year. One of these buncles will run you $399.99 and will include a 250GB Xbox with Kinect, Kinect Sports 2, Kinect Adventures, Dance Central 2 and a month of Xbox Live Gold. Microsoft has also announced two $299.99 Xbox bundles. One includes a 4GB Xbox, Kinect, Kinect Adventures, Kinect Disneyland Adventures and one month of Xbox Live Gold. The other $299.99 bundle includes a 250GB Xbox along with  Skyrim, Forza 4 Essentials Edition and, of course, a month of Xbox Live Gold. As of now, we’re not totally sure as to when these bundles will go on sale, though it should be soon.

Finally, Microsoft has also put their Halo 4 edition Xbox up for preorder with a shipment date of November 6th.

Source: Major Nelson via BGR

Internet Explorer 10 Coming to Windows 7 Next Month

Internet-Explorer-10Microsoft has a horrible track record when it comes to supporting older operating systems. Now, don’t get me wrong – they continue publishing patches and hotfixes for a Windows release for several years. However, when it comes to supporting older operating systems in their software, Microsoft often plays it dirty. For example, Internet Explorer 9 introduced a host of new features, but was limited to only Windows 7 and Vista. Similarly, Windows Live dropped support for XP in 2009 with Wave 3. This stands in stark contrast with software from third parties like Opera Software, which continues to support even Windows 2000.

The story is no different with Internet Explorer 10. IE 10 will be baked into Windows 8, and will arrive for Windows 7 in November. However, there is a big caveat. Windows 7 users will only get a preview release next month, and will have to wait further for the final release. Not only is Microsoft ignoring older operating systems like Vista, but it is already treating Windows 7 users as second class citizens.

Microsoft Acquires MarketingPilot to Bolster Dynamics CRM

Microsoft seems to be back on a mini acquisition spree. It acquired a cloud storage vendor, StorSimple, earlier this week. Today, it made yet another small acquisition, a marketing software company called MarketingPilot. MarketingPilot makes automated marketing solutions which could be integrated with Microsoft’s own offerings like Dynamics CRM.

MarketingPilot offers an integrated marketing management solution for lead and advertisement buying management. It was apparently a quick acquisition and a rather small one.

While Microsoft continues to focus on the Windows 8 launch, it also works to improve its enterprise offerings, which form a major chunk of its overall revenue.

With Dynamics CRM, Microsoft competes with Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com among others.

Here’s the entire press release by Microsoft:

Microsoft Dynamics CRM Steps Forward in the Marketing Automation Space

The Microsoft Dynamics CRM team continues to execute against a vision to help organizations better attract, retain, and grow their customers. Our goal is to deliver more compelling finished applications, modern user experiences with simplified user interfaces, and an open and extensible platform for Cloud and On-premise deployments.

With the explosion of new channels, emerging markets, and shifts to online and digital customer engagement, there’s tremendous opportunity ahead in the marketing automation space. In fact, according to IDC, “Marketing Automation is expected to grow faster than any other segment of CRM over the next 4 years,” and according to Gartner, “by 2017, CMOs may have a bigger IT budget than CIOs do.” More and more, marketers are being asked to drive the overall strategy and execution of customer interactions across multiple channels and touch points, and to measure ROI on those interactions.

As part of these industry trends and emerging business opportunities, I am excited to announce that Dynamics CRM has closed on the acquisition of MarketingPilot. MarketingPilot provides Integrated Marketing Management solutions that allow organizations to better understand their customers, manage and streamline marketing operations and create automated and measurable multi-channel marketing campaigns. This acquisition is a very exciting step forward for us, and will accelerate our ability to better meet the needs of CMO’s through rich business intelligence, and better enable marketers to successfully plan, execute, monitor, and optimize customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels, and measure ROI.

Microsoft, along with our partners, has been helping marketing organizations for several years now. Customers like Volvo Construction Equipment and the Portland Trailblazers are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM today to better attract and retain their customers. We are committed to helping marketers plan, execute, monitor and optimize customer interactions across digital, social and traditional channels and measure the impact on revenue. With this acquisition, we believe we will be well positioned to deliver highly valuable marketing automation solutions to new and existing customers.

Please join me in welcoming MarketingPilot employees and customers to the Microsoft Business Solutions Division and the broader Microsoft family. At Convergence, this coming March, we will further describe our product vision in this area, including our plans with MarketingPilot.

Today’s news is a welcome step forward for Microsoft Dynamics CRM and our customers. We look forward to MarketingPilot contributions in this exciting emerging space, and delivering highly valuable marketing automation solutions to our customers and partners.

Bob Stutz
Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Dynamics CRM

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.

Xbox Music – a Great Service with Some Asterisks

I hate to focus on the missing aspects at the time of the launch of a great new service, but as a fan of Xbox Music (i.e., it its original name, Zune Music), I can’t help shake my head at the things that it does not do. I really like how Xbox Music looks and cannot wait to try it, but here’s hoping Microsoft works on quickly fixing these things.

First, a quick primer on what the newly announced service: Xbox Music is an all-you-can-eat music consumption service along with a music store all tied to a cloud-based sync service to enable your music and playlists to roam across devices. For now, these devices are Windows 8 PCs (including Windows RT devices), Windows Phone 8 phones and Xbox 360. The Xbox Music Pass, which enables free streaming of the entire catalog would cost $9.99 per month for phones and Xbox, and it would be free (ad-supported) for Windows 8 PCs and Windows RT devices. Additionally for using it on the Xbox you also need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, which comes with “tens of thousands” of music videos in addition to the streaming music. See my colleague Manan Kakkar’s take on Xbox Music here.

As you can see, everything is great about the service if you live within the Microsoft ecosystem, and if you are planning to buy one of the new devices (PCs, tablets, phones) launching this Fall. iOS and Android support is “coming soon”. So is the social piece, where you can share what you are listening to (and presumably, more) with your friends. Both of the these missing pieces are big for similar reasons: adoption and viral marketing.

First of all, let me clarify that there is no single service that provides what Xbox Music provides. While Pandora provides music discovery and streaming, it does not allow on-demand play nor does it have a music store. Rdio and Spotify provide on-demand streaming and a little bit of music discovery (via social and “radio”) but they don’t have their own stores. iTunes has perhaps the world’s largest store but it does not have a subscription plan. Xbox Music has all of the combined features, so you can actually ditch multiple services and use just Xbox Music.

However, one of the reason Rdio and Spotify are so popular is the social aspect. Friends share what they are listening to, making it easier to discover new music and also share the same with others. The other major factor of their success is that they are available on pretty much all major platforms in some shape or form, which in turn helps the social features even more – I don’t need to have all my friends on Windows 8, for example, in order to share my playlists with them.

iOS and Android being the fastest growing platforms today, are almost a requirement for any service which has ambitions of getting millions of users. Not having social is not as bad, but it helps in more than one way, so it is also quite a big missing piece. There is hope that this “new Microsoft” with its rapid pace of updating their products and services, is able to get these holes filled sooner than later.

Another glaring ommision is the concept of an Xbox Music Family Pass. In order to use the service optimally, you would want to use your own Microsoft account so that it can cater the selections to your taste. However, unlike the Xbox LIVE Gold accounts, there is no Family Pass for Xbox Music Service. This is a bummer because in a household, there is very likely going to be 2, 3 or 4 individuals who may want to use the service and having to pay $40 per month is not really a trivial decision. I was really hopeful that the lack of a Family Pass for Zune Music Pass would be remediated by an Xbox Music Family Pass. Looks like it was not to be. At least, not yet.

Setting those things aside, I think bundling Xbox Music for free on Windows PCs is a huge benefit, especially for Windows RT. For those not enthused by Windows 8/RT, who end up asking “why buy a Windows RT tablet instead of iPad or Android”, this becomes yet another feature in favor of Windows RT. With Xbox Music included for (ad-supported) free and Office Home and Student RT which comes bundled on Windows RT tablets, you have the world’s most popular productivity suite and on paper, the world’s only music service of its kind, included with a Windows RT tablet. For what it’s worth, I don’t think Android tablets should be part of this discussion at all given that the two successful devices so far have been 7″ (Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire), which don’t really compete with iPad or Windows RT.

So, in hindsight, the iOS/Android presence may actually be deliberately delayed, so that the case for buying a Windows RT tablet this holiday season is clearer. I like that pitch quite a lot because even if the Windows RT tablets are priced the same as an iPad, they will end up offering way more than an iPad can offer, and that, without adding the complexity of having a “full-blown PC”.

Xbox Music is a good move by Microsoft to showcase their execution of “devices and services” strategy, which previously would have been referred to as three screens and a cloud. Beautiful-looking services being delivered on well-made hardware, with roaming features so you can enjoy them the same way regardless of where you enjoy them? Now, that may actually be magical.

Devices, Services and the Modern Microsoft

In a letter addressed to Microsoft’s shareholders, customers, partners and employees, CEO Steve Ballmer laid out the direction in which Microsoft was about to embark upon, calling it a fundamental shift for the company. The gist of the change is that instead of being a software company, Microsoft was focused on becoming a devices and services company. This is a big shift in strategy and could very well be the defining moment for Microsoft as well as Ballmer.

Services

A lot of pundits have focused too much on the devices part of the strategy, and that is justified, given that traditionally Microsoft has not built hardware except the Xbox and some keyboards, mice and web cameras. The Surface tablet was introduced as “the first in a series of devices” that Microsoft intends to make. That statement, along with the phrase “devices of various form factors” in the letter would imply that Microsoft may in fact make other devices like phones, or smaller tablets in e-reader form factor.

However, I want to focus on the services part of the strategy. Microsoft is essentially saying that all the software it is making, is now going to be delivered as a service. We already see many of the server products being delivered as a service via Office 365, Azure, etc. This is a tremendous achievement because it is almost completely opposite of how Microsoft used to make money – boxed software or licensed software delivered as a product. Now, they have been able to pitch various types of models for the delivery as a service, like pure service-based delivery as Office 365, pure on-premise delivery as in Exchange Server (or any of the other servers) and the hybrid model where some part of the infrastructure stays on-premise and some gets delivered as a service.

It is not just the “business” side of things that have become the focus of services. On the consumer side Microsoft completely revamped their much-underutilized SkyDrive cloud storage service. Not only did they make it easier to use, but they made native apps available on all mobile platforms. See the devices angle that others have not focused much on? You can enjoy the benefits of their service across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Similarly, they launched a brand new, extremely good-looking mail service Outlook.com, which takes the negativity associated with Hotmail brand away from Microsoft. The web app works nicely on all modern browsers, including mobile browsers on iPad and Android tablets. They also made Outlook.com work with Exchange Active Sync (EAS) so all modern smartphones can connect to it with 2-way push on email, contacts and calendars. Another huge service that is coming soon is the Xbox Music and Xbox Video, combined with their cross-platform app Xbox SmartGlass.

The other services piece for Microsoft is Windows Azure, both as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS). This area of focus is not brand new, but the pace at which the teams at Microsoft are innovating and competing (on price) shows that they are really serious about these services as well. They are investing a lot of time and money in improving the feature-set and filling the holes that the modern developers (read: not only Windows developers) have reported as crucial for them to adopt Windows as a development platform. Adding support to open source software and frameworks to Azure is a good example of how Microsoft is saying they are a service provider which does not have any favorites when it comes to tools and technologies. The market sure seems to like it because Azure has gained not just a lot of new customers (as Microsoft claims), but they have started reversing the negativity associated with Microsoft when it comes to the open source community.

Massive Change

As you can see, there is a lot of change Microsoft has stepped into, and these things are not going to start showing results immediately. When you are moving an oil tanker like Microsoft, turning it is not quick, nor easy. However, the speed at which Microsoft has pulled off this change, is amazing. They have realized that Windows is not going to have the same clout as it used to have in the 90s. They cannot force themselves onto customers, partners or consumers. Everyone has choices now, and more importantly, as tablet and smartphone sales have proven, people prefer smaller, simpler, mobile devices over larger, more powerful, but more complex devices like laptops. Microsoft knew they had to quickly retool themselves, or face irrelevance.

“PC” Market Or “Computing Devices” Market?

The PC market is now morphing into a more general category of “computing devices” market. Some prefer laptops, some prefer desktops, many prefer tablets, and some are even ok with just their smartphones. In this new world, Windows (which I consider to be 8, RT and Phone combined) would probably end up at no more than 30-40% while iOS and Android take similar shares. With focus on services that work across devices of all form factors, and more importantly, across all OSes, Microsoft is positioned well to take advantage of the new wave of computing.

Devices

Finally, as for the devices part of the strategy, it is important to note that while Microsoft may make their own devices in addition to the Surface tablets, they are definitely not going to become a hardware company. Making hardware at scale is very hard, especially in today’s world of supply chains spanning many companies and geographies, and hardware design needing specialized materials to get the most efficient devices made. I firmly believe Microsoft said devices in the letter to denote the importance of being present on all devices, some of which will showcase their own OS, while some may be running other OSes.

It is a bold strategy. One may argue this is probably the only thing Microsoft could have done to keep their enterprise customers happy while moving forward into the new computing era along with the consumers who have started embracing competing platforms in large numbers. By defining themselves as a company that provides services across all types of devices, Microsoft is ensuring they are built to avoid the irrelevance they would be relegated to if they stayed stuck to the old process of providing incremental updates to all their products.

Looking forward to seeing what happens this holiday season, and more importantly, how Microsoft reinvents itself as it starts providing updates to its entire line of services in the next year.