New Windows 8 Video Demonstrates a Significantly Enhanced Explorer

Thanks to the numerous leaked Windows 8 builds and Microsoft’s demo at D9, we already have a fair bit of idea regarding what to expect in Windows 8. We know that Windows 8 will feature a new Metro inspired full-screen interface, ribbon interface for Windows explorer, new touchscreen gestures, pattern logon, enhanced task manager, in-built PDF reader and webcam apps, and an app store. However, there is still a lot that Microsoft has managed to keep under wraps.

A few minutes back, Microsoft published a new video to demonstrate the enhanced new Explorer that will be shipped with Windows 8. We already knew that Microsoft will be using the Ribbon UI in the new Explorer. However, the real charm lies in the details.


Windows Explorer already includes plenty of nifty little features. However, most of these features are rarely used by users as they are hidden in obscure locations. Microsoft’s telemetry data suggests that the top 10 explorer commands form over 80% of the explorer usage. The new Ribbon interface will put these commonly used functionalities front and center. At the same time, the Microsoft is also attempting to reveal lesser known features through tabs in the Ribbon UI. Check out the video embedded below to see the new Explorer in action.


At first glance the Windows 8 explorer seems to offer the perfect blend of simplicity and power. Advanced users will appreciate features like copy path, launch Command Prompt in Administrator mode, and context aware searching. However, the simple and logical organization of all of these features into tabs will ensure that novices aren’t scared away.

How Microsoft Capitalized on the Death of webOS and Attracted 1000+ webOS Developers to Windows Phone 7

Right after HP announced that it would be discontinuing webOS operations, effectively killing the TouchPad and webOS phones, Microsoft made a very smart move.

Brandon Watson, Director for Windows Phone 7, immediately tweeted this:

To Any Published WebOS Devs: We’ll give you what you need to be successful on #WindowsPhone, phones, dev tools, and training, etc.

With Windows Phone 7 still not as popular as Android or iOS among developers , this was a great initiative by Microsoft to strengthen the numbers of its army of developers.

Soon after he tweeted this, there was a deluge of replies from published webOS developers who had applications on the webOS store.

Today, Brandon confirmed that he had received more than 500 emails from webOS developers about the Windows Phone 7 offer, in less than 22 hours after the first tweet.

I have >500 emails in just the last 22 hours. Had to rethink the algorithm for responding to all.

With webOS dead, Android and iOS are the only two major platforms out there. However, iOS is locked on to Apple devices, and Android may now be perceived as impartial, thanks to Google’s Motorola acquisition. Windows Phone 7 may be the only major platform available for hardware manufacturers who don’t want to develop their own software.

Lately, Microsoft has been getting along really well with the developer community. Moves like these will help Microsoft, which has an improved image now in developer circles. Microsoft may be the greatest beneficiary of the untimely demise of webOS.

Update: Over 1000 webOS developers have contacted Brandon now.

Microsoft Releases “We’re In” Bing App

Microsoft has unwrapped a new Bing app that goes by the clever and self-explanatory name of “We’re In“. The app allows  a user to send out invitations to selected friends for an event. An expiration date for each invitation can be toggled in order to turn off location sharing at a predefined time. Once launched, the app allows you to select a list of people to invite to your event along with details, such as location, time or other personal notes.

Once a user accepts the invitation and sends a reply, their location is visible to you and vice-versa. This works similar to how Google Latitude does, displaying all your friends on a map relative to your location.  Each user can control their invitation expiration and can view other friends in the group. This makes for a much easier way to manage who can see where you are and when they can see where you are.

The unofficial motto behind Windows Phone is “get in, get out, get back to life’. This app is a perfect example of the route that Microsoft has taken with designing Windows Phone and the services they provide to users. They reduce the amount of required  interactions in order to make getting information extremely fast and extremely simple. The newest update to Windows Phone, dubbed Mango, brings along some refreshing changes  that enhance the user experience and ultimately aligns Windows Phone with it’s competitors.

Unfortunately the We’re In app is only available to users in the United States (due to “location data regulations”, as per the Bing Team) and it is not available for all current devices.  In the mean time, users who are looking for a cross-platform and completely free service that has very similar functionality should check out Glympse.

Get Quick Answers Using Excel’s Status Bar

There is hardly any debate to the fact that Excel is an extremely powerful tool. It can do complex formulas and calculations at mind-numbing speed. All this being said, however, in all the years I have worked in IT, I have observed that most people use it for a basic set of functions. I believe that Microsoft recognized this as well. They made it very easy for us to get answers to our common questions. The problem is, they put this tool in an uncommonly used place. Today, I would like to introduce you to Excel’s “Status Bar” and to show you how it can make your life a little easier.

What is a status bar you ask? Well, it is way down at the bottom of the screen. You know, the place that no one hardly ever looks. In the picture below, you can see Excel’s main window with the status bar highlighted.

Main Window

Several things happen in the status bar that often go unnoticed. For instance, when you hit the “Caps Lock” key on your keyboard, an indicator shows up in the status bar. It is also home to some pretty helpful tools that can help you get quick answers from your spreadsheet.

Let’s begin by selecting a column of numbers like the ones pictured below. One of the most common tasks in a spreadsheet is to sum up a column of numbers. Notice that Excel makes this very easy. Below, you will see what the status bar shows when you have a column of numbers highlighted. By default, Excel shows you the average, sum, and count of the selected numbers.

Status Bar

If you right-click the status bar, you will get a context menu which will allow you to customize which fields you need displayed.  In the picture below, you can see the different options that you have. Notice the red circled area. Here, you can add other popular functions to the status bar.


Let’s add minimum and maximum to the status bar and see what we get. If you highlight your data as pictured below, you now will notice that the status bar gives some additional information. Highlighted below, you can see the “Min” and “Max” functions. Sometimes it is nice just to be able to glean out what the smallest and largest numbers in a spreadsheet are. The status bar makes this very simple to find.

Min Max

I hope this tutorial helps to simplify some of the common tasks you perform in Excel. Of course, if you enjoy typing “=Sum(H1:K8)” every time you want to get a Sum in a column, then this tip probably isn’t for you. ;)

Let me know what you think about this tip. I love questions and comments.

Microsoft: The Future is Delicious

Remember the Bill Gates-Seinfeld ads that were aired before the popular I’m a PC’ campaign by Microsoft? The ads, with no product mention or any geeky conversation ended with the line: The future is delicious’.

I love the line. Yes, I do. Concept cars, technology vision videos, and even the scenarios in science fiction movies have been reasons of many of orgasms I have had. Anyway, do you notice a pattern in all these desires? The keywords are: concept, vision, and fiction. Well, that hurts. However, Microsoft’s peek into the future is built around current products and technologies and looks a certain reality in few months.

In the past, the focus for living room has been entertainment and electronic appliances like home-theatre systems and entertainment/gaming consoles like Xbox. The time has now changed and along with consumer interests the industry has also seen a transformation in terms of technologies and offerings. Traditional broadcast and cable TV have made way for time-shifted and on-demand TV via DVRs and other devices. DVD rentals have been replaced by on-demand movie delivery via services such as Netflix and Hulu. Watching videos on sites like YouTube almost equals the time spent watching TV series.

Xbox presents a wide array of entertainment options games, movies, music, TV shows, sports programming, services like Netflix and Hulu, and programming and on-demand options available through cable and satellite providers. By converging the Xbox’s catalogue with Bing’s deep search expertise, Microsoft Tellme’s voice technology, and the magic of Kinect, Microsoft hopes to give the consumers the power of simplicity, discovery, and personal choice in your living rooms with the people you care about.

Watch this video by Microsoft that is inspired by their philosophy in this space: All the entertainment you want, with the people you care about, made easy. Delicious indeed!

Microsoft Products Steer Clear of Vulnerability Leaderboard

In its latest quarterly malware report, Kaspersky Labs has released key trends after analysing vast numbers of IT threats during the second quarter of 2011.

Software Makers

The top 10 rating of vulnerabilities includes products from just two companies: Adobe and Oracle (by virtue of Java vulnerabilities). With great improvements in the Windows updates mechanism and several Windows XP users moving to a more secure Windows 7 experience, Microsoft is no more featured in the list. Incidentally, seven of the top 10 vulnerabilities were found in Adobe Flash Player alone!


Navigating the web remains the riskiest activity on the Internet. 87 per cent of the websites used to spread malicious programs were concentrated in just 10 countries, with the US based websites leading the pack.

Local infection

The number of fake antivirus programs detected globally by Kaspersky Lab has increased and also the number of users whose computers blocked attempts to install counterfeit software increased 300 per cent in just three months of the last quarter.

India was among the top 10 countries with highest risk of local infection on computers. Every second computer in the country was at risk of local infection at least once in the past three months.

Botnet controllers see India as a place with millions of unprotected and un-patched computers which can remain active on zombie networks for extended periods of time.

– Yury Namestnikov, Senior Virus Analyst at Kaspersky Lab


Interestingly, 2011 can go down in the technology history as the year of hacking  since  services from several major organizations like Sony, Honda, Fox News, Epsilon, and Citibank were hacked and disrupted


The number of mobile threats targeting different mobile platforms has increased exponentially. In the second quarter of 2011, the detected threats running on J2ME doubled while those on Android nearly tripled. Malicious programs continue to be detected in the official Android Market.

Create Multi-lingual Content for Wikipedia with WikiBhasha

Wikipedia is one of the world’s largest and perhaps the biggest crowd-sourced information repository. However, it is heavily English-centric. Today, Wikipedia has more than 14 Million articles in over 270 languages. Wikipedia lists 3.36+ million pages in English, while a long tail of the bottom 200+ languages constitute a collective 2 million articles. WikiBhasha helps the process of enhancing non-English Wikipedia content, and provides an easy to use, intuitive interface to create local language content without the user ever having to leave the Wikipedia site.


WikiBhasha is multilingual content creation tool for Wikipedia and enables easy and quick translation of articles from English to more than 30 other languages that are supported by Microsoft’s Machine Translation system and Microsoft’s Collaborative Translation Framework.   WikiBhasha is much more than a translator and also allows users to create new articles from scratch. The browser based application features a UI layer that stays on the target language Wikipedia for the entire content creation process. It enables Wikipedia users and contributors to explore and source content from English Wikipedia articles, translate the content into a set of target languages, and use the content with user additions and corrections for contribution to the target language Wikipedia.

WikiBhasha—Wiki,signifying its community-oriented approach; Bhasha,a Sanskrit word meaning language—was developed by Microsoft Research India. It started as a research prototype with a text-based interface. The team behind WikiBhasha is led by A Kumaran, Research Manager in the   Multilingual Systems Research group at Microsoft Research India.

WikiBhasha might open the doors to a whole new world of content translation into languages that machine translators now ignore. The goal is to enhance the Wikipedia content, as well as increasing availability of multilingual content.

How Nokia Could Save Itself and Dominate the Smartphone Market Again – My Thoughts

Nokia is clearly in a very bad position right now. It has screwed up badly in the last couple of years, and is completely behind the curve. Symbian used to be the leader in smartphones, but now it has just been relegated to the sidelines by Android, iOS and surprisingly, even Windows Phone 7.

If there is any other company which is doing as badly as Nokia, it’s Research in Motion. Even they used to lead the U.S. smartphone market, but now their flagship Blackberry devices have been completely trounced by iOS and Android.

Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop, couldn’t have been more right when he said that Nokia was on a burning platform. However, I don’t quite agree with what his proposed solution to the problem was: Windows Phone 7.

Nokia effectively ditched Symbian and officially adopted Windows Phone 7 as its primary OS months ago. It will likely launch a couple of Windows Phone 7 devices before the end of 2011.

Even so, with HTC, Samsung and LG already in the game, I doubt that the Windows Phone 7 deal will save Nokia.

Here’s my take on what Nokia should do to avoid almost certain death.

Launch Devices on Multiple Platforms

As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Especially when it’s Microsoft’s.

Nokia may think that Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 may be the dominant smartphone in the future, but no one knows how it might play out. It could turn out that Android may remain the most popular smartphone platform for a long time.

Instead of trying to predict which platform will be the leading one in the future, Nokia should try to do what it does best – hardware.

Nokia’s expertise lies in building quality, inexpensive smartphones which offer excellent value for money. It has some of the best production facilities and distribution network worldwide.

If I were Nokia, I would continue to build Symbian, as well as MeeGo smartphones (it seems to have received some great reviews). Additionally, I would also ship smartphones powered by both Windows Phone 7 and Android.

That way, Nokia’s future wouldn’t remain tied to any particular platform.

Three Devices Per Platform

Nokia currently has over 20 different smartphones powered by the Symbian OS, and even more feature phones powered by S40. Many of them hardly differ at all. If you want to buy an iPhone, you just go ahead an buy an iPhone.

However, if you want to buy a Nokia device, you just end up getting confused and then buy a phone which you are not sure you really like. Too many choices can really suck.

Nokia should develop smartphones powered by these four platforms – Android, Windows Phone 7, Symbian and MeeGo, but only 2 or 3 devices for each platform.


The budget smartphone should be an inexpensive, budget device priced around $200-$300 without contract. It could have a 3.5 inch capacitive LCD display, a 2.0 MP or 3.2 MP camera and 4 GB of storage. But it should have at least 512 MB RAM and a 1 GHz processor.

Mid Range

The mid-range smartphone should be priced at around $400-$500. It should come with a 4 inch capacitive S-LCD display, a 5 MP camera and 8-16 GB of internal memory. This device should come with a 1.4 GHz single core processor, or a 1 GHz dual core processor, with 1 GB RAM.


This would be the best smartphone on the planet. It should be priced at around $600-$700, and come with a 4.3 inch SuperAMOLED display. It should have an 8.1 MP or 12 MP camera, and be powered by the best hardware available – 1-2 GB of RAM, coupled with a something like the Nvidia Kal-El chip – a quad core processor. This should offer 32 GB or 64 GB of internal storage.

With these three devices on each platform, Nokia should be in a position to dominate the smartphone market.

The Killer Stroke

Nokia should use only the stock version of Android, so that it can push out updates faster than the other manufacturers. It seems that Nokia plans to customize Windows Phone 7; it should scrap those plans.

And finally, here’s the killer stroke:

Nokia should produce only three devices, based on the specifications I outlined above, for all the four platforms.

It should allow users to buy a device, and then allow them to choose whichever OS they want to install on it. All the three devices are powerful enough to run any of the 4 operating systems easily.

This way, anyone looking to buy a smartphone can buy a Nokia device without having to choose between platforms – he can just install whichever OS he wants. Nokia could also provide a dual booting option if it wanted.

This will have another advantage: Nokia will have to produce only three devices. This will alllow it to produce them at a much lower cost, with many components used in all of them. It could potentially be able to price them lower than any of its competitors.

Additionally, Nokia should refresh its new product line only once an year, like Apple. This way, when a consumer buys a Nokia phone, he will be assured that his phone won’t become outdated in a month.

With this product strategy, I believe Nokia could regain the top position in the smartphone market. If anyone would want to buy a phone, he would just have to choose between the Nokia phone, or the iPhone. With 4 OS options on the former, I bet most would choose the Nokia phone.

I haven’t really thought this through, but I think this would be the best strategy for Nokia. What do you think? Comments, please.

Google Retaliates Against Microsoft in the Patent Wars; Microsoft Fights Back

Yesterday, Google’s Chief Legal Officer, David Drummond, posted an official statement criticizing Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and others for ganging up against it and carrying out a “a hostile, organized campaign against Android.

Soon after that post went up, Microsoft’s General Counsel, Brad Smith, blasted Google on Twitter.

“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no.”

Even Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s Corporate Communications Lead chipped in:

“Free advice for David Drummond next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. :)”

Today, Google updated their post with some more facts:

“It’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to divert attention by pushing a false “gotcha!” while failing to address the substance of the issues we raised. If you think about it, it’s obvious why we turned down Microsoft’s offer. Microsoft’s objective has been to keep from Google and Android device-makers any patents that might be used to defend against their attacks. A joint acquisition of the Novell patents that gave all parties a license would have eliminated any protection these patents could offer to Android against attacks from Microsoft and its bidding partners. Making sure that we would be unable to assert these patents to defend Android — and having us pay for the privilege — must have seemed like an ingenious strategy to them. We didn’t fall for it.

Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice intervened, forcing Microsoft to sell the patents it bought and demanding that the winning group (Microsoft, Oracle, Apple, EMC) give a license to the open-source community, changes the DoJ said were necessary to protect competition and innovation in the open source software community.This only reaffirms our point: Our competitors are waging a patent war on Android and working together to keep us from getting patents that would help balance the scales.”

Google’s argument is sound – it wouldn’t have been able to defend itself against litigation from Microsoft based on other patents, despite partially paying for those Novell patents, rendering them ineffective for defense.

Google is probably hoping that the DOJ will force Microsoft to sell the Nortel patents, just like it did in the case of the Novell patents. This fight is getting very interesting. I hope Apple issues a comment too.


Frank Shaw from Microsoft is back with some replies.

“Hello again David Drummond. This is going to take a few tweets, so here we go. Let’s look at what Google does not dispute in their reply.”

“We offered Google the opportunity to bid with us to buy the Novell patents; they said no.”

“Why? BECAUSE they wanted to buy something that they could use to assert against someone else.”

“SO partnering with others & reducing patent liability across industry is not something they wanted to help do”

I find his arguments perfectly valid.

From my point of view, the patent system in the U.S. is completely screwed up. Google, Microsoft and the others are just playing the game in the best way that they can. Obviously, Microsoft is doing it much better. And Google is whining because it isn’t winning.

Build Smart Gadgets Quick and Easy with .NET Gadgeteer

Microsoft .NET Gadgeteer is an open-source toolkit for building small electronic devices using the .NET Micro Framework and Visual Studio or Visual C# Express. This allows embedded and handheld devices to be built and programmed quickly and easily. .NET Gadgeteer was devised by the Sensors and Devices group at Microsoft Research Cambridge. Now, the open-source project is maintained by Microsoft and is intended to enable hardware designers to build and release .NET Gadgeteer-compatible products.


A .NET Gadgeteer system is composed of a mainboard containing an embedded processor and an array of modules which connect to the mainboard through a simple plug-and-play interface. There are lots of .NET Gadgeteer modules available today: display, camera, networking, storage, input controls, and more. A variety of hardware vendors are building components for .NET Gadgeteer. The first .NET Gadgeteer hardware – Fez Spider kit by GHI Electronics is also available now.

.NET Gadgeteer devices are programmed in C# using the .NET Micro Framework. .NET Micro Framework is an open source platform that expands the power and versatility of .NET to the world of small embedded applications. This allows developers to use their existing knowledge of .NET programming on the desktop, Web or phone to embedded devices.

With a modular hardware architecture and powerful software, .NET Gadgeteer allows even someone with little or no electronics background to build devices made up of components like sensors, lights, switches, displays, communications, motor controllers, and much more. It is a great tool for hobbyists as well as for educators and researchers to quickly develop prototypes.