Now is the Time to Switch to Microsoft Office 2010 [Editorial]

If you are one of those people who err on the side of caution, and avoid jumping on the Microsoft bandwagon with every update, you’re not alone. Fact is, I am right there with you. For a number of reasons, I have found myself to be a late adopter when it comes to new software versions. The most pressing reason for my delay is cost. The second is the issue of training. In this article, I would like to tell you how I overcame some of my reservations and why I think now is the time to switch to Office 2010.

My first reservation with upgrading to any new version of software is cost. Office 2010 offers real bang for your buck, though! I love the fact that Microsoft offers different combinations of products in this set of Office suites. It’s not just one size fits all anymore. Below, you will see a chart that shows which products come with the different suites. For example, if you don’t use Access or Publisher, you will be better off going with the cheaper Home and Business Edition. This gives much needed flexibility for your budget.

Office 2010 Versions

In addition to the flexibility in the purchasing decision, Office 2010’s features really are great. The big feature that sold me on Office 2010 is the ability to collaborate  using Web Apps. If you have a Windows Live account (which can be set up for free) or a Windows  SharePoint  server, you can publish your Office documents straight to the web. You can literally work on your documents anywhere where you have web access. With Windows Live SkyDrive you have 25GB of FREE storage for your documents. But wait, there’s more! The graphics capabilities have improved dramatically. The addition of Sparklines in Excel is a great addition, too. I count these features as a good return on investment.

The next hurdle to upgrading that I had to overcome was the thought of having to retrain everyone in the office on how to use this new version. If you are in the same boat, allow me to put your fears to rest; this is one of the most intuitive versions of Office to date. There are also tons of resources available to help you familiarize yourself and your trainees with the new features in Office 2010. Microsoft Office’s website has an entire section dedicated to training, not to mention some great tutorials here on Techie Buzz!

Why is now the time to make the switch, though? Office 2003 is getting old. It will be 8 years old in November! Yep, I could hardly believe it myself. In fact, Microsoft ended mainstream support for Office 2003 back in April of 2009. See the chart below to learn more about Office 2003’s support schedule.

Microsoft Mainstream Support

When mainstream support ends, a lot of software developers stop making software compatible with the aging version. This is mostly because it raises their cost of development if they needed support from Microsoft for some reason.

I believe Microsoft did a lot of things right with Office 2010. Offering different versions to suit the budget, and needs, of different users was a great start. They added some really nice and useful features, key word here being useful. I hope this gives you a little more confidence if you were on the fence about making the switch to Office 2010. I am as skeptical a guy as you’ll ever meet, but I believe that this is a switch worth making. As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this post.

Microsoft Updating Office for Mac 2011 to Use Lion Features

No matter how you feel about Microsoft, Office 2011 is still the most popular office suite for Enterprise Mac users. It is simply a matter of compatibility with the rest of the business world. Unfortunately, the current version of Microsoft’s office suite does not currently support any of the new features introduced in OS X Lion.

For the uninitiated, the features I am talking about include Auto Save, Versions (which keeps a history of document changes), and full-screen mode. These are already integrated into Apple’s iWork suite, and they are very useful. It was only a matter of time until Microsoft saw the need to support them as well.

MacNN is reporting that Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit is already doing just that. However, don’t expect to get the new features in the next few days. Pat Fox, a member of the Microsoft Office team, says that the update wait should be “measured in months.” This is a little disappointing, but completely understandable.

Microsoft also made a point of noting that Office for Mac 2004 will never be supported on Lion. This is due to the program being written for PowerPC-based Macs. Lion dropped all Rosetta code, which allowed for PowerPC applications to run on the newer Intel-based machines.

While there was no word on distribution of the upgraded program, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect Microsoft to bring the application to the Mac App Store. The only thing that may stop them is the face that Apple takes a cut of all sales through its digital distribution markets. However, we won’t know either way until the upgrade shows its pretty face.

Windows Phone Mango Beta Refreshed; Twitter Integration Debuts

Yesterday, Microsoft announced Windows Phone Mango RTM. The RTM implies that the code is finished, and handed over to carriers and device manufacturers for testing and distribution to the customers. Today, Microsoft surprised developers by releasing Beta 2 Refresh of the Windows Phone SDK 7.1.

Also, Microsoft is pushing an OS update for developer-unlocked phones allowing developers to refresh the Mango update to Build 7712 corresponding to the SDK release. The RTM build is 7720. The Beta 2 of Windows Phone SDK 7.1 was released last month and developer-unlocked phones were updated to Mango (Build 7661). Although, the update has a RC moniker in the name when the tools are installed, this is an early version. The final Release Candidate would be released next month. The final Mango update would not be available to developers early, and would be pushed through the usual official channels.

Today’s update is available through the Mango Connect site. You would need to download and install the updated Zune software (4.8.2134.0) and an UpdateWP.exe file. Also download the Windows Phone SDK tools. Before you install any of these, first uninstall the previous versions of all three from your computer.

The latest update showcases Twitter integration in Windows Phone for the first time. Although the Twitter integration was announced and demoed earlier, the feature wasn’t included in the last update. I did a post on all points of Windows Phone experience where Twitter integrates.

The comprehensive integration touches all bases in Windows Phone. The integration is present in the Me tile, People Hub, Pictures hub, and Internet Explorer 9. The Twitter integration is very solid, and for infrequent Twitter users, this might just do away with the need for a Twitter client.

The tools update also adds a nifty screenshot capability built-in into Windows Phone Emulator allowing you to quickly take screenshots of your apps without using a separate app.

The Legacy of MS-DOS [Editorial]

MS-DOS, the humble little operating system that was instrumental in establishing Microsoft’s dominance over the PC industry, turns 30 today. On July 27, 1981, Microsoft bought the rights for QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System). QDOS went on to be rebranded as MS-DOS (Microsoft Disk Operating System), which then went on to dominate the market for nearly fifteen years.


Colored Beginning

MS-DOS helped Microsoft blossom into a software giant that became both feared and hated for its often aggressive and sometimes illegal tactics. However, even before Microsoft was a household name, and even before Microsoft was a monopoly, Microsoft was no stranger to sneaky and clever business strategies. In those days, CP/M (Control Program for Microcomputers) by Gary Kildall of Digital Research, Inc. was the dominant OS, and IBM initially wanted to use it on their forthcoming PCs. However, talks broke down due to Kildall’s refusal to sign a non-disclosure agreement (although more colorful versions of the story are often told in tech folklore).

The next company that IBM approached was Microsoft, which had little experience in developing operating systems. Microsoft decided to license QDOS written by Tim Paterson, a Seattle Computer Products employee. Sneakily enough, Microsoft initially hid its IBM deal from Seattle Computer and managed to acquire the rights for less than $100,000. QDOS, which is often alleged to be virtually identical to CP/M, would soon succeed in obliterating the latter. However, the smartest decision that Microsoft took was to convince IBM to allow it to hold on to the rights for marketing DOS. As a result, Microsoft would go on to earn hundreds of millions in revenues over the next several years.

Microsoft Launches New R&D Facility in Bangalore

Today, Microsoft  launched a new state-of-the-art research & development facility in Bangalore, India. Dr Qi Lu, President, Online Services Division, Microsoft inaugurated Vigyan, the swank new 154,000 sq. ft. facility is situated in the heart of the city. Vigyan in Hindi language means Science’.


Vigyan is now home to researchers from Microsoft Research India and Microsoft India Development Center (MSIDC) team that works on Microsoft adCenter. Microsoft IDC’s first centre was set up in Hyderabad in 1998. The Hyderabad campus along with the Beijing one are Microsoft’s biggest R&D facilities outside of the United States. At MSIDC, Hyderabad, Microsoft Research India was established in 2005.   Dr. P Anandan, Managing Director, Microsoft Research India was also present at the inauguration.


The decision to set up our second R&D centre in Bangalore reinforces Microsoft’s commitment towards India.   – Dr. Qi Lu

After the search alliance between Bing and Yahoo last year, Microsoft extended engineering efforts in Bangalore. Also, several Yahoo employees moved to Microsoft as part of the alliance. Microsoft has several facilities in Bangalore already that house  Microsoft Global Training Support Center (GTSC), Microsoft Research India, and different teams from Microsoft’s business groups like Sales & Marketing Support Group  (SMSG) and Developer & Platfrom Evangelism (DPE).

Photos Courtesy: Microsoft India Development Center

Editing the Slide Master in PowerPoint 2010

Slide MasterHave you ever wanted to create a visual presentation that utilizes your company logo and color scheme? PowerPoint has great built in themes, but sometimes you just want something a little more customized. You could customize each slide with colors and logo placement, however, there is a much easier way to do this. PowerPoint has a feature called the “Slide Master” which allows you to format once, but affect every slide in the presentation.

The process of editing the “Slide Master” is pretty simple. In PowerPoint 2010, click the “View” tab above the ribbon toolbar. On the “View” tab, you will find a button that says “Slide Master”, as illustrated below.

Slide Master Button

When you are in the “Slide Master” view you, will see a blank slide with several miniature slide layouts running down the left side of the screen. Clicking on these miniatures will show you a preview of how that particular layout will appear with the edits you make here. See the picture below.

Slide Master

Let’s say you wanted to make the slide title a particular font and size. Click inside the title placeholder and highlight the text. You should see a font toolbar pop up like the one pictured below. Here, you can customize the font. You will also notice that you can edit the different levels in a bulleted list. Note, any change you make here affects every slide in the presentation. You are basically setting the defaults for this presentation.

Font Change

Let’s say that you wanted to edit the background color of the bulleted list. It is pretty easy to do. Right click in the shape area, and you will notice a little toolbar pop up, like the one pictured below. You will notice a little paint bucket icon on there with a small downward pointing arrow to the right. Click this arrow, and you will get a color selector that will allow you to choose a background color for the shape. Note, you can also do pictures, gradients, and textures.

Fill Shape Color

You might also decide that you would like to customize a different color for the main slide area. To do this, right click on the outer edge of the slide, away from any shape, and choose “Format Background” from the menu. In the picture below, you will see what the “Format Background” dialog box looks like. Like shapes, you can fill backgrounds with solid colors, gradients, pictures, or patterns.

Background Color

Once you have all of your fonts and colors the way you like it, you can move on to adding a custom logo. You can insert the logo from a picture file, or simply copy it from a website. if you like. Below, you can see what the logo file looks like when pasted into PowerPoint. Notice the “Paste Options” toolbar. There is an icon with an image attached to a clipboard. If you click this button, it will paste the picture that you have copied from a website.

Pasted Logo

Now, you have your logo in the presentation. The next step will be to find a good location for it in the presentation. In the example below, the image was positioned in the bottom right corner of the slide. This looked great on the bulleted list layout, but notice that the subtitle placeholder on the title page is covering the image up. There are a couple of things that you could do here. The easiest thing would be to resize the subtitle slide to make it small enough not to cover the logo. You may want to check the other slide layouts, as well. For example, the content layout slides completely cover the logo up in the instance pictured below. You may want to resize them, as well.

Logo Covered Up

Now, you have come to the final stretch. To get out of the “Slide Master” view, click the “View” tab and select “Normal” on the ribbon toolbar.

Normal Button

Now, each new slide you insert into the presentation will be formatted in the same way as your “Slide Master”. Below, you will see a picture showing a slide that is formatted with the edits that were done in the “Slide Master” view. Hopefully, the creative wheels are turning in your head now. How might you use this nifty feature? As always, I would love to hear your comments below.

Slide Preview

Microsoft Sued Over Kinect For Infringing Seven Patents

Impulse Technology Ltd., an Ohio company has sued Microsoft in Delaware’s federal court alleging that the Kinect for Xbox 360 infringes on seven of its patents. Kinect for Xbox 360 is a motion sensing input device for the Xbox 360 gaming console that enables users to control and interact with the gaming console using only gestures and spoken commands. The suit alleges that Kinect infringes on Impulse Technology’s patents for technology for tracking and assessing movement skills in multidimensional space.

Kinect for Xbox 360

Kinect is based on software technology developed internally by Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft Game Studios owned by Microsoft, and on range camera technology by Israeli developer PrimeSense. The Kinect sensor provides full-body 3D motion capture, facial recognition, and voice recognition capabilities.

The suit claims that Impulse Technology informed Microsoft of their patents in March 2011, however, Microsoft has still indulged in direct, inducing, and contributory infringement.’ The seven patents have been issued from 2001 to last year. In addition to Microsoft, a slew of other companies who make games designed for Kinect – including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, and Konami – were named as defendants.

Impulse Technology is seeking a permanent injunction, damages, treble damages, interest, attorneys’ fees and costs. Microsoft hasn’t commented on the specific charges. The suit was filed on July 1, 2011 and was recently reported on Law360.

Kinect was first announced on June 1, 2009 at E3 2009 under the code name Project Natal and was launched in the US on November 4, 2010. After selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days, the Kinect holds the Guinness World Record of being the fastest selling consumer electronics device’.’

Google Gets Serious About Patents; Wants to Hire Patent Agents

While Android is probably one of Google’s biggest successes, it has been getting screwed by almost every major technology company which has a few patents to its name. The patent wars, as I like to call them, have intensified so much, that almost every mobile company in the US is involved in a patent lawsuit with each other. Apple is suing HTC and Samsung, Samsung is suing it back, Nokia is suing Apple, and Microsoft is making more money from Android than it ever did (or will) from Windows Phone 7. Dying giants like Nokia are making more money from patent settlements and licensing agreements than they make by selling smartphones.

Even Oracle, which is known for its huge army of patent lawyers is suing Google, over the use of Java in Android, and hopes to make a few billion dollars out of it. It seems like everyone except Google is going to make money off Android now, which is probably why Google is now taking things into its own hands.

It has been trying to get its hands on some patents related to wireless telecommunication, just so it can fight off other companies wanting a piece of the Android pie. It bid billions of dollars for the Nortel patent portfolio, even going crazy momentarily, bidding all sorts of weird numbers like Pi billion dollars, but eventually lost the auction, when Apple, Microsoft and some others decide to gang up against it bidding a huge amount which was ridiculously high even for Google.

It has apparently shown interest in acquiring InterDigital, which has a huge patent portfolio, but Apple is trying to crash even that party. Apple has roughly double the cash reserves of Google, and it is willing to go to any lengths to ensure that Google doesn’t get hold of any patents.

So now Google seems to be trying the standard way – inventing stuff and applying for patents. It has put up a job opening on its website for patent agents.

Patent Agent @ Google – Job Listing

“As a Patent Agent, you’ll help protect Google’s valuable and growing intellectual property. This is a vital role on the Patent team in which you’ll work with and manage outside counsel during their preparation and prosecution of domestic and foreign patent applications. A significant portion of your job will be to acquire a deep understanding of Google’s business and technologies and to collaborate with engineers and product managers for the purpose of harvesting ideas for new patent applications. This will include educating them on the intricacies of the patent system. Your responsibilities may also grow to include assisting with the review of third-party offers to license and/or purchase patents and supporting due-diligence activities in merger-and-acquisition transactions. You’ll work with an invigorating, inspiring team of innovators who are passionate about future technologies and excited about resolving their ensuing legal challenges.”

Good luck, Google. You need it. You are probably going to get screwed a lot in the coming months. I’m rooting for you.

Social Gaming Powered By Windows Azure

Microsoft has figured out an interesting way to get into the social games business. The social gaming market continues to grow in terms of number of users and profits. These social applications have the potential to grow from a few users to millions of users in an incredibly short period of time, and therefore, they need a robust, scalable, and dependable platform.

According to the Social Gaming: Marketers Make Their Move report by eMarketer,  the social gaming market will increase to $1.32 billion in revenues by 2012, up from $856 million in 2010. Today, Amazon hosts many online games, including big Facebook games, developed by Zynga and others. Companies like Playdom, the makers of Bola Social Soccer – a Facebook, Sonico, and Orkut game with over 5 million users, are already using Windows Azure as their backend platform.

Microsoft is focusing on building tools to help other game developers ramp up quickly, while they host their games on Windows Azure. Windows Azure is built on the principles of on-demand scalable computing resources, storage, and geographic delivery. These principles mirror the needs of social games. With that premise, the Windows Azure team has launched a preview of the Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games. The toolkit allows you to quickly get started building new social games with Windows Azure whether you want to build social games as a hobby or you want to reach millions of gamers.

The Windows Azure Toolkit for Social Games allows you to quickly get started building new social games in Windows Azure. The toolkit includes accelerators, libraries, developer tools, and samples that you can use in your own .NET or HTML5 game. It enables unique capabilities that are prerequisites for an average social game, such as storing user profiles, maintaining leader boards, in-app purchasing and so forth.

As a proof-of-concept, the toolkit also includes source code for a game called Tankster, created by Grant Skinner, a popular game developer. The game is also available online to play for free. The game is built with HTML5 and supports a variety of social interactions including messaging, wall posts, and comments while player achievements and game stats are presented on a live leaderboard so gamers can interact with each other.

The toolkit is available for free, and game developers can use the same to build social games and applications in a short period of time.

Microsoft Had $17.37 Billion Revenue in Q4 2011; $69.94 Billion in FY2011

Microsoft has announced its Q4 results for the year ended June 30, 2011. Judging by the numbers, it looks like Microsoft has had a great quarter. It reported Q4 revenues of $17.37 billion, up 8% year on year. Its operating income grew to $6.17 billion, up 4% from Q4 2010, while its net income grew to $5.87 billion, an increase of 30%.

For the entire fiscal year 2011, Microsoft reported revenues of $69.94 billion, a 12% increase over FY 2010. Its operating and net income grew to $27.16 billion, and $23.15 billion, up 13% and 23% respectively.

“Throughout fiscal 2011, we delivered to market a strong lineup of products and services which translated into double-digit revenue growth, and operating margin expansion,said Peter Klein, Microsoft CFO. Our platform and cloud investments position us for long-term growth.”

Microsoft’s Business and Windows divisions are doing very well. Microsoft has sold over 100 million Office 2010 licenses and more than 400 million Windows 7 licenses. It successfully launched Office 365 and has a very good chance of dominating the cloud based productivity software market. Even its Server and Tools division is growing reasonably well, driving revenue growth. Though Bing’s U.S. market share is up to 14.4% now, the Online Services division is still bleeding money.

The Entertainment and Devices division has seen its revenue jump 30% in Q4 and 45% for the full year, thanks to the spectacular success of the Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox Live. Coming to Windows Phone 7, it doesn’t represent a significant portion of the revenues, but with Android mired in lawsuits, it is well positioned to become a leading platform in the coming years.

Check out: Microsoft’s 2011 Earnings Release