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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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August 3, 2011 6:02 AM

Seattle app developer who got call from Steve Jobs launches Windows PC version of app

Posted by Janet I. Tu

Remember the Seattle app developer whose iPad app was, at first, rejected by Apple, resulting in a phone call from Steve Jobs?

He's now created a Windows PC version of that app called Economy, which tracks U.S. economic statistics. (Economy app screen capture courtesy of Cascade Software.)

economyapp2.jpg

Ram Arumugam, CEO of Cascade Software, had created the iPad version of the Economy app last year. But because he had used a non-public code, also known as a private application programming interface (API), to work around an issue, Apple rejected the app. (Apple sends software developers a list of APIs that it supports. If an API is not on the list, Apple cannot guarantee support, meaning that in future versions of the iPad, the app may not work.)

Arumugam appealed and sent an email to Jobs. Jobs called back.

Arumugam figures he might have merited a call because his company's Economy app for iPhone was the top paid app in the finance category for a time, and its Election app was the top paid app in the news category for a while in 2008.

After Arumugam removed the private API, Apple accepted the app.

Since then, Arumugam has created Economy app for Windows PC, which became available last month on the Intel AppUp store.

It was Intel that first contacted Arumugam about creating a version of his app for its store. "I didn't even know they had an app store," he said. "Very few people know about the app store."

He was wary of committing time and resources to a store so few people knew about but Intel guaranteed him a certain sum, he said. Besides, he says, with hundreds of millions of people running PCs with Windows XP or Windows 7 on them, "there's a big market."

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August 2, 2011 2:39 PM

Internet Explorer market share declines

Posted by Janet I. Tu

The July browser market share report is out from Net Market Share, and it shows Microsoft Internet Explorer still holding a majority of the market share, though that percentage is declining.

The July market share for all versions of IE is at 52.71 percent, down from 53.68 percent last month, and 60.74 percent a year ago, according to Net Market Share, which tracks key Internet tech usage market share.

Mozilla Firefox (at 21.47 percent in July) and Opera (at 1.65 percent) both saw small monthly and year-to-year share declines. But Google Chrome is up to 13.46 percent from 7.16 percent last year, and Apple Safari is up to 8.1 percent from 5.09 percent last year.

Ars Technica predicts that this means IE, though still the dominant browser, is going to lose its majority position by the end of the year.

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August 2, 2011 11:05 AM

Skype comes to iPad

Posted by Janet I. Tu

Skype has officially launched its iPad application in the iTunes Store.

Though Skype has had an iOS app for a while for the iPhone and iPod touch, this version is optimized for the iPad. In addition to voice and video calls, its features, according to Skype's blog, include instant messaging and text messaging,

Microsoft, which in May bought Skype for $8.5 billion -- the largest acquisition in Microsoft's history -- is not expected to come out with Windows 8, which is optimized for tablet use, until 2012. More than 170 million customers a month use Skype.

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August 1, 2011 3:56 PM

An early look at a Nokia Windows Phone?

Posted by Janet I. Tu

Microsoft and Nokia have sent out invitations for a joint party to be held Aug. 17 at the GamesCon trade fair in Cologne, Germany, according to winrumors.

That's led the::unwired to speculate about a possible August launch date -- or at least the announcement of a future sale-start date -- for a Mango-updated Windows Phone from Nokia. Recent speculation has put a launch in October.

We have a call in to Microsoft to find out more.

Update 9:55 a.m. Tues: We heard back from a Nokia rep, who says: "The save the date invitation was sent to local developers in Germany. The event is a party to engage local developers with both Nokia and Microsoft. This is not a media event."

Update 2: A Microsoft spokesperson says: "The invite issued jointly by Nokia and Microsoft to an event in Cologne is intended for developers and relates to an informal gathering to introduce developers to both companies. No Nokia with Windows Phone products will be launched at that event."

On July 26, the Windows Phone development team reached a milestone, signing off on the release to manufacturing (RTM) of Mango -- the latest version of the Windows Phone operating system. The milestone means the software is ready for phone makers to install on new phones being built.

This presumably includes Nokia, which is expected to bring its first Windows Phone to market by the end of the year.
The Mango update will include many new features, such as Twitter and LinkedIn integration with the phone's address book, multi-tasking applications, 3-D applications and more search features. Here is my predecessor Sharon Chan's Seattle Times story on all the new features coming in Mango.

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August 1, 2011 11:06 AM

Hello from the new voice of Microsoft Pri0

Posted by Janet I. Tu

Hi everyone,

Janet Tu here, taking over from the metaphorically big (yet stylish!) shoes of Sharon Chan.

Today is moving-in day -- literally. I'll be packing up my old desk and moving to the new, and then spending the rest of the week meeting folks and getting a lay of the land.

A bit about me: I grew up in Seattle and, for most of the past 15 years, I've worked at The Seattle Times. I've covered everything from theater to arts and entertainment, transportation to natural resources. Most recently, I covered religion and arts news, including stories about the Dalai Lama's visit to Seattle, efforts by the local Pakistani community to help an earthquake-devastated village in Pakistan, and how the recession is affecting arts organizations.

Covering tech -- and biz -- is new for me. But I'm immensely curious about new developments and the way technology is changing our culture and communities. I love learning new stuff and sharing what I learn with readers.

Now -- how about you? What would you like to read about on Microsoft Pri0? How about in the print edition of the newspaper?

In the meantime, just so the transition isn't too jarring, here's a video of what it's like for me taking over the beat. (Video courtesy of planetwhonews):


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July 14, 2010 10:20 AM

WPC10: Microsoft swipes at Google

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

WASHINGTON - The morning keynote speech turned into a rally as Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner took the stage and shot down competitors that critics say have dusted Microsoft.
From consumer companies Apple and Google to enterprise competitors Oracle and VMware, Turner said Microsoft has taken market share in his keynote at the Worldwide Partners Conference.
In the areas where Microsoft has faltered, such as phones, Turner says Microsoft is coming back.
On Google, Turner had plenty to say.
"The 'go do' is don't let customers get Googled," he said to the companies at the conference. He said it hurt to see Google putting out ads that they are winning customers for Google, and showed an ad in BusinessWeek magazine boasting about winning the Jaguar Land Rover business. He followed that with comments from employees complaining about how much less productive they were using Google e-mail and disparaging the software as the equivalent of vinyl car seats.
"In the productivity space, they're coming at us guns blazing," he said. "Recently they introduced a ruler in their word processor, an application that we've had for 14 years." Turner said Microsoft has also won back customers from Google.
"We don't want some of the customers, we want all of them."
In the search arena, Turner predicted Microsoft's search engine Bing would have 30 percent of the market once the Yahoo integration is complete. Google dominates the industry with more than 60 percent of te market.
Turner even mocked Google's oft-cited corporate statement to do no evil.
"We don't have a mission statement to say don't do evil because we don't need a statement to not do evil."

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July 14, 2010 9:42 AM

WPC10: Bill Clinton talks about global challenges

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

WASHINGTON - The tenure of the Worldwide Partners Conference went from "Google sucks" to "Save Haiti" as former President Bill Clinton spoke Wednesday morning.
In his 90-minute talk and Q&A session, Clinton encouraged technology companies to think about the challenges facing countries, especially how to finance small and medium-sized businesses in post-earthquake Haiti.
It was a striking contrast for the crowd of 13,000 with the session before, a sales pep rally led by Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner against competitors Google, Apple, VMware, Linux and Oracle.
"It's something I wish you could help me with," Clinton said. "In most really poor places, small and medium businesses provide lion's share of economic activity. There's almost no financing for small and medium-sized enterprises for poor countries."
Clinton began his talk at the Verizon Center offering a framework for how he sees the world, starting with the question: How does he keep up with "American Idol," "Dancing with the Stars," new research on human evolution and subatomic particles called muons?
"We live in the most interdependent age in history," he said. "The positives are obvious. But it's too unstable, unequal and unsustainable."
A more interconnected world makes solving the problems an urgent need, he said.
In a wide-ranging speech, he spoke of the need for the U.S. to invest in wind and solar power and build a better health-care system. Rich countries need to reduce the rigidity in their systems, he said, while poor countries need to build up systems. For instance, he said, Haiti needs an educational system that can be high quality, low cost and universal in access.
He challenged the attendees, who are in D.C. this week to hear about Microsoft's new products and how they can make money selling them, to think about what they take for granted and what people living in poor countries can't take for granted.
"You would be surprised if the lights went out. You would be surprised if the air conditioning went out and we started sweltering. You don't have any problem drinking the water," he said. "I spend my time in places where none of the people can take that for granted."
He did a short question and answer session with Corporate Vice President Jon Roskill afterward, who posed some questions from the audience, such as about how Clinton is using social networking in his new work with his foundation.
Clinton said he is on Facebook and answers questions on the social network site. "We actually now do tweets from time to time to keep people up with what we're doing, which I never thought I would do," he said.
Global economic development in poor countries was clearly a theme, and Clinton said economic development would create more business for companies at the conference.
"I would like to know that within two years you could have a meeting like this in sub-Saharan Africa with people from 130 countries," he said.
Next year's Worldwide Partners Conference will take place in Los Angeles.

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May 10, 2010 5:39 AM

Office 2010: Microsoft makes a free version of its cash cow

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

office2010prof.jpgIn case you missed it, this story ran in Sunday's Seattle Times on Office 2010. When Microsoft launches its latest business and personal software suite Office 2010 on Wednesday in New York, it will introduce a free version, Office Web Apps, to compete with Google. I will be covering the launch event in New York. Follow my updates here at Pri0 or via Twitter at www.twitter.com/sharonpianchan/

In the beginning, there was word processing.

Then, simply, Word.

Spreadsheets became Excel. Presentation software, if it was ever known by such a name, was simply PowerPoint. Long before Google's preeminence in search, Microsoft dominated business and personal software with a suite known as Office.

The company launches its latest version, Office 2010, on Wednesday in New York â€" and the stakes couldn't be higher.

The lucrative franchise is threatened by a changing market spouting a four-letter word: free. The biggest threat comes from Google, specifically Google Docs, Web applications accessible from any computer.

Because of Google, Microsoft has been forced to make a free ad-supported version called Office Web Apps.

Google's software is unlikely to depose Office, especially among heavy business users who write reports, draw up corporate budgets and put together sales presentations. But Office 2010 does represent a slow tipping of the entire technology industry, from a PC world Microsoft long has dominated to a cloud-computing world, where software roams free on the computer, phone, tablet and television, and the old ways of making money are changing.

"We think it's actually an opportunity for us," said Stephen Elop, president of Microsoft Business Division, which makes Office. "We have an opportunity to draw in many, many people who today are not engaged in the Office experience, or have not paid for software along the way, or are on very old software."

Wednesday's event at NBC Studios in New York will mark the first day business customers can buy copies of Office 2010 that gets installed on PCs. The software will start selling in stores to small businesses and consumers sometime in June. The free Office Web Apps also will be available to consumers in June.

Microsoft's challenge

Free is not a part of Office's history. The Business Division, whose chief product is Office, brought in $19 billion in sales in fiscal 2009, more than a third of Microsoft's $58 billion in sales for the year. It generated more than half of the company's operating profit â€" $12 billion of the overall $20 billion.

But Microsoft's ability to sustain these numbers is being challenged by the new way people use technology.

"As the world goes increasingly more and more mobile, the way people want to access and use applications is increasingly shifting to the Web," said Sarah Friar, an analyst at Goldman Sachs who follows Microsoft. "Google becomes the face of that beast, but I think it's a broad industry shift, not just Google, that is bringing Microsoft around to this."

Instead of selling copies of Office, the company may have to find other revenue streams, including advertising to underwrite free software.

Much is riding on the company's next steps. Microsoft estimates 500 million people use Office, many of them still chugging away on Office 2003 or even older versions. About half the users are believed to have paid for it. The others have not, many of them using pirated versions.

Microsoft is less worried about piracy, more worried about people who choose Google Docs instead.

Four years ago, Google began offering the stripped-down Web-based word-processing, spreadsheet and presentation software to compete with Office.

Google Docs saves each file on a Google server so people can access it from any PC or device rather than saving it to a thumb drive, e-mailing it back and forth as an attachment or physically being at a specific computer to open a file.

The public version of Google Docs is free to individuals, and Google sells the software to businesses for $50 per user each year in a suite called Google Apps. The paid version has more security, privacy controls and customer support, and it runs on a network with guaranteed service levels. Google says that, combined, more than 25 million people are using the free and paid versions.

"The way people work today is not reflected in the tools they have at their disposal," Google spokesman Andrew Kovacs said. "Office was built 20 years ago for someone sitting at a desk on their own. ... Google Docs, launched four years ago, it was about collaboration."

Chris Vander Mey, senior product manager at Google, called Office a great tool. "Every business should have two or three copies," he added. "We don't think everyone needs it. It's like Photoshop â€" not everybody needs it."

Spreading competition

To counter Google Docs, Office Web Apps will offer more features and what the company claims is a better visual presentation than its competitor. But Office Web Apps will not have all the features of Office 2010, which is being priced from $119 to $499, depending on the version.

"We've had a long history of lots of competition," said Chris Capossela, senior vice president of Microsoft Business Division. "We have to focus on a really great product our customers will love. We think that if we do that, we'll continue to be the leader."

That competition has spread on the Web. A month ago, Microsoft launched Docs for Facebook, building a free Web-based version of Office that works inside the social network. Microsoft also recently laid claim to the URL www.docs.com.

Capossela said the Office team has been building its new version since Office 2007 came out in 2006, with a focus on working across the PC, the browser and the phone. Seven million users have downloaded the test version of the software, the company reports.

The free version of Office Web Apps will have advertising; Google says it has no plans to add ads to Google Docs.

New Office features

As always, Microsoft has put much effort into building new features for the software.

Office Web Apps, for instance, allows users to create, edit and share Office docs with people who have Office and those who don't. Two people could simultaneously edit the same spreadsheet, Word document or PowerPoint presentation from different locations through a PC, the Web or a Windows Mobile phone.

"It's nice to be able to walk to any PC connected to the Internet and you can use Office Web Apps to create docs. You can round-trip the files from the PC to the phone to the browser," Capossela said. "Nothing is gone. The pictures, footers, headers will all be there."

The Office team also built a new social-network feature into Outlook, the Outlook Social Connector, so users can pull up contact information from Facebook and LinkedIn without leaving Microsoft's e-mail software.

A new video-editing feature was added to PowerPoint, and the new Word has a photo-editing feature.

Google dismisses the new Office features. "We're not about new features," Vander Mey said. "We're about new behavior."

Embracing the cloud

Observers say an Office that embraces the cloud is just the beginning for Microsoft. As Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has said, "we're all in" when it comes to the cloud. Microsoft has built large data centers in Houston, Chicago, Ireland and other locations to launch cloud services.

In January, the company launched its cloud-computing platform, Azure, which is courting software developers to build Web-based applications on a Microsoft-hosted platform.

The big question now is how the move to the cloud will affect the Office sales.

"Not all of it is going to be at risk, but you could see $1 billion being at risk over a couple-year period," said Goldman Sachs' Friar.

The customers Microsoft stands to lose most are consumers who now buy Office for personal use. Friar estimates that Office made $1.8 billion in fiscal 2009 from consumers. Consumers who already are adopting cloud-based software such as iTunes and Facebook are more likely to move to free Web versions than business customers.

Business customers, who Friar estimates make up 90 percent of Office customers, are unlikely to immediately make the jump, given that the free Web version will have online advertising, less security and privacy, no guarantees that the service would always work, and far fewer features than the PC version. These customers sign long-term contracts with Microsoft, paying an annual fee per worker with automatic upgrades to the latest version. It's slower, steadier income.

They eventually may move to the cloud, and Microsoft has to figure out how to bridge the PC past and the cloud future.

"It's going to force them to think through very different business models from how they get paid today," Friar said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattetimes.com. Follow me on Twitter @sharonpianchan

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August 27, 2009 4:14 PM

Windows 7 launch party will be in New York

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

I'm back. Looks like some stuff happened while I was gone -- dustup over pasting a black person into a homogenous Microsoft ad in Poland (Microsoft has apologized for this incident) and a ruling on a patent infringement case over Word which resulted in a $290 million fine and an injunction on selling Word (Microsoft is appealing and has requested a stay).

Today we found out Windows 7, the next version of Microsoft's flagship product, will launch in New York on Oct. 22.

Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos just confirmed by phone. It was reported this morning by ZDNet's All About Microsoft.

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July 14, 2009 10:19 AM

Microsoft announces pricing for cloud computing on Azure

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft brought some form to its cloud this morning, giving pricing details for Azure, its cloud computing platform.

The service is now in technical preview phase, but will go live at the Professional Developers Conference in the fall of this year, Microsoft said this morning.

With cloud computing, Microsoft hopes to persuade business customers to shift from hosting and running software on their own servers to hiring Microsoft to host and run the software for them. Here is a story we just ran explaining how the Ethiopian school system is using the cloud.

The pricing plan offers several options. Businesses could choose to pay based on usage, as with a utility; on a monthly basis, like a magazine subscription; or on an annual basis, like a car registration.

Here's asn example of what the first option, metered usage of Windows Azure, would cost:

Computing: 12 cents per hour

Storage: 15 cents per gigabyte
Storage transaction: 10 cents per 10,000KBandwidth: 10 cents in/15 cents out per gigabyte


It's like trying to figure out your monthly electrical bill based on the price of a kilowatt hour.
Prashant Ketkar, director of product marketing for Windows Azure, said not to focus on the price points. "While the actual per-unit price is interesting, in the end context, it doesn't really matter," he said. "They're only as significant as when you take a specific application and move to the Windows Azure environment."

Figuring out how much that would cost will require sitting down with Microsoft or a Microsoft partner (at the Worldwide Partners Conference happening today in New Orleans) and calculating the total cost of running an application, he said.

It's a lot less straightforward than at least one cloud competitor, SalesForce.com, which is offering cloud computing for $20 per user per month.

Here are more details on Microsoft's cloud pricing, if you really want to know:

SQL Azure Web edition database, with 1 gigabyte relational database: $9.99

Business edition database, with 10 gigabyte relational database: $99.99
Bandwidth: 10 cents in/15 cents out per gigabyte

.NET Services
Messages: 15 cents per 100K message operations
Bandwidth: 10 cents in/15 cents out per gigabyte

Service Level Agreements
Compute connectivity: 99.95 percent guarantee
Storage: 99.9 percent guarantee
Automated service management

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July 13, 2009 6:13 AM

Microsoft will offer Office docs online for free

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

As Google does with Google Docs, Microsoft will make free Web versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote available next year.

Stephen Elop, the president of Microsoft's Business division, is dropping that and some other details about Office 2010 in a keynote speech at Microsoft's Worldwide Partners Conference in New Orleans this morning.

Office 2010, the next version of Microsoft's productivity software, will launch in the first half of 2010. Starting today it will be available for technical preview by invitation only to partners at the conference, and long-time enterprise customers will make the invite list. SharePoint 2010, Visio 2010 and Project 2010 are also going to be available as part of a technical preview.

The company will also start offering Microsoft-hosted versions of Office software, as it does now with applications such as Microsoft Outlook. Business customers will also be able to buy Web-enabled versions so workers can access Office applications online as they would with Microsoft Outlook Web Exchange.

Janice Kapner, senior director of communications of Microsoft's Business division, said the new version of Office will have the "ability to deliver the best productivity experience across the PC, mobile phone and the browser."

In other news, the "ribbon," the hate-it-or-love-it graphical user interface that made its debut in Word 2007, will become a part of the rest of the Office software line.

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July 1, 2009 3:04 PM

Update: Microsoft pulls nauseating Internet Explorer ad

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Update 1:52 p.m.: Microsoft has pulled its online ad for Internet Explorer 8, after complaints from viewers that it was too foul.

According to a statement from the company:

"We make a point of listening to our customers. We created the OMGIGP video as a tongue-in-cheek look at the InPrivate Browsing feature of Internet Explorer 8, using the same irreverent humor that our customers told us they liked about other components of the Internet Explorer 8 marketing campaign. While much of the feedback to this particular piece of creative was positive, some of our customers found it offensive, so we have removed it."

One of the commenters below, quincompoix, has posted a link to the video elsewhere if you still want to see it.

Earlier: Microsoft continues to launch online videos to promote its Web browser Internet Explorer 8. The latest features actor Dean Cain again and vomit. There is a lot of projectile puke in this video, like Monty Python levels of regurgitation.

A wife gets online after her husband has used the computer, and is so horrified by what she sees, she repeatedly spits up on the floor. He slips, falls on the floor, and she continues to spit up on him. The tag line is O.M.G.I.G.P., as in "Oh my god, I'm gonna puke."

The ad promotes Internet Explorer's privacy browsing feature, which many have dubbed a porn mode. It allows the user to browse without leaving a trail in the browser.

To check out the earlier IE8 ads, click here.

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June 22, 2009 10:40 AM

"Microsoft subsidy bill" passes in WA state for children of H-1B visa holders

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

My Seattle Times colleague Lornet Turnbull wrote a story today about a "Microsoft subsidy bill" that the Washington state legislature passed granting in-state tuition rates for children of foreign professionals.

It was dubbed the Microsoft subsidy bill because most of the beneficiaries are children of Microsoft workers who came to Washington state under H-1B visas.

According to the story, the bill was passed during the state budget crisis, while higher education suffered hundreds of millions in cuts, and is projected to result in revenue loss to the University of Washington of $430,000 and to Washington State University of $215,000.

Click here for the full story.

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June 18, 2009 5:21 PM

SalesForce.com pitches cloud computing in Microsoft territory

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Marc Benioff_20009.jpgSalesforce.com was in Seattle on Thursday promoting its cloud-computing product ahead of Microsoft's anticipated announcements this summer about its competing product Azure. Chief Executive Mark Benioff gave a speech at the Grand Hyatt in downtown Seattle to customers in an event called CloudForce, which is touring the globe.

While better known for its Web-based software that helps sales teams track and close deals, Salesforce.com is moving aggressively into cloud computing and creating a platform where software developers can make applications and deploy them from servers that SalesForce.com runs, rather than on the PC or a company's server. It has beaten Microsoft to the market and is already selling developers on the cloud product.

For instance, Starbucks approached SalesForce.com shortly after Christmas with an idea: Create an online campaign and Web site called Pledge 5 to encourage community service, launching the same day as the presidential inauguration. Also, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was scheduled to be on Oprah to promote it, so the site had to be built tough enough to withstand hundreds of thousands of visitors. Systems integrator Apperio built the application, which allows users to seek out volunteer opportunities in their neighborhood, in three weeks.

In another example, a small Bay Area company that manufactures kitchen countertops from recycled glass, Vetrazzo, talked about how they managed their supply chain, each countertop slab and travel expenses with custom programs that one developer built on Salesforce.com's cloud platform.

Amazon.com is also a player in cloud computing. Microsoft is expected to make announcements about how it will charge people to use Azure, its cloud product, this summer.

(Photo of Marc Benioff: SalesForce.com)

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June 17, 2009 4:35 PM

Google Apps software disables Microsoft Outlook features

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft and Google are having compatibility issues. Microsoft says Google software disables some features in Outlook, the company's e-mail and calendar software.

In a blog item posted by the Outlook team at 1:56 a.m. today, Microsoft developers said the Google Apps Sync, a plug-in, disables the search function in Outlook, making it difficult to search through the 1,000 e-mails in your inbox.

The Outlook team has complained to Google, according to the blog item. Google says in its enterprise blog that it's working to fix the issue, but so far the solution it is suggesting is to uninstall Apps Sync.

Update 11:06 a.m.: The incompatibility issue is between Google Apps Sync and Windows Desktop Search, which runs the search function in Outlook behind the scenes. If the user gets under the hood in Outlook and disables the Windows Desktop Search function in Outlook, then Outlook data will be searchable.

It's like I work for tech support. Did you try restarting?

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June 15, 2009 5:05 PM

Microsoft files its first click fraud lawsuit

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft is suing two brothers and their mother in Vancouver, B.C., for $750,000 after the company said the three engaged in online ad fraud to boost traffic to their auto insurance and World of Warcraft Web sites.

According to a civil case Microsoft filed Monday in the Western District of the U.S. District Court, Eric Lam, his brother Gordon Lam and their mother Melanie Suen used click fraud to increase their rankings on Microsoft's search engine Live Search.

Advertisers paid for placement on Microsoft's former search engine Live Search, now known as Bing. When a user entered a search term such as "auto insurance," advertisers bid for sponsored placement in the results. Each time a user clicks on an advertiser's link, the advertiser pays Microsoft. The cost per click ranges from five cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the desirability of the search term, according to court documents.

In click fraud, a person or computer program repeatedly clicks on a link without any interest in the Web site. It can be used to exhaust the ad budget of a competitor, and lower that site's placement in the rankings of the search results.

According to the court documents, the Lams and their mother engaged in click fraud in spring 2008 for advertisers who paid for placement for the search terms "auto insurance" and "WoW," short for the online game World of Warcraft. The Lams' Web site, WoWMine.com, sold game gold that could be traded in the online game.

I am trying to get in touch with the Lams to get their comments.

Update 6:35 p.m.: Gordon Lam declined to comment on the story by phone.

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June 15, 2009 2:34 PM

Microsoft news roundup: Bill Gates tie-less, cell phones cut, Google on Bing

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Some bits and bytes on Microsoft from around the country:

New York Post says Google's co-founder Sergey Brin has a team of engineers dissecting Bing, Microsoft's newly upgraded search engine. Early data after Bing's launch at the beginning of June show that traffic numbers have improved for Microsoft's search operation.

MocoNews says Microsoft has stopped reimbursing employees for their BlackBerry and iPhone plans, unless they switch to a Windows Mobile device. We ran a New York Times story today on how even discretionary spending shrinks elsewhere, smartphone sales are projected to go up by 25 percent this year. And on the other end of the spectrum, here's another story we ran today about how the poor are using a federal government telecom subsidy for cell phones.

Seattle Examiner reports that Bill Gates shocked Cambridge when he showed up to receive an honorary degree without a tie. Which would make news only in England.

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June 12, 2009 10:01 AM

European Union says Microsoft needs to provide choice of browsers in Windows 7

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

To deal with European Union's antitrust concerns, Microsoft said Thursday it would ship Windows 7 in Europe without its Web browser Internet Explorer. Today, the European Union released a statement saying Microsoft is offering less choice, not more.

In its statement, the European Union said:

"... the Commission has suggested that consumers should be offered a choice of browser, not that Windows should be supplied without a browser at all."

The comments are pointed at retail copies of Windows 7 that are sold separately from new PCs:

"As for retail sales, which amount to less than 5% of total sales, the Commission had suggested to Microsoft that consumers be provided with a choice of web browsers. Instead Microsoft has apparently decided to supply retail consumers with a version of Windows without a web browser at all. Rather than more choice, Microsoft seems to have chosen to provide less."

The European Union appeared more positive about removing the browser from copies of Windows 7 that computer makers install on new PCs:

"As for sales to computer manufacturers, Microsoft's proposal may potentially be more positive. It is noted that computer manufacturers would appear to be able to choose to install Internet Explorer -- which Microsoft will supply free of charge -- another browser or multiple browsers."

Here is our story today on Microsoft's move to sell Windows 7 in Europe without the browser. The European Union is expected to rule on whether Microsoft's tying of Internet Explorer to Windows since 1996 is anticompetitive.

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June 11, 2009 2:29 PM

Microsoft launches Hulu-style Web ads for IE8 featuring Dean Cain

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

In the surreal, ominous style of Hulu, Microsoft has released two online ads to market its latest browser, Internet Explorer 8. Microsoft's ads feature actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on "Lois & Clark."

Microsoft will also make donations to food banks every time someone downloads the new browser. For each download at www.browserforthebetter.com, Microsoft says it will donate the equivalent of 8 meals to Feeding America, a national network of food banks, between now and Aug. 8.

Here the new browser ads, and for comparison's sake, the Hulu ad with Alec Baldwin.

F.O.M.S. ad (Fear of Missing Something):

S.H.Y.N.E.S.S. ad (Sharing Heavily Yet Not Enough Sharing Still):

Hulu ad:

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June 11, 2009 10:58 AM

Windows 7 will ship in Europe without Internet Explorer browser

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft confirmed reports from CNET and Bloomberg today that the company will be shipping Windows 7 in Europe without the Internet Explorer browser in it.

CNET's report cites a memo that was sent to computer makers saying the changes were being made to comply with European Union law.

Earlier this year, the European Commission notified Microsoft that the inclusion of its browser in Windows since 1996 violated European competition law. Check out our earlier coverage here. Microsoft was due to present its defense June 3 to 5, but canceled because senior regulators would not be able to attend. Here is the story on that development.

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June 8, 2009 11:47 AM

Blind testing search from Microsoft, Google and Yahoo

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Would a rose by any other name smell sweeter? blindsearchscreen.jpg

Silicon Valley Insider found this site over the weekend: BlindSearch. It compares search results in a blind test, then reveals which search engine the results came from: Microsoft's Bing, Google or Yahoo. The site says it was built by Microsoft employee Michael Kordahi as an experiment.

Kordahi previously posted the survey results but says on the site that someone was gaming the system and he had to take it down.

Microsoft rebranded its search engine as Bing last week, and many company executives kept repeating that in their market research, customers who were given Microsoft search results disguised as Google results preferred Microsoft search.

Try it yourself.

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June 4, 2009 6:02 PM

More Microsoft TV ads promoting its search engine Bing (update on an oops)

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Here is the next round of TV commercials Microsoft is airing to make some headway in online search. The ads all criticize Google without actually naming the search leader, claiming that using Google's search engine results in an overload of results that don't get you the answer you want.

On a side note, our reliable Seattle Times copy desk caught an error in one of the ads, which I had quoted in a story, saying "The Breakfast Club" came out in 1986. According to all the searches our copy editors did, the film came out in 1985. (A search for "breakfast club release date" on Wolfram Alpha, Google and Bing all point to 1985.) I've called Microsoft to see if its plans to change the ad and it said they will get back to me.

Update Friday 12:36 p.m.: Microsoft says they are going to change the ad so it reflects the correct year, and highlighted that Bing returns the correct date in its search results.

Here is the ad that cites "The Breakfast Club":

And two other ads, which we have not fact-checked:


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June 3, 2009 12:40 PM

Microsoft's TV search ad: So You Think You Can Bing

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

If you're watching "So You Think You Can Dance" at 8 p.m. today, keep an eye out for Microsoft's first TV ads for its upgraded search engine Bing. (The company has dubbed it a "decision engine.") It will also air during "CSI: NY," the Jimmy Fallon show and on several cable networks.

News reports estimate that Microsoft is spending $80 million to $100 million on advertising to create a new search brand where it previously faltered with Live and MSN, The company has declined to comment on the ad budget.

The ad campaign highlights confusion that can spring from search results. Here's the video:

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June 3, 2009 9:52 AM

Microsoft's Qi Lu talks about Bing

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

bizqilu10.jpgUser intent, user intent, user intent.

That was the message Qi Lu, head of Microsoft's online division, brought to his keynote this morning at SMX Advanced, a search marketing conference at Bell Harbor Conference Center that started Tuesday.

The keynote began with a television commercial for Microsoft's upgraded search engine, Bing, which the company plans to air tonight. The ad jumps among several people asking search questions ("I want two tickets to paradise" is one.) in accelerating cuts that ends with the onscreen question, "What has search overload done to us?"

Lu then did a Q&A with Daniel Sullivan, editor-in-chief of Search Engine Land. Here are some excerpts of Lu's comments at the event:

On the development of Bing:
"Bing as a product took a very distinct differential approach. What we would like to offer is rich and more organized user experience so we enable users to complete tasks more efficiently and make more informed decisions faster."

On the future of search:
"if you have heavy R&D investment, if you have those infrastructure R&D, we will be able to model computationally user intent. The other important trend is the [shrinking] barrier for producing content. The Web gets richer and richer. It starts out with links, then there's images, now you have Facebook and Twitter. We're able to understand user intent very well over the next few years and Web gets richer and richer. You're able to build user experience that's vastly more compelling than today. While no one has a crystal ball on how future plays out, I firmly believe the best way to predict the future is to create one."

On the brand name "Bing":
"We have teams of experts going through very extensive processes looking at all the choices. We wanted something short, easy to pronounce, very easy to come up with URL. You want brand to be very accessible on the Internet. The brand also has to work well across the world."

On how Microsoft, which has 8 percent of the search market, will gain market share against Google, which has 62 percent, according to most recent rankings from comScore:
"We believe search is still relatively very nascent. There is a whole lot more that can be done. The search experience in next few years can be a lot more compelling. The second, ultimately, the real strengths you compete in search space has to be based on strength of product, quality of experience. ... Over time the best product will sell itself."

On status of talks between Microsoft and Yahoo on a search partnership:
"The best person to ask that question is [AllThingsD's blogger] Kara Swisher. Obviously I don't think I can say anything beyond what's out there. ... It won't be proper for me to speculate on what would happen, so I will just have to leave it to everybody's imagination what would happen."

(2008 Photo of Qi Lu: Marshall Miller/Microsoft)

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June 2, 2009 11:52 AM

Windows 7 on sale Oct. 22

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Windows 7, the next version of Microsoft's operating system, will go on sale Oct. 22, the company said.

The latest version will replace Windows Vista. Microsoft says it plans to offer a tech guarantee program that would offer a free upgrade to Windows 7 for people who purchase computers that come installed with Vista before Oct. 22.

The company did not have details on the time frame the guarantee will cover.

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June 1, 2009 5:06 PM

Look for Space Needle spotlight on Tuesday night

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

spaceneedle.JPGTo mark the launch of Microsoft's upgraded search engine Bing, the Space Needle will be sending a beam of light into the sky on Tuesday starting at 10 p.m. The company will also hoist a Microsoft Bing flag atop the needle.

While the preview of the Bing began today at www.bing.com, the company will wrap up some back-end engineering work, invisible to most users, and officially launch the search engine on Wednesday.

According to Advertising Age, Microsoft plans to spend $80 million to $100 million to market Bing. Executives have acknowledged that a poor consumer brand dogged its previous search efforts, branded Live Search. In April, Microsoft accounted for 8 percent of all share traffic, compared to Google's share of 64 percent, according to comScore.

(Photo credit: Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times)

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June 1, 2009 10:49 AM

Early reviews of Microsoft's Bing search engine

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

bing.jpgThe launch of Bing, Microsoft's upgraded search engine, was all drum roll without a cymbal crash last week. The company announced it would be launching a new version, but Bing would not officially launch until Wednesday.

A preview version went up this morning at www.bing.com. Here are some early reviews from around the Web:

ArsTechnica says there is much to like, as well as some frustration.

TechCrunch reports positive reader comments, including "Holly [sic] crap, it doesn't suck."

CNET also seems won over by Bing.

The reviews are an early positive sign for Microsoft, which trails mightily in the search market. Google held 64 percent of all searches in April according to comScore. Microsoft's share was 8.2 percent. Microsoft is calling Bing a decision engine.

Have you tried it out yet? Post reviews to the comments section.

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May 28, 2009 9:25 AM

Can Microsoft get a big bang out of Bing?

Posted by Mark Watanabe

As expected, Microsoft took the wraps off its overhauled search engine this morning, introducing a new brand name, Bing.

The Wall Street Journal reported online that Chief Executive Steve Ballmer was demonstrating Bing at the Journal's D: All Things Digital conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Here's Microsoft's release on the introduction.

The Journal's report said the search engine, which has been called Live Search, will sport a new look next week when it goes online. In addition, it is being designed to give users "access to a range of categories of search" and that Microsoft is targeting four distinct categories: shopping, local, travel and health.

Whether Bing can cut into Google's overwhelming lead in search will be one of the most closely watched issues in tech.

Bing will attempt to accomplish this by adding more features to Microsoft's search. Among other things, Microsoft is adding Bing Travel to the Bing.com site -- a combination of technology from Farecast and content from MSN Travel designed to help people in making travel plans. Microsoft acquired Seattle-based Farecast, an airfare prediction Web site, in April 2008.

Separately, BusinessWeek has an interesting interview with Qi Lu, president of Microsoft's Online Services Division who came to the company from Yahoo. In it, Lu gives a broad outline of where Microsoft thinks there are opportunities to advance search beyond what Google has accomplished:

"When you see a query box, you type in it. [The assumption is that] it will give you what you want. But [consumers'] expectations have increased. They are using that search box for all kinds of things: to purchase product, to plan a vacation, to research a particular organization, to study a particular concept."

Lu also says he came to Microsoft because the company has the resources to invest in infrastructure and "a world-class R&D team that has top-notch experts in all the critical disciplines."

Oh, yes, one more thing: Fortune magazine columnist Stanley Bing has a few words to say this morning on brands and brand names, including his own.

Update, 4:36 p.m.: The Live Search team (presumably that now becomes the Bing team?), responded to Stanley Bing's call to work out their differences by accepting Bing's (the person's) offer of services. The team's blog said:

After an emergency meeting (three people were invited, all declined), we've decided to take you up on your offer. We're not certain what exactly this would involve. We're not certain it would pay much (nothing, actually) but we look forward to starting a dialogue and hope we can work together soon. Let's do lunch.

Listen up and you can hear the badda bing.

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May 26, 2009 9:10 AM

Get ready to hear a lot about Bing, says Ad Age

Posted by Mark Watanabe

It looks like Microsoft's long-awaited revamp of Live Search is about to unfurl.

Last week, word leaked out that the company would be unveiling its updated search engine, code-named Kumo, at The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference, which takes place this week in Carlsbad, Calif. Steve Ballmer is on the roster of speakers.

Today, Advertising Age is reporting that Microsoft is launching the update, to be called Bing, with an $80 million to $100 million advertising campaign. Compare that with what Ad Age says is considered a "sizable budget" for a national consumer product launch, $50 million. JWT, one of the ad industry's major players, is handling the campaign.

One prominent part of the upgrade is expected to be a branding change. Speculation has centered on the code name, Kumo, but last week a leading search analyst, Danny Sullivan, said he thought the new brand would be Bing.

Despite the typical big-budget effort Microsoft appears to be setting up, the company faces a monumental challenge in going after a market leader whose name is virtually a generic term for Internet searching. In the latest monthly reports Google continued to hold a commanding 64.2 percent of the U.S. search market in April. Microsoft's Live Search remained languishing in third at 8.2 percent, behind Yahoo with 20.4 percent.

Whether the campaign can equal or better the impact that Microsoft's ads appear to making in the company's battle with Apple over laptop PC sales will be one of the closely watched issues in tech for a spell.

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May 19, 2009 11:31 AM

Message of Microsoft's "Laptop Hunters" ad campaign seems to be getting across

Posted by Mark Watanabe

Sharon mentioned looking back at the latest volleys in the Mac vs. PC ad battle while she's away for a couple of weeks. That's certainly a way to keep up with the fascinating marketing was Microsoft and Apple have engaged in over the past year or so.

Now comes word that Microsoft's efforts may be paying off.

Advertising Age, citing work from BrandIndex, reports that the "value perception" of the Apple and Microsoft brands "has shifted dramatically in the eyes of 18- to 34-years-olds" since the first "Laptop Hunters" commercials began running in March. Apple's has fallen, while Microsoft's has risen.

Value perception is based on scores that BrandIndex calculates from daily interviews of 5,000 people. Interviewees are asked if they think the get good value for their money.

The Microsoft campaign emphasizes price in highlighting shoppers looking for a laptop that has their desired features but which cost less than a dollar limit they've set for themselves. Depicting their shopping experience in fast-cut shots, the ads all include one shot in which the shopper looks at a Mac but bemoans its higher price.

Of course, the value message of the ads has a bit more resonance in the context of a tough economy.

Here's the latest in the "Laptop Hunters" series.

<br/><a href="http://video.msn.com/video.aspx?vid=0170090f-53b2-40fc-89a4-c759cb088e0a" target="_new" title="Laptop Hunters $1700 - Lauren and Sue get a Dell XPS 13">Video: Laptop Hunters $1700 - Lauren and Sue get a Dell XPS 13</a>

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May 13, 2009 1:26 PM

TellMe cofounder Mike McCue is leaving Microsoft's speech-recognition business

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

tellmenew03.jpgMike McCue, the cofounder of TellMe, announced today that he is leaving Microsoft's speech-recognition subsidiary.

Zig Serafin, a general manager for Microsoft's speech components group, will be taking McCue's job and bringing together TellMe's 330 employees in Mountain View, Calif., together with another 80 people in Microsoft working on speech technology in Redmond and in Beijing, China.

Microsoft bought TellMe in 2007, which provides the voice-recognition technology behind many customer-service phone systems. TellMe handles 40 percent of all 411 calls in the U.S., the company says. They also developed a voice-recognition service for Windows Mobile that we wrote about here.zigserafin.jpg

McCue, then chief executive, became general manager of the business. Before starting TellMe in 1999, he started a company that he sold to browser maker Netscape. Here's a story we ran on McCue last year. He plans to stick around until June 30, take a month or two off, then return to the startup world.

(Top photo of Mike McCue credit: Paul Sakuma/The Associated Press; bottom photo of Zig Serafin credit: Microsoft.)

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May 12, 2009 11:45 AM

Coming soon to a desktop near you: Microsoft's Office The Movie

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan


"There are 5 billion working people in the world. In 2010 their hero will arrive."

Those are the opening lines to an online video trailer for Microsoft Office 2010. The company is now taking requests for the technical preview, set to begin in July, which you can sign up for at the Microsoft site "Office 2010 The Movie."

Like a trailer for a real movie, it doesn't say much about the plot of the movie, I mean, the software.

Dennis Liu, credited as the director of the trailer, sounds like a technology agnostic guy. He first gained notice last year for making a music video on the Mac. In this interview with the Unofficial Apple Weblog, he says he's a Mac fan. The video is set to the song "Again and Again" by Bird and the Bee, which has been viewed 1.3 million times. Here's that video:

And, check out this other funny short film he did called "Pretend to Work" using Microsoft Office for Mac:

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May 11, 2009 4:01 PM

40,000 Microsoft recycling bins almost sent to landfill

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

recyclemounds.jpgThe same day we ran a story about Microsoft's efforts to develop greener data centers, we found out the company almost sent 40,000 old recycling bins to a landfill after replacing them with new ones.

The Washington State Recycling Association, a trade group, today named Tom and Justin Roth "Individual Recycler of the Year" for redistributing the bins so they could be reused instead of thrown out. Tom, who is Justin's dad, works at Microsoft. He and Justin found donated space on a cargo ship and sent the bins to organizations such as the Chignik Tribe in Alaska, as well as the Mukilteo School District. The Colville Tribe has used the bins to expand itsr recycling.

(Photo of Waste Management's Cascade Recycling Center in Woodinville: Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times)

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May 11, 2009 11:35 AM

Windows 7 in store by the holidays

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft confirmed today that Windows 7 will be in stores by the holidays, in a news release the company released for the Tech Ed conference.

The announcement also included some comments from Bill Veghte's keynote at the event. Veghte is the senior vice president of Windows Business: "With early RC testing and extensive partner feedback we've received, Windows 7 is tracking well for holiday availability."

For months, rumors have swirled that Windows 7 would be released in time for the holiday season, even as the release candidate of the operating system was made available to the public.

The release candidate, the final testing version of Windows 7, is available here.

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May 11, 2009 9:53 AM

Microsoft to offer debt

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Update 5:08 p.m.: Microsoft confirmed that it will issue $3.75 billion in long-term debt and gave more details on the breakdown.

They will offer $2 billion of 2.95 percent notes due June 1, 2014; $1 billion of 4.2 percent notes due June 1, 2019; and $750 million of 5.2 percent notes due June 1, 2039.

Update 1:11 p.m.: Microsoft's plans to issue debt would be the company's first long-term debt offering. Back in September, the board of directors authorized the company to issue $6 billion in debt. Here is our coverage from that announcement.

The company then issued $2 billion in commercial paper, short-term debt for corporate purposes and to purchase stock. That leaves $4 billion in debt the company could still seek. Bloomberg reported the company plans to offer $3.75 billion in long-term debt, citing an unnamed source.

Earlier: In a regulatory filed today, Microsoft says it plans to sell debt to raise money. The company will offer 5-, 10- and 30- year debt. The filing does not specify how much money the software company plans to raise with the debt offering, or when it will make the debt offering.

The proceeds will be used for working capital, capital expenditures, repurchases of stock and acquisitions, the company said in its filing.

Bloomberg is reporting that the sale could happen as early as today.

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May 8, 2009 4:17 PM

Microsoft status update: Not at desk due to Star Trek screening

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Star_Trek.JPG
Software development in Redmond appears to have ground to a screeching halt as Microsoft employees flock to screenings of "Star Trek."

A number of Twitter messages -- here, here and here -- have popped up from employees who say they are at private screenings of "Star Trek," thanks to Microsoft.

The company has made no secret of love for all things "Trek." The lobby art in one of the entertainment and devices offices in Redmond features a light-up bead curtain with the images of Kirk and Spock, as played by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

So what did you think of the movie? Are Chris Pine and Sylar worthy of wearing the uniform?

Here's video of Nimoy on David Letterman giving an abridged Top Ten list of lines never said on "Star Trek."

Update 5:28 p.m.: Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos said the entire Microsoft Research group did take off to see the new Star Trek movie this afternoon.

"Indeed some of our Microsoft researchers boldly went where only a few had gone before," Gellos said. That's just one of several Star Trek jokes he made in our phone conversation. Set phasers to funny.

It's a tradition for Rick Rashid, a senior vice president for the division, to take the group to the movies every time there's a new Star Trek movie. He pays for it out of his own pocket, Gellos said.

(Photo credit: The Associated Press)

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May 7, 2009 3:46 PM

PhotoSynth + Virtual Earth: Two great tastes that taste great together

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

xian_screenshot.jpgMicrosoft is making 3-D photo technology available to businesses through PhotoSynth and Virtual Earth. The two products have been integrated so businesses can use the software to stitch together photos and create 3-D models. The models can then be viewed online with Microsoft's Silverlight technology.

Users can share their 3-D models online at www.photosynth.net. The site is fun to surf around if you have time. It has models of the terra cotta warriors in Xi'an, China, the leaning tower of Pisa and the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, also known as the final resting place of the Holy Grail in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Only the penitent man shall photosynth.

Organizations like VisitBrighton have used the technology to give visitors an idea of attractions in the city in the U.K. Other businesses that Microsoft hopes will possibly use the technology include real-estate companies that can provide virtual tours of homes, retail businesses to show off products and stores, media and entertainment and the public sector to distribute information on public services and buildings.

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May 7, 2009 3:38 PM

Coffee break: If everything was made by Microsoft

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Coffee break time. Sit back with your compostable cup of Joe or free soda and check out humor site Cracked.com. It held a contest to depict what the world would look like If Everything Was Made by Microsoft.

The contestants ranged from Mona Lisa done in Paint.NET to a baby born with a "Do you want to register now?" on its leg.

Click and laugh.

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May 1, 2009 2:03 PM

Microsoft's Ray Ozzie talks about cloud computing and heralds this a golden age

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

biz1microsoftpdc28.jpg
Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, sat down for a question and answer session at the Technology Alliance lunch today at the Westin in downtown Seattle.
Ed Lazowska, a computer science professor at the University of Washington, asked questions and took a few from the audience. Ozzie talked about the cloud, netbooks and took a stroll down memory lane to describe the first Internet-ish system he used in 1974.


(Photo credit: Microsoft, 2008)

Continue reading this post ...


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April 29, 2009 9:15 AM

New voice technology for mobile phones from Microsoft's TellMe

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Update 2:00 p.m.: Here's a video demo of the new TellMe service.

I have a voice-activated dialing button on my Blackberry Pearl that I never use. To set it up I would have to record the name of a contact I want to dial by voice. It's clunky and one step too many. The function also uses a prime button on the side of my phone, so I often accidentally activate it when I pick up the handset.

TellMe, a Microsoft subsidiary based in Mountain View, Calif., is launching a product today for mobile phones that would allow a user to speak commands into a phone without the setup -- whether that's calling a contact, dictating a text message and sending it to a friend or searching for a restaurant. Windows Mobile 6.5, when that's ready this fall, will include the voice technology.

The challenge for TellMe, and all Windows Mobile products, is to get wireless carriers to buy in and get it installed on that carrier's devices so the service is readily accessible through a single button.

TellMe is best known for providing automated customer-service systems that allow callers to speak requests instead of punching in numbers or talking to a live operator.

(Video credit: TellMe)

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April 29, 2009 8:40 AM

Microsoft launching health science software Amalga Life Sciences

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Microsoft announced a new piece of the software ecosystem it is building for health care: Amalga Life Sciences. The software is targeted at research institutes, pharmaceutical companies and large medical organizations to organize research data and design better clinical trials.

Jim Karkanias, senior director of applied research and technology with the Microsoft Health Solutions group, said in an interview that Amalga is akin to GPS for research data. The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is an early adopter, according to the company's news release, but it's unclear whether that means it's a customer.

The Health Solutions group has been developing products targeting customers along the full spectrum of the health-care system. Last week, the company launched a product with the Mayo Clinic targeted at consumers called the Mayo Clinic Health Manager, which helps individuals manage wellness and health conditions.

This was announced Tuesday by the company at the Bio-IT World conference. It's coming to you a day late because I was out sick Tuesday. I'm back in the swing of things today. I don't think it was swine flu.

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April 27, 2009 8:03 AM

Microsoft morning news roundup: Campus picnic canceled

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Update 1:25 p.m.: I just spoke to Microsoft spokesman Lou Gellos by phone and he said ,yes, the picnic has been called off. The company will not hold its annual summer picnic near North Bend this year.

As the company's local headcount grew to 41,000 people, the picnic went from a one-day affair to one spread out over two weekends, featuring pony rides, wall climbing, food, drink, softball and frisbee for Microsoft workers and their families.

"The feedback from employees to Lisa Brummel, our VP of HR [human resources] has been overwhelmingly positive and understanding," Gellos said. "Obviously people are disappointed but they understand why and there doesn't appear to be any angst over this at all."

Microsoft plans to eliminate 5,000 jobs between January and July 2010, and has made 1,400 of those cuts. The company also plans to create 2,000 to 3,000 jobs in the same period.

Earlier:


  • CNET says Microsoft has canceled its annual summer picnic for its Redmond employees. We are checking with the company to see if it's true.The event usually takes place over a few days. The company said in its earnings call Thursday it planned to cut another $1 billion in operating expenses by June 30.


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April 24, 2009 8:38 PM

Microsoft releasing release candidate for Windows 7 on April 30

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

The Windows team at Microsoft reported on its blog this evening that its release candidate for Windows 7 will be available on April 30 for developers and for the public on May 5.

This means the company is one step closer to bringing the next version of its trademark product to market.

Windows 7 is the next upgrade of Microsoft's PC operating system. The release candidate will be the last chance for the company to get feedback and tweak the code before it sends the software to manufacturers to install on PCs for sale. The last version, Windows Vista, came out for general distribution in January 2007.

The public has had a chance to pick over the beta version for the past few months. Parri Munsell, director of consumer product management with Windows (not the guy in the photo below), said his group collected feedback starting three years ago to build Windows 7, and the comments fell into three main buckets:

"First people wanted to simplify. They wanted the PC to get out of their way." The Windows 7 beta removes almost all desktop icons. Applications will live in the taskbar at the bottom of the screen next to the start button.

"Second, making the PC work the way they want." Munsell mentioned reducing lag times to shut down and start down, as well as making sure the more premium versions of Windows 7 built on the features in less-expensive versions. For example, with Windows Vista, people using the business version could not play DVDs, whereas people using the less-expensive consumer version could.
Veghte_02_web.jpg

"The final thing is adopting new technology." For example, incorporating the touch interface into all aspects of the software, making home networking easier and making it more consumer friendly to hook in devices.

I will be interviewing Bill Veghte, senior vice president for the Windows business (the guy in the photo to the right), on Monday morning to get more details on what's different in the release candidate. If you have questions you want me to ask him, leave them in comments below or shoot them to me via e-mail at schan@seattletimes.com.

As soon as we have details on where you can get your hands on the release candiate, we'll post them here at the blog.

(Photo courtesy of Microsoft.)

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April 23, 2009 7:00 AM

Replay the Microsoft earnings liveblog

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

Thanks to everyone who joined us for the Microsoft earnings liveblog!

Here's the link to the earnings release. And click below for a replay of the liveblog.



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April 22, 2009 2:57 PM

Microsoft earnings preview, come back tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. for the liveblog

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

We will be liveblogging Microsoft's third-quarter earnings call tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. so come back, click in and share your thoughts on the tech giant's report card.

Here's what to look for in the earnings call. Analysts are expecting a weak quarter as the general state of the economy has pressured businesses to pull back on IT spending.

It did not help that Microsoft declined to provide any financial guidance for this quarter in its last call, when it announced it planned to cut 5,000 jobs between then and 2010.

First Call has put analyst profit estimates at about 39 cents per share, or $14.2 billion, compared with 47 cents per share in the same quarter last year.

Sid Parakh, analyst at McAdams Wright Ragen, is expecting earnings to come in below that. "We cited weakness in enterprise spending as well as the factor of netbooks that you might want to consider," he said. Microsoft has been selling a version of Windows XP for the low-cost laptops, but the company makes less than what it would for a copy of Windows installed on a desktop PC.

Parakh has done a round of checks and believes the company could be preparing for another round of deeper cuts. He recommends paying close attention any time someone says "enterprise spending," "netbooks" and "operating expenses."

Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, said he also expects a "pretty down quarter." He's seen evidence that the company is offering special deals on its enterprise software such as SQL, Exchange and Sharepoint, and offering incentives to large companies to renew their agreements. "Typically at Microsoft they don't offer a lot of deals," he said.

Still, Rosoff said most financial analysts have already accounted for lowered spending: "I don't know that Microsoft is going to disappoint them by missing."

We will also be listening for anything related to search, given all the talk about a Microsoft-Yahoo search partnership in the works.

We doubt that CEO Steve Ballmer and CFO Chris Lidell will drop any f-bombs, as Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz did on the company's earnings call Tuesday.

More background reading:


  • Apple just reported better year-over-year results in its earnings> Here's Ars Technica
  • 's account.

  • Google cut some costs as sales fell 5 percent, according to my co-worker Brier Dudley

  • Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Netbooks , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 22, 2009 7:54 AM

    Microsoft morning news roundup: Google's netbook pops up, tidbits on social networking in Windows Live

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    • Computerworld has some early info on Google's Android software for netbooks, which would compete with Microsoft's Windows software for the low-cost laptops built for basic computing like e-mailing and surfing the Web. Built by SkyTone in China, CW says, the new device undercuts most netbooks out there on cost, and should end up costing $100 to $200.
    • Techcrunch has some tidbits on social networking in Windows Live. It reports that Microsoft plans to announce a number of partners today that would stream social feed updates onto the Windows Live page. Facebook and Digg are on their list, but no Twitter. Update 10:37a: Twitter feeds are already available on Windows Live.

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    April 20, 2009 2:54 PM

    Lawsuit settled over death of Matthew Ammon, a Microsoft lawyer killed in a Bellevue crane collapse

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    bellevuecrane.jpgFrom our newsroom's courts reporter Ian Ith, two Seattle companies are expected to finalize a settlement with Matthew Ammon's parents. Ammon, a 31-year-old lawyer at Microsoft, was killed in his apartment in 2006 when a crane in Bellevue collapsed on his building. The settlement amount was not disclosed.

    The lawsuit against Lease Crutcher Lewis and Magnusson Klemencic Associates was set to go to trial, with Ammon's parents arguing the crane had been negligently installed and operated. A 210-foot crane fell on the Pinnacle Bellecentre, Ammon's building, and Plaza 305.

    Our columnist Danny Westneat had a great commentary on it in March before the settlement. This is what Ammon's mother, Kathy Gaberson, told Westneat:

    "Sometimes I'll go by a tower crane, and I become paralyzed," she says. "I can't move. I can't talk. I'll get a visceral feeling, a physical pain in my body. I just wish someone had listened. I wish the very earliest warning signs had been heeded."

    (Photo credit: Mike Siegel, The Seattle Times)

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    April 20, 2009 8:30 AM

    Morning Microsoft news roundup: Windows for netbooks $15, Oracle buys Sun Microsystems, Steve Ballmer is on the road

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    • WSJ by way of Electronista: It's reporting that Microsoft is charging PC makers only $15 per copy of Windows for netbooks, low-cost laptops that cost around $300, about a third of the cost of a PC version of Windows.
    • Ballmer Watch: Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's chief executive officer, is hitting the road. He is traveling to Europe, Middle East and Africa this week. According to the company, he is holding meetings with high-level government officials, customers and partners to discuss how technology can help during an economic downturn and will appear in several public engagements. The company did not give any more details about whom he was meeting with.
    • Oracle wants to buy Sun Microsystems for more than $7 billion. Ballmer told Reuters he's "very surprised."

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    April 17, 2009 5:22 PM

    Apple responds to Microsoft's laptop hunter ads

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    BusinessWeek has a comment from Apple on Microsoft's laptop hunter ads:

    "A PC is no bargain when it doesn't do what you want," Apple spokesman Bill Evans says. "The one thing that both Apple and Microsoft can agree on is that everyone thinks the Mac is cool. With its great designs and advanced software, nothing matches it at any price."

    What's clever about the Microsoft ad is how cool Giampaolo and the ginger Laura are with her glasses.

    The Seattle Times' earlier story on the rollout of the laptop hunter ad is here.
    Laptop Hunters #2 - Giampaolo
    Laptop Hunters #2 - Giampaolo

    Laptop Hunters #1 - Lauren
    Laptop Hunters #1 - Lauren

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    April 15, 2009 9:24 AM

    Microsoft and Interpol talk about public-safety software

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    Microsoft is hosting a two-day symposium in Redmond bringing together an international group of 300 people who work in public safety. The company announced Citizen Safety Architecture this morning, which brings together several products Microsoft has developed for governments, such as sharing information across agencies for disaster management and criminal investigations.

    The company will offer free to Interpol agencies a software called Computer Online Forensics Evidence Extractor, which will help law enforcement extract information from a computer before it's unplugged and taken back to the evidence vault. That would help them pin down what's in the cache memory, which would be erased once the computer is unplugged.

    Having covered criminal courts for several months here in King County, I usually only came across computer evidence when vice squads searched Craigslist to bust teenage prostitutes and their johns. Investigators also would confiscate hard drives to prosecute child porn cases.

    As for crisis management, it would be interesting to hear how software could be used to effectively deploy resources during a snowstorm, such as which streets to plow and how long you can expect to wait for a Metro bus.

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    April 14, 2009 3:08 PM

    Poll: Who is reading the Microsoft Pri0 blog?

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

     



    My goal is to make this blog as relevant to you as possible. But I know nothing about you, even though you've already read my personal history of growing up with a VIC 20. Here's a quick poll to tell me what you're here for.

    If you don't fit into these neat categories, feel free to tell me more about you in the comments section.

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    April 13, 2009 2:37 PM

    Witness the resurrection of the Microsoft Pri0 blog; what do you want to see here?

    Posted by Sharon Pian Chan

    Happy day-after Easter. Witness the resurrection of the Microsoft blog. Our former Microsoft reporter Benjamin J. Romano departed The Seattle Times two weeks ago for another opportunity, and I will be blogging to you from here on out.

    I've been reporting for The Seattle Times for more than a decade, and I've covered everything from the failure of Seattle's high-tech toilets to Christina Aguilera's concerts. I wrote about personal technology, wireless and telecom and video games several years ago here. My last job writing about business ended with an investigation of accounting tricks and dubious deals at InfoSpace.

    My dad was an early adopter. We had a Commodore VIC 20 we connected to our television set in the living room, and I wrote junior high science papers using Wordstar. It once dumped my entire junior-high science paper at 9 p.m. because I forgot to save to the floppy drive. In the interest of full disclosure, I currently use Microsoft software on my Seattle Times laptop and my home PC; but my cellphone runs on BlackBerry, my iPod runs on Apple, my Sansa runs on Napster and my Wii runs on Nintendo.

    That could all change in six months. The technology landscape is constantly shifting. Microsoft's challenge is to maintain its business with Windows and the PC while expanding on the frontiers of computing -- mobile, television, netbooks, search, social networking. Our challenge is to help you make sense of it.

    What you can expect from me in our paper: fair and accurate, local and global coverage of our region's most important tech company, and why it matters to you.

    What you can expect here at Pri0: the latest news, multimedia, polls, live blogs, an active dialogue with you.

    Let's start with you: What do you want to see on this blog?

    Comments | Category: Coming and going , Microsoft , Mobile , Wii , Windows , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 20, 2009 11:57 AM

    Microsoft, Starbucks see brand power slip in survey

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    If you're spending $300 million on a major ad campaign for your biggest product, this is not the line you want to read in Advertising Age: "Your brand power is waning."

    Continue reading this post ...


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    September 17, 2008 9:57 AM

    U.K. press reports: Google buying Valve; former Xbox boss Peter Moore speaks

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    A few buzzworthy video games items out of the U.K. press this morning.

    As my colleague Brier Dudley has noted, the Inquirer is reporting that Google is going to buy Kirkland-based Valve "any second now." Valve is a video game company with an industry leading distribution platform called Steam. (Update, 12:53 p.m.: Turns out that it ain't happening, according to MTV Multiplayer, which quoted a Valve spokesman saying, "complete fabrication." Oh, and Valve is now in Bellevue, not Kirkland.)

    The U.K. Guardian Games blog has an interesting interview with former Microsoft Xbox boss Peter Moore, who left the company last summer to head EA Sports. Moore, who started at the Redmond company in January 2003, provides some candid assessments of life inside the Microsoft games business. Here are the bits I found most interesting.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    August 28, 2008 10:04 AM

    What words would you add to the Microsoft spell-checker?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    ELLEN M. BANNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Mike Calcagno, general manager with the Natural Language Group for Office at Microsoft, and members of his team identify and vet new words to add to the spell checkers that ship with Office in many different languages.

    After today's story on the team at Microsoft that makes the spell-checker, people wrote in to share the words they wish it would include and their favorite spell-checker corrections.


    A friend who works in the sciences said it's difficult to trust the spell-checker in her field. "You think Bromodichloromethane or 4-Methyl-2-Pentanone are in there? Or whenever we use borehole the suggested correction is brothel..."

    Continue reading this post ...


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    August 18, 2008 9:01 PM

    Four Microsofties make Technology Review's list of 35 under 35

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    MIT's Technology Review, the world's oldest tech magazine, has named four Microsoft employees to its "annual list of 35 outstanding men and women under the age of 35 who exemplify the spirit of innovation in business and technology." Only Harvard and its affiliates had more people on the TR35.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Natural user interface , Personalities , Recruiting , Research |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    July 17, 2008 1:22 PM

    Microsoft, too, misses Wall Street earnings estimate, but just by a penny

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    From the company's just-released fiscal fourth-quarter earnings announcement: Revenue was $15.84 billion for the quarter ended June 30, 2008, up 18 percent; operating income and diluted earnings per share were $5.68 billion and 46 cents. The average estimate of Wall Street analysts was for earnings of 47 cents a share.

    Update, 1:31 p.m.: Microsoft is also tumbling in the after-hours market on the earnings miss. Its shares finished the regular session at $27.52, but were trading around $25.95, down 6 percent, in the after-hours market.

    Update, 1:43 p.m.: Microsoft lowered its income and earnings outlook for the current fiscal year, which began July 1. Now the company expects full-year operating income of between $26.3 billion to $26.9 billion compared with a range of $26.7 billion to $27.4 billion given April 24.

    Earnings per share, management says, will come in between $2.12 to $2.18 for the full year, down a penny from April 24 update of $2.13 to $2.19.

    CFO Chris Liddell will surely offer an explanation for the move, which isn't entirely surprising given the tighter IT spending environment. Still, this is the first sign that Microsoft's business has been impacted.

    Update, 2:23 p.m.: After speaking just now with Colleen Healy, Microsoft's investor relations head, it turns out the reduced guidance is not the result of an expected tightening IT budget. Microsoft instead is upping its spending on the Online Services Business, which just turned in a $1.2 billion operating loss for the fiscal year, more than twice the loss of the prior year.

    Since the April update, "We have made a conscious decision to increase our spending, in particular to invest in our Online Services Business," Healy said.

    Specifically, the company wants to drive increased awareness and search traffic to its Live Search engine; continue building its advertising platform; and enhance its MSN portal, Healy said. In total, that will come in at about $500 million in operating expense increases.

    Revenue growth forecasts for 2009 are actually up slightly, indicating the company is not expecting any softening in sales. "We're feeling good about fiscal year 09 and that does give us the confidence to invest in the business," she said.

    Also, in the current fiscal fourth quarter, Microsoft saw operating expenses increase by $500 million, in part because revenue was higher than expected because of increased consulting business and Xbox 360 sales, which have higher costs associated.

    The other half of that op ex increase -- about $250 million -- "was to do things like get tenacious on taking advantage of the economic climate out there to attract top talent," Healy said.

    Update, 2:37 p.m.: The Entertainment and Devices Division met its goal of profitability -- operating income of $426 million for the full fiscal year, a first. But the company stumbled to the finish with a $188 million loss in the current quarter. Healy chalked up the loss to investments in the division.

    "We did continue to invest in things like our mobility efforts and other areas in that business, which, we think, is going to fuel growth in the future," she said. "Our goal was sustained profitability on a yearly basis, and that doesn't mean that quarter-by-quarter, it's going to be in the black. It means that our goal is that on a yearly basis, we expect to be in the black, which continues for fiscal year 09."

    The company noted strong Xbox 360 sales in the quarter, and revenue growth of 36.6 percent. Asked if the company loses money on each console, Healy said the company's goal is for the console to break-even in the long run, excluding the $1.1 billion charge the company took in the fourth quarter last year to expand warranty coverage on its overheating Xbox 360s.

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    July 14, 2008 10:29 PM

    E3: The European campaign

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Too often, we focus on the video game (and Internet search) competition in the U.S., to the exclusion of the rest of the world. But on the games front, the battle for Europe during the current console generation is more interesting and perhaps more up for grabs than in the U.S.

    And if Microsoft Xbox boss Don Mattrick wants to back up the claim he made today -- that "Xbox 360 will sell more consoles worldwide this generation than PlayStation 3" -- he'll have to win in Europe.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    July 14, 2008 7:56 AM

    E3: What is Halo 'Blue'?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    LOS ANGELES -- A post on video game news site Joystiq shows what is described as a Wal-Mart inventory listing for something called Halo "Blue," due out, perhaps, Sept. 30. So what is it? Add that to the list of questions that may be answered at Microsoft's E3 press conference in two and a half hours.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    July 7, 2008 1:22 PM

    Lots for Microsoft, Yahoo to talk about at upcoming elite Sun Valley business retreat

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    DOUGLAS C. PIZAC/AP

    Yahoo's Jerry Yang and Google's Sergey Brin at the 2004 Allen & Co. Sun Valley Conference.

    With Yahoo, Microsoft and Carl Icahn waging a public campaign to win shareholder hearts and minds (and, most important, votes), a few more interesting reports surfaced this afternoon: One major Yahoo shareholder is said to be leaning toward Icahn's slate of director candidates. Meanwhile, any potential Yahoo-AOL deal would be on hold until after Aug. 1.

    All of this as the titans of the online and media worlds head toward Sun Valley, Idaho, for the annual Allen & Co. deal-making retreat.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Carl Icahn , Microsoft , Tech Economy , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    July 2, 2008 10:11 AM

    Microsoft selling Office on subscription basis for $70 a year

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft in July will begin selling a package of subscription services for consumers and small businesses, including the latest version of its widely used Office suite, previously only available for purchase as a one-time license.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 26, 2008 9:00 AM

    Microsoft ships server virtualization technology ahead of schedule

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Rub your eyes and read that again. Yes. It's a Microsoft product and "ahead of schedule" in the same sentence. Microsoft just announced that it has shipped Hyper-V, the promised virtualization feature of Windows Server 2008. It wasn't supposed to arrive until late summer. The final version of the software is available for download now, the company said.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 20, 2008 12:17 PM

    Microsoft head count way up in last 11 months, nearing 90,000

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft is now a company of close to 90,000 people and may, in fact, surpass that number by the time the fiscal year ends June 30.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 19, 2008 9:22 AM

    Chinese official says earlier report wrong, no antitrust probe of Microsoft

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Yesterday's Agence France-Presse report on a Chinese antitrust investigation into Microsoft and other foreign software companies is being refuted today. AFP itself reported that the China State Intellectual Property Office issued the following statement: "We have never carried out investigations on suspected market monopoly against enterprises, and currently we do not have any plans for this type of work either."

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 18, 2008 11:18 AM

    Attention departing Yahoos: Microsoft is hiring in Silicon Valley

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    With some high-profile executive departures from Yahoo in the wake of its tie-up with Google, Microsoft is launching a recruiting push in Silicon Valley.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 18, 2008 8:33 AM

    AFP: China conducting anti-monopoly probe of Microsoft

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Chinese regulators confirmed an antitrust probe of Microsoft and other software companies, according to an Agence France-Presse report this morning. Updated, 4:55 p.m. with the full Microsoft statement. Updated, Thursday morning: Officials from the same Chinese agency quoted in the AFP story are now saying there is no antitrust probe. Please see this post for an update.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 4, 2008 11:16 AM

    Video game advertising competition heats up with Sony, IGA deal

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    IGA Worldwide, a competitor of the Massive in-game advertising unit of Microsoft, announced a deal with Sony yesterday to sell in-game advertising on PlayStation 3 in Europe and North America. The move comes a day after Microsoft touted the success of its in-game advertising network on the Xbox 360, and also illustrates the different approaches the two console makers are taking to the business.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    June 3, 2008 10:00 AM

    Microsoft to direct 404 errors -- the Internet's dead ends -- to Live Search

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    In a sign that every search -- or would-be search -- counts, Microsoft today announced a plan to steer people who hit the Internet's dead ends toward its Live Search service. The company says it is equipping pages on its Internet domains that return a "404 - File Not Found" error message to redirect to its search engine, and helping Web publishers do the same.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 29, 2008 3:10 PM

    Microsoft acquisition Fast Search is subject of criminal probe in Norway

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Portfolio.com is reporting today on an escalating probe into account irregularities at Fast Search & Transfer, which Microsoft acquired for $1.2 billion.

    Update, 4:55 p.m.: Microsoft is taking the matter seriously. See a statement added after the jump.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 29, 2008 11:40 AM

    Microsoft to offer multimedia training on Holland America Cruise Lines

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Ballroom dancing, shuffle board, lounging on deck with a pina colada, hitting the buffet again and again. Great cruise activities. But you've got to be able to show it all off for the folks back home. To that end, Holland America Cruise Lines is bringing Microsoft aboard to offer digital media workshops on its ships.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 28, 2008 3:03 PM

    See you on the Xbox Pitch

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    COURTNEY BLETHEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Do you have that jersey in a size medium?

    Here's our story confirming earlier reports that Microsoft's Xbox 360 is sponsoring the Seattle Sounders FC.

    Some additional details: The company gets naming rights for the soccer field, which will be known as "The Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field." I suggested a few months ago that Microsoft build a new arena for the Sonics and call it simply the X Box.


    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 28, 2008 10:01 AM

    Report: Microsoft's Xbox 360 to sponsor Seattle's new Major League Soccer team

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    The Wall Street Journal reports today that the Seattle Sounders FC are set to announce a major sponsorship deal with Microsoft. The $20 million, five-season deal will put the words "'Xbox 360 LIVE' on the front of the Sounders' uniforms," according to the story, which cites unnamed "people familiar with the arrangement."

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 21, 2008 10:28 AM

    Seattle travel forecasting startup lands at Microsoft as Live Search Farecast, may get cash-back treatment

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    In addition to announcing its Live Search cashback program, Microsoft today is providing details on how it's incorporating Farecast, the Seattle company it acquired for about $115 million in April.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 20, 2008 9:33 AM

    Microsoft Advertising is new brand for, well, Microsoft advertising

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Brian McAndrews, kicking off advance08, Microsoft's advertising summit, announced today the company's new brand for its broad advertising efforts: Microsoft Advertising.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 15, 2008 11:48 AM

    Gossip: Microsoft CEO Summit spouses cooking with Tom Douglas

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    As Bill Gates hobnobbed with the chief executives invited to his CEO Summit yesterday, their spouses were getting a personal cooking lesson with Seattle restaurateur and chef Tom Douglas, according to a source familiar with planning for the hush-hush Microsoft event.

    Updated, 5:43 p.m.: After the jump, details on a Douglas-led tour of Pike Place Market and what was on the lunchtime menu.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 13, 2008 5:22 PM

    A conversation with Stephen Elop, new president of Microsoft Business Division

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Elop, the new president of the Microsoft Business Division, said one of his biggest surprises since joining the company is "the extent of innovation."

    Now that Jeff Raikes' move to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been made public, the man replacing him as president of the $16.4 billion-a-year Microsoft Business Division is making the rounds.

    Stephen Elop, 44, took the job in January. Here's a brief profile of Elop we ran at the time. On Tuesday, Elop sat down to talk about how he's settling in, impressions of Microsoft and the challenges facing his part of the company.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 12, 2008 10:03 AM

    Microsoft vet Raikes to Gates Foundation as CEO

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    DEAN RUTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Raikes at his Microsoft office in 2006.

    Bill Gates is bringing one of his most trusted Microsoft generals with him to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Jeff Raikes will become CEO of the world's largest philanthropy beginning Sept. 2, the foundation announced this morning.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 1, 2008 12:06 PM

    Manager in Microsoft Windows Live jumping to online classifieds startup Oodle

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Kevin Doerr, a Microsoft general manager in Windows Live, is leaving for a San Mateo, Calif., classified advertising startup called Oodle.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    May 1, 2008 11:13 AM

    Microsoft's Bellevue footprint getting bigger still; excerpts from today's employee meeting

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    The company is confirming today that it plans to lease the 26-story City Center Plaza, under construction at Northeast Sixth Street and 110th Avenue Northeast in downtown Bellevue. That would be on top of more than 1.3 million square feet of office space it nabbed last spring, and its swanky Lincoln Square digs.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 30, 2008 6:36 PM

    Music from Baudboys, Microsoft's a capella group

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    GREG GILBERT/THE SEATTLE TIMES

    The Baudboys in concert in Building 16 on Microsoft campus.

    While it may not score them points at their next performance review, the men of Microsoft's a cappella group, the Baudboys, have met their goal.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 30, 2008 1:47 PM

    WSJ: Microsoft board meeting now on Yahoo, companies still separated by price

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    The Wall Street Journal's anonymous sources say Microsoft's board of directors is meeting now to weigh its next step in the Yahoo takeover drama. An announcement is expected at the conclusion of the meeting. Someone familiar with the matter told us earlier today that the situation is still undetermined.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 29, 2008 1:20 PM

    Looking for answers on Microsoft's COFEE device

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Today's story on a Microsoft device that helps law enforcement gather forensic evidence from a crime suspect's computer has garnered lots of attention and raised questions about how exactly it works and what it's able to do. Update, 5:10 p.m. I just got a response from Microsoft. See the end of the post.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 28, 2008 12:21 PM

    How do Microsoft employees view the Yahoo acquisition?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Mary Jo Foley explores how Microsoft employee morale has suffered since the company began pursuing its acquisition of Yahoo. She says there's a "real and prevailing sentiment among many in the Microsoft ranks" that the company should walk from the deal, no matter the price.

    I've heard from a few at the company on this subject, and their thinking tends to follow these lines. But I'd love to hear from more employees.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 25, 2008 9:14 AM

    Microsoft shares sink after middling quarter; analysts react

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    After shedding 5 percent in after-hours trading Thursday, Microsoft shares dipped further this morning. The company's third-quarter earnings clearly did not delight investors.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    April 24, 2008 4:09 PM

    Microsoft to Yahoo: Progress toward a deal this weekend or we go hostile or walk

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell addressed the biggest outstanding issue facing his company during its third-quarter earnings conference call this afternoon: the bid to acquire Yahoo. He gave one of the strongest indications yet that Microsoft is considering abandoning the deal.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 24, 2008 2:11 PM

    Microsoft Q3: Client weak

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft's core operating system business saw year-over-year revenue and operating income declines in the latest quarter. Likewise, the Online Services Business -- where it competes most directly with Google, the impetus for the Yahoo acquisition -- also saw a slight decline.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 24, 2008 1:19 PM

    Microsoft Q3 revenue in line; earnings top analyst estimates; 2009 forecast for double-digit growth

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Wall Street analysts had been expecting earnings per share of 44 cents. Microsoft just announced earnings of 47 cents a share. The company's third quarter revenue of $14.45 billion was right in the middle of the range it forecast in January.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 24, 2008 11:05 AM

    Ballmer not boosting Yahoo bid, but big Microsoft quarter could

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Those tracking the price Microsoft has offered for Yahoo know that it fluctuates every day because half of the compensation to Yahoo shareholders would be Microsoft stock. If Microsoft continues its pattern of better-than-expected earnings releases later today, its stock, and, in turn, the compensation to Yahoo's shareholders, could jump.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 23, 2008 1:29 PM

    Microsoft begins distributing Vista SP1 via Automatic Updates

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft released the first service pack for Windows Vista in March. Today, it started pushing the update to its customers via Automatic Updates.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 17, 2008 6:43 PM

    Microsoft buying Seattle-based Farecast

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft and Farecast are confirming the acquisition of the Seattle-based airfare prediction and travel site. A person familiar with the transaction said the purchase price was around $115 million.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Online services , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 17, 2008 2:54 PM

    Nintendo declares victory in March video game sales

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    I assume NPD will be out with its monthly U.S. game industry figures later this afternoon. For now, Nintendo has chimed in early with an e-mail crowing about its sales in March: More than 720,000 Wiis sold, "representing the highest monthly sales total outside of" November and December, the holiday sales period.

    Updated with the full NPD report after the jump.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Nintendo , Sony |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 17, 2008 11:47 AM

    Microsoft's Ballmer gives unvarnished take on Windows, online businesses

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer spoke in Seattle this morning to one of the friendliest, but also most knowledgeable and critical audiences he faces: Microsoft's Most Valuable Professionals. In a jocular, hourlong speech and conversation, Ballmer gave some unguarded assessments of his company's position in online search; its bid for Yahoo; the success of Windows Vista; and its market acceptance vs its predecessor. Here are some of the highlights:

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Google , Microsoft , Steve Ballmer , Windows Vista , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 16, 2008 1:32 PM

    Microsoft sales video jeered across the Web, gives insight to enterprise sales pitch

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Someone has posted to YouTube what appears to be an internal Microsoft sales music video imploring the sales force to get out and sell Windows Vista to businesses now that Service Pack 1 is available. It's unabashedly cheesy, a bit hard to watch and quickly becoming the object of ridicule around the Web. But the message in the video sheds some light on how the company's sales arm sees its most important product.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 15, 2008 2:33 PM

    'Running of the programmers' on 520?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    This interesting report in The Economist on how mobility is changing urban and suburban landscapes pulled some solid examples from our region. One brought to my attention is a description of the afternoon clog on Highway 520. An urban movement researcher focusing on how traffic patterns are evolving discussed in his 2006 book "a 'reverse commute' in Seattle [in which] lots of male computer scientists at Microsoft in the suburb of Redmond raced downtown to find females---a weekday ritual called 'the running of the programmers.' "

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Commuting , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 15, 2008 10:14 AM

    Microsoft completes Danger acquisition, now the work begins

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft's acquisition of Danger is complete, the company announced today.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Personalities , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 14, 2008 10:30 PM

    More on Microsoft's new South Lake Union 'Touchdown Space' for employees

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    The Microsoft employees trying out the company's new "Touchdown Space" in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood on Monday were impressed with the design and seemed genuinely pleased at what it could mean for their work-life balance.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Real estate and facilities , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 9, 2008 11:56 AM

    Microsoft to expand 'Connector' employee shuttle-bus service

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Microsoft is more than doubling its new regional employee shuttle service.

    Microsoft launched a free shuttle service taking employees from around the region to its Redmond campus last fall. The program has been a success, the company said today, and it will more than double later this spring.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Public policy & issues , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 8, 2008 3:52 PM

    MTV News: Microsoft at work on a Wii remote-like controller for Xbox 360

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    In a pleasant break from the Microsoft-Yahoo news, an MTV News report out yesterday suggests that Microsoft is at work on a controller for the Xbox 360 that would mimic the successful motion-sensing remote controller for the Wii from Nintendo. Nintendo's top U.S. exec said in February that competitors would have a tough time copying his company's model.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Game Developers Conference , Games & entertainment , Microsoft , Nintendo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 4, 2008 10:11 AM

    Judge's order halts action in 'Vista Capable' lawsuit

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Last night, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman granted Microsoft's request to halt proceedings in the "Vista Capable" class action lawsuit pending results from the company's appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. More details coming...

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Legal issues , Microsoft , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 3, 2008 2:08 PM

    Microsoft ethnomusicologist to be dean of conservatory

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Brian Pertl has been at Microsoft since 1992. He heads up a small group in charge of media acquisitions. Now he's going to be dean of a music school. Update, Friday morning: Listen to a clip of Pertl's music after the jump.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Personalities |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 3, 2008 11:17 AM

    A tea leaf about Windows 7 in Windows XP announcement: It's still on track

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Makers of ultra-low-cost PCs (ULPCs) such as ASUS and Intel can install Windows XP Home until June 30, 2010, or one year after the general availability of Windows 7, whichever is later, Microsoft said today. But isn't Windows 7 supposed to be available in 2010?

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Hardware , Intel , Microsoft , Windows 7 , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 2, 2008 4:15 PM

    Updated analysis: Microsoft employees spending less on company stock

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Readers more familiar with Microsoft's Employee Stock Purchase Program than I am pointed out a better way to evaluate the data the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this week. I wrote that Microsoft employees, per capita, bought fewer shares of stock through the program in each of the past two years.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    April 1, 2008 9:40 AM

    Microsoft says through Wall Street Journal it's not raising Yahoo offer

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    "There's no reason to bid against ourselves," someone close to Microsoft told The Wall Street Journal. The unnamed sources for the story insist "the stance isn't posturing."

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 31, 2008 3:42 PM

    Microsoft employees buying fewer shares of company stock

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Today is one of four days each year that Microsoft employees can buy company stock at 90 percent of its fair-market value as part of the company's employee stock purchase plan. A report filed today on that plan shows that Microsofties have purchased fewer shares of company stock through the program per capita in each of the past two years.

    (Update, Wednesday afternoon:
    Note this post responding to readers who suggested a better way to evaluate the figures reported here.)

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 28, 2008 4:15 PM

    'White space' demonstration device, backed by Microsoft, breaks a third time

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft's "white spaces" demonstration device is broken. For the third time.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Hardware , Intel , Microsoft , Public policy & issues , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 28, 2008 12:05 PM

    Microsoft in China, then and now

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    There are a couple of interesting articles out today about Microsoft's relationship with China, past and future.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Legal issues , Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 27, 2008 6:23 PM

    One-time pundit on Microsoft antitrust case to head FTC

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    A prominent pundit and legal expert during the historic Microsoft antitrust trial, William Kovacic, was named chairman of the Federal Trade Commission.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Legal issues , Microsoft , Personalities , Public policy & issues |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 26, 2008 4:00 PM

    Microsoft to advertise small business offerings on NASCAR

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    For the 2008 season, Microsoft will be one of the sponsors of the No. 49 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 26, 2008 3:17 PM

    Yahoo, Microsoft search share declined in February, Nielsen reports

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Matching the trend reported last week in comScore's Internet search market share figures, Nielsen Online is out with its February report showing Google built on its enormous lead while Yahoo and Microsoft gave up ground.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Google , Microsoft , Search , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 26, 2008 10:00 AM

    Adobe/Macromedia vet and former NPD analyst Swenson joining Microsoft

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Yet another Adobe/Macromedia veteran is joining the Microsoft team doing battle with the design and online applications giant.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Adobe , Microsoft , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 25, 2008 1:49 PM

    Microsoft radar: Clock ticks on Yahoo; iPhone apps from Redmond?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    After a lull before and after Easter weekend, it seems the tidbits on the Yahoo acquisition front are starting to roll in again.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Microsoft , Wireless & telecom , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 25, 2008 9:32 AM

    Microsoft, Yahoo make moves toward open social networks

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Yahoo announced it's joining with Google and MySpace to form a foundation backing "the sustainable and open development of the OpenSocial initiative and related intellectual property." Meanwhile, Microsoft announced that it's working with five social networks, including Facebook, to allow users to easily move their contacts between the networks and Windows Live.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Online Communities , Online services |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 20, 2008 11:35 AM

    Survey: Microsoft's corporate brand declining steadily since 2003

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    A survey of U.S. corporate brand recognition and favor shows Microsoft on a five-year skid, even as it ranks highly on other such lists.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Advertising , Microsoft , Miscellaneous |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 19, 2008 3:12 PM

    Google, Ask.com gained Internet search share as Microsoft, Yahoo slid in February

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    In February, the total volume of U.S. Internet searches declined from a month earlier, as did the share of searches performed on Microsoft and Yahoo sites. Google's share increased, according to data just released by comScore.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Advertising , Google , Microsoft , Search , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 19, 2008 10:54 AM

    Adobe CEO 'committed' to Flash for iPhone; touts benefits over Microsoft Silverlight

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    Adobe CEO Narayen.

    Two weeks after Apple CEO Steve Jobs made waves by saying Adobe's widely used Flash multimedia technology wasn't up to snuff for the iPhone, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said Tuesday his company is "committed" to developing a Flash Player for the device.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Adobe , Apple , Microsoft , Online services |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 18, 2008 12:55 PM

    Microsoft explains when, where and how to get Windows Vista Service Pack 1

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft today released a major update to its year-old operating system, Windows Vista, but there has been some confusion about exactly when, where and how to get the software. I asked David Zipkin, a Microsoft senior product manager in the Windows group, to explain how a person in each of the four following situations should get Vista Service Pack 1, which includes the bug fixes and patches Microsoft has issued since Vista launched.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 18, 2008 9:16 AM

    Yahoo, justifying its 'no' to Microsoft, releases optimistic financial outlook

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    SEC

    Yahoo optimistic investor presentation today included this slide, which shows that the company's forecasts for revenue and cash flow growth are much higher than those of financial analysts.

    Yahoo this morning publicized an optimistic investor presentation that spells out its plans to "roughly double operating cash flow over the next three years." The plan was shown to the company's board of directors in December 2007 and is being released now to support the board's determination that Microsoft's acquisition offer of $44.6 billion "substantially undervalues Yahoo."

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Financial , Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 17, 2008 7:35 AM

    Microsoft Windows Mobile phones to get Adobe Flash Lite video platform

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    You can't yet watch Flash videos on your iPhone, but soon that capability will be available on Windows Mobile phones.

    Adobe announced this morning that Microsoft has licensed its Flash Lite software, the version of the nearly ubiquitous multimedia platform designed for mobile devices. Future Windows Mobile phones will be able to access Flash content in the Internet Explorer Mobile browser.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Adobe , Microsoft , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 14, 2008 2:07 PM

    Microsoft buying up another online ad firm, Rapt

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    The announcement this morning that Microsoft will buy Rapt, which makes advertising yield management solutions for digital publishers, marks the eighth advertising-related acquisition by the company since at least 2006. Mary Jo Foley counted them up here.

    Rapt will be folded in to the Atlas Publisher Suite, technology from aQuantive, which now resides in Microsoft's Advertiser and Publisher Solutions Group.

    The company's products and services measure supply and demand to help publishers "better price, predict, and provision advertising assets." Customers include: CNET Networks, Dow Jones & Company, Expedia, Fox Interactive Media, Microsoft, MTV Networks, NBC Universal, The New York Times Company, Reuters, USA Today and Yahoo.

    Comments | Category: Advertising , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 14, 2008 12:13 PM

    Microsoft, Intel, universities planning research partnership

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    On Tuesday, Microsoft and Intel, along with researchers from two as-yet unnamed universities, are planning to announce "significant new research ventures," according to a news release Microsoft sent out this afternoon.

    The executives making the announcement are Tony Hey, corporate vice president in charge of external research at Microsoft Research, and Andrew Chien, an Intel vice president in charge of the Corporate Technology Group and director of Intel Research.

    I wonder if their announcement will look anything like the ongoing research into Internet-scale applications backed by Google and IBM, which got its start at the University of Washington.

    Comments | Category: Intel , Microsoft , Research |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 14, 2008 9:41 AM

    WSJ: Microsoft and Yahoo execs talked Monday

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Adding credence to reports Thursday that Microsoft and Yahoo were in informal negotiations, The Wall Street Journal today reported that the talks took place Monday and that no investment bankers were present.

    Additional details from the Journal, which relied on unnamed "people familiar with the matter":

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 13, 2008 3:30 PM

    Game consoles: Sony PS3 outsells Microsoft Xbox 360 for the second month in a row

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    For the second month in a row, Sony's PlayStation 3 outsold Microsoft's Xbox 360, according to U.S. sales data for February from The NPD Group.

    As the two higher-end consoles duke it out, Nintendo's Wii, which is in the midst of several sought-after game and accessory launches this spring, continued to run away with the market.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Hardware , Microsoft , Nintendo , Sony |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 13, 2008 12:01 PM

    Microsoft's MSN chief media officer Bradford leaving for L.A. ad tech company

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


    ERIKA SCHULTZ / THE SEATTLE TIMES

    Picture added, 4:23 p.m.: Bradford talking with Terry Semel, then chairman and CEO of Yahoo, at Microsoft's Strategic Account Summit May 9, 2007 in Seattle. At the time, rumors of a Yahoo acquisition were swirling, but it was not addressed in Semel's speech or the Q&A with Bradford.

    Joanne Bradford is leaving Microsoft on March 19 for Spot Runner, a Los Angeles advertising company focused on technology to make "television advertising more affordable and accessible for local businesses."

    Microsoft said Greg Nelson, who has spent six of his 12 years at Microsoft in a leadership role at MSN, will lead the portal in the interim.

    Satya Nadella, the newly elevated senior vice president of Microsoft's Search, Portals & Advertising Platform Group, issued a statement.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Advertising , Microsoft |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 13, 2008 10:03 AM

    Microsoft and Yahoo in informal talks, CNET reports. Is the tide turning?

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    CNET is reporting this morning "informal merger discussions" are taking place between Yahoo and Microsoft. The source is unnamed, and there are several caveats that make this soup taste pretty thin. But perhaps the tide is starting to turn on Microsoft's acquisition offer, now six weeks old.

    Earlier this week, prominent tech pundits were again considering a scenario in which Microsoft waits for Yahoo's April 22 earnings report -- which could be ugly -- and then pulls its offer. Presumably, this would send Yahoo shares down the tubes. Then Microsoft could come back with a lower offer that investors and management (already under a barrage of shareholder lawsuits) would have to see as the only port in the storm.

    I've asked Microsoft for comment on the CNET report, and any update on the status of the offer.

    Meanwhile, TechCrunch has named four potential Microsoft candidates for Yahoo's board of directors:

    -- Edward H. Meyer - former CEO, Grey Advertising
    -- John Chapple - CEO, Nextel Partners
    -- Tom Freston - former president, Viacom
    -- Jaynie Studenmund - Former CEO, eHarmony


    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 12, 2008 1:13 PM

    Microsoft buys Kidaro as virtualization shopping spree continues

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft is purchasing Kidaro, a Redwood City, Calif., desktop virtualization provider, for undisclosed terms. It comes on the heels of Microsoft's January purchase of Calista Technologies, another desktop virtualization company.

    It's at least the third significant acquisition of a company in this space this year, the third being VMware's purchase of Thinstall.

    So what is desktop virtualization and what is Microsoft getting with Kidaro?

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Enterprise , Microsoft , Virtualization |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 11, 2008 1:50 PM

    Mr. Gates goes to Washington as Microsoft gets more H-1Bs than any U.S. tech

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates is scheduled to testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology Wednesday morning in what is likely his last appearance on Capitol Hill as a full-timer at the company he co-founded.


    DENNIS COOK / AP

    Bill Gates, right, talks to Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Patty Murray in this March 2007 photo.

    As he did just more than a year ago, Gates is expected to press Congress on the need to raise the cap on H-1B visas and improve the quality of U.S. high school graduates -- particularly in math and science. (Update, 9:40 a.m., Wednesday: Here's Gates written testimony, a 20-page PDF. Excerpts after the jump.)

    BusinessWeek, having reviewed the latest H-1B numbers, reports that "Indian outsourcers accounted for nearly 80 percent of the visa petitions approved last year for the top 10 participants in the program." Only two "traditional U.S. tech companies" are among the top 10 participants. Can you guess who?

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Microsoft , Recruiting , Tech Economy |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 10, 2008 5:15 PM

    Plenty of former Microsoft employees work at Adobe, too

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Mark Anders, a senior principal scientist at Adobe, read my story today about the former Adobe and Macromedia people who now work on competing products at Microsoft and wanted to point out that "the brainpower flows in both directions." I mentioned at the end of the story that Anders -- who is leading work on Thermo, a new tool for designers building rich Internet applications -- came from Microsoft, but there are many more who have followed a similar path. He gave me just a few examples in an email this afternoon.

    "I would like to point out that there are a LOT of former Microsoft people here," Anders wrote.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Adobe , Microsoft , Personalities , Recruiting |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 10, 2008 10:32 AM

    Microsoft radar: Murdoch not fighting Microsoft; user data methodology; Ozzie speaks

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    News Corp. is not going to battle Microsoft for Yahoo, Rupert Murdoch told investors this morning. From Reuters: "We're not going to get into a fight with Microsoft, which has a lot more money than us," Murdoch said at a Bear Stearns media conference.

    An interesting footnote on the methodology behind Louise Story's piece today on the amount of data being gathered on us by media companies. The New York Times paid comScore to tally this data. comScore tracked five types of "data collection events," such as videos served or searches entered.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Advertising , Microsoft , Yahoo acquisition |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 7, 2008 11:55 AM

    Microsoft appealing class-action status in Vista Capable suit

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft is appealing U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman's Feb. 22 decision to certify a class-action lawsuit challenging Microsoft's "Vista Capable" marketing program as deceptive.

    In a motion filed Thursday, Microsoft's attorneys argue that Pechman's ruling raises "important legal questions ... which have significance far beyond this case." Microsoft is asking the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to immediately review the ruling and asking Pechman to delay further proceedings in the Vista Capable suit until it does.

    From Microsoft's motion (18-page PDF):

    "If the Court of Appeals answers those questions in Microsoft's favor, this case will not proceed as a class action; if the Court of Appeals resolves these questions in plaintiffs favor, it will lay these threshold legal questions to rest. Either result will allow the parties to approach this action with full information about Microsoft's potential exposure to class-wide damages."

    Bloomberg first reported this development.

    Update, 12:20: Microsoft's attorneys listed several ways the company would be hurt if the proceedings continued with the case continues with the class-certification appeal unresolved.

    Continue reading this post ...


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    March 6, 2008 10:52 PM

    Ballmer Q&A: Extended coverage

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and former Apple evangelist Guy Kawasaki made a great combination on stage. Their hourlong Q&A at Mix, Microsoft's conference for Web developers Thursday, was filled with zingers, tough questions and some pleasantly frank answers -- especially once Kawasaki established early on that he was going to call Ballmer out on any "bull***t PR" answers. They also left enough time to take several questions from the audience.

    I included some highlights in this story -- Ballmer's latest comments on the Yahoo bid, Google, online services, antitrust and the pending exit of Bill Gates -- but there was much more than I could fit in the print edition. Below you'll find expanded coverage of various topics from the talk.

    For those with the time and the inclination, I suggest you watch the Q&A yourself. There are plenty of technical sections -- still interesting, but not for everyone. There are also several laugh-out-loud hilarious exchanges between the two tech veterans.

    Is Apple 'this little Chihuahua you just kick away?'

    What's up with Vista?

    Three days in the life of the Microsoft CEO

    Buying in to Facebook

    No comment on the Sonics

    Comments | Category: Microsoft , Personalities , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

    March 6, 2008 10:43 PM

    Ballmer Q&A: Is Apple 'this little chihuahua you just kick away?'

    Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

    Steve Ballmer went toe-to-toe with Guy Kawasaki on Apple, dissing his MacBook Air and welcoming his suggestion that Microsoft might view the longtime rival as a "little chihuahua you just kick away."

    "Arf. Arf," Ballmer responded, in a startlingly good impression of a small dog barking. He acknowledged that Apple has taken some market share from Microsoft in recent years and credited the company for the iPhone, calling it a "very prominent product."

    "They're going to continue to do good work, and we're going to continue to compete with all vigor and energy," Ballmer said.

    Continue reading this post ...


    Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Microsoft , Steve Ballmer , Wireless & telecom |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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