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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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June 15, 2009 2:34 PM

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

Posted by Sharon 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.

Comments | Category: Bill Gates , Bing , Employee benefits , Google , Microsoft , Mobile , News roundup , Windows Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 29, 2009 9:15 AM

New voice technology for mobile phones from Microsoft's TellMe

Posted by Sharon 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)

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

April 15, 2009 9:47 AM

Morning Microsoft news roundup: search stats, Yahoo layoffs, Zune phone

Posted by Sharon Chan

  • TechCrunch has the latest search traffic stats for the first quarter that show Microsoft losing 1.1 percent over the same period last year.
  • Mary-Jo Foley at ZDNet is speculating on plans for a Zune phone, code named Pink, to compete with iPhone.

Comments | Category: Mobile , News roundup , Search , Yahoo , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

April 13, 2009 2:37 PM

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

Posted by Sharon 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 11, 2009 9:02 AM

Microsoft news roundup: Extension granted in EU case; Windows Mobile app store detailed; Man wants up to $1 million from airline that lost his Xbox 360

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

The European Commission has given Microsoft another month to reply to the regulator's initial finding that the company violated European competition law. Specifically, the EC said the inclusion of Internet Explorer in Windows since 1996 was in violation. The EC investigated after a complaint by rival Web browser maker Opera Software. The new deadline for Microsoft to respond to the EC's "Statement of Objections," issued in January, is April 21 after the EC granted its request for an extension, according to this Bloomberg report.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Games & entertainment , Internet Explorer , Legal issues , Mobile , News roundup |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 4, 2009 8:09 PM

Ballmer explains how investors are reacting to cost cuts; says WinMobile 6.5 'not the full release we wanted this year'; talks Windows 7 marketing

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer addressed a packed auditorium of public sector technology executives gathered at the company's Redmond headquarters for its seventh U.S. Public Sector CIO Summit this week. He touched on some of the economic themes that have come up in several of his speeches recently, giving his take on funding for innovative ideas in a down economy and investors' reactions to Microsoft's cost-cutting measures. Ballmer also expressed some disappointment in the progress of Windows Mobile and gave his thoughts on marketing Windows 7. Read on for highlights.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Mobile , Steve Ballmer , Tech Economy , Windows 7 , Windows Mobile , Windows Vista |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 24, 2009 6:15 AM

Microsoft Strategic Update: Ballmer tells Wall Street more dramatic cost cutting would be 'imprudent'

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

With Microsoft's Redmond campus largely emptied out for the winter holidays, CEO Steve Ballmer crunched the numbers on the proper level of spending for his company against the current economic climate, which he has repeatedly referred to as a "reset" rather than just a recession. Ballmer said his own estimates for the weakness and duration of the downturn tend to be more severe than those of other business leaders he meets.

With that in mind, he settled on $27.5 billion of operating expenses -- a level the company aims to hold relatively steady through the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and during its 2010 fiscal year. Ballmer made clear to financial analysts meeting in New York this morning for the company's annual strategic update that cutting back even more significantly -- say to $20 billion -- would be "imprudent."

"I think this is right," Ballmer said.

That should give some comfort to those wondering if the modest layoffs Microsoft announced last month were the beginning of a more significant reduction. Wall Street analysts and investors are pressuring companies in every industry to continue cutting costs as sales and profits slow dramatically.

The strategic update call just came to an end. Ballmer gave a detailed look at seven major business areas for the company. Check back here later this morning for more details.

Update, 7:50 a.m.: As he told Congressional Democrats earlier this month, Ballmer said Microsoft's corporate strategists have been evaluating past downturns -- particularly those driven by "deleveraging." The team read company annual reports from 1927 to 1938 to determine who did a good job managing through the Great Depression. "RCA, God rest them in peace, became our role model," Ballmer said. The company was able to dominate the television business because it continued to invest during bad times, he said.

Then he broke down how Microsoft plans to invest.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Apple , Enterprise , Financial , Games & entertainment , Google , Microsoft layoffs , Mobile , Office , Online services , Open source , Search , Server and tools , Steve Ballmer , Strategy , Tech Economy , Windows , Windows 7 , Windows Azure , Windows Mobile , Xbox 360 , Yahoo acquisition , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 17, 2009 5:49 AM

News roundup: CBS picks Silverlight for March Madness on Demand; Full Flash coming on Windows Mobile; So many app stores; Maps as the metaphor for cellphone era

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Silverlight, Microsoft's competitor to Adobe Flash in online video and rich Internet applications, will power CBSsports.com's March Madness on Demand -- the men's college basketball tournament, reports the SportsBusiness Journal. CBS was already using Windows Media Player for the service, which drew 4.8 million users last year. Silverlight will power a higher-quality version, SBJ reports. Also, Microsoft's Scott Guthrie wrote in a November update on Silverlight that "CBS College Sports is now using Silverlight to stream NCAA events." In any case, It's a nice win for Microsoft, which three months ago lost another high-profile outlet for Silverlight when Major League Baseball Advanced Media switched MLB.com back to Adobe Flash.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Mobile , News roundup |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 16, 2009 6:00 AM

Microsoft announces Windows Mobile 6.5 features, new mobile services

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Honeycomb Start Screen 1.JPGMicrosoft is trying to reignite excitement around its mobile business with a string of announcements today at Mobile World Congress, in Barcelona, Spain. Microsoft is set to announce a new version of its mobile operating system, Windows Mobile 6.5. The company also officially confirmed already public developments including a new version of Internet Explorer 6; My Phone -- a backup and recovery service for contacts, photos and other data stored on a mobile device; and a forthcoming Microsoft mobile application store.

[Update, 10:30 a.m.: Here are links to today's story on the challenges Microsoft's mobile business faces, as well as the company's official announcement from this morning.]

Windows Mobile 6.5 features a new user interface and "honeycomb" start screen with hexagonal tiles for each program that are designed to be easier to use on touch-screen phones.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Mobile |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 13, 2009 6:58 AM

Microsoft Zune split into hardware, software teams

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

CNET's Ina Fried reports that on Jan. 22, Microsoft split its Zune digital music team in two: one focused on the software and services, which it plans to expand onto other, non-Microsoft devices, and another focused on the Zune hardware.

[Update, 12:34 p.m.: Added comments from Robbie Bach, head of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, on the rationale for the change.]

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Corporate organization , Devices , Mobile , Music , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 9, 2009 10:38 AM

Google licenses Exchange ActiveSync from Microsoft for new mobile service

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

mobile sync logos.JPG Google today launched Google Sync, a service that allows people to easily move and synchronize contacts and calendar items between devices. The company is licensing patents from Microsoft "covering Google's implementation of the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol on Google servers," according to a Microsoft statement.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Cloud computing , Devices , Google , Mobile , Online services |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 29, 2009 5:18 PM

Microsoft has posted 72 job openings in Washington since layoffs announced

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

A week ago, Microsoft announced its first companywide layoff, letting go 1,400 people as part of a plan to cut up to 5,000 jobs in the next 18 months. But the company made clear it would continue hiring, perhaps 2,000 to 3,000 people, in strategically important areas. And judging by its U.S. online jobs site, it intends to. A search of the site for positions in Washington state brought back 72 openings posted since Jan. 22, the day the layoffs were announced.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Advertising , Coming and going , Google , Halo , MSN , Microsoft layoffs , Mobile , Online services , Recruiting , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 12, 2009 1:57 PM

Microsoft partnering with mobile ad company Quattro Wireless

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After landing its five-year deal to provide mobile search -- and advertising -- to Verizon Wireless, Microsoft is teaming up with a mobile advertising expert. Quattro Wireless today announced a collaboration deal to give Microsoft Advertising customers access to Quattro's network and mobile advertising processes.

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

January 9, 2009 8:57 AM

CES: Video of Ford Sync demonstration

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Here's a short video of Microsoft's Velle Kolde demonstrating new features of Ford Sync, the in-vehicle entertainment and information software that Microsoft has helped the car maker develop. Check out this story for more details on the Seattle-area companies involved in the effort.

Comments | Category: Commuting , Consumer Electronics Show , Mobile , Natural user interface , Video |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 7, 2009 11:55 PM

CES: Q&A with Microsoft entertainment boss Robbie Bach

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices Division, talked about layoffs ("you won't hear us comment"), the great 2008 for Xbox and its impact on profitability, Microsoft's deal with Verizon Wireless (creating a good mobile search experience is the key), where entertainment fits in Microsoft's mobile strategy and more. Read on for a condensed transcript of my conversation with him Wednesday afternoon.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Games & entertainment , Mobile , Music , Personalities , Xbox 360 , Zune |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 7, 2009 6:30 PM

CES: Microsoft announces Windows 7 beta, partnerships with Verizon, Dell, Facebook

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

LAS VEGAS -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is set to take the stage here now. Here's a rundown of the news he's planning to announce, along with some analysis, based on an advanced briefing from Microsoft and an interview earlier today with Robbie Bach, president of the company's Entertainment and Devices Division, who is expected to join Ballmer on stage. Check back for color from the speech and any surprises.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Games & entertainment , Mobile , Search , Steve Ballmer , Windows 7 |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

January 7, 2009 10:59 AM

Bloomberg: Microsoft search to be on Verizon Wireless phones

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Bloomberg is reporting that Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications, told an investor conference today that Verizon Wireless is partnering with Microsoft "to provide Web browsing services to mobile-phone users, beating out search leader Google Inc." Details are expected during Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's keynote speech here at the International Consumer Electronics Show, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Check back here at that time for complete coverage of this and other Microsoft announcements.

Comments | Category: Consumer Electronics Show , Mobile , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 16, 2008 6:25 AM

Microsoft news roundup: Cramer doubts MSFT will bid for RIMM; Android a challenger to Windows Mobile; Yahoo sub-$12 pile-on

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Yesterday, Jim Cramer, CNBC's bombastic Mad Money stock picker, answered a viewer's question about rumblings that Microsoft may make a play for BlackBerry maker Research in Motion. Here's Cramer's take:

"I just think categorically it's not true. if it happens, I'm just dead wrong. ... I don't think Microsoft, after what it did with Yahoo, is going to be in there buying anybody."

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Google , Mobile , News roundup , Yahoo |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

October 10, 2008 9:42 AM

Yahoo shareholder wants Microsoft to buy at $22 a share; is RIM on the shopping list, too?

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Mithras Capital, which owns 0.14 percent of Yahoo, has floated a proposal for Microsoft to buy the floundering Internet giant for $22 a share, according to reports from Reuters and Bloomberg. That would be a 74 percent premium to Yahoo's Thursday closing price of $12.65, but still significantly below the $31-a-share stock and cash offer Microsoft made for the company Feb. 1.

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

September 18, 2008 3:37 PM

Ballmer fired up at company meeting, tells employees why Microsoft wouldn't build an iPhone

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano


KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Employees arrive at Microsoft's annual company meeting.

At Microsoft's company meeting today, CEO Steve Ballmer was in full cheerleader mode, running around the stage, high-fiving Microsoft employees at Safeco Field, breathing hard and yelling into the microphone, said one observer, who asked to remain anonymous while describing an event that was closed to the public.

Ballmer sought to put employees' concerns to rest, particularly around competitors Google and Apple, our tipster said.

In particular, Ballmer said he is often asked why Microsoft doesn't do its own iPhone.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Apple , Devices , Mobile , Music , Steve Ballmer |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

September 11, 2008 8:12 AM

Microsoft, RIM working on Live Search for Blackberry

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

Microsoft is working with BlackBerry maker Research In Motion to put Live Search on the popular line of smartphones. The deal could help Microsoft in its struggle to gain market share for its Internet search engine.

Continue reading this post ...


Comments | Category: Devices , Mobile , Search |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

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