Microsoft pushes HomeOS further with Lab of Things, but where’s the mobile angle? — Tech News and Analysis

Microsoft has launched what it calls its Lab of Things, a cloud-based framework that links to the company’s HomeOS, which monitors and controls connected devices inside home environments. The Lab of Things arrived Monday at the Microsoft Research event, and apparently HomeOS has been around for a while. A quick trip through the Microsoft research page shows examples of the HomeOS efforts going as far back as 2010 and a big media push from last spring.
But in digging into HomeOS and the Lab of Things news today, I’m struck by how odd Microsoft’s vision seems to be with regard to the connected home. For example, Microsoft’s HomeOS vision centers around a home PC (it can be a netbook or a laptop) that the devices talk to — something that seems more at home in 2003 than in 2013. However, Lab of Things looks like part of an evolution to that disparity, by tying the HomeOS to Microsoft’s Azure cloud.
From the documentation around the Lab of Things:

Lab of Things is a shared infrastructure designed to help researchers develop and evaluate technologies in the home environment. Lab of Things provides a common framework to write applications and has a set of capabilities beneficial to field deployments including logging application data from houses in cloud storage, remote monitoring of system health, and remote updating of applications if needed (e.g. to change to a new phase of the study by enabling new software, or to fix bugs).

Microsoft’s HomeOS supports Z-wave devices as well as sensors built using Microsoft’s Gadgeteer hardware. Since this is a research-oriented project, the idea is pitched to academics who want to try to set up connected home environments. They use the HomeOS and Lab of Things to set up the connected devices on a home network (in this case the laptop running HomeOS is akin to any number of hubs out there on the market) and then tell the devices what they want them to do.
Read more @ GigaOm.

Microsoft releases repair disk for botched KB 2823324 patch | Microsoft windows – InfoWorld

If your machine comes up with blue screens of death (BSODs) after installing Microsoft’s ill-fatedKB 2823324/MS13-036 patch, Microsoft has just made available a download that will get your system going again. The CD image is only designed to bring back PCs that absolutely cannot be booted because of KB 2823324. It does not function as a general-purpose Windows 7 System Repair Disk.

Microsoft advises that if you are able to boot your Windows 7 PC, you should remove the botched Black Tuesday patch manually.

If you can’t boot your computer, download the ISO file to any non-comatose PC. Right-click on the downloaded file and burn the ISO to a CD or USB. Then boot from the CD or USB. The KB 2823324 recovery routine proceeds automatically, with no intervention required.

Microsoft advises:

Customers who cannot successfully restart their systems after applying the 2823324 update can download this image to create a bootable DVD or USB drive with which they can boot their systems, uninstall security update 2823324, and return their systems to a normal operating state. Microsoft recommends using this ISO image only if customers cannot successfully restart their systems. Customers who can restart normally should not use this ISO image and should instead refer to Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 2839011 for instructions on how to uninstall security update 2823324.
Known Issues:
1) This will not run on old hardware (pre 2004) that does not support NX.
2) This will only run on Windows 7 32 bit installations.
3) It will not work if Bitlocker is enabled.

The ill-fated patch, which was part of this month’s Black Tuesday crop, started installing automatically on Win7 PCs nine days ago. Last Thursday, Microsoft pulled the patch, with a recommendation that the patch be removed manually.

Although the bad patch interfered with the operation of certain Kaspersky Antivirus packages, the major problems — including repeated BSODs — appeared in the Portuguese-language version of 32-bit Win7.

Source: InfoWorld.

TechCrunch: Microsoft Makes 1,000 Windows 8 Quickstart Kits Available To iOS Developers: $25 For Win 8 Pro & Parallels For Mac

windows8_quickstart
Two weeks ago, Microsoft launched its Windows 8 Quickstart kits for web developers who want to test their web apps on Internet Explorer 10 and Windows 8 on their Macs. That offer sold out very quickly, but today, Microsoft announced that it is making another 1,000 of these kits available on Swish, with 10,000 more coming throughout the rest of the year.

The offer will go live at 2:30 p.m. PT today. Until then, it’s only available to DEMO attendees.

For just a $25 donation to either code.orgKhan Academy or Watsi.org, as well as $8 in shipping costs, these developers will get a copy of Windows 8 Professional, Parallels Desktop 8 for Mac, and “iOS to Windows porting support from top engineers.” The kits are scheduled to ship in early June.

The focus this time is on iOS developers, and anybody who wants to get one of these kits will have 60 seconds to get past a number of multiple-choice questions to prove that they are indeed developers. To get this offer, you will have to show that you know your way around UIView, UIViewController and similar topics that iOS developers are likely intimately familiar with. Last time, the offer and puzzle were geared toward web developers and was relatively easy to solve.

For now, just 1,000 of these kits are available, but Microsoft says it plans to make about 10,000 available at various app builder events in the U.S. and international dev camps throughout the year.

As Microsoft notes, the company is extending this offer because it wants iOS developers to “get started creating your own apps for Windows Store.”

Source: TechCrunch

Microsoft developing 7-inch Surface tablet – WSJ | Reuters

microsoft-surface-phone-concept
(Reuters) – Microsoft Corp is developing a new lineup of Surface tablets, including a 7-inch version expected to go into mass production later this year, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans.

Microsoft executives felt they needed to keep pace with the growing popularity of smaller tablets like Google Inc’s 7-inch Nexus and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini introduced by Apple Inc last October, one person told the paper. ()

Microsoft declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal. The company could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular U.S. business hours.

Microsoft developing 7-inch Surface tablet – WSJ | Reuters.

Microsoft developing seven-inch Surface tablet: WSJ

Reuters) – Microsoft Corp is developing a new lineup of Surface tablets, including a 7-inch version expected to go into mass production later this year, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the company’s plans.

Microsoft executives felt they needed to keep pace with the growing popularity of smaller tablets like Google Inc’s 7-inch Nexus and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini introduced by Apple Inc last October, one person told the paper.

http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSBRE93A03W20130411?irpc=932

Microsoft makes good on promise, publishes list of 41K patents | Intellectual property – InfoWorld

Microsoft makes good on promise, publishes list of 41K patents | Intellectual property – InfoWorld.

Microsoft today launched a searchable list of its complete patent portfolio as part of its defense of the patent system, particularly software patents.

The list is currently composed of nearly 41,000 U.S. and international patents assigned to Microsoft or one of its subsidiaries.

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“Transparency around patent ownership will help prevent gamesmanship by companies that seek to lie in wait and ‘hold up’ companies rather than enable a well-functioning secondary market,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, on a blog announcing the searchable list. “[And] transparency is a prerequisite to enforceability of patent licensing pledges. Quite simply, without transparency it is impossible to determine if a company is in fact abiding by those commitments.”

Users can filter Microsoft’s list by country, or search by patent number, the title of the patent, or the assignee. However, the list does not include the patent application date or when a patent was awarded.

More information about each patent must be retrieved from the granting agency’s website, such as the one maintained by the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office).

A 4.3MB file in .csv (comma-separated values) format is also available for download from the website; the file can be imported into, say, a spreadsheet for additional analysis.

Microsoft has been pushing patent transparency since February, when Smith argued that governments need to fix what’s broken, but leave what’s working untouched. Among the reforms he urged was more openness on who owned what, a stance contrary to of many major companies, which instead file patents through difficult-to-track subsidiaries.

After appearing before congressional staffers during a Washington, D.C., briefing Feb. 21, Smith promised that Microsoft would publish a list of its patents by April 1.

Today, Smith called on others to follow Microsoft’s lead. “We urge other companies to join us in making available information about which patents they own,” he said.

Although Smith did not name names, Google had to be on his mind: The two firms have beenlocked in legal battles over patents, including those now owned by Google after its acquisition of Motorola.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg’s RSS feed. His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com. See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Microsoft signals push to smaller, lower-priced Windows tablets

http://www.infoworld.com/d/microsoft-windows/microsoft-signals-push-smaller-lower-priced-windows-tablets-215498

Microsoft has relaxed a Windows 8 certification requirement to allow devices with lower resolutions, a move analysts said signaled Microsoft would soon join the accelerating shift to smaller, less expensive tablets.

“The sub-eight-inch part of the tablet market will be growing this year to about 55% of the entire market,” said Bob O’Donnell, an analyst with IDC. “Microsoft hasn’t even been playing in that segment, and they needed to do something.”

[ Windows 8 is here, and InfoWorld covers Microsoft’s new direction, the touch interface for tablet and desktop apps, the transition from Windows 7, and more in the Windows 8 Deep Dive PDF special report. | Stay atop key Microsoft technologies in our Technology: Microsoft newsletter. ]

Ed Bott, a blogger with ZDNet, first reported on the resolution requirement change earlier today. Microsoft spelled out the relaxed rule in a March 12 newsletter from its certification program, which oversees use of the Windows logos that OEMs prominently display on their hardware.

In that newsletter, Microsoft made it clear that while it will now allow lower-resolution devices — the new minimum is 1024 x 768 — it would prefer that OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) stick with higher-resolution screens.

“This doesn’t imply that we’re encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution,” thenewsletter stated. “In fact, we see customers embracing the higher-resolution screens that make a great Windows experience. [But] we understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful.”

The previous Windows 8 certification rule — which also applied to Windows RT — required a minimum 1366 x 768 resolution, and thus a 16:9 aspect ratio. The lower resolution would allow for Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets similar to Apple’s smaller iPad, which relies on a 7.9-in. display with 1024 x 768 resolution, and results in a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Analysts interpreted the certification change as just that: Microsoft is giving OEMs the green light for smaller Windows RT and Windows 8 tablets, and signaling that it will do so itself in its Surface line, all an effort to compete with the likes of the $329 iPad Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The latter boasts an 8-in. screen with a 1280 x 800 resolution.

“There’s no doubt, from a Surface perspective, that Microsoft is interested in the 7-in. and 8-in. form factor,” said Carolina Milanesi of Gartner. “To consumers, content consumption is what matters, and for that, the [smaller] form factors are ideal.”

Both Milanesi and O’Donnell noted that because of their smaller screens, such tablets will be lower priced, another area where Microsoft has so far been AWOL.

“The question is, how low will they go?” said O’Donnell. “They may shoot for $399, but they really need to start at $299.”

Milanesi suggested even lower prices, arguing that Microsoft and its Surface line, as well as OEMs’ tablets, need to be price-competitive with $199 Android tablets, and not aim only at the higher-priced iPad Mini, which leads off at $329.

To do that, however, Microsoft will have to lower more than just its resolution requirements.

 

Google Chrome overtakes the Firefox

The day has come, many thought it would not happen, many said it is not possible…

This week marks a mile stone in Google’s Chrome browser history. This week was the first time that the Chrome browser officially counted more users then Firefox. There has been talk that Firefox is releasing new versions to frequent and sometimes to quickly as some builds went from alpha to beta to release candidate in mere weeks but there could be many other reasons as well.

Google Chrome has come a long way from it’s inception to what it is today as a browser and as a platform. There have been some visual changes but most of the work was done “under the hood”, so to speak.

We would like to know what you are using in our next poll and maybe give us some feedback why in the comments section. Both can be found on the right.

StatCounter-browser-ww-weekly-201131-201145

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share

DailyTech – UPDATED: Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5B in Cash

Microsoft digs into its deep pockets to snatch up Skype

19840_skype
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier tonightthat Microsoft was in talks to purchase VoIP company Skype for between $7 billion and $8 billion. Kara Swisher just recently confirmed the acquisition in her BoomTowncolumn, starting that the deal is worth an estimated $8.5 billion.

Earlier reports stated that Google and Facebook were duking it out to get a piece of Skype, but in the end Steve Ballmer and Microsoft’s huge chest of cash put an end to those discussions. The earlier reports also pointed to a Skype valuation of $3 to $4 billion, so Microsoft’s $8.5 billion purchase price hopefully will bring a hefty ROI.

19837_skype-video-for-iphone-christmas-3

For those keeping score, eBay bought Skypein 2005 for $2.5 billion. Four years later, eBay sold a 65% stake in the company for $1.9 billion.

The first beta of Skype was introduced in 2003, and as of December 2010, it had over 663 million registered users. The average number of monthly connected users is much lower, however, at 145 million. And when it comes to users that actually pay for the service, the numbers drop down to just 8.8 million.

Registered users can make Skype-to-Skype calls and one-to-one video calls for free. Users can make Skype-to-phone calls at a rate of 2.3 cents/minute. Skype also offers subscription plans at a rate of 1.2 cents/minute.

We’ll have to wait a few more hours until we get all the juicy details on Microsoft’s latest acquisition, but we’re betting that the boys from Redmond plan on tightly integrating Skype with Windows Phone 7 to better compete with Google Voice.

Updated 5/11/2011 @ 8:34am

Well, the news is now official. Microsoft just announced that it is acquiring Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. Microsoft says that Skype will bolster its “existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.”

As expected, Skype will be tightly integrated into the Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 platform. Microsoft is also creating a new business division called the Microsoft Skype Division, which will be headed by Skype CEO Tony Bates (he will report directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer).

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate.”

You can read the full press release here.
Source: DailyTech.

DailyTech – Windows 8 Appears to be Running Happily on ARM CPUs

Watch out Intel and AMD, power efficient ARM processors will soon be able to run Windows

19469_IE10_Runs_on_ARMAt CES 2011, Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer showed off an early build of a next generation Windows operating systemrunning on an ARM architecture CPU.  This week at Microsoft’s MIX Developer Conference in Las Vegas, the company gave developers a surprise Easter egg — apreview build of Internet Explorer 10 and its underlying version of Windows were running on a 1 GHz ARM processor.

Samsung Electronics (005930), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA), and other ARM chipmakers have all been hard at work cooking up power savvy multicore offerings, which would be perfect for a netbook or notebook.

Versus similarly clocked x86 processors from Intel or AMD, ARM processors would likely squeeze out an hour or two of extra battery life.  While die shrinks and the ever-rising leakage current may eventually largely negate this advantage, in the short term ARM presents the first compelling consumer alternative to x86 in decades.

Windows 8 is expected to insert Microsoft’s Ribbon UI element into more locations, including Windows Explorer.  It is also expected to have deeper touch integration and tie together the PC version of Windows with the Metro UI that Microsoft developed for the defunct Zune and Windows Phone 7.

But the addition of ARM support is perhaps the most anticipated feature.

While ARM currently offers power advantages, how compelling a buy Windows ARM portables will be still remains to be seen.  By offering base Windows support, including access to its Office suite and other enterprise tools, Microsoft makes ARM accessible to the everyday consumer.

But exactly how far Microsoft is able to go with its compatibility efforts remains to be seen.  If Microsoft can add ARM support for the Direct X and sound libraries, for example, it would be a relatively trivial exercise for developers to recompile their executables for ARM-architecture Windows 8 computers.

Microsoft makes the world’s most used development environment, Microsoft Visual Studio.  By adding tools to make it quick and easy to switch from x86 to ARM builds, Microsoft could make applications compatibility complaints largely a moot point.

Likewise, if Microsoft can embed an ARM-specific virtual machine in the OS with an x86 emulation layer, it might be possible to run native x86 apps, as is, without recompilation.  This would be helpful in cases where a company didn’t have the source and the application developer was unresponsive or unwilling to make the change.  Implementing the same sort of system to provide ARM emulation in x86 Windows would be even more helpful to ARM, because it would allow developers to effectively target the more efficient ARM architecture, while ignoring x86.

Ultimately the question also still remains how low Intel can price its options and how big the true gap in power efficiency will be.  Unlike in the past, Intel may now find its pricing ability hindered by new international scrutiny that prevents it from resorting to anti-competitive arrangements to try to stomp out pesky rivals like ARM. But the exact picture is unclear.

Even more unclear is the fate of Microsoft tablets.  Even if ARM takes off in the notebook space, it may do little to help Microsoft sell Windows tablets, with Apple and Android so deeply entrenched.  In that regard, Microsoft may find that it’s just given ARM a free ride to major expansion.  If that’s the case Microsoft’s customers should still reap minor gains — a positive for the company — but Microsoft itself may not make significant in-roads in its market expansion hopes.
Source: DailyTech.