Microsoft to make ‘announcements’

Well here’s a useless story if ever we’ve seen one. PC Pro is reporting that Microsoft will be making some ‘quite major announcements’ when it releases the Windows 7 Release Candidate. Of course we don’t know when that will be, since Microsoft hasn’t told us that yet.

Here’s the full story:

At a briefing at Microsoft’s London headquarters today, the company’s Windows OEM manager, Laurence Painell told PC Pro that there will be a "couple of additional, quite major announcements" in the coming weeks.

Wow. Thank God we’ve got hard hitting investigative reporters to get us these juicy facts. Our lives are so much richer.

The only thing worse than a useless story like that is when a site like ours makes a whole post out of it. Yes, we see the irony.

Taking virtualization ROI for a spin

You’ve always got to be wary when a press release includes lines like this:

“Rather than decreasing their IT spend in challenging times, some companies are choosing to recalibrate their budgets and invest in technical solutions that deliver savings over the long run,” says Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools Business at Microsoft. Source: Microsoft PressPass

Yes, the usual PR spin that companies bandy about when they need to drum up sales in a down economy. And don’t you love it when words like ‘recalibrate’ are used. That’s just PR shite-ese for ‘spend more’.

But, this press release is different to most of the ROI tosh that hits our inbox. In this its actually backed up with good case studies. There’s studies from Slough Borough Council and Capgemini as well as results from a two year study analyzing infrastructure costs in data-centers.

Most of the ROI is from embracing virtualisation of course, but they also manage to get in a pitch for Forefront and Visual Studio 2010 of all things. Yeah, like that’s going to be a big help right now.

But that aside, perhaps its time companies that have been holding off spending for so long showed a little renewed confidence, especially if there are longer term benefits.

Windows 7 Starter Edition limits

So someone discovered they couldn’t change the desktop using a beta build of Windows 7 Starter Edition. Someone else thought that was rediculous. And then the Twitter shitstorm started.

I guess that’s the benefit of a beta program though. Microsoft can put stuff out there and gauge the reactions it gets.

Yes, not being able to change the desktop might be a little strange, but is hardly problematic. And there are even workarounds. This is nothing compared to the straight-jacket-fitting limits many enterprises put on their employee’s machines. I’ve had situations where you can’t change resolution, can’t add anything to the Start menu, taskbar, not even shortcuts on the desktop.

So take a chill pill folks. It ‘aint that bad. And its likely the intended audience for the Starter Edition won’t even care. The people who would be annoyed will install a full version on their netbook, notebook or desktop the minute they unpack their new machine.

ExecTweets is shite

Is it just us or is the new ExecTweets site a complete waste of time?

The site is sponsored by Microsoft’s People-Ready program, and is essentially about grouping together a bunch of executives who use Twitter. Yawn.

The only interesting feature, although hardly a new one, is the ability to vote up a Tweet (but not down as far as we can see). Could be useful, but we’re not really sure for what (Retweeting is far more useful in our opinion). Time will tell.

The Twitter guys get inundated with all kinds of feature requests, and voting has long been on the list. The restraint they’ve shown in ensuring Twitter stays simple is a fundamental reason for its success.

So, you can bet the only reason (in spite of what they say) for featuring the ExecTweets link is so they can observe the response it gets. If enough people love the ability to vote, they’ll just add it to Twitter itself (and kill ExecTweets in the process). The same applies with all the different categorisation and aggregation products out there. They are niche features that only a select few want. But if they get popular enough (eg like the ability to Search Twitter became) they’ll add it in.

Our guess is that hardly anyone wants the ability to vote on a Tweet, and the site will be wallowing within a month. But hey, a great little promotional effort all the same. Nice work to whoever came up with the concept. Enjoy your success while you can.


(via MG Siegler at VentureBeat)

Microsoft DemoFest reports

Having an event (even if it is smaller and to a select audience) called DemoFest raises expectations, especially when the topics are related to Microsoft’s adCenter Labs latest ideas.

You may have read Benjamin Romano’s report (the demos ‘were not jaw-dropping’) in which he covered the main concepts demonstrated:

  • Gift Matching – really just demographic matching
  • Microsoft Gaze – Javascript enabled popup launcher
  • Display ad tool – automatically generates ad layouts
  • Location platform – tries to predict user intent

As Ben notes, these are nothing really new, and are simply catchup mechanisms on Microsoft’s part (see also Matt’s thoughts over at Search Engine Land).

Whilst admittedly it is just Microsoft showcasing what they are up to, wouldn’t it be a great confidence boost if Microsoft actually came up with something innovative that changed the game, rather than annoyed the shit out of users (eg the popup launcher is going to be very hated if it ever makes it out in the wild).

We love Eric Brill’s (General Manager of Strategic Direction) comments on the developments:

“We’re making a lot (of progress). It’s not user-visible but it means the velocity of innovation will go up a lot,” Brill said.

Source: Joe Tartakoff at

Velocity of innovation my arse!

Microsoft adCenter Labs

(via Joe Tartakoff)

Microsoft Paladin – Automated Vulnerability Analysis

This is a good post from Microsoft’s Threat Research & Response Blog (on the Microsoft Malware Protection Center site), hinting at their technology to speed the analysis of vulnerabilities. Its a toolset called Paladin. From the blog post:

The motivation behind this work is to automate the otherwise laborious process of analyzing exploits, indentifying malicious input bytes quickly, identification of how shell code is executed and, basically, to narrow the search space for further manual analysis. The ability to respond quickly to an emerging threat event is critical in our space. It is with all of this in mind that we have created a toolset we refer to as Paladin which helps support rapid and scalable vulnerability analysis.

Source: Threat Research & Response Blog

This is research only at this point, although it is making its way into the next beta version of the Forefront Threat Management Gateway product.

A timely response to threats is exactly what’s needed (see our last post), and this technology sounds like a step in the right direction.

For more about Microsoft Forefront Security tools click here.

Microsoft Forefront

(via One Microsoft Way)

When Browsers get hacked

Perhaps not much will be said about the recent browser hacking exploits of IE8, Safari and Firefox since all three of them were hacked within an hour. But you can bet if only one of them had been exploited it would have been a free for all of name-calling and lack-of-security marketing guff from the competitors.

Should we be worried that IE8 (for example) was hacked in under 30 minutes? Or what if it had been the only one hacked and the others immune?

The answer is no, we shouldn’t be worried about the exploits being found. The real question is how quickly the exploits are fixed. The test of a good company is how quickly they respond to their customer’s needs.

What we’d ideally like to see is a competition that reported how quickly a company patched their product and made it available for general release.

And as for the hacking competitions – keep them coming. They provide a valuable service to consumers.

(via Seattle PI)

Announcing the new Silverlight 3.0 Ad Fest

Since when did Microsoft take to making their sites look so fucking ugly! Take the Silverlight 3.0 site for example.

I know times are tough, but putting all these ads on pages – especially a site promoting such an exciting new release – is just unbelievable.

Sure, it’s great that 3rd party vendors have taken to Silverlight so enthusiastically, but promoting them so blatantly and crassly is a complete backwards step.

The Microsoft Silverlight site - a UX nightmare!

The irony of course is that Microsoft are promoting Silverlight to designers, the very audience who take look and feel so seriously. From a User Experience point of view the Silverlight site is complete fuckup.

Microsoft, lift your game please!

Microsoft share price

Obviously it’s been a while since we last checked in on the Microsoft share price.

Whilst it won’t be much surprise to see the continued decline in the price, it is interesting to note a slight upward trend over the last two weeks.

Whilst there’s lots of speculation of course around various announcements to do with partner agreements, we think the real reason is the expectation of some significant announcements at MIX09 this past week.

Now that the conference is over and there hasn’t really been much to get excited about (from an economic viewpoint) we wonder if the price will return to its usual sub $16 standing.

Microsoft share price (Jan-Mar 2009)

Internet Explorer 8 Released

It’s been a big week here at MIX09, so much so that we thought we’d get the blog going again.

We’ll cover some of the other big announcements in the coming days once the dust has settled, but couldn’t wait to cover the IE8 release. Download it here.

It’s been a long time coming, and hopefully the wait is worth it. Microsoft yesterday released IE8 to the masses, although not to Windows 7 users just yet (see below).

Performance (cheesy rock video about performance here) and safety top the list of improvements, as well as web standards compliance. But it doesn’t stop there – the new version includes some cool new features including:

  • Web slices
  • Accelerators
  • InPrivate Bowsing, as well as
  • Search Suggestions
  • Safer browsing with SmartScreen

If you are a Windows 7 Beta user you’ll have to wait a little longer, as noted on the IE8 site:

Windows 7 Beta already includes a pre-release candidate version of Internet Explorer 8 that is optimized for that release. Windows 7 enables unique features and functionality in Internet Explorer 8 including Windows Touch and Jump Lists which require additional product tests to ensure we are providing the best Windows experience for our customers. We will continue to update the version of Internet Explorer 8 running on Windows 7 as the development cycles of Windows 7 progress and plan to include the final version of Internet Explorer 8 in the release candidate version of Windows 7 later this year. For the latest information on Windows 7, visit the Windows 7 site.

This is disappointing, but perhaps understandable.

The most significant improvement in our opinion is the web standards compliance, as noted by Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager of the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft:

Internet Explorer 8 is Microsoft’s most standards-compliant browser to date, and benefits from work the company is doing with standards bodies to bring increased measurement and consistency. As part of Microsoft’s commitment to supporting standards, the company has submitted more than 7,000 cascading style sheet (CSS) 2.1 test cases to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the last year to help drive easier and more measurable standards adoption for all developers. Moreover, Internet Explorer 8 now passes more of the W3C CSS 2.1 test cases than any other shipping browser and has invested significantly in support for HTML 5.

Source: Microsoft PressPass

Web standards is a big, opinionated area, so it will be worth watching to see whether Microsoft has understood the ‘real’ needs of developers and companies correctly.

All in all this is a pretty big upgrade over IE7, and with a falling market share in the browser space Microsoft needs to lift their game. Time will tell whether IE8 has the firepower they are hoping for.

Internet Explorer 8