Archive for the 'Microsoft' Category

11 Stories You Don’t Want To Miss This Week

Saturday 20 December 2014 @ 11:25 am
6818192898_c132e81824_z From the Sony hack coverage to Instagram being valued at $35 billion, here are the top stories from 12/13-12/19. 1. Sony was hacked. Sony cancels the theatrical release of The Interview after threats from hackers. The FBI blames North Korea for the hack. Obama says Sony made a mistake in canceling the release of The Interview (and calls James Franco, James Flacco). Sony’s CEO responds… Read More

Microsoft adds AMBER missing children alerts to Bing search queries

Friday 19 December 2014 @ 2:57 am
Photo 19-12-2014 10 45 50

Google has integrated AMBER alerts into a number of its products, including Search, for a while already. Now, Microsoft has revealed it is integrating the child abduction broadcasts into its Bing search engine.

AMBER alerts have been used in the U.S. since 1996, a system set up following the abduction and murder of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman. The name also stands for “America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response.”

AMBER alerts are issued across multiple mediums, including TV and radio, but the advent of the Internet ushered in a new means of communicating missing children messages to millions of people, with giants such as Facebook embracing the system.

While it has been a long time coming, Microsoft has now partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to issue AMBER alerts, once the official go-ahead has been given by law enforcement.


Above: Amber Alerts on Bing

The alerts only show up, however, for “Amber alert” queries when you’re in a relevant location related to the abduction, or if you include the location in your search query.

AMBER alerts have been used to locate and return more than 700 abducted children since its inception, so it’s clearly an effective system that helps get the word out as quickly as possible.

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Microsoft releases Power BI apps for iPad, previews integrations with GitHub & Salesforce

Thursday 18 December 2014 @ 4:49 pm
Microsoft Power BI on mobile devices.

Microsoft is adding substantially to its Power BI business-intelligence software, with new mobile apps for devices running operating systems other than Windows, along with standard integrations with widely used cloud software tools.

A new iPad app is now featured inside Apple’s App Store, “with other platforms following in the coming months,” according to a blog post today from Microsoft’s Power BI Team. The announcement shows Microsoft following through on plans first expressed in an email to customers a few weeks ago.

Microsoft is also previewing new integrations that allow customers to push in data from web services like GitHub, Marketo,, SendGrid, and Zendesk, along with standard dashboards for these tools. More integrations are on the way, according to the blog post.

The moves show Microsoft continuing to look outside of its ecosystem of tools. Just look at its release of consumer applications like Office for iPad, support for Docker on Windows Server for enterprises.

Meanwhile, mobile business intelligence and cross-application support has become more and more popular. Salesforce itself has new business-analytics software, Wave, which was released with mobile in mind. And Salesforce has said customers will be able to crunch data from many sources, not just Salesforce’s lead-tracking software.

Microsoft is also today announcing a new integration with its SQL Server Analysis Services on-premises software that will enable customers to chart out data in the Power BI cloud application will keeping the raw data in house on companies’ own servers.

Microsoft brings Windows Phone carrier billing to China, India, Brazil, and Verizon in the U.S.

Thursday 18 December 2014 @ 10:00 am
Microsoft sign Redmond campus Wonderlane Flickr

Microsoft today announced new Windows Phone partnerships for carrier billing, which lets customers charge app and other content digital purchases directly to their phone bill. In fact, the company says it is the first global smartphone platform to bring carrier billing to China, India, and Brazil.

More specifically, Windows Phone carrier billing is launching in China on China Mobile, in India on Idea, and in Brazil on Claro. Support is also arriving on Verizon in the U.S., meaning Microsoft has finally nailed the last major carrier, which also happens to be the largest in its home country (it already supports AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile). For the record, Google beat Microsoft to the punch for Verizon, but Apple still hasn’t struck a deal.

Yet the bigger part of the announcement is the other three countries. While carrier billing isn’t very big in the U.S., it is crucial in emerging markets, where credit cards are not common. In fact, because the majority of people in these countries do not have (and cannot obtain) a credit card, it’s next to impossible for them to make purchases from most global app stores.

Microsoft now has partnered with 81 carriers in 46 markets, meaning it is getting close to potentially reaching half of the world’s mobile subscriber base. That being said, Windows Phone still has a small market share, so the actual number of customers that will use the feature will be significantly smaller, but the potential is certainly there.

In fact, Microsoft says more than 60 percent of all paid Windows Phone transactions are already made via carrier billing. As such, this feature could be marketed heavily as a differentiator to Android and iOS.

Since smartphones are still projected to explode in emerging markets (“the next five billion” smartphone customers is a common phrase that Microsoft made a point to underline todayas well), even more so than they did in developed markets, Microsoft’s strategy is a very logical one. Both Apple and Google have taken similar steps, but this is one where Microsoft is clearly ahead.

The company says it has the data to back up this push. New carrier billing connections increase total paid transactions by 8x per month in emerging markets and 3x in developed markets. Microsoft says it has seen an 87 percent increase in monthly sales year-over-year, and it believes carrier billing is a major driving force for this growth.

The feature rounds out a range of payment choices that Microsoft already offers, including credit cards, Alipay, and PayPal. Just last week, the company added support for bitcoin, although only in the U.S.

Windows Phone still has a massive mountain to climb, but striking deals like these shows why only a tech giant can offer competition to Android and iOS. Microsoft has the global reach necessary to fight the good fight.

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Microsoft says Windows 10 preview now has 1.5M testers, 30% use it daily

Wednesday 17 December 2014 @ 10:24 am
The Windows 10 Start Menu

Microsoft today shared some details about the Windows Insider Program. Most notably, the company says it now has over 1.5 million registered users testing its Windows 10 preview (up from 1 million on October 13), with “about 450k” (approximately 30 percent) using the test builds every day.

Compared to previous Windows beta releases, including for Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 8.1, preview builds of Windows 10 are getting more usage. Microsoft has put its internal data into a handy graph for Windows geeks to salivate over:


“It’s terrific for us to see this, because that hardcore usage will help us fix all the rough edges and bugs,” said Gabriel Aul, the leader of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group’s Data and Fundamentals Team. “The reports you send us, both from automated things like crash logs and manually via the Windows Feedback app, are helping us shape the product.”

Aul said his favorite recent example of a manual bug report is for a bug that he says would have been “really tricky to catch with test automation or by other means.” In certain circumstances, the OneDrive icon in File Explorer was replaced by the Outlook icon. That’s embarrassing, confusing, and hilarious all at the same time.

Microsoft said it has fixed almost 1,300 bugs that users have reported or upvoted so far. Keep in mind that some bugs naturally get many reports, so thousands of reports can sometimes spring from a single bug.

Here’s the per-build breakdown:


While many of these are “just bugs,” Aul also noted that some result in changes to the design or in completely new features. Examples included adding an option to choose which folder is the default when opening File Explorer, the ability to turn off recent files and/or frequent folders in Home, and a little animation/transition when opening the Start menu.

Microsoft has also fixed the most frequently occurring bluescreens and user mode crashes reported by testers in build 9841, build 9860, and build 9879:


The tall line in the chart on the left is the 0xAB bluescreen, and the tall line in the chart on the right is the Explorer.exe crash. Both were patched in build 9879.

Microsoft is expected to release the next build in about a month, in line with its Windows 10 consumer event on January 21 or soon after. The company is promising “a bunch of new features and improvements.”

Expectations are sky high. In fact, the build branch is called FBL_AWESOME.

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Windows App Studio gets TouchDevelop programming language and web app templates, drops Windows Phone 8.0

Wednesday 17 December 2014 @ 8:00 am
Microsoft sign Redmond campus Wonderlane Flickr

Microsoft today updated its Windows App Studio beta tool with support for TouchDevelop, a touch-friendly programming language that includes a physics engine and a user-interface framework for composing forms. The company has also added universal Web App Template (WAT) creation, but dropped support for Windows Phone 8.0.

More to follow

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Skype Translator preview kicks off with English and Spanish spoken language support

Monday 15 December 2014 @ 6:11 am
skype logo

Skype today announced the first phase of the Skype Translator preview program. The preview program kicks off with two spoken languages, Spanish and English, and over 40 instant messaging languages, available to Skype customers who have signed-up via the Skype Translator sign-up page.

Last month, Skype started letting users sign up for the preview. At the time, the company noted that only the tool will initially only be available on Windows 8.1 computers and tablets, which it also emphasized today.

More to follow

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New leaked video shows more Windows 10 upgrades and enhancements

Sunday 14 December 2014 @ 9:31 am
The Windows 10 Start Menu

Microsoft is set to show the world in January the features that will be included in Windows 10, but a leaked video today provides a good deal of information about the new OS.

Immediately noticeable is the inclusion of Cortana (Microsoft’s answer to Siri) as a major part of the user interface, a lot of cosmetic improvements, and various makeovers for the apps. The Cortana search bar (with microphone icon) is open by default at the bottom left of the home screen in the new build. All your Windows Phone settings are synced to the desktop OS, meaning that you can see your mobile news, weather, and places in the Cortana pop-up menu.

Some minor and cosmetic aspects of the command bar have been changed, and in general the user interface looks more complete and polished than the one we saw in the last video leak of the new OS, which showed up December 5th.

Many of the apps like the Getting Started, calculator, sound recorder, and the camera app have been reskinned and updated.  There’s also a Contact Support app that connects users directly with Microsoft support, and the Xbox app gets a cool makeover.

In a related development, one Twitter user seems to have uncovered what appears to be a new Windows Phone app in the Windows Store. The app description says it requires an ARM processor, which raises questions about whether this is really a phone app. But the app description clearly says “phone.”

There’s also some Twitter chatter suggesting that Windows 10 will support hand gestures and 3D stereo headsets.

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Facebook Dumps Bing, Will Introduce Its Own Search Tool

Saturday 13 December 2014 @ 9:55 am
Screenshot 2014-12-13 12.50.55 It seems that Facebook quietly removed Bing as its primary search provider over the weekend, announcing plans to debut its own search tool on Monday, according to Reuters. The report says that Facebook’s new search tool will give users the ability to filter through old comments and other information from friends. Read More

Microsoft confirms Facebook stopped using Bing search results

Friday 12 December 2014 @ 4:29 pm

Facebook has dumped search results from Microsoft’s Bing after the social networking giant earlier this week launched its own tool for finding comments and other information

According to Reuters, Facebook confirmed the move Friday.

Search is vital for Facebook’s 1.35 billion users as they attempt to find friends or locate all kinds of other information on the site.

In a statement to VentureBeat, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook.” But, “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told VentureBeat that, “Facebook recently changed its search experience to focus on helping people tap into information that’s been shared with them on Facebook versus a broader set of web results. We continue to partner with Facebook in many different areas.”

The Microsoft spokesperson also noted that Facebook’s move happened “a while ago.”

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