Tag: Microsoft

By Tom Warren for The Verge

Microsoft and Walmart are teaming up for a strategic partnership that will take on rival Amazon in both technology and retail. Walmart is announcing today, at Microsoft’s Inspire partner conference, that it’s partnering with Microsoft to use the company’s cloud services. The five-year agreement will see Walmart use Azure and Microsoft 365 across the company, alongside new projects focused on machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data platforms.

Walmart is Amazon’s biggest retail competitor, and Microsoft is Amazon’s largest cloud services rival. That rivalry isn’t lost on Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who hinted in an interview with The Wall Street Journal that it’s “absolutely core to this” new partnership. “How do we get more leverage as two organisations that have depth and breadth and investment to be able to outrun our respective competition,” says Nadella.

While the tech partnership will obviously benefit both companies, it also comes just weeks after reports suggested Microsoft is working on rival Amazon Go technology for cashier-free stores. Microsoft is reportedly in talks with Walmart for this technology, and the software maker has hired a computer vision specialist from Amazon. Amazon’s Go store in Seattle uses multiple camera and sensors that use computer vision algorithms to detect what items you’re taking out of the store so you’re automatically charged. Microsoft is reportedly experimenting with attaching cameras to shopping carts to track items.

Both Walmart and Microsoft don’t reference too many of the future-facing parts of this strategic deal, and it’s mostly timed for Microsoft’s big partner conference in Las Vegas this week. However, this new deal could be a unique test ground for Microsoft’s bigger AI ambitions and any future plans it has to push other retailers to use its range of cloud services.

By Alison DeNisco Rayome for Tech Republic

Microsoft is doubling down on its promise to rid the world of passwords and replace them with more convenient and secure options, the company announced in a Tuesday blog post.

“Nobody likes passwords. They are inconvenient, insecure, and expensive,” according to the post. The tech giant wants to deliver on two key promises: That end users “should never have to deal with passwords in their day-to-day lives,” and to replace passwords with “user credentials [that] cannot be cracked, breached, or phished.”

Microsoft first made a move to reduce password use with Windows Hello, introduced in Windows 10, which uses biometric sensors to verify a user’s identity based on a fingerprint or face scan. It has since introduced the Authenticator app, which allows users to log into their Microsoft account on their desktop using their phone. Finally, Microsoft is working with the Fast Identity Online (FIDO) working group to update Windows Hello with physical FIDO2 security keys that allow for more secure authentication.

The Windows Hello FIDO2 Security Key feature is now in limited preview, the post noted.

“At its core, our fundamental philosophy is simple: devalue the password, and replace it with something that eradicates its use for the end user and drains its value for an attacker,” according to the post.

The Windows 10 April 2018 Update includes the ability to do just that, the post noted: Using Windows 10 in S mode, cloud users (with Managed Service Account or Azure Active Directory) can use their PC without ever entering a password. Users can take advantage of this feature by setting up the Microsoft Authenticator App, installing the Windows 10 April 2018 Update with S mode enabled, and setting up Windows Hello.

To achieve a password-less future for all devices, Microsoft laid out a four-step plan:

1. Develop password-replacement offerings. This would involve replacing passwords with a new set of alternatives that retain the positive elements of passwords while also improving their shortcomings.

2. Reduce user visible password-surface area. Microsoft wants to upgrade all elements in the lifecycle of a user’s identity, including provisioning of an account, setting up a new device, and accessing apps and websites, to make sure they work with password replacements.

3. Simulate a password-less world. This means helping end users and IT administrators to transition into a password-less world easily.

4. Eliminate passwords from the identity directory. Deleting passwords from the identity directory represents “the final frontier,” according to the post.

It remains to be seen if other tech giants will follow Microsoft’s lead and eliminate passwords. With the rise of biometric security in a number of fields, the future for businesses could very well be password-less.

The reinvention of Nokia

By Wesley Diphoko for IOL 

Nokia has existed for more than 100 years. Nokia has brought us what we know today as the mobile phone. It has also experienced ups and downs that saw it changing hands from one company to the other. Now that the oldest mobile phone brand is making a full come back it’s worth reflecting on its past as we look at its latest products.

In the year 1865, Fredrik Idestam built a paper manufacturing mill in Southern Finland and followed it up by launching a second mill in the nearby town of Nokia in 1868.
Three years later Idestam transformed his company into a share company and the Nokia company was formed.

Nokia kept growing through the 19th century and it was only in the 1960s that the company branched out into electronics. In the next two years, it developed a host of electronic devices including radio telephones for the army.

In 1979 Nokia took its first steps into telephony by creating Mobira in a Joint Venture (JV) with Finnish TV maker Salora, and they created the Nordic Mobile Telephone
(NMT) service. This was the world’s first international cellular network and in the 80s, Nokia launched its first car phone called the Mobira Senator.

Five years later Nokia launched the Mobira Cityman, the first mobile phone that would run on the company’s NMT network. At 800 grams and priced at $6,308, it may be heavy and pricey by today’s standards, but the device soon hit cult status when Mikhail Gorbachev was photographed using the device.

The ’90s

The ’90s were the glory years for the Finnish company. In 1994, Nokia launched 2100 with the now iconic Nokia ringtone.
Three years later it launched Snake, one of the most widely recognised mobile games of all time. In 1997, Nokia also launched the Communicator, which 11 years before the first iPhone was considered to be much ahead of its time. The device not only looked cool but also offered features like email, fax, calendar and a massive display.

The same year, Nokia also launched the 6110 and the 5110 two more devices, which were way ahead of their time and competition. These devices offered a much sleeker way of text messaging, a beautiful menu system customization options like multiple colour snap-on covers. These devices were followed by the 7110, which offered basic web functions, the 7650, with a built-in camera and the 6650, the company’s first 3G enabled smartphone.

By 1998, Nokia had firmly established itself as the global leader. Where its rivals like Apple, Sony and Siemens had failed to predict the global demand, Nokia sailed through these years with a turnover that increased 500 percent from $ 8.9 billion to $42.8 billion.

After the glorious 90s, in 2007 things began to go downhill — and rapidly. In the year 2009, Nokia posted its first quarterly loss in more than a decade. This was largely due to HTC developing a smartphone running on the yet new Google Android operating system.
With the iPhones and various Android smartphones taking the market by storm, Nokia failed to keep up with them. Instead of joining the horde of Android adopters, Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop joined hands with Microsoft to develop smartphones running on the Windows Phone platform.

The Microsoft acquisition

Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business brought an end to an era, which has seen plenty of ups and an equal number of downs.
On September 3, 2013, Nokia announced that its hardware department would be acquired by Microsoft in a deal that was worth $7.2 billion. After eight months, the deal was completed.

Nokia , once the world’s biggest maker of mobile phones, was wrong-footed by the rise of smartphones and eclipsed by Apple and Samsung.
It sold its entire handset business to Microsoft Corp in 2014 and focused on telecoms network equipment.
Microsoft struggled with phones after the 2014 deal with Nokia, and it decided to write off $7.5 billion from the business.

Nokia brand

Nokia, however, held on to its phone patents with a view to eventually striking a licensing deal, though it had to wait due to a non-compete deal with Microsoft.

Recently, HMD, a company backed by one of its former executives teamed up with manufacturer Foxconn (2354.TW) to buy the rights to the brand for mobile devices.

Microsoft also decided to sell its entry-level phones business to HMD and Foxconn subsidiary FIH Mobile for $350 million.

Nokia, whose global market share in handsets peaked at around 40% in 2008, believed that its brand remained widely recognised, especially in developing markets.

Nokia also believed that its brand was strong in the feature phone space. The company now has 1% of the global market share and falls just outside the top 10 phone brands.

The Nokia 1 is accessible technology, delivering smartphone essentials for just R999. The legendary Nokia 8110 is a 4G feature phone that comes with the iconic curved slider design. It will be available for purchase from May 2018.

Microsoft keeps hack under wraps

Microsoft’s internal database that it uses to track bugs in its software was reportedly hacked in 2013.

A highly sophisticated hacking group was behind the alleged breach, according to Reuters, which is the second known breach of this kind of corporate database.

Five former employees told the publication about the hack in separate interviews, though Reuters said Microsoft did not disclose the depth of the attack in 2013.

The database in question contained information on critical and unfixed vulnerabilities found in not only the Windows operating system but also some of the most widely used worldwide software, the publication reported.

Microsoft learned of the breach in early 2013 after a hacking group launched a series of attacks against high profile tech companies including Apple, Twitter and Facebook.

The group exploited a flaw in the Java programming language to access employees’ Apple computers, before moving into the company’s network, Reuters said.

Microsoft released a short statement following the attack on 22 February 2013 that said: “As reported by Facebook and Apple, Microsoft can confirm that we also recently experienced a similar security intrusion.

“We found a small number of computers, including some in our Mac business unit, that were infected by malicious software using techniques similar to those documented by other organizations. We have no evidence of customer data being affected, and our investigation is ongoing.”

In an email responding to questions from Reuters, Microsoft said: “Our security teams actively monitor cyber threats to help us prioritize and take appropriate action to keep customers protected.”

A Microsoft spokesperson told IT Pro: “In February 2013 we commented on the discovery of malware, similar to that found by other companies at the time, on a small number of computers including some in our Mac business unit. Our investigation found no evidence of information being stolen that could be used in subsequent attacks.”

This contradicts Reuters’ report, whose sources said that although the bugs in the database had been exploited in hacking attacks, the attackers could have found the information elsewhere.

Reuters said Microsoft didn’t disclose the breach because of this, and because many patches had already been released to customers.

“They absolutely discovered that bugs had been taken,” one source said. “Whether or not those bugs were in use, I don’t think they did a very thorough job of discovering.”

Following the breach, Microsoft improved its security by separating the database from the corporate network and including two authentications to access the information, Reuters reported.

Mozilla had a similar attack in 2015 when an attacker accessed a database which included information on 10 unpatched flaws. One of the flaws was then used to attack Firefox users, which Mozilla told the public about at the time, telling customers to take action.

Mozilla CBO and CLO Denelle Dixon said the foundation released the information about what it knew in 2015 “not only [to] inform and help protect our users, but also to help ourselves and other companies learn, and finally because openness and transparency are core to our mission.”

Reuters wrote that the hacking group has been called Morpho, Butterfly and Wild Neutron but security researchers say it is a proficient and mysterious group and that they cannot determine if it is backed by a state government.

Equifax revelead that a file containing 700,000 UK records was accessed during a data breach in May, giving attackers access to names and contact details. Of that figure, 700,000 accounts had partial credit information and email addresses stolen.

Zach Marzouk for IT Pro 

Microsoft Office 2019 will arrive next year

Over at Ignite, Microsoft has announced that Office 2019 will be released next year, the standalone non-subscription version of the productivity suite for those who don’t yet want to commit to the cloud (i.e. Office 365).

Office 2019 will include new (what Microsoft describes as ‘perpetual’) versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, along with Outlook, plus server versions of Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business (although the latter is soon to be rolled into Microsoft Teams).

There’s not much detail on the new 2019 spins of these apps just yet, but Microsoft did say to expect better inking features – such as tilt effects and pressure sensitivity – along with new formulae and charts for Excel. PowerPoint will get nifty animation features such as Morph and Zoom.

You can also expect a raft of new features on the IT management front, as well as improvements in overall usability and security, and voice features.

Preview versions of these new Office apps are expected to become available in the middle of next year, with the full release of Office 2019 slated for the second half of 2018.

Outside the cloud

This is something of a surprise given Microsoft’s focus on the cloud (with the famous cloud-first mantra) and the fact that it’s pushing hard with Office 365, but it seems the company is still willing to take into account the needs of traditional Office customers who don’t want to move online.

In a blog post, Microsoft stated: “Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all of their apps and servers on-premises, and we look forward to sharing more details about the release in the coming months.”

By Darren Allan for Tech Radar 

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