Tag: Microsoft

Windows 11 launches on 5 October

Source: CNN

Microsoft is rolling out its newest operating system, Windows 11, earlier than expected for some PC users.

Starting October 5, the company will begin a “phased and measured” approach to the free upgrades, in which newer devices will be given priority over older equipment. Microsoft had previously said it expected to release Windows 11 next year.

All eligible users will receive the free upgrade by mid-2022.

The new software features visual improvements, Microsoft Teams integration and a new Microsoft store, among other changes that were announced in June.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes Windows 11 will bring is a Start menu and new Start button that’s centered on the taskbar. The menu opens a window with pinned apps, “recommended” recently opened documents and a search bar.

Microsoft (MSFT) Teams will also be directly integrated into Windows 11 and will have its own icon on the taskbar. For gamers, the new operating system will bring an “Auto HDR” feature that will automatically improve the color and lighting of game displays, technology first introduced in Microsoft’s Xbox consoles.

The Windows 11 launch comes six years after Microsoft last overhauled its operating system with Windows 10, a major upgrade that’s now running on roughly 1.3 billion devices worldwide, according to CCS Insight. Compared to the substantial change from Windows 8 to Windows 10, Windows 11 isn’t a “revolutionary step,” CCS CEO Geoff Blaber said.

“Windows 11 is an iterative release,” Blaber said. “Microsoft is making adjustments to areas that have potential to move the needle on user experience, engagement and the ever-expanding reach of Office 365 apps.”

By David Goldman for CNN Business

The end is finally near for Internet Explorer, one of Microsoft’s most-reviled products that refused to die.

Microsoft announced this week that it will end support for Internet Explorer 11 on June 15, 2022. That final nail in the coffin came after years of flirting with IE’s demise.

For example, in August 2020, Microsoft turned its back on IE for its own products. Workplace chat software Teams stopped working with IE last fall, and its 365 apps (including Office) will no longer work on IE by mid-summer 2021.

Once the most-used web browser, Internet Explorer had been on a steady downward trajectory for nearly two decades. Its share of the browser market fell below the 50% threshold in 2010 and now sits at about 5%, according to browser usage tracker NetMarketShare. Google’s (GOOGL) Chrome is the browser leader, commanding a 69% share of the market.

In its death announcement, Microsoft said Internet Explorer is slow, no longer practical for or compatible with many modern web tasks, and is far less secure than modern browsers.

Yet IE has miraculously managed to stick around for 26 years. Microsoft has continued to ship IE with Windows to ensure that corporate apps keep functioning properly. Corporations tend to be very slow to adopt new browser versions, particularly if they custom-build applications for them.

Most Windows 10 PC owners probably never noticed that IE is installed on their computers. Edge, Microsoft’s modern browser, is based on Google’s open source Chrome code, and has gained much more traction than IE in recent years.
It’s unclear if Microsoft will stop installing IE on Windows PCs by default once the company discontinues support for IE, although that would be likely. Microsoft’s latest version of the Edge browser supports web apps built for IE so customers don’t have to keep switching between browsers. So IE has at long last outlived its usefulness.

“We are announcing that the future of Internet Explorer on Windows 10 is in Microsoft Edge,” said Sean Lyndersay, Microsoft’s program manager for Edge. “Not only is Microsoft Edge a faster, more secure and more modern browsing experience than Internet Explorer, but it is also able to address a key concern: compatibility for older, legacy websites and applications.”

Once a monopoly, now forgotten
Internet Explorer debuted in 1995 as part of Windows 95 and became an instant hit. It successfully killed off Netscape Navigator, and it achieved a virtual monopoly in the early 2000s. At its 2002 peak, Internet Explorer commanded 95% of the browser market.
But Microsoft failed to innovate, essentially leaving Internet Explorer 6 alone to gather dust and cobwebs for five years. That frustrated customers and sent them fleeing for greener pastures. Internet Explorer became synonymous with bugs, security problems and outdated technology.
Microsoft (MSFT) finally released IE7 in 2006, but the damage was done. Microsoft paved the way for Firefox and then Chrome to surpass it.

The company tried to revitalise IE: With Internet Explorer 9 in 2011, Microsoft finally released a modern browser. Still, to this day IE still doesn’t support extensions, isn’t available on non-Windows devices and doesn’t sync with other devices by default — all mainstays of Chrome and Firefox.

Microsoft acknowledges that IE isn’t ideal for web browsing.

“Customers have been using IE 11 since 2013 when the online environment was much less sophisticated than the landscape today,” the company said last August. “Since then, open web standards and newer browsers — like the new Microsoft Edge — have enabled better, more innovative online experiences.”

That’s why, for the past five years, Microsoft has been trying — unsuccessfully — to kill Internet Explorer.

In an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit in 2014, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer engineers acknowledged that the company was considering a name change to “separate ourselves from negative perceptions” about the browser.

Instead, Microsoft developed a whole new browser, releasing Edge in 2015. But Edge didn’t actually replace IE. Internet Explorer to this day is pre-installed on Windows PCs alongside Edge.

By Kate Duffy for Business Insider US

Health and tech giants are together creating digital vaccination passports so people can prove they’ve had a Covid-19 shot.

Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, and the Mayo Clinic are all part of the Vaccination Credential Initiative (VIC).
These could be useful for airplanes, going to work, to school, to the grocery store, to live concerts, or to sporting events.

Major companies, health organisations, and nonprofits announced Thursday morning that they were working together to create a digital vaccination passport, in anticipation of people having to prove their immunisation status.

The Vaccination Credential Initiative (VIC), a coalition of organisations including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, and the Mayo Clinic, are developing tech standards to verify whether someone has had their vaccine, it said in a statement Thursday.

The tech will help prevent people falsely claiming to be immune to the deadly virus, it said.

The VIC said that people without smartphones could receive printed QR codes on paper to verify they’ve had the shot.

“The goal of the Vaccination Credential Initiative is to empower individuals with digital access to their vaccination records so they can use tools like CommonPass to safely return to travel, work, school, and life, while protecting their data privacy,” said Paul Meyer, CEO of The Commons Project Foundation, a nonprofit in Geneva which is a member of the VIC.

“For some period of time, most all of us are going to have to demonstrate either negative Covid-19 testing or an up-to-date vaccination status to go about the normal routines of our lives,” Dr. Brad Perkins, the chief medical officer at the Commons Project Foundation, told the New York Times.

That will happen, Dr. Perkins added, “whether it’s getting on an airplane and going to a different country, whether it’s going to work, to school, to the grocery store, to live concerts or sporting events.”

 

Microsoft launches coronavirus tracker

Source: Economic Times

As the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) spreads like wildfire across countries, Microsoft’s Bing team has launched a web portal to track its progress worldwide.

The website provides up-to-date infection statistics for each country. An interactive map allows users to click on the country to see the specific number of cases and related articles from a variety of publishers.

You can view the interactive map here.

According to sources, data is being aggregated from sources like the World Health Organisation (WHO), the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Microsoft announced the website two days after US President Donald Trump said Google had begun working on COVID-19-related portal for US citizens.

Google’s website is being built by Verily, a subsidiary of Alphabet focused on healthcare services.

“More than 1 700 engineers are currently working on the site,” Trump said during a press briefing last week.

The tool will triage people who are concerned about their COVID-19 risk into testing sites based on guidance from public health officials and test availability.

Globally, the virus has now affected 216 030 people, and has caused 8 891 deaths.

SA’s huge Windows piracy problem

By Bradley Prior for MyBroadband

Only a third of PCs being shipped to Africa include genuine software, which is a reason for the increase in data breaches and malware attacks in the region.

This is according to Deniz Ozen, regional general manager for consumer and device sales at Microsoft Middle East and Africa.

Ozen said that this has resulted in the loss of important data and decreased productivity on the continent.

Benefits of legal software for Africa
“Africa’s emerging market potential is unparalleled and business development and the growth of existing SME’s remains a key focus across the continent,” Microsoft said in a statement.

“To tap into this potential growth, access to affordable genuine software and hardware is necessary if the digital divide is to be closed.”

Microsoft believes that access to genuine software ensures comprehensive security for devices and data, making legitimate software important to the long-term success of businesses.

The same applies to students who rely heavily on access to devices, software and information to complete their required tasks and projects.

Fixing the piracy problem
The Software Alliance said in its June 2018 report that the overall rate of pirated software in the Middle East and Africa region stood at 56%.

“Pirated software is often installed without the end user’s knowledge, and it is those users who suffer the consequences including lost data and unusable PCs,” said Microsoft.

Microsoft EMEA VP of consumer and device sales Bradley Hopkinson told MyBroadband in October that Microsoft has various measures in place to fight piracy in South Africa and in Africa as a whole.

“We have come up with a programme called the Africa Coverage Programme, which is an affordability programme with our multinational partners,” said Hopkinson.

“Effectively, it is a programme that we believe will address affordability, and at the same time we need to drive awareness for the value of genuine software, which we will do as part of that programme.”

Microsoft has also launched its Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, which aims to reduce the prevalence of Microsoft software piracy in the African market.

“Through the Windows PC Affordability in Africa Initiative, we aim to educate consumers on the risks of using pirated software, and to work with our PC ecosystem partners including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Mustek and SMD to make Genuine Windows 10 PCs more affordable across Africa,” said Hopkinson.

“We have high aspirations to bring piracy almost to zero across Africa. We see a world across Africa where we can get genuine Windows in excess of 80% and even higher, and that is also based on the success we’ve seen through similar programmes in other emerging markets.”

Microsoft services down worldwide

Source: News Hub

Microsoft Office 365 users have taken to Twitter to complain that the company’s services are down. Users in the US, Australia and New Zealand have been badly hit, according to outage tracker website Downdetector.

Microsoft 365 said in a Twitter post it was investigating the issue.

“We’ve identified that multiple Microsoft 365 services are affected and we’re actively looking for the swiftest means of restoring access.”

Some Twitter users have reported the issue has been resolved while others say they’re still offline.

According to Down Detector, a high number of issues were reported along Australia’s east coast, New Zealand, Japan, and the West Coast of the US.

It was unclear what caused the issue and when service would be restored.

Released in 2011, Office 365 is an integrated product of Microsoft apps and services. Products in the service include Outlook 365 and Skype.

By Paul Lilly for PC Gamer

Did I ever tell you about the time Microsoft doled out a Windows 10 update to the wrong set of users? Probably not, because I don’t recall it happening before now. I’m not saying it never has, I just can’t think of another time, other than this one.

This one, by the way, refers to KB4523786, an optional update offered alongside a cumulative update for Windows 10 version 1903 with fixes for several bugs. The optional KB4523786 offers “quality improvements to Windows Autopilot configured devices.”

Business and IT admins use Autopilot to set up and configure new devices. In this case, however, Microsoft offered it to Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro users. The issue with this, as Microsoft notes, is that “Windows Autopilot update is not installed on Windows 10 Pro or a later version when the device is not registered or configured for Windows Autopilot deployment. Windows Autopilot update is never offered to Windows 10 Home.”

Fortunately, as far as facepalms go, this one is relatively minor.

As first reported by Windows Latest, Microsoft’s Intune Support Team noted on Twitter that it pulled the update, noting that anyone who might have already installed it (and shouldn’t have) need not worry about adverse effects.

No harm, no foul, in other words. It’s just a bit embarrassing, and it comes at a time when Microsoft’s Windows 10 updates have been put under the microscope due to several previously reported issues. One of the more persistent issues as of late is a Start Menu bug. I’m not sure how widespread it actually is, but affected users get an error message when trying to open the Start Menu. It reads, “Your Start Menu isn’t working. We’ll try to fix it the next time you sign in.”

While on the topic of updates, the next big upgrade to Windows 10 will be here soon. It’s called the November 2019 update (previously known as 19H2), and while it will not be as big as some of the previous major upgrades, now is a good time to think about backing up your important data, if you are not already on a backup routine.

Do you really need to buy Microsoft Office?

By Yasmine Crossland for Good Housekeeping 

Both at home and at work, Microsoft Office has been a staple part of computing for decades. Pretty much all of us will have have used it at some point to create Word documents, Powerpoint presentations or Excel spreadsheets. It’s so popular that in 2016 Microsoft Office was used in some way, shape or form by a whopping 1.2 billion people. But with packages starting at £60 a year, it doesn’t come cheap.

If you’re an Office user, before you next splash out to renew your subscription, it might be worth thinking about whether you really need Office at all. Almost 30 years after Microsoft Office launched, there’s finally a free alternative worth considering. Google has its own similar set of apps, and they’re all available online right now, completely free!

Here’s what you need to know to work out whether or not you really need Microsoft Office.

What does Microsoft Office offer?
There are a few different ways you can use Microsoft Office. The first is to buy a subscription to Office 365 which lets you use the latest full versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook on your PC as well as on any tablets or smartphones you own. You also get Publisher and Access but you can only use these on a PC. You also get 1TB of storage space on Microsoft’s cloud service, OneDrive (everyone can get 5GB free). Office 365 Home lets you have six different log-ins – a better deal for a family. With both options you’ll get every new update such as new tools and features, as well as security updates and bug fixes.

The second option is to make a one-off purchase of Office Home & Student 2019. You’ll have access to Word, Powerpoint and Excel to use on one PC or Mac, but you can’t use the software on a tablet or smartphone and you won’t get the extra online storage or the updates.

It is possible to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint free of charge, though. Visit office.com from any web browser to access limited versions of these programs (you can also download free apps for your smartphone or tablet). You’ll need to sign up for a free Outlook account but it’s worth noting that there are lots of features missing and you won’t be able to save documents to your computer’s hard drive – they’ll be stored in your OneDrive space instead.

Can I use Google Docs instead?
Just like Microsoft, Google offers a similar service to Office that lets you create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations from your PC, tablet or smartphone. The difference is: it’s free. Again, your files are saved to a secure area online, known as Google Drive. All you need is a Google login to use it.

What are the pros of Google Docs, apart from cost?
It’s simple to use. Microsoft Office comes with tonnes of features (some suited to more advanced use, such as Word’s References menu which helps you write in an academic format). This can make Office seem a little cluttered. Google ditches all but the most necessary features, which makes its programs easier to use. You can even remove any features you don’t need. No more scrolling through endless menus looking for the spell checker!
You get extra free online storage space. Google Drive gives you 15GB of free storage space – that’s triple the amount Microsoft offers free of charge.

Google autosaves everything you do to Google Drive by default, which means you’ll never lose any work because every click and keystroke is saved. Although the web version of Microsoft Office does this, if you use the PC version it autosaves to your local hard drive after a specified number of minutes. If you want it to save more often – or automatically – to OneDrive, you’ll have to tweak the settings.

What are the pros of Microsoft Office?
There are loads of templates to choose from. Whatever kind of document you’re creating, Microsoft Office has a template for it. They come in handy when you’re creating files like CVs, flyers or letters, in particular. In comparison, creating documents like these on Google can be tricky and you won’t have as much control as you would with Microsoft.

You don’t need to rely on an internet connection. A big problem with using Google’s free service in your web browser is that it relies heavily on an internet connection. If you suddenly lose web access, you won’t be able to access your files or load the services in your browser at all. Google Docs can be used ‘offline’ but this is fiddly to set-up and has to be done in advance. That won’t be a problem with Microsoft Office because everything is available both online and offline.

There’s a wider range of apps on Microsoft Office. With your paid subscription, you don’t just get Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. You’ll also have access to Outlook for your emails, Publisher to build more professional documents and files, as well as the Access database software.
Microsoft Office lets you edit more files types. A major downfall of Google Docs is that it won’t let you edit PDFs, whereas Microsoft Word will. This could be particularly important for students and professionals who need full control of a wider range of file types.

Our verdict
Buying a Microsoft Office subscription will be unavoidable for those who have a lot of more complex files to create and edit, like students or professionals. But if you need software for light word processing and data entry then we would recommend switching to the Google Docs Suite.

Windows 10 upgrades stagnate

NetMarketShare has released new data showing that the number of Windows 10 users grew by just 0.06% in the month of June.

This brings total market share to 45.79%.

Windows 7’s market share dropped slightly from 35.44% to 35.38%.

As Microsoft announced that support for this operating system will end in January 2020, the numbers are expected to decline.

Market share figures show that users are not following Microsoft’s recommendations to upgrade from Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Windows 8.1 surprisingly increased its market share from 3.97% to 4.51%, while macOS declined by just 0.03% to 5.31%.

Windows XP continues to witness its user base decline, but it still boasts a 1.81% share of the market – which is higher than Linux’s 1.55% market share.

Google poured billions into its business in 2018

By Julie Bort for Business Insider US

Google doubled its capital expenditure spending in 2018 to R344-billion, which included spending on offices and tech infrastructure.

Its cloud unit also got the lion’s share of new hires in the quarter, the CFO of parent company Alphabet said.

Google’s cloud computing efforts were a mixed bag in 2018 but the company on Monday said that it invested heavily in 2018, and will continue do so in 2019, albeit maybe not at the same pace.

During its year-end earnings report on Monday, Google revealed that it doubled its capital expenditures in 2018, to R344-billion, up from R168-billion in 2017. The hefty spending went towards everything from new office facilities to accommodate Google’s growing workforce to bolstering its infrastructure such as datacenters and servers.

It’s tough to say exactly who much of that capex went towards Google’s cloud business specifically, but the company has made it clear that investing in the cloud is a priority. Google said it launched its 18th Google Cloud region in the fourth quarter and pointed to plans for continued expansion in the US and abroad.

In comparison, Amazon spent R151-billion cash on capex in 2018, split between fulfillment operations (like warehouses) and AWS, it said. And Microsoft said it spent R214-billion.

Google also hired madly for its cloud unit, with more than 4 000 new hires in the final three months of the year. “The most sizeable increases were in cloud, for both technical and sales roles,” Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said during the conference call.

Porat noted that spending on talent and equipment will continue in 2029, though the pace will cool off compared to 2018. Capex, she said, will “moderate quite significantly.”

How does Google’s cloud business compare?
Google is spending to catch up. Revenue from its cloud business lags Amazon Web Services and Microsoft, although Google does likely have a multibillion cloud business. It’s a bit tough to tell because Google doesn’t break out cloud revenue. It lumps it in its “other” category which also includes the revenue it makes from its Google play app store and its hardware devices like Google Home.

That “other revenue” category was R8-billion in the fourth quarter of 2018, up from just under R66=billion for the year-ago quarter and a sizeable portion of that is generated by its app store. Google noted on Monday that the number of Google Cloud Platform deals worth more than R13 million more than doubled in 2018 and that it ended the year with more than 5 million paying customers of its cloud productivity tools, but otherwise offered little new information by which to measure the size of its Cloud business.

For comparison, AWS generated R99 billion in net cloud sales for Amazon in the fourth quarter.

Microsoft also doesn’t disclose specific revenue figures for its cloud, Azure, so a direct comparison here is even harder to noodle out. The unit that includes Azure is called “Intelligent Cloud” and it generated R125 billion in the same quarter. However, despite putting “cloud” in the unit’s name, that unit includes a lot of classic software products, including Microsoft’s popular database and Windows Server, its operating system for servers. Those are both older, massive businesses compared to Azure and are not what anyone would consider a cloud service.

Most market experts believe that AWS is way ahead. One researcher, Synergy, puts AWS at 40% market share in cloud.

Keep an eye on the new boss
Of course the big news for Google’s cloud efforts in 2018 was its change of leadership. Near the end of 2018, Google board member Diane Greene left. Google hired Thomas Kurian to replace her. He left Oracle where he helped build Oracle into a database and applications giant during his decades there, and then lead Oracle’s cloud efforts. Oracle’s cloud is growing quickly by internal metrics as it moves its customers from buying its software to renting its software on its cloud. But Oracle’s cloud is not exactly taking the tech industry’s breath away, so his performance at Google Cloud will be a test for him and the company.

There’s been a lot of speculation about whether Kurian will embark on an acquisition spree to help Google’s Cloud catch up with the competition. Google CEO Sundar Pichai kept mum on Monday when asked about any potential big deals or changes in strategy under Kurian. Pichai spoke of “continuity” and focusing on the parts of the business where the company is seeing good returns.

Even with all the shrouding of investment and financial results, the cloud industry is often considered a three-player race, with Amazon in the lead, Microsoft on its heels, Google in third and a variety of players, from Alibaba to IBM to Oracle, in the chase pack.

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