Archive for July, 2010

Can Microsoft imitate Apple one more time

Can Microsoft imitate Apple one more time
Remember back in early June when Steve Ballmer said the Apple iPad was “just another PC”? He’d like to amend that slightly to “just another PC that’s now kicking our a**.”

In a meeting with analysts yesterday, Ballmer spent a fair amount of time talking about Apple’s iPad and trying to explain why there are no Microsoft-based devices that remotely compare to it.
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Fortune’s Philip Elmer-Dewitt distills the Ballmer discussion of the iPad into 11 words: “We’ll talk about slates and tablets and blah, blah, blah, blah.” (Apparently, Ballmer is also adopting the Steve Jobs 11-word rule.)

The “blah blah blah” part included a) an admission that the iPad has sold “more than I’d like them to sell,” b) “we’re coming full guns” to the slate market, and c) they’ll be “coming when they’re ready” — so don’t bother camping in line outside any Microsoft stores just yet. (Greg Packer, this means you.)

Meanwhile, the one Windows-based slate Ballmer could dig up to demo at last January’s CES — and got virtually heckled off the stage by the blogosphere afterward — may end up not being a Windows device after all. Now that HP has gobbled up Palm, its Slate PC may run Palm’s WebOS, a much more attractive tablet interface than Windows 7. Given how badly HP got jobbed by Microsoft MCTS Training during the whole “Vista ready” labeling debacle, I imagine this would be sweet revenge.

So, once again, Microsoft finds itself in the position of needing to imitate Apple to stay relevant.

Of course, imitation is part of Microsoft’s DNA. Copy something successful, then ram it down people’s throats. CP/M becomes MS-DOS, the Mac GUI gets reborn as Windows, though maybe “stillborn” is closer — it took Redmond 11 years to come up with an interface that approached the Mac’s features and simplicity. Intuit’s Quicken begets Microsoft Money. The iPod spawns the Zune. And so on down the line.

I’m not saying Microsoft has not come up with some innovations over the last 35 years. I still think Excel is the best software Redmond ever made. The Xbox, Microsoft Surface, Project Natal — er, Kinect — are all first rate. But its bread-and-butter strategy continues to be “imitate, then destroy.” And that strategy has grown less successful over time.

Now Microsoft has to play catchup to the iPad, as well as the 3,247 Android-based tablets we’ll be seeing over the next 12 months. Given how long it’s taking Redmond to catch up on cell phones, it may be two years before we see any tablets worth talking about. By then, it will be too late.

Still, this could explain Microsoft’s new slogan, unveiled at its annual Microsoft MCITP Certification Global Exchange confab last week: Be What’s Next. In this case, what’s “next” is Apple, a company it seems Microsoft now desperately needs to become.

Microsoft Get Back to Work

Microsoft Get Back to Work
Steve Ballmer assured analysts and the world that Microsoft MCTS Training is hard at work developing a Windows 7-based tablet to compete with devices like the Apple iPad. It is also putting the finishing touches on Windows Phone 7, and preparing to launch the innovative Kinect controller for the Xbox 360. The problem for Microsoft is that these are not its bread and butter markets, and its dominance with business customers is slowly slipping away while it dabbles in consumer gadgets.

Microsoft has always had a consumer side. Microsoft Windows has been established as the de facto consumer desktop operating system. Internet Explorer enjoys a dominant market share among Web browsers. Still, it seems that most of the efforts Microsoft makes in the consumer market are unsuccessful.
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Some Microsoft consumer technologies–like the Zune music player–have been technically sound, yet have failed to capture the attention of consumers or dent the dominance of the Apple iPod. Other consumer technologies–such as the Xbox 360–are a success in the market now, but operated at a loss for so many years that breaking even probably won’t happen soon. Then there are the abject failures like Microsoft BOB, or the recently executed Kin social phone.

Microsoft, Google, and Apple seem to all suffer from such an intense desire to dominate markets and crush the competition that they jump into every market at once and end up doing a half-assed job at everything rather than a focused and excellent job developing the products and services their brands were built on. It’s a sort of “throw every gadget, application, and technology at the wall and see what sticks” business strategy.

Historically speaking, fighting a war on too many fronts simultaneously is almost always a fatal flaw. It spreads valuable resources too thin, resulting in weakness, and eventually collapse. Just ask Napoleon.

Does Microsoft need a tablet? Will Windows Phone 7 be a success? Mobile platforms like tablets and smartphones are a computing revolution that Microsoft can’t ignore, but Microsoft needs to be sure it is looking beyond the impulse to compete for the sake of competing, and that its tablet and smartphone efforts fit into a larger strategic vision that makes sense.

Microsoft holds a virtual monopoly on the desktop operating system, and office productivity software markets, as well as a comfortably dominant position with Internet Explorer and Microsoft Exchange. Instead of consumer-oriented products like music players, and gaming consoles, Microsoft should focus its efforts on its core business customers.

At the same time, though, Microsoft can’t expect to just coast on the coattails of its former glory and rely solely on those products–at least not the way they are today. Microsoft needs to look at the direction technology is going–virtualization, cloud, mobility–and figure out how to adapt its core portfolio to continue meeting its customers’ needs in an evolving marketplace.

Microsoft has those efforts going as well with Azure, and the recently-unveiled Windows Azure Platform appliance. But–if Microsoft MCITP Certification would focus its resources on initiatives like that rather than consumer gadgets it might have much greater odds of success.

Microsoft wins a Pwnie for failure

Microsoft wins a Pwnie for failure
Microsoft has earned the dubious distinction of having the Most Epic FAIL of the last year in computer security with a browser cross-site scripting (XSS) filter that actually exacerbated the problem.

The company was given the award at the conclusion of the annual Blackhat 2010 security conference Wednesday in Las Vegas. I wasn’t there so I don’t know if anyone from Microsoft MCTS Training stepped up to accept the award, head perhaps covered by a paper bag.

According to a white paper produced by researchers Eduardo Vela Nava and David Lindsay, Internet Explorer 8 implemented an anti-XSS mechanism to detect such attacks. Here’s the funny part: “This feature can be abused by attackers in order to enable XSS on web sites and web pages that would otherwise be immune to XSS,” the researchers noted.

I’m not sure if he was specifically referencing the IE 8 XSS fail, but Kevin Turner, chief operating officer for Microsoft, said this during an analyst conference this morning in Redmond: “Yes, we had a little headwinds. We had several things we had to do with IE 8 this past year,” Turner said, right after describing the product as “the safest, most secure browser in the marketplace.”

Maybe now it is.

Microsoft beat out McAfee and IBM in the Most Epic FAIL category: McAfee for issuing an anti-virus update in April that rendered hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide inoperable; and IBM for handing out free USB drives at a conference loaded with malware.

The only other Microsoft mention was a Pwnie for Best Privilege Escalation Bug and this award went to Tavis Ormandy, the researcher who discovered it in multiple operating systems from Windows NT 3.1 to Windows 7. In awarding the Pwnie to Ormandy, Blackhat stated: “This privilege escalation bug required more than a few tricks to exploit. Its discovery shows a rare understanding of some of the more obscure aspects of the Intel architecture.”

Microsoft MCITP Certification was nominated, but failed to win — or should I say failed to lose — in the categories of Best Server-Side Bug and Best Client-Side Bug. Again, in these categories, the Pwnies went to the people who discovered the bugs, not the companies that created them.

Adobe joins Microsoft patch-reporting program

Adobe joins Microsoft’s patch-reporting program
Adobe and Microsoft are now working together to give security companies a direct line into their bug-fixing efforts.

By year’s end, Adobe will start using the Microsoft MCTS Training Active Protections Program (MAPP) to share details on its latest patches, according to Brad Arkin, Adobe’s director of product security and privacy. “The MAPP program is the gold standard for how the software vendors should be sharing information about product vulnerabilities prior to shipping security updates,” he said.
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Adobe initially wanted to reproduce MAPP, but soon realized that it would take a lot of work to build a program similar to Microsoft’s, which was piloted two years ago. Arkin’s team began discussions with Microsoft, at first in hopes of picking up some tips. “Eventually, together, we came to the conclusion that it would be a lot more fun to work together on this rather than Microsoft helping us to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

Typically, whenever a major patch is released, hackers quickly begin to analyze the patch to see what flaws were fixed. They then rush to work out attacks that would exploit the vulnerability on unpatched products.

Adobe has been hit hard in the past two years by hackers who have found bug after bug in the company’s products. This often means hard work for security companies, who must scramble to add detection for these attacks.

It’s become so bad that one security company, SourceFire, is holding an exclusive Adobe Hater’s Ball on Wednesday here at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas.

The Ball is really a tongue-in-cheek joke, modelled on comedian Dave Chappelle’s Playa Hater’s Ball.

“My guys have a love-hate relationship with the guys over at Adobe,” said SourceFire Director Matt Watchinski. “Every time a vulnerability comes out of their stuff, we have to jump.”

Arkin said he and other Adobe researchers will be at the event.

With Adobe jointing the MAPP program, however, security companies like SourceFire should do less scrambling.

MAPP gives them early notice on upcoming patches — typically about 48 hours — so they have more time to build attack detection into their security systems. About 65 security companies participate in MAPP. All of them will soon start getting the Adobe data.

This is the first time that Microsoft MCITP Certification has extended the MAPP program to cover another company’s products, said Dave Forstrom, a director with Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing group.

However, it may not be the last. Forstrom didn’t rule out the possibility that other software vendors could also jump on board.

Drop responsible from bug disclosures Microsoft urges

Drop responsible from bug disclosures Microsoft urges

Microsoft today pitched its own proposal for how software makers react to bugs reported by researchers, calling for a name change to describe the process it prefers.

Rather than dub the back-and-forth between bug finders and vendors “responsible disclosure” — a term that implies that the researcher reports a bug, then waits for the developer to patch it before going public with news of the flaw — Microsoft MCTS Training wants everyone in the security community to use a different moniker: “coordinated vulnerability disclosure,” or CVD.
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The company admitted the move is primarily a name change, and that much of the rest of its proposal is what Microsoft has urged in the past.

“This isn’t a drastic departure at all,” said Mike Reavey, director of the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC), Microsoft’s in-house security team. “What we want to do is what works best to minimize risk to customers, and to remove emotion, which isn’t helpful to anyone.”

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Reavey argued, as others have before, that “responsible disclosure” is a loaded name, since by implication anyone who doesn’t follow its bug-reporting steps — going public with details or attack code before a patch is ready — is by implication labeled as “irresponsible.”

“[CVD] is the same thing as responsible disclosure, just renamed,” repeated Reavey. “When folks use charged words, a lot of the focus then is on the disclosure, and not on the problem at hand, which is to make sure customers are protected, and that attacks are not amplified.”

Other than the name change, Microsoft’s proposal — which was spelled out in several blog posts by company executives, including the most detailed by Katie Moussouris, a senior security strategist on the MSRC ecosystem strategy team — is essentially a more explicit rendering of previous positions and practices.

One of the key points Microsoft made is that it wants to keep the lines of communication open between itself and security researchers, even when the latter broadcast their findings without reporting a bug to Microsoft or waiting on a patch.

“We want to be more clear about our philosophy, so first, we would appreciate a heads-up, even if the researcher does ‘full disclosure,’” said Reavey, referring to the label applied when a bug hunter goes public with all the details he has about a vulnerability before a patch is available. “And two, that we’ve operated this way before, so that if a vulnerability is under attack, certainly, we’ll release some information and advice.”

Moussouris echoed Reavey in her blog. “For finders who still believe that full disclosure is the best way to protect users, we respectfully disagree, but we still want to work with you if you’re willing,” she said. “We’d encourage folks who support [full disclosure] to still contact us, as we can then attempt to coordinate release of information with protections that are available.”

Microsoft isn’t the first to propose changes to the sometimes-rocky relationships between security researchers and the vendors whose products they label as vulnerable to attack.

On Tuesday, Google published what it called “Rebooting Responsible Disclosure,” a proposal that featured, among other elements, a call for a hard deadline of 60 days to patch a problem.
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Reavey disagreed with Google. “I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all-issues as far as a timeline,” he said. “If the update doesn’t work, it doesn’t protect anyone.”

Microsoft has long taken the position that it fixes bugs as fast as it can, but that testing the quality of an update is just as critical as patching. Screwing up a patch, said Reavey, can have an enormous impact on Windows users, who often apply the updates without testing them themselves.

John Pescatore, Gartner’s primary analyst on security issues, took Microsoft’s side, saying that Google’s proposal was colored by the fact that most of its software is in the cloud, and that the most prominent exception, its Chrome browser, is simple in comparison to an operating system like Windows.

“Browsers are not typical of lots and lots of legacy software, like Microsoft’s or Oracle’s,” Pescatore said, adding that it’s unrealistic to expect every bug to get fixed in two months.

“There’s often a six-month time frame for an enterprise before they can even push patches [within their organization], even after a patch is released,” Pescatore said. “There’s all kinds of code that’s not as simple to patch as a browser, and that requires longer delays before a patch can be implemented.”

The Microsoft and Google proposals are the latest in an increasingly-heated discussion among researchers and vendors about disclosure that was prompted in part by an incident last month when a Google security engineer went public with a critical Windows bug just five days after reporting it to Microsoft.

In early June, Tavis Ormandy, who works for Google’s Switzerland office, published attack code for a Windows XP vulnerability, and immediately unleashed a heated debate. While some security researchers criticized Ormandy for taking the bug public, others rose to his defense, blasting both Microsoft and the press — including Computerworld — for linking Ormandy to his employer.

Ormandy said he disclosed the vulnerability five days after reporting it to Microsoft when the company wouldn’t commit to a patching deadline. Microsoft has disputed that, claiming that it only told Ormandy it would need the rest of the week to decide.

Reavey denied that today’s change was triggered by the Ormandy disclosure, saying that Microsoft MCITP Certification had been thinking about CVD for months, and had been working with outside researchers and security experts long before the June brouhaha.

But Reavey did admit that things might have worked out differently if the CVD philosophy had been in place last month. “We might have been more clear that we wanted to work together on this,” Reavey said. “That [event] was difficult for all of us. [With CVD], we want to explicitly make sure we communicate that we want to continue the dialog.”

Reactions by researchers to Microsoft’s name change and Google’s earlier 60-day deadline idea was mixed.

Microsoft cloud strategy A question of feature parity

Microsoft cloud strategy A question of feature parity
Microsoft often uses the phrase “feature parity” to describe its vision of providing cloud computing services that closely replicate the capabilities customers can already get by installing Microsoft software inside their firewalls. After all, Microsoft is “all in” for the cloud, as Steve Ballmer says.

While Microsoft’s hosted Exchange and SharePoint will achieve most of the desired feature parity within the next year, Microsoft admits it has no plans today to provide the same parity with Office Web Apps, the Web-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.
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Office Web Apps, released in June, provides a “high-fidelity viewing experience,” but only limited editing capabilities, says Evan Lew, senior product manager for Microsoft Office.

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Lew blames the disparity on the limitations of current Web browsers (of which the most widely used is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer).

“It has to do with the capabilities of the Web browser and the limitations today,” Lew says.

With the addition of HTML5 “the lines [between PC and browser] may start blurring,” he continues, but as of “today, there are performance reasons why editing, video and PowerPoint is something that is a much better experience in the client than in the browser.”

Microsoft touts the ability to import Office documents into Office Web Apps without losing formatting — a supposed advantage over Google Apps — but editing scenarios like inserting charts or pivot tables into Excel and editing videos require the horsepower of the PC and native desktop client, Lew says.

Microsoft is meeting the challenge from Google Apps by providing some online capabilities, but likely doesn’t want to give businesses a completely Web-based alternative to replace the more expensive Office, Forrester Research analyst Sheri McLeish said in a recent interview.

“They’re walking a very fine line,” McLeish says. “While they’re nervous and worried [about Google Apps], they’re not nervous and worried enough to dramatically reduce the cost of Office. They’re delicately managing the pricing to protect their margins.”

Regular Office licenses give customers rights to use Web Apps, but a full-fledged cloud offering “is not going to happen in 2010,” McLeish says.

Things are a bit different on the hosted Exchange and SharePoint front, at least according to Microsoft’s spokespeople.
Formally known as BPOS, the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite, Microsoft’s hosted Exchange and SharePoint is still running on the 2007 servers.  But a planned upgrade to the 2010 servers will erase most of the feature differences between the hosted and on-premise versions, according to Microsoft.

We’re working toward a goal we call service parity,” says John Betz, director of product management for Microsoft Online Services.
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Customization is limited today, because the 2007 servers don’t fully embrace the concept of multi-tenancy, Betz says. With the 2010 rollout, customers will have access to the My Sites feature, which lets them run code in a sandbox, a separate process that has limited access rights and wouldn’t be able to take down an entire server farm.

Not every feature in BPOS will be exactly the same as the on-premise version, however. For example, BPOS support for data protected by ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) is available only for government agencies. Also, customers need their own PBX system when they integrate voice capabilities with Office Communications Online, because of network latency issues.

Another BPOS limitation, mentioned in a recent Microsoft blog, is lack of support for the Office 2003 client.

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“We won’t achieve complete feature parity,” because certain processes need to run on a customer’s own servers, for a variety of reasons, Betz says.

In addition to BPOS, there are other examples of Microsoft trying to provide similar functionality in the cloud as they do in packaged software. The next version of Microsoft’s CRM product will let IT customize their CRM deployments in the cloud the same way they can on-premise, for example with complex .NET programs, says Brad Wilson, general manager of Microsoft’s CRM business.

Microsoft has also turned some of its cloud capabilities into on-premise technology with the Windows Azure Platform appliance, which lets businesses run an Azure-like private cloud within their firewalls.

Why does BPOS get a better “feature parity” treatment than Office Web Apps? With BPOS, Microsoft is operating the backend servers on a customer’s behalf, in the cloud, in much the same way customers would operate the servers themselves.
“With SharePoint, the SharePoint navigation experience manifests itself in the browser whether it’s on-premise or hosted in Microsoft MCITP Certification [data center],” Lew notes.

Tim O’Brien, senior director of Microsoft’s Platform Strategy Group, recalls showing BPOS to a customer at a conference:

“He’s looking somewhat underwhelmed during the demo, and he shrugged his shoulders and he said ‘it’s just SharePoint.’ But that’s exactly the point. Your investment in SharePoint moves forward.”

But Office Web Apps, which requires a SharePoint 2010 back end, isn’t likely to offer the same functionality as Office on-premise anytime soon. Although Lew promises improvement, he says it’s too early to say what features will be added. Complete replication of features across the online and on-premise versions of Office is not being promised by Microsoft, at least today.

“We don’t really see Office Web Apps as a replacement scenario,” Lew says. “It’s really more of a companion for people who already use Office.”

The largest cloud customers have received the 2010 upgrade already, a broader preview will be available later in 2010, and full general availability is expected in 2011.

Upgrades in 2010 server rollout that will bring BPOS closer to feature parity, include getting voice mails in e-mail inboxes, role-based access controls, single-sign-on between on-premise and cloud, and the ability to upload custom code to SharePoint Online.

Microsoft working on patch for critical Windows vulnerability

Microsoft working on patch for critical Windows vulnerability
Microsoft signed a new agreement to license technology for the Arm microprocessor architecture, opening the potential for the software giant to follow in Apple’s footsteps and design its own Arm-based chips.

The new license greatly extends the technologies Microsoft MCTS Training can make use of from Arm Holdings. The companies have collaborated for years on software and devices mainly in mobile, consumer and embedded products.
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“We have licensed our architecture and our instruction set to Microsoft,” said Ian Drew, executive vice president of marketing at Arm. “This type of license allows you to design your own microarchitecture.”

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Only a select group of companies hold similar licenses to design their own Arm-based microarchitectures, including mobile phone chip giant Qualcomm, as well as Marvell Technology and Infineon Technologies.

“As an architectural licensee, Microsoft wants to go public about adding itself to that short list,” Drew said.

Arm Holdings licenses Arm technology to a number of companies around the world. Arm-based microprocessors are found in the majority of the world’s smartphones. Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, has developed its Atom microprocessors in the hope of someday rivaling Arm-based microprocessors in smartphones and other small devices.

Microsoft and Arm said the size and scope of the deal are confidential.

“Arm is an important partner for Microsoft MCITP Certification and we deliver multiple operating systems on the company’s architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Closer access to Arm technology gives Microsoft the ability to enhance its research and development around Arm-based products, the statement said.

A number of companies custom-design chips to meet the specific needs of a device or software. Apple said it custom-designed its A4 chip for the iPad and iPhone 4 to be more powerful for multitasking and yet extremely battery-efficient.

Microsoft posts record revenue thumbs nose at Apple

Microsoft posts record revenue, thumbs nose at Apple
So this won’t be the quarter that Apple sells more stuff than Microsoft. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) eked out slightly more revenue than Apple, and billions more in profit. Microsoft  MCTS Training reported another record quarter for its fiscal fourth-quarter that ended June 30. The company booked 16.04 billion in revenue, a 22% increase from the year ago period. Operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share for the quarter were $5.93 billion, $4.52 billion and $0.51 per share, which represented increases of 49%, 48% and 50%, respectively, when compared with the prior year period.

In comparison while Apple also posted record revenue, it booked $15.7 billion in revenue with a net quarterly profit of $3.25 billion, or $3.51 per diluted share.

Microsoft gives most of the credit to Windows 7 which it says has sold more than 175 million licenses to date.

On the downside, looks like the failed Kin phone could have cost Microsoft about a quarter of a billion dollars. Microsoft notes: “Cost of revenue increased $584 million or 23%, primarily reflecting increased online costs, increased royalty costs and charges resulting from the discontinuation of the KIN phone.” And then it gets more specific when reporting the losses the Entertainment & Devices Division racked up, the unit responsible for the Kin. The division lost $172 million in the final quarter. Microsoft says, “Cost of revenue increased $251 million or 38% primarily from charges resulting from the discontinuation of the KIN phone and increased royalty costs resulting from increased Xbox LIVE digital marketplace third-party content sales.”

While the unit did manage to increase its profits over the course of the year, it didn’t increase revenue. Microsoft was able to offset a lot of the failed Kin cost and show that year-end profit in that unit because it reduced costs associated with building Xbox 360 consoles and also because it had “reductions in other costs due to resource management efforts.”

Could this statement reflect the fact that several extremely high paid executives in the Entertainment & Devices Division were shown the door? President Robbie Bach announced his exodus in May. Shockingly Bach was Microsoft’s highest paid exec. He earned over $6 million in 2009, and was paid the largest cash bonus, of more than $1.1 million.

Likewise, J Allard also announced in May that he’s leaving, though technically he’s staying on until the fall. Allard was Chief Experience Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Entertainment and Devices Division, and best known for championing the Xbox as a platform for social networking and online functionality. His exodus was a surprise to many since Xbox Live — the console’s online capabilities — has finally made the game console a hit. And users are fairly excited about the up-and-coming Kinnect gesture based interface.

Still, it is frustrating to see Microsoft pour this much money and effort into an Entertainment & Devices Division only to wind up alienating the young, hip customers it is trying to woo. Who pays for that? You, the enterprise customer, does. The $5.93 billion in operating profit comes from its software users, mostly the business users.

As evidence, Microsoft Office 2010 was praised for its contribution to the great quarter, as users were stopped from buying Word 2007 due to a court injunction forbidding the sale of it. Microsoft lost a patent infringement lawsuit which caused the injunction. Consumers bought an additional $357 million worth of Office 2010 products in the third quarter than they did the previous quarter (presumably with all those new Windows 7 PCs). All told, Microsoft raked in $5.25 billion in the division that sells Office. Of that $3.28 was operating income — about half the total operating profit that Microsoft reported.

Microsoft MCITP Certification has not yet released its audited financial report to the SEC, so these figures are based on the press release. I’ll be looking at the formal documents after they post to see what else can be gleaned about Microsoft’s past, present and future.

Microsoft signs big licensing deal for Arm chip technology

Microsoft signs big licensing deal for Arm chip technology

Microsoft signed a new agreement to license technology for the Arm microprocessor architecture, opening the potential for the software giant to follow in Apple’s footsteps and design its own Arm-based chips.

The new license greatly extends the technologies Microsoft MCTS Training can make use of from Arm Holdings. The companies have collaborated for years on software and devices mainly in mobile, consumer and embedded products.
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“We have licensed our architecture and our instruction set to Microsoft,” said Ian Drew, executive vice president of marketing at Arm. “This type of license allows you to design your own microarchitecture.”

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Only a select group of companies hold similar licenses to design their own Arm-based microarchitectures, including mobile phone chip giant Qualcomm, as well as Marvell Technology and Infineon Technologies.

“As an architectural licensee, Microsoft wants to go public about adding itself to that short list,” Drew said.

Arm Holdings licenses Arm technology to a number of companies around the world. Arm-based microprocessors are found in the majority of the world’s smartphones. Intel, the world’s largest chip maker, has developed its Atom microprocessors in the hope of someday rivaling Arm-based microprocessors in smartphones and other small devices.

Microsoft and Arm said the size and scope of the deal are confidential.

“Arm is an important partner for Microsoft MCITP Certification and we deliver multiple operating systems on the company’s architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone,” Microsoft said in a statement.

Closer access to Arm technology gives Microsoft the ability to enhance its research and development around Arm-based products, the statement said.

A number of companies custom-design chips to meet the specific needs of a device or software. Apple said it custom-designed its A4 chip for the iPad and iPhone 4 to be more powerful for multitasking and yet extremely battery-efficient.

Microsoft licences ARM architecture

Microsoft licences ARM architecture
Microsoft and ARM have signed a new deal that will see the technology giant licence the ARM architecture Microsoft MCTS Training.

The deal marks the first time Microsoft has full access to ARM’s architecture. Previously, Microsoft and ARM have worked together on building mobile and embedded operating systems for devices featuring ARM processors.
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The only other two firms to licence the ARM architecture, chip manufactures Qualcomm and Marvell.

It is thought Microsoft may use the licence to develop a version of its Windows OS to work smoothly with ARM processors, which currently feature in a number of low-power PCs, such as netbooks and tablets.

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“ARM is an important partner for Microsoft and we deliver multiple operating systems on the company’s architecture, most notably Windows Embedded and Windows Phone,” said KD Hallman, general manager, Microsoft

“With closer access to the ARM technology we will be able to enhance our research and development activities for ARM-based products.”

Mike Muller, CTO at ARM, added that Microsoft has been an important member of the ARM ecosystem for many years Microsoft MCITP Certification.

“With this architecture license, Microsoft will be at the forefront of applying and working with ARM technology in concert with a broad range of businesses addressing multiple application areas,” said Muller.