Microsoft at work designing “cool” future Surface devices

Microsoft at work designing “cool” future Surface devices
Microsoft has hired a model-maker to build prototypes
Despite shaky sales of its Windows 8 Surface tablets Microsoft is working on the next generation of the devices that it hopes will attract customer attention.

The company is advertising for a model maker/prototyper to join the Surface team as it works on new devices that will follow on the current ones, Surface RT and Surface Pro. “We are currently building the next generation and Surface needs you!” the ad reads in part.

The job calls for turning CAD data and graphic depictions of these devices into physical objects.

The posting comes as Microsoft has revised the specs for tablets that would make it possible for 7-inch tablets to be Microsoft certified for Windows 8. This involved lowering the resolution requirements for displays, which makes it possible for smaller-screened devices to win certification.

Sales of the devices have paled compared to other tablets, particularly the iPad. Since its release last fall, about 1.5 million Surface RTs have been sold and 400,000 Surface Pros over the month since it’s been available, according to estimates by Microsoft watchers. Microsoft itself isn’t giving out solid numbers.

That has led some to speculate that Surface might have been an example to demonstrate the possibilities of Windows 8, but that would be short lived as a product line.

Here’s the text of the Microsoft job ad:
“Are you passionate about building cool devices and technologies? The Surface Team focuses on building devices that fully express the Windows vision. A fundamental part of our strategy is having desirable and powerful devices that enable the experiences people want, and elicit their excitement. Creating these devices involves a close partnership between hardware and software engineers, designers, and manufacturing.

“The Model Shop Team is looking for a highly skilled and creative person to fill this role.

“Required Skills and Knowledge:
We are looking for a candidate who is an accomplished and well-rounded Model Maker in all the different disciplines of model making, from traditional model making to CNC to Rapid Prototyping.

“Candidate must have an excellent interpersonal skill as you will be working and collaborating with our existing team of Model Makers.

“You must be able to use dependencies including CAD data, artwork graphics in order to deliver high quality models and prototypes.

“Person may take on projects from end to end, utilizing internal and/or external resources to ensure quality deliverable. Person must be a creative problem solver and have the ability to make resolute decisions.

• 5 years model making experience
• Machining skills using vertical mills, lathes and other machine tool equipment.
• Soft Tool casting
• Finishing including painting and coatings
• Excellent motor skills for precise hand finishing of models and a keen eye for quality
• Minimum of BA in ID or Model Making, or an equivalent in experience
• Working knowledge of CAM programming and CNC machining
• Working knowledge of CAD, including Pro/E or Solid Works

Desired Skills:
• Knowledge of rapid prototyping technology including Objet 3D Printers.
• CAM programming using WorkNC.”

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Windows 8 Update: 50k apps now in Windows Store

Also: Windows RT gets dissed, iPads beware Windows 8

There are now more than 50,000 Windows 8-only applications available in the Windows Store, a big jump from when Windows 8 launched, but a far cry from what the company projected just before the launch.

According to the website MetroStore Scanner, the store has 50,341 apps on the shelves, finally reaching that number over the weekend after more or less growing steadily at 10% per month since last October. There was a spike in December perhaps as part of the Christmas rush.

ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?
But back in October Microsoft predicted it would have an inventory of more than 100,000 by the end of January, and now nearly two months later has just half that has materialized.

It’s bad news for Windows 8 and Microsoft because by the company’s own admission applications designed for the touch-friendly operating system are essential for attracting customers to it. Compelling apps mean more converts.

Getting apps has proven a challenge, with the latest enticement being an offer of $100 to developers for every Windows 8 app they get placed in the Windows Store up to 10. They can reap the bounty for an additional 10 Windows Phone 8 apps in the Windows Phone Store. “Offer good only to the first 10,000 qualified applications published in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store, or until the end of the promotional period, whichever comes first,” Microsoft says.

That’s $1 million Microsoft is ponying up to stimulate apps development in this promotion alone. That doesn’t include the cost of developer trainings and a generous royalty agreement for the most popular applications.

While 50,000 apps is a benchmark, it’s coming too late for it to be considered a positive benchmark.

Jettison Windows RT?
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the same Windows Store stats to defend Windows RT, the hardware/software platform based on ARM chips that runs a light version of Windows 8 and can handle only Windows Store Modern applications.

Windows RT came under fire recently from IDC, which suggested Microsoft dump the package. It is intended to compete with iPads, but hasn’t made strong inroads so far. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows planning told CNET that “as the number of apps grow in the store, that value promise only gets stronger.”

That value promise was based on a narrow set of circumstances. “Let’s say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps],” he told CNET. “That’s the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch. So, on Windows RT, the user experience stays consistent over time.”

iPads beware
Despite the attack on Windows RT, the full Windows 8 software that supports any app that runs on Windows 7 is getting praised as an operating system for tablets.

Moor Insights and Strategy says in a whitepaper that Windows 8 tablets offer more than one advantage over Apple’s tablet. “Enterprise IT can and are deploying iPads but are doing so at an increased cost, time and complexity than PCs,” the paper says.

These tablets are PCs only without the keyboard, and so have a the manageability of a laptop with the touch centricity of Windows 8. The Intel Clover Trail processor gives the devices performance per watt that is comparable to that of the iPad, the paper says. “Through the combination of Intel Clover Trail and Windows 8, HP, Dell and Lenovo have created tablets that take the best the consumer elements of the iPad and adds to it enterprise features IT wants in their next generation tablets,” it says. “Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options.”

Acer likes Windows 8
Acer President Jim Wong had some nice things to say about Windows 8 tablets recently during a financials conference call.

According to, Wong expects sales of tablets in general to pick up over the course of 2013.

According to the website, “More importantly, Wong said that momentum in Microsoft Windows 8 devices has been improving. Acer Chairman J.T. Wang echoed the sentiment during the company’s conference call, saying that Microsoft “has done some good things finally” to revitalize the Windows ecosystem.”


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Microsoft MCDST Certification Training

As a whole, information technology professionals learned a lot during the recent economic downturn. One important lesson: Some certifications are recession-proof.

Frank Han, vice president of Robert Half Technology, explains that certifications and training are a worthwhile investment for IT pros, even during slow times. “Especially when you take a look at the shifting economy, the people who are looking for work, a certification could be the potential advantage over other candidates that are in competition for the job,” Han told “It could give you the extra edge, all things being equal.”

Even has the economy recovers, Han’s point holds true. The value of Microsoft certs withstands the test of time–even during turmoil–thanks to the vendor’s nearly 90 percent share of the market.

Among the most practical of the esteemed vendor certs is the Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) accreditation.
Who can benefit from MCDST training?
Education information from Microsoft indicates that the MCDST credential validates skills needed to troubleshoot Windows desktop environments.

Professionals in some of today’s most in-demand support positions can benefit from earning this accreditation, as it shows skills needed to make a difference in a variety of job roles:

Help desk technicians
Computer support specialists
Customer support representatives
Technical support specialists
Technical support representatives

Microsoft also notes that desktop support certification is most relevant for pros with customer-service skills, who can “can educate users and solve hardware or software issues on the Windows client system.” Additionally, vendor information suggests there are no plans to retire the MCDST, so it will likely continue to hold its value as long as Windows dominates the marketplace.

The best candidates for MCDST certification, according to information from the vendor, have six months to a year of experience in a support role.
MCDST upgrade path makes advancing simple

After a professional obtains the MCDST endorsement, he or she is likely to find many opportunities for advancement. Microsoft training information indicates one can earn the more advanced Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist or Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional certs with just one exam after obtaining MSDST status.
Making MCDST training pay

Numbers show that certification and training make a big difference in the job market. Statistics from vendor Microsoft indicate that 63 percent of hiring professionals are confident that “certified individuals are more productive on the job.”

Not only can Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician training make it easier to get a job or snag a promotion, it might lead to more money. Salary information reflected in the 2011 Global Knowledge IT Skills and Salary report shows that the right certs can easily translate into a bigger paycheck.

Though the survey showed that workers in end-user help desk and support roles earned annual earnings of approximately $52,650, professionals with MCDST training took home significantly more each year–about $60,360.

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Microsoft’s cash-for-apps pitch to devs smells like desperation, says analyst

$100 per published app makes company look like a cheapskate, adds another

Microsoft yesterday kicked off a promotion that rewards Windows 8 and Windows Phone developers $100 for each app that they publish in the company’s app stores.

Dubbed “Keep the Cash,” the promotion is Microsoft’s first overt cash-for-apps program, a tactic rivals Google and Apple have never used to attract submissions.

To one analyst, the $100-per-app pitch was an ill omen.
“It looks a little desperate,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. “It sends the message that Microsoft is having a hard time building out its app categories. And it doesn’t bode well for the Windows Store.”

Microsoft distributes Windows 8 and Windows RT “Modern” apps — the full-screen, tile-based software formerly tagged as “Metro” — through the Windows Store; smartphone apps, which do not run on Windows 8 or Windows RT, are channeled through the Windows Phone Store, a separate mart.

Keep the Cash will award a $100 virtual Visa card — good only for online purchases — to a developer for each app he or she publishes, with a maximum payout of $2,000 total for 10 Windows Store apps and 10 Windows Phone Store apps. Those apps must be submitted and published to the appropriate Store by June 30. Microsoft said it’s capping the number of rewarded apps at 10,000, meaning it’s putting $1 million on the line.

The promotion is intended to delivery quantity, not necessarily quality, the experts said.

“Clearly, they’d like to populate the stores as quickly as possible with more apps,” said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. “But it seems they want to try to pull in the 13-year-olds, because $100 is not at all meaningful to an established developer. Maybe they’re looking for the next generation of kid geniuses, and hoping to find the next killer app that comes out of nowhere.”

Currently, the Windows Store has nearly 49,000 apps, according to the MetroStore Scanner, a website that uses a counting algorithm created by Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft. Miller stopped tallying apps last December.

“They’re trying to spur interest,” said Miller in an interview today. He agreed with Gottheil that Keep the Cash was aimed at amateurs and hobbyists. “But I’d rather see a smaller number of high-quality apps than a larger number of lower-quality apps,”

That was Moorhead’s point as well.
“This doesn’t solve their fundamental challenge, which is to get A-list apps onto the app store,” said Moorhead. “What they’re going for is the long tail, a very long tail [of the number of apps], which is important, but it doesn’t solve the problem that they have, such as the lack of a Facebook app, the lack of support for important apps like Time-Warner’s TWC-TV.”

Both Moorhead and Miller have been long-time critics of Microsoft’s Windows 8/Windows RT app strategy, and have repeatedly pointed out that the new operating systems’ Modern user interface (UI) has a paucity of top-quality, must-have apps.

Miller wasn’t keen on the idea of paying for apps. “I agree with Charlie [Kindel],” said Miller, talking about a blog post from September 2012 where Kindel said paying developers cash was a bad idea.

In that post, Kindel — until mid-2011 the general manager of Microsoft’s Windows Phone developer experience — also predicted Microsoft would make the move.

“It is highly likely things are about to change and Microsoft is going to start directly incenting developers to build apps with cash,” Kindel wrote at the time. “If I’m right, and we start to see clear evidence that Microsoft is paying for apps, then Windows is in even more trouble than most of us already believe.”

Miller pointed out that Microsoft has quietly funded established app developers — either directly or in some circuitous fashion — to bring their already-available Android and iOS apps to the Windows platform. The company is probably still doing that, he added.

But even Gottheil, the most upbeat of the three analysts, knocked Microsoft for the small-change awards. “This gives people the perception that they’re cheapskates,” he said.

Microsoft has opened its checkbook. In mid-2010 the company launched a $250,000 contest for security researchers asked to create new anti-exploit technologies to better protect Windows users. The winner, Ivan Fratric, a researcher at the University of Zagreb in Croatia, was handed $200,000 for his work.

“I’m surprised that they didn’t go that route,” said Gottheil, referring to a competition with larger rewards.

Interested developers can review Keep the Cash’s terms and conditions on Microsoft’s website.

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Augmented reality poised to leave a mark on IT

Though true artificial intelligence remains futuristic in terms of practical applications, use of computers to augment our own perception of the world is pushing more prominently into view, with commercials already suggesting ways to overlay information on what we see. With augmented reality (AR) being developed to take advantage of cloud, mobile, big data and social technology — Gartner’s “nexus of forces” — is it possible AR could become a fifth component of the nexus?

AR is generally defined as a direct or indirect view of a real-world environment that is augmented in some way by computer generated input. This means your view of the world around you can be enhanced by external information as desired.

The concept itself is not really new. In fact, most people are familiar with some common uses. In football on TV, for example, the yellow first down line you see on the screen is an example of AR that has been in use for several years. However, this is not the kind of AR that promises to change the world as we know it.

AR relies on different aspects of developing technologies such as GPS, computer vision and object recognition. As such, as we see advancements in these technologies, AR stands to benefit along with them.
Mobile, cloud, big data and social tech

Intel researchers have been working on new processors for smartphones and tablets partially in anticipation of demand for AR capabilities and the power they will require. As technology makes its push into cloud computing, however, this may not even be necessary.

Google recently released the Google Goggles application, which allows users to search the Web based on an image captured using the camera in their smartphone. While this does not exactly constitute the sort of real-time AR that has the tech world talking, it does show AR can make strides toward its true potential through the cloud. As with many consumer technologies these days, mobility is the key to success. Devices supporting AR will have to be light on hardware to appeal to a mobile market, which means that the heavy lifting and storage will have to be accessed via network.

The Google Glass project — a computer worn as glasses — may be the general public’s introduction to cloud-based AR. Consumer models of the glasses are expected to make their debut sometime in 2014. Users will wear a small headband with a clear display positioned over one eye. It will record things from your environment such as conversations and images and store them in Google’s cloud. From this input, Google can provide relevant information from its search engine or Google+. [Also see: “Google Glass: A lot of hype but little information”]

However, if many people used this, the amount of data generated would be astounding. The development of big data capabilities over the next decade predicted by IT researchers will play an important role in these grand-scale AR projects as providers seek to store increasingly data-rich media from the input. On the back end, the size of the database required to provide relevant information in enough contexts for AR overlays to have mass appeal, will not be modest. Image recognition for something as simple as a company logo on the Web requires scanning through petabytes of data. Already requiring several petabytes, AR endeavors like Google Glass could quickly push storage requirements into the next few data measurement units — exabytes, zettabytes or even yottabytes.

Google is not the only contender in AR, though. Other companies are looking at ways to integrate AR by utilizing cloud and social technology. For example, NEC Biglobe and Vuzix teamed up to develop AR glasses focused on recognizing people’s faces and pairing the information up with their Facebook and Twitter accounts. AR applications in social technology like this will appeal to the masses, but businesses will also likely find interest as they increasingly utilize less public social technologies such as Salesforce’s Chatter.

It may be too early to say how large a role AR will play in the next few years, but tools that can boost profits are bound for success. AR developers are certainly keeping big business in mind.

As AR develops, the most visible utilization will be in commerce. AR can facilitate a 3D view of a product traditionally advertised in 2D. Lego has already been using AR to allow people to get a preview of what is inside the boxes on shelves. Several other retailers are also looking at ways to integrate AR content into catalogues and magazines.

Retailers may also use AR to supplement what customers see in their stores with additional online options. Details and specifications for products can also be made readily available through AR.

In the office, AR could be used to increase the effectiveness of collaborative efforts by allowing teams to meet in person or virtually while viewing and manipulating a single set of data. Companies like Gravity Jack have already developed an indoor AR office. If this could be accessed via the cloud, it could potentially bring the bring your own device (BYOD) revolution to an entirely new level.

Augmented reality business cards are also becoming more common as people find it an engaging and more useful way to share business information (the amount of information you can make available this way is vastly greater). An AR business card has an image that, when read by a mobile device with a camera, can display everything from a headshot to a resume, LinkedIn account information, personalized video, etc. [Also see: “Slideshow: Techie business cards”]

AR has yet to prove itself in business software, but with the growing BYOD trend and the natural tendency for businesses to incorporate software that increases efficiency, AR will likely be considered as long as its progression stays on track with its promise.

Nichols is a systems analyst with a passion for writing. His interest in computers began when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov in a regulation chess tournament. When Nichols isn’t drawing up diagrams and flow charts, he writes for BMC, leading supplier of cloud software solutions.

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Google will cut 1,200 more jobs at Motorola Mobility

Google will cut 1,200 more jobs at Motorola Mobility
Motorola described it as a continuation of staff cuts announced in August

Motorola Mobility is cutting 1,200 staff, in addition to a reduction of 4,000 staff it announced in August, to focus on high-end devices.

“These cuts are a continuation of the reductions we announced last summer,” said Motorola spokeswoman Katie Dove in an email. “It’s obviously very hard for the employees concerned, and we are committed to helping them through this difficult transition.”

[MORE LAYOFFS: Biggest tech layoffs of 2012]

Motorola’s mobile business has been overwhelmed in the smartphone market by larger players such as Samsung Electronics, Apple, Sony, Huawei Technologies and ZTE. Samsung, the largest smartphone maker in the fourth quarter, like Motorola makes phones using Google’s Android operating system.

The revenue of Motorola’s mobile business as a result of knocks in the market was US$1.51 billion, or 11 percent of parent Google’s consolidated revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012. It also had an operating loss of $353 million in the quarter. Apple in contrast posted revenue of $54.5 billion and net profit of $13 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 29.

Staff at Motorola were informed by email this week that while the company is optimistic about new products in the pipeline, it still faces challenges, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The company added that its costs are too high, and it is operating in markets where it is not competitive and is losing money. The layoffs will affect workers in the U.S., China and India, according to the newspaper.

Motorola was acquired by Google in May, and it was thought that the Internet giant was mainly acquiring the company for its patents, and may not be interested in its mobile hardware business in a cut-throat market.

Google said in December that it planned to sell Motorola’s TV set-top box business to Arris Group, a broadband device vendor, for $2.35 billion.

Motorola had 11,113 staff in its mobile business and 5,204 in its home business at the end of December. The new cuts will hence reduce the staff in its mobility business by over 10 percent.



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Microsoft Patch Tuesday targets Internet Explorer drive-by attacks

Microsoft Patch Tuesday targets Internet Explorer drive-by attacks
Microsoft’s SharePoint, drawing application Visio get patched

Internet Explorer vulnerabilities warrant notice in this month’s set of Microsoft Patch Tuesday bulletins and need to be fixed quickly even though the sheer number of patches may seem daunting.

The weaknesses leave users open to drive-by attacks where malicious code is downloaded without the user’s knowledge while browsing. Not patching them because they are time-consuming will just widen the window of opportunity hackers have to exploit them, says Alex Horan, a senior product manager at CORE Security.

“Preventing future drive-by style attacks and protecting end-users appear to be the theme of this month’s Patch Tuesday,” Horan says. “These patches can be a hassle for users to deploy and have the potential to create a long enough delay where hackers can take advantage.”

So far the weaknesses haven’t been exploited. “Fortunately, this issue has no known attacks in the wild,” says Paul Henry, a security and forensic analyst at Lumension. “However, you should still plan to patch this immediately. ”

Four of seven bulletins for March are rated critical, with the first addressing browser problems. “It fixes critical vulnerabilities that could be used for machine takeover in all versions of Internet Explorer from 6 to 10, on all platforms including Windows 8 and Windows RT,” says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek.

Microsoft’s Silverlight media application framework is also critically vulnerable, according to the company’s Security Bulletin Advance Notification. It affects Silverlight whether deployed on Windows or Mac OS X operating systems, where it is used to run media applications such as Netflix, Kandek says.

This vulnerability is more of concern to consumers because it only affects the Silverlight plug-in. Henry says plug-ins should be avoided in general. “[T]hey add another threat vector and are frequently an easy target for the bad guys,” he says.

Also in critical need of patching is Microsoft’s drawing application Visio, which comes as a surprise to Kandek. “It is puzzling to see such a high rating for this software that typically requires opening of an infected file in order for the attack to work. It will be interesting to see the attack vector for this vulnerability that warrants the ‘critical’ rating,” he says.

Critical vulnerabilities are those that could allow code execution without user interaction if they are successfully exploited. This type of exploit includes network worms, browsing to infected Web pages or opening infected emails.

The final critical vulnerability lies in SharePoint Server, Microsoft says.

Three of the bulletins are rated important and include two that could allow data to leak and one that could allow attackers to elevate privileges on an exploited machine. Important bulletins include vulnerabilities that could lead to compromised confidentiality, integrity or availability of user data, or of the integrity or availability of processing resources, Microsoft says. Such exploits may include warnings or prompts.

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IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales

IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales
Better acceptance of Windows 8 could help a PC rebound later this year

The final numbers are in showing that PC makers shipped fewer machines last year than in 2011, and Windows 8 is among several factors being blamed by IDC for the decline, which is expected to continue this year.

Looking back IDC found that in 2012 total worldwide shipments of PCs was down 3.7%, including desktop and portable PCs.

The trend was worse in mature markets — the U.S., Canada, Western Europe and Japan — with a dip of 4%. Emerging markets — Asia/Pacific, Latin America the Middle East and Africa — were down 1.4%.

Limited interest in Windows 8 led last year to a dismal fourth quarter, IDC says in its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Volume dropped 8.3% in Q4 2012 compared to Q4 2011, wiping out a potential bump during the normally robust holiday sales quarter, IDC says. That’s the largest drop ever recorded for a holiday season.

IDC described the reception of Windows 8, which launched in October, as “underwhelming.” Also contributing to the slow fourth quarter were tight IT budgets and a continuing poor world economy.

Hurting the potential lift that Windows 8 might have provided was the lack of components for touchscreen devices — the type of machine Windows 8 was designed to work best on. That makes the touchscreen devices that are available seem expensive compared to non-touch devices, IDC says.

Still, Windows 8 could help PC sales rebound somewhat late this year, says Rajani Singh, a research analyst at IDC. “IDC expects the second half of 2013 to regain some marginal momentum partly as a rubber band effect from 2012, and largely thanks to the outcome of industry restructuring, better channel involvement, and potentially greater acceptance of Windows 8,” he says. But it still won’t be enough to register growth; IDC projects worldwide PC sales in 2013 to drop another 1.3%.

The end of support for Windows XP should force more PC upgrades later this year as well, which could help bolster shipments later in 2013, Singh says.

The study doesn’t include tablets because they aren’t the functional equivalents of PCs, but their popularity among consumers helps siphon off dollars that otherwise might be spent on PCs, says Loren Loverde, vice president for Worldwide PC Trackers at IDC. “Growth in emerging regions has slowed considerably, and we continue to see constrained PC demand as buyers favor other devices for their mobility and convenience features,” Loverde says.

Long-term shipments of PCs shows better but still modest growth, the report says, projecting a 9% increase between 2012 and the end of 2017.

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Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries

Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries
Also: Windows 8 upgrade rumored for summer, more Windows 8 ads queued, deals on Windows 8 machines

Microsoft has run out of Windows Surface Pro tablets twice in a month but is forging ahead with plans to make them available in six more countries.

According to today’s Surface blog the six countries are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan. The Surface Pro and Surface RT will be available there “in the coming months.”

With luck the supply of the machines will be better in these countries than it has been in the U.S. and Canada, where Microsoft has run out of Surface Pros twice. Microsoft hasn’t spelled out the reasons for the shortages.

“We are focused on meeting demand in current markets for Surface Pro and are working super hard to get new inventory into retail but recognize demand exists in other countries as well,” the blog post says. “We are committed to working with our retail partners to ensure we are delivering a great experience in the above mentioned countries for our customers.”

More promos
“Microsoft is about to embark on a second wave of Windows 8 client hardware promotions and user education,” according to a Computerworld article from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The story quotes Christopher Flores, director of communications for the Windows client division, who was interviewed at the show, where Microsoft is said to be keeping a low profile but meeting with partners off-site.

This new promotional wave might have something to do with the launch this week of Office 365, which has been redesigned for the touch capabilities that are such a key part of Windows 8. Demonstrating new Office features that Windows 8 supports better than Windows 7 might move some customers to accelerate their decisions to adopt the new operating system.

Windows Blue
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Microsoft is working on Windows Blue, the next iteration if its operating system. If the company follows past release patterns, this won’t be the major transformation that Windows 8 was. More likely it will represent what might be called a service pack in earlier Windows operating system releases.

There’s even a projected date for when Windows Blue (that’s just a code name) will reach the release-to-manufacturer stage: June 7, according to a post on a Chinese-language site that was discovered by Mary Jo Foley.

The site, Win8China, doesn’t attribute where it got its information, but seems to assert that Windows Blue will become the commercial version by the end of the summer. It’s hard to tell exactly from the translation of the site provided by Google Chrome.

Here’s how the translation reads, in part: “The development cycle time RTM version completed in the mid-term of 2013 (the beginning of the end of June -7), MSDN and other users will then use the priority, and then in August it will be open to all Win8 user upgrade download, as well as pre-installed into the new devices inside a PC, Tablet PC, laptop, ultra-extreme.”

Windows 8 tablet discount
Best Buy is knocking $100 off any Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, which in some cases represents an 18% discount.

Some people have linked the sale to the rumored availability of Windows Blue this summer, leading them to conclude that Best Buy is trying to unload current Windows 8 machines before the new version makes them obsolete.

Or the chain might have overstocked Windows 8 tablets and wants to clear its inventory. Or it might be getting ready to stock up on newer hardware due out later this year that blends features of tablets and laptops.

Windows 8 for dunking
Speaking of new hardware, Fujitsu is coming out with a Windows 8 tablet that can sit in a tub of water for half an hour and still work when it gets out.

It’s called Arrows Tab Q582/F and is on display at the Mobile World Congress. It costs about $1,350 to start.

Here’s how Fujitsu describes it: “With the terminal cap and slot cap tightly closed, IPX5 and IPX8 water resistance features protect the tablet from water damage. IPX5 designation indicates that the tablet can normally function after being sprayed with water from a nozzle with a diameter of 6.3 mm at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute from a distance of approximately 3 meters for a period of at least 3 minutes. The IPX8 designation indicates that the tablet will function normally after being immersed in room-temperature tap water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. When the terminal cap and slot caps are tightly closed IP5X dust resistance features protect the tablet from dust damage. IP5X indicates that the tablet can be left in an environment with dust particles with a diameter of 75 µm or less for 8 hours and still function and remain safe to use.”

Windows 8 Pro mobile phone
A company called i-mate says it is coming out with a mobile phone that runs the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. That’s Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8.

When it comes out later this year, it can be purchased with a docking kit that hooks the device into a desktop phone, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The kit includes a tablet driven wirelessly by the phone, which is called Intelegent.

As a standalone, Intelegent costs $750; with the kit, $1,500 and the company hopes to launch the products this summer.

All of this is according to a column in the Seattle Times.

A company spokesman says an i-mate team is at Mobile World Congress this week and couldn’t do an interview. “The i-mate Development Inc. team is busy at Mobile World Congress. We’ll reach out if they become available at a later date,” he spokesman says in an email.

The spokesman also says the Seattle Times column is accurate on details about the phone.

It will be interesting to see whether this device actually comes into being, what its battery life will be (driving an Intel Clover Trail processor) and whether the company can line up service providers that will support it.

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Microsoft Technical Training Courses

Microsoft Technical Training Courses

Vendor certifications play an important part in the IT world, and Microsoft sets the industry standard. Training to gain proficiency in Microsoft products and technology allows professionals to get up to speed on the essential tools that hiring managers value today. Whether students come to technical training programs after completing a degree program or on their own, Microsoft technical courses offer a valuable service–so valuable, in fact, that the software giant claims its certification reduces downtime by 20 percent and makes teams 28 percent more productive.

Microsoft BizTalk Server Training Courses
Microsoft BizTalk Server training can help the pros connect with the skills necessary for an enterprise career. With BizTalk Server courses, IT personnel can explore the uses of this integration server for business tasks like multi-channel interactions, supply chain visibility and decision-support/reporting.

Microsoft Visual Studio Training Courses
Microsoft Visual Studio training prepares students for IT careers as professionals who build, test and debug software solutions. Developers can use this platform to launch or build an advanced career in enterprise applications analysis and systems management.

Microsoft Exchange Server Training Courses
Enterprise communications are of vital importance to today’s business world, and professionals with Microsoft Exchange Server training can provide employers with peace of mind about messaging and mail server administration.

Visual Basic .NET Training Courses
A core component of Microsoft Visual Studio, VB.NET returns to prominence as companies prepare to move custom applications to the cloud.

ASP.NET Training Courses

Once reserved for the likes of Fortune 500 companies, Microsoft’s ASP.NET platform has reached a wider group of employers who demand skilled Web developers.

Microsoft SQL Server Training Courses

With such diverse applications, Microsoft SQL Server training and certification can help IT pros prove their value to a variety of different enterprises.

Microsoft Dynamics Training Courses

From simple CRM to advanced ERP, it pays to make the most of Microsoft Dynamics. Learn about some of the training and certification options available for this software.

.NET Training Courses

Developers with .NET training are among the most in-demand pros in today’s competitive job market. Explore how .NET courses can make a difference in your IT career.

Who is best suited for Microsoft technical training?

Students come to technical training programs from a range of backgrounds. Many are adding on to existing training and degree experience, while others pair training with work experience. Some students come back to training to bring their knowledge up to date or explore new career paths. Students are often self-motivated and interested in advancing their current careers or taking their job futures in a new direction.

Which professions require Microsoft training?
Microsoft reports that 75 percent of managers in an IDC survey believe certifications are important to team performance. Because of this, workers trained in Microsoft products and technologies are found across a range of businesses. Take a look at the mean annual wages from 2009 for a few popular careers in the field, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Network and computer systems administrators: $70,930
Computer systems analysts: $80,430
Computer support specialists: $47,360
Computer programmers: $74,690

While no training or certification can guarantee a particular career or salary, hiring managers are often looking for educational experience and proof of high-level skills, and Microsoft training works to provide just that.

Popular technical certification exams

While it’s not usually required to log training hours, a little formal training can mean the difference between passing and failing a costly certification exam. Consider the following certification exams offered through Microsoft:

Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS): Basic certification for individuals looking for proof of in-depth mastery in a particular technology, such as .NET Framework, BizTalk Server, and Small Business Server 2008. ($125)
Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA): Intermediate certification for those looking for proof of knowledge within network and systems environments. ($500)
Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE): Advanced certification for individuals hoping to design and implement server infrastructure. Candidates must pass seven exams on networking systems, operating systems and core design. ($875)

Other certification exams include Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), Microsoft Certified Professional Developer (MCPD) and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA). The Microsoft Certified Architect (MCA) is the highest level of certification, and requires 10 years of experience, 5 years of architectural experience and a $5,125 fee.

Some topics covered by Microsoft technical training

.NET: This framework allows developers to apply their work across many devices, including phone, browser, server, client and cloud
Microsoft SQL Server: A powerful database management system. Editions include Enterprise, Web, Workgroup and Fast Track
Microsoft Dynamics: Offering enterprise resource management and customer relationship management (CRM) solutions
Microsoft Visual Basic .NET (VB.NET): An evolution of the standard Visual Basic programming language, including object-oriented programming
Microsoft Exchange Server: Business email and contacts across devices, including phone, browser and PC
Microsoft Windows: Family of operating systems, including Windows 7, Windows Vista and Windows XP
Microsoft Windows Server: Manage IT needs, security, applications platforms and more
Microsoft BizTalk Server: Integrate systems between businesses and communicate flawlessly with a range of devices
Microsoft Visual Studio: Integrated development environment that ensures quality code through the application’s lifecycle
ASP.NET: Web application framework designed to help programmers build dynamic websites

With a host of certifications available for a host of products, Microsoft technical training can boost an existing or be the first step in a new career in IT.

MCTS Training, MCITP Trainnig

Best Microsoft MCTS Certification, Microsoft MCITP Training at