Windows 8 Update: Microsoft urges Windows 8 upgrade for security’s sake

Microsoft: Windows XP machines are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8

Even those who don’t like Windows 8 should consider it for its superior security vs. older Microsoft operating systems, if nothing else the company says.

According to its latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, machines running Windows XP are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8, the report says. The raw numbers are that 9.1 Windows XP machines need to be cleaned per 1,000 vs. 1.6 Windows 8 machines.

The reason, Microsoft says, is that Windows XP’s data execution prevention (DEP) is old and doesn’t address modern threats as well as the defenses in Windows 8. “People figured out how to get around DEP as a mitigation,” says Holly Stewart, program manager for Micrsoft’s Malware Protection Center.

Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP next spring and has been urging customers to upgrade to a newer operating system.Worldwide Windows XP makes up 21% of the OS market, Microsoft says.

It’s not just Windows XP with an infection problem: Windows 7 machines are more than three times more likely (5.5 per 1,000) to become infected than Windows 8 machines.

In addition, Windows XP machines also encounter more malware than Windows 8 machines, with 16.3% of XP machines encountering it vs 12.4% of Windows 8 machines, the report says. Stewart says she doesn’t know why Windows 8 machines face fewer threats. Windows 7 computers have the highest encounter rate with 19.1%.

Microsoft gathers data on Windows computers through its Bing search, Outlook.com accounts and Windows users who agreed to share data about their activities with Microsoft, adding up to information on billions of Internet transactions.

Windows 8 users supplement security
One of the big selling points of Windows 8 is its security, part of which is supplied by Windows Defender anti-virus. OPSWAT security management specialists say that despite integration of Windows Defender in the new operating system most customers run third-party anti-virus software, too. That’s 65% of the Window 8 users from a sample of 840 monitored by OPSWAT. Lower percentages of Windows XP users (9%) and Windows 7 users (20%) also run third-party anti-virus, OPSWAT says.

Old Surface Pro is cheaper
With the Surface Pro 2 expected to ship in December, Microsoft is cutting the price of the original Surface Pro by $100, making the current prices $699 for a 64GB model; $799 for a 128GB model and $999 for a 256GB. The prices for Surface Pro 2 are $899, $999 and $1,299, respectively. Surface Pro 2 also comes in a 512GB model for $1,799.

Microsoft has been trying to unload its inventory of the original Surface Pro for months in the run-up to Surface Pro 2. It cut $100 off original Surface Pro prices back in August, so the latest offer makes it $200 cheaper than it was originally. The latest deal expires at the end of the year.

All hands on deck
Microsoft’s corporate Vice President of Surface Computing Panos Panay personally hawked the product recently at malls around the country. He addressed about 150 potential customers at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., according to a story in the Washington Post, in advance of the official launch of the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.

He also popped up at the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles, for a similar engagement, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

While he seems a bit overqualified for pitching computers directly to consumers, it’s hard to fault his enthusiasm.

Calling all cars

Windows 8 is making its way into police cars in the U.K., or at least into trials at the Hertfordshire Constabulary, according to a TabTimes report.

The tablet in question is a ruggedized 8.4-inch Panasonic that officers can carry with them to access police applications.

 


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Microsoft’s Graveyard: 16 products that Microsoft has killed

Microsoft’s Graveyard: 16 products that Microsoft has killed
Some were killed off, others folded into new products. Either way, no product lives forever.

Every product has its end. It is either replaced, upgraded or merged in with something else. Even Microsoft, a company that is notoriously generous and patient with letting a product gain momentum, is willing to pull the plug when necessary.

Here are some of the most notable Microsoft products that have met their demise

TechNet
This was probably the biggest product to go to the graveyard in 2013. Microsoft announced the end for TechNet due to rampant abuse and piracy. The company started TechNet in 1998 to sell IT professionals perpetual licenses to Windows client and server operating systems. People abused the system for years before Microsoft had enough. Users are now being migrated to the MSDN network.

Live Products
Microsoft did a lot of consolidation this year, and its Live products got folded into a lot of other programs. Live Mail and Hotmail were folded into Outlook.com, Live Mesh was sunset in favor of SkyDrive, and Live Messenger was axed at the beginning of the year with existing accounts being transferred to Skype.

Surface Pro
It came out in February and was gone by October. But with good reason. The Surface Pro 2 tablet is a huge improvement over the original Surface Pro, with the company claiming it has up to 75% better battery life and 20% better performance than the original. Now they just need to sell some.

Windows Small Business Server
With the release of Windows Server 2012, Microsoft announced it would no longer release a small business version of the OS. The company is encouraging small business owners to take their needs to Microsoft’s hosted cloud solutions instead. So you can either move to Azure or deploy Server 2012, Exchange Server and Sharepoint. Which would you prefer?

Encarta
Microsoft first delivered Encarta on CD-ROM in 1993 as part of the early wave of multimedia products for PCs, before adding a website as well. In response to criticism against Wikipedia’s dubious veracity, Microsoft sought credibility by acquiring other encyclopedias, including Collier’s Encyclopedia and New Merit Scholar’s Encyclopedia. The company had tried to buy Encyclopedia Britannica but was rebuffed.

Encarta just could not keep up with Wikipedia and fell totally behind. User changes and updates were enabled in 2006, but only after Encarta staff approved them. The result? Encarta Premium, the high-end product, boasted 62,000 articles compared to Wikipedia’s 1 million-plus. In March 2009, Microsoft announced it was discontinuing both the Encarta disc and online versions.

Flight Simulator
This upset a lot of people because of how it was handled. Microsoft Flight Simulator was one of the company’s oldest products, first hitting the market in 1978 from game publisher subLOGIC before Microsoft acquired the company in 1982.

Flight Simulator had an extremely loyal fanbase and a huge mod/add-on market. These folks were really upset when Microsoft just killed the game, rather than trying to find a buyer to keep it going. But with the economic downturn in 2008, Microsoft started looking at its assets, and in early 2009, the games division took a big hit, with FlightSim being one of them.

Zune
Zune was a me-too product from Microsoft that came way too late. Normally, being late to market is not a hindrance for Microsoft. It’s frequently late to market, and that hadn’t been a problem before. With the Zune, Microsoft had a few interesting ideas, like sharing songs with other Zunes, but Zune had no chance against the iPod. Microsoft introduced it in 2007 and killed it in 2011, but parts of Zune live on. The software player is used in Xbox Live and Windows Phone 8.

Kin
Kin was barely born, as Microsoft killed the product literally weeks after launch. The Kin phones were ugly little things meant to be low-cost PCs aimed at the younger market, people who might not be able to afford a smartphone. Engadget did a good post-mortem on the whole deal, detailing how a complete OS rewrite and a focus on higher prices did in the Kin. Microsoft would put its efforts behind Windows Phone.

Windows Home Server
Bill Gates introduced this new home product at the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show, and it shipped that year. Based on Windows Server 2003 R2, it was meant for homes or small offices with multiple connected PCs, offering file sharing, automated backups, print server, and remote access. However, there was no real push from Microsoft or the OEMs. Microsoft would only sell it through OEMs. You couldn’t just download it and install it on an old PC, which is what was so helpful to Linux in its early days. With such a middling effort, it went nowhere and was killed off last year.

Microsoft Works
Inspired by AppleWorks, a nifty little suite that originally shipped on the Apple II computer (I owned a copy, too), Microsoft shipped its first version, Works for DOS, in 1987. At the time, it was one giant app. Your word processor, spreadsheet and database all ran from the same application, just like AppleWorks. Microsoft would modernize it and usually offer it as part of a software bundle with new PCs for years. Finally, in 2009, Microsoft ended the project, replacing it with Office 2010 Starter Edition.

FrontPage
Originally developed by Vermeer Technologies, Microsoft acquired this rapid HTML development tool in 1996 and made it a part of Windows NT Server, which included the Internet Information Server web server software, and eventually the Office suite. FrontPage and IIS were very proprietary and really locked code into Microsoft products. Front- and back-end software did not port easily, and Microsoft was criticized for that. As IIS and FrontPage matured, Microsoft moved away from the vendor lock.

In 2006, Microsoft announced that FrontPage would eventually be replaced by two far more advanced web development products: SharePoint Designer, for business professionals to design SharePoint-based applications, and Expression Web targeted at the web design professional for the creation of feature-rich websites. Microsoft discontinued Microsoft FrontPage that year.

Microsoft Expression
This one didn’t last long. Six years after its launch, Microsoft announced that Expression Studio would no longer be a standalone product. Expression Blend was integrated into Visual Studio, while Expression Web and Expression Design are now available as free products, although it got no technical support, and Microsoft doesn’t plan to release new versions of Expression Web or Design.

Microsoft Money
Microsoft didn’t conquer every market it targeted. One area it could never crack was home finance. Intuit, maker of Quicken, has ruled that roost for decades. Microsoft tried to acquire the firm but was met with significant government resistance. So it tried competing with Quicken, with no luck. From 1991 to 2009, Microsoft spun its wheels with Money, with very low market share to show for its efforts.

IronRuby
Open source supporters were cautiously optimistic that Microsoft might be embracing open source religion a decade ago with things like Port 25 and projects like IronPython and IronRuby. Well, scratch the last one. No official announcement was made, but word started leaking out when a former employee who worked on it discussed in blogs posts that no one was left working on the project.

IronRuby died from abandonment, and there is some skepticism that Microsoft is making any real effort with it. IronRuby is maintained by volunteers, and its revisions have been very slow and minor in recent years.

Windows Live OneCare
Microsoft’s first attempt at a security suite, OneCare was based on Reliable Antivirus (RAV), which Microsoft purchased from GeCAD Software Srl in 2003. The software offered disk cleanup and defragmentation, a full virus scan, backup notification, checking for updates and a firewall. However, the software took a pounding from critics and security experts, many of whom rated the AV scanner very low, near the bottom in tests, and said the firewall allowed for too many potential exceptions. And Microsoft was selling this for $59. It abandoned the software with the release of Windows 7 and introduced Microsoft Security Essentials, which does a better job overall at malware detection.

Xbox One DRM
This was almost Microsoft’s suicide. Microsoft initially proposed DRM for the Xbox One that included mandatory Internet connections and restricted game sharing with friends, plus a requirement that the Kinect motion detection camera be connected at all times. This was met with howls from furious gamers and promises of a boycott.

Inside of a month, Microsoft relented on everything. The result is that Xbox One vaulted to No. 1 on Amazon presales, ahead of PlayStation 4. Both consoles are expected to sell a few million units when they ship next month.


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10 new gadgets to spruce up your workspace

These gadgets and peripherals now hitting the market will give you and your desk a much-needed upgrade.

Look at your desk. Could you use a new mouse? Additional digital storage? A better monitor? A place to charge all your mobile devices?

You’re in luck. With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, all kinds of gadgets and peripherals are starting to hit the market. Here are 10 to consider if you want to improve productivity, spruce up your workspace or make it easier to take a much-needed break.

Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630
The Logitech Ultrathin Touch Mouse T630 ($69.99) is a Bluetooth mouse designed specifically for ultrabooks. The mouse features brushed metallic sides, its touch surface supports the use of Windows 8 gestures and it’s thin enough to slip unobtrusively into a laptop sleeve or jeans pocket.

The Ultrathin Touch Mouse can pair with two different Bluetooth devices; a physical switch lets users toggle between devices. While some may find the mouse a bit small — it’s 3 inches long and 2 inches wide — frequent travelers who can’t live without a mouse will find the Ultrathin Touch Mouse invaluable.

Wacom Bamboo Pad Wireless
The Wacom Bamboo Pad Wireless ($79; available in four colors) is a touchpad that works with a battery-free, pressure-sensitive digital stylus. This combination lets users easily add handwritten notes and sketches to a PC or Mac. The Bamboo Pad Wireless also supports multi-touch gestures such as rotate, scroll and zoom. A small USB transceiver connects the touchpad with a user’s computer.

Griffin PowerDock 5
The Griffin PowerDock 5 charging station ($99.99) is optimized to charge five iOS devices at the same time, though it will also charge most Kindle and Android devices. Each “charging bay” is roomy enough to accommodate a tablet without removing it from its cases, while the 2.1A of charging circuitry per USB port ensures that devices are charged quickly. Bear in mind that the PowerDock 5 doesn’t come with charging cables, while the individual frosted backrests aren’t designed to be removed once they’ve been assembled.

Jawbone Mini Jambox
The Mini Jambox ($179.99; available in nine colors) is the slimmest portable speaker by Jawbone yet. Crafted from a single piece of extruded aluminum, the Mini Jambox offers a lightweight form factor weighing just 9oz (255 grams). But it produces big sound despite its small package, with a pair of proprietary acoustic drivers and a passive bass radiator delivering music playback. The Mini Jambox supports Bluetooth 4.0 or 3.5mm stereo connectors and recharges using micro-USB port for 10 hours of continuous playback.

Twelve South GhostStand
The GhostStand ($34.99) by Twelve South is a transparent, modern platform designed to elevate a laptop to a comfortable viewing angle. Though designed specifically for the MacBook, it should work well with practically any laptop on the market. The GhostStand’s silicone rails serve a dual purpose: keeping your laptop in position on the stand and the stand in position on your desk.

The GhostStand ships as two pieces of clear, acrylic plastic. Simple assembly is required. Once in place, though, Twelve South discourages disassembling the stand.

Brinell Drive SSD
The Brinell Drive SSD is a slim, portable solid-state drive that offers both looks and top-notch performance for folks who don’t mind paying for it. The 2.5-inch SSD is mounted inside a light metal frame with an exterior surface made from premium materials: Stainless steel, leather, carbon and Macassar wood.

Under the hood, the Brinell Drive delivers performance of up to 420MB/s read and 330MB/s write over its USB 3.0 interface. Each Brinell Drive comes with a USB 3.0 cable and a protective leather pouch. The drive is available in 120GB, 250GB and 500GB capacities, and prices vary by material.

exar JumpDrive M10
The Lexar JumpDrive M10 is a USB 3.0 flash drive that delivers up to 100MB/s read and 55MB/s write speeds. The drive also displays the remaining storage space on its integrated, always-on e-ink capacity meter. EncryptStick Lite software, which comes bundled with the flash drive, also allows for the creation of a password-protected vault to automatically encrypt file using 256-bit AES encryption.

Bose Wireless Headphones
The Bluetooth-enabled Bose Wireless Headphone AE2w ($249.95) offers natural sound and a comfortable around-ear fit. The removable Bluetooth adapter offers up to seven hours of run time, and its lithium-ion battery is recharged via an included USB cable. A built-in microphone lets users make phone calls or activate voice-recognition apps.

Overall, the Bose Wireless Headphone AE2w offers the flexibility of wireless with a great-sounding and comfortable headset — though depending on your preferred music genre, you may find the playback volume a tad soft.

SimpleScan DP
The SimpleScan DP mobile scanner ($199) offers double-sided scanning with an optical resolution of 300dpi. The versatile mobile scanner can be deployed in three distinct configurations. It offers a scan speed of 10 pages per minute (PPM) when scanning in black and white, and 4ppm in color. The SimpleScan DP mobile scanner is fully USB-powered, and is available in black and white.

Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p
The 13.3-inch portable ThinkVision LT1423p monitor from Lenovo offers 1600×900 resolution on an AH-IPS (Advanced High Performance In-Panel Switching) display panel that is protected by a layer of Gorilla Glass layer. The ThinkVision LT1423p comes with a 10-point touch surface that’s certified for Windows 8 use and works with a ThinkPad Digitizer pen to deliver a high resolution of 2540ppi. The monitor connects to the computer via a USB interface using DisplayLink technology and is powered by the same USB link.


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Microsoft ships tool to block IE11 on Windows 7

IE ‘biggest inhibitor to continuous upgrades’ for enterprises, says analyst

Microsoft on Friday shipped a toolkit to block Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) from automatically installing on Windows 7 PCs, a signal that the new browser will release in the next few weeks.

The IE11 Blocker Toolkit is aimed at businesses that want to keep employees on an older edition of IE. Its tools include a script that can be run locally, as well as an administrative template IT administrators can use to block IE11 through Group Policy settings.

The toolkit blocks automatic upgrading of older editions of Internet Explorer to IE11 on Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 through the operating systems’ built-in Automatic Update service. Companies that rely on Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) or System Center 2012 do not need the toolkit since they can manage the deployment of IE11 using those tools.

Individuals can also use the toolkit to keep IE11 off their Windows machines without disabling Automatic Updates for all other Microsoft software.

Microsoft has issued similar toolkits for IE7, IE8, IE9 and IE10 before those browsers’ public releases. Earlier this year, for example, Microsoft offered a blocking toolkit for IE10 about three weeks prior to the browser’s public release.

If Microsoft sticks to the same timetable — likely, since the idea of the early availability of the toolkit is to give companies time to deploy it — IE11 will launch near the end of this month or in early November. Microsoft has declined to disclose a ship date for IE11 on Windows 7, saying previously only that it would be this fall.

IE11 on Windows 8.1 will debut sooner: The browser, part of the update to Windows 8, is to land on the Windows Store Thursday, Oct. 17. Current users of Windows 8 and Windows RT can download and install the free Windows 8.1 update — including IE11 — that day. Windows 8.1 retail upgrades and systems featuring Windows 8.1 are to launch Oct. 18.

Blocking toolkits, while long crafted by Microsoft, have become more important since early 2012, when the Redmond, Wash. developer began silently upgrading IE to the newest version suitable for a user’s version of Windows. Most Windows XP customers, for example, have been upgraded to IE8, while Windows Vista maxed out at IE9 and Windows 7 PCs have, in lieu of a block of one kind or another, been moved to IE10.

Shortly after Microsoft ships the final version of IE11, it will begin pushing the browser to all Windows 7 machines via Automatic Updates. The result will resemble 2013’s rapid rise in IE10 adoption. From February through September, IE10’s share of all copies of Internet Explorer soared from next to nothing to nearly 34% under the forced upgrade from IE9.

But the rapid release tempo of IE — accelerated this cycle, with just 7-8 months between IE10’s and IE11’s release on Windows 7 — hasn’t been welcomed by everyone. Enterprises are struggling to comprehend, much less manage, the faster pace that Microsoft’s kicked into gear with Windows 8.1, the update that followed its predecessor, Windows 8, by just a year.

And the constant turnover of IE versions is at the top of IT’s frustration list.

According to Michael Silver, a Gartner analyst who focuses on Microsoft and its operating system strategies, “IE is the biggest inhibitor to continuous upgrades” for corporations.

In an hour-long presentation last week at Gartner’s annual IT conference, Silver and fellow Gartner analyst Stephen Kleynhans outlined the changes companies should expect in Windows and Office over the next five years, and how to deal with those changes.

IE is a special stumbling block for companies trying to keep up with Microsoft’s new cadence. “The faster pace is absolutely the biggest pain point,” said Silver in an interview last week. “The problem with faster release cycles is that [enterprises] don’t know if their apps will work with each new version of Windows and IE.”

Some enterprises have hundreds of in-house, line-of-business (LOB) apps that work with IE8, but not with any newer Microsoft browser, and so have standardized on the 2009 application. While such companies may be interested in adopting Windows 8.1, they simply won’t because of the IE issue, said Silver.

The blocking toolkit will not bar upgrades on systems where the IE11 Developer or Release Previews has been installed, and also cannot prevent users from manually installing the new browser. The minuscule kit — just 98 kilobytes — has been posted on Microsoft’s Download Center website.


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Availing the MCTS Certification

The MCTS Certification is one of the most advanced and important career oriented IT program that is currently being pursued by thousands of candidates all over the world. Since, this is a tough exam, it is necessary for the individuals to study very hard and put all efforts to qualify the exam. Hence, the preparation needs to be adequate and the skills derived from the program should be sound and appropriate, so that they can be put to good use at the time of the work.

Studying for the MCTS training program
It is necessary for the candidates to give enough time for studying and preparing for the MCTS exam. They need to undergo frequent practice tests, to ensure that they have a proper understanding of the different topics covered in the MCTS course and to ensure that they are ready to undergo the certification examination. This will not only help them to build immense confidence, but also provide them the much needed boost to their existing skills and knowledge. Therefore, preparation for the exam should be adequate and plenty of research needs to be done by the candidate, to ensure better grades. The Knowledge Academy professionals are well versed with the different types of topics that are covered in the course. This is because, they are provided with adequate training in the MCTS program and taken through various practical sessions, for giving them a better and clear understanding of the program.

MCTS course for facing challenges
It is important for the candidates to undergo the program seriously and sincerely, since, it would give them proper exposure on the MCTS Certification and help them to acquire the necessary skills that would be required for implementing in the work place. The exam presents the candidate with a chance to challenge their acquired knowledge and to understand how well they have learnt the program. Presently, the candidates are provided with three different formats, which include case study formats that would challenge their analytical skills, virtual labs and simulations for testing their knowledge and skills within the real setting.

The MCTS training program also presents the candidate with a chance to have a wonderful career change, in case they are finding their present one to be not quite rewarding. It has been noticed that candidates, who have successfully completed the program are presented with plenty of job opportunities and are provided with better positions and wonderful pay package. Moreover, the MCTS program also prepares the candidates to get a proper career change and to get a lucrative and rewarding career. A good MCTS training program is sure to include the study kits, audio and video presentations, preparation labs, mock test questions, study guides, self-study training kits and an access to a qualified and trained instructor, who would make all the difference to the entire MCTS course. This is sure to improve the knowledge of the individuals and help them to ascertain a better and rewarding career. Also, the candidates are sure to enjoy their training program and gain plenty of knowledge from it.


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12 best places to land a tech job

Tech skills are increasingly in demand across the U.S., and you may not need to uproot to find a new opportunity, as growth is not limited to the usual job markets. Here’s a look at where tech job growth is highest, based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as interviews with Shravan Goli, President of Dice Holdings, Tim Johnson, vice president of sales at Mondo; and Matthew Ripaldi, senior vice president at Modis.

New Jersey
New Jersey tops the BLS list for job growth in computer systems design and related services, at 5.2%. That brings the Garden State into the top five in terms of tech workforce size, along with California, Texas, Virginia and New York, according to BLS data. The state is actively working to add tech jobs, Goli says, by offering tax breaks and grants to small and midsize tech businesses that create new positions. Also fueling growth is the ability of New Jersey tech companies to feed off neighbor New York’s talent base, Goli says.

Massachusetts
Massachusetts is second to New Jersey in tech job growth, at 4%, according to the BLS, and has created more jobs so far in 2013 than last year at this time. Like New Jersey, the state is actively working to attract tech business, Goli says. In addition to its many healthcare, financial services and education giants requiring tech talent, Massachusetts also competes with New York for the title of “Silicon Valley of the East,” Goli says. Along with startups, traditional tech firms maintain a Boston presence for proximity to the region’s universities, Mondo’s Johnson adds.

Missouri
BLS data shows 3.8% tech job growth in Missouri, which concurs with Dice’s observation earlier this year that St. Louis was top among U.S. cities in tech employment growth. This is due in part to an increased awareness of technology’s role in business and on employment, Goli says. “Incubation of tech companies through government support is happening more in some areas, whereas it’s done predominantly through venture funding in traditional states,” he says. For instance, the St. Louis IT Entrepreneur Network works to coach tech startups. Another driver is the number of large tech consultancies in St. Louis, Goli says.

Texas
T
exas hosts a large tech workforce, and it’s about to get bigger, with 3.3% growth, according to the BLS. Dice attributes the growth to a diverse business landscape that includes cloud software companies in Austin; healthcare, financial and insurance powerhouses in Houston; the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas; and defense contractors in San Antonio. Additionally, Ripaldi says, the energy sector continues to spur growth in Houston, and businesses are attracted to the state’s comparatively low cost of living. Texas also offers a very business-friendly environment, adds Johnson, whose firm plans to open an office in Dallas early next year.

New York
At 2.6% job growth, New York is fifth on the BLS list. Part of this growth is its succesful work to establish itself as the go-to tech startup community over its rival, Boston. “Boston was the Silicon Valley of the East Coast for a long period of time, but it’s faded as New York became a hotbed for startups on the East Coast these days,” Goli says. Even beyond the startup world, the tech workforce in New York is “large and growing at astronomical rates,” Johnson says.

Washington State
Washington has become a technology innovation center and is seeing 2.5% growth in tech jobs, according to the BLS. Spurred by ongoing tech developments from Amazon and Microsoft, the state is best known for focusing on the cloud and Web services. “Because of the big cloud push, an ecosystem has developed around these companies that feeds off one another,” Goli says. “We’re seeing a lot of growth that will keep a company like ours busy.”

Illinois
While Chicago is not renowned for its technology innovation, it hosts one of the larger tech workforces and is seeing 1.8% tech job growth, according to the BLS. A big factor in this growth is the number of large, mature companies in several industries that call it home. “You never hear it mentioned in regards to cutting-edge technology, as with New York or Silicon Valley,” Johnson says. “But there’s no doubt that technology is growing significantly in Chicago.” On Dice’s jobs site, Illinois tends to have roughly 4,000 open positions posted on any given day, Goli says.

Pennsylvania
According to Johnson, Mondo’s third fastest-growing office is in Philadelphia, after New York and California. “You would never assume that, but that’s the reality,” he says. Pennsylvania also made it to the last slot on the BLS list top 10 list, with 1.7% growth. In-demand skills, Johnson says, are more traditional in the region — possibly due to the manufacturing and industrial businesses concentrated in both Philly and Pittsburgh — including programmers, developers, project managers and help desk workers.

Florida
Florida does not make the BLS list for fast growth, but recruiters are seeing a surge in job opportunities. According to Ripaldi, the trend is attributable, in part, to large organizations elsewhere in the U.S. looking to affordable and desirable cities like Jacksonville when planning an expansion of their data centers or extension of their application development function. “We’ve had clients with large data centers in the Northeast realize that from a cost standpoint, they could get more in this market,” he says. “Then they discover some of the talent that’s already here or that they can attract to the area.”

Georgia
Atlanta, known as the business capital of the South, is “extremely hot” right now, according to Johnson, based on the combination of a healthy business environment, a low cost of living and a growing community of tech startups. “Technology is so engrained in business that if you’re in a market that’s good-sized and growing, technology jobs will be a big piece of that,” he says. Further, “forward-thinking technology entreprenuers are choosing Atlanta to set up shop,” Johnson says. “The cost of living is significantly lower, yet it offers everything you want in a big city, so it can attract talent.”

North and South Carolina
From Research Triangle Park and spreading out to Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro and Winston-Salem, companies in a range of industries (financial services, healthcare, technology, manufacturing and insurance) make up a strong market in which tech skills are in high demand, Ripaldi says. Like Atlanta and Florida, the cost of living in the Carolinas is attractive to both businesses and employees, and “talented resources are moving there and calling it home because there’s so much innovation happening in the area,” Johnson says.

California
With Silicon Valley, California is the renowned startup and technology capital of the U.S. The size of its tech workforce is hard to beat in terms of raw volume, but because it’s starting from such a large base, its tech job growth rate is slower than other states; in fact, it didn’t make it to the BLS’s Top 10 list. However, observers are seeing a quickening in the job creation pace. “The pace of tech hiring in California is something to note,” Ripaldi says. “Even though the technology companies there have been hiring for some time, it continues to spread.”


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Microsoft dings Ballmer’s bonus over Windows 8, Surface RT struggles

The penalty is equivalent to half the cost of a cup of coffee at McDonalds to the average American

Microsoft’s board of directors reduced outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer’s bonus for the 2013 fiscal year, citing poor performance of Windows 8 and the $900 million Surface RT write-off, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (Photo: Microsoft)

The Redmond, Wash., company’s proxy statement spelled out the salaries and bonuses of several of its top executives, including Ballmer, new Chief Financial Office Amy Hood and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, as well as now-departed managers such as former CFO Peter Klein and Office chief Kurt DelBene.

Microsoft paid Ballmer $697,500 in salary and awarded him a $550,000 performance bonus, for a total of $1.26 million for fiscal year 2013.

The bonus was less than Ballmer could have earned.

“Our Board of Directors approved an Incentive Plan award of $550,000 which was 79% of Mr. Ballmer’s target award,” stated the proxy. One hundred percent of the target would have been $696,000.

The 79% was considerably lower than Ballmer’s comparable number for the 2012 fiscal year, when he was granted a bonus representing 91% of his target.

Microsoft’s board cited both company wins and losses under Ballmer’s stewardship, but the latter included some failures that were the root of its bonus decision.

“While the launch of Windows 8 in October 2012 resulted in over 100 million licenses sold, the challenging PC market coupled with the significant product launch costs for Windows 8 and Surface resulted in an 18% decline in Windows Division operating income,” the proxy noted. “Slower than anticipated sales of Surface RT devices and the decision to reduce prices to accelerate sales resulted in a $900 million inventory charge.”

Some analysts have speculated that the $900 million write-off was the proverbial straw that broke the board’s back, and triggered Ballmer’s ouster. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week, however, John Thompson, the lead independent director and the head of the committee in charge of the search for a new chief executive, backed Ballmer’s explanation for his sudden retirement: He did not want to remain in the job through the long course correction to a “devices-and-services” strategy.

The proxy statement’s commentary on the strategy change, as well as the corporate reorganization announced in July, was Ballmer-neutral. “The company continued to make progress in its devices and services strategy,” the filing read.

Last year, Ballmer’s bonus was pegged at 91% of his target as the board ticked off several issues during that fiscal year, including a 3% decline in revenue for the Windows and Windows Live Division, and a fiasco where Microsoft failed to offer a browser choice screen to Windows 7 customers in the European Union.

Ballmer’s 2013 bonus of 79% was an even lower percentage than that of Steven Sinofsky last year. Then, the former Windows chief — who was ousted in November 2012 — received 90% of his target award, even though he, like Ballmer, was cited as responsible for the EU browser choice screw-up.

Other top-tier executives received 100% or more of their target bonuses for 2013.

Kevin Turner, the COO, received a cash award of $2.1 million, or 100% of his target, and Satya Nadella, who now leads the Cloud and Enterprise group, received $1.6 million, or 105% of his target. Amy Hood, the new CFO, was handed $457,443, 100% of her target incentive, and as part of her promotion, received a stock award in May of 103,413 shares that will vest over the next three years. At Thursday’s closing price, those shares had a paper value of $3.5 million.

In total compensation for the 2013 fiscal year, Turner remained Microsoft’s highest-paid executive at $10.4 million, down slightly from 2012’s $10.7 million.

Eight of the company’s top executives, including Turner and Hood, were handed additional stock grants Sept. 19, the same day Microsoft announced a retention bonus designed to keep upper management from jumping ship during the CEO search. Turner, for example, received grants currently worth $20.3 million. Hood’s award was valued at Thursday’s closing bell at nearly $3.9 million.

No one should cry for Ballmer’s lowered bonus: According to the proxy, he controls 4% of the company, with stock holdings worth $11.3 billion at Thursday’s price. Only co-founder and chairman Bill Gates holds more: 4.5%, or $12.8 billion.

The $146,000 that Ballmer did not get in his 2013 bonus is literally pocket change to the billionaire. The amount represented 0.0013% of Ballmer’s Microsoft holdings, and an even smaller percentage of his total wealth. To put that into perspective, 0.0013% of $42,693, the U.S. per capita personal income in 2012, is 55 cents, or just over half the price of a coffee from McDonalds “Dollar Menu.”

Ballmer and Gates are both on the directors slate for re-election next month when Microsoft hosts its shareholders meeting.

According to a report by the Reuters new service earlier this week, some of Microsoft’s biggest investors have urged the board to push Gates out of the chairman’s role because they are concerned he will block the board from making drastic changes and handcuff the new CEO to the devices-and-services strategy, which they question. Gates is also on the special search committee tasked by the board to recommend Ballmer’s replacement.


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Few use tablets to replace laptops

Workers still see value in laptops for running most critical apps, IDC survey says

Many new tablets, including the new Kindle Fire HDX, are marketed as ways to create documents and other content for work-related tasks, instead of purely for home consumption of video and games.

Even with the focus on workplace productivity, a new survey shows that only 8.7% of tablet buyers want to use the tablet as a replacement for their laptops. The same survey by IDC found that 58.5% of respondents bought a tablet to use in addition to a laptop, and not as a replacement.

The online survey was conducted in April and included 299 U.S. consumers. All of them were 18 or older.

The results might have been different if the survey included younger tablet users, ages 17 and under, since that group has grown up with tablets since the first iPad went on sale in 2010, said Tom Mainelli, an IDC analyst and author of a report on the survey.

“The younger generation has different sentiments about phones and tablets and how useful they are,” Mainelli said in an interview.

Still, he said the finding that only 8.7% found a tablet as a replacement for a laptop was a surprise. “When we ask that question again in a year, I’d expect you will see a growing percentage view a tablet at least as possibly replacing a laptop,” Mainelli said.

“A huge percentage of people still see a lot of value in a laptop for one kind of app or service they use on it,” he added. “Would they want to do their taxes on a tablet? They haven’t quite made the leap to being comfortable with a mobile device like a tablet.”

“But that [expanded tablet] usage is coming, and we see more people doing more things on tablets,” Mainelli added. “Professionals still rely on laptops and a lot of them are just not really even thinking about the possibilities that the tablet offers and instead are concerned that a tablet doesn’t run Flash or can only open one app at a time.”

Mainelli said it’s notable that Amazon announced two new Kindle Fire HDX tablets last week with an emphasis on business-class features such as a native VPN client and hardware and software encryption.

“Amazon is getting much more serious about making its tablets enterprise-ready,” he said. The same can be said for iPads and many Android devices.

IDC has predicted 190 million tablets will be shipped to retailers in 2013, of which about half run on the Android mobile operating systen and half on iOS, with fractional amounts running Windows. Amazon runs on a custom version of Android and has dubbed its latest OS the Fire OS 3.0 Mojito.

In the IDC survey, 35% said they own an iOS tablet; 26.4% said they owned a tablet running standard Android; 10% said they owned a custom Android tablet like a Kindle Fire; 9.4% said they owned a Windows tablet and 0.7% owned a Windows RT tablet. More than 14% said they didn’t know the OS on their tablet.

The survey also asked tablet owners if they had a chance to buy a tablet again, would they buy one with the same OS. The iOS owners were most likely to say yes (80.2%), followed closely by Windows owners (78.9%); standard Android owners were third (70%), and custom Android owners were 68%.

Mainelli said the lower values for owners who would buy both kinds of Android again are likely a reflection of the many varieties of Android tablets on the market, some priced as low as $79 for a white box version and others from various vendors priced close to the iPad with Retina display at $499. Google’s Nexus 10 16 GB tablet running pure Android sells for $399.

“People who own the higher-end Androids probably have a similar affinity for them as do iOS owners,” he said. But Mainelli said he was somewhat surprised by the high affinity for Windows. “Those owning Windows have a strong inclination to buy one again, right below Apple,” he noted.

 


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