Tag Archive: Microsoft

Apple briefly became the most valuable company in the U.S. when it surpassed Exxon Mobil on August 9, but Breakingviews Columnist Rob Cyran says the iPhone and iPad maker may be worth far more.

I, like many people in this country, am a devoted Apple computer consumer. I mean, Apple must be superior for the common computer user who does like shiny, sleek packaging and does not like punching binary commands into the keyboard or having random code on their screen. That said, I had a disturbing visit to the Apple store earlier this week.



Let me back up. This disturbing visit was rooted in my workout (or lack there-of) regimen. Like many people in this country I will diligently jog everyday for a few months, only to have it slowly fade from my routine until one day I realize I haven’t hit the pavement in many moons.


Thankfully for my workout-averse brethren and I, Apple and Nike conveniently joined forces to create a market for something that really wasn’t necessary to begin with: the Nike+ GPS thing-a-majig. Somehow I convinced myself (or Apple convinced me, or Nike convinced me) that I could remedy my irregular jogging schedule with technology. Look! It tracks my workouts online. Look! It plays my “pump-up” song when I need that last little boost. Wow! Instant feedback relayed to me via a sexy voice. Lance Armstrong congratulates me after my workout!

I convinced myself this thing would make me run more often, thus get me in better shape, thus give me more energy, thus become motivated and get a good job, thus marry that beautiful girl, thus have great sex, thus live 20 years longer and die a happy, fulfilled, fit man. All this for just $29.99!

Not so fast. You need to have the compatible Nike shoe for this machinery to work. No problem- I just have to wait until the day comes when I needed a new pair of running shoes. After months of not running keep my New Balances in surprisingly good condition, I accidentally leave them out in the rain one night. The next day I sink eighty bucks into a pair of Nikes, then wander next door to the conveniently placed Apple store.


The first overly cheery employee sees me walk in and makes a b-line.


“Hello sir. Anything I can help you with today?”


“Yeah” I reply, “I just bought these shoes and I want to get the Nike thing for my iPod.”


“Perfect.” The employee spins around and grabs the Nike+ package as if he was anticipating this sale from the moment he saw my bright orange Nike shoebox.


“Cool” I reply. “So I just plug this part into my iPod and this part into my shoe and I’m set to go?”


“Pretty Much. What generation iPod do you have?”


“Um, I really don’t know. It’s black. It has the spinny wheel.” I motion little circles with my index finger.


“Oh the iPod classic.” He says with the smallest hint of condescension. Apparently my eighteen-month-old iPod had already achieved classic status. “Yeah, Nike+ isn’t compatible with that iPod.”


“Why? I thought you just need an iPod.”


“Well you see, how can I explain this…” He chooses his words wisely now, assuming I’m an Apple product luddite. “That iPod has a spinning hard drive (He mimics my motion), so Apple doesn’t recommend you run with it.”


“But I run with this all the time and I’ve never had any problems. So does Apple recommend I don’t run with this or will it really—“


The Apple punk interrupts me as if he has to stand up for his company. “No, no. It really won’t work. There’s no point in making an Apple product that will damage another Apple product.”


The conversation reaches a stand still.




“But, do you have an iPhone?” He cheerily inquires.


As I mentioned earlier, I do happen to own a lot of Apple products. I dig into my jeans pocket and slide out my iPhone.


He sees it and squints at the phone as if it were out of focus. The condescending tone returns. “Oh, Nike+ isn’t compatible with the first generation iPhone. Besides, who really wants to run with their iPhone?”


I wasn’t the one to suggest it, but okay… “So what are you telling me exactly?”


“I’m telling you if you only own those two “i” products you can’t use Nike+”


Serenity Now! I gather myself “Let me rephrase. What’s the least amount of money I will have to spend to use this technology.” I foolishly assume that maybe Apple makes a third-party attachment that an individual who doesn’t own any “i” products can buy and still get feedback while they run. I assume wrong.


With a sale on the horizon, the Apple employee reverts back to friendly mode. “That would be our new iPod nano!” He drags me over to the display and launches into the features of the iPod. “And, and, if it’s upside down you just go like this and the display—“

Now it’s my turn to do the interrupting. “And how much will this cost?


“$149.99” He says. “But then you still need to buy the Nike+ kit for an additional $29.99”


I mean, the thing does look cool. I look at the little MP3 player and start trying to rationalize the purchase, well it can play music and you can look at all of your photos. Then I realize: Wait, don’t I already own two Apple products that do that and more?

I walk out of the store, embarrassed that I was even considering adding another “i” product to my life. But therein lies Apple’s success. They create unnecessary products for markets that shouldn’t exist. “Oh you own an iMac?” Apple corporate says, “Well what if you need to check your email and stuff on-the-go? Surely you’ll need an iBook to do so. But what if you’re on-the-go and you don’t have wireless internet? Don’t worry! Just buy an iPhone and you can always have the internet, plus have all these cool, impractical apps that you’ll never actually use, but you’ll be able to show your friends how useful it would be in the hypothetical situation where you need to know where the nearest sexual predator is located.”


Here’s the real kicker, a product even Apple doesn’t know how to market: “The iPad! The coolest thing apple has ever released. It can, like, store all your pictures and music like your iMac but it’s smaller. For when you’re on-the-go and you need to check your email—er, wait iBook and iPhone do that. For when you want to relax and play with some apps—dammit, iPhone does that too.” Apple digs deep, “For when you’re like, um, on the couch, and your iBook is in the other room and your iPhone is charging and you really need to see who starred in Dunstin Checks In (Jason Alexander, right?) the iPad is going to be so convenient. You’ll never believe you lived without one.”


I write this as the girl sitting next to me on the plane rapidly switches between her laptop, her phone and her iPad. What a poor soul lost in a shopper driven, marketing heavy, capitalistic society, I think to myself.  How lucky I am to be a rational consumer in this irrational world


Wait. Is that Angry Birds HD?



The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show

The Microsoft booth is seen during the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, January 2011. Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

Microsoft on Wednesday kicked off a contest aimed at turning the tables on hackers by offering big money prizes for innovative tactics to foil cyber attacks.

The US software titan launched the premier BlueHat Prize competition at a major Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas.

“As the risk of criminal attacks on private and government computer systems continues to increase, Microsoft recognizes the need to stimulate research in the area of defensive computer security technology,” said Microsoft Trustworthy Computer Group general manager Matt Thomlinson.

“Our interest is to promote a focus on developing innovative solutions rather than discovering individual issues,” he continued.

Microsoft opted to offer prizes for defending against entire types of cyber attacks instead of simple paying “bounties” to those that discover individual computer bugs.

BlueHat promised more than $250,000 dollars in cash and other prizes to software savants at young as 14 years old. The theme for the first year of the contest was preventing hacks exploiting computer memory vulnerabilities.

Microsoft said it hoped the contest would inspire contributions from researchers, security professionals, and even young hackers.

“Some of the value in this prize is beyond money; it is inspiring not just the current generation but the next generation,” said Microsoft lead security strategist Katie Moussouris.

“We have found that some of our best defenders come from the opposite side of the security coin,” she added.

BlueHat Prize entries will be evaluated by an internal panel of judges at Microsoft, with $200,000 going to the top submission and $50,000 awarded to the second place finisher.

The third-place prize will be a subscription to Microsoft services worth $10,000.

BlueHat winners will be revealed at the Black Hat gathering in Las Vegas next year. Information about the contest was available online at bluehatprize.com.

Microsoft isn't the only company that has seemingly attempted to capitalize on Amy Winehouse's death.

Microsoft received much Twitter flak after a small PR account for its Xbox system encouraged followers to remember recently deceased musician Amy Winehouse by purchasing her last album on the company’s entertainment marketplace, Zune.

After about an hour of retweets with comments like “classy,” “crass much?” and “Microsoft — failing at social media,” the accounttweeted a follow up.

“Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse ‘download’ tweet seemed purely commercially motivated,” it said. “Far from the case, we assure you.”

It then followed with a second tweet: “With Amy W’s passing, the world has lost a huge talent. Our thoughts are with Amy’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

Microsoft isn’t the only company that has seemingly attempted to capitalize on the star’s death.

Apple posted an image of Winehouse on the front of the iTunes store with the caption “remembering Amy Winehouse.”

Her breakout album, the Grammy-winningBack to Black,” has subsequently become the No. 1 album in the store. Amazon also posted a brief obituary that linked to a page where shoppers can purchase the singer’s music.

Sales of “Back to Black” increased 37 times immediately after Winehouse’s death.

A survey used tests offered through Web searches or in online ads to measure the IQ of browser users.

Are users of other Web browsers smarter than the people who use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer?

A new survey doesn’t quite say so. But it sure as heck suggests it.

The survey by AptiQuant, a Vancouver-based Web consulting company, gave more than 100,000 participants an IQ test, while monitoring which browser they used to take the test.

The result? Internet Explorer users scored lower than average, while Chrome, Firefox and Safari users were slightly above average.

And users of the more obscure Camino and Opera browsers, as well as those using Explorer with Chrome Frame (a plug-in designed to let users view emerging HTML5 content), had what AptiQuaint called “exceptionally higher” IQ levels.

Those numbers, it should be noted, probably aren’t very scientific. The field of test-takers was self-selecting — people who chose, on their own, to take an IQ test instead of a scientifically selected study group. They found the test through Web searches or ads the company placed online.

The report suggests that people using Explorer, the built-in, default browser for Windows-based computers, may be more resistant to change. A similar study in 2006 showed users on the then-current IE browser scored above average.

Internet Explorer is the world’s most popular browser, with about a 43% share, according to StatCounter. Firefox has just under 30%, and Google’s Chrome has 19%, according to a report from May.

Users of Internet Explorer 6, released in 2001, scored the lowest on the tests, at just over 80. Users of Opera, the Norway-based browser, scored the highest at well over 120. (What AptiQuant called its complete results included a bar graph showing the scores, but didn’t appear to have text giving the exact numbers.)

IQ scores have a “population mean” of 100.

If this all smacks of a little good, old-fashioned Microsoft hate, the language the company uses in its report doesn’t do much to downplay that.

“It is common knowledge that Internet Explorer Versions 6.0 to 8.0 are highly incompatible with modern web standards. In order to make websites work properly on these browsers, web developers have to spend a lot of unnecessary effort …,” said the report from AptiQuant, which offers online tools for employers to measure employee, and potential employee, aptitude.

“Now that we have a statistical pattern on the continuous usage of incompatible browsers, better steps can be taken to eradicate this nuisance.”

What do you think? Cheap shot or telling results? Let us know in the comments.


In two years, Microsoft‘s Bing has doubled its share of the US search market, from 7.2 percent to 14.4 percent. If you add Yahoo’s Bing-powered portal, it’s 27 percent. So why are loud voices clamouring for Microsoft to give up on search?

Bing’s Online Services Division doesn’t make money. Shortly after Microsoft released its quarterly earnings results, ZDNet‘s Larry Dignan called the OSD an“online sinkhole,” noting that the division last turned a profit in 2006 and had lost $8.5 billion over nine years. Last year, it lost a record $2.56 billion.

Reuters columnist Robert Cyran’s “Microsoft ought to kick off search for Bing buyer” turned up the heat, particularly when it was syndicated the following week in the New York Times under the headline “Bing Becomes A Costly Distraction for Microsoft”. Cyran’s argument is sophisticated: it recognises the value that Microsoft has built up in Bing (and corresponding value to a buyer like Facebook or Apple). Still, Cyran thinks Microsoft’s continued investment in an unprofitable division doesn’t serve the company’s shareholders. Facebook’s investors — a group that includes Microsoft — would presumably be better suited for the long play that Bing represents than Microsoft’s quasi-blue-chip, profit-maximising, dividend-minded shareholders.

It’s hard to see another big tech company paying full value. Daring Fireball‘s John Gruber joked that Microsoft could make money just by charging “pay-per-view admission to listen live to the phone call as Steve Ballmer calls Steve Jobsand pitches him on Apple buying Bing.”

TechCrunch‘s MG Siegler took the proposition more seriously, writing on his personal blog that “Bing needs its Halo” — the hit game that put Microsoft’s Xbox on the map. “Microsoft spends a shit ton of money on Bing — mostly on marketing it,” Siegler writes. “But I don’t know a person who actually uses it. That includes people who work at Microsoft.”

Bing’s supporters quickly rallied. Doc Searls argues that Bing could flank Google by charging subscription fees for personalised, ad-free services. Nick Eaton argues that the short-term profit boost from selling Bing wouldn’t move the share price much anyway. Preston Gralla rightly notes that Bing’s division is filled with groups that bring in hardly any revenue at all,  skewing the figures. (Among other things, the Online Services Division builds the data centres that power Azure and the company’s other cloud and cloud-based products.)

Finally, Mary Jo Foley herself, the dean of Microsoft reporters, weighed in with the authoritative “Why Microsoft Won’t Dump Bing.” Yes, the division is losing money, and some of its marketing schemes don’t make much sense, Foley admits. Nevertheless, Bing has become fully integrated into every Microsoft platform, from Windows Phone 7 to streaming video and live TV on the Xbox, and likely even Windows 8 itself.

Microsoft couldn’t untangle itself from Bing if it wanted to. It’s not just sunk cost, but sunk strategy. But it’s a strategy that still may pay off.


Windows 8

(PhysOrg.com) — A number of different sites are reporting the rumors that are making gamers ears twitch. The rumor says that Microsoft is about to make a big addition to the desktop version of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system; the ability to play their Xbox 360 game disks on their PC.

Of course, since this is only a rumor there is no way to know if this supposed feature is expected to show up in all of the Windows 8 machines out there, or if certain hardware specifications that will need to be met in order to play with the Xbox 360 games.

While this does have the potential to expand the base of Xbox 360 users it would also neuter the consoles sales, since there would be no need to buy both a game console and a PC. Though, if this turns out to be true, the company may have to deal with some resentment from the early adopters of the Xbox 360 who had to buy the console, pay to upgrade their hard drive size and then pay for a separate point in order to get online.

Then again if the rest of the Microsoft  rumors turn out to be true Xbox 360 fans may already be onto the next thing. Many gamers are expecting the announcement of yet another   console at E3 2012. If that is the case then the Windows 8 maneuver may be a way to expand the sales of the considerable library of  titles after the console is no longer the newest thing.

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