Archive for July, 2011:

It’s ‘Windows 8,’ Microsoft quietly confirms

Microsoft has quietly admitted that its next version of Windows will be officially named — you got it — Windows 8. Meanwhile, CEO Steve Ballmer will once again deliver the opening keynote at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where he’s expected to announce a public beta of the operating system upgrade.


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As you’re likely well aware by now, Microsoft used the 2011 CES show back in January to announce that “the next version of Windows” would run on SoC (system-on-chip) architectures from Intel, AMD, and ARM licensees such as Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. And last month, as we review later in this story, the company demonstrated the operating system’s planned features at events in California and Taiwan.

Windows 8’s start screen
(Click to enlarge)

But, the company’s releases have consistently referred to the product coyly as “the next version of Windows, internally code-named ‘Windows 8.'”

Steve Ballmer temporarily dropped this pretense at a May developer forum in Tokyo, where he said, “As we progress through the year, you ought to expect to hear a lot about Windows 8.” But in a statement subsequently circulated to the media, a company spokesperson wrote, “It appears there was a misstatement. To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows.”

Now, after all this fuss, Redmond has quietly admitted that the next major Windows release will be called Windows 8. While there has been no official announcement to that effect, the site for the company’s 2011 Build Conference — scheduled for Sept. 13 to 16 in Anaheim, California — has been modified to promote the name, stating, “In 1995, Windows changed the PC. Build will show you that Windows 8 changes everything.”

Observers expect Ballmer and Steve Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live division, to promote Windows 8 and reveal a developer beta of the operating system during a keynote scheduled for Build’s opening day. However, no details have yet been provided on the Build agenda.

Some bloggers are also claiming Microsoft will release a Community Technical Preview (CTP) of Windows 8 at next week’s Worldwide Partner Conference (scheduled for July 10-14 in Los Angeles). This seems unlikely to us, however, and the MSFTtm Twitter feed that has been cited as a source has no official status that we can trace.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Electronics Association announced that Microsoft’s Ballmer will once again take to the stage to give the pre-show keynote address at CES 2012. His talk will be scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9 at the Venetian Hotel.

Microsoft used a Ballmer keynote at CES 2009 to announce a public beta release of Windows 7 (and to tout the now-almost-forgotten Windows Mobile). This has led many to believe the CES 2012 keynote will herald a public beta for Windows 8, though Microsoft itself has made no such promise.


At the June 1 AllThings D conference, Steve Sinofsky (pictured) took the stage to schmooze with journalists Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. He was then joined for Windows 8 demos by Julie Larson-Green, Microsoft’s corporate vice president, Windows Experience.

Sinofsky promised his audience Windows 8 will run on all types of device, including those using either x86 or AMD processors, and its hardware requirements won’t be any more stringent than Windows 7. The x86 version of the operating system will run just about every legacy Windows program, but the ARM version won’t — an emulation layer “turns out to be technically really challenging,” he added.

Notably, Windows 8 will feature a tile-based Start screen, as pictured earlier in this story. This replaces the Windows Start menu with a customizable, scalable full-screen view of applications. It will also provide fully touch-optimized browsing, with “all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10,” according to Microsoft.

Following the June 1 All Things D event, Microsoft staged a followup event a few hours later: the morning of June 2 at the Computex show in Tapei. According to a report from Taiwan by Engadget, Foxconn, Quanta, and Wistron have all developed reference systems — with chips from Nvidia, Qualcomm, and TI — for the ARM version of Windows 8.

Engadget’s Vlad Savov reported that the ARM prototypes came in both tablet and notebook configurations, were shown to resume from sleep “immediately,” and were demonstrated with an ARM version of Microsoft Office. While ARM Windows won’t run legacy apps written for Windows 7 on x86, Windows 8 apps developed using JavaScript and HTML (see later) will all be cross-platform, officials were said to have noted.

While it clearly draws on the “Metro” user interface employed by Windows Phone 7, Windows 8 also derives from work Microsoft did earlier for Windows Media Center Editions and for the Zune HD. The upgrade has been in the works ever since Windows 7 shipped in July 2009 — several months before Apple’s iPad was first shown — wrote Ina Fried in a story All Things D posted to coincide with the operating system demo.

Windows 8 will be able to run old and new apps side by side
(Click either to enlarge)

According to Sinofsky and Larson-Green, Windows 8 will run traditional Windows applications with their standard user interfaces. Users will be able to snap and resize apps to the side of the screen or shrink them into a live tile using their fingers — or, if they’re wrinkly enough to insist — a mouse or keyboard, the company adds.

New apps created specifically for Windows 8 will run full-screen, and have “access to the full power of the PC,” though they’ll be built using HTML5 and JavaScript, according to Microsoft. Silverlight wasn’t touted as a development tool (though Sinofsky noted that Internet Explorer 10 will run it), but the Within Windows blog has plausibly reported that Silverlight will be supported in Windows 8’s .appx application packages.

A future version of Internet Explorer running full-screen
Source: Within Windows
(Click to enlarge)

According to Microsoft, Windows 8 will offer “effortless movement between existing Windows programs and new Windows 8 apps. The full capabilities of Windows continue to be available to you, including the Windows Explorer and Desktop, as does compatibility with all Windows 7 logo PCs, software and peripherals.”

Larson-Green reportedly added that Windows 8’s new tile-based interface can’t be turned off, though users can choose not to use it if they don’t want to. Users or enterprises will be able to customize exactly how the screen appears, she’s said to have promised.

A video demo of Windows 8
Source: Microsoft
(click to play)

Further information

All Things Digital offers two related videos, one showing Steve Sinofsky introducing Windows 8, and the other demonstrating the operating system. These are available on the All Things Digital videos page.

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Get London Public Transit Info on Google Maps

Google has added public transit information for London on Google Maps, enabling travelers to plan routes in one of Europe’s largest metropolitan areas.


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The service shows all possible public transportation connections from one location to another using street addresses or points of interests such as restaurants. Click on “Get directions” and you’ll get suggestions for your trip.

The service is also available on Google Maps for mobile, where it has an extra feature. It uses your current location to determine the best way to arrive at your destination.

On Android devices, you can use the recently launched Transit Navigation option in Google Maps to get alerts when you arrive at your destination or when you need to transfer to another bus or train line.

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SAP to link analytics tools to Google Maps, Earth


IDG News Service – SAP is planning to connect its analytics software with Google’s Maps and Earth software, allowing users to mine insights from plotting business data against locations around the world, the companies announced Wednesday.

For example, a bank could figure out which regions have the most troubled housing markets by layering foreclosure data and the location of loan-holders on a map, SAP said.


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SAP partners such as Centigon Solutions had already offered an integration with Google Maps, and Google has been offering a commercial version of its Maps APIs (application programming interfaces) for some time.

The advantage of the new tie-in is that SAP has inked a pact with Google for the use of 12 new APIs that give customers deep access to the mapping functions, including Street View, and allow them to build out customizations, said Jason Rose, senior director, business intelligence solution marketing. SAP’s deal is good for three-and-a-half years, according to Rose.

Customers can expect the APIs to first surface with the “ramp-up” release of Business Objects 4.1, which is slated for late this year, Rose said. Ramp-up is SAP’s term for the period when products are in controlled availability with a group of early adopters.

While Wednesday’s announcement focused on analytics, customers can expect other SAP’s products, such as its CRM (customer relationship management) software, to also tap the Google Maps APIs over time, according to Rose.

It’s not clear whether the Google APIs will be made available to existing customers as part of their regular SAP maintenance payments, or sold separately. “Right now we’re looking at the overall monetization strategy. We’re still dotting the Is and crossing the Ts on that,” Rose said.

Older versions of SAP’s software, such as Business Objects XI 3.1, will be compatible with the APIs.

There’s an obvious advantage to SAP customers going with SAP for Google Maps integration, versus a third party, said Forrester Research analyst Boris Evelson: “One versus two products to buy, install and maintain, plus one versus two vendors to blame when something doesn’t work.”

The Earth Builder APIs will also give SAP customers a potential alternative to traditional GIS (geographic information systems) from the likes of Pitney Bowes and ESRI, both of which already partner with SAP.

GIS platforms go beyond marking points on a map, adding concepts such as polygons, which denote a fixed geographic area, possibly with highly irregular boundaries. Therefore, a tour bus company could figure out how many diesel fueling stations are within 50 miles of a state park, for example. “[This] is what you really need for sophisticated logistics analysis,” Evelson said.

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How big is Microsoft gambling with Windows 8?

Analysts try to parse the risk Microsoft’s taking by blending touch with the desktop in one OS

Computerworld – Analysts parsing what Microsoft revealed of Windows 8 earlier this week are split today on how big the company’s gambling with its operating system cash cow, some saying the bet was for the farm, while others said it was the best move Microsoft could make.


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“They’re betting the farm on this one,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft who worked in the Windows team from 2000 to 2004. “This is a bigger jump for Microsoft than .Net,” he added, talking about the software framework Microsoft debuted in early 2002.

Earlier this week, Microsoft showed off parts of Windows 8 — company executives stressed that the name was not official, but what it was being called for now — at the All Things Digital technology conference, and at a computer trade show in Taiwan.

Windows 8 will feature a “touch-first” interface to help it compete in the fast-growing tablet market, but underneath that will offer a more traditional Windows-style desktop. In demonstrations, Microsoft showed the touch-style start screen for Windows 8, and how users could switch to a more familiar icon-based interface.

Continuing coverage: Windows 8
Calling Windows 8 a “reimagining” of the decades-old OS, Microsoft said the all-in-one OS will respond to both touch and keyboard-and-mouse navigation, and run on a wide range of devices and form factors, from small tablets to large desktop systems and screens.

That strategy got both kudos and criticism from Microsoft experts — sometimes both from the same analyst — with the critics wondering how the company’s biggest customers will react to an upgrade that so aggressively pushes touch.

“Microsoft’s problem is how do they keep the existing customer base with Windows while addressing touch,” said Miller, all without alienating the enterprise customers that drive Windows revenues. “Some will look at this and think of the old Saturday Night Live skit…. ‘It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping,'” Miller added.

“The gamble is that by dragging legacy Windows to the tablet, Microsoft runs the risk of damaging its traditional desktop Windows business,” said Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC. “Windows 8 is all about the tablet. I think it’s dead on arrival for business customers.”

Others said much the same, calling Windows 8 a “consumer” release that offers little or nothing for business.

“Yeah, there’s a gamble here,” said Michael Silver of Gartner. “This will be more likely to be taken up by consumers than businesses.”

“Honestly, Windows 8 is all consumer,” agreed Miller. “It’s all about ‘How do we deal with this iPad problem?'”

Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. “Organizations will have a hard time with Windows 8, but then they’re tired from their Windows 7 deployments,” Silver said.

Silver argued that enterprises will skip Windows 8, just as most did with Windows Vista, and instead stick to Windows 7, a tactic that Microsoft itself endorsed when it recommended that businesses now deploying Windows 7 stick with their plans.

But even Silver acknowledged that Windows 8 is a smart move by Microsoft.

“Microsoft needs a more modular approach to Windows, one that lets it put different components on different devices,” he said, echoing recommendations he made in 2008 when he warned Windows was “collapsing” under its own weight. At the time, Silver said that unless Microsoft made radical changes, including putting Windows on a diet and making it modular, the OS risked becoming unsustainable.

“Microsoft needs a next-generation, lighter-weight OS, and that’s what we’re seeing signs of here with the new HTML5 and JavaScript [application] model,” said Silver. “I see this as essentially the slimming down of Windows.”

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Microsoft expands Intune services

IDG News Service – Anticipating use of Intune by larger organizations, Microsoft is outfitting the managed desktop service with a number of new capabilities that should make its use more appealing in enterprise settings.

The functionality draws from Microsoft System Center, though it has an entirely different interface, Heaton said.


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Other new features include the ability to scan a machine for viruses and malware without manual help from the user — a step that was required before — and the ability to tally all the copies of a given third-party software program, which can be handy for assuring software license compliance. Also, the user interface has been updated in various ways to make it more intuitive.

This new beta service, named Intune July 2011, will be run separately from the commercial version of Intune. Eventually, all the new features of the beta will be folded into the paid Intune service, which should take place by the end of this year, Heaton said.

Users of the current Intune service can try the beta of the new version of the service, though the beta service cannot be used on the same computers using the production version of Intune. Users of the commercial version of Intune will be able to use the new features after they have been incorporated into the paid service. At that time, beta users will be able to use the trial service for an additional 30 days. If they wish to use the paid version, they will need to set up their accounts again.

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Microsoft expands Intune services

IDG News Service – Anticipating use of Intune by larger organizations, Microsoft is outfitting the managed desktop service with a number of new capabilities that should make its use more appealing in enterprise settings.

“The first version of Windows Intune didn’t have all the capabilities that all of our on-premise products do, so that slowed down adoption by larger customers,” said Alex Heaton, Microsoft director of Intune. “With this next release we will add significant new capabilities that will make it attractive to larger customers.”


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A new Intune beta service, launched Monday, will offer the ability for administrators to distribute and install third-party software across their systems, Heaton said. The console can also be locked down for read-only access, allowing junior administrators, partners and business analysts to access information without giving them full rights to make changes.

Designed for organizations with limited IT help, Intune is a Microsoft-hosted service that monitors and updates Windows 7-based desktop and laptop computers. Subscribers of this service can update any desktop PCs running Windows XP to Windows 7 at no additional cost.

Microsoft formally launched the Intune hosted service in March after a yearlong beta. With the service, the customer is provided with an Internet-accessible console, from which all of an organization’s computers can be managed. From this console, an administrator can apply Windows updates and patches, monitor PCs, manage security, keep inventory of PCs and remotely administer an ailing PC. From its own data centers, Microsoft will queue the updates, as well as manage all the back-end server software needed for administration duties.

Heaton would not reveal how many customers Intune has, though he noted that the average customer has 250 PCs or less. Recent customers include the California Strawberry Commission and industrial real estate broker IDI, which manages 250 computers with the service.

With the new beta, he explained, Microsoft is beginning to assemble additional services that could make it appealing to larger organizations, those businesses with thousands of desktops. While the beta still doesn’t have all the features larger organizations require, it paves the way for such an offering in the years to come.

“I wouldn’t say this is the release to make us enterprise-ready. Our strategy is to do frequent releases until we get to parity of our on-premise products,” Heaton said.

One of the new features is software distribution. The current version of Intune can store and deploy Windows patches. The new version can do the same for any Windows program compiled with the .exe or .msi suffix. This will allow administrators to upload a program once and then have it installed across all the machines.

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Mozilla hustles to handle demise of Google Toolbar for Firefox

May update Firefox 3.6 next month to give users a way to migrate bookmarks

Computerworld – Mozilla is scrambling to deal with Google’s decision to drop the Google Toolbar for Firefox, according to notes on Mozilla’s website.


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Earlier this week, Google announced it was killing Google Toolbar for Firefox, and would not be updating the add-on to support Firefox 5 or future versions of the open-source browser.

Mozilla shipped Firefox 5 a month ago.

“For Firefox users, many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browser,” said Google in a message Tuesday. “Therefore, while Google Toolbar for Firefox works on versions up to and including Firefox 4 only, it will not be supported on Firefox 5 and future versions.”
More: Browser Topic Center

Google Toolbar adds several features to Firefox, including syncing bookmarks to a Google account, translating foreign-language websites and sharing pages with others.

Although a Google spokeswoman today said that the company had been talking with Mozilla about the demise of the Toolbar “for some time now,” the decision seemed to catch Mozilla by surprise. On Thursday, Christian Legnitto, Firefox’s release manager, put out a call for a developer meeting later in the day to plan Mozilla’s next moves.

Mozilla’s biggest concern: Users running 2010’s Firefox 3.6 have put off updating to Firefox 5 because the toolbar won’t work with the newer version.

“We know that a large amount of [Firefox 3.6] users are not taking update offers to [Firefox] 5+ due to Google Toolbar incompatibility,” the Thursday meeting’s notes read.

Elsewhere, Mozilla called the toolbar’s incompatibility with newer versions of Firefox “a top support issue.”

Nearly a third of all Firefox users still run Firefox 3.6, according to the most recent statistics from Web metrics company StatCounter. Firefox 3.6’s usage share is, in fact, more than double that of Firefox 4.

Mozilla highlighted two steps it wanted to take in an update to Firefox 3.6 that’s currently scheduled to ship Aug. 16. “[We] need to support getting data out of the Toolbar,” Mozilla’s meeting notes read, “[and we] need to tell them the Toolbar is gone and not coming back.”

But adding code to Firefox 3.6.20 may be tough because of the tight deadline: Developers are supposed to “freeze” the update’s code Aug. 1, 10 days from today.

“If we are going to do something … we have very little time as 3.6.20 code freeze is soon,” said Mozilla.

Earlier this summer, Mozilla said that the August update might be the last for Firefox 3.6. Mozilla has already halted security and other updates for 2009’s Firefox 3.5, as well as for this year’s Firefox 4.

Firefox users were generally unhappy with the Toolbar’s retirement.

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Hands on: Mac OS X, iOS morph into Lion

Apple goes all in on multi-touch gestures in its new OS

Computerworld – Apple has finally unleashed OS X 10.7 Lion, the revamped operating system for the company’s desktops and laptops. Lion is the latest in a string of major OS revisions released over the past 11 years, and this newest cat borrows some tricks from Apple’s mobile lineup.


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You can drag and drop all open windows across Spaces, so if you’re browsing the Web and using iChat while working in iPhoto, you can drag the iPhoto window into its own Space and leave more distracting apps in another Space. (You add new Spaces by moving your cursor to the upper-left corner of the screen, prompting a slide-out window with a + sign in it to appear.) Using four fingers to swipe left or right will toggle through open Spaces, and swiping right eventually brings you to Dashboard.

Launchpad is similar to the home screen on the iPhone or iPad; it gives you quick access to all of your apps with one click or gesture. (See full visual tour.)

To make the different Spaces easier to discern, you can assign custom wallpapers to each by right-clicking the Desktop in whichever Space you’re in and selecting Change Desktop Background. Apple has included new desktop pictures to get you started.

In Snow Leopard, I used Exposé all of the time, and since Mission Control essentially incorporates Exposé, I imagine I’ll be using this new feature all the time. It’s intuitive and easy to use. Most Lion users who’ve been accustomed to reaching for Exposé (through gestures, clicking a mouse button, clicking on the Dock icon or using the keyboard) will find Mission Control a welcome update.

Launchpad is Lion’s new app organization scheme that mimics the one used in iOS 4, right down to the numeric badge notifications on app icons. Like the home screen on the iPhone and iPad, Launchpad arranges applications in a grid, but the Lion version supports up to 40 icons and folders on the screen. (You can have up to three screens of apps, with 40 in each one.)

The apps can be arranged through drag-and-drop, and you can move them to a different space by dragging them to the edge of the screen — just as you move apps on the iPhone to a different screen. You can also create folders of similar apps à la iOS by dragging one app icon onto another. If you hold down the option key with Launchpad running, the icons jiggle, allowing apps that have been downloaded from the App Store to be deleted. And you can drag apps from the Launchpad to the Dock.

For many users, Launchpad may be more about eye candy than function. It’s not that different from having a shortcut to your applications folder in the Dock. But if you have a trackpad, Launchpad is much more useful, since you can call it up with a five-finger “clench” gesture. That gesture offers a quick and easy way to access apps, and trumps navigating to the Dock because it saves you a couple of clicks. Considering how often power users go through the action of launching and relaunching apps, streamlining the launch process is a good thing.

In essence, what Apple has done is to build a redundant — and eye-catching — way to quickly access apps. As always, you can open a Finder window and navigate to them the old-fashioned way.
LaunchPad gives you immediate access to your applications. You can click on the LaunchPad icon in the Dock or use a gesture to activate this feature. Just as in iOS, apps can be grouped together and accessed by clicking on the app group’s icon. You can also move apps to different windows by dragging them to the edge of the screen. Holding down the option key allows you to delete apps purchased through the Mac App Store, much as you can delete them in iOS.
Mail and Safari tweaks

Mail gets a fair number of upgrades, as does Safari, both of them gaining features from the mobile versions.

Mail 5.0 looks and operates suspiciously like its iOS cousin, and for good reason: The iPad version was the inspiration for Mail in Lion. Visually, the biggest change for Mail is that it’s gone widescreen, and the interface is more streamlined. Just as on the iPad, emails in your in-box are listed on the left and message contents show up on the right. (If you like the old view, it is still there and can be activated by going to Mail > Preferences > Viewing and selecting “Classic view.”)

There’s a new Favorites bar below the Mail buttons where you can add shortcuts to various mailboxes, RSS feeds or other email-related items just by dragging them into place. (It’s like the Bookmarks bar in Safari.) The Favorites bar has a Show/Hide button for the mailbox sidebar, which is hidden by default, as well as access to a unified Inbox, Drafts, Sent messages, Notes, and Flagged Items. Each has a drop-down menu that lets you navigate to your email accounts.

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State Street cuts IT staffers, shifts work to IBM, Wipro

But tech hiring nationally is up so far in 2011

Computerworld – State Street Corp. is laying off 530 IT workers and transferring another 320 to IBM or Wipro Technologies, part of a shift in its approach to IT operations.


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This Boston-based company, which employs 4,000 IT workers, is turning to IBM and Wipro, the India-based outsourcing company, to manage “support components of its technology infrastructure, and application maintenance and support systems.”

State Street is focusing on development and investing “in the things that differentiate us as a company versus more of the support type functions that don’t offer us competitive advantage,” said Alicia Curran Sweeney, a spokeswoman for the financial services firm.

It expects to eliminate those 530 IT jobs over the next 18 to 20 months.

In November, State Street announced a broad business transformation effort that included changes to IT and investment in new technologies, such as development of private clouds. As part of the initiative, the company told investors that it expects to recognize restructuring costs of approximately $400 million to $450 million over four years.

The restructuring was expected to result in layoffs of approximately 1,400 employees and lead to some real estate consolidations. A majority of those layoffs have already occurred and are separate from the ones announced Tuesday, the company said. While some IT workers were included in the earlier layoff, the company isn’t providing a breakdown.

Elsewhere in the IT job market, things have been picking up.

TechServe Alliance, which tracks U.S. Labor Department hiring data month to month, said that just over 4 million people are employed in IT, up 3.39% from a year ago.

But that hiring uptick has varied by month. In April, IT added 22,000 jobs by the Alliance’s count, while in May, 20,000 IT jobs were added. And in June, IT hirings were virtually unchanged from May, registering a 0.01% decline.

Nationally, the Labor Department said that only 18,000 jobs were added in June across all job categories.

Technology firms have announced layoffs of approximately 14,300 workers in the first half of this year, a 60% reduction from the same period last year, according to an ongoing job cuts count kept by outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. But that figure doesn’t include Cisco Systems’ announcement this month that it is cutting 6,500 jobs.

There are limitations to Challenger’s data. It only reports announced layoffs, which means that smaller layoffs may go unreported. But the data does help illustrate the broader trends.

At this point last year, Challenger had tracked 35,375 job cuts; for all of 2010, Challenger tracked 46,825 cuts. That was down sharply from 2009, when it reported nearly 175,000 job cuts in the tech industry.

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Microsoft’s future: Windows everywhere or Windows nowhere?

Two very different rumors have been making the rounds in the wake of a recent speech at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC 2011). One rumor has Microsoft putting Windows code on every device possible, from smartphones to tablets, PCs, TVs, and beyond. Another has Microsoft biting the bullet and giving up the Windows name entirely. Which is more likely to happen?


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The speculation was set off when Microsoft Windows Phone President Andy Lees gaver a speech and said that Microsoft planned to have a “unified ecosystem” for all devices. Here’s what Lees said:

One of the key important things here, though, is the change that’s yet to happen, but it’s about to happen, and that is the bringing together of these devices into a unified ecosystem, because at the core of the device itself it’s possible to be common across phones, PCs, and TVs, and even other things, because the price drops dramatically. Then it will be a single ecosystem. We won’t have an ecosystem for PCs, and an ecosystem for phones, one for tablets. They’ll all come together. And just look at the opportunity here.

The key question is what”unified ecosystem” means. It’s a nebulous, vague phrase that means many different things to many different people. Mary Jo Foley reports that rumors have been circulating for quite some time that Microsoft hoped that it would soon make its “Windows Everywhere” mantra a reality. Lees’ statement backed up those who thought it would be coming soon.

But a blogger at the thisismynext site has heard rumors that say Microsoft will eventually abandon the Windows name:

Our sources also tell us that Microsoft is seriously considering ditching the “Windows” brand name…The idea is to rebrand this new super-OS with something that better fits with Redmond’s vision of the future.

I’d bet that Microsoft will never give up Windows, and the company is more likely to actually put a variant of Windows code on every device, rather than abandoning Windows’ name or Windows code. After all, at WPC 2011, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had this to say in his keynote:

Windows is the backbone product of Microsoft. Windows PCs, Windows Phones, Windows slates. Windows Windows Windows Windows Windows.

Don’t expect Microsoft to abandon Windows soon — or ever. It’s the horse the company rode to success, and even though the horse may be getting tired, Microsoft plans to keep riding it.

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Microsoft plans 22 patches for Windows, Office next week

Sole critical bulletin will fix flaws only in Vista and Windows 7

Computerworld – Microsoft today said it will issue four security updates next week, only one of which is pegged as critical, to patch 22 vulnerabilities in Windows and Visio 2003.


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Three of the four updates will address vulnerabilities in Windows, while the fourth will tackle problems in Microsoft Visio 2003, which was last patched in February.

The three updates that apply to Windows Vista will all patch bugs in Service Pack 1 (SP1), the edition set to head into retirement. Office XP, which will also be dropped from security support, has received its last fix: None of next week’s four bulletins will affect that 10-year-old application suite.

And for the second month in a row, Microsoft’s security updates likely won’t lead the news.

“Last month more of the concerns were about the hacks of Sony Pictures and other sites,” said Storms. “And it looks like other stories will take the cake this month.”

Apple, for instance, faces a pair of “zero-day” vulnerabilities — unpatched bugs that are already being exploited — in the iOS mobile operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad.

“The focus for this month is not necessarily OSes and applications, but the constant stream of vulnerabilities being discovered in the mobile devices connected to our corporate networks,” said Paul Henry, security and forensic analyst at Lumension, in an email today. “Microsoft does not have exclusivity when it comes to issuing patches.”

Microsoft’s security updates will be released at approximately 1 p.m. ET on July 12.

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Microsoft’s Deafening Silence on Windows 8 Tablet Features

Microsoft has been tight-lipped about Windows 8, but the company is finally taking tablets seriously. Here are four reasons why.

Microsoft can’t seem to get people to zip it about Windows 8, even its own CEO and its most valued partner.


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At a developers conference in Tokyo this week, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gaffed by saying that Windows 8 will be called, um, “Windows 8” and that it will “come out next year” according to a transcript posted on Microsoft’s site.

Not exactly earth-shattering news. Everyone and their brother has been calling the next version “Windows 8” and it’s widely assumed that it will release three years after Windows 7.
Windows 8
A leaked product slide of a Dell Windows 8 tablet, scheduled for an early 2012 release.

Yet skittish Microsoft marketing folk — careful not to reveal anything about Windows 8 — came running with statements that Ballmer may have misspoke about the “timing and naming for the next version of Windows.”

This comes a week after skittish Microsoft marketing folk denied the validity of comments by long-time partner, Intel, that Windows 8 will be released in both ARM-based and x86-based versions, and that the ARM version will not run legacy Windows apps.

For all the hullabaloo about product names and release dates, Windows 8 is not under the pressure that the successful Windows 7 was under to redeem a troubled predecessor. But Windows 8 needs to be, in fact has to be, more flexible than Windows 7. Which is another way of saying it needs to work flawlessly on tablet PCs.

Tablets have haunted Microsoft over the past year. There’s a booming market out there led by the iPad (19 million units sold to date) and Windows 7 simply cannot be rejiggered into a tablet OS. In its typical fashion, Microsoft will be the last to arrive with tablets if Windows 8 indeed arrives “next year” as Ballmer promised. But after Windows Phone’s tardy entrance in mobile, we’re all getting used to Microsoft being late.

Windows 8 will not be a major update to Windows 7, except with regards to tablet functionality and compatibility. And tablets are a must for Microsoft if it wants to be a player in the rapidly approaching post-PC era.

Although it has been very tight-lipped about Windows 8 features, Microsoft has revealed enough to know that the company is finally taking tablets seriously. Here are four reasons why.

(Note: These Windows 8 features are not official — except the Windows 8/ARM compatibility — and are based on speculation and leaked slides and videos.)

Windows and ARM Compatibility

The first indication of a tablet affinity was at CES in January when Microsoft announced that Windows 8 will support System on a Chip (SoC) architectures, including ARM-based systems from partners NVIDIA, Qualcomm and Texas Instruments.

ARM-based chips, designed for low power consumption and long battery life, are used in all smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has always run Windows to run on higher-performance x86 chips from Intel and AMD. It has never allowed Windows to port to ARM-based processors … until now.

A Possible Windows 8 App Store

The rumor mill is hot with Microsoft plans to release an app store with Windows 8. The upcoming “Lion” Apple Mac OS X will release with an app store built in, and newly released Google Chrome OS has its Chrome Web Store. Application stores are a new thing for desktop OSes, but are integral to a tablet OS (Apple App Store for iOS, Android Market for Android, BlackBerry App World for QNX on BlackBerry Playbooks). Windows 8 will definitely need an app store of its own.

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Microsoft renames embedded operating systems

At today’s Embedded Systems Conference (ESC), Microsoft announced plans to rename Windows XP Embedded, Windows CE, and Windows Embedded for Point of Service (WEPOS). It also announced free board support package certification, and low-cost hardware/software bundles — 1,000 of them being given away at the show.


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Ilya Bukshteyn, Microsoft’s director of Windows Embedded marketing, conceded in an interview with last week, “Our product naming can at times be confusing. It’s sometimes too difficult for embedded developers to understand how the products relate to each other.”

At a keynote address scheduled for 3:45 tomorrow, Kevin Dallas (right), general manager of the Windows Embedded Business at Microsoft, will tell his San Jose audience how the company plans to fix this. “With today’s strategic road map announcement, our aim is to present the evolving Windows Embedded product family in an intuitive fashion, making it easier for our customers to choose the right platforms and tools for their needs,” he says.

New product names

According to Dallas and Bukshteyn, product names will be simplified and given year-based versioning. The process will begin with the next version of Windows XP Embedded, set to be introduced in June at Microsoft’s TechEd and broadly available this fall.

Windows XP Embedded will now be dubbed “Windows Embedded Standard.” Hence, this year’s new release will be known as Windows Embedded Standard 2008. It will still be Windows XP-based, but will also include “the most-requested Vista technologies,” such as a new version of Internet Explorer, a revised RDP (remote desktop protocol), a new media player, and updated .NET Framework technology.

Approximately two years later, the officials said, Windows Embedded Standard 2010 will be released. This product will complete the process of moving Microsoft’s x86-specific embedded operating system over to the Vista codebase entirely.

Meanwhile, Windows Embedded CE, which runs not only on x86 but also on ARM, MIPS, and SuperH processors, will be renamed “Windows Embedded Compact.” Formerly known as Windows CE 7.0, the next new version will be called Windows Embedded Compact 2009 or Windows Embedded Compact 2010, depending on when it is released, Bukshteyn said.

WEPOS gets a new moniker too, Windows Embedded POSReady. Like Windows Embedded Standard 2008, it will ship with selected Windows Vista-based technologies by the end of this year.

New product lines

Microsoft plans to offer additional products under the “Windows Embedded Ready” brand. These preconfigured toolkits will “provide device-makers with in-demand market-specific features that allow them to build and ship next-generation smart, connected, service-oriented devices in an accelerated fashion,” the company said. Although the company provided no further details, a toolkit targeting personal navigation devices (PNDs) has been rumored.

Further announced today was a “Windows Embedded Enterprise” product line. This will initially consist of the present-day desktop editions of Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business, and Windows Vista Ultimate.

According to Bukshteyn, Microsoft is already marketing these products to embedded developers with suitable amendments to their licensing agreements — and, no doubt, pricing. But, he adds, by 2009 or 2010 the Windows Embedded Enterprise offerings will contain not only all the Windows desktop code, but also added embedded technology such as file write filters.

Despite all the above, it’s too early to write the epitaph for “Windows XP Embedded” and “Windows CE.” These products will be marketed under their current names “until their next scheduled product release, and will remain available for purchase in line with the standard Microsoft support lifecycle policy,” according to the company.

Freebies for developers

Naming aside, Microsoft also continued its show of support for developers by announcing that Windows Embedded CE BSP (board support package) certification will now be free for up to two test passes. Should a device require a third test, that will cost $500. This compares with the $1,500-per-test fee levied previously.

In addition, the company announced a certification program, which it said “will provide a common reference point on the skills and technical expertise that Microsoft recommends for all Windows Embedded CE 6.0 developers.” Certification is via an exam, which costs $125 and will be administered from May 5 onwards.

Finally, Microsoft provided new details about its “Spark Your Imagination” initiative (code-named simply “Spark” when it was first announced last year). The company will bundle its tools and Windows Embedded CE 6.0 with third-party hardware reference designs for non-commercial users — such as hobbyists and academics — priced at little more than the cost of the hardware alone.

Although Microsoft did not provide specific details of the bundles, it said “the program offerings have an estimated retail value of $1,300, and will be available immediately worldwide at prices ranging from $250 to $350.” Hardware partners named by the company are Advantech, Icop, Keith and Koep GmBH, Special Computing, and Via.

In his pre-show interview with, Bukshteyn said Microsoft would be giving away approximately 1,000 hardware/software bundles to ESC attendees. Although he did not provide further information, this may refer to Via’s Artigo, a pico-ITX PC that runs both Windows CE and Windows XP Embedded. The show’s organizers, Techinsights, previously announced that every “all-access” attendee would receive one of the 1.14-pound systems. For more information, see our earlier coverage, here.

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Microsoft COO Goes on Competitor-Bashing Spree

For his annual keynote at the Microsoft Wordwide Partner Conference, taking place this week in Los Angeles, Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner wasted little time challenging Microsoft’s many competitors. He flouted the supposed weaknesses of Cisco, IBM, Google, Oracle and others, letting attendees know that Microsoft is gunning for these companies’ business.


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With VMware (VMW), he referred to something he called the “VMware tax,” noting that Microsoft’s Hyper-V virtualization software offers the ability to run more virtual machines, after the first six, at no additional cost. “We caught VMware flat-footed because of the economics of the cloud,” he said. “The more VMs you add, the more you save.”

This is not the first year that Turner has bashed competitors. Last year at WPC, Turner mocked Apple (AAPL) for its problems with the then recently released iPhone 4, calling it Apple’s Vista, referring to Microsoft’s own less-than-enthusiastically received operating system.

Apple was not spared Turner ‘s mockery this year either. Comparing Apple’s approach to its operating systems with Microsoft’s, Turned mused that “your guess is as good as mine as to when [Apple will merge] the iOS and MacOS.” Windows 8, in contrast, will be a single OS that will bridge a wide range of different devices, he noted.

Turner also took apparent delight in displaying photos of an unnamed authorized Apple reseller store in Latin America that was selling Apple desktops and Apple laptops running Windows 7. “That should tell you a lot about having a great OS.”

Some of Turner’s jibes were more enthusiastic than coherent. “It is so good to have something to compete with (CRM) head-to-head,” Turner trumpeted, referring to Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM Online, which has gone live in direct competition with’s offerings. “Now, we have this humongous pacifier to stick in the mouth of [ CEO] Marc Benioff.”

Not all of Turner’s talk was bluster. He also took the opportunity to provide a eulogy for Microsoft products that the company hopes its users will upgrade, namely Windows XP, Office 2003 and Internet Explorer 6. “Those products deserve a standing ovation. They have been so good to so many people. But you know what? They are dead. End-of-life is 2014,” Turner said.

These widely used products define what Microsoft is for far too many people, he added. “The reality is that is not what we are at all. You can’t even begin to get someone’s mind around Lync and SharePoint and the cloud until we get these old applications remediated and moved forward,” he said.

Turner also outlined the strategy partners should take to help get their customers onto the Microsoft Azure cloud. Microsoft’s Azure service has already collected 40,000 customers across 41 countries, although this is a small percentage of the customers Microsoft would like to have using this service. He explained that the two vital pieces of software that every organizations should have to get cloud ready is Microsoft System Center and Microsoft Active Directory.

“When they want they want to go to the cloud, these two assets will make that possible,” he said. “If they are not quite ready to go to cloud, it doesn’t matter. We’ll take them when they are ready.”

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The 6 Hottest New Jobs in IT

IT job seekers have real reason to hope. No fewer than 10,000 IT jobs were added to payrolls in May alone, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, reflecting a steady month-over-month increase since January. And in a June survey by the IT jobs site, 65 percent of hiring managers and recruiters said they will hire more tech professionals in the second half of 2011 than in the previous six months.


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According to Nie, data science jobs will require workers with a spectrum of skills, from entry-level data cleaners to the high-level statisticians, yielding a range of opportunities for newcomers to the field. As the business world gets increasingly social, the demand for people to plumb the depths of all that social networking clickstream data will only increase. The cliché going around is that “data is the new oil.” A career in refining that raw material sounds like a good bet.

Hot IT job No. 3: Social media architect

Social Web tools and services are now entering business at every level, from back-office IT communications to top-floor business collaboration, partner-connected workflow, and public-facing customer support. As the complexity of social business grows, companies need specialists to make it all work.

Social media no longer means just Facebook and Twitter. IBM, Jive, and Yammer are now the companies to watch, offering social tools for public and private clouds that redefine the role of social media for business. This creates a demand for IT pros with the specialized knowledge to build secure communities within a business network and between businesses and customers.

“In 2010, we saw the growth of a new middleware layer to protect intellectual property while opening things up with social tools,” says IDC analyst Michael Fauscette, who researches social business trends. “You’re starting to see that kind of thing because companies want the benefits of the social Web without the risks of putting their business in the hands of [Facebook and Twitter].”

In the enterprise, says Fauscette, social tools need to work together securely while offering transparency to the business. The clickstream data and other user intelligence that these tools produce need to be accessible and searchable inside the business, yet impenetrable from outside the business.

In large companies, a given company’s social infrastructure tends to include multiple social platforms. Designing an infrastructure in which all these apps can work together will require IT pros focused explicitly on social business.

Because social business is still in its infancy, the range of emerging job titles varies widely, but at least they’ve matured beyond the generalized, marketing-centered monikers like “social media strategist” and “social media manager” that first appeared. In our conversations with analysts, leaders at IT job sites, and socially driven companies, we’ve seen an array of more specialized titles, ranging from director of social business technology to director of enterprise collaboration strategy to, most commonly, social media architect.

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