Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’


If Microsoft gives away Windows Phone 8, will anyone take it?

by admin ·

In a bid to increase licensees and gain some badly needed market share, Redmond won’t charge for its phone OS anymore.

Rumors and speculation have swirled on this for months, but now it’s official: Microsoft is giving away Windows Phone for free, at least to a pair of Indian handset makers. If this can drive sales, it might become a worldwide policy, which could be the game-changer Microsoft needs and wants.

The Times of India first reported that Microsoft has waived Windows Phone licensing fees for Lava and Karbonn. Actually, the deal was somewhat telegraphed; last week, Karbonn announced that it was going to ship a dual-boot Android and Windows Phone device in June, and rumors of the deal were floating around at last month’s Mobile World Congress.

The Times of India says Microsoft has been negotiating with Indian manufacturers since last year, and that the two manufacturers only agreed to make Windows phones when Microsoft waived the licensing fees.

“Free Windows Phone is part of a strategic partnership. For both Microsoft and us, it is an experiment. Windows Phone still doesn’t have lot of appeal in the market but now that it doesn’t have any license fee, it becomes easier for us to experiment with it,” one unidentified executive told the Times.

If that sounds less than enthusiastic, you have to remember both Lava and Karbonn are already Google Android licensees and the phones that will run WP8 won’t exactly be on the same level as the Lumia 928 or 1520. These will be cheap, low-end phones for India’s mass market. It’s a huge market – over one billion people.

So this can’t really be viewed as a bellwether for the U.S. or other mature markets. No offense to Lava and Karbonn, but they won’t be selling the equivalent to a Galaxy S5 to the kind of buyers Samsung and Apple cater to in the West.

It makes for a good experiment to see if the low-end market can drive demand and increase interest in Windows Phone. After all, IDC puts its market share at just 3.9%.

One thing about a product: if it’s good, you can sell it for a high price. If it’s bad, you can’t give it away. I personally like Windows Phone and I’m only using an iPhone because I felt the Nokia hardware was inferior, with terrible battery life. If that rumored HTC One running WP8 or a Galaxy model running WP8 ever emerge, I’m there.

So let’s see if Microsoft can give away it’s phone OS. It’s not like the company hasn’t given away products before to grab market share. True, it’s never given away an OS, but right now it’s not really selling it, either.

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Free tools for Windows Server admins

by admin ·

Free tools for Windows Server admins

There are endless software tools and utilities out there to help you in managing your network. Here are some of the best free ones. They can help you with deploying, maintaining, troubleshooting, and upgrading Window Servers, your domain, and aid with other miscellaneous network tasks.

Best Practices Analyzer
Microsoft provides the Best Practices Analyzer tool right inside Windows Server, starting with Windows Server 2008 R2, available on each role’s home page in the Server Manager console. It scans and analyzes key settings of the server roles and reports compliance of them compared to the best practices standards. This can help you identify potential issues that may affect security and performance.

It scans for a variety of rules, including those relating to predeployment, security, performance, and configuration. Statuses shown in the results include compliant, noncompliant, and warning. (Watch the slideshow version of this story.)

Core Configurator
Starting with Windows Server 2008, there’s a Server Core installation option. It’s great if you want a minimal installation, but it only gives you the Command Prompt for the interface. However, there are tools that give you a GUI on the Core editions of Windows Server. You can setup and configure most features via the GUI rather than being forced to use text commands.

Core Configurator 2.0 supports Windows Server 2008 R2 x64 and Corefig is for Windows Server 2012 Core and Hyper-V Server 2012.

Exchange Server Deployment Assistant
Microsoft offers the Exchange Server Deployment Assistant, an online tool that asks you deployment related questions and then generates a custom step-by-step checklist to use during an Exchange install or upgrade.

It asks questions about your current configuration, desired deployment environment (on-premise, cloud, or hybrid), migration questions, and desired features/functionality. In the end you’re presented with a wizard type of checklist, which is saved so you can return later and can be printed out as well.

Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager
By default, you must use PowerShell commands to manage the new role-based access controls of Exchange, which debuted in Exchange 2010 and eliminates the use of access control lists (ACL). However, the Role-based Access Control (RBAC) Manager provides a GUI to edit these role-based access controls, which gives you the ability to easily add/remove cmdlets and edit cmdlet properties and assignments.

The RBAC Manager supports Exchange 2010 SP2, Exchange 2013 Preview and Office 365.

Exchange Reports
Exchange Reports provides you with insight on your Exchange server and environment, supporting Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013. It helps keeps you up-to-date with the server status, changes, and stats. It provides a group report and details on individual groups, mailbox report and details on individual mailboxes, an environment report, and it supports message tracking.

The program doesn’t require any installation, but requires .Net 4.0, Powershell 2.0, and Remote Powershell access to the Exchange Server. You can save reports and also export them to Excel.

Active Directory Explorer
Active Directory Explorer is an Active Directory viewer and editor, which you can use to browse the Active Directory database. You can view object properties and attributes, modify permissions, and view an object’s schema.

It supports saving off-line snapshots, creating favorite locations, and saving advanced searches. You can also compare two Active Directory snapshots to see what objects, attributes and security permissions changed between them.

Remote Desktop Manager
The Remote Desktop Manager provides a single platform for centralized access to many types of remote connections and remote services, along with the ability to save their passwords and login credentials. It can save you the time and hassle in managing and utilizing all the different types of remote access methods.

It can manage remote connections via Microsoft Remote Desktop (RDP, RemoteFX), Microsoft Windows Azure (RDP), Microsoft Hyper-V (RDP), Microsoft Remote Assistance, VNC (RealVNC / TightVNC / UltraVNC / built-in), Citrix (ICA / HDX / Web), Web (HTTP / HTTPS), LogMeIn (Free / Pro), TeamViewer, and PC Anywhere. It also supports management of FTP, FTPS and SFTP (Windows Explorer / Filezilla / WinSCP / built-in) and Telnet, SSH, RAW and rLogin (Putty / Kitty / built-in).

They offer a premium edition with a free 30-day trial but they also provide a completely free edition with limited functionality.

Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer
Microsoft provides the Remote Connectivity Analyzer, which can help you test and troubleshoot the connectivity of Exchange servers, Outlook, Lync, OCS, Office 365, and email (POP, IMAP, and STMP). It’s mostly an online tool, a website where you can input server addresses and login credentials in order to run the connectivity tests. It also provides a message header analyzer.

On the website you can also download the Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer Tool to run local tests to identify common connectivity issues for Outlook, Lync, and Office 365. And you can download the Microsoft Lync Connectivity Analyzer Tool to locally analyze a Lync deployment to see if it meets the requirements to support connections from Lync Windows Store app for Windows 8 and Windows RT, and from Lync mobile apps.

As a network administrator you’re likely connecting to different networks or often changing your network settings. NetSetMan can help manage these different settings. You can save and switch between different profiles, which enable you to easily change your IP, DNS, and many more network-related settings.

In the profiles you can specify the Computer Name, Workgroup/Domain, and MAC Address. You can set a Proxy, SMTP Server, Browser Home Page, Default Printer, and Network Drives. You can also configure Hosts File Entries, Route Table, Scripts (BAT, VS, JS, etc), and other System Settings.


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Did Microsoft reach into your PC to stomp a botnet?

by admin ·

Report claims the company turned off botnet software on user’s PCs. Is that their right?

Microsoft took down yet another botnet, but its method for doing so many not sit well with a lot of people, as the company removed software from their computers without their knowledge.

In October 2013, Microsoft targeted a Tor-based botnet malware called “Sefnit,” which used the Tor network to anonymously perform click fraud. It was a fairly sizable network, with 3 million users per day, which hijacked user computers to click on ads that would make the Sefnit users money via a commission.

For those of you who don’t know, Tor, the abbreviated name for The Onion Router, is free software designed to protect online anonymity. Tor directs Internet traffic through a free, worldwide volunteer network designed to hide a user’s location or usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traffic analysis. While it’s popular with hactivists and people genuinely concerned about privacy, it’s also a haven for illegal activity, such as the Silk Road drug dealing website.

Microsoft went after the Tor software because it found some popular apps like Browser Protector and FileScout were bundled with a vulnerable version of Tor Browser & Sefnit components. It found infected PCs had v0.2.3.25 of Tor Browser, which did not self-update.

On October 27, 2013, Microsoft modified the antivirus signature database used by all of its security products to remove the Sefnit-added Tor client service from user PCs. The update was pushed through in the November Patch Tuesday update.

Microsoft estimates it got about 2 million copies of the malware, and there are another 2 million PCs to reach. A spokesperson for the company issued a statement that said “Microsoft Malware Protection Center (MMPC) has protections to remove the services started by the Sefnit malware, but it does not uninstall Tor, remove any Tor binaries, or prevent users from using Tor.”

Now, I’ve busted out the pompoms for Microsoft’s antivirus efforts in the past, and no way will I make an exception. But I have to say that in the case of Sefnit, this looks like a lose-lose situation. They can’t leave it out there, but customers are bound to be unnerved by Microsoft removing a third-party product from their system, even if it is malicious.

Microsoft has already faced privacy issues around Kinect and Skype. This won’t help. They are doing the right thing, but it won’t help their image. I think this may call for more than just a blog post on their part.

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Windows 8 cobranding with Android may backfire for Microsoft

by admin ·

All business in the front and party in the back, this category is the mullet of mobile devices.

At CES, dual-boot devices running Windows 8.1 and Android revealed a conflicted situation for Microsoft. In the struggle to make Windows 8 relevant in mobile, the OS has been cobranded with Android on these devices.

Microsoft’s OEMs missed the point. Relevancy is measured in terms of digital life, the amount of time mobile users spend engaged with a mobile internet ecosystem. According to Chetan Sharma’s research, Microsoft ranks seventh in importance. In a similar unpublished interactive survey of 300 industry insiders at the Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, Google led the digital life market, with Apple in second place, while Microsoft finished in the back of the pack.

With dual-boot tablets and notebooks, Microsoft is willfully sacrificing valuable digital life for Windows 8. As Richard Windsor of Radio Free Mobile reported from CES:

“The idea is that the user uses Windows 8.1 when he or she is working and Android when at leisure. This is a crazy proposition as the whole point of Windows 8 is to make an environment that is optimized for both use cases, and it’s telling that the OEMs feel the need to add something else.”

Splitting productivity time using a keyboard with Windows 8 and then rebooting for leisure time via gestures with Android just compounds the problem, because it stagnates users’ curiosity to search for new Windows 8 apps. This reduces some much-needed traffic to the Windows app store, which, compared to Android and iOS, is currently a ghost town.

Dual-boot teaches a user to boot Windows 8 for compatibility with Microsoft’s old ecosystem and to boot Android to use the new mobile ecosystem. This points to a glaring problem. If Microsoft is to fix this, Windows 8 users need a reason to spend their entire digital life in the Windows 8 ecosystem; when the user toggles from desktop to mobile they have to think –there’s an app for that – and download a Windows app.

Once upon a time, Windows users helped one another make Windows applications work. Given the dominance of earlier Windows versions, Microsoft had an army of users to help other users make Windows work. Mobile has completely changed user behavior. Mobile users download an app, give it a few seconds to satisfy the need that influenced them to download it, and if the app fails, they uninstall it and try the next app in the category. According to NetMarketshare, Microsoft retains 91% of the desktop market share, but Windows 8 only accounts for 10% of that. So a user’s chance of solving a Windows 8 problem through the help of another user who understands Windows 8 is only one in 10. According to Windsor:

“The Metro [the old name for the Windows 8 UI] user experience is perfectly capable of offering a good experience for Digital Life.”
If Microsoft is to become relevant in mobile, it needs to convince users of the value of this UI without the army of helpers it once had. Cobranding with Android doesn’t help, it hurts. Dual boot and virtualization isn’t a solution any longer in the consumer mobile market because app developers motivated by a good business model in target devices will port their apps. Dual boot emphasizes the limited number of apps available for Windows 8, and proves that Microsoft has not convinced users that it’s a good OS to begin with.

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Balky browsers tick off tablet owners

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Crashes are the top complaint from iPad Air, Fire HDX owners, No. 2 annoyance on iPad Mini, says Fixya

Browser problems are the most common complaints of iPad Air and Fire HDX tablet owners, an online community of troubleshooters said Friday.

San Mateo, Calif.-based Fixya mined 10,000 user-generated reports related to Apple’s iPad Air and Retina-equipped iPad Mini, Amazon’s Fire HDX and Microsoft’s Surface 2, the second-generation tablet that replaced the poorly-received Surface RT of 2012, to come up with its conclusions.

Browser gripes topped the charts of the iPad Air and the 8.9-in. Fire HDX, said Fixya, while the surfing app tied for second on the iPad Mini’s top-five-beef list.

Nearly a third — 30% — of the reported problems with the Air and 25% of those with the Fire stemmed from the tablets’ bundled browsers, Safari and Silk, respectively. On the Retina iPad Mini, 20% of complaints targeted Safari, the same percentage as aimed ire at the paucity of storage space on the least expensive model.

“A relatively common issue with mobile Apple devices, especially those using Safari — the browser that comes pre-packaged with the device — is a crashing browser,” said Fixya. “Users report that opening certain Web pages (most likely those that use [Adobe's] Flash [Player]) and opening multiple tabs on the browser can cause the browser to crash and kicks users onto the home [screen].”

Famously, Apple has never supported Flash Player on iOS, the mobile operating system that drives the iPad. Before his death, co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was adamant about banning Flash, going as far as to publicly trash the media software in a 2010 diatribe.

But Safari on iOS is not supposed to crash when it encounters a website that calls on the Adobe software.

Fire HDX owners pummeled Silk with similar laments. “Silk … has a variety of issues, most notably choppy performance and tendency to crash,” Fixya noted.

Only the Surface 2 escaped owners’ disgust with their device’s mobile browser. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 11 (IE11) is bundled with Windows RT 8.1, the OS that powers the tablet.

Instead, Microsoft customers tapped a shortage of quality apps as their No. 1 complaint, with 25% of the reports focused on the issue. Users’ gripes matched those of analysts who have cited the app issue as the platform’s weakest link since long before Microsoft started selling Windows 8.

Fixya recommended that iPad and Fire HDX owners regularly clear their browser’s history and delete cookies to keep Safari or Silk as stable as possible. But it had no answer for the Surface 2′s app problem. “App support is an issue with the device that … users can’t fix on their own,” Fixya pointed out.

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Microsoft’s final security push is missing the kitchen sink

by admin ·

Considering all that’s being patched this month, it seems as if Redmond forgot to include the kitchen sink…

Tripwire’s Tyler Reguly says that considering all that’s being patched this month, it seems as if Redmond forgot to include the kitchen sink. Next week, Microsoft ends 2013 with 11 bulletins, offering a slightly slower end-of-year patch cycle, but there’s still plenty to keep IT teams busy.

For the final Patch Tuesday of 2013, Microsoft will release five critical and six important bulletins, addressing flaws in every supported version of Windows, as well as all supported versions of Internet Explorer. Office is in the mix, as well as Exchange, SharePoint, and various developer tools.

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“With 11 bulletins this month, Microsoft will easily break 100 patches in 2013, beating last years’ numbers and even exceeding 2011′s December 29th release of MS11-100. System administrators everywhere must have made Microsoft’s naughty list because this holiday ‘gift’ is clearly a lump of coal,” said Taylor Reguly, Tripwire’s technical manager of security research.

“Microsoft is wrapping up the 2013 patch season with anything that was laying around. We’re seeing patches for ASP.NET SignalR, Office, Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, and Lync 2013, as well as every version of Windows and Internet Explorer. Someone should tell Microsoft they forgot to include the kitchen sink.”

Given that it is flagged as an elevation of privilege issue, there’s speculation that Bulletin 8 might be a fix for the Windows XP Zero-Day that’s circulating around online. But as usual Microsoft doesn’t disclose the exact nature of a pending security fix until the day it drops, so we’ll have to wait and see.

However, this month’s patches will fix the GDI+ vulnerability disclosed last month, which is actively being targeted. The flaw, addressed in MSA 2896666 is rather evil (see what I did there?), as it impacts Windows, Office, and Lync. The targeted attacks are focused on Windows XP and Office 2007


Microsoft: No, we’re not ditching on-premise Exchange

by admin ·

Quells concerns fueled by cloud emphasis as the company pivots to services from packaged software

Microsoft today shut down talk that it would soon stop shipping new versions of its Exchange Server, promising customers that it would continue to develop and release the popular email software for on-premise use.

In a post to the Exchange team’s blog, Perry Clarke, who heads development, tried to put those fears to rest. “Microsoft has no plans to stop delivering on-premises releases of Exchange,” Clarke wrote.

Clarke also said that customers could expect an Exchange release cadence of two to three years going forward, and that engineers are, in fact, working on the next iteration.

Exchange 2010 shipped in November 2009, and the follow-up, Exchange 2013, launched in October 2012, a four-year gap. Prior to that, however, Microsoft took three years between Exchange 2007 and 2010.

“While we are enthusiastic about the cloud, we also understand that our customers will transition to the cloud at their own pace,” Clarke said. “Many customers will remain on-premises or in hybrid deployments for the foreseeable future, and we want to keep delivering our newest and best features to them.”

Talk of Microsoft pulling out of the on-premise market — software installed by companies on their own servers — was driven by the Redmond, Wash. company’s aggressive emphasis on cloud-based services, said Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

“Customers were wondering that, with so much moving to the cloud,” said Sanfilippo, citing Microsoft’s pivot to become a “devices-and-services” seller rather than one known for packaged software. “We didn’t expect that they would be [dumping on-premise Exchange], but maybe that they would speed up its releases, like they’re doing across the board.”

So Sanfilippo said he was “a little surprised” by Clarke’s confirmation that Exchange will instead hew to a slower development and shipping tempo.

Microsoft sells its Exchange Online service as an a la carte option for $4 or $8 per user per month, or more commonly, as part of an Office 365 subscription plan. The latter includes rights to on-premise Office 2013, starts at $12.50 per user per month and tops out at $22 per user per month.

In the comments appended to Clarke’s blog, some continued to complain about what they saw as an emphasis on the cloud-based Exchange service and a corresponding lack of attention to the on-premise editions.

“All we want is to see you guys support the on-premise releases just as well as you do the Office 365 ones,” said Chris Merritt, who works for a U.K.-based hosting company. “This to me means releasing the same features for both, and making the tools and functionality work just as well for your on-premise customers as it does for Office 365.”

Sanfilippo said there was reason for customers to be concerned about the disparities between on-premise and cloud-based Exchange.

“Exchange 2013 was mostly about features for online and data centers, situations where someone was deploying large numbers of servers, hundreds of thousands of servers, that only a few clients would run into,” Sanfilippo said. “It was not targeting or solving problems for on-premise.”

That will likely continue, with features rolled out for Exchange Online long before they reach the on-premise editions. Clarke said as much today.

“Our development strategy continues to focus on Office 365 as the initial platform where we roll out new features,” he confirmed. “This approach allows us to introduce and test new features at scale before including relevant functionality into on-premises updates.”

Microsoft is using that first-to-cloud model elsewhere — it’s said the same for the Office productivity suite, for instance — and will continue to use the tactic to entice customers to its services.

“It’s part of Microsoft’s move to a services business model,” said Sanfilippo. “It’s more stable, it’s more under their control. It provides a lot of benefits to Microsoft.”

Even so, Microsoft will continue to crank out on-premise Exchange.

“The reality is that not all [customers] will move to the cloud,” Sanfilippo said. “Some are up against barriers, such as compliance and security concerns about data that they don’t want to put up on Microsoft’s servers. With the current way the cloud works, they have no option, so Microsoft has to continue [releasing on-premise Exchange] for the foreseeable future, at least for the next decade.”

But he was surprised that Microsoft felt the need to come straight out and tell customers it wouldn’t abandon the on-site software.

“Since this is coming from Perry Clarke, it’s coming from high up on the Exchange team,” Sanfilippo said. “They must have thought they had to quell some concerns and couldn’t wait until next March.” Sanfilippo was referring to the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC), which is slated to run from March 31 to April 2 in Austin, Tex.

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3 Highlights with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2

by admin ·

Microsoft Windows Server R2 capbilities to be aware of and consider as part of an IT stratgey.

With any server operating system upgrade, IT is always looking for the hooks that help motivate the upgrade process and deliver additional value. Sometimes it is as simple as better performance, a single feature that has been a long time coming, or something that simply snaps into an IT policy and waits out any bumps from the early adopters. By now IT shops should have solid exposure to Windows Server 2012, blipped through SP1, and are now ready to focus on R2. As IT pros research and learn about Windows Server 2012 R2 deployment opportunities, they should be aware of these three potential impacts:

Platform consistency: ESG’s Steve Duplessie dug into the advantages Microsoft has with its Cloud OS in his article, Is Microsoft the answer to the cloud quandary? With R2, Microsoft continues to embrace data center transformation by highlighting the importance of on-premises private cloud capabilities mapped to Azure services and capacity.

Storage considerations: It’s not time to throw away existing storage investments, but R2 storage capabilities are certainly worth considering as part of any forward-looking storage strategy. Microsoft will continue to align with the existing storage vendor ecosystem, but it is SMB 3.0 and storage spaces where things get real interesting. IT pros have the option to use local (and ideally less costly) storage with some compelling performance results that have been tested by ESG: Microsoft Windows Server 2012: Storage Performance and Cost Analysis.

Network fabric: ESG senior analyst Bob Laliberte is in lock step with the importance of network architecture as businesses extend workloads to the cloud. Bob digs deep into SDN (software defined networking) in his ESG market landscape report, The Emergence of Software-defined Network Architectures. Microsoft’s R2 capabilities focus on extensibility, performance, and management as they work together with its technology partners to bridge and build IT’s next-generation network architecture.

So love them, hate them, consume from Amazon AWS, manage a considerable VMware investment, or be the Microsoft guru, but be aware of Windows Server 2012 R2 capabilities and consider these points as part of a 2014 strategy.


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Ballmer hammers home Microsoft’s ‘high-value’ strategy in final letter to shareholders

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Ballmer hammers home Microsoft’s ‘high-value’ strategy in final letter to shareholders
Unlike last year, no surprises in CEO’s last letter to investors

In his last letter to shareholders before retiring, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hammered on the same themes he and other executives struck three weeks ago in front of Wall Street analysts.

Among the strategies Ballmer outlined in his shareholder letter were the ongoing transformation of Microsoft to a “devices-and-services” company — a massive turn from its history as a purveyor of packaged software — and its continued reliance on enterprise sales to drive the firm’s revenue.

This year’s missive was not as revolutionary as 2012′s, when Ballmer first publicly floated the idea of devices and services, saying, “It truly is a new era at Microsoft.”

On Monday, Ballmer spelled out the corporation’s mission statement with as much loquaciousness as when he spent 2,700 words this summer trumpeting the “One Microsoft” strategy and the resulting reorganization.

“We declared that Microsoft’s focus going forward will be to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most,” wrote Baller [emphasis in original].

Microsoft has used that phrasing before, as has Ballmer, including in his July letter to employees and on Sept. 19 when the company hosted a half-day event where executives spoke to Wall Street analysts.

The company has said that it plans to stick with the strategy swivel no matter who is appointed Ballmer’s successor, a stance that has irritated some analysts but that was likely cemented when Microsoft announced last month that it would acquire parts of Finnish phone maker Nokia for $7.2 billion. “[The Nokia acquisition] will accelerate our growth with Windows Phone while strengthening our overall device ecosystem and our opportunity,” Ballmer promised shareholders Monday.

Ballmer also said that Microsoft would rely on its strength — its dominance in the enterprise — to generate revenue, putting consumer services as a step-child for, and step toward, commercial wins.

“We will primarily monetize our high-value activities by leading with devices and enterprise services,” Ballmer said. “In this model, our consumer services such as Bing and Skype will differentiate our devices and serve as an on-ramp to our enterprise services while generating some revenue from subscriptions and advertising.”

“High-value” was a buzzword Ballmer used repeatedly in his letter — seven times altogether — and more often than he wrote “employees” (1), “strategy” (6), “customers” (3), or “family of devices” (3), the watchword of his July memo.

Ballmer’s message about enterprise was virtually the same as the one he gave to financial analysts last month. Then, he said that Microsoft knew how to monetize services to businesses.

“How do we get our services to be popular on non-Windows devices?” Ballmer asked rhetorically during the Q&A with analysts on Sept. 19. “With the enterprise we kind of know how to do that. You walk into the enterprise, you say sign up for Office 365, you say we’re going to embrace your iPads and your iPhones, and blah-de, blah-de, blah. We know how to do that. We know how to get paid. Life feels pretty straightforward.”

But when it came to consumers, Ballmer tacitly admitted last month, Microsoft faces an iffier sales pitch.

“How do you monetize high-value activities? Amy [Hood, Microsoft's CFO] talked about the three bubbles: devices, consumer services and enterprise services,” noted Ballmer. “The two that are most easily monetized, in fact, are devices and enterprise services. Consumer services, as we say, are tough.”

Industry analysts saw the prioritization of enterprise in the Sept. 23 introduction of the revamped Surface line, especially the it’s-a-tablet-no-it’s-a-notebook Surface Pro 2. Ross Rubin of Reticle Research read Microsoft’s emphasis on the Surface Pro 2′s ultralight notebook-like characteristics as consistent with the strategy to focus on the enterprise over consumers, for example.

While Ballmer gave a quick summary of the restructuring he launched three months ago — “We are well underway,” he said, of the shuffling of executives, personnel and responsibilities — he said nothing of the search for his replacement.

That search, which conceivably could take until late August 2014, has been the subject of much rumor and discussion by pundits and analysts, but no clear leading candidate has emerged. Among those most often mentioned as possible successors have been Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor; Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft executive and most recently the CEO of VMware; Tony Bates, who joined Microsoft after it bought Skype, and who now leads business development and evangelism; and Stephen Elop, the former CEO of Nokia who will return to Microsoft once the acquisition closes early next year.

Ballmer also reminded everyone that although he will soon step down as CEO, he will remain a major stockholder. “I’m optimistic not only as the CEO but as an investor who treasures his Microsoft stock,” Ballmer wrote Monday.

That was muted in comparison to his comments last month before Wall Street analysts.

“I am very long on Microsoft. I believe in the company as an investment,” Ballmer said. “I believe in what the company can do. I believe in the people and talent that are here. And at least this one shareholder will absolutely be cheering every day, from the day I’m not working here on. I’m Microsoft, if you will, all over.”

As of Sept. 13, Ballmer controlled about 4% of the company’s shares for a paper value of approximately $11.1 billion at Monday’s closing price. Co-founder and current chairman Bill Gates owns about 4.5% of Microsoft’s shares, but because he sells about 80 million shares annually under a pre-set plan, by this time next year — assuming Ballmer retains his shares — Ballmer will be the largest individual stockholder.

Ballmer is up for reelection to the Microsoft board of directors when shareholders meet Nov. 19.


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The two outsiders attracting Microsoft’s attention for Steve Ballmer’s job

by admin ·

Microsoft may be well-served to bring in an outsider to replace departing CEO Steve Ballmer. Here are two strong candidates.

As I said in a prior blog post, I feel Microsoft’s problems are too big for an insider to handle. This person will have allegiances, friendships and biases that may cloud his or her judgment at a time when cold, hard decisions need to be made.

It seems I’m not alone. Some Microsoft investors have their eyes on outsiders as well, according to a Reuters report, and two names have bubbled up: Ford CEO Alan Mullaly and Computer Sciences Corp. CEO Mike Lawrie.

So, let’s give them the old look-see.

Alan Mullaly
Age: 68
Education: BS, MS in aeronautical engineering
Prior work: Boeing

If he retires tomorrow, Alan Mullaly will already have had an enviable career. At Boeing, he had a hand in plane design from the 727 to the 777, including leading the cockpit design team on the 757/767 (they have identical cockpits despite different hulls). He also worked on the 777, first as director of engineering and then as vice president and general manager.

Mullaly was considered a leading candidate for CEO of Boeing but was passed over, so in 2006 he made his move to slower, earthbound vehicles, taking the reins at Ford Motor Co. He restructured the firm, cut losses, and renegotiated contracts with the UAW, reducing cost per hour from more than $20. Anyone who can make the UAW blink is all right in my book.

He kept Ford afloat while GM and Chrysler crashed in 2008 and sold off Ford’s stake or ownership in Jaguar Cars, Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo Cars, and Mazda. So this guy knows how to cut the fat.

And he’s got the endorsement of the man he would succeed. In Time magazine’s Top 100 list, issued with its Person of the Year, Steve Ballmer wrote of Mullaly, “he understands the fundamentals of business success as well as any business leader I know.”

John Michael “Mike” Lawrie
Age: 59
Education: BA, Ohio University, MBA, Drexel University
Prior work: IBM, ValueAct Capital, Siebel Systems, Misys plc

Lawrie is a veteran of the computing industry and worked as a senior executive at IBM under both Sam Palmisano and Lou Gerstner. That alone is enough to shine up any resume. It should make some people at Microsoft nervous, too. Lawrie was at IBM when Gerstner cut 100,000 jobs in the process of making IBM a lean, mean, collaborative machine.

But it looks like Lawrie is doing what needs to be done. As Rob Enderle pointed out in CIO magazine, Lawrie is following the steps of Gerstner and Jobs in turning around the company:

Massive product simplification. Lawrie has done that. He cut CSC from 3,000 offerings to 100.
A handpicked executive team loyal to the CEO and optimized for current market conditions. Lawrie has done that, cleaning out the C-suite and filling it with ex-HP people.
A strong CFO who will drive the simplification effort and focus on optimizing internal expenditures. CSC just did that, hiring former Disney CFO Paul Saleh.
A marketing effort strong enough to convince customers to believe in the company before it has changed, so they’re ready to buy when improved products and services are ready. That has to be launched.

Both men are enviable professionals, and in Mullaly’s case, at 68, he’s earned retirement. Does he want to dive into a mess like Microsoft at that age? Experience with overachievers like him tells me yes, he’d vastly prefer that to sitting on the couch watching CNBC all day. I suspect the favorite would be Mullaly because he’s proven. He could leave Ford in good, stable condition, and he knows Seattle from his Boeing days. Lawrie may be a tech guy, but he is still in the process of fixing CSC and isn’t quite ready to leave it yet because his work is not done.

Either way, they’re both great choices.

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