Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’


Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: A comparison of cloud tools

by admin ·

While Google for Work and Microsoft Office 365 offer many similar services, choosing between the two can be a significant challenge for CIOs. This comparison eases that burden.

CIOs and IT managers have many choices when it comes to cloud-based productivity tools for email, documents, calendar and file-sharing. The first two options that come to mind for most, however, are Google Apps for Work and Office 365.

The former packs all the familiarities of the Google Apps suite, including Gmail, Hangouts, Drive and Calendar, while the latter comes with the longer legacy of tried-and-true Microsoft Office apps, such as Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. The two options have unique strengths and weaknesses, and each is best-suited for specific types of businesses and users.
Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: Price, simplicity and storage

Both services start at $5 per month. Microsoft requires a full-year commitment, which costs at least $60 per year, while Google’s suite is available on a month-to-month basis. Google also offers a yearly discounted plan for $50 a year, plus tax.

Every Office 365 user gets at least 1TB of cloud storage, while Google’s entry-level plan provides considerably less space: 300MB of online storage per user. However, Google provides unlimited storage for accounts with at least five users on its $10 per month or $120 per year (plus tax) plans.

Google also gets high marks for simplicity, because it offers two relatively straightforward plans.
Microsoft makes things a bit more confusing with six total packages — three for small and medium-size businesses and three for large enterprises — that range in price from $5 to $20 per month, with a yearly commitment.

Pricing is an important determining factor, but equally important for CIOs are the feature sets, security safeguards and user experiences of both platforms. The ideal cloud-based platform is secure, stable and simple for employees to learn and use. Cost is just one of the many concerns IT managers must consider when investing in cloud-based productivity platforms.

Eric Schlissel, CEO of IT consultancy GeekTek IT Services, says his company uses Google for Work, but more often than not he recommends Office 365 to clients because they are already heavily dependent and invested in Microsoft Outlook. Many business owners are reluctant to change the way their offices work, according to Schlissel.

“We tend to recommend Google for Work to clients with a younger and more tech-savvy workforce,” Schlissel says. “CIOs should look at how their employees use technology and work outwards from there.”

Where Google for Work falls short
At Creative Solutions in Healthcare, a company that owns and operates assisted-living facilities, the IT department uses Google for Work while the rest of the company relies on Office 365, according to CIO Shawn Wiora.

“In many ways, Google for Work is a low-cost equivalent of Office 365, and it’s a great fit for startups and small businesses that need to limit costs while achieving ‘good enough’ status,” Wiora says. “However, the cost savings come with a number of nuances that limit its fit for enterprise customers.”

Wiora says there are at least four problems with Google for Work that can add up to a major burden for businesses. He cites “shared calendar issues, an inability to transfer Excel formulas directly into Google Spreadsheets, compatibility issues and vertical-specific decisions like Google’s past refusal to sign a HIPAA BAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Business Associate] agreement for the healthcare industry.”

In Wiora’s his experience, Google’s suite keeps up with Office 365 about 90 percent of the time. It’s that other 10 percent that “makes Google for Work a poor substitute for medium and large enterprises that expect to simply pick up in Google where they leave off with Microsoft.”

BetterCloud, a company that provides security and management services for Google Apps and Office 365, also uses both Google and Microsoft’s offers, according to Tim Burke, BetterCloud’s IT director.

The company primarily uses Google for Work as the sole platform for its corporate calendar and conference room reservation system, but it also provides Office 365 accounts to users who work on its Microsoft-related products.

“We’ve looked into many solutions for coexistence between the two platforms (especially for calendar and contacts), but there’s nothing mature yet that allows Google Apps and Office 365 to ‘play together’ well on a single domain,” Burke says.

Both platforms are enterprise class, with almost identical offerings, according to Burke, who says Google’s suite is becoming more “enterprise” every day.

“Many people don’t realize [Google has] been in this market for over six years at this point, and Google Apps is used by some of the largest organizations in the world,” Burke says. Google’s strengths also include a deeply integrated infrastructure and a simple licensing structure, he says.

Office 365 provides a continuity with legacy solutions that makes it easier to keep everyone happy with the applications they’ve been using for many years, or perhaps decades, but it’s also evolving. “Office 365 is based on Microsoft’s legacy products and is becoming more ‘cloud-enabled’ and easy to manage,” Burke says.

Google for Work vs. Microsoft Office 365: One size does NOT fit all
Many others familiar with Office 365 and Google for Work take a much less neutral stance than Wiora and Burke; both companies have dedicated users and evangelists.

Martin Milanov, a digital marketing specialist at Fair Point, a corporate travel management firm based in Germany, writes that he “will scream to the ends of hell if they take away my Excel and make me use the, let’s face it, subpar Excel wannabe that is Google Sheets.”

Kristin Bassett, corporate marketing manager at AppNeta, an application performance management provider, says her company recently switched from Microsoft to Google to get all employees on the same email system. The firm chose to migrate its entire staff to Google for Work because it preferred Gmail to Outlook and considered email its highest-priority tool.

Many of the engineers working for AppNeta had requested corporate access to Gmail, according to Bassett, and the switch improved the company’s ability to hire and retain engineers, who are core to its business.

Regardless of platform, it’s about preparation

Both Burke and Wiora encourage CIOs to gain a deep understanding of their users’ needs and company goals before deciding on Google for Work or Office 365.

“We’ve worked with thousands of customers across both platforms, and the most successful deployments involved a highly democratic approach where they set up small pilot groups, talked to managers in different departments, discussed pros and cons for both platforms, and generally took the time to make sure they were making the best decision for their users and not for their IT department or existing infrastructure,” says Burke.

For some CIOs, a hybrid approach will work best, according to Wiora. However, using both platforms can also lead to more work and potential problems for IT. “Each new service increases complexity for end users exponentially rather than linearly, so reducing confusion from having information in so many places will be critical for anyone using a hybrid approach,” says Wiora.

Above all, CIOs shouldn’t delay the necessary research and piloting, and they should try to make a decision as quickly as possible, according to Burke. “Whether your organization chooses Google Apps or Office 365, you’re getting a cloud office platform that’s going to fundamentally change the way your business operates if it’s correctly implemented and thoroughly adopted,” he says.

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Microsoft tells Windows 10 users to uninstall Office

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Office conflicts with one of Patch Tuesday’s security updates, manager cautions on Twitter

Microsoft today took the unusual step of telling users running Windows 10’s Technical Preview to uninstall Office before applying one of December’s security updates.

“We just made a tough call after working through the night that I thought I should share with you,” wrote Gabe Aul, the engineering general manager for Microsoft’s operating system group, in a four-part Twitter understatement Tuesday.

“We have a security update going out today, and the installer fails on 9879 if Office is installed,” Aul continued. “Rather than rolling a new fix (losing several days in the process) we’re going to publish it as is. The workaround is painful: uninstall Office, install the hotfix, reinstall Office. Sorry. We’re working hard to fix.”

Aul’s mention of “9879” referred to the latest “build” of the preview; Microsoft issued Build 9879 four weeks ago.

Somewhat later, Aul identified the update as KB3022827, the Knowledge Base identifier displayed in Windows Update on the preview. (Computerworld was unable to find an associated page on Microsoft’s support site that matched KB3022827.) He also partly retracted his advice to uninstall Office: “Please try to install KB3022827 before the workaround to uninstall Office first. It will work for many, no harm if not,” he tweeted.

Several people chimed in on Aul’s Twitter feed to say that they had tried the update before uninstalling Office and had no problems.

According to Microsoft, only one of today’s seven security updates was to be applied to Windows 10’s preview. That update, pegged as MS14-080, patched 14 vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer (IE) 11, the browser bundled with the OS.

Andrew Storms, vice president of security services at New Context, weighed in on Aul’s odd workaround.

“There are always upsides and downsides to being on the bleeding edge,” Storms said in an interview conducted via instant messaging. “Users who chose to grab the Windows 10 Technical Preview are now stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Today, Microsoft admitted that some number of their users are plagued with Explorer crashes and what’s worse, an update that won’t be easy to install. I, like Microsoft, hope that these users are adept enough to figure out the workaround/fix on their own.”

As Storms said, Microsoft acknowledged that one in eight users of the preview had been unable to install an earlier fix that was supposed to stop crashes of the operating system’s Explorer file manager.

“On a shipping OS, if we hit an issue like this we’d normally pull the update,” Aul admitted in talking about the Explorer screw-up. “But since the Windows Insider audience is technical, we decided to leave it up while we work on the fix so that people hitting the Explorer crash can get some relief.”

Storms echoed Aul’s confidence in Windows 10 users’ skills. “Preview users are generally the most willing to nuke and repave their systems,” Storms said.


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Microsoft’s device share growth to outpace Apple’s through 2016

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Gartner’s forecast downgrades Apple’s OS expected share to 11.3% this year, 11.6% in ’16

Microsoft’s share of shipped devices will climb slightly this year and pick up some steam in 2016, but Apple’s share will grow at a more sluggish pace because of slow-downs in iPhone and iPad, Gartner forecast Monday.

For 2015, Windows’ share of the operating systems on all devices — smartphones, tablets, PCs, ultra-lights and hybrids — will climb to 14.4%, up from 14% last year, Gartner said in new estimates. It claimed that shipments would increase by less than 7%, to 355 million.

As it did several times last year, Gartner downgraded Windows’ numbers for 2015 Monday: Its October 2014 forecast pegged Windows at 14.6% by the end of this year.

Gartner projected Windows’ share in 2016 would climb to 15.3% on the back of 396.3 million devices shipped, a year-over-year increase of almost 11%, the largest boost since 2013, when PC sales began a prolonged contraction.

Microsoft wasn’t the only OS maker whose forecast worsened in Gartner’s latest estimate. Apple will also grow its share at a slower tempo than anticipated by several predictions of 2014.

Apple finished 2014 with an operating system share of 11% by virtue of about 262.6 million devices shipped, said Gartner, and should see its slice of the OS pie grow to 11.3% in 2015. That’s less than the 11.6% pegged in the October forecast.

The Cupertino, Calif. company’s share will reach that 11.6% — but now not until the end of 2016, Gartner said today.

Those numbers were significantly under the aggressive estimate Gartner touted a year ago; in January 2014, it predicted Apple’s share would reach 13.9% in 2014 and a whopping 15.9% in 2016, hot on the heels of Windows.

They also represented year-over-year increases in devices shipped of 6% for this year and 7% for the next, the numbers in marked contrast to the double-digit growth Apple experienced in 2013 and 2014.

What happened to make Gartner change its prognostication tune?
Its analysts cited Apple’s two largest-volume lines, the iPad and iPhone, for their change of heart, pointing — like many other analysts have in 2014 — to a longer-than-anticipated refresh cycle for Apple’s tablet and the belief that Apple will find it tougher showing iPhone growth in the future as it runs low of new markets and has a difficult time topping the iPhone 6 line.

“The challenge for the next iPhone to find significant growth becomes greater [in 2015 and 2016],” Ranjit Atwal, a Gartner analyst, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Gartner’s forecast for Android got more bullish than ever on Monday. By the end of 2015, Android will have captured 58.9% of the device share — up from an October 2014 forecast of 57.4% and a January 2014 bet of just 47.8% — and will grow even larger in 2016, accounting for 62.9% of all smartphones and tablets in two years.


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What Microsoft’s ‘fresh start’ browser strategy means

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A new browser not named ‘IE’ would give Microsoft ways to leave legacy support behind

Microsoft will unveil a browser not named Internet Explorer (IE) alongside Windows 10, according to an online report.

Long-time Microsoft watcher and ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley cited unnamed sources on Monday to say that the browser would be separate from the existing IE, would sport a minimalist user interface (UI), and would support extensions, sometimes called add-ons, much like Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox.

Separately, Neowin claimed that Microsoft has forked its Trident browser rendering engine to create a more lightweight version that would be called when IE encounters a modern site, one that doesn’t require support for older IE standards. In Neowin’s scenario, there would not be two different browser UIs; the use of the streamlined Trident engine — or the existing, backwards-compatible version — would be automatic and invisible to the user of what the publication thought would be eventually dubbed IE12.

Meanwhile, Foley said that the new browser — code named “Spartan” — will be included with Windows 10, perhaps as the default, but will also be accompanied by a refreshed IE11. The latter will be offered for those who need backwards compatibility with older websites and more importantly, older Web apps.

A name other than IE for the new browser would not be a surprise: In August Microsoft hinted that it was thinking of just that. “The discussion I recall seeing was a very recent one [just a few weeks ago]. Who knows what the future holds?” teased Jonathan Sampson of Microsoft in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” online discussion, while answering a question about a name change to distance the browser from lingering negative perceptions.

In the end, it may not matter whether Microsoft forks the browser into two separate applications or just forks the Trident engine. The result would be the same: One browser/engine that goes forward, another browser/engine that remains static as an option primarily for businesses, the customers who most require compatibility with older sites — mainly their own intranet domains — and older Web apps used by their employees.

Microsoft’s strategy? To have a fresh start on browsers, and leave the cumbersome legacy support required of IE behind. The browser/engine of the future would be aggressively updated — as will all of Windows — while the browser/engine of the past would be maintained but not significantly enhanced.

If that’s the idea, Microsoft’s abrupt announcement in August that it was forcing users to upgrade to IE11 makes more sense in hindsight. Then, Microsoft told customers that after Jan. 12, 2016, only IE11 would be supported with security updates on Windows 7 and Windows 8.1.

Pushing users toward IE11 could thus be seen as the first announced step — necessary in 2014 to give customers, particularly conservative corporations, time to make the move — in a broader plan to deemphasize that version as Microsoft prepared to unveil and aggressively promote a new browser or at least a new browser engine.

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, IE11 accounted for 43% of all versions of IE run in November, making it the most-used edition.

By consolidating users on IE11, Microsoft not only reduces its own support costs — fewer versions of IE to support — but prepares customers for a future where only IE11 boasts the kind of backward compatibility necessary for enterprises.

Other promises Microsoft made in August back that speculation, as it pledged that the legacy support tool introduced in April, “Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11,” would be maintained, improved and supported on Windows 7 through its retirement date of January 14, 2020. By continuing to maintain Enterprise Mode for IE11, Microsoft would be able to tell companies to standardize on that browser if they needed to support legacy websites and apps. Others would be able to move to the new browser — if Foley is correct — or use the new lighter-weight Trident engine, assuming Neowin is more on the mark.

A brand new browser, however, would give Microsoft an advantage over offering two rendering engines within one named IE.

Historically, Microsoft has supported a version of IE until the end of support for the edition of Windows it ran on. Although that policy is now in tatters because of the January 2016 deadline — IE10’s support on Windows 7 was chopped by seven years with that decision — a new, separate browser as Foley outlined would let Microsoft make even more radical moves.

Other browsers, including Chrome and Firefox, are patched only in their latest versions. Because Google and Mozilla update their browsers every six to eight weeks, users must keep pace or risk running a vulnerable application.

Microsoft may want to follow in their footsteps: In fact, the FAQ dedicated to the January 2016 deadline noted rivals’ practices as a reason for those changes. “Focusing support on the latest version of Internet Explorer for a supported Windows operating system is in line with industry standards,” the FAQ read (emphasis added).

A newly-named browser would allow Microsoft to change its support policy for that application to match Chrome’s and Firefox’s. In other words, if Microsoft releases a browser named “Spartan,” it might tell customers that they need to run the latest update to receive patches, then update that browser every few weeks. (In 2014, Microsoft patched IE every month.)

For those unable to keep up, Microsoft could point them toward IE11 and its Enterprise Mode, which would presumably be provided with patches as usual. Customers would not need to be running only the latest IE11 update to receive more fixes.

That kind of browser split — Spartan (or whatever name it’s eventually given) on one hand, IE11 on the other — would match how Microsoft will handle Windows 10: Consumers will receive automatic OS updates, probably monthly, in lieu of occasional upgrades, while businesses will be able to opt for one of two slower tempos.

More information about Microsoft’s Jan. 12, 2016, deadline for upgrading to the newest browser for each version of Windows can be found on the company’s website.

Microsoft has scheduled a press and analyst event for Jan. 21 in Redmond, where it will unveil the next iteration of the Windows 10 preview. That version will focus on consumer features, and may include the new browser or rendering engine.

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Patch Tuesday: 16 security advisories, 5 critical for Windows

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All supported versions of Windows are affected including Windows 10 technical preview

Microsoft is issuing the largest number of monthly security advisories since June 2011, five of them critical and affecting all supported versions of Windows. And applying the patches will be time consuming, experts say.

“Next week will tell us how many CVEs are involved but suffice to say, this patch load will be a big impact to the enterprise,” says Russ Ernst, the director of product management for Lumension.

Generally, Microsoft alternates between patching Windows and updating applications in order to keep down the number of machines that need attention each month, says Chris Goettl, a product manager with Shavlik. This batch includes critical updates for .NET Framework, Office 2007, Exchange and SharePoint.

“Exchange and SharePoint being in the mix means that there will be a need for some thorough testing before rolling out updates,” he says. “.NET Framework also is getting an update this month, which usually means a little longer time on the maintenance window as those patches tend to take a little longer than the average OS patch to install.”

Also in the mix this month is Windows 10, formally Windows Technical Preview, which is in line for five updates ranked critical, says Goettl. “It would be a good idea to run this and see how well the patches apply. The updates will be available through Windows Update and Microsoft is encouraging people to apply them,” he says.

The five critical bulletins are about fixes to block potential remote code execution on victimized machines, says Qualys CTO Wolfgang Kandek. Here is his summary of these bulletins:

Bulletin 1 is rated critical for all version of Windows and has RCE potential, i.e. the type of vulnerability that allows an attacker to take control over the affected machine.
Bulletin 2, critical as well and covers all versions of Internet Explorer IIE from IE6 on Windows 2003 to IE11 on Windows 8.1.
Bulletin 3 addresses an RCE type vulnerability present in all version of Windows and is critical to patch as soon as possible.
Bulletin 4 covers a vulnerability that is rated critical on desktop systems and important on server operating systems.
Bulletin 5 is rated critical on server operating systems but has no criticality rating on desktop systems, even though they seem to contain the vulnerability. “We will have to see what is really going on there next Tuesday,” he says.

The advanced security bulletins include nine that are ranked important, which means they require user action in order to be exploited. They address vulnerabilities in Windows, Windows Server, Exchange, and .NET Framework. Possible exploits include elevation of privilege, remote code execution, security feature bypass and information disclosure.

The remaining bulleting is ranked moderate and could result in denial of service attacks against Windows.

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Microsoft to focus on search apps with Bing

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Director of search says he’s focused on integrating search into Microsoft products, services

Microsoft’s director of search admitted that its Bing search engine can’t compete with Google search in a full-on faceoff, but the company will focus instead on search applications.

Stefan Weitz, who leads Microsoft’s search efforts, told an audience at the Web Summit conference in Dublin on Tuesday that he’s less interested in Bing as a stand-alone search engine and more interested in integrating the technology into the company’s other products.

“The question is, where is search really going?” Weitz said, according to a report in The Register. “It’s unlikely we’re going to take share in [the pure search] space, but in machine learning, natural language search… and how we can make search more part of living. For us, it’s less about, though that’s still important. It’s really about how we can instead weave the tech into things you’re already doing.”

By integrating search into different applications, Microsoft should be able to grab more search market share in the future, Weitz said, according to The Register.

“For pure keyword search, we’re around 30% in the U.S. — not so much in Europe,” he said. “But search in different areas of life? That mix is to be determined. I’m committed to making sure we have our fair share of search in the future.”

Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, told Computerworld that Microsoft would be smart to focus less on a head-to-head competition with Google search and more on working Bing-based technology into Windows products.

“At the end of the day that isn’t a battle that can be fought right now,” Shimmin said. “It’s a matter of how inured we are with Google. It’s now become the, ‘Pass me a Coke or hand me a Kleenex.’ Our cultural norm has evolved around Google. It’s not just a search engine. It’s a knowledge engine that helps you find your way home or what time the Dodgers play.”

Five years after Microsoft released Bing, the search engine has not been the challenger to Google that Microsoft hoped it would be. While Bing hasn’t gained significant market share in those five years, it still remains second in search only to Google.

Earlier this year, Internet tracker comScore Inc. reported that Google still held 67.5% of the search market, while Bing had 18.6% and Yahoo, 10.1%.

A big part of the problem is that the name Google has become synonymous with search, and users have created a habit of using Google when they want to search for anything on the web.

Dave Schubmehl, an analyst with IDC, agreed that Bing has little chance of taking any significant amount of Google’s search market share.

“Google is pretty ingrained for most people on Web search, especially with the combination of Chrome and Android fueling initial queries to Google,” he said. “I really don’t think Bing has any way to overcome this advantage for standard search.”

That means Microsoft is more likely to find success with Bing if it’s worked into mobile applications and Microsoft’s enterprise-focused software.

Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group, noted that Cortana, an intelligent personal assistant on Windows Phone, is a search app.

“If you can add intelligence to the front end and your artificial intelligence is smart, you might be able to render traditional Google search redundant,” he added.

Microsoft already is working its search technology into some of its apps and services.

“Microsoft should invest in Bing as a means of differentiating its applications, predominantly Office and the Windows platform,” said Shimmin. “They literally are using technology built into Bing. They launched software called Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, and it uses tech from both Bing and Xbox to allow companies to take a data set and make predictions.”

If an Office 365 user needs to find something in the application, he could use built-in Bing to do it.

“They should focus on what has always made Microsoft important, and that is they are the interface for business users and many consumers,” Shimmin said. “If you open an Office document, shouldn’t search play in how you work with that document and shouldn’t it be Bing? Microsoft can make their platform and their apps more valuable through the power of search.”

Schubmehl said there is a lot of potential for search growth but it won’t be in the ways that search companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, have become accustomed.

As people use the Web less on their mobile devices, they’ll use mobile apps, such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon and Facebook, more.

“I believe Microsoft is looking to expand the landscape around search applications to include capabilities that work at both a personal and enterprise level, both for the Web and the emerging discovery opportunities around mobile data and applications,” said Schubmehl.

Instead of appearing to be the loser in the race with Google, Microsoft needs to reposition the battle and focus on reinforcing the real value of Bing to the company.

“They should rethink the battle they’re in because it’s not one they can win or should try to win,” said Shimmin. “I just don’t think they can out Google Google.”

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Microsoft rolls out Delve information and people discovery tool for Office 365

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Microsoft has begun a months-long rollout of Delve, the first Office 365 application that taps into the suite’s Office Graph machine learning capabilities and maps connections between co-workers, documents and information.

Delve, announced in March with the code-name Oslo, is designed to automatically surface colleagues, files and data that are more relevant and important to users’ work.

Delve renders these connections via a very visual card-based interface, and bases its output on an analysis of a number of signals and elements from each individual user, such as Exchange Online email message exchanges, OneDrive for Business stored content, SharePoint Online collaboration activity and Yammer enterprise social networking interactions.
MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: 7 things on Microsoft’s 2014 to-do list

In the coming months, Delve will also be able to take into account email attachments, OneNote content and Lync Online IM and audio/video communications. The goal is to make work processes more intuitive to engage with and easier to navigate by highlighting for employees the data and connections they should prioritize. At least in theory, that should help employees focus on their most important tasks, colleagues and documents.

Microsoft plans to release more applications like Delve that leverage the Office Graph machine learning features and make Office 365 better at “understanding” each employee’s work process and customizing the user experience accordingly.

Delve is available to customers subscribing to Office 365 Enterprise E1, E3 and E4 plans; Education A2, A3 and A4 plans; and Government G1, G3 and G4 plans. Microsoft will roll it out first to subscribers of these plans that have signed up to get Office 365 upgrades ahead of everyone else, the so-called First Release option, and later to those in the Standard Release schedule. The company expects to finish this phase of the rollout by early 2015, Microsoft said on Monday.

In January 2015, Microsoft will begin to roll out Delve to subscribers to Office 365 Business Essentials, Business Premium, Small Business, Small Business Premium and Midsize Business.

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Microsoft debuts personalized patch dashboard for IT pros

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Web-based myBulletins organizes security updates; gets a ‘C’ grade from one professional

Microsoft today launched a Web-based security dashboard for IT professionals that displays a customized view of the company’s past patches.

Called “myBulletins,” the dashboard shows the security updates for user-selected products, including the permutations of Windows, the iterations of Office and the various versions of its server-side software.

myBulletins displays a small graph that tallies the updates by Microsoft’s threat ranking system.

“[myBulletins is] a customizable online service that offers IT professionals a personalized list of the Microsoft security bulletins that matter most to their organization,” Tracey Pretorius, a director in the company’s Trustworthy Computing group, explained in a Wednesday blog.

The dashboard draws on the list of security bulletins — the latter is Microsoft’s term for its updates — that Microsoft has long published on its website. In some ways, it replaces that list’s search and filtering functions.

To use myBulletins, customers must log in with a Microsoft account, then step through a short wizard to select the product lines, a process that includes drilling down to specific products, like Office 2010, Windows 8.1, or SQL Server 2012.

Bulletins can be sorted by identifier, product, impact, severity and whether a reboot is required. The information can also be downloaded in Excel format for further manipulation.

One security professional was less than impressed.

“If their intent was to create a single customized dashboard of Microsoft security issues affecting my organization, then I’d have to give Microsoft a ‘C’ grade on this round,” said Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at San Francisco-based CloudPassage.

Storms dinged myBulletins for not providing notifications of new bulletins that met his criteria, for not offering direct links to the associated knowledge base articles Microsoft publishes on its support site, and for not including security advisories that outline vulnerabilities that have not yet been patched.

“They can’t send me a notification? I have to go and log in to this?” Storms asked. “I suspect they went for the minimum viable product here, but sadly for me, they are missing the two most important features: notifications and advisories.”

Most IT personnel have access to similar lists already, Storms noted, through WSUS (Windows Server Update Services), the Microsoft patch management tool that’s widely used in businesses. WSUS also shows those updates that have been applied to the organization, something myBulletins is incapable of duplicating, as it doesn’t actually scan a PC or group of PCs.

“If I just wanted to see all the security patches affecting my enterprise, then WSUS already provides that,” Storms said. “Maybe version 1.5 or later [myBulletins] might become more useful.”

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Why the Surface Pro 3 just killed Windows RT

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Say good-bye to Windows RT. The introduction of the Surface Pro 3 just killed it, if not sooner, then later. Here’s why the operating system has not future.

With the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft has finally clarified its tablet strategy: Build productivity tablets that do double-duty as ultrabooks, and charge a premium for them. Aim them at the enterprise market, where Microsoft still has a stranglehold. Microsoft will be happy to pick up whatever mass-market consumers it can, but with the Surface Pro 3, that’s no longer its primary market.

There’s plenty of evidence for this. First is that Microsoft introduced a full-sized, powerful, expensive tablet/ultrabook combo rather than a low-priced Surface Mini as had been expected. In the mass market, smaller, less-expensive tablets are driving growth, not full-sized tablets. A most Gartner report on tablet sales for 2013 report concluded:

“The tablet growth in 2013 was fueled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers.”

The Surface Pro 3 is anything but a low-end device, with a starting price of $799. Add a Surface Pro Type Cover and that cost goes up to $929. That’s not going to attract bargain hunters or first-time buyers. However, it won’t scare away enterprises who run their businesses on Microsoft software, including many legacy systems. It’s a reasonable price for an ultrabook that does double-duty as a tablet, particularly because it includes a very useful stylus.

Carolina Milanesi, chief of research at Kantar WorldPanel Comtech, told Computerworld that the Surface Pro 3 is clearly aimed at the corporate market, as a replacement for aging PCs:

“The enterprise is where they fit. And maybe it’s best to think about [the Surface Pro 3] as where the next replacement cycle for PCs will go, and how something like it gives companies an upgrade path for their [current] laptops and PCs.”

Even before the Surface Pro 3 introduction, some businesses were doing that with earlier Surface Pros, which are more expensive and have much smaller screens than the Surface Pro 3. In an email to Gregg Keizer of Computerworld, Fidel Deforte, the infrastructure and communications technology manager for the city of Cape Coral, said that he had started replacing some senior managers’ hardware with Surface Pros. Those managers had been typically using both a Windows notebook and an iPad. He wrote:

“I replaced [a manager’s] HP laptop and iPad (total value $2,600) with the Surface Pro 2 ($1,300) and she not only loves this, but sees that it is more flexible and efficient.”

With a 12-inch screen and a much-improved keyboard, The Surface Pro 3 is even more of a replacement for traditional computers, and should sell even better.

So where does that leave the Windows RT-based Surface line? Nowhere. By not releasing a Windows RT-based Surface 3, Microsoft made it plain where its future is in tablets — with businesses, not the mass market. Corporations won’t buy RT-based tablets because they can’t run desktop-based legacy apps. Consumers haven’t bought them because they simply don’t like them.

So whether it’s now or later, Microsoft will kill Windows RT. It simply doesn’t fit into the company’s new tablet strategy.

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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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