About the author  ⁄ Suril Amin

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

Microsoft is expanding the capacity of its Windows Azure cloud computing services in Europe with extra capacity being built out at its Northern Europe data center near Dublin, representing an investment of €170m. The new cloud computing capacity, which is due for completion in Spring 2014, is needed in order to meet the burgeoning demand for cloud services in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region, Microsoft said. Speaking at a Microsoft event in Dublin where the new investment was announced, Microsoft’s vice president for Windows Azure Scott Guthrie said that the firm was transforming the way customers deliver and use IT. “We’ve been seeing massive adoption since we kind of relaunched Azure about a year ago, and now about 54 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have already signed up for Azure, and we’re seeing compute and storage capacity double about every six months,“ he said. This is ...

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Earlier today during an event in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Microsoft announced its plans to open a Windows Azure Region in Brazil.  Microsoft expects the region to come online in early 2014 and will begin to on-board preview customers in the next 4 to 6 weeks. This announcement represents the software giant’s first major expansion into South America.   Windows Azure previously announced expansions into Japan, Australia, and China through our partner 21Vianet.  Microsoft first made Windows Azure available to customers in South America in 2010. Customers in Brazil will experience better performance through reduced latency and will have the ability to keep their data in the country.  As the rules and regulations on data management continue to evolve in Brazil, customers using the Brazil Region will be able to opt for Locally Redundant Storage (LRS), which will maintain three copies of their data and will not replicate their data outside of the country.  Geo Redundant ...

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In a bit of good news for Microsoft, the European Union has approved the Microsoft/Nokia deal without any conditions.  Regulators in the United States, India, Russia, Israel and Turkey have also approved the Nokia deal. 99.7% of Nokia shareholders approved the deal two weeks ago. Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Nokia’s mobile device business by Microsoft The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of most of Nokia Corporation’s devices & services business (the “D&S business”) by Microsoft Corporation. The D&S business mainly produces and sells smartphones and feature phones. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise any competition concerns, in particular because there are only modest overlaps between the parties’ activities and the links between Microsoft’s mobile operating systems, mobile applications and enterprise mail server software with Nokia’s smart mobile devices are unlikely to lead to competitors being shut out from the ...

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Microsoft sold $8 billion of bonds in dollars and euros, a record offering from the world’s largest software maker that followed Johnson & Johnson by issuing AAA rated corporate securities this week. Microsoft borrowed $3.25 billion with five-, 10- and 30-year notes in the U.S. currency, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Redmond software giant also issued 3.5 billion euros ($4.8 billion) of bonds split between eight- and 15-year portions. Top-ranked borrowers are seeking to raise cash from the bond market even as investors favor the higher yields of lower-rated debt amid speculation the Federal Reserve will soon taper stimulus measures that pushed interest rates to record lows. The Bank of America Merrill Lynch AAA U.S. Corporate Index has lost 4.2 percent this year, compared with a 6.9 percent gain for dollar-denominated speculative-grade securities. Proceeds will fund general corporate purposes, Microsoft said in regulatory filings today. The euro sale ...

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By now I’m sure you have seen the CBS 60 Minutes report by Charlie Rose, featuring Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos showing off a drone delivery system for packages.  At best, the project is 5 years down the line, and it has now been widely reported the news report was a commercial to help Amazon on Cyber Monday. Huffington Post: First Victim of Amazon Drones: The Credibility of CBS and 60 Minutes Breitbart: Media Duped By Amazon’s Spectacular Drone Ploy Many people asked why Bezos personally bought the Washington Post, I think we now know why.  Interesting to note, Amazon is also building a datacenter for the CIA, an organization that is a fan of drones too.  But these discussions are beyond the scope of this blog, onto the main topic at hand. Former Microsoft CEO and current chairman of the software giant Bill Gates weighed in to throw his support behind Amazon’s drone ...

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Every December, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (“NORAD”) serves the important role of ensuring that Santa’s journey around the world is safe.  Since 1955, children of all ages have tracked his route with the help of NORAD’s radar, satellites, and jet fighters.  This year, Microsoft has lent a hand to make the experience the most magical yet, putting a fresh spin on the time-honored tradition with the launch of the new www.NORADSanta.org. This is not the first time Microsoft has worked with NORAD Tracks Santa.  Last year, the company provided interactive Bing Maps to give people at home an interactive visual of Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, which was powered by Windows Azure, as well as apps for Windows and Windows Phone that allowed people a platform to play and learn. The Internet Explorer team collaborated with NORAD to rebuild the Web experience from the ground up.  The new ...

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Microsoft is aware of problems with the Xbox One party chat service, Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb confirmed in a post on Reddit, adding that these issues will “get better.” A number of Xbox One owners are reporting problems while attempting to access the party chat service, which allows players to chat with up to seven friends in a single lobby while they each play separate games. “Had a meeting today about much of this and I can say that things will get better,” wrote Hryb. “I can’t offer a timeline of a list of what till be addressed first, but we are aware of the issue and things will get better.” Some Xbox One owners are stating they can connect to Xbox Live but the connection with other friends doesn’t appear successful. According to the Xbox Support forums, this problem appears to result in being unable to join or host multiplayer ...

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While Sony is bragging about selling over 2.1 million PS4s, Microsoft has decided to remain silent and we will likely have to wait until NPD releases their numbers for last month. “We are humbled and gratified by the overwhelming response from our fans to the launch of Xbox One. Eleven days in we are seeing record breaking sales and are selling every Xbox One we can make. Demand is far exceeding supply in the 13 countries we’ve launched and we are sold out at retailers around the world. We are seeing incredible usage from our engaged fans who have purchased Xbox One with more than 50 million hours spent on Xbox One games and entertainment,” said Yusuf Mehdi, Corporate Vice President of Strategy and Marketing, Xbox. However, Microsoft has released some fun statistics surrounding game play on the Xbox One: Over 3 billion zombies killed in “Dead Rising 3” Over ...

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The Xbox One is currently in high demand with Microsoft struggling on the supply side of the equation.  Amazon has currently has relisted the Xbox One back in stock for $499.99 without any of the extras.  If you want one for Christmas or want to gift one for Christmas, it may be a good idea to grab one now. You may also want to read this blog post by Major Nelson with some tips on how to grab to an Xbox One.  He recommended two tracking sites to use: XboxOneLocator NowInStock Buy Now: Amazon Update: Well the consoles sold out fairly quickly. Update #2: Back In Stock ...

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You may recall Microsoft invited gamers to sign-up for closed Project Spark beta testing shortly after the game was previewed at E3 in June.  Hundreds of thousands of fans have signed up for the closed beta, which has begun rolling out today.  Starting exclusively on Windows 8.1 and available to fans on Xbox One early next calendar year, registered beta participants are welcomed to a dynamic community where players create and creators play.  The beta for both platforms will continue until the product launch next year. “Project Spark” is an endless adventure where everything is customizable.  Jump into an open world sandbox where players can create their own games, movies, stories and more and then share them with family, friends, and the world. Play what other creators have made and take part in unlimited adventures. Make games while playing with the revolutionary Crossroads mode. Bend, shape, and mold worlds with ...

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Microsoft has updated the Bing app for Android users.  The update includes an overhauled UI and support for daily images.  WinBeta reports: Now Microsoft has pushed a major update of its Bing app for Android. Version 4.2.0.20131129, which is compatible with Android 2.2 and newer, brings a capability which was once exclusive to Windows Phone. Users can now choose to use the Bing Daily Image as the wallpaper on their device. The image will automatically update each day, providing an added interest to your phone or tablet. Bing for Android is more than just a search engine. It is more of a suite of Microsoft apps, including Maps and the like. Users can also directly share things via Facebook and even sync with SkyDrive. You can even add a Bing search widget to the Android home screen. The app is free. The app is available for free and is now much ...

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The new update for the Lync metro app is available today for Windows 8.1.  Based on user feedback, Microsoft made a number of improvements in this update, here is what is new: Take control of shared screens or apps    During a Lync Meeting with app sharing or screen sharing, take control of the sharing started by someone else in the meeting. Run Lync side-by-side with another app at any window size     Use apps side-by-side when you need to reference another app or website while using Lync. You are not limited to the old 320 pixel snapped size; you can make the Lync window any size you want. Answer audio and video calls on the lock screen     answer audio and video calls quickly when your device is locked, without having to unlock it. Mute and Control Call Volume from inside Lync     Mute the speakers or control the volume of your call from the ...

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According to a 2013 study by IDC, employers are looking for candidates that have 20 specific skills for high-growth, high-wage occupations. Coming in at number 3 on this list is proficiency with Microsoft Office, with proficiency with PowerPoint and Word specifically highlighted at #11 and #13 on the list. In fact, Microsoft Office skills were sought after five times more than any other productivity tools. Even Google’s own job postings require competency with Microsoft Office tools. In October, Microsoft announced a new benefit called Student Advantage, making it easy for students to get access to the latest version of Microsoft Office and better prepare themselves for the tools used in modern day workplaces. Today, Student Advantage is available to more than 35,000 educational institutions worldwide. All schools and universities that license Office 365 ProPlus or Office Professional Plus for staff and faculty can now also provide access to Office 365 ...

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In an effort to boost app purchases in the windows store, Microsoft has teamed up with a number of retailers to offer a $25 Windows Store gift card with the purchase of a new touch screen PC or tablet.  Honestly I think it’s quite crazy that all new PCs aren’t already touchscreen, and even crazier that someone would buy a new PC that does not have a touchscreen.  Well, there is a reason the Surface was necessary. Participating retailers include Amazon.com, Best Buy, Fry’s Electronics, Staples, Newegg.com, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart.com, and of course the Microsoft Store.  It does not appear that this offer is available internationally. Source: Microsoft ...

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Microsoft received the unconditional approval of the Justice Department for the deal. In a statement, Microsoft said it was pleased to receive the approval of the Justice Department, and it looked “forward to the date when our partners at Nokia will become members of the Microsoft family.” Microsoft still needs approval from the European Union, which is expected to clear the deal. Regulators in India, Russia, Israel and Turkey have also approved the Nokia deal. 99.7% of Nokia shareholders approved the deal two weeks ago.  Microsoft has not changed its earlier prediction that the acquisition will be completed in the first quarter of 2014.  I suspect, the faster this deal gets approved, the closer we will be to finding out who Microsoft’s next CEO will be.   Source: United States Department of Justice ...

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Today Microsoft announced the availability of Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack (MDOP) 2013 R2 for download.  MDOP is a suite of virtualization, management and security technologies available for enterprise customers. In addition to support for Windows 8.1 and virtualization of Office 2013, today’s release includes the: Launch of Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V) 5.0 R2 Launch of User Experience Virtualization (UE-V) 2.0 Enhancements to the Microsoft BitLocker Administration Enhancements to Monitoring tool (MBAM 2.0 SP1), including multi language support In addition to these key feature updates, MDOP 2013 R2 offers Windows 8.1 compatibility for Advanced Group Policy Management (AGPM) 4.0 SP2, Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT) 8.1, and Microsoft BitLocker Administration and Monitoring (MBAM) 2.0 SP1, which also offers multi-language support. Microsoft also announced the availability of App-V 4.6 SP3. This release provides support for Windows 8.1 for customers as they make the transition to App-V 5.0 SP2. For additional detail on ...

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