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

Luxembourg’s data protection commissioner is investigating Skype over concerns about its secret involvement with the US National Security Agency (NSA) spy program Prism, the Guardian has learned.  The Microsoft-owned internet chat company could potentially face criminal and administrative sanctions, including a ban on passing users’ communications covertly to the US signals intelligence agency.  Skype itself is headquartered in the European country, and could be fined if an investigation concludes that the data sharing is found in violation of the country’s data-protection laws.  Luxembourg’s data-protection commissioner initiated a probe into Skype’s privacy policies following revelations in June about its ties to the NSA. Luxembourg has attracted several large corporations, including Amazon and Netflix, due to its tax structure.  Its constitution enshrines the right to privacy and states that secrecy of correspondence is inviolable unless the law provides otherwise.  Surveillance of communications in Luxembourg can only occur with judicial approval or by authorization ...

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We previously reported on the IE team bringing the classic Windows 95 game “Hover” back to life as a web version.  The revival of the game has proven to be quite popular and Microsoft has now made the game available as a Windows 8.1 app.  The game will not run on Windows 8.0, Windows 8.1 only.  The game does not yet feature the multiplayer features available in the web version, although Microsoft is considering adding this in the future. Download Hover : Microsoft Store ...

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Microsoft released the much anticipated details regarding bundles and pricing for the Xbox 360.  The details are as follows: Xbox 360 250GB Holiday Bundle Two games: Halo 4 and Tomb Raider 1 Month of Xbox Live Gold Price: $299.99 Xbox 360 4GB Kinect Holiday Bundle Two games: Kinect Sports 2 and Kinect Adventures 1 Month of Xbox Live Gold Price: $299.99 Xbox 360 250GB Kinect Holiday Bundle Three games: Kinect Sports 2, Kinect Adventures, and Forza Horizon 1 Month of Xbox Live Gold Price: $399.99 Personally, I would save money for an Xbox One, I suspect the Xbox 360 may go down in price after the release of the Xbox One. Source: Xbox ...

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Microsoft has had a long history of supporting tools that assist handicapped individuals use PCs.  The Internet Explorer team maintains its strong commitment to making it easier for making the web easier to browse for those blind or visually impaired.  Screen readers, such as Windows Narrator, will now work better with IE11.   Notifications Keep Users of Screen Readers Better Informed IE11 improves editing in e-mail and online Web document applications by notifying screen readers about both automatic and user-initiated text changes. Here are a few examples of the new notifications in IE11: Auto-correct: Internet Explorer auto-corrects misspelled words.  For example, if a user types “teh” in English, it will be corrected to “the.”  IE11 adds a new notification so screen readers can inform users that auto-correct is happening. Backspace: As a user types, the screen reader announces each keystroke.  However, simply hearing ‘backspace’ announced is not particularly helpful because it ...

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HP has struggling ever since it probably made the second stupidest decision ever to fire Mark Hurd as CEO over a minor affair (the fist being to then instate Leo Apotheker as CEO).   At an annual financial meeting, HP’s current CEO Meg Whitman had strong comments in an address to analysts.  You may recall previously Whitman was Ebay’s CEO and ran unsuccessfully for governor of California before taking her current job at HP. Whitman’s admitted the company was too slow in many cases, missing out on deals with large customers because it couldn’t “deliver the goods.” “We have got to up our game substantially in how we do things at this company,” said Whitman. “We don’t always look carefully at how we can optimize our end-to-end processes. We’ve got to demand a consistent level of quality.” Whitman additionally added “often we show up late.” “HP is just a little late ...

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President Obama used many analogies to explain his perception of Republican shutdown negotiating strategies, but his Xbox reference certainly gathered the most attention. Noting that Republicans want to delay or defund his health care law before approving a new spending plan, Obama told reporters: “The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs. You don’t get a chance to call your bank and say, ‘I’m not going to pay my mortgage this month unless you throw in a new car and an Xbox.’” Of course this sent PS4 fans into overdrive, denouncing the President for mentioning the Xbox but not the Playstation.  Clearly the President was well aware, nobody wants a Playstation, even if the bank throws it in for free. ...

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Microsoft actively developing a new technology to replace tracking cookies; similar to independent projects being worked on by Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and others.   Tracking cookies have come under scrutiny in recent years from regulators and privacy advocates.  Third party tracking cookies especially are now easily blocked through built-in functions within browsers.  Safari blocks third party cookies by default, Firefox is considering doing the same with a new release by the end of the year.  Internet Explorer considered doing the same, but was swayed not to by an executive acquired through the purchase of aQuantive.  Google’s Chrome browser of course has all cookies fully enabled to maximize ad revenue, surprise. The Do Not Track functionality is also hurting advertisers with Internet Explorer leading the pack by having it enabled by default.  Most browsers also have a private or “porn mode” which blocks many cookies when it is enabled.  Microsoft’s new technology ...

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Toy“R”Us is a leading retailer, in the US, for children’s toys and other juvenile products.  They posted a video demoing the Xbox One in order to inform their customers (mothers, young children, etc) about the product.  This was part of the company’s annual “Fabulous 15” list of recommendations for the holiday season.     Sony fanboys, angry that the PS4 did not make the list, quickly resorted to posting comments on the youtube video which are simply to vile to repost here.  This is especially unfortunate given the intended audience of the video.  The company did eventually disable comments but not before racist & sexist remarks, profane comments, and excessive thumbs down votes were given to the video.  Ultimately a decision was made to remove the video.  Sony declined to comment.  Microsoft was not immediately available for comment. Source: Video Games Scene ...

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Gartner released its report on PC shipments for the third quarter of 2013.  For the sixth consecutive quarter PC fell, a whopping -8.6% decline with 80.3 million units shipped.  The report had a more negative outlook than IDC’s report.  This is the worst back-to-school PC season since 2008. Similar to IDC’s report, Gartner saw Lenovo, HP, and Dell grow while Acer & ASUS declined.  Gartner believes the holiday season will be a “key indicator” for the future of the two companies. Acer declined 22.6% compared to a year ago while Asus saw a 22.5% decline.  Asus’ tablet shipments were nearly equal to its mobile PC shipments.  It appears the decline of the netbook market is hurting both Acer and Asus. In the US 16.1 million units shipped in the third quarter, a 3.5% increase compared to last year.  Apple actually lost market share this quarter.  According to Gartner new form ...

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A report by IDC showed a year-over-year decline in the PC market of -7.6 for the third quarter of 2013 with worldwide PC shipments of 81.6 million units.  This beats IDCs original expectation of a -9.5% decline in the PC market and is slightly more positive than Gartner’s report.     Lenovo, Dell, and HP had an uptick in business while Acer and ASUS continue to struggle.  “The third quarter was pretty close to forecast, which unfortunately doesn’t reflect much improvement in the PC market, or potential for near-term growth,” said Loren Loverde, Vice President Worldwide PC Trackers. “Whether constrained by a weak economy or being selective in their tech investments, buyers continue to evaluate options and delay PC replacements. Despite being a little ahead of forecast, and the work that’s being done on new designs and integration of features like touch, the third quarter results suggest that there’s still ...

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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, speaking at the Gartner conference in Orlando, hinted about the future of Office.  As a ‘Devices & Services’ company it only makes sense that Office would be on multiple platforms.  However, a touch optimized version of Office would likely hit Windows devices first (i.e. Surface etc) and later on to other platforms, iPad & Android tablets.  Use of Office on an iPad will most likely require an Office 365 subscription.  “Word, PowerPoint and Excel are all sort of authoring tools. They are optimized for use with keyboards and mice. The last time I checked, the iPad didn’t have a paradigm for keyboard and mice,” Ballmer said. “So iPad will be picked up when we do what I would call not just a touch-enabled but a touch-first user interface for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.” The touch-first interface of those programs “is in progress, for both Windows 8 ...

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Rather than over-anaylze Microsoft’s final shareholder letter, I have decided to simply re-post the full text.  Simply read it for what it is.  Remember the audience of this letter is primarily investors, and there are legal implications for everything written in here and must be in compliance with the SEC. The letter includes a new mission statement, since Microsoft did accomplish its first mission “…a PC on every desk…” I have added some emphasis on statements that stood out to me.  Shareholder letter: TO OUR SHAREHOLDERS, CUSTOMERS, PARTNERS AND EMPLOYEES: This is a unique letter for me — the last shareholder letter I will write as the CEO of the company I love. We have always believed that technology will unleash human potential and that is why I have come to work every day with a heart full of passion for more than 30 years. Fiscal Year 2013 was a ...

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Fox News’ big primetime shake-up premiers today and during the last month they have spent building new studios.  One of their studios will be a high tech news room which will sift through a large volume of information coming from the internet, social media etc.  The studio is powered by Windows 7 & Windows 8.  Fox’s Shepard Smith gives a preview into the studio:   Source:  Fox Nation This is a tech site, not a political one, please keep the comments civil ...

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Activision Publishing, Treyarch, and Xbox have teamed together to support the Call of Duty Endowment. Starting tomorrow, October 8 through Monday, October 14, U.S. fans can purchase any one of the 17 Call of Duty: Black Ops II Personalization Packs that are currently available on the Xbox Live online entertainment network from Microsoft for a 25% discount. Additionally, Activision, Treyarch and Xbox will donate all profits from the packs sold to the Call of Duty Endowment – Activision Blizzard’s 501(c)(3) non-profit that helps returning service members by funding efficient and effective organizations that place vets into high quality careers. “This is a great opportunity for the Call of Duty® community to get involved, and we’re delighted to work with Treyarch and our friends at Xbox to donate all profits from this activity toward helping vets find good jobs,” said Dan Goldenberg, Executive Director of the Call of Duty Endowment. “For ...

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The Skype team has released an update for iPhone and Skype for iPad, version 4.13.  The release is primarily focused on bringing a refreshed look for iOS 7, I suspect they borrowed heavily from the UI of the windows phone app. In addition made improvements were made to accessibility, audio and video calling. 4.13 Change log: Refreshed look and feel for iOS 7 Accessibility improvements, including: Improved accessibility of dialpad with touchtype support VoiceOver announces the senders name when messaging VoiceOver improvements for group chats General fixes Source: Skype Blog ...

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While  we generally do not put too much faith in analyst reports, sometimes they are amusing.  A new report by a Finnish financial analyst believes that former Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila could join Microsoft’s board. “Ollila is, for all his strengths and weaknesses, a pioneer,” Jukka Oksaharju, of Nordic savings bank Nordnet, said. “Joining Microsoft’s board wouldn’t be a surprise in itself, but it would be the crowning achievement of Nokia’s sale and Ollila’s career,” Oksaharju said. “Who would have more experience in global telecommunication business? The entire industry was created during his reign.” Currently Ollila sits on the board of many companies including Ford.  Given Ollila’s financial background he certainly would fit in with many other members of the board.  One theory is that if Alan Mulally becomes Microsoft’s next CEO he could bring over Ollila to Microsoft’s board room.  We know that Ollila certainly gets along with Ballmer and was intstrumental ...

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