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

Somewhat unexpectedly Microsoft has confirmed that Halo: Spartan Assault will launch on Steam’s digital distribution service on April 5th.   Halo: Spartan Assault was an exclusive to Windows Phone originally but later debuted on the Windows 8 Store.  It has also come out on the Xbox One and 360. Steam and confirms that it will include 30 missions that not only deliver intense gameplay, but also explore the Spartan Ops program seen in Halo 4.  Special features include Steam achievements, leaderboards, and Steam trading cards, and Steam Cloud save games.  The cooperative mode has been stripped from this version of the game. Features: Epic campaign featuring 30 action packed levels with a brand new Halo story set just before the events of Halo 4. Command many of your favorite Halo weapons, vehicles, and armor abilities, and customize your Spartan to create the perfect Spartan warrior. Complete weekly challenges for XP and ...

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Microsoft Bing team is known for testing new features and tweaks to a small group of users to analyze the usage before rolling it out to millions of users. We have come across many such features in the past, recently we have spotted a few more.  It is possible Bing may be preparing the make some announcements at the Build conference next week. A little over a week ago we reported the new Story Timeline feature.  We have continued to see this feature pop up randomly on recent events:     Bing is also testing a new way to show images on a given web search.  Here is how Bing currently look with a search for Reese Witherspoon.   Here is the new look   The new UX shows a carousel of images at the top rather than a rectangular block of 6-8 images. Popular topics get their own image ...

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Before Microsoft Qi Lu was best known for leading Yahoo’s search efforts.  After his departure from the company in 2008, Lu was personally recruited by Ballmer to join the Redmond software giant. Lu was instrumental in creating the search alliance partnership with Yahoo and the launch of the rebranded Bing.   Lu is known as an atypical executive often found wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals with socks. With Ballmer’s reorganization plan Lu was promoted from President of the online services division to executive vice president of Microsoft’s Applications and Services Group.   This expanded Lu’s responsibilities, in addition to Bing & Advertising he now oversees Microsoft Office, Office 365, SharePoint, Exchange, Yammer, Lync, Skype. With the recent announcement of Office for the iPad, Recode interviewed Qi Lu. When asked about the top problems they are facing right now, Lu replied that their main focus is now on  deliver experiences and scenarios that ...

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Yahoo has changed significantly since Marissa Mayer took over the company.  In fact before she became CEO, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had a deal with then interim CEO Ross Levinsohn wherein Yahoo would turn over its entire search business — patents and all — in exchange for Microsoft’s large online media property, MSN.com, and long-term, guaranteed cash payments.  Within 24 hours of hearing the deal Mayer killed it and fired the executive who had spent months negotiating it.   A few months later rumors came about that Mayer had met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg to discuss the possibility of partnering to create a search engine. Some time later Mayer tried to slow the rollout of its search deal with Microsoft.  Court filings showed Mayer questioned Microsoft’s commitment.  A U.S. judge ended up ruling that Yahoo must adopt Microsoft’s search technology in Taiwan and Hong Kong under their partnership.  Mayer ...

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Many years ago when Android started to become more popular and eat into the iPhone’s dominance, Apple made a decision to lessen their reliance on Google.  In what became a PR nightmare, Apple created their own mapping solution and stopped using Google Maps.  In addition on the backend, Siri is now powered by Bing.  This was done well over a year ago and an announcement was made at the time.  Up until now we have not had any numbers as to how many queries Bing receives from Siri users.   Qi Lu, the longtime head of Microsoft’s search and online services, shed some light on this in a recent interview with Recode: We haven’t heard a lot about search in a while. We’ve heard that Yahoo hasn’t been very happy with the partnership. Is it critical to Bing’s future to have that Yahoo partnership? We’re very happy with the Yahoo partnership. ...

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In the wake of the  Kibkalo/Canouna controversy Microsoft has made some fundamental privacy changes for Outlook.com (Hotmail) email accounts.  Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith gave us an update on the changes: Effective immediately, if we receive information indicating that someone is using our services to traffic in stolen intellectual or physical property from Microsoft, we will not inspect a customer’s private content ourselves. Instead, we will refer the matter to law enforcement if further action is required. Google, Yahoo, and Apple have made no such changes to their privacy policies.  This is the right move for consumers and Microsoft should be applauded for making the changes.  That being said I think this “controversy” was taken way out of proportion and was twisted and sensationalized by the mainstream anti-Microsoft tech media. Source: Microsoft on the Issues ...

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Last July, Microsoft gave us a preview of what to expect with reputation on Xbox One. On Xbox One, there are currently categories of player reputation score – “Green = Good Player,” being the large majority of our users, “Yellow = Needs Work” and “Red = Avoid Me.”  By default most gamers will be green or good player. Beginning this month gamers will start to receive notifications if their reputation starts to diminish. “Good Players” – The majority of gamers will fall into this level. As we’ve said before, we have plans to introduce rewards for good behavior and look forward to sharing more in the future! Warnings for “Needs Work” – Beginning this month, some players will start receiving reputation warnings as their reputations drop due to feedback from the community. The purpose of these communications is to remind players about their effect on the community and encourage them to have more positive interactions. ...

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Last week, OneNote launched the initial version of their API. The first set of features are focused on scenarios for creating pages in OneNote: mobile app scanners, hardware scanners, save-it-for-later for newsreaders, etc. The team has already started working on the next set of features.  Here is a list of the capabilities and features that OneNote is planning to deliver over the next 3 to 6 months.  PDF Rendering. In the current API, you can create a page with a PDF attachment, but it cannot be rendered onto the page directly. This feature will enable a PDF to be rendered onto the page, making it usable directly on the OneNote page. Since PDF is by far the most popular scan format, this is particularly important to scanner scenarios. Improved error codes. Today, our error codes and messages aren’t very helpful. For example, if you missed including the office.onenote_create scope when ...

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Microsoft announced a new set of Xbox apps available today, oddly enough, mostly for the Xbox 360.   The announcement includes a number of apps for gamers, sports fans, and movie buffs. The Major League Gaming (MLG) app is now available for on the Xbox 360 in Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.  You can watch all of MLG.tv’s programming including the best gamers competing in MLG’s premier competitions, live broadcasts of gaming tournaments and professionally produced gaming content. The Major League Baseball app is now also available on the Xbox One.  MLB.TV Premium subscribers will enjoy live, HD-quality video of every out-of-market regular season game in 2014. Full game archives for every game will be available as well.  Requires an Xbox Live Gold membership. Starting today on Xbox 360 the ENCORE PLAY and MOVIEPLEX PLAY enertainment apps are available from Starz on the Xbox 360.  This is in ...

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As part of a collaboration with the Computer History Museum Microsoft has made the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows available to the public.  Specifically MS DOS 1.1 and 2.0 and Microsoft Word for Windows 1.1a created in the 1980s. Distinguished Microsoft engineer Roy Levin provided a bit of back-story on why MS-DOS was created: In 1980, IBM approached Microsoft to work on a project code-named “Chess.” What followed was a significant milestone in the history of the personal computer. Microsoft, at the time, provided the BASIC language interpreter for IBM. However, they had other plans and asked Microsoft to create an operating system. Without their own on hand, Microsoft licensed an operating system from Seattle Computer Products which would become the foundation for PC-DOS and MS-DOS. Microsoft had under 100 employees and a Microsoft product (MS-DOS) had less than 300KB (yes, kilobytes) of source code. Following ...

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In December of 2013 we reported on Microsoft’s plans for an exclusive documentary for Xbox Live users. The documentary will investigate the events surrounding the great video game burial of 1983 that the Atari Corporation, faced with overwhelmingly negative response to the video game “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”  Millions of unsold game cartridges were buried in the middle of the night in the small town of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Two companies, Fuel Entertainment and LightBox Interactive plan on digging up portions of an old Alamogordo landfill located near First Street and White Sands Boulevard to search for Atari “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” game cartridges purportedly buried there in the 1980s. The documentary is currently in production but has run afoul of typical government bureaucracy.  The New Mexico Environment Depart has halted a planned excavation of an old city landfill so two companies can look for old video game cartridges. “No one is allowed to ...

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Speaking at the Game Developer Conference (GDC) Microsoft studios head Phil Spencer said Microsoft has a “renewed focus on Windows and PC gaming.”  In a response to a question about competing with Valve and their Steam Machines, Spencer stated: “I think Valve’s an incredible company,” Spencer said. “They’ve been the backbone of PC gaming for the last decade, and as the Windows company, I appreciate what they’ve done. They have, in a lot of ways, focused more on PC gaming than we have.” “We learn a ton from Sony and Nintendo,” he said, “so more people competing in this space is a good thing.” “A renewed focus on Windows and PC gaming inside Microsoft is definitely happening,” he continued. “You will see more focus from us — not to go compete with what Valve has done, but because we also understand as the platform holder it’s important for us to invest in the platform ...

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Popular US retailer Walmart has a great deal if you’re in the market to get an Xbox One.  For a limited time you can get an Xbox One for $449, a $50 discount off the retail price, and a digital copy of Titanfall for free, an additional $50 savings.   Sony’s PS4 retails for $399.99.  We recently reported Titanfall has helped boost Xbox One Console Sales Up 96%.  This deal is US only. Order Titanfall from the following links, Order Titanfall Xbox One game from Amazon Order Titanfall PC game from Amazon Order Titanfall Xbox One bundle from the following links. Order Xbox One Titanfall Edition- Amazon Order Xbox One Titanfall Edition – Microsoft Store Source: Walmart via Polygon ...

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The Windows Store has reached 150,000 apps almost a year and half after the release of Windows 8.  For some perspective it took Windows Phone about two years to accomplish the same goal.  Since then the app growth of Windows Phone has stalled somewhat with about 200,000 apps currently. Win Beta reports: While the Windows Store continues to see improvement as the months go by, the app count has struggled to climb. The Windows Store has seen a slow climb in apps since July of 2013, having only jumped up by 50,000 apps in just eight months. Of course, of all these new apps that have been made available, a lot of them are crap or spam apps. Only a handful of the 150,000 apps are actually considered “quality apps” – apps that have a balance between design, content, and usefulness. We are starting to see more quality apps come ...

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Microsoft has been under a storm of criticism lately over reading the emails of a blogger’s Hotmail account linked to an ex-Microsoft employee who leaked Windows 8 builds.  Microsoft looked through the Hotmail account without getting a court order.  However, this issue is slightly more nuanced than it seems.  A corporation, in fact, cannot get a court order to search themselves.  Microsoft Vice President and Deputy General Counsel released a statement clarifying the matter: Courts do not issue orders authorizing someone to search themselves, since obviously no such order is needed. So even when we believe we have probable cause, it’s not feasible to ask a court to order us to search ourselves. However, even we should not conduct a search of our own email and other customer services unless the circumstances would justify a court order, if one were available. Microsoft has issued some guidelines on looking customer data during ...

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It is common practice for corporations to charge the government for data requests.  There is a cost associated with maintaining records and having a legal departments comply with thousands of government requests over a year.  A charge for a request is a balance that ensures governments do not go overboard in data requests.  In fact the government is suing Sprint for over-charging the government for data requests. Documents released by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) show that what appear to be invoices and emails between Microsoft’s Global Criminal Compliance team and the FBI’s Digital Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), and purport to show exactly how much money Microsoft charges DITU, in terms of compliance costs, when DITU provides warrants and court orders for customers’ data.  The SEA has been targeting Microsoft and mostly recently gained access to the Skype social media accounts. In December 2012, for instance, Microsoft emailed DITU a PDF ...

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