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Microsoft Offering Office 365 For Half Price

September 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

One of the obstacles Microsoft is presented with is that some users haven’t upgraded their Office suite for several years, despite the company’s releasing new versions.

Customers pay a relatively large sum for access to apps like Word and Excel, and once they have the functionality they need, there’s little incentive to upgrade. It makes sense from a consumer standpoint, but it means Microsoft isn’t making as much money as it could from the widespread use of Office.

That could be the impetus behind a promotion Microsoft announced Tuesday: Customers who have Windows 10 on their computer but are still running Office 2010 or earlier can now get a one-year Office 365 Personal subscription for $35. That’s half the price Microsoft usually charges for the Personal package, which lets users install its productivity suite on one tablet, one computer and one phone.

It comes the same day that Microsoft launched Office 2016, the latest update to its productivity suite. The update includes a variety of new features, such as integration with Bing search and a “Tell Me” search box that helps users find functionality inside the Office apps without having to comb through a maze of menus.

What’s more, the update enhances collaboration between Office users. One of the marquee features is real-time co-authoring in Word’s desktop app, which lets multiple people work on the same document at the same time and see the edits of other users in real time. The success of that feature relies on the use of Office 2016, which means it’s in Microsoft’s interest to get more people onto Office 365.

Of course, the promotion is only good for a year — users have to pay the full $70 for an Office 365 Personal subscription once their promotional period is up. It’s not clear when the deal will end, either, though it seems unlikely that Microsoft will keep it around forever.





Microsoft Display Ads Business Going To AOL

July 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft Corp that it will hand over its display advertising business to AOL Inc and sell some map-generating technology to ride-hailing app company Uber, as it scales back on unprofitable operations.

The moves mean Microsoft will focus on its growing search advertising business based on its Bing search engine, and displaying maps on its Windows devices rather than generating the maps themselves.

Microsoft, which employs hundreds of people in its display ad business around the world, said those employees would be offered the chance to transfer to AOL and that it was not making any layoffs.

The world’s largest software company no longer breaks out results for its online operations, chiefly its MSN web portal and Bing, but they have lost more than $10 billion over the past five years. Chief Executive Satya Nadella has said Bing will turn a profit next fiscal year.

“Today’s news is evidence of Microsoft’s increased focus on our strengths: in this case, search and search advertising and building great content and consumer services,” saidMicrosoft in a statement.

Under a 10-year deal struck with AOL, now a unit of Verizon Communications Inc ,AOL will sell display ads on MSN,, Xbox, Skype and in some apps in major countries. As part of the deal, Bing will become the search engine behind web searches onAOL starting next year.

Microsoft also struck a multi-year extension to its existing deal with AppNexus, which provides the tech platform for buyers to purchase online ads.

Microsoft and Uber did not disclose financial terms of their deal, under which Uber will take over the part of Microsoft’s mapping unit that works on imagery acquisition and map data processing. Uber will offer jobs to the 100 or so Microsoft employees working in that area, according to a source familiar with the deal.




Yahoo Still Plagued By Sluggish Growth

June 30, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Yahoo’s share gains since November from a partnership with Mozilla may be a clue about whether the search company can gain new users through the just-announced contract to change Internet Explorer’s and Chrome’s default search through installations of Oracle’s Java.

Although the news of the Yahoo-Oracle partnership got the lion’s share of attention, CEO Marissa Mayer also used last week’s shareholder meeting to mention the Mozilla pact.

The five-year contract with Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, has boosted Yahoo’s share of the U.S. search market, but growth has stalled for the last three months, according to measurement company comScore.

On Wednesday, Mayer asserted that the Mozilla deal — negotiated last fall — was “profitable,” but didn’t provide any numbers to back that up. Neither Yahoo nor Mozilla has disclosed how much the former paid to become Firefox’s default search engine in the U.S.

By comScore’s measurement, Yahoo accounted for 12.7% of all U.S. searches in May, the same share it controlled in both March and April. Although that was 2.5 percentage points higher than in November 2014 — before Firefox began urging users to accept Yahoo as the default — and represented a six-month increase of 25%, May’s share was down from the January peak of 13%.

From all indications, Yahoo has gotten as much out of the Firefox deal as it will likely get. The flip-side is that Yahoo has hung onto most of what it grabbed from Google — Firefox’s previous default — even as Google has tried to get users to return.

For May, comScore pegged Google’s share at 64.1%, down one-tenth of a percentage point from the month prior. Microsoft’s share rose that one-tenth of a point to end May at 20.3%. Because Bing powers Yahoo’s search results, Microsoft’s technology accounted for 31.4% of all U.S. searches, still less than half Google’s 65.2%.



Yahoo Beefs Up Mobile Search

June 29, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Yahoo is beefing up its search service on mobile devices, following Google’s lead by highlighting content such as images, videos and reviews ahead of regular search results

The changes will apply to Yahoo search on the mobile web in the U.S., in browsers such as Safari and Chrome. Yahoo’s mobile app and desktop site already provide some additional content within results.

A search on the mobile web for Barack Obama, for instance, displays information about him from Wikipedia, such as his height and birth date, as well as links to news, images and YouTube videos. In one search Thursday, the videos included some curious choices, including “Barack Obama is Illuminati.”

Google already highlights a variety of content related to search queries, including news and related tweets, as well as links to other services like Maps. Microsoft’s Bing does something similar.

Because Yahoo is playing catch-up, the changes might not attract many new users, but they could help it retain people who use Yahoo for mobile searches today.

In the last quarter of 2014, mobile accounted for half of Yahoo’s search traffic in North America, up from 32 percent during the same period in 2013, according to research firm eMarketer.



Microsoft Set To Encrypt All Bing Search Traffic By Default

June 17, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Microsoft will beef up Bing’s security when it begins encrypting all of its search traffic by default this summer.

Bing has offered HTTPS encryption for the past year and a half as an opt-in feature, but now Microsoft will default to locking down everybody’s search queries.

Providing encryption gives a new layer of protection to Bing users and helps guard their traffic from snooping.

With this move, Microsoft catches up to its peers in the search market. In 2011, Google began encrypting searches by default for users who were signed in to their Google account. Starting in 2013, the search giant moved all search traffic through HTTPS. Yahoo, Microsoft’s search alliance partner, began encrypting search traffic from its homepage by default in early 2014.

With the switch to encrypted traffic, Microsoft is also changing the way that webmasters get information about searches that lead to their websites. The company will still offer a referrer string so that website operators and marketers can see that the encrypted traffic is coming from Bing, but won’t provide the exact search term that led people to a page.

Instead, Bing Webmaster Tools will continue to provide aggregated keyword and ranking data so that website operators can keep track of what draws users to their websites along with how they compare with the competition. Advertisers will be able to see what search queries triggered their Bing ads using the Search Query Terms Report, which also provides information on other performance metrics like clicks, impressions and conversions.



Is The Mobile Space Drying Up?

May 22, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Mobile

According to Digitimes, heading into the second quarter of 2015, Taiwan touch panel makers have sudden got conservative outlooks and some are even predicting that their revenues will drop another 15-20 per cent.

he reason is that consumers don’t want game changing tablets and despite the claim that they are moving over to phablets instead the smartphone market is still pretty pants.

While Taiwan’s overall shipments are expected to grow in the second quarter, with makers expected to ship 41.579 million smartphone-use touch panels, increasing 23.5 per cent on quarter but decreasing 22.3 per cent on year. The 8.941 million tablet-use units, are up 7.2 per cent on quarter but down 15 per cent on year.

Tablet makers are hurting the most. Those who focus on the application such as TPK are expected to see a 15-20 per cent decline in revenues during the second quarter before rebounding in the second half of the year when product mixes are adjusted and new orders from customers arrive.

Young Fast Optoelectronics company chairman Pai Chih-chiang said that they were also having to face price competition and this will get worse.

Young Fast aims to reduce spending and cut costs in order to react to this trend, which arose largely due to competition from China. The company will also focus on developing larger-size products in addition to wearable solutions while increasing utilization rates, said Pai, adding it will lower its emphasis on consumer-based products.



Bing Follows Google In Favoring Mobile-Friendly Sites

May 19, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft is changing how it ranks Bing search results for mobile users, prioritizing sites that display better on smaller screens to accommodate the increased use of mobile search.

The changes, announced Thursday, come less than a month after Google started prioritizing mobile-optimized sites in its search results. Both companies are looking to attract more users by providing a better search experience on smartphones and tablets.

Microsoft said it expects to roll out the changes in the coming months. Sites that display well on smaller screens will also be flagged with a new “mobile friendly” tag.

In the U.S. last year, Bing had roughly 6 percent of the mobile search market, compared with Google’s 83 percent, according to figures from StatCounter.

The changes don’t mean mobile-optimized sites will necessarily appear at the top of results. “You can always expect to see the most relevant results for a search query ranked higher, even if some of them are not mobile friendly,” Microsoft said.

It considers a variety of elements to decide which sites display best on smartphones and tablets. For example, sites with large navigational elements that are spaced well apart will be prioritized, as well as sites that don’t require a lot of zooming and lateral scrolling. Bing will also favor sites with mobile-compatible content. That means pages with Flash content, which doesn’t work well on iOS devices, might get demoted.

Microsoft highlighted Fandango’s mobile site as one that will be prioritized under the changes, more so than

The company has also developed a tool to help webmasters assess the mobile friendliness of their sites. It will be made available in a few weeks.





Microsoft To Allow Android, iOS Apps To Be Ported To Windows Phones

May 1, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

Microsoft Corp is will remove obstacles for apps written for rival Google Inc’s  Android and Apple Inc’s iOS systems to work on Windows phones, in a bid to attract users to its unpopular mobile devices, the company’s operating systems chief said.

The move marks a radical shift in strategy for the world’s biggest software company, which still dominates the personal computer market but has failed to get any real traction on tablets and phones, partly because of a lack of apps.

Microsoft has found itself in a circular trap, as many developers will not build apps for Windows phones which have few users, and few people want the phones which have fewer apps than Android or Apple phones.

Getting apps built for Android and iOS onto its phones and tablets could be a shortcut to breaking out of that trap.

“Microsoft is making a major play to win back developers,” said Forrester analyst Michael Facemire. “They’ve opened up the once-impenetrable castle walls.”

Speaking at Microsoft’s developer conference in San Francisco on Wednesday, Executive Vice President Terry Myerson said developers will be able to use the vast majority of their Android code to turn their apps into Windows-compatible versions, which will work on Windows phones running a special subsystem.

The apps will technically be Windows apps and available only through Microsoft’s online app store. The apps would automatically use Microsoft’s services such as Bing maps, rather than Google’s services, as an app would on an Android phone. That is a crucial distinction because Google gets revenue from ads on services rather than from the Android system itself.

Myerson also announced a surprise move to make it easier for iOS developers to make Windows apps, saying that Microsoft’s developer software will be compatible with Objective C, the main programming language used by Apple.

Microsoft, which bought Nokia’s handset business last year, has only 3 percent of the global smartphone market. By contrast, Android phones, led by Samsung, control 81 percent of the market and Apple 15 percent, according to Strategy Analytics.




EU Preparing To File Anti-trust Charges Against Google

April 3, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Europe’s competition regulator is setting the stage to bring charges against Google Inc in the antitrust investigation over the next few weeks, according to the Wall Street Journal, citing a person familiar with the matter.

The European Commission is asking companies that filed complaints against Google for permission to publish some of the information they submitted confidentially, the Journal said, citing several people familiar with the requests.

Antitrust experts said the requests were a strong indication that formal antitrust charges were being prepared in the case, the Journal said.

Google was not immediately available to comment.

The U.S. search giant has been engaged in a five-year-old antitrust investigation with the European Union that has stalled multiple times and caused a political uproar.

While European Union lawmakers overwhelmingly backed a motion in November urging anti-trust regulators to break up Google, the U.S. Mission to the European Union had suggested that politicians should not influence the inquiry.

A panel of experts appointed by Google to advise it on how to implement EU’s “right to be forgotten” ruling, had suggested in February that the links be removed only from websites in Europe.

European privacy regulators, however, want Internet search engines such as Google and Microsoft’s Bing to scrub results globally, not just in Europe.


Antitrust Case Against Google Over Android Apps Dismissed

February 24, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Mobile

A federal judge has dismissed an antitrust lawsuit that alleged Google harmed consumers by forcing Android mobile phone makers to use its apps by default. The plaintiffs were given three weeks to amend their complaint.

The two consumers who filed the suit failed to show that Google’s allegedly illegal restrictive contracts on manufacturers of Android devices resulted in higher prices on phones, U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman said in a Feb. 20 ruling.

The complainants, who were seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, said that Google required manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics, to set the search giant’s own apps as default options on Android-based phones, restricting access to competing software such as Microsoft’s Bing search engine. The complaint alleged that this practice limited competition in the search engine market, stifled innovation and resulted in higher prices for phones.

But Freeman ruled that the complainants failed to establish a link between software requirements and phone pricing, also noting that “there are no facts alleged to indicate that defendant’s conduct has prevented consumers from freely choosing among search products or prevented competitors from innovating.”

She gave the plaintiffs three weeks to amend the antitrust complaint, filed in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California.



Is Microsoft Starting To Own The Cloud Space?

January 13, 2015 by Michael  
Filed under Computing

Software giant Microsoft has released a new virtual machine type to Azure which can run on up to 32  Xeon E5 v3 cores and 448 GB of RAM.

Redmond says that the G series can provide the most memory, the highest processing power and the largest amount of local SSD of any Virtual Machine size currently available in the public cloud.

If the stats Microsoft has released to support its claim to be cloud king are correct, then it starts to look like Redmond really is putting the fear of the gods into its rivals.

Amazon Web Services’ i2.8xlarge and r3.8xlarge EC2 instances can claim 32 CPUs, but they are older Xeons and have t less RAM than Microsoft, at a mere 244GB.

Google’s n1-highcpu-16 instance has 16 vCPUs. Rackspace tops out at 120GB of storage, but can manage 32 Xeon v3 CPUs. SoftLayer tops out at 16CPUs and 64GB of RAM. VMware’s vCloud Air does things a little differently as it lets one buy bundles of compute, storage and memory, claims “virtually unlimited” resources and also offers monthly bundles with 30Ghz CPU capacity. That is less than what one can expect from 32 Xeon v3 cores.

All up it is looking like Microsoft is going to become a serious contender in the cloud space in a way that cannot be matched by its rivals.



Mozilla, Yahoo Partnership Has Been A Boon For Firefox

January 12, 2015 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Mozilla’s partnership with Yahoo has quadrupled the search provider’s usage by those running Firefox in the U.S., but the browser’s users still prefer Google, according to data from an Irish analytics company.

Data provided to Computerworld by StatCounter showed that Yahoo’s search engine referred more than four times the number of pages visited by Firefox 34 than did the browser’s predecessor, Firefox 33, in the U.S.

Mozilla changed the default search from Google to Yahoo when it released Firefox 34 on Dec. 1. Firefox 33, which a small percentage of users continue to run, uses Google as its default search provider.

StatCounter’s numbers, described as usage share, are based on the number of page views each browser accumulates on the three million sites that deploy the firm’s analytics package, so they are more an indication of activity than a user tally. The company counts page referrals from search providers, not search queries.

As of Jan. 6, Yahoo’s search usage share on Firefox 34 was 32.2%, or more than four times the 7.5% that Yahoo had on Firefox 33 on the same day.

The Yahoo increase in Firefox 34 came at the expense of Google, which had a 60.8% share in that version, significantly lower than the 86.1% in Firefox 33. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Bing search engine, at 5.5% in Firefox 34, was only slightly up from the 5.4% in Firefox 33.

On Jan. 6, StatCounter’s search provider usage shares for all browsers in the U.S. were 75.3% for Google, 12.4% for Bing and 10.5% for Yahoo. In other words, Firefox 34 users were more than three times likelier to reach a destination page from a Yahoo search than the U.S. average because of the new default.



Facebook Drops Bing From Search Results

December 15, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Uncategorized

Facebook Inc has discontinued including results from Microsoft Corp’s Bing search engine on its social networking site.

The move, confirmed by a company spokesperson, comes as Facebook has revamped its own search offerings, introducing a tool on Monday that allows users to quickly find past comments and other information posted by their friends on Facebook.

The decision may reflect the increasing importance that Facebook sees in Web search technology, a market dominated by rival Google Inc.

Searches on Facebook have long been geared toward helping users connect with friends and to find other information that exists within the walls of the 1.35 billion-user social networking service. But for years, Facebook’s search results also included links to standalone websites that were provided by Bing.

“We’re not currently showing web search results in Facebook Search because we’re focused on helping people find what’s been shared with them on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. “We continue to have a great partnership with Microsoft in lots of different areas.”

Microsoft was not immediately available for comment.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has flagged search as one of the company’s key growth initiatives, noting in July that there were more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day and hinting that the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers to certain questions.

“There is more than a trillion posts, which some of the search engineers on the team like to remind me, is bigger than any Web search corpus out there,” Zuckerberg said on a conference call with analysts in July.

Microsoft’s Bing is the No.2 Web search provider in the U.S., with a nearly 20 percent share of the market according to industry research firm comScore.

Facebook and Microsoft have a longstanding relationship dating back to Microsoft’s $240 million investment in Facebook, for a 1.6 percent stake in the company, in October 2007. As part of that deal, Microsoft provided banner ads on Facebook’s website in international markets.



Microsoft To Focus On Integrating Bing Into Other Apps, Products

November 7, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Computing

Microsoft’s director of search admitted that its Bing search engine doesnt’ compete well 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 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 areport 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, toldComputerworld 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%.




Google Adds More Cities To Shopping Delivery Service

October 16, 2014 by mphillips  
Filed under Around The Net

Google Inc announed that it would be expanding its same-day shopping delivery service to three additional U.S. cities and start charging customers for the service, which competes with Inc.

The Google Express service, which was earlier only available in certain parts of California and New York City, will be expanded to Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C., Google said in a blog.

Membership for the service, which was earlier called Google Shopping Express, will cost $95 a year, or $10 a month.

Online retailer Amazon’s same-day delivery service, called Prime, charges customers $99 per year, after a free one-year trial.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, at a public speech made in Berlin on Monday, called Amazon its “biggest search competitor”, the Financial Times and other media reported.

“Many people think our main competition is Bing or Yahoo. But, really, our biggest search competitor is Amazon,” the FT quoted Schmidt as saying.

Schmidt said internet users are likely to go directly to the retailer if they are shopping.