Microsoft will rollout mobile device management (MDM) capabilities to Office 365 in 2015, making it easier for firms to manage corporate data across a range of mobile devices, including those running iOS and Android as well as Windows.
Microsoft unveiled the updates coming to its Office 365 cloud-delivered productivity suite in 2015 at its TechEd Europe conference.
These will enable customers to apply security policies against devices that connect to Office 365 to ensure that email and documents can be accessed only by approved devices, plus the ability to remotely wipe Office 365 data if necessary.
Julia White, Microsoft general manager for Office 365, said that the updates will enable customers to offer “conditional access” to Office documents and email, such as ensuring that any device used by employees has not been jailbroken or rooted, which could potentially pose a security risk.
Administrators will be able to set policies directly from the Office 365 administration portal, and enforce the use of a Pin to secure access to the device. Any wipe of Office 365 content will not affect the user’s personal data, White added.
These MDM features coming to Office 365 are actually powered by Microsoft’s Intune cloud-based management service and are a subset of Intune’s capabilities, the firm disclosed.
Intune itself is also getting some upgrades that will enable customers to benefit from additional security features if they also subscribe to Intune.
These will include data leak prevention measures that enable policies to be applied against managed applications, preventing users from copying and pasting data from an Office 365 app to another, for example, or copying files from Office 365 to elsewhere on the device.
While these capabilities are built in to Office 365, Microsoft will also enable this to be extended to other applications using Intune app wrapper functionality, White said.
White also confirmed that Microsoft is working on an Android version of the Office for iPad suite of mobile productivity tools that the firm announced for Apple’s tablet platform earlier this year.
Microsoft’s Office announcement comes amid speculation that the firm will release Office for Android next month.
After releasing a string of AAA console titles to varying levels of commercial success, the UK-based studio is attempting to establish what it describes as a “third way” of making games – one that falls somewhere between what we have traditionally called AAA and Indie. Smaller scale, lower cost, with no sacrifices made in terms of creative risks and quality of execution.
“We’re taking our work on Hellblade as an opportunity to question the way the games industry has always done things,” said product development manager Dominic Matthews in a recent developer diary. “To see if there’s a better way, a more streamlined way. To create amazing quality on a smaller budget.”
As a result, Hellblade has a core team of 12 people, with a single person working in the majority of discipline areas. Ninja Theory is committed to finding affordable or homebrew alternatives to the high-end processes associated with its previous games – the performance capture used in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, for example – but its sales target will remain eminently achievable: between 200,000 and 300,000 units.
“[Hellblade] is about what we feel passionate about, what we’re good at, and what we think our fans and supporters want from a game,” said Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory’s co-founder. “But it comes at a price. We have to self-fund this game, and we have to work within the restrictions that that means for us.”
ZDNet blogger Mary Jo Foley first reported on comments made by Julia White, general manager of marketing for Office and Office 365, at Microsoft’s Tech Ed Europe conference in Barcelona.
According to Foley, White said that the next version of Office on Windows would launch in the last half of next year, a broad timetable that was different from previous speculation, which had focused on the first half of 2015, perhaps as early as April.
During the end of a guest spot Tuesday on Channel 9, Microsoft’s online television channel, White did not specify the second half of the year, saying only “later in 2015.” But she did mention that the next version of Office would go through Microsoft’s typical testing process, including TAP (Technology Adoption Program) and a beta, with the latter presumably available to the general public.
TAP builds are pre-beta, and restricted to an invite-only group that’s usually composed of Microsoft’s larger corporate customers.
Microsoft confirmed that White’s comments were accurate as reported.
If Microsoft makes its target of the second half of next year, the upgrade would be on the same schedule as the last several editions, which have been released about two-and-a-half-years apart. Office 2013, for example, reached what Microsoft calls “general availability” in January 2013, while Office 2010 and Office 2007 made that milestone in June 2010 and January 2007, respectively.
The next office, code named Office 16, would carry the official label of Office 2016 if Microsoft follows convention.
Computer Emergency Response Team (US-CERT) has warned that industrial control systems (ICS) in the US have been compromised by the BlackEnergy malware for at least two years.
The BlackEnergy family of malware is believed to be the same used in the cyber attack against Georgia in 2008.
It uses a malicious decoy document to hide its activities, making it easier for the hackers to mount follow-up attacks.
US-CERT said the malware campaign is sophisticated and “ongoing”, and attackers taking advantage of it have compromised unnamed ICS operators, planting it on internet-facing human machine interfaces (HMI) including those from GE Cimplicity, Advantech/Broadwin WebAccess, and Siemens WinCC.
It is currently unknown whether other vendors’ products have also been targeted, according to US-CERT.
“At this time, Industrial Control Systems-CERT has not identified any attempts to damage, modify or otherwise disrupt the victim systems’ control processes,” said the team in an alert.
“ICS-CERT has not been able to verify if the intruders expanded access beyond the compromised HMI into the remainder of the underlying control system.
“However, typical malware deployments have included modules that search out any network-connected file shares and removable media for additional lateral movement within the affected environment.”
US-CERT describes the malware as “highly modular”, and said that not all functionality is deployed to all victims.
An analysis run by the team identified the probable initial infection vector for systems running GE’s Cimplicity HMI with a direct connection to the internet.
“Analysis of victim system artefacts has determined that the actors have been exploiting a vulnerability (CVE-2014-0751) in GE’s Cimplicity HMI product since at least January 2012,” the alert read.
On Monday, US-CERT also warned of attacks spreading the Dyre banking malware, which steals victims’ credentials.
The department said that, since mid-October, a phishing campaign had targeted “a wide variety of recipients”, but elements, such as the exploits, email themes, and claimed senders of the campaign, “vary from target to target”.
“A system infected with Dyre banking malware will attempt to harvest credentials for online services, including banking services,” the alert warned.
WD announced that it will begin shipping larger capacity drives in its surveillance series.
The WD Purple range, launched in February, will now include a 6TB version designed for use in video surveillance environments.
WD Purple drives are capable of recording in groups of eight hard drives, monitoring a total of 32 high-definition camera feeds.
“Video surveillance has long been a pioneering Internet of Things application,” said Matt Rutledge, senior vice president and general manager of WD’s Storage Technology group.
“Driven by machine-to-machine interaction between high-resolution, high bit-rate video cameras and high-capacity surveillance video recorders, IoT brings access and big data analytics to improve users’ security. WD Purple 6TB drives enable innovation in this fast growing market.”
As well as the storage credentials, the firmware of the drives contains a few surprises. Allframe reduces video frame loss, improves playback and increases the number of drives supported. This is coupled with regular firmware updates that improve the quality and reliability of the playback.
Intelliseek analyses its environment to optimise searching speeds for the temperature, system resource workload and power consumption in a given situation, while reducing noise and vibration.
The 6TB version is shipping now at $300. It joins the existing range with capacities from 1TB to 5TB.
WD has had a busy year across its consumer and enterprise ranges, releasing the WD Red and WD Red Pro, the WD Ae range for cold storage, featuring incremental disc sizes, and most recently its first wireless addition to the decade-old My Passport range for consumers.
Nvidia Tegra TK1 is being shunned by major phone designers as if it were suffering from ebola, our industry sources have confirmed.
It looks like that 2013 is the year of Qualcomm and that every significant design win has Qualcomm processor inside.
Mediatek is trying the Tegra TK1with the entry level phones but they still have to prove themselves in the mainstream and high end phones that the European or USA phone market craves. They could get there in time, but didn’t manage it in 2013.
Tegra TK1 32-bit quad core managed a few design wins but none of them were in phones. Nvidia is using the chip for its own Jetson TK1 development board that gathered some nice revenues. There was also the Shield tablet, which was not eaten by Hydra, the Acer Chromebook 13, HP Chromebook 14, Lenovo ThinkVision 28 and the XiaoMi MiPad.
The XiaoMi tablet seems to be selling like hotcakes, although, since most of the sales are in China, the word hot cakes should probably be steamed pork buns. The XiaoMi tablet almost resembles Nexus 9 specification, if you look at it in the right light, but sells for half of its price. The Tegra TK1 64 bit, aka Denver, won a design award with the HTC Nexus 9 and this looks like it will sell in buckets. Nvidia also has Google Project Tango tablet, but this won’t sell in any serious numbers as this is more of a developer’s toy rather than a retail product.
However by the end of October 2014 there was no a single phone design win with Tegra K1 32-bit or 64-bit. Nvidia Tegra 4i Gray chip was greeted with a loud sounding yawn when it showed in a Wiko Wax , Blackphone and LG G2 mini LTE for the South American market. None of them was really a huge seller for Nvidia.
The 64 bit Tegra K1 might get some attention but it looks like that phones based on 64 bit Tegra K1 Denver might not show up until early 2015 at the earliest. Meanwhile the Snapdragon 810, Qualcomm’s 64-bit high chip will appear at the Mobile World Congress phone by that time. People are already claiming that the Snapdragon 810 is inside of Samsung Galaxy S6 and we would be surprised if it was not in the LG G3 successor (LG G4) or HTC M8 successor which will probably be dubbed the HTC One M9.
This doesn’t leave Nvidia much space for success in phones but then again Tegra is selling in cars, developers’ boards (such as Jetson Dev Kit), Chromebook and the occasional tablet.
No-one can win in all markets and it seems that Tegra powered Chromebooks perform quite well and that Nvidia is top choice for most car manufactures. However the phone market that might be too hot for Nvidia Tegra TK1 32-bit to handle. We will see if Denver, the 64-bit Tegra K1 or its successor can change things in 2015.
For the three months ending Sept. 30, Microsoft recorded $908 million in revenue for the Surface tablet line, an increase of 127% over the same quarter in 2013. The nearly one billion in revenue was a one-quarter record for the Surface, and beat the combined revenue of the previous two quarters.
Using information in Microsoft’s filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), as well as data from earlier quarters, Computerworld calculated the quarter’s cost of that revenue at $786 million, leaving a gross margin of $122 million. Cost of revenue is the cost to make and sell a product, but excludes expenses such as advertising and R&D.
Microsoft said that the Surface line posted a positive gross margin — implying that outside estimates of prior losses were correct — but did not disclose a dollar figure.
According to Computerworld‘s estimate, the margin was small, about 13.4%. That’s more than the average for a Windows personal computer, but less than half or a third of the margins on tablets like Apple’s iPad.
It was even smaller by the figuring of Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, who has also used Microsoft’s SEC filings to estimate the Surface’s cost of revenue. He pegged the September quarter’s cost of revenue at $825 million, the gross margin at $83 million, and the margin rate at just 9.1%.
“That’s a gross margin … which is not earth-shattering and in fact about half the gross margin of the phone business at Microsoft. But it’s progress,” Dawson wrote on his blog, where he published his analysis of Surface’s financial performance.
Since its October 2012 introduction, Surface has been a money pit for Microsoft, in the hole to the tune of $1.73 billion through its first seven quarters. With the September quarter in the black, those overall losses have been reduced to about $1.6 billion.
Over the last four quarters, Surface also remained in the red, with losses of $325 million on revenue of $2.7 billion. Put another way, for each dollar Microsoft earned on Surface sales, it lost about 12 cents.
In an interview that Xbox head Phil Spencer gave to IGN, he says that a new IP is in development at one of Microsoft’s development studios. It apparently isn’t a new racing or military space marine title.
Spencer says that the Xbox brand needs “new stories and new characters” which provide a “canvas to try new things.” He went on to add that “Sunset Overdrive is a great example of a game that isn’t like anything else in our portfolio, and he thinks that is great. I want to continue to invest in things which push the boundaries.”
Spencer believes that it has to be a commitment from the first-party publisher to try things that are new and unique. While he would not offer a clue as to which studio might be working on this new IP or what the new IP might be, he does seem to imply that there is at least more than one internal/external studio that is working on unannounced games for Microsoft studios.
In the interview he again says that he wants RARE to be more than the Kinect Sports developer and he is in fact heading out to see them soon to look at a new pitch from the studio.
The company that owns Chili’s Grill & Bar also said it will complete a tablet ordering system rollout next month at its U.S. restaurants. Applebee’s announced last December that it would deliver tablets to 1,800 restaurants this year.
The pace of self-ordering system deployments appears to be gaining speed. But there’s a political element to this and it’s best to address it quickly.
The move toward more automation comes at the same time pressure to raise minimum wages is growing. A Wall Street Journal editorial this week, “Minimum Wage Backfire,” said that while it may be true for McDonald’s to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also “a convenient way…to justify a reduction in the chain’s global workforce.”
The Journal faulted those who believe that raising fast food wages will boost stagnant incomes. “The result of their agitation will be more jobs for machines and fewer for the least skilled workers,” it wrote.
The elimination of jobs because of automation will happen anyway. Gartner says software and robots will replace one third of all workers by 2025, and that includes many high-skilled jobs, too.
Automation is hardly new to retail. Banks rely on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. But McDonald’s hasn’t changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry.
The move to kiosk and mobile ordering, said Tristano, is happening because it will improve order accuracy, speed up service and has the potential of reducing labor cost, which can account for about 30% of costs. But automated self-service is a convenience that’s now expected, particularly among younger customers, he said.
“It’s keeping up with the times, and the (McDonald’s) franchises are going to clamor for it,” said Tristano, who said any labor savings is actually at the bottom of the list of reasons restaurants are putting in these self-service systems.
The company released Rooms on Thursday, its answer to the craze around posting and sharing anonymously. People can use any name they want and don’t need a Facebook account. The app contains rooms geared around various topics, all of which require an invite link to enter. Providing an email address is optional, for the purposes of having accessed rooms restored if the user deletes the app.
The app is only available on iOS. Plans for other platforms like Android or Windows Phone were not disclosed.
The app is not just about anonymity. With it, Facebook hopes to provide a discussion board-type platform where users can chat about shared interests outside of their usual social circles. It’s a concept that has been super popular since, oh, the web’s been around.
“One of the magical things about the early days of the web was connecting to people who you would never encounter otherwise in your daily life,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.
“From unique obsessions and unconventional hobbies, to personal finance and health-related issues — you can celebrate the sides of yourself that you don’t always show to your friends,” the company said.
But the app’s ability to succeed likely depends on the number and diversity of rooms created by its users, and whether the app’s focus on visuals and photos appeals to them. There’s also no desktop version.
The app was developed as part of Facebook’s Creative Labs project, which has also released stand-alone apps like Slingshot and Paper.
Facebook stresses that Rooms will let users create a unique identity separate from their Facebook account. Your name can be “Wonder Woman” in the app, Facebook said.
I tried out the app, and was even able to use “Mark Zuckerberg” as my name. (A short “hello” post of mine then immediately generated several “high fives.”)
Facebook, however, may share information about Room users within the companies and services operated by Facebook, which would include Facebook itself and other apps like Instagram and WhatsApp, according to the Rooms terms of service.
Market research firm Gartner surveyed 4,300 U.S. consumers in June who work at large companies (with more than 1,000 employees) and found 40% used personally owned smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktops as a primary or supplemental business device.
That 40% might not be unusual, but more surprisingly, Gartner found that 45% of workers not required to use a personal device for work were doing so without their employer’s knowledge.
“Almost half [are using their device] without their employer’s awareness,” said Gartner analyst Amanda Sabia in an interview.
“Are those without employer’s awareness violating a rule? That would depend on the employer,” Sabia added. “The point is that some CIOs are underestimating [the number of] employees using their devices and should be prepared for this.”
The Gartner survey found the most popular personally owned device used for work was a desktop computer, at 42%, closely followed by a smartphone, at 40%, a laptop, at 36%, and a tablet, at 26%.
“The lines between work and play are becoming more and more blurred as employees choose to use their own device for work purposes whether sanctioned by an employer or not,” Sabia said. “Devices once bought for personal use are increasingly used for work.”
As detailed in a Google security blog post, a compatible USB Security Key can now be used to log-in to Google accounts with two-step authentication.
The addition of the USB Security Key, Google claims, ensures that the log-in website is an actual Google website and not a fake.
Two-step authentication normally asks the user to enter a secret code sent to their phone in addition to entering their password online.
This process prevents potential attackers using passwords that might have been stolen or guessed in order to impersonate account holders, as presumably they won’t have the user’s phone to enter the code.
The USB Security Key adds another layer of protection to the process. Instead of entering a secret code, the user can simply insert their USB Security Key in their computer and tap when prompted in Google’s Chrome web browser.
Google said: “When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished.”
The USB Security Key implements the open Universal 2nd Factor protocol promoted by the FIDO Alliance, which means it can be used by other web browsers in addition to Chrome and other websites in addition to Google’s.
Google has recently enhanced the level of security it provides, and the extension of two-step authentication to include a physical security key is simply another step.
The update, designated as Build 9860, followed the Oct. 1 release of the preview, which Microsoft has offered businesses and technology enthusiasts to give potential customers a look at the work in progress and collect feedback during development.
The Oct. 1 version of Windows 10 was labeled Build 9841.
“Sometimes [updates] will be more frequent and sometimes there will be longer gaps, but they will always be chock full of changes and improvements, as well as some bugs and things that are not quite done,” wrote Gabe Aul, of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group on a company blog.
Aul said that Build 9860 had been handed to his group only a week ago, and repeated earlier warnings by other Microsoft managers that the preview remains incomplete and unpolished.
Although rapid iterations are nothing new to preview or beta software, Microsoft plans to accelerate the delivery of updates — ones that will include not only security patches and performance fixes, but also new features — once Windows 10 officially ships in mid-2015.
Updates will ship as often as monthly for consumers, while businesses will be able to choose between that and two additional tempos that Gartner has tagged as “near-consumer speed” and “long-term servicing.” The former will roll up the “consumer-speed” updates every four to six months to versions that fast-acting enterprises will test and deploy, while the latter will remain feature- and UI-static for as long as two to three years, receiving only security updates.
Other analysts have contended that Microsoft is pushing frequent updates to Windows 10 Technical Preview as much to test the process — both the back-end Windows Update service and the Windows 10 clients’ ability to absorb the changes and smoothly install the updates — as for the company’s stated reasons of gathering feedback and offering users an early look.
“Changes in Windows Update were put in place to make this possible,” Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, said in an interview earlier this month. “The biggest question for Microsoft is how the updating process works with the Technical Preview.”
In the preview, customers have an update frequently choice of only “Fast” or “Slow.”
Build 9860 will be delivered automatically to most PCs running Windows 10 within days, but users can manually initiate the process by going to “PC Settings,” choosing “Update and recovery” and then “Preview builds,” and finally clicking the “Check Now” button.
Aul said that the download would weigh in at between 2GB and 2.7GB, and that the reboot, the reconstruction of the OS’s search index, and the syncing of OneDrive would take “longer than normal” and “some time.”
Microsoft will ship a second consumer-oriented preview in early 2015, but it’s virtually certain that the firm will provide more-or-less-monthly updates to the Technical Preview between now and then.
The firm claims that its IBM Internet of Things Foundation service “makes it possible for a developer to quickly and easily extend an internet-connected device such as a sensor or controller into the [IBM Bluemix] cloud”, and then “build an application [for] the device to collect the data and send real-time insights back to the developer’s business”.
IBM promotes its Bluemix cloud services as an open standards cloud platform for building, managing and running all types of applications for the web, mobile, big data and smart devices.
Big Blue says its Internet of Things Foundation service “delivers rapid access to, and provides valuable insights from, IoT device data coming from billions of internet-connected sensors and controllers”.
The firm cited IDC estimates that there are already nine billion IoT devices in the world, and that there will be as many as 28 billion IoT devices by 2020.
IBM foresees that by providing IoT devices connectivity in cloud services, “equipment and asset manufacturers can use IoT to provide remote service and monitoring to residential and commercial customers, oil and gas companies can remotely monitor and provide predictive maintenance to critical equipment, and logistics companies can track and monitor the condition of goods in transit”, as just some of the industrial, consumer services and financial applications of IoT-enabled systems.
“Think of the IoT Foundation as an extremely fast on-ramp to the cloud for the millions of intelligent IoT devices that are now being shipped, and the billions already internet connected,” said IBM Internet of Things VP John R. Thompson.
IBM said it plans to enlist partners for its IoT efforts, which it expects will include ARM, B&B Electronics, Elecsys, Intel, Multi-Tech Systems and Texas Instruments. Along with these partners, it plans to develop a set of certified instructions, or “recipes” for connecting IoT devices, sensors and gateways.
IBM Bluemix cloud services are already available for developers worldwide, and the IBM Internet of Things Foundation will be available from 21 October. You will need an IBM account to participate, of course.
TSMC has announced that it will begin volume production of 16nm FinFET products in the second half of 2015, in late Q2 or early Q3.
For consumers, this means products based on TSMC 16nm FinFET silicon should appear in late 2015 and early 2016. The first TSMC 16nm FinFET product was announced a few weeks ago.
TSMC executive CC Wei said sales of 16nm FinFET products should account for 7-9% of the foundry’s total revenue in Q4 2015. The company already has more than 60 clients lined up for the new process and it expects 16nm FinFET to be its fastest growing process ever.
Although TSMC is not talking about the actual clients, we already know the roster looks like the who’s who of tech, with Qualcomm, AMD, Nvidia and Apple on board.
This also means the 20nm node will have a limited shelf life. The first 20nm products are rolling out as we speak, but the transition is slow and if TSMC sticks to its schedule, 20nm will be its top node for roughly a year, giving it much less time on top than earlier 28nm and 40nm nodes.
The road to 10nm
TSMC’s 16nm FinFET, or 16FinFET, is just part of the story. The company hopes to tape out the first 10nm products in 2015, but there is no clear timeframe yet.
Volume production of 10nm products is slated for 2016, most likely late 2016. As transitions speed up, TSMC capex will go up. The company expects to invest more than $10bn in 2015, up from $9.6bn this year.
TSMC expects global smartphone shipments to reach 1.5bn units next year, up 19 percent year-on-year. Needless to say, TSMC silicon will power the majority of them.