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Microsoft Launches IE11 Developer Preview For Windows 7, Updates Modern.IE With New Tools

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Almost exactly a month ago, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 11 as part of the Windows 8.1 preview and today, it is also launching a developer preview of IE11 for Windows 7.

Sandeep Singhal, Microsoft’s group program manager for IE, told me earlier this week that IE11 for Windows 7 will bring all of the advances of IE11 for Windows 8.1 to users of Microsoft’s older operating system. One area Microsoft has focused on with this release is speed, including a much-improved JavaScript engine and a stronger emphasis on GPU hardware acceleration for 2D and 3D content, including fonts, JPG images and WebGL-based experiences.

IE11 is Microsoft’s first browser to embrace the WebGL standard for accessing the computer’s GPU for rendering advanced 2D and 3D experiences. As Microsoft’s senior program manager for IE Frank Olivier told me, his team has worked hard to ensure that WebGL in IE (both on Windows 7 and 8.1) is as safe as possible and can’t crash the system (it does, after all, allow very low-level access to your hardware). Indeed, Olivier showed me a demo that stressed IE11 s WebGL implementation to the point where it crashes. IE11 handles this situation gracefully and simply restarts its WebGL core as needed.

To show off IE11 s WebGL features, the company teamed up with GlacierWorks, a site that aims to raise awareness about the effect of climate change in the Himalayas, to add more WebGL content to its site.

Fast, But Not SPDY On Windows 7

All of these features will also be available to Windows 7 users and Singhal expects the Windows 7 version to offer virtually the same performance as on the new operating system. One feature Microsoft doesn’t bring to Windows 7, though, is support for Google’s SPDY networking protocol.

As for Windows 8, Microsoft tells me that it will ship IE11 with the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. Microsoft clearly expects most Windows 8 users to upgrade to 8.1 and it doesn’t look like it plans to make IE11 available as a standalone download for 8.

With today’s update for Windows 7, Microsoft is also updating modern.IE, its site for tools and resources for developing for IE. The site now features virtual machines for testing IE11 on Windows 8.1 and Windows 7, as well as a new screenshot tool that lets you see how your sites look across different browsers and devices. For a limited time, Microsoft is also offering developers a 25 percent discount on Parallels for Mac so they can run these virtual machines. IE11 itself, it’s worth noting, also includes a number of updated developer tools.


Ballmer Admits What We All Knew: Microsoft Built Far Too Many Surfaces

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At an internal meeting, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that the company overproduced the Surface RT tablet, leading to its recent $150 per unit price cut. As quoted by The Verge’s Tom Warren, Ballmer plainly explained that the company “built a few more devices than [it] could sell.”

But we already knew that.

In its most recent quarterly earnings release, Microsoft took a $900 million charge relating to the Surface RT tablet line, essentially admitting that the inventory that it has on hand was not worth its previous internal valuation; you can’t cut the market price of a product that you have in a warehouse and not lower its value on your books. The write down cost Microsoft $0.07 per share. It missed expectations for the quarter.

Microsoft has been on a mission to clear Surface RT inventory for some time. As I wrote earlier this year, through a combination of giveaways and discounts, Microsoft was moving to liquidate what appeared to be mountainous superfluous unit volume of its ARM-based Windows tablet hybrid.

At that time, Microsoft released a bland statement, saying that the offers and handouts were in “response” to the “positive reaction” Surface had enjoyed since launch. That felt a bit backwards: If response had been so strong, why give away a single device or discount? Wouldn’t organic demand be sufficient? Well, as it turns out, reaction hasn’t been overly positive, so the entire argument was logically moot.

Ballmer said something else during the meeting that is a non-surprise: Microsoft is not selling as many Windows devices as it would like. We knew that, too. The figures released quarterly that describe the PC market are brutal – and dropping. Even Apple is suffering from declining Mac sales in the face of nearly insurmountable headwinds that it helped to create with its leadership of post-PC product categories.

Next-generation Surface devices are being designed and tested. I suspect that Microsoft learned its lesson regarding production volume: Prove product-market fit first, and then kick the afterburners.

Top Image Credit: BUILDWindows

Microsoft cuts Xbox One price to £399.99 in the UK, Titanfall bundle pre-orders to cost the same

169194789 520x245 Microsoft cuts Xbox One price to   399.99 in the UK, Titanfall bundle pre orders to cost the same

Microsoft is cutting the price of the Xbox One to 399.99 in the UK, as it seeks to stimulate sales alongside its highly-anticipated first person shooter exclusive Titanfall.

The reduced price tag will take effect this Friday (February 28), exactly two weeks before the new title from Respawn Entertainment hits store shelves in the region. While stocks last, Microsoft will also throw in a free copy of Titanfall if you pre-order the title alongside a new Xbox One. That means you’re picking up the console for 30 less, with a full-price game (anywhere up to 50) for a grand total of 80 in savings.

The new Titanfall bundle will also be available in the US, although Microsoft will be sticking to its original price of $499 for the Xbox One.

There’s more! From today in the UK: pre-order #XboxOne with #Titanfall 399.99 Details: http://t.co/o8wqpY6CL9 pic.twitter.com/8ZpTcnTMBZ

- Xbox UK (@xboxuk) February 24, 2014

While the Xbox One is selling well, in these early months it’s started lagging behind the PlayStation 4 in crucial markets such as the US. While sales figures for the UK haven’t been broken out, this would suggest Sony is building a significant lead – or that Microsoft is at least worried that it’s about to do so. Titanfall is arguably the Xbox One’s biggest exclusive so far, so it should come as no surprise that Microsoft wants to maximize its potential to tempt new customers away from its closest rival.

Read Next: Xbox One review: A multimedia extravaganza that also plays games / Why PlayStation 4 was the best-selling next-gen console in the US last month

Image Credit: GLENN CHAPMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Nokia Shareholders to Approve Microsoft Deal

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Nokia’s shareholders have done what everyone expected them to do, approving the sale of the Finnish company’s devices and services business to Microsoft.

At a general meeting in Helsinki Tuesday morning, the gathered investors rubber-stamped the $7.35 billion deal, which will see Microsoft acquire Nokia’s devices and services business and license the company’s mapping services, a move that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer characterizes as “a bold step into the future.”

According to the AFP, the deal was almost unanimously approved ahead of today’s meeting, with some 99.7 percent of shareholders who registered voting in favor of it.

The green light from Nokia’s investors marks the end of an era for the company. Once the world’s largest manufacturer of cellphones, Nokia will now evolve into a telecom equipment and services firm.

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Evolution: Microsoft moving past the Patch Tuesday update cycle for its Windows 8 apps

2013 03 12 14h21 07 520x245 Evolution: Microsoft moving past the Patch Tuesday update cycle for its Windows 8 apps

Today Microsoft noted a change in the security update policy for several applications that it built and has deployed as part of its Windows 8 operating system. For its first-party apps that ship with Windows 8, Microsoft won’t update them in keeping with its normal, monthly pattern of security fixes.

Patch Tuesday, the second Tuesday of every month, is a ritual moment in which Microsoft releases a slew of updates across its product lines; Windows, Windows Server, Office, and other applications are given patches in a single push, helping IT bosses handle the update process with some order.

Most folks simply have Windows Update turned on, allowing for patches to flow without delay.

However, with Windows 8, Microsoft delivers a number of applications through its new Windows Store. Given that, how should it manage their security updates? The company has decided to follow what I call the pedestrian path, by simply releasing updates as they are ready, just as any third-party developer might.

Your Mail app, therefore, might pick up a security fix on a Thursday. Progressive. Here’s Microsoft today on the decision:

App security updates can be delivered on days other than the second Tuesday of the month.

App security updates will be documented in a standing security advisory that:

  • Provides additional information and notifies customers that an update is available for them to install.
  • Is accompanied by a unique Microsoft Knowledge Base (KB) article number for reference to details about the changes.

There is an exception to this, in that if a security bug affects software that would normally be fixed during Patch Tuesday, the update will go out to both at the same time. This limits the ability for hackers to note a fix in one piece of code, and exploit the same weakness in other software.

Microsoft’s decision to update these apps in a dynamic fashion is a sea shift from its old policies. It’s also the right choice.

Top Image Credit: Amit Chattopadhyay

After Previously Blocking It, Microsoft Now Enables Flash By Default On IE10 For Windows 8 And RT

Today, Internet Explorer 10 in Windows 8′s Metro/Modern UI mode and on Windows RT blocks Flash by default and only allows sites on Microsoft’s curated Compatibility View (CV) lists to play Flash content. Tomorrow, that’s changing: all Flash content will run by default and the CV list will now be used to block sites from playing Flash content.

Windows 8 users previously had to switch to the desktop mode to view Flash-enabled site. Now, however, Microsoft says only about 4 percent of the “thousands of domains tested” are still incompatible, so the team has decided that switching the policy around was the right thing to do.

That’s a pretty unexpected change, but Microsoft argues that after thorough “testing over the past several months, the vast majority of sites with Flash content are now compatible with the Windows experience for touch, performance, and battery life.” More sites should “just work” in IE10, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer group manager Rob Mauceri writes, and “the primary device you walk around with should give you access to all the Web content on the sites you rely on. Otherwise, the device is just a companion to a PC.”

Before the launch of Windows 8 and RT, Microsoft worked with Adobe to develop a version of Flash that is optimized for touch – obviously one of the central features of Windows 8. Microsoft, however, worried that Flash would degrade battery life, security and reliability, so the first version of IE10 in Metro mode for Windows 8 and RT relied on the CV list to just allow sites that were touch-enabled and didn’t have any obvious negative effects on other aspects of the experience.

Starting tomorrow, Microsoft’s modern.IE site, which it launched last month to help developers ensure their sites work on Internet Explorer 10, will also feature a tool that allows developers to check whether their sites are on the new Flash block list.

This week at Microsoft: Billions, fines, and Windows 8′s market share

2013 03 08 10h00 03 520x245 This week at Microsoft: Billions, fines, and Windows 8s market share

It’s Friday yet again my friends, which means we have the time afforded to ourselves to take a peek back at the last seven days of Microsoft news. TNW has more Microsoft content coming over the weekend, so keep your eyes peeled.

This week had two themes for the company: cash money, and market share. Ensure that you are following TNW’s Microsoft channel on Twitter and Facebook, and let’s get right to it.

Among gamers, Windows 8 passes Windows XP

Windows 8 market share among the gaming set is a key indicator of how well the operating system is performing in terms of mind share; gamers are not the largest piece of the PC market, but they are among its most discerning, making their preference an interesting indicator of future market adoption of software.

Windows 8 has passed Windows XP among Steam users. Steam, a popular gaming platform, is kind enough to release data from its userbase. Here’s the latest:

Ever since its release, Windows 8 has been the only version of Microsoft’s desktop operating system to gain share on Steam. […] Three months ago, Windows 8 passed OS X on Steam, and last month,Windows 8 passed Windows Vista. Now, after just four months of availability, Windows 8 has already passed Windows XP. This puts the operating system neatly into second place on Steam, where it will likely stay for quite a while.

Certainly, any version of Windows has an advantage over OS X and Linux in the gaming market, but it must be heartening to Microsoft that their new product, while controversial, is being accepted by those most likely to buy new computers, or mod their current machines.

Microsoft $2 billion Dell loan

TNW spent part of the week poking around the Microsoft decision to loan the Michael Dell and Silverlake consortium $2 billion to help with their purchase of Dell, the computer company.

The gist of what we managed to cobble together from the edges is that Microsoft is using foreign cash for the loan, allowing it to derive a fat interest rate on the sum that likely wasn’t generating much before. After all, cash in foreign accounts simply isn’t as useful as funds in the United States for Microsoft, as if the company brings it home, it loses 35% of its value through taxes.

Note, however, that the above information hasn’t been confirmed by Microsoft, so we could have it slightly wrong in one way or the other.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the company isn’t picking up shares, or clout in the Dell deal. It’s simply acting as a financier. Microsoft, with more than $60 billion in cash, equivalents, and short-term investments is massively wealthy, making such a move as this child’s play for its accountants.

And it helps Dell rebuild, which can only be a good for Microsoft’s Windows division.

Microsoft’s $731 million fine in perspective

Microsoft is set to pay a fat three-quarter billion in a fine for a browser mistake that it has admitted to making. The company is utterly contrite. $731 million for a a browser ballot mistake? You’re darn tootin’, as the EU is peeved that Microsoft made the mistake after it had been sanctioned before.

However, things could have been much worse for Microsoft, as Reuters reported:

While the sanction is sizeable, representing more than 11 percent of Microsoft’s expected net profit this quarter and 1 percent of annual sales, the Commission could have charged the company up to 10 percent of annual global revenue.

Damn.

Microsoft’s Danish tax

Big tech companies are no different from other multinational firms in their zeal to avoid paying taxes. This isn’t immoral, but often somewhat seedy. Double Irish arrangement aside, Microsoft likes to save money as well.

However, that it could be up up for a more than $1 billion tax bill to the Danish government is turning heads. How did it manage to rack up such a fee? And how did it avoid paying the sum thus far, and what did it to? Our own Robin Wauters has the story:

Microsoft acquired Navision in a stock-and-cash deal worth about $1.3 billion at the time, laying the foundation for a new division called Microsoft Business Solutions (now Dynamics NAV).

Shortly after the transaction, Microsoft reportedly sold the rights to Navision’s ERP and accounting software to Microsoft’s Irish subsidiary at a price which the Danish tax authorities think was far too low. This has allowed Microsoft to transfer valuable assets out of Denmark, where taxes are notoriously high, without coughing up sufficient dues for the government, the local tax authorities claim.

If the company did artificially lower the value of the good to allow the sale to slip under Danish taxes, it seems unlikely to get past the tab.

That’s enough for this week. Make a strong tea and get weekending.

Top Image Credit: ToddABishop

Gears of War Judgment Leaks Out A Month Early, Microsoft Threatens Bans

The Gears of War Judgment release date is not until March 22nd, but unfortunately for Microsoft a copy of the latest Gears of War: Judgment game has leaked out on to the Internet and is available to download.

However Microsoft is taking action and says that it will take “vigorous action” against those who illegally download Gears of War Judgment before its official release date.

gears of war judgment

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