Microsoft Agrees to Buy US-Israeli Cyber-Security Firm Hexadite

 

Microsoft said on Thursday it has agreed to acquire Hexadite, a US-Israeli provider of technology to automate responses to cyber-attacks.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

In May, Israeli financial news website Calcalist said Microsoft would pay $100 million (roughly Rs. 643 crores) for Hexadite, which is headquartered in Boston with its research and development centre in Israel.

Hexadite says its technology increases productivity and reduces costs for businesses.Microsoft Agrees to Buy US-Israeli Cyber-Security Firm Hexadite
Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, said Hexadite will enable the company to add new tools and services to Microsoft’s enterprise security offerings.

Investors in Hexadite include Hewlett Packard Ventures, and venture capital firms TenEleven and YL Ventures.

Microsoft said in January it plans to continue to invest more than $1 billion (roughly Rs. 6,428 crores) annually on cyber-security research and development in the coming years. Israel has already benefited from that investment.

 

Microsoft Said to Plan Sales Reorganisation Focused on Cloud

 

HIGHLIGHTS
Microsoft is planning to announce a reorganisation as early as next week
Job cuts are likely to result from the changes
There may be other smaller personnel changes in company’s other parts
Microsoft Corp. is planning a global sales reorganisation to better focus on selling cloud software, according to people familiar with the matter.

The restructuring is scheduled to be announced as soon as next week and will impact the Worldwide Commercial Business under Judson Althoff and Jean-Philippe Courtois’ global sales and marketing group, the people said.Microsoft Said to Plan Sales Reorganisation Focused on Cloud

Job cuts are likely to result from the changes, said the people, who asked not to be identified speaking about unannounced plans. The shifts will be some of the most significant in the sales force in years and will also impact local marketing efforts in various countries, said one of the people. There may be other smaller personnel changes in other parts of the company too, one of other people said. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment.

The company’s sales force has been trained for years to sell software for use on desktops and servers. Now it’s more important to convince customers to sign up for cloud services hosted in Microsoft’s datacenters. The Redmond, Washington-based company wants to accelerate this switch to add more revenue and catch cloud market leader Amazon.com.
Friday is the end of Microsoft’s fiscal year, the first in which Althoff and Courtois have run the sales and marketing organisations, taking over from Kevin Turner who left in 2016.

The Puget Sound Business Journal reported earlier than the company planned a companywide reorganisation around the cloud.

 

Microsoft proposing $10B program to bring broadband internet to rural America

 

In an event scheduled for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Microsoft plans to propose using technology it helped develop as a cornerstone of an effort to connect the 23.4 million Americans in rural areas who lack high-speed internet access.

Microsoft is set to propose a $10 billion program to bring broadband internet to the rural U.S., an economic-development program aimed at a core constituency of the Trump administration.

The plan, which calls for corporate and government cash, relies on nascent television “white-space” technology, which sends internet data over unused broadcast frequencies set aside for television channels.

 Sherry Scott, a schoolteacher in southern Virginia, tests a new broadcast internet system as part of a pilot program by Microsoft and Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities to extend access to more rural students. (Microsoft)

In an event scheduled for Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Microsoft is to propose using the technology it helped develop as a cornerstone of an effort to connect the 23.4 million Americans in rural areas who lack high-speed internet access.

“One thing we’ve concluded is just how important broadband is for all kinds of things,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in an interview ahead of the announcement.

It’s not just streaming high-definition movies, he said. Slow or nonexistent connections can hinder agriculture, business, education and health care, he said. Broadband “is about, increasingly, the necessities of life.”

His speech Tuesday is designed to raise the profile of the TV white-space technology, in which base stations tap into a database, ask what television spectrum is unused in the area (the “white space”), and send broadband data to customers using that frequency.

Smith also hopes to pitch the value of Microsoft’s guidance as the Republican-held White House and Congress lay the groundwork for an infrastructure bill in coming months.

White House officials are expected to attend Microsoft’s event, held at a hotel a few blocks from the White House, Smith said. Meanwhile, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai plans to travel to southern Virginia to visit a pilot project demonstrating Microsoft’s technology.

Smith’s proposal calls for a five-year program of corporate investment and matching federal and state grants to end the gap between rural and urban access, starting with the company’s own efforts.

Microsoft’s new Rural Airband Initiative will aim to have projects to deploy white-space internet with telecommunications industry partners up and running in 12 states by next year.

A receiver used to extend broadband internet over unused parts of the TV broadcast spectrum is seen at a Charlotte County, Virginia, home. (Microsoft)
A receiver used to extend broadband internet over unused parts of the TV broadcast spectrum is seen at a Charlotte County, Virginia, home. (Microsoft)
 

Microsoft will provide the technology and invest the cash to expand coverage, Smith said. That sum will be repaid by collecting a share of future service revenue, and will subsequently be spent on additional projects.

The company hopes that its direct investments will connect 2 million people to broadband internet by 2022. Smith didn’t specify Microsoft’s total financial commitment to meet that goal, but said it would be “very substantial.”

For other interested companies, Microsoft is offering the use of 39 of its white-space patents to implement their own projects.

It’s unclear whether other companies will follow Microsoft’s lead. Google and Facebook are both plugging away at research projects to build global aerial networks to bring broadband to places without internet access.

Much of Microsoft’s pitch is that its technology is cheaper than other alternatives available today.

Connecting people using TV white-space technology would cost between $10 billion and $15 billion, according to a Microsoft-commissioned study by the Boston Consulting Group. The use of satellite connections where density slips too low for even white-space broadcasting could shave $2 billion off the cost, the study estimates.

Using 4G wireless networks to achieve the same goal would cost $15 billion to $25 billion, the study estimates. Deployment of fiber-optic cable would cost $45 billion to $65 billion.

Companies and researchers have been experimenting with white-space technologies for more than a decade. Investment ramped up following 2008 FCC regulations that pushed for more efficient use of the wave spectrum that carries everything from TV and radio broadcasts to smartphone data packets and commercial-airline communications.

Unused TV spectrum has a few advantages that make it well placed for rural areas, Microsoft says.

Television signals travel four times the distance of Wi-Fi, translating to 16 times the coverage area for broadcast towers beaming in all directions. TV signals also are better able to pass through obstacles like hills and walls. And rural areas tend to have more unused TV channels ripe for internet traffic than do cities.

Microsoft has extensively tested the technology, running 20 pilot efforts and connecting about 185,000 people.

The experiments had primarily targeted the developing world, whether stretching internet connectivity to corners of Africa that lacked it before or trying out white-space towers for disaster relief in the Philippines.

But as of Tuesday, Microsoft’s focus with the technology shifts to the U.S., which Smith acknowledged is partly a result of issues raised by Donald Trump’s win in November.

“In all honesty, the election did provide a wake-up call for all of us in the country to think about the role of rural counties,” he said.

Some major providers of broadband and wireless coverage are reluctant to extend their networks into rural areas, preferring the more lucrative and cost-effective business of building in cities.

Federal and state governments in recent years have tried to use tax breaks and other incentives to bridge that gap, often in partnership with regional or small-scale providers.

One of them is Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities (MBC), which was founded in 2004 by an electricity cooperative and has relied on grants to build out 1,800 miles of fiber-optic cable, the modern telecommunications backbone.

“We started with the idea that we’re losing jobs and investment because we can’t get broadband in rural Virginia,” said Tad Deriso, the nonprofit’s president.

Deriso approached Microsoft a few years ago after hearing about the company’s experiments with white-space technology.

Some students in MBC’s area struggle to complete or turn in digital school assignments on weak home internet connections, a problem commonly called the homework gap. Deriso was looking for creative ways to address that.

Microsoft chipped in, contributing to a partially grant-funded project that, for $1 million, is expected to connect 1,000 households to high-speed internet powered by TV white-space technology. FCC Commissioner Pai is expected to see the progress toward that goal firsthand on Tuesday, Deriso said.

Microsoft’s next experiments will be larger.

“We have not seen the market or the public sector really effectively fill this gap,” Smith said.

Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World’s Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Microsoft’s Paul Allen has been building world’s largest aeroplane
  • It is called Stratolaunch, will be larger than Howard Hughes’ 1947 plane
  • It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets

The initial construction on the massive aeroplane Paul Allen has been quietly building in the California desert is complete, and the vehicle, which would be the world’s largest aeroplane with a wingspan wider than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, was wheeled out of its hangar for the first time on Wednesday.

Called Stratolaunch, the plane has some impressive stats: a wingspan of 385 feet, or longer than a football field, a height of 50 feet. Unfueled, it weighs 500,000 pounds. But it can carry 250,000 pounds of fuel, and its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds.

But, really . . .. How big is it? It’s so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. It’s so big that it has 60 miles of wire coursing through it. It’s so big that the county had to issue special construction permits just for the construction scaffolding.

It’s so big that to truly get a sense of it, you have to see it from a distance – like a mountain.

But why is Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, building such a massive plane?

It’s not to carry passengers, but rather rockets. The bigger the plane, the larger the rockets, or the greater the number.

Allen’s Stratolaunch company has partnered with Orbital ATK to “air launch” the company’s Pegasus XL, a rocket capable of delivering small satellites, weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, to orbit. The rockets would be tethered to the belly of the giant plane, which would fly them aloft, and once at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, the rockets would drop and “air launch” to space.
“With airport-style operations and quick turn-around capabilities,” the company said it believes “air launch” is a cheaper and more efficient way to get satellites into space than rockets that launch vertically and can be extraordinarily expensive.

For Allen, it’s all about LEO, or low-Earth orbit. He, and others, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, are betting that they can reduce the cost of launching small satellites to space. And that, in turn, will lead to new ways to beam the internet all across the globe, provide better Earth sensing capabilities, better communication, and open up all sorts of avenues.Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Rolls Out World's Largest Aeroplane, the Stratolaunch

“When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine,” Allen said in a statement a year ago. “That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”

More than a decade ago, Allen had hoped to spark a revolution in space travel when he funded SpaceShipOne, which became the first commercial vehicle to cross the threshold of space. The project ultimately won the Ansari X Prize, and a $10 million (roughly Rs. 64.5 crores) award. He then licensed the technology to Branson and moved on to other pursuits. But with Stratolaunch, he is back in the space business.

“Thirty years ago, the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of millions and unlocked incalculable human potential,” he wrote. “Twenty years ago, the advent of the Web and the subsequent proliferation of smartphones combined to enable billions of people to surmount the traditional limitations of geography and commerce. Today, expanding access to LEO holds similar revolutionary potential.”

In a statement Wednesday, Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s chief executive, said the company would be “actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles that will enable us to provide more flexibility to customers.”

He added: “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff. Stratolaunch is on track to perform its first launch demonstration as early as 2019.”

 

Microsoft Modern Keyboard With ‘Hidden’ Fingerprint Scanner Launched

 

Microsoft on Thursday silently unveiled a new keyboard, called the Microsoft Modern Keyboard. Priced at Rs. $129.99 (roughly Rs. 8,500), the new Modern Keyboard is listed as “coming soon” on the company’s US website with no word when the accessory will go on sale. The highlight of the keyboard is that it comes with a fingerprint scanner that just looks like any other key on the keyboard.

“Our vision was to blend the Fingerprint reader into a keyboard, so it would appear to be any other key. We iterated relentlessly to improve each layer, making sure they came together to create a flawless typing experience that felt like any other key,” Microsoft says on the product page of the Modern Keyboard.

The keyboard comes with aluminium frame and Microsoft claims it sports “highest quality” and is “virtually indestructible.”

The Modern Keyboard will allow Windows 10 users to enable Windows Hello fingerprint authentication on their devices. The fingerprint scanner has been placed on the second Windows key on the right side of the keyboard, and can be used for signing in to the system or any website using Windows Hello.Microsoft Modern Keyboard With 'Hidden' Fingerprint Scanner Launched

The Microsoft Modern Keyboard with Fingerprint Scanner will work will Windows 8 and above devices, macOS 10.10.5 and above devices, Android 4.2 and above, and iOS 8 and iOS 9. Users need to make sure that the device should support Bluetooth 4.0 or higher for the Microsoft Modern Keyboard to work. Microsoft will also let users choose between using the Modern Keyboard with wireless/ wired interface.

It comes with dimensions 420.9×112.6×19.3mm and weighs roughly 420 grams. The wireless Microsoft Modern Keyboard runs on two AAA alkaline rechargeable batteries. Microsoft claims a battery life of up to 2 months on full charge. The Redmond giant will be offering one-year limited warranty on the keyboard.

 

Microsoft, Accenture Partner on Blockchain-Based Digital ID Network for UN

 

HIGHLIGHTS
Microsoft, Accenture to build digital ID network using blockchain
The companies unveiled a prototype of the network at the UN
“Having a digital identity is a basic human right”
Accenture and Microsoft are teaming up to build a digital ID network using blockchain technology, as part of a United Nations-supported project to provide legal identification to 1.1 billion people worldwide with no official documents.

The companies unveiled a prototype of the network on Monday at the UN headquarters in New York during the second summit of ID2020, a public-private consortium promoting the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal of providing legal identity for everyone on the planet.

The project aims to help individuals such as refugees prove who they are in order to gain access to basic services such as education and healthcare.

Blockchain, first developed as a public ledger of all transactions in the digital currency Bitcoin, is increasingly being used to securely track data in other fields.

“Without an identity you can’t access education, financial services, healthcare, you name it. You are disenfranchised and marginalized from society,” David Treat, a managing director in Accenture’s financial services practice, said in an interview.Microsoft, Accenture Partner on Blockchain-Based Digital ID Network for UN

“Having a digital identity is a basic human right.”

The new platform will connect existing record-keeping systems of commercial and public entities through blockchain, allowing users to access to their personal information wherever they are.

For example, refugees who have fled their country leaving behind birth or education paper certificates would still be able to provide proof of those credentials through the system.
One of the main advantages of blockchain is that it allows systems of different organizations to communicate with each other, Yorke Rhodes, global business strategist at Microsoft, said in an interview.

The prototype was built on top of an existing Accenture platform, which powers the biometric identity management system used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Accenture and Microsoft, which worked on the prototype with managed service provider Avanade, are inviting other companies to join their project.

PricewaterhouseCoopers and Cisco Systems are among the organizations involved in ID2020.

“What ID2020 is truly focused on is bringing together an alliance of stakeholders to ensure the technology that is being developed is responsive to the needs of individuals,” Dakota Gruener, executive director at ID2020, said in an interview.

“Technology is only one piece of this.”

 

PS4 Pro Competes With Xbox One S, Not Xbox One X: Microsoft

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Xbox boss Phil Spencer claims the PS4 Pro is not Xbox One X competition
  • Rather, he believes the PS4 Pro should be compared to the Xbox One S
  • He also admitted the company could do better with getting exclusive games

The Xbox One X aka Xbox Scorpio was revealed at E3 2017 by Microsoft. With most of the event focussing on what the company claims is the world’s most powerful console ever, it has now gone on the offensive, taking shots at the PS4 Pro from Sony.

“I look at [PS4] Pro as more of a competitor to [Xbox One] S than I do to Xbox One X,” claims Spencer in an interview with Eurogamer. “This is a true 4K console. If you just look at the specs of what this box is, it’s in a different league than any other console that’s out there.” Spencer mentions 40 percent more GPU speed, more RAM, and the speed of storage as the advantages of the Xbox One X over the PS4 Pro, but he also berates Sony’s methods for getting to 4K resolutions with some of its games. “When I think about techniques to somehow manufacture a 4K screen like what some other consoles try to do, this is different than that.” Spencer also says he expects the majority of consoles that Microsoft sells next year will be Xbox One S.PS4 Pro Competes With Xbox One S, Not Xbox One X: Microsoft

nd while he might be right in terms of specifications, despite lacking VR support, Microsoft has truly dropped the ball on its games. Barring Forza Motorsport 7, there were no big AAA games from the company to prop up the Xbox One X at launch. Spencer admitted that this is a concern.

“I do think we have an opportunity to get better in first-party and to grow,” he said. “We’ve got great support from the company to go do that.”

Much like the PS4 Pro and PS4, the Xbox One X shares the same library of games as the Xbox One and Xbox One S, while Sony has belted out a wealth of great PS4 and PS4 Pro exclusives along with support from third-party developers, optimising for the PS4 Pro hasn’t exactly been a priority for most game makers what with the likes of Prey and Injustice 2 offering incremental upgrades at best. If the Xbox One X gets support outside of its launch window remains to be seen.

 

Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft took another step away from the smartphone business after it announced stopping all kind of support for Windows Phone 8.1. Users of the mobile OS will no longer receive updates or support, the company announced.

Starting in 2010, Microsoft previous attempt at restarting its mobile OS failed to gain much traction and is now all but a distant memory. Lack of crucial features and popular third-party apps were the main issue Windows Phone struggled with.

Halting Windows Phone 8.1 support will probably be followed by the discontinuation of Windows 10 Mobile at some point in the next few years. With virtually no new devices for the platform in the past two years non-existent market share the platform is clearly on the way out.

 

No, Microsoft is not ‘killing Windows 10 Mobile’

Microsoft has scotched reports that it has “abandoned” Windows Mobile.

Windows 10 is in perpetual beta, and on Thursday the software giant issued new versions for both PC and Mobile, accompanied by some ambiguous notes from Insider Preview manager Donna Sarkar. Then everyone went home for Easter.

Sarkar had written:

The biggest difference being that the build number and branch won’t match the builds we will be releasing for PC. This is a result of more work we’re doing to converge code into OneCore – the heart of Windows across PC, tablet, phone, IoT, HoloLens, Xbox and more as we continue to develop new improvements for Windows 10 Mobile and our enterprise customers.

Based on interpretations by a Swedish tech enthusiast and “corroborated” by, er, one anonymous Redditor, the rumour mill concluded that Microsoft had sidelined the Mobile branch of Windows, this time finally.

How so? Here it gets strange.

The build PC and Mobile numbers diverged (16176 for PC, and 15204 for phones and tablets); phones had not yet received Redstone 3 builds, and the new build excluded a range of older devices that had previously been included on new Windows 10 builds, including much of the user base. The temporary disappearance of the Windows Insider advisor app and a copyright date of 2016 that hadn’t been updated were also grist to the mill.

It may all seem surreal, but given the almost masochistic levels of discomfort and dismay to which Windows Mobile loyalists are accustomed, it didn’t seem surprising. Microsoft had initially acquired Nokia’s phone business to assure that the mobile platform prospered, but then ran down the phone business. No new Microsoft devices have appeared for well over a year, and none are promised. However, the Mobile branch of Windows 10 continues to be developed, albeit lagging a few months behind the main branch. And increasing the amount of shared code is something the clumsy development strategy is attempting to address.

2014’s flagship Lumia 930 is no longer eligible for new versions of Windows 10

The conspiracy was denied by product manager Brandon LeBlanc, and Windows Mobile will receive the ‘Redstone 3’ code – the next major version of Windows after the one we’ve just had.

In fact there was a more prosaic explanation for all of these things. However, as Microsoft stated on Thursday, many older devices that launched with Windows Phone 8 or 8.1 won’t be on the upgrade path. These include the excellent Lumia 735 and 830 (late 2014 models with 1GB), and more annoyingly for their owners, the Lumia 1520 (late 2013) and 930 (mid-2014), which have a perfectly adequate 2GB of RAM and still run well. By comparison, Apple’s current iOS 10 supports iPhones released in 2012, with 1GB of RAM. It’s a comparison that doesn’t flatter Microsoft.

Sometime this year (or next), Microsoft will have the opportunity to tell a better story, as new ARM processors begin to support x86 instructions. The current era is a transitional one, as Microsoft has moved from separate x86 and ARM code trees (Windows 8 and Windows RT) in the Sinofsky era, to a more or less unified code tree with separate build targets: desktop and mobile today. For newer devices it will then be possible to have just the one code base and one “fat binary” that runs on legacy PCs and newer mobile devices. That makes the question of “mobile” being “dead” rather moot. ®

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Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option

Microsoft today officially launched a premium-grade Outlook.com email service in the U.S. that omits ads, provides five inboxes and supports personalized addresses.outlook.com preview page

The service, labeled “Outlook.com Premium,” had been branded “Preview” until today, according to the Thurrott.com blog, which had been tracking its progress for almost a year.

Outlook.com Premium appeared to target both small businesses and families with the five user accounts and the personalized address. The domain name for the latter will be free for the first year, Microsoft said, and those who already own a domain could use it with the email service free of charge.

As with the consumer-oriented “Ad-free Outlook.com,” a $20 per year deal that scrubs advertisements from the service, Outlook.com Premium also erases ads from the five inboxes.

According to the small print on the Premium website, 12 months of the service will cost $20 until the end of March, at which time it will climb to $50, its regular price.

Renewals for those who get in under the discount wire will run up to $30 — $20 for the Outlook.com service, $10 for the domain name, if there is one — apparently until Microsoft decides to raise the price. “You will be notified if the price changes,” the website said.

Microsoft has aggressively promoted subscriptions for several years, but with the launch of Windows 10 — and that operating system’s “software-as-a-service” model — the company accelerated efforts with new enterprise-grade subscriptions to Windows as well as programs targeting consumers, such as the Groove music streaming service and now Outlook.com Premium.

The firm has made no secret of the subscription campaigns’ goals. In July, CEO Satya Nadella told Wall Street that Microsoft would use three ways to track progress of its operating system business. The second of the trio, Nadella said, was to “grow new monetization through services across our unified Windows platform.”

This story, “Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option” was originally published by Computerworld.