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November 22, 2015

Bing can’t find Windows 10 Ten Cents sale…but Google can

I heard that Microsoft has some excellent $0.10 deals for Windows 10 owners like me. So I checked Bing:

bing listing

The top hit (an ad by Microsoft) takes you to a page for corporate sales of Windows phones.

The second hit (an ad by Microsoft) takes you to the generic Microsoft Store front page from which it is virtually impossible to find the $0.10 sales.

None of the rest of the results on the first page of the Bing search gets you anywhere close.

Same search at Google:

google listing

The top hit (a Microsoft ad) takes you to the same generic front page of the Microsoft Store as the second hit on Bing, which makes no mention of the $0.10 sales.

The following Google results take you to pages about the $0.10 sales from which you can actually get to the goddamn sale.

Yes, these sales are real. For example, this is from the site this afternoon:

google listing

I got there by going to the post listed in the Google results….although right now the Windows site is telling me that something is wrong and I should come back later.

PS: To get to the Hitman Go sale, my best advice is to go to the Windows Store on your Windows 10 machine. The $0.10 sales are featured there. Or search there for Hitman Go.

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September 22, 2015

Why I hate the Windows 10 ad

A close relative recently gushed about the Windows 10 ad with the montage of adorable toddlers, especially the boy (?) pressing his face up against a window. My reaction was visceral, guttural, and not for polite company. Until then I hadn’t realized how much I hate that ad.

It wasn’t obvious to me why.

A big part of it is, of course, its exploitation of the parenting part of our lizard brains. What makes it worse is that the ad is soooo good at it. Those are some lovable damn children! I get the heart feels when they call out Fatima by name. I get the same involuntary happiness reflex in the second version of the ad when it ends on the feminine pronoun: “We just have to make sure that she has what she needs.” (That’s approximate; I can’t find the second ad online.)

I don’t like being manipulated, even when it’s towards things I believe in. When it’s in a movie or a book, I just feel cheated. When it’s in persuasive discourse, I feel abused. That’s true when a President argues for a policy by recounting a moving anecdote about someone he met (“I met a woman in Iowa recently who told me…”), and it’s true when a company plays on my instincts to get me to buy a product that I wouldn’t have bought if I’d been addressed rationally.

Almost all ads do this sort of manipulation. The Windows 10 ad does it particularly well. That’s why I particularly hate it.

But that’s not the only reason.

It is an ad totally without substance. Well, that’s not quite true. It’s full of misleading substance. It consists of a list of functionality that Windows 10 does not have. No passwords? Every screen is to be touched? Someday Windows 10 may have this sort of functionality, but by then it will be Windows 30 or so. “Why are you running a Windows 30 ad to sell Windows 10? ” But The glory of Windows 30 is not much of an inducement to buy Windows 10. So, why are you running a Windows 30 ad to sell Windows 10? Is there nothing in it worth the free upgrade?

But of course this isn’t really an ad about Windows 10. It’s an advertisement for the Windows brand. And the argument it presents is Microsoft’s dream that Windows will be as dominant an operating system twenty years from now as it was twenty years ago.“It’s going to come from all of us, not from Microsoft, Google, the Pope or even Elon Musk” The tagline might as well be “Windows: It’s going to become inevitable again. Deal with it.”

And here’s the last bit of bile I need to drain from my gall bladder. The future is not going to bright because Windows is going to be its operating system. If the future of tech is going to remain bright it will because we — all of us — have secured control of our operating systems and are building great things for one another. It’s going to come from all of us, not from Microsoft, Google, the Pope or even Elon Musk (hallowed be his name).

So take your hands off our babies’ future, Microsoft!


October 31, 2011

The Firefox difference

Sebastian Anthony points to a distinguishing philosophy of Firefox that was not clear to me until I read it. The title is “Firefox is the cloud’s biggest enemy,” which he in the comments admits is not entirely apt. Rather, Firefox wants you to own and control your data; it uses the cloud, but encrypts your data when it does. This is a strong differentiation from Google Chrome and Microsoft IE.

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August 12, 2009

Apple: Totalitarian art

Jason Calacanis has an excellent post making the case against Apple, from an Apple fan’s point of view. I’m basically with him.

Doc Searls has long said that the key to understanding Steve Jobs — and thus to understanding Apple — is that Job’s an artist. We understand when an artist wants to maintain complete, obsessive control over his creations, especially when they are as beautiful as some Apple products are. But it’s not just artistry at work at Apple. Apple tends towards totalitarianism.

You can see why in its computer architectures: Its products work because they’re relatively closed systems that run tightly controlled hardware, unlike Microsoft’s operating system that has to be able to work on just about every piece of hardware that comes along. And Apple’s stuff generally works beautifully. (I switched from Windows to the Mac about three years ago.) But the hardwired connection between the iPod and iTunes — only recently loosened — is there not to benefit users, but to meet the DRM needs of recording companies and to tether users to Apple. The hardwired connection between the iPhone and the App Store represents a disturbing direction for the industry, in which Apple acts in loco parentis to protect users from their own software decisions, and (apparently) to exclude products they believe hurt the business interests of their partners. The App Store’s success makes it particularly threatening; it’s easy to imagine Apple’s rumored tablet adopting the same strategy, then other companies following suit.

It’s not an unmixed picture, of course. The removal of the egregious DRM from iTunes is a step forward, and seems to have been a step Apple eagerly took, and the movement of the Mac’s OS onto Unix added admirable transparency. Plus, Apple makes some beautiful stuff that works beautifully.

I just wish that going forward, I felt more confident that Apple is on our side, not just as customers but as digital citizens.

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July 24, 2009

A twisty path to Chrome in the enterprise

Despite the title of Andrew Conry-Murray’s article in InformationWeek — “Why Business IT Shouldn’t Shrug Off Chrome OS” — it’s on balance quite negative about the prospects for enterprises adopting Google’s upcoming operating system. Andrew argues that enterprises are going to want hybrid systems, Microsoft is already moving into the Cloud, Windows 7 will have been out for a year before Chrome is available, and it’d take a rock larger than the moon to move enterprises off their legacy applications. All good points. (The next article in the issue, by John Foley is more positive about Chrome overall.)

A couple of days I heard a speech by Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra at the Open Government Innovations conference (#ogi to your Twitter buffs). It was fabulous. Aneesh — and he’s an informal enough speaker that I feel ok first-naming him — loves the Net and loves it for the right reasons. (“Right” of course means I agree with him.) The very first item on his list of priorities might be moon-sized when it comes to enterprise IT: Support open standards.

So, suppose the government requires contractors and employees to use applications that save content in open standards. In the document world, that means ODF. Now, ISO also approved a standard favored by (= written by) Microsoft, OOXML, that is far more complex and is highly controversial. There is an open source plug-in for Word that converts Word documents to those formats (apparently Microsoft aided in its development), but that’s not quite native support. So, imagine the following scenario (which I am totally making up): The federal government not only requires that the docs it deals with are in open standard formats, it switches to open source desktop apps in order to save money on license fees. (Vivek Kundra switched tens of thousands of DC employees to open source apps for this reason.) OOXML captures more of the details of a Word document, but ODF is a more workable standard, and it’s the format of the leading open source office apps. If the federal government were to do this, ODF stands a chance of becoming the safe choice for interchanging documents; it’s the one that will always work. And in that case, enterprises might find Word to be over-featured and insufficiently ODF-native.

Now, all of this is pure pretend. And even if ODF were to become the dominant document standard, Microsoft could support it robustly, although that might mean that some of Word’s formatting niceties wouldn’t make the transition. Would business be ok with that? For creators, probably yes; it’d be good to be relieved of the expectation that you will be a document designer. For readers, no. We’ll continue to want highly formatted documents. But, then ODF + formatting specifications can produce quite respectably formatted docs, and that capability will only get better.

So, how likely is my scenario — the feds demand ODF, driving some of the value out of Word, giving enterprises a reason to install free, lower-featured word processors, depriving Windows of one of its main claims on the enterprise’s heart and wallet? Small. But way higher than before we elected President Obama.
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June 13, 2009

Microsoft out, Quicken in

Microsoft has announced that as of June 30, it’s no longer going to sell Microsoft Money because the ecology has changed, diminishing the need for products of that sort.

Quicken has announced that as of this summer, it’s going to start selling Quickenan updated version of Quicken for the Mac.


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February 17, 2009

[berkman] Microsoft on the multinational legal complications of cloud computing

Lisa Tanzi, VP & Deputy General Counsel of Microsoft is giving a Berkman lunchtime talk called “A New Era of Computing: The Opportunities and Challenges of Cloud-Based Software and Services.” [Note: I am live-blogging, thus missing stuff, getting things wrong, writing badly, paraphrasing.] Her division at Microsoft is more on the enterprise side than the consumer side.

Microsoft is very excited about cloud computing (which I’ll abbreviate as CC)) she says. She’s going to give an overview but wants to spend time on the legal implications.

Lisa begins by putting CC into context on the history of computing timeline. Mainframes, PCs, Client/Server and WWW, and Cloud Services. During the CC era, people have multiple devices. Also, we’re seeing touch-based manipulation and other natural user interfaces. And there’s CC, defined as “providing software and computing power over the Internet.” With CC, you can pay as you go, connect all your devices, and provide wider access to “unprecedented computing power.” “But we at Microsoft don’t see it as an either/proposition.” People will want to have a mixed environment.

She goes through the benefits of CC for businesses, government, public sector, and developers. She shows a television ad.

Now she addresses some legal and policy issues. She begins with a scenario: A business launches a conferencing and email services offering. It’s HQ’ed in the US with data centers around the world. This creates jurisdictional issues — privacy, law enforcement, liability, running mixed source, data portability. But, she wants to focus on two sets of issues. First, moving data across borders: privacy, security and law enforcement. If the service provider doesn’t think it can reconcile the conflicting obligations, it may end up not launching the service. Or it might turn features on and off in different jurisdictions, although the software doesn’t always allow that, plus you lose some economies of scale.

“Governments are going to have to work together in new ways to find solutions to these issues,” Lisa says. Also, it may be that governments that figure out how to make it easier data across borders will have an advantage in attracting data centers.

Second, “How do the large bodies of traditional telecom regulations apply in this new world?” VoIP, email, IM are all affected. The laws vary quite a bit by jurisdiction, and they are usually written for different technologies. Law enforcement requirements, confidentiality obligations, emergency services (e.g., E-911) requirements, etc. How you do all this while enabling this new technology to evolve and be rolled out.

When it comes to data movement (her first point), imagine a German company that’s out-sourcing email to a CC provider that has data centers in France and Belgian. The data retention laws of Germany say that info has to be kept for 6 months, in France it’s 1 year, and in Belgium it’s 2. Whose law applies?

Some provincial laws in Canada require data in a CC system to be stored in Canada. But if a US company builds a data center in Canada, the Patriot Act may apply, and even if it doesn’t, exceptionalism is a bad way of doing business.

Q: Have you faced any specific cases where the mother country’s laws regulate or not?
A: A lot of these issues just aren’t resolved. Another real-world example: When we build a data center in another country, we go through an extensive process to make sure that we’re not in a situation of conflicting laws. Researching Japan we came across a statute that says electronic communications cannot be transferred outside of the country. It’s not very clear what that means. Can a subsidiary transfer info out of the country? Is there some new process we should be engaged in? Treaty-like solutions?

Q: Are you required to go to the highest common denominator among all the privacy and retention policies?
A: No clear answers. It looks like you can have a high water mark on privacy. And it gets yet more complicated if you have to deal with privacy based upon whether the person is, not where the data is.

Q: I use MS Word. To get it from my computer, the police have to get a warrant, etc. If I use MS Live, your CC service, the FBI needs a subpoena which means they don’t have to go before a judge and show probable cause. I’m worried that users are naively using online programs such as Google Docs and Office Live without knowing they’re online and that they’re lacking legal protection. What is MS doing to educate users?
A: We hope that it’s apparent to users that they’re storing documents online. The Terms of Use make the legality clear.
Q: No one reads Terms of Use.

Q: From the European perspective, the European Commission in2004 required MS to change its licensing policy. MS didn’t comply. In 2006, MS was fined. In 2008 there was another fine. Interoperability was the common thread. In 2008, another two cases were opened, against Office and Opera. It’s a neverending story. What’s your attitude toward interoperability?
A: We take our legal obligations seriously. We’ve announced interoperability principles. Windows Azure (MS CC) is in development. When it launches, the goal is to have it work with non-MS languages and development environments. It’s built on standard protocols. The entire industry would benefit from data portability.

Q: Users in cloud environments tend not to have much leverage. My non-profit in Zimbabwe just got kicked off its web host because Zimbabwe misunderstood US policy. The customer has no power in this scenario. I worry that for people who are very concerned human rights, data protection, etc., the early indications are that we should run like hell from CC. It’s too bad because technically CC is a much better way to do this. Unless large companies running clouds can offer assurance that they’ll fight for the rights of customers, the response from at least some class of consumers will be “Over my dead body.” Beyond harmonizing, how does this come into issues of free speech. What’s the responsibility of a company like MS to act as a defender of rights?
A: This fall we joined a global initiative to have companies protect privacy and freedom of expression. [Global Network Initiative] For enterprise customers would classify the situation differently. They want to impose obligations on the service provider: set up your physical security in a particular way, do retention in a particular way. For them those issues are being negotiated contract by contract.

Q: What are MS’s financial projections for CC?
A: We haven’t made any [well, made any public]. We’ll be making our business model clear sometime this year. Probably pay as you go.

Q: MS has pushed for a high bar for human rights when it comes to the Global Network Initiative. But CC makes it much harder. What are you going to do?
A: It’s a tough question. We’re working on it.

Q: What type of treaty might MS push for?
A: I was raising that as a discussion point. It’s sooo complex.

Q: Akamai has a similarly distributed architecture and business model. Have you looked at it and other such companies?
A: We have looked at what other companies do.

Q: Why aren’t you using SSL for the entire email session or for MS Office Live for Consumers?
A: I’ll get back to you.

Q: [jpalfrey] We at the Berkman Center pride ourselves on having great relationships and talking straight. From the perspective of users with less money than business and than other users, the value prop for CC is “free or cheap services.” When cheap services have been rolled out to the poor, there have been problems making it clear to users what their risks and rights are. So, as this CC rolls out, MS should have a “mitigation plan” in effect (e.g., signs on construction sites apologizing for the disruption). What would the mitigation plan look like?
A: I’ll take that one back to Redmond. I haven’t spent that much time on the consumer side of this. [Tags: ]

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November 11, 2008

[berkman] Open Source at Microsoft

Bryan Kirschner (Dir of Open Source Strategy) and Mario Madden (Open Source Licensing Counsel) at Microsoft are giving a Berkman Tuesday lunch talk on Open Source and Microsoft. [NOTE: I am live-blogging, typing too fast, missing things, getting things wrong, etc.]

They start with three framing positions: 1. Open source has changed the info-communications landscape. It’s “neither a fad nor a magic bullet” [missed the attribution] 2. It brings an opportunity for Microsoft, open source developers, and ICT customers. 3. It’s not any harder or easier to realize this potential, compared to other opportunities (e.g., cloud computing).

In 2004, Msft submitted two licenses to the Open Source Initiative. Now there are 500. There are at least 80,000 Open Source apps that run on Windows. Microsoft is virtualizing Linux on Windows and vice versa, and Silverlight is becoming Moonlight (= a Linux version).

Why is Msft doing this?

1. Motivation. What motivates OS developers? (From Karim Lakhani, who is in the room.) They’re motivated by creativity and learning, economic opportunity, and solving a problem.

2. Commercialization. Some of OS is money-driven, while some is community-driven. “At the end of the day, it’s about value-for-cost and solving a customer’s problem.”

There’s a “world of choice” these days. You use the best tool for the job. Mix and match. E.g., they want Windows to be a great platform for OS apps, including for PHP. So, Windows is working with Zen (commercial PHP company) and the PHP community. If your company wants single-sign-on; Msft has Active Directory that does that, including for php aps. Then, if you want to use cloud computing (Windows Azure), you can use it and it works with Active Directory. Then you could have OpenID and Ruby apps running on Linux. Then you might want to use virtualization to rapidly move apps across hardware, and you could then use OpenPegasus to do cross-platform systems management, contributing back to the Pegasus project. “At the application layer, it really makes sense to strive for openness.”

There’s a human relationship and emotions in the OS community, Bryan says. It’s inspirational. Microsoft wants to comingle, cooperate and co-exist.

Q: You touted collaboration with Novell. Many are not happy with that deal. Some people at Novell quit. The Linux kernel community would be a tougher community. They haven’t been happy about joining forces with you. Do you have any plans to bury the hatchet? E.g., Linus Torvalds is unhappy with Msft’s stance on patents…
A: I wouldn’t hold up Novell as a great example. Our customers, especially our large customers, like it a lot, though. It makes commercial sense, although it doesn’t necessarily make everyone feel happy.
A: [mario] The legal team’s job is to help the team navigate the shoals. We did the best we could in the Novell deal.
A: [bryan] We have an active partnership with Samba. Both sides are happy about this.

Q: I’m a European lawyer. Microsoft’s reaction to the European Court’s decision showed no sign of openness? How do you address the abuse that was found and the open attitude you’re expressing today?
A: [bryan] I’m not a lawyer. The question for me is how do you meet the needs of your customers? The overwhelming body of evidence leads you to openness. We will continue to develop .Net. But it’s not zero sum. We also have support php. The Windows media team wrote a plugin so Windows Media Player would work on Firefox. There have been 6 million downloads, so that’s great.
A: [karim] There’s a lag between court decisions and how the company thinks about it.
Q: My point was that you might have saved 500M euros if you had been more open…

Q: Once sw is fully developed, you’re half done. It still needs quality assurance. How do you assure open source software is of high quality? And how do you know it wasn’t stolen from an open source app?
A: [mario] When code is brought in, it’s up to the engineering groups to do the QA. Legally, OS software is just third party code. We brought in 500M lines of code last year. We scan it. A lot of it was Open Source.
A: [karim] Two studies have compared the quality of code from Open Source vs. commercial and found no difference, except perhaps OS is slightly higher quality because the QA is continuous.
A: [bryan] We’re a platinum sponsor of the Apache Foundation. They have overhead. It makes it easier to deal with them if they’re not under terrible financial stress.
A: [mario] When it comes to OS, we’re driven by business purposes. Can we decrease development costs?

Q: [me] What’s the business case that you see for contributing to OS, as well as enabling Windows to work well with OS? How much are you contributing?
A: [bryan] We contribute in three ways. 1. Product strategy. E.g., contribute to php to make it work better with SQL Server. 2. Does it actually make sense for your product to take an OS or hybrid strategy? E.g., Class server is curriculum management system. It competes with OS. It didn’t make sense to compete, so now it’s an OS product. 3. Having more developers creating more code is a good thing. It’s pie-expanding. E.g., we have XNA libraries for developing games. There are hundreds of XNA projects that are open source now.
Q: [me] Are 500 contributions a lot? Compared to the number of patents? Products?
A: We’ll measure success when every product group considers open source.
Q: [karim] IBM says they have 1,000 developers working on Linux, etc. Do you have any number you can point to that’s similar?
A: No.

Q: Has OS affected how stuff gets done inside?
A: Inside the company, we are not the Borg. Every product group has a lot of autonomy. Agile groups. You also have some 3-year-product-plan projects. Increasingly you’ll see a more blended model.
A: [mario] We have 30,000 developers. It’s hard to know, on the IP, what everyone is doing.
A: [bryan] You’ll see a company-wide statement from the company that we understand the world is heterogeneous, we respect the contributions open source has made, and we’re committed to greater openness. I’ll quote Heidegger: Fear is not knowing what to do. The Windows-Linux oppositional framework in 1998 took the public imagination. We formally responded with a site in 2007, so no one will accuse us of acting precipitously :)

Q: When will Steve Ballmer start putting out the OS msg? He has a reputation for being confrontational.
A: [bryan] He’s a strong, opinionated leader. But you’ve already seen Steve talk about the benefits of supporting open source. Inside Msft, the open source group always talks in terms of what makes sense for business.

Q: This has implications for DC policy positions. I.e., very strict IP enforcement.
A: [mario] We may disagree about strict IP; we support patent reform, for example. But we see our business as about IP. We’ll always support IP and IP rights.

Q: Chances are we’ll find out that the new Redmond Congressperson will be a former Microsoft manager. Since Msft employees have funded about a third of her campaign, when your lobbyists are calling her up, will you be asking to support Open Source?
A: [mario] Fascinating question, and I’m sure not going to comment :)
A: [bryan] We don’t want anyone fighting Open Source. We don’t think it makes business sense.

Q: [karim] If we’re back to big iron — Google is a server farm company — how do we think about the role of open source?
A: [bryan] It changes the dynamics. Clouds and server farms open up a lot more space.

[me[ What about OOXML vs. ODF? Why did you push OOXML as a doc format after we already had adopted ODF? Is that typical of what you mean by openness?
A: [bryan] Open doc formats are really important. I don’t see doc standards as a zero sum game. So being able to understand the doc through a published set of docs doesn’t seem exclusive to me.

Karim concludes the session by pointing out how contentious this topic would have been just five years. “The presence of Mario and Bryan here is a sign of success.” [Tags: ]


September 7, 2008

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Paul McDougall at InformationWeek explains what’s wrong with Microsoft’s $300M Seinfeld reruns.

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August 22, 2008

What’s the deal with Microsoft? It’s not micro. It’s not soft.

In an effort to counter Apple’s must-see Mac vs. PC ads, Microsoft is paying Jerry Seinfeld $10M to appear in Vista ads.

Yes, nothing proves you’re hip like hiring a retired, 1990s sitcom star.

Sure, I love Seinfeld repeats. But re-read my lips: Reeeee-peats. I think maybe the problem is that Microsoft, in its irked ire, is unable to see that on the Apple ads, even the PC guy — John Hodgman — is hip. Hodgman’s book, The Areas of My Expertise, is brilliant. Apple even gets cool guys to play the uncool guys.

On the other hand, Microsoft has hired Michael Gondry to direct the ads. Expect the Eternal Wait-times of the Spotless Mind?

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Microsoft has launched a blog about the development of Windows 7

Windows 7 codename: “Do-Over”?

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