Microsoft Announces Azure ML, Cloud-based Machine Learning Platform That Can Predict Future Events

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Microsoft has been on quite a cloud roll lately and today it announced a new cloud-based machine learning platform called Azure ML, which enables companies to use the power of the cloud to build applications and APIs based on big data and predict future events instead of looking backwards at what happened.

The product is built on the machine learning capabilities already available in several Microsoft products including Xbox and Bing and using predefined templates and workflows has been built to help companies launch predictive applications much more quickly than traditional development methods, even allowing customers to publish APIs and web services on top of the Azure ML platform.

Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president at Microsoft, who was in charge of the Azure ML, and spent years at Amazon before joining Microsoft to lead this effort, said the platform enables customers and partners to build big data applications to predict, forecast and change future outcomes.

He says this ability to look forward instead of back is what really stands out in this product.

“Traditional data analysis let you predict the future. Machine learning lets you change the future,” Sirosh explained. He says by allowing you to detect patterns, you can forecast demand, predict disease outbreaks, anticipate when elevators need maintenance before they break and even predict and prevent crime, as just a few examples.

Sirosh says the cloud really changes the dynamic here because it provides the ability to scale, and the service takes care of much of the heavy lifting that would have taken weeks or months for companies trying to do it themselves in-house in a data center.

“The cloud solves the last mile problem, Sirosh explained. Before a service like this, you needed data scientists to identify the data set, and then have IT build an application to support that. This last part often took weeks or months to code and engineer at scale. He says Azure ML takes that process and provides a way to build that same application in hours.

What’s more is it supports more than 300 packages from the popular open source project R used by many data scientists.

Sirosh says the hope is that as more people use the platform and generate APIs and applications, and create what he called, “a virtuous cycle between data and APIs. ” People have data. They bring it to [Azure ML] to create APIs. People hook into applications then feed data back to the cloud and fuel more APIs, “he explained.

The product is currently in confidential preview, but Microsoft did mention a couple of examples including Max 451, a Microsoft partner working with large retailers to help predict which products customers are most likely to purchase, allowing them to stock their stores before the demand.

Carnegie Mellon University is working with Azure ML to help reduce energy costs in campus buildings by predicting and mitigating activities to reduce overall energy usage and cost.

Microsoft is not alone in this space, however. IBM launched Watson as a cloud service last winter for similar types of machine learning application building and just last week a startup called Ersatz Labs also launched a deep learning artificial intelligence cloud platform.

Azure ML goes into public preview next month. There is no word yet on the official launch date.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/06/16/microsoft-announces-azure-ml-cloud-based-machine-learning-platform-that-can-predict-future-events/

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Microsoft, Salesforce Unveil Cloud-Computing Partnership

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) and Salesforce.com Inc. (CRM) agreed to make some of their business-software products work better together, signaling a thaw between two longtime rivals.

Salesforce’s customer-management programs will become available for Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Phone operating systems, and will work with Office 365 online productivity software, the companies said in a statement today.

The agreement marks a shift in what has sometimes been a fractious relationship. In 2010, Microsoft sued Salesforce for patent infringement, setting off a countersuit before the companies settled later that year. Microsoft in 2005 also announced plans to “give Salesforce a very effective run for their money” with a competing product and in 2010 ran an anti-Salesforce ad campaign with the tagline “Don’t Get Forced.”

Under new Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft has been looking to bolster its Internet-based cloud software and corporate programs. Software makers are looking for more ways to let applications, even from rivals, work together as customers seek to use multiple products and share information.

“This announcement is really about putting our customers first,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said on a conference call.

Terms of the accord weren’t disclosed. Microsoft and San Francisco-based Salesforce both also agreed to use some of each other’s programs, including expanding Salesforce’s use of Microsoft’s database and Azure cloud software.

Developing Apps

Microsoft has been asking Salesforce to deliver apps for Windows and Windows Phone for at least a year. Kendall Collins, an executive vice president at Salesforce, said in a 2013 interview that Microsoft had talked to Benioff about developing apps for the products. At the time, the company wasn’t interested because it didn’t think there was enough customer demand, though Collins said Salesforce would monitor the situation.

Benioff cited Nadella’s ascent to the CEO job for giving him an opportunity to improve Salesforce’s relationship with Microsoft, a company he referred to as the “evil empire” just a few years ago.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-05-29/microsoft-salesforce-said-to-discuss-cloud-partnership.html

Dimension Data’s latest private cloud service builds on Microsoft platform

Dimension Data is adding to its private cloud infrastructure services with a new offering that builds on the Microsoft Cloud Platform. The service builds on Windows Server 2012 R2 with Hyper-V, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack.

Even though the $6 billion integrator already has its own private cloud service, called Private Compute-as-a-Service (CaaS), the new offering is meant for businesses and organizations that are seeking to move Microsoft workloads between on-premise, Microsoft Azure and Dimension Data cloud environments. Microsoft is a Microsoft Certified Gold Partner and a Microsoft Cloud OS Network partner.

The new service can support 32-bit and 64-bit Windows and Linux environments for mission-critical business and Web applications, software development and testing scenarios, and virtual desktop services.

It’s just another example of Dimension Data’s quest to support its clients with cloud services in pretty much whatever form they need or want.

Dimension Data’s cloud services presence is extensive: the company will deliver its new service either within client data centers or in any of this 10 Managed Cloud Platform locations, including Santa Clara, Calif., Ashburn, Va., Amsterdam, London, Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Hong Kong or Johannesburg.

http://www.zdnet.com/dimension-datas-latest-private-cloud-service-builds-on-microsoft-platform-7000029899/

Microsoft Azure Gets New Tools For Hybrid Clouds And Simplified Cloud Storage Service For Businesses

Today is a big day for Microsoft. It’s making a large number of announcements around its developer tools at its enterprise-centric TechEd event in Houston today and in addition, it is also bringing a number of new features to its Azure cloud computing services. Among these are the general availability of Azure ExpressRoute for creating private connections between Azure and on-premise environments, a new simplified cloud storage service for Azure for businesses and a number of new security features.

Some of these features are available now, some are in preview and some will launch over the course of the summer. ExpressRoute is coming out of preview on Monday, for example. By working with AT&T, BT, Equinix, Level 3, SingTel, TelecityGroup, Verizon and Zadara Storage, ExpressRoute creates a direct and fast connection between Azure and the infrastructure that enterprises already have on their premises or in a co-location data center. Using these provider’s networks, ExpressRoute connections never touch the public internet, making them faster and more secure that typical connections. For enterprises that are working on adopting cloud computing through hybrid clouds, this is a huge deal. None of this comes cheap, though. During the preview, Microsoft offered a 50% discount and even then, a 10Gbps connection cost $5,000 per month with unlimited inbound data transfer and 250 terabytes of outgoing data transfer included. All of this comes with a 99.9 percent SLA.

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Maybe the most interesting update, however, is the launch of Microsoft Azure Files in preview today. The idea here is that while cloud storage was designed with new applications in mind, it’s still very hard to move applications to the cloud when you have to rewrite your complete storage stack first. Microsoft argues that many of these legacy apps were written for on-premise applications where file shares were the de-facto storage standard. So to help businesses move these applications to the cloud, Azure Files essentially provides businesses with a cloud-based file sharing server that uses the standard SMB protocol that are part of the Windows API.

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A few months ago, Microsoft acquired API management service Apiphany with the clear intent to integrate it into Azure. Today, some of that work is coming to fruition with the launch of Azure API Management in preview. This service helps businesses publish their APIs internally and to outside developers.

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Among the new security solutions are the disaster recovery service Azure Site Recovery (previously known as Hyper-V Recovery Manager), which will launch in preview next month and a new anti-malware service for Azure in preview for both cloud service and virtual machines. In addition, Microsoft is partnering with Symantec and Trend Micro to integrate their antivirus technologies on Azure virtual machines.

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Other updates the company announced today include the public previews of an internal load balancing service, an Azure Redis Cache service and the general availability of the A8 and A9 virtual machines for compute-intensive applications on Azure. Microsoft will also soon allow developers to permanently reserve an IP address from their own pool.

All of these new services clearly point at Microsoft’s interest in getting more enterprise customers onto Azure. While Microsoft may still be catching up to Amazon’s Web Services in many ways, Amazon has never quite focused on this market and Microsoft actually has a chance to leapfrog its competition here if it plays its cards right.

http://techcrunch.com/2014/05/12/windows-azure-gets-new-tools-for-hybrid-clouds-and-simplified-cloud-storage-service-for-businesses/

Microsoft Release Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 Update (previously known as Windows 8.1 S14 Update) on April 8th 2014

Microsoft Release Windows 8.1 Update (previously known as Windows 8.1 S14 Update)

Important updates to the Windows platform: Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 8.1 Update. With these updates, we continue to refine and improve Windows based on feedback from customers to deliver ongoing value to all their Windows devices. Joe Belfiore post goes into detail on all the awesomeness that’s in Windows Phone 8.1 (Cortana is rad – trust me!) but also gives some great context around our new engineering culture in the Operating Systems Group now that we’re in this mobile-first, cloud-first world. It also underscores how we are moving more quickly to improve the Windows experience for customers. In this post, I wanted to share a little bit more about the update for Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1.

With the current generation of Windows, we made a pretty big bet on touch and mobility. Along with building on top of the strong foundation in Windows 7, we also introduced a brand new approach to the Windows user experience that brought touch to the forefront. Since the original introduction of Windows 8 in 2012, we have been continuously refining the experience, and we are making steady progress. More than 40 percent of Windows PCs at big box retailers, like Windows Stores Only at Best Buy, this past holiday season were touch-enabled – up from only 4 percent a year ago. As Joe Belfiore recently said at Mobile World Congress, customer satisfaction for a device running Windows 8 with touch is actually higher than it was for a PC running Windows 7 without touch. We believe deeply in the notion that delivering a compelling personal and modern experience across all the devices that matter in your life should not mean sacrificing familiarity. Windows 8 and 8.1 were first steps, and we continue to make refinements based on customer and partner feedback.

Last fall, less than a year after we shipped Windows 8, we released Windows 8.1– bringing a large set of customer-driven improvements including the return of the Start button, tutorials, more personalization options, the ability to boot to desktop, improvements to multi-tasking, and more. Today marks the next step as we release a new update for your Windows experience.

The Windows 8.1 Update deliversa collection of refinements designed to give people a more familiar and convenient experience across touch, keyboard and mouse inputs. It also brings improvements for business customers, really accelerates opportunity for developers, and enables device makers to offer lower cost devices.

Easier access to your favourite apps and key controls:

On the Start screen, on select devices you will now find Power and Search buttons at the upper-right corner next to your account picture. You can now more quickly shut down your PC if you need to and do a search right from the Start screen.

If you like using the desktop, you will be happy to know that select devices will now boot to desktop as the default setting. And on your taskbar, you can now pin both desktop apps and apps from the Windows Store as well as your favourite websites. You can now pin any app you want to the taskbar so you can open or switch between apps right from the desktop. I’ve got some of my favourite apps like Xbox Music, Skype, Facebook, Flip board, and Mint pinned to my taskbar. You can also access the taskbar from anywhere when you’re using a mouse; you can see the taskbar on any screen by moving your mouse to the bottom edge of your screen. Just click on any of the apps pinned to your taskbar to open or switch to them.

More familiar mouse and keyboard options:

We’ve made it so your mouse works more consistently anywhere in Windows. If you move your mouse to the top of the screen when using a Windows Store app, you will see the familiar Close and Minimize buttons. And as I mentioned above, when you move your mouse to the bottom of the screen in a Windows Store app, the taskbar comes up.

On the Start screen, if you right-click on an app tile, you will get a context menu next to the app tile that shows you what you can do with the tile, like unpin from Start, pin to the taskbar, change the tile size or even uninstall the app. Right-clicking on an app tile on the Start screen works just like right-clicking on something on the desktop.

Simpler way to find new apps:

After installing the update, you’ll find the Windows Store is now pinned to the taskbar by default so you can easily discover new apps (yes, you can unpin it if you don’t want it there).

And after installing new apps, you’ll notice a message at the lower-left corner of the Start screen that points you to the Apps view so you can see what you recently just installed.

Seamless browsing on all devices:

With today’s update, Internet Explorer 11 adapts your browsing experience by detecting your Windows device and input type – whether an 8-inch touch tablet in portrait mode or a 24-inch desktop with mouse and keyboard. The web is still front-and-center but new design enhancements make your browsing experience feel like it was made just for your device – like the number of tabs on-screen, the size of the fonts and menus. You can also now control when the browser remains on-screen or hides away for full-screen browsing. Check out 22tracksto see these updates in action.

Improvements for business customers: We are introducing several key improvements for businesses such as Enterprise Mode Internet Explorer (EMIE) and extended Mobile Device Management (MDM). EMIE enables Internet Explorer 8 compatibility on Internet Explorer 11 so companies can run existing web-based apps seamlessly on Windows 8.1 devices. And with extended MDM, we are introducing additional policy settings that can be managed with whatever MDM solution an enterprise chooses including whitelisting or blacklisting Windows Store apps and websites. Look for a blog post later today on the Windows for your Business Blog that discusses these in greater detail and a post on the Springboard Series Blogon deployment guidance for the Windows 8.1 Update.

New low cost devices:With the Windows 8.1 Update, we have enabled our hardware partners to build lower cost devices for Windows such as devices with only 1GB RAM and 16GB of storage that provide customers with the experience they expect from a Windows device without sacrificing performance.

We have made the Windows 8.1 Update available today for MSDN subscribers, and will begin to roll it out for free to Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1 customers via Windows Update next Tuesday April 8th. For the majority of folks, they will receive the update automatically. If you are still on Windows 8, you can get the Windows 8.1 Update via the Windows Store on April 8th as well.

Click for more at source

Microsoft MSDN Blog tells how to uninstall or remove Internet Explorer 9, 10, and 11

Internet Explorer, the browser you all once loved to hate, has grown stronger over the last few years. After ignoring its web-browser for a long time,
the software giant not only added many enticing features into it, but also made the browser much more secure and stable. However, there are some
of you out there that dislike Internet Explorer, for whatever your reasons may be.

In an MSDN blog post, a Microsoft employee has outlined the process to uninstall Internet Explorer 9, Internet Explorer 10, and Internet Explorer 11
via command line. In order to proceed, you must be logged into your computer as an administrator, or an account that has administrative rights.

Click Start, type cmd in the Search box, and then click cmd under Programs. Copy and paste the following commands into the Command Prompt window,
and then press Enter (the first command is for IE9, the second command is for IE10, and the last command is for IE11):

Examples covered in this blog are for:

Internet Explorer 9

Internet Explorer 10

Internet Explorer 11

Example for uninstalling Internet explorer 9

Log on to the computer by using an administrator account or an account that has administrative rights.

Close all Internet Explorer browser windows.

Click Start, type cmd in the Search box, and then click cmd under Programs.

Copy the following command:

FORFILES /P %WINDIR%servicingPackages /M Microsoft-Windows-InternetExplorer-*9.*.mum /c “cmd /c echo Uninstalling package @fname && start /w pkgmgr /up:@fname /quiet /norestart

Paste the command into the Command Prompt window, and then press Enter.

Restart the computer.

Example for uninstalling Internet explorer 10

Log on to the computer by using an administrator account or an account that has administrative rights.

Close all Internet Explorer browser windows.

Click Start, type cmd in the Search box, and then click cmd under Programs.

Copy the following command:

FORFILES /P %WINDIR%servicingPackages /M Microsoft-Windows-InternetExplorer-*10.*.mum /c “cmd /c echo Uninstalling package @fname && start /w pkgmgr /up:@fname /quiet /norestart

Paste the command into the Command Prompt window, and then press Enter.

Restart the computer.

Example for uninstalling Internet explorer 11

Log on to the computer by using an administrator account or an account that has administrative rights.

Close all Internet Explorer browser windows.

Click Start, type cmd in the Search box, and then click cmd under Programs.

Copy the following command:

FORFILES /P %WINDIR%servicingPackages /M Microsoft-Windows-InternetExplorer-*11.*.mum /c “cmd /c echo Uninstalling package @fname && start /w pkgmgr /up:@fname /quiet /norestart

Paste the command into the Command Prompt window, and then press Enter.

Restart the computer.Once you have executed the command, you must restart your computer.

Internet Explorer 11 is a fantastic browser and is the company’s latest internet browser available on Windows 7 and Windows 8. If you dislike Internet Explorer, hit the comments below and tell us why! We won’t judge you for wanting to remove Internet Explorer – everyone has their preferences! Just keep in mind that Internet Explorer 11 sports some unique and intuitive features that make it stand tall against its competitors.

Click for more at source or Microsoft MSDN Blog

Microsoft Kinect for Windows 2.0 hardware design revealed, available by summer of this year

Microsoft is getting close to releasing the second version of the company’s Kinect for Windows hardware. In an official blog post, Microsoft is showing off the hardware design. "The sensor closely resembles the Kinect for Xbox One, except that it says “Kinect” on the top panel, and the Xbox Nexus – the stylized green “x” – has been changed to a simple, more understated power indicator," Microsoft stated in an official blog post.

The sensor requires the hub and the power supply, which accepts three connections: the sensor, USB 3.0 output to PC, and power. The power supply itself supports voltages from 100 – 240 volts.

Developers were able to get their hands on an alpha version of the hardware last summer, as well as early access to the SDK. Developers are expected to get a final version of the Kinect for Windows 2.0 hardware for free when it becomes available.

Microsoft plans to offer more updates as we inch closer to the release of Kinect for Windows 2.0. According to ZDNet, Microsoft is planning on releasing this product by summer of this year.

You can take a look at the new design below.

As Microsoft continue the march toward the upcoming launch of Kinect for Windows v2, we’re excited to share the hardware’s final look. Sensor

The sensor closely resembles the Kinect for Xbox One, except that it says “Kinect” on the top panel, and the Xbox Nexus—the stylized green “x”—has been changed to a simple, more understated power indicator:

Kinect for Windows v2 sensor

Hub and power supply

The sensor requires a couple other components to work: the hub and the power supply. Tying everything together is the hub (top item pictured below), which accepts three connections: the sensor, USB 3.0 output to PC, and power. The power supply (bottom item pictured below) does just what its name implies: it supplies all the power the sensor requires to operate. The power cables will vary by country or region, but the power supply itself supports voltages from 100–240 volts.

Kinect for Windows v2 hub (top) and power supply (bottom)

As this first look at the Kinect for Windows v2 hardware indicates, we’re getting closer and closer to launch. So stay tuned for more updates on the next generation of Kinect for Windows.

Click for more at source or Kinect Blog Link

Microsoft Enterprise Mobility for Every Business and Every Device

Microsoft Enterprise Mobility for Every Business and Every Device

Earlier today in San Francisco, Satya spoke about the wide-ranging work Microsoft is doing to deliver a cloud for everyone and every device. Satya’s remarks certainly covered a lot of ground – including big announcements about the availability of Office on the iPad, as well as the release of what we call the Microsoft Enterprise Mobility Suite.

Regarding the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS), I want to share some additional details about the upcoming general availability of Azure Active Directory Premium, as well as our latest updates to Windows Intune.

If you haven’t had a chance to read this morning’s post from Satya, I really recommend checking in out here. In the post, Satya talks about the focus of our company being “Mobile First – Cloud First.” I love this focus! The mobile devices that we all use every day (and, honestly, could not live without) were built to consume the cloud, and the cloud is what enables these devices to become such a critical and thoroughly integrated part of our lives.

For years I have emphasized that, as we architect the solutions that help organizations embrace the devices their users want to bring into work (i.e. BYOD), the cloud should be at the core of how we enable this. As I have worked across the industry with numerous customers it is clear that embracing a cloud-based infrastructure for Enterprise Mobility has become the go-to choice for forward-looking organizations around the world who want to maximize their Enterprise Mobility capabilities.

Enterprise Mobility is a big topic – so big, in fact, that it extends beyond mobile device management (MDM) and the need to address BYOD. Now Enterprise Mobility stretches all the way to how to best handle new applications and services (SaaS) coming into the organization. Enterprise Mobility also has to address data protection at the device level, at the app level, and at the data level (via technologies like Rights Management).

With these challenges in mind, we have assembled the EMS to help our customers supercharge their Enterprise Mobility capabilities with the latest cloud services across MDM, MAM, identity/access management, and information protection.

On one point I do want to be very specific: The EMS is the most comprehensive and complete platform for organizations to embrace these mobility and cloud trends. Looking across the industry, other offerings feature only disconnected pieces of what is needed. When you examine what Microsoft has built and what we are delivering, EMS is simply the only solution that has combined all of the capabilities needed to fully enable users in this new, mobile, cloud-enabled world.

Additionally, with Office now available on iPad, and cloud-based MDM from Intune, over time we will deliver integrated management capabilities for Office apps across the mobile platforms.

To see Office in action on an iPad, check out this video:

You can check out Office for iPad product guide here.

The capabilities packaged in the EMS are a giant step beyond simple MDM. The EMS is a people-first approach to identity, devices, apps, and data – and it allows you to actively build upon what you already have in place while proactively empowering your workforce well into the future.

The EMS has three key elements:

  • Identity and access management delivered by Azure Active Directory Premium
  • MDM and MAM delivered by Windows Intune
  • Data protection delivered by Azure AD Rights Management Services

Cloud-based Identity & Access Management

Azure Active Directory (AAD) is a comprehensive, cloud-based identity/access management solution which includes core directory services that already support some of the largest cloud services (including Office 365) with billions of authentications every week. AAD acts as your identity hub in the cloud for single sign-on to Office 365 and hundreds of other cloud services.

Azure AD Premium builds on AAD’s functionality and gives IT a powerful set of capabilities to manage identities and access to the SaaS applications that end-users need.

Azure AD Premium is packed with features that save IT teams time and money, for example:

  • It delivers group management and self-service password reset – dramatically cutting the time/cost of helpdesk calls.
  • It provides pre-configured single sign on to more than 1,000 popular SaaS applications so IT can easily manage access for users with one set of credentials.
  • To improve visibility for IT and security, it includes security reporting to identify and block threats (e.g. anomalous logins) and require multi-factor authentication for users when these abnormalities are detected.

The Azure AD Premium service will be generally available in April. For more info, check out this new post from the Azure team.

Cloud-delivered MDM

Windows Intune is our cloud-based MDM and PC management solution that helps IT enable their employees to be productive on the devices they love.

Since its launch we have regularly delivered updates to this service at a cloud cadence. In October 2013 and January 2014 we added new capabilities like e-mail profile management for iOS, selective wipe, iOS 7 data protection configuration, and remote lock and password reset.

Following up on these new features, in April we will also be adding more Android device management with support for the Samsung KNOX platform, as well as support for the upcoming update to Windows Phone.

Data Protection from the Cloud

Microsoft Azure Rights Management is a powerful and easy-to-use way for organizations to protect their critical information when it is at rest or in transit.

This service is already available today as part of Office 365, and we recently added extended capability for existing on-prem deployments. Azure RMS now supports the connection to on-prem Exchange, SharePoint, and Windows Servers.

In addition to these updates, Azure RMS also offers customers the option to bring their own key to the service, as well as access to logging information by enabling access policy to be embedded into the actual documents being shared. When a document is being shared in this manner, the user’s access rights to the document are validated each time the document is opened. If an employee leaves an organization or if a document is accidentally sent to the wrong individual, the company’s data is protected because there is no way for the recipient to open the file.

Cost Effective Licensing

Now with these three cloud services brought together in the EMS, Microsoft has made it easy and cost effective to acquire the full set of capabilities necessary to manage today’s (and the future’s) enterprise mobility challenges.

As we have built the Enterprise Mobility Suite we also have thought deeply about the need to really simplify how EMS is licensed and acquired. With this in mind, EMS is licensed on a per-user basis. This means that you will not need to count the number of devices in use, or implement policies that would limit the types of devices that can be used.

The Enterprise Mobility Suite offers more capabilities for enabling BYO and SaaS than anyone in the market – and at a fraction of the cost charged elsewhere in the industry.

* * *

This is a major opportunity for IT organizations to take huge leaps forward in their mobility strategy and execution, and Microsoft is committed to supporting every element of this cloud-based, device-based, mobility-centric transformation.

EMS is available to customers via Microsoft’s Enterprise Volume Licensing channels beginning May 1st.

There is so much we want to tell you about the Enterprise Mobility Suite and the innovations we are delivering here. This will be a big topic for us at TechEd North America and it will be a big part of the keynote on May 12. See you there!

Click for more at source

Microsoft Finally Gave Away MS-DOS. Now It Should Open Source Everything Else

Microsoft just released the source code of one of its most important computer operating systems. The catch is that the software is over 30 years old.

Yesterday, with permission from Microsoft, Silicon Valley’s Computer History Museum published the source code for MS-DOS, the text-based operating system that ran so many personal computers in the ’80s and turned Microsoft into one of the industry’s dominant software companies. For computer geeks, the move can provide a bit of fun — a glimpse into how software was built in the past — and it provides a nice metaphor for a Microsoft that’s evolving with the times. Microsoft was once vehemently opposed to open source software, believing that it would cut into its core business, but in a modern world where open source is so very important, the company is changing its tune.

But the company shouldn’t stop at symbolic gestures. We love that the MS-DOS code is now available to the world at large (even if you can’t distribute your own changes to it, as with truly open source software). And we love that Microsoft has also released the code behind another seminal piece of software: Microsoft Word for Windows, originally released in 1990. But if the company is to regain its place at the head of the tech table, it needs to start open sourcing operating systems that are used today, not 30 years ago. Microsoft needs to open up the Windows Phone mobile OS — and maybe even desktop Windows.

Google already gives away both the source code and the licenses for its Android and Chrome operating systems, and that strategy has been quite successful in stealing market share from Apple and Blackberry. Especially in the developing world, handset makers are flocking to Android, and there’s little reason for them to pay a fee for Windows Phone.

There’s even reason to consider extending this policy to the desktop. Apple long ago open sourced the foundation of its OS X operating system through a project called Darwin, and now, it gives away new versions of the operating system to existing customers. Microsoft licenses Windows Phone to manufacturers for as little as $10 per device, and desktop versions of Windows may sell for even less than that. As the price of operating systems approaches zero, Microsoft is running out of excuses not to open up its operating systems. Plus, this could give the company added currency among the world’s software developers — something it desperately needs.

Trust the Source

Releasing source code resonates on so many different levels. It helps software spread. And it accelerates the pace of innovation. But it also engenders an added trust in the companies and individuals doing the open sourcing, a trust that spreads among developers as well as users. People are often more likely to use and build on top of software if they can see into the source code. The history of MS-DOS can actually provide a window into this phenomenon.

Microsoft started out as a company that sold tools for programmers. But tiny outfit got its big break in 1980 when IBM asked for help building an operating system for its new desktop PC line. The result was MS-DOS. It was hugely successful, but a cloud has hung over it from the very beginning. For years a man named Gary Kildall claimed that parts of Microsoft’s operating systems were copied from an OS he built at a tiny company called Digital Research Inc.

The questions that plagued Microsoft during its early years could have been resolved long ago had it simply published its source code under the same license it did today. Rivals wouldn’t be able to use it in their own products, but curious parties could have decided for themselves just how closely Redmond mimicked Kildall’s work.

In similar fashion, Microsoft could help answer lingering questions about Windows. Rumors about NSA backdoors into Microsoft products have swirled since at least 1999, and trust in Microsoft and other large tech companies has only eroded since Edward Snowden leaked a large cache of documents showing the breadth and depth of NSA spying. Microsoft could help clear this up by publishing the full source code of its modern operating systems — even if it’s under a very restrictive license.

Microsoft Does Android?

According to reports, Microsoft is already looking to license certain Windows operating systems at no charge. This is different from open sourcing. But it’s a start. And through Nokia, the handset maker it’s acquiring for $7 billion, Microsoft may even build low-cost phones with Android, the poster child for how successful an open source OS can be.

Now the question is whether Microsoft will go so far as to emulate Android with its own OSes. Yes, Microsoft would lose a revenue stream, but first and foremost, it needs to ensure that Windows is widely used. This will not only encourage developers to build software to the platform — something that will lead to even wider use. It will provide a widely used platform for all sorts of other Microsoft software and services as well as ads. That’s how Google makes it work.

You may see open source DOS as a novelty. But it provides the seeds for a new Microsoft.

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Microsoft switches on Azure in China

Microsoft switches on Azure in China Partner 21Vianet will have the keys to the datacentre though

Microsoft stole a march on its cloudy rivals today by announcing its Azure cloud services are available in China.

Redmond revealed as far back as May 2013 that it had signed a deal with local player 21Vianet to provide Azure in the Middle Kingdom, and it has been around in beta for a few months. However, this week will see the service formally made available for the first time.

Microsoft veep for cloud and enterprise marketing, Takeshi Numoto, proudly announced that the launch would make the firm the “first global company” to launch cloud services inside the Great Firewall.

As noted by El Reg previously, it seems as if the loss of control to a local partner, an undeniable part of doing business in China, was a small price to pay for access to a potentially huge market.

Numoto had this to say about 21Vianet:

21Vianet is a trusted and reliable partner who can deliver the quality and reliability that Microsoft Azure customers require, delivering Azure service from multiple locations in China to enable critical disaster recovery scenarios. In fact, 21Vianet has already delivered fully functional cloud services to more than 3,000 customers in China, including CNTV, LineKong, GMW.cn and Coca-Cola China.

At the time of the May 2013 announcement it was reported that Microsoft had trained and certified over 100 21Vianet employees to use its Azure platform.

Under the terms of the deal the US firm is only able to provide support and troubleshooting and must request access to the data centre from 21Vianet.

Still, it’s something of a coup for Microsoft, and sees the firm go where the likes of Amazon and Google have so far failed to float a cloud into China.

Redmond has in the past predicted China’s cloud computing market will grow from $297m in 2011 to $3.8bn in 2020, and Numoto quoted IDC stats that the market has expanded 40 per cent since 2012.

Microsoft will be hoping its latest China venture is less controversial than Bing and Skype have been, although it will be forced to grant access to servers if requested by the authorities.

The China switch-on comes barely a month after Microsoft Azure officially launched in Japan. ®

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