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Paul Merrell

Microsoft Pitches Technology That Can Read Facial Expressions at Political Rallies - 0 views

  • On the 21st floor of a high-rise hotel in Cleveland, in a room full of political operatives, Microsoft’s Research Division was advertising a technology that could read each facial expression in a massive crowd, analyze the emotions, and report back in real time. “You could use this at a Trump rally,” a sales representative told me.

    At both the Republican and Democratic conventions, Microsoft sponsored event spaces for the news outlet Politico. Politico, in turn, hosted a series of Microsoft-sponsored discussions about the use of data technology in political campaigns. And throughout Politico’s spaces in both Philadelphia and Cleveland, Microsoft advertised an array of products from “Microsoft Cognitive Services,” its artificial intelligence and cloud computing division.

    At one exhibit, titled “Realtime Crowd Insights,” a small camera scanned the room, while a monitor displayed the captured image. Every five seconds, a new image would appear with data annotated for each face — an assigned serial number, gender, estimated age, and any emotions detected in the facial expression. When I approached, the machine labeled me “b2ff” and correctly identified me as a 23-year-old male.

  • “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an Application Programming Interface (API), or a software tool that connects web applications to Microsoft’s cloud computing services. Through Microsoft’s emotional analysis API — a component of Realtime Crowd Insights — applications send an image to Microsoft’s servers. Microsoft’s servers then analyze the faces and return emotional profiles for each one.

    In a November blog post, Microsoft said that the emotional analysis could detect “anger, contempt, fear, disgust, happiness, neutral, sadness or surprise.”

    Microsoft’s sales representatives told me that political campaigns could use the technology to measure the emotional impact of different talking points — and political scientists could use it to study crowd response at rallies.

  • Facial recognition technology — the identification of faces by name — is already widely used in secret by law enforcement, sports stadiums, retail stores, and even churches, despite being of questionable legality. As early as 2002, facial recognition technology was used at the Super Bowl to cross-reference the 100,000 attendees to a database of the faces of known criminals. The technology is controversial enough that in 2013, Google tried to ban the use of facial recognition apps in its Google glass system.

    But “Realtime Crowd Insights” is not true facial recognition — it could not identify me by name, only as “b2ff.” It did, however, store enough data on each face that it could continuously identify it with the same serial number, even hours later. The display demonstrated that capability by distinguishing between the number of total faces it had seen, and the number of unique serial numbers.


    Photo: Alex Emmons

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  • Instead, “Realtime Crowd Insights” is an example of facial characterization technology — where computers analyze faces without necessarily identifying them. Facial characterization has many positive applications — it has been tested in the classroom, as a tool for spotting struggling students, and Microsoft has boasted that the tool will even help blind people read the faces around them.

    But facial characterization can also be used to assemble and store large profiles of information on individuals, even anonymously.

  • Alvaro Bedoya, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on privacy and facial recognition, has hailed that code of conduct as evidence that Microsoft is trying to do the right thing. But he pointed out that it leaves a number of questions unanswered — as illustrated in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

    “It’s interesting that the app being shown at the convention ‘remembered’ the faces of the people who walked by. That would seem to suggest that their faces were being stored and processed without the consent that Microsoft’s policy requires,” Bedoya said. “You have to wonder: What happened to the face templates of the people who walked by that booth? Were they deleted? Or are they still in the system?”

    Microsoft officials declined to comment on exactly what information is collected on each face and what data is retained or stored, instead referring me to their privacy policy, which does not address the question.

    Bedoya also pointed out that Microsoft’s marketing did not seem to match the consent policy. “It’s difficult to envision how companies will obtain consent from people in large crowds or rallies.”

    But nobody is saying that the output of this technology can't be combined with the output of facial recognition technology to let them monitor you individually AND track your emotions. Fortunately, others are fighting back with knowledge and tech to block facial recognition.
Paul Merrell

Microsoft Says U.S. Is Abusing Secret Warrants - 0 views

  • “WE APPRECIATE THAT there are times when secrecy around a government warrant is needed,” Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote in a blog post on Thursday. “But based on the many secrecy orders we have received, we question whether these orders are grounded in specific facts that truly demand secrecy. To the contrary, it appears that the issuance of secrecy orders has become too routine.”

    With those words, Smith announced that Microsoft was suing the Department of Justice for the right to inform its customers when the government is reading their emails.

    The last big fight between the Justice Department and Silicon Valley was started by law enforcement, when the FBI demanded that Apple unlock a phone used by San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

    This time, Microsoft is going on the offensive. The move is welcomed by privacy activists as a step forward for transparency — though it’s also for business reasons.

  • Secret government searches are eroding people’s trust in the cloud, Smith wrote — including large and small businesses now keeping massive amounts of records online. “The transition to the cloud does not alter people’s expectations of privacy and should not alter the fundamental constitutional requirement that the government must — with few exceptions — give notice when it searches and seizes private information or communications,” he wrote.

    According to the complaint, Microsoft received 5,624 federal demands for customer information or data in the past 18 months. Almost half — 2,576 — came with gag orders, and almost half of those — 1,752 — had “no fixed end date” by which Microsoft would no longer be sworn to secrecy.

    These requests, though signed off on by a judge, qualify as unconstitutional searches, the attorneys argue. It “violates both the Fourth Amendment, which affords people and businesses the right to know if the government searches or seizes their property, and the First Amendment, which enshrines Microsoft’s rights to talk to its customers and to discuss how the government conducts its investigations — subject only to restraints narrowly tailored to serve compelling government interests,” they wrote.

    The Fourth Amendment argument that people have a right to know when their property has been searched or seized is particularly interesting to me. If adopted by the Courts, that could spell the end of surveillance gag orders. 
Paul Merrell

Microsoft pledges to tell email customers of state-sponsored hacking in future - Techno... - 1 views

  • Microsoft Corp. has agreed to change its policies and always tell email customers when it suspects there has been a government hacking attempt after widespread hacking by Chinese authorities was exposed.

    Microsoft experts concluded several years ago that Chinese authorities had hacked into more than a thousand Hotmail email accounts, targeting international leaders of China's Tibetan and Uighur minorities in particular — but it decided not to tell the victims, allowing the hackers to continue their campaign, according to former employees of the company.

    On Wednesday, after a series of requests for comment from Reuters, Microsoft said it would change its policy on notifying customers.

    Microsoft spokesman Frank Shaw said the company was never certain of the origin of the Hotmail attacks.

  • The company also confirmed for the first time that it had not called, emailed or otherwise told the Hotmail users that their electronic correspondence had been collected. The company declined to say what role the exposure of the Hotmail campaign played in its decision to make the policy shift.

    The first public signal of the attacks came in May 2011, though no direct link was immediately made with the Chinese authorities.

  • That's when security firm Trend Micro Inc announced it had found an email sent to someone in Taiwan that contained a miniature computer program.

    The program took advantage of a previously undetected flaw in Microsoft's own web pages to direct Hotmail and other free Microsoft email services to secretly forward copies of all of a recipient's incoming mail to an account controlled by the attacker.

    Trend Micro found more than a thousand victims, and Microsoft patched the vulnerability before the security company announced its findings publicly

Paul Merrell

Microsoft Helping to Store Police Video From Taser Body Cameras | nsnbc international - 0 views

  • Microsoft has joined forces with Taser to combine the Azure cloud platform with law enforcement management tools.
  • Taser’s Axon body camera data management software on will run on Azure and Windows 10 devices to integrate evidence collection, analysis, and archival features as set forth by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Security Policy.

    As per the partnership, Taser will utilize Azure’s machine learning and computing technologies to store police data on Microsoft’s government cloud. In addition, redaction capabilities of Taser will be improved which will assist police departments that are subject to bulk data requests.

    Currently, Taser is operating on Amazon Web Services; however this deal may entice police departments to upgrade their technology, which in turn would drive up sales of Windows 10.

    This partnership comes after Taser was given a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) last year, who ordered 7,000 body cameras equipped with 800 Axom body cameras for their officers in response to the recent deaths of several African Americans at the hands of police.

  • In order to ensure Taser maintains a monopoly on police body cameras, the corporation acquired contracts with police departments all across the nation for the purchase of body cameras through dubious ties to certain chiefs of police.

    The corporation announced in 2014 that “orders for body cameras [has] soared to $24.6 million from October to December” which represents a 5-fold increase in profits from 2013.

    Currently, Taser is in 13 cities with negotiations for new contracts being discussed in 28 more.

    Taser, according to records and interviews, allegedly has “financial ties to police chiefs whose departments have bought the recording devices.”

    In fact, Taser has been shown to provide airfare and luxury hotels for chiefs of police when traveling for speaking engagements in Australia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE); and hired them as consultants – among other perks and deals.

    Since 2013, Taser has been contractually bound with “consulting agreements with two such chiefs’ weeks after they retired” as well as is allegedly “in talks with a third who also backed the purchase of its products.”

Paul Merrell

Microsoft Case: The Government Responds, But Fails to Convince | Just Security - 0 views

  • The government has now filed its Second Circuit brief in the dispute with Microsoft (discussed here, here, and here), challenging key assertions by Microsoft and its many amici, and making a strong argument that a warrant issued under the Stored Communications Act (SCA) requires Microsoft to turn over emails in its custody and control, regardless of whether they are being held (in this case in Dublin).

    After reading the government’s brief, I am increasingly convinced that nothing in the text, structure, purpose, or legislative history provides a definitive answer to the central issue in the case (a point that the government implicitly concedes), and that, as a result, the dispute really is a policy one. Should, or should not, the government be authorized to compel Microsoft and other ISPs to produce emails of other private communications located in a foreign nation? What are the ramifications of such an answer on the United States’ ability to protect private communications — including that of its citizens — stored within its borders? And what are the implications for the government’s ability (or lack thereof) to access sought-after evidence overseas?

Paul Merrell

Microsoft Demos Real-Time Translation Over Skype - Slashdot - 0 views

  • "Today at the first annual Code Conference, Microsoft demonstrated its new real-time translation in Skype publicly for the first time. Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft's VP of Skype and Lync, compares the technology to Star Trek's Universal Translator. During the demonstration, Pall converses in English with a coworker in Germany who is speaking German. 'Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.'"
    Haven't yet explored to see what's beneath the marketing hype. And I'm less than excited about the Skype with its NSA tendrils being the vehicle of audio translations of human languages. But given the progress in: [i] automated translations of human texts; [ii] audio screenreaders; and [iii] voice-to-text transcription, this is one we saw coming. Slap the three technologies together and wait until processing power catches up to what's needed to produce a marketable experience. After all, the StarTrek scriptwriters saw this coming too.  

    Ray Kurzweil, now at Google, should get a lot of the pioneer credit here. His revolutionary optical character recognition algorithms soon found themselves redeployed in text-to-speech synthesis and speech recognition technology. From Wikipedia: "Kurzweil was the principal inventor of the first CCD flatbed scanner, the first omni-font optical character recognition, the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind, the first commercial text-to-speech synthesizer, the first music synthesizer Kurzweil K250 capable of recreating the grand piano and other orchestral instruments, and the first commercially marketed large-vocabulary speech recognition."

    Not bad for a guy the same age as my younger brother.

    But Microsoft's announcement here may be more vaporware than hardware in production and lines of executable code. Microsoft has a long history of vaporware announcements to persuade potential customers to hold off on riding with the competition. 

    And the Softies undoubtedly know that Google's human language text translation capabilities are way out in front and that the voice to text and text to speech API methods have already found a comfortable home in Android and Chromebook.

    What does Microsoft have that's ready to ship if anything? I'll check it out tomorrow. 
Gary Edwards

Two Microsofts: Mulling an alternate reality | ZDNet - 0 views

  • Judge Jackson had it right. And the Court of Appeals? Not so much
  • Judge Jackson is an American hero and news of his passing thumped me hard. His ruling against Microsoft and the subsequent overturn of that ruling resulted, IMHO, in two extraordinary directions that changed the world. Sure the what-if game is interesting, but the reality itself is stunning enough.

    Of course, Judge Jackson sought to break the monopoly. The US Court of Appeals overturn resulted in the monopoly remaining intact, but the Internet remaining free and open.

    Judge Jackson's breakup plan had a good shot at achieving both a breakup of the monopoly and, a free and open Internet. I admit though that at the time I did not favor the Judge's plan. And i actually did submit a proposal based on Microsoft having to both support the WiNE project, and, provide a complete port to WiNE to any software provider requesting a port. I wanted to break the monopolist's hold on the Windows Productivity Environment and the hundreds of millions of investment dollars and time that had been spent on application development forever trapped on that platform.

    For me, it was the productivity platform that had to be broken.
  • I assume the good Judge thought that separating the Windows OS from Microsoft Office / Applications would force the OS to open up the secret API's even as the OS continued to evolve. Maybe. But a full disclosure of the API's coupled with the community service "port to WiNE" requirement might have sped up the process. Incredibly, the "Undocumented Windows Secrets" industry continues to thrive, and the legendary Andrew Schulman's number is still at the top of Silicon Valley legal profession speed dials.

    Oh well. The Court of Appeals stopped the breakup, leaving the Windows Productivity Platform intact. Microsoft continues to own the "client" in "Client/Server" computing.

    Although Microsoft was temporarily stopped from leveraging their desktop monopoly to an iron fisted control and dominance of the Internet, I think what were watching today with the Cloud is Judge Jackson's worst nightmare. And mine too.

    A great transition is now underway, as businesses and enterprises begin the move from legacy client/server business systems and processes to a newly emerging Cloud Productivity Platform. In this great transition, Microsoft holds an inside straight. They have all the aces because they own the legacy desktop productivity platform, and can control the transition to the Cloud.

    No doubt this transition is going to happen. And it will severely disrupt and change Microsoft's profit formula. But if the Redmond reprobate can provide a "value added" transition of legacy business systems and processes, and direct these new systems to the Microsoft Cloud, the profits will be immense.
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  • Judge Jackson sought to break the ability of Microsoft to "leverage" their existing monopoly into the Internet and his plan was overturned and replaced by one based on judicial oversight. Microsoft got a slap on the wrist from the Court of Appeals, but were wailed on with lawsuits from the hundreds of parties injured by their rampant criminality. Some put the price of that criminality as high as $14 Billion in settlements. Plus, the shareholders forced Chairman Bill to resign.

    At the end of the day though, Chairman Bill was right. Keeping the monopoly intact was worth whatever penalty Microsoft was forced to pay. He knew that even the judicial over-site would end one day. Which it did. And now his company is ready to go for it all by leveraging and controlling the great productivity transition.

    No business wants to be hostage to a cold heart'd monopolist. But there is huge difference between a non-disruptive and cost effective, process-by-process value-added transition to a Cloud Productivity Platform, and, the very disruptive and costly "rip-out-and-replace" transition offered by Google, ZOHO, Box, SalesForce and other Cloud Productivity contenders.

    Microsoft, and only Microsoft, can offer the value-added transition path. If they get the Cloud even halfway right, they will own business productivity far into the future.

    Rest in Peace Judge Jackson. Your efforts were heroic and will be remembered as such.

    Comments on the latest SVN article mulling the effects of Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson's anti trust ruling and proposed break up of Microsoft.

    "Chinese Wall"

    Ummm, there was a Chinese Wall between Microsoft Os and the MS Applciations layer. At least that's what Chairman Bill promised developers at a 1990 OS/2-Windows Conference I attended.

    It was a developers luncheon, hosted by Microsoft, with Chairman Bill speaking to about 40 developers with applications designed to run on the then soon to be released Windows 3.0. In his remarks, the Chairman described his vision of commoditizing the personal computer market through an open hardware-reference platform on the one side of the Windows OS, and provisioning an open application developers layer on the other using open and totally transparent API's.

    Of course the question came up concerning the obvious advantage Microsoft applications would have. Chairman Bill answered the question by describing the Chinese Wall that existed between Microsoft's OS and Apps develop departments. He promised that OS API's would be developed privately and separate from the Apps department, and publicly disclosed to ALL developers at the same time.

    Oh yeah. There was lots of anti IBM - evil empire stuff too :)

    Of course we now know this was a line of crap. Microsoft Apps was discovered to have been using undocumented and secret Window API's. Microsoft Apps had a distinct advantage over the competition, and eventually the entire Windows Productivity Platform became dependent on the MSOffice core.

    The company I worked for back then, Pyramid Data, had the first Contact Management application for Windows; PowerLeads. Every Friday night we would release bug fixes and improvements using Wildcat BBS. By Monday morning we would be slammed with calls from users complaining that they had downloaded the Friday night patch, and now some other application would not load or function properly.

    Eventually we tracked th
Gary Edwards

Why I hate Microsoft - 0 views

    A book detailing years and years of Microsoft's misdeeds.
Gary Edwards

Microsoft releases 'Bing Apps for Office' to transform your documents into something mu... - 0 views

    "You have to think that the addition of apps to Office 365 is the continuation of the evolution of documents from static entities that only change when you change them, to living creations that that can update themselves. And by giving documents apps, Microsoft essentially is transforming documents into apps … all the while and not incidentally giving you, me, and any Joe Blow Nonprogrammer the ability to build things that only short years ago would have required extensive development.

    Not only is Microsoft is making office productivity tools more like the web, it's giving us the ability to create mashups of data and analysis and visualization on the fly.

Gary Edwards

Microsoft has failed | SemiAccurate - 0 views

  • heir product lines have stagnated,
    Charlie nails it in this analysis of Microsoft's future.  Most interesting is Charlie's explanation of how Microsoft so totally missed the needs of their corporate business user base - the heart of the monopoly!  Windows 8 is a disaster for productivity.  Great analysis!

    Microsoft is in deep trouble, their two main product lines are failing, and the blame game is intensifying. Steve Sinofsky gets the blame this time for the failure of Windows 8, but the real problem is the patterns that are so clearly illustrated by these actions.

    Microsoft is largely irrelevant to computing of late, the only markets they still play in are evaporating with stunning rapidity. Their long history of circling the wagons tighter and tighter works decently as long as there is not a credible alternative, and that strategy has been the entirety of the Microsoft playbook for so long that there is nothing else now. It works, and as the walls grow higher, customer enmity builds while the value of an alternative grows. This cycle repeats as long as there is no alternative. If there is, everything unravels with frightening rapidity.
Gary Edwards

Is Microsoft On The Verge Of A Sudden Collapse Predicted By Catastrophe Theory? - Forbes - 1 views

    Forbes magazine has a doom and gloom Microsoft article that "ends on a note of doom".  They lampoon Windows 8 using the reviews of other bloggers like Charlie Demerjian, "Microsoft has failed".

    The end of Microsoft though comes from the inability of Microsoft to change course.  In short, Microsoft has fallen into a death spiral consistent with Catastrophe theory (

    No comment or mention of Microsoft Cloud efforts:  Azure,, or SkyDrive.

    In the end, the death spiral for Microsoft is in full effect, and management is expending a lot of effort to speed it up. Anyone who dares point out that the entire system is collapsing, or worse yet suggests an alternative, gets Sinofsky'd. Or was it Guggenheimer'd? In any case, Microsoft is unwilling to change, and that is very clear. Even if they wanted to, they are culturally far beyond the point of being able to. What was a slow bleed of marketshare is now gushing, and management is clueless, intransigent, and myopic. Game over, the thrashing will continue for a bit, but it won't change the outcome. Microsoft has failed.

    I hope this isn't true. Microsoft has been a stabilizing force in the market and many users are very attached to its products. For the first time, however, businesses can look to Google and to Apple and see plausible, battle-tested alternatives to the products they have used from Microsoft-for much less money. And in a bizarre way, Microsofts spasm of innovation has made the company now a destabilizing factor for IT departments and Google Docs is looking an awful lot like the old guard.

    The big question is how fast Microsoft might collapse if businesses began to defect en masse. Like other phenomena of global instability, extreme change seems to come quicker now. For Microsoft, the window is closing fast."
Gary Edwards

That's All Folks: Why the Writing Is on the Wall at Microsoft - Forbes - 1 views

    Control vs. Creativity.  As the ulitmate control freak, Ballmer was guanteed to crush the life out of Microsoft's most creative individuals and teams.  Gates was focused on Windows and MSOffice, and Ballmer on control.  That one-two punch made certain that Microsoft would not be a player in the next great wave of computing; The Cloud.  

    This is yet another example of what I like to call the Wile E. Coyote syndrome. Like the unfortunate character in the old Warner Bros. cartoons, Microsoft now seems to be a company that has long since run off the cliff but, with legs spinning for all they are worth, doesn't know yet that it is ready to drop. Yet drop it most certainly will.

    Microsoft Win8 Tablet Is NOT a Game Changer
    Adam Hartung

    Snapshot: Steve Ballmer
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    Daniel Nye Griffiths
    To understand how this happens, take a look at the work of Arnold J. Toynbee, a historian who studied the rise and fall of civilizations. He argued that a civilization flourishes when it motivates insiders and attracts outsiders with its creative dynamism and culture. The civilization breaks down when its leadership loses this creative capacity and gives way to, or transforms itself into, a dominant minority. When this happens, the driver of the civilization becomes control, not attraction. And it's precisely this switch from attraction to control that is the source of the breakdown. Interestingly, Toynbee says that the consequences may not be immediately apparent. A civilization can keep up momentum because the controls it puts in place generate some short-term efficiency. But eventually it will run its course and collapse, because no amount of control can replace the loss of collective creativity.

    Observe this in the corporate world by looking at the example of General Motors. G.M.'s 2009 bankruptcy came at the end of a long decline dating back to the early 197
Gary Edwards

The Terrible Management Technique That Cost Microsoft Its Creativity - Forbes - 2 views

    Summary of a very interesting Vanity Fair article (linked) describing why the failure of Microsoft is certain.  A second Forbes article titled, 
    "That's All Folks:  The Writing is on the Wall at Microsoft", compliments the Vanity Fair piece.  Good stuff.  Hasta la bye-bye Microsoft. Nice knowin ya.

    Vanity Fair has an article in its August issue that tells the story of how Microsoft "since 2000 . . . has fallen flat in every area it entered: e-books, music, search, social networking, etc., etc." According to a summary available online, the article finds a devastatingly destructive management technique at the heart of Microsoft's problems.
Gary Edwards

Government Market Drags Microsoft Deeper into the Cloud - 0 views

    Nice article from Scott M. Fulton describing Microsoft's iron fisted lock on government desktop productivity systems and the great transition to a Cloud Productivity Platform.  Keep in mind that in 2005, Massachusetts tried to do the same thing with their SOA effort.  Then Governor Romney put over $1 M into a beta test that produced the now infamous 300 page report written by Sam Hiser.  The details of this test resulted in the even more infamous da Vinci ODF plug-in for Microsoft Office desktops.  

    The lessons of Massachusetts are simple enough; it's not the formats or office suite applications.  It's the business process!  Conversion of documents not only breaks the document.  It also breaks the embedded "business process".

    The mystery here is that Microsoft owns the client side of client/server computing.  Compound documents, loaded with intertwined OLE, ODBC, ActiveX, and other embedded protocols and interface dependencies connecting data sources with work flow, are the fuel of these client/server business productivity systems.  Break a compound document and you break the business process.  

    Even though Massachusetts workers were wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive of an SOA based infrastructure that would include Linux servers and desktops as well as OSS productivity applications, at the end of the day it's all about getting the work done.  Breaking the business process turned out to be a show stopper.

    Cloud Computing changes all that.  The reason is that the Cloud is rapidly replacing client/server as the target architecture for new productivity developments; including data centers and transaction processing systems.  There are many reasons for the great transition, but IMHO the most important is that the Web combines communications with content, data, and collaborative computing.  

    Anyone who ever worked with the Microsoft desktop productivity environment knows that the desktop sucks as a communication device.  There was
Paul Merrell

ChronoZoom: A deep dive into the history of everything - 0 views

  • Imagine a timeline of the universe, complete with high-resolution videos and images, in which you could zoom from a chronology of Egypt’s dynasties and pyramids to the tale of a Japanese-American couple interned in a World War II relocation camp to a discussion of a mass extinction that occurred on Earth 200 million years ago – all in seconds.

    Based on an idea from a University of California, Berkeley, student, ChronoZoom – essentially a zoomable timeline of timelines augmented with multimedia features –- is coming to life.

Paul Merrell

Look out, Skype? T-Mobile launches free web calls to mobile phones, landlines - GeekWire - 0 views

Gary Edwards

Five reasons why Microsoft can't compete (and Steve Ballmer isn't one of them) - 2 views

  • discontinued
  • 1. U.S. and European antitrust cases put lawyers and non-technologists in charge of important final product decisions.
  • The company long resisted releasing pertinent interoperability information in the United States. On the European Continent, this resistance led to huge fines. Meanwhile, Microsoft steered away from exclusive contracts and from pushing into adjacent markets.
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  • Additionally, Microsoft curtailed development of the so-called middleware at the core of the U.S. case: E-mail, instant messaging, media playback and Web browsing:
  • Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates learned several important lessons from IBM. Among them: The value of controlling key technology endpoints. For IBM, it was control interfaces. For Microsoft: Computing standards and file formats
  • 2. Microsoft lost control of file formats.
    • Charles Simonyi, the father of Microsoft, and his team achieved two important goals by the mid 1990s:

      • Established format standards that resolved problems sharing documents created by disparate products.
      • nsured that Microsoft file formats would become the adopted desktop productivity standards.

      Format lock-in helped drive Office sales throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s -- and Windows along with it. However, the Web emerged as a potent threat, which Gates warned about in his May 1995 "Internet Tidal Wave" memo. Gates specifically identified HTML, HTTP and TCP/IP as formats outside Microsoft's control. "Browsing the Web, you find almost no Microsoft file formats," Gates wrote. He observed not seeing a single Microsoft file format "after 10 hours of browsing," but plenty of Apple QuickTime videos and Adobe PDF documents. He warned that "the Internet is the most important single development to come along since the IBM PC was introduced in 1981. It is even more important than the arrival of the graphical user interface (GUI)."

  • 3. Microsoft's senior leadership is middle-aging.
  • Google resembles Microsoft in the 1980s and 1990s:
  • Microsoft's middle-management structure is too large.
  • 5. Microsoft's corporate culture is risk adverse.
  • Microsoft's
  • .

    Microsoft was nimbler during the transition from mainframe to PC dominance. IBM had built up massive corporate infrastructure, large customer base and revenue streams attached to both. With few customers, Microsoft had little to lose but much to gain; the upstart took risks IBM wouldn't for fear of losing customers or jeopardizing existing revenue streams. Microsoft's role is similar today. Two product lines, Office and Windows, account for the majority of Microsoft products, and the majority of sales are to enterprises -- the same kind of customers IBM had during the mainframe era.

    Excellent summary and historical discussion about Microsoft and why they can't seem to compete.  Lot's of anti trust and monopolist swtuff - including file formats and interop lock ins (end points).  Microsoft's problems started with the World Wide Web and continue with mobile devices connected to cloud services.
Gary Edwards

I'll tell you something about Windows: Joe Wilcox does the numbers - 0 views

    Microsoft already got its big Windows 7 sales bang -- 400 million licenses sold since the operating system shipped nearly two years ago. The global install base of PCs is around 1 billion. The majority of licenses are going to emerging markets. Microsoft estimates that they totaled 40 million PC shipments for the quarter or -- get this -- half of global volume. It's simply a stunning number that represents faster recovering economies in many emerging markets and new sales. The majority of Windows sold in developed markets are resales -- to existing customers.
    Microsoft is still getting some bang from businesses. During yesterday's earnings conference call, Bill Koefoed, general manager of Microsoft Investor Relations, said that "business PC refresh cycle continued and drove estimated business PC growth of 8 percent".
    Those business deployments won't last forever, however. The reality is this: If not for Windows Vista's market failure, successor 7's sales situation might be a whole lot worse today. Windows 7 released with about 80 percent of the install base on XP. Upgrades were inevitable in developed markets. Whenever Windows 8 ships, much of the established install base will be on 7 or moving that way. Enterprises don't deploy overnight. For now, Koefoed says that "90 percent of enterprises have committed to a deployment plan" and one-quarter of their desktops have Windows 7.
    Windows 7's lifeblood is two-fold, then: Pent-up demand from businesses still using Windows XP and sales to emerging markets. It's not a sustainable growth business, although legacy sales should keep the Windows & Windows Live division profitable for some time.
    Microsoft's Business Division long ago passed Windows as the big revenue and profit generator, $5.78 billion and $3.6, respectively, in fiscal Q4. Windows & Windows Live generated $4.7 billion in revenue and $2.9 billion in profit. Actually, Server and Tools division nearly generated as much revenue as Windows & Windows Live -- $4.6 b
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