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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

Topic: windows 10

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February 12, 2015 at 11:01 AM

First Windows 10 phone preview ready to download

Four months after unveiling a preview of Windows 10 for desktops, Microsoft says a smartphone version of the operation system is now available.

If you have one of a half-dozen Windows phones, that is. The roster of devices Microsoft supports for the preview is limited so far to Lumia smartphone models 630, 635, 636, 638, 730, and 830.

“This is the earliest publicly available preview we’ve ever done for Windows on phones,” Microsoft’s Gabe Aul says in a blog post. “This preview is still very much under development and you’re going to see some rough edges.”

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Comments | More in Windows | Topics: microsoft, mobile, smartphone

February 4, 2015 at 1:37 PM

Microsoft debuts preview of Windows 10 Office apps

For Microsoft, Windows 10 isn’t just another release of a piece of software to run your desktop PC. It’s a bid to claim a greater share of the smartphone and tablet markets.

As part of that effort, Microsoft is hoping that it can make it easier for developers to write applications that run on Windows 10 across device types.

Today, the company is showing off what’s possible with its “universal” apps, releasing preview versions of Office designed to work well regardless of whether the user is on a tablet, smartphone or PC. Those who have downloaded early versions of Windows 10 can now grab preview versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel to test.

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Comments | More in Office | Topics: developers, microsoft, universal windows apps

January 30, 2015 at 4:11 PM

Microsoft reassures businesses on Windows 10

After a week in which Microsoft spent most of its time touting the features of Windows 10 for consumers, the company has a reminder for its business-client base: We haven’t forgotten you.

In a lengthy blog post Friday, Jim Alkove, leader of the Windows enterprise program management team, outlined the company’s plans to keep product updates in the hands of companies’ IT departments and outlined exactly who would get Windows free.

Small businesses? Yep. Microsoft’s bread-and-butter major corporate clients? Not so much.

Microsoft announced earlier this month that users of the off-the-shelf consumer version of Windows 7 and Windows 8  are eligible for a free year of upgrades to Windows 10. That offer also extends, Alkove said, to users of the “Pro” versions of those releases, a group that includes small businesses that need souped-up versions of Windows to plug in to company networking.

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January 20, 2015 at 4:21 PM

Microsoft previews Windows 10 in Redmond

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Operating Systems Group, demonstrates new features of Windows 10. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Operating Systems Group, demonstrates new features of Windows 10. (Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press)

Update: 11:39 a.m.: A quick Q&A with chief executive Satya Nadella and Myerson later, and that wraps up the program.

Some highlights: Asked by colleague Brier Dudley if the talk of subscription services meant that users would have to pay an annual fee for Windows, Nadella said “There is no fundamental shift to our business model.”

Another questioner asked Nadella if he could share the financial impact likely from the free upgrade offer. Nadella pointed to Microsoft’s quarterly earnings report, slated for release on Monday, and declined to share more details.

Update: 10:55 a.m.: Meet Microsoft HoloLens, the device said to bring holographic interactions to Windows 10. Microsoft introduces the headset — a wireless, see-through display that projects holograms into the world around its user.

“I know this sounds perhaps crazy, maybe even a little impossible,” said Alex Kipman, a technical fellow at Microsoft. We’ll see. He hinted that the assembled journalists and analysts in the audience will get a chance to try one out later today.

Update: 10:39 a.m.: We have our first gadget of the day: The gigantic, 84″ touchscreen “Surface Hub.” Microsoft folks demonstrated how it can help facilitate meetings. It’s yet another nod to the workplace at a consumer-focused Windows event.

Update: 10:09 a.m.: Windows 10 will indeed come loaded with a new web browser, codenamed, for now, “Spartan.”

Among its features: the ability to freeze web pages, annotate them with a stylus on a touchscreen device (or keyboard on a regular laptop), and share those pages with friends. The software will come with a reading mode that strips out extraneous web content to display text and save for offline viewing. Our new friend Cortana will also live in Spartan.

Update: 9:42 a.m.: Cortana, the search assistant released for Windows Phone last year, is coming to the PC.

The software — akin to Apple’s Siri, for the bulk of the world that doesn’t own a Windows Phone — will be integrated into Windows 10. Microsoft user experience executive Joe Belfiore demonstrated a few of the things Cortana can help with, from looking up files and applications (both on a user’s PC and their data stored on the web), to dictating a short email and turning on music with voice or typed commands.

Update: 9:24 a.m.: Operating systems chief Terry Myerson gives us our first glimpse of the Windows 10 business model.

In short: expect free upgrades.

For the first year after the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft will offer users of Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows 7 free upgrades to the new operating system.

The offer for Windows 8.1 users was expected. Few thought Microsoft would charge customers for the privilege of updating from the widely panned operating system. But in offering a free upgrade to Windows 7 users — who account for roughly 60% of the Windows customer base — Microsoft is indicating it’s going all in on Windows 10.

Follow along via tweets from the event by me and tech columnist Brier Dudley:

Earlier:

Microsoft is ready to give consumers a peek at the progress it’s making on its most famous product.

A daylong Windows 10 preview event in Redmond is set to begin at 9 a.m. Pacific Wednesday and will be webcast live. Expect to hear from Chief Executive Satya Nadella, operating systems head Terry Myerson, user experience designer Joe Belfiore, and Xbox leader Phil Spencer.

In Windows 10, Microsoft has at least three major goals:

  • Overcome the stumbles of Windows 8. That operating system, released in 2012, was a bold leap forward, an effort to woo the emerging tablet market with a touchscreen-optimized interface. But it went too far for many consumers (and had little appeal to businesses), creating a jarring transition between tablet-optimized mode and the old, familiar Windows desktop. Windows 10 is Microsoft’s bid to create a user experience that makes sense on the entire spectrum of devices, from smartphones to wall-sized displays.
  • Lay the groundwork for a resurgence outside of the PC. Microsoft is trailing badly in the smartphone and tablet markets. Part of the reason why: developers don’t see much of a need to spend the hours developing applications for Windows Phone or the Windows store after already releasing versions for Google’s Android or Apple’s iOS. Microsoft brass hope Windows 10 will make it easier for developers to write applications that can be relatively painlessly re-purposed for the operating system’s smartphone, laptop, and tablet variants.
  • Persuade businesses to jump from Windows 7. Microsoft made its initial pitch to enterprises during the unveiling of Windows 10 back in September. And though Microsoft has telegraphed that Wednesday’s event will target individual consumers, the line between business and home computing is blurry in a bring-the-iPad-to-work world. Don’t be surprised if Microsoft execs also highlight their plans for software that helps people get things done, particularly under the catchall “productivity” mantra.
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January 13, 2015 at 11:12 AM

Microsoft drops free support for Windows 7

Windows 7 has started its long journey to the dustbin: The operating system is, as of today, no longer eligible for free help and support from Microsoft.

It’s not exactly going to blink out of existence anytime soon, however.

Windows 7 still powers more than half of the computers running Windows. Users of the software will still receive security patches from Microsoft, but technical support and non-essential updates now come with a cost attached. Microsoft plans to phase out those programs in 2020.

The beginning of the end for the popular Windows 7, released in 2009, comes as Microsoft gets set to unveil the latest version of its flagship product. Microsoft is expected to offer more details on Windows 10 at a press event in Redmond next week, with general availability expected sometime in the second half of this year.

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January 9, 2015 at 11:19 AM

Windows 10 as a subscription service? Not yet, Cowen says

The steady drip of Windows 10 feature leaks and rumors isn’t going to dry up ahead of Microsoft’s Jan. 21 expected consumer unveiling in Redmond.

But how will Microsoft sell the latest iteration of its flagship software once all its bells and whistles are polished? Gregg Moskowitz, software analyst with Cowen, offers his best guesses in a research note this morning.

No subscription model yet. A big area of debate as Microsoft readies Windows 10 for release: Will Microsoft sell the operating system on a subscription basis, the way it does with Office 365? Not yet, Moskowitz says. Its easy enough to sign up for a multi-year subscription for Office, knowing you can access the software on any device. But it may be tougher to persuade businesses and individuals to buy a subscription for an operating system for a PC or tablet with an uncertain utility and lifespan.

Meanwhile, subscription models typically wind up charging users more over time than an upfront sale. If Microsoft went full subscription with Windows 10, Moskowitz reasons, the embedded price hikes could both push users to Chromebooks or Macs and even invite government scrutiny.  

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Comments | More in Windows | Topics: microsoft, windows 10, windows 7

December 31, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Microsoft’s cloud ambitions could outweigh Windows 10

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a cloud press event in October. (Photo by Microsoft)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella speaks at a cloud-focused press event in October. (Photo: Microsoft)

Microsoft’s story of 2014?

Candidates abound. Satya Nadella’s appointment as Microsoft’s third chief executive. Sealing the $7.5 billion Nokia deal, Microsoft’s second-biggest acquisition (closely followed by its largest-ever layoff). The company’s new-found love for partnering with competitors.

I took a look at a few of those themes in today’s paper. But based on what executives want to talk about, Microsoft’s story of the year is clear: the pivot to the cloud.

Cloud computing, or using the web to access data and software rather than a nearby PC or server, was the topic raised most by executives and analysts on the conference calls held in 2014 after Microsoft reported quarterly earnings, garnering 178 mentions. That’s more than both Windows and Office. It also outweighs the combined discussion of PCs — the device that catapulted Microsoft from start-up to behemoth — Xbox gaming console and Surface tablet. 

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Comments | More in Cloud computing | Topics: azure, satya nadella, windows 10

December 5, 2014 at 12:21 PM

No, Microsoft doesn’t plan to lose money on Windows 10

Microsoft seems to be giving a lot of things away for free these days.

Free versions of Microsoft Office for Android and Apple mobile devices. Free access to a more-powerful version of its developer tools. Free Windows licenses on consumer devices with screens smaller than 9 inches.

Executives from Satya Nadella on down have emphasized getting Microsoft products in front of users on whatever device they happen to be using. The embedded bet is that customers and businesses will spend money for Microsoft services once they get hooked on Redmond’s ecosystem of programs.

Take that strategy a couple steps further, and could Microsoft be planning for a future in which Windows becomes a money-losing tool to get users to pay for subscriptions to Office or data storage? That question was put to Microsoft chief operating officer Kevin Turner at the Credit Suisse technology conference yesterday. 

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