The Official Microsoft Blog

News & Perspectives

August, 2011

  • The Midweek Download: Aug. 3rd Edition–Behind the Voice of Kinect for Xbox 360, plus Windows Phone Dev News, IE10 and Microsoft Research

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got the story behind the voice of the Kinect for Xbox 360, news bits for Windows Phone developers and a few other items. Check it out.

    The story behind the voice of Kinect. For years leading up to the launch of Kinect, Microsoft was blending technologies for the connected living room, working toward its vision of a natural, powerful center for home entertainment. At the same time, millions of people around the world had invited the newest iteration of video game consoles into their homes — the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system, which was capable of handling games, movies, TV, music and photos — and it opened a world of Internet-connected possibilities. Read this feature story on the Microsoft News Center to find out how Microsoft envisioned magic in the living room and made it real.

    Attention, developers! Introducing our GitHub code sample library. Since releasing the latest version of our developer platform, Microsoft has received a number of requests for code samples on popular smartphone platforms such as iOS as well as for Microsoft technologies like C# and ASP.NET.

  • Weekend Reading: Aug. 5th Edition–Three Cool Windows Phone Stories, plus Xbox Live’s Unicorn Ninja, Hotmail and Microsoft Research

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got three cool Windows Phone stories, plus the dress of the future and a little something we like to call the Xbox Live Unicorn Ninja.

    Look who’s talking: speech in Mango. In this Wednesday post on the Windows Phone Blog, readers are introduced to Voice-to-text, a new hands-free messaging feature coming this fall to the next version of the Windows Phone mobile platform, codenamed “Mango.” Voice-to-text works for both text and instant messages, and it’s handy even when you’re not driving since it can slash the time you spend typing—a good thing at times even considering the fantastic keyboard on Windows Phone. Check it out.

    Lifelens: testing for malaria on Windows Phone. One of the projects in the U.S. Imagine Cup Finals that impressed Next at Microsoft Blog Editor Steve Clayton immensely was a project focused on malaria diagnosis using a smartphone. Using a Windows Phone with a $50 micro lens mounted over the camera, an Imagine Cup team built software that captures high-resolution images of cells in a drop of blood and then analyzes them to detect to existence of malaria. Read this Tuesday post on the Next at Microsoft Blog for more detail on this innovative technology.

  • The IBM PC is 30 Years Old – And We’re (All) Just Getting Started

    In 1999, I was gobsmacked by reading the NY Times Magazine about top inventions – each article made me pause and say “of course,” none more so than the history of the wood screw. Without it, what would civilization be like? Less sturdy, for sure. And at the time, it was no doubt greeted with the equivalent of a big “meh.” History is made in the moment but defined over time, and through that lens, it’s clear that 30 years ago, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City on Aug. 12, 1981, was a seminal moment. Why? It was the unveiling of the IBM 5150 personal computer.

    Other PCs preceded it.

    · The Apple II

    · The Commodore PET

    · The Osborne 1

    · The Tandy TRS-80

    But the introduction of the IBM PC was a defining moment for our industry.

  • The Midweek Download: Aug. 10th Edition–Microsoft Extends Support for Veterans, plus the BlueHat Prize, Windows Phone and Windows Azure

    This edition of the the Midweek Download has news bits on the BlueHat Prize, Windows Phone and a cool story from Geekwire on Microsoft 3-D modeling of the human face.

    Microsoft extends support for U.S. veterans entering the work force. Microsoft announced Aug. 5th that it will expand its Elevate America veterans initiative by partnering with the U.S. Department of Labor to distribute 10,000 technology training and certification packages to veterans. These resources will be provided over a two-year period though the Department of Labor One-Stop Career Centers designed to provide a full range of assistance to job seekers under one roof. The announcement was made the same day President Barack Obama discussed the administration’s ongoing commitment to fostering opportunities to help prepare the nation’s veterans for their transition to the civilian work force at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. TechFlash also covered the story.

    Microsoft announces the BlueHat Prize. Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group announced on Aug. 3rd the BlueHat Prize competition to reward security researchers with more than $250,000 in cash and prizes for developing innovative, new computer security protection technology.

  • Xbox 360 Leads U.S. Console Market for Seventh Consecutive Month

    Xbox 360 led the U.S. console market for the seventh consecutive month and has sold more units in the U.S. than any other console for 13 of the past 14 months.

    Though the video-game console and software market has slowed industry wide, Xbox 360 remains on track to have the biggest year in Xbox history – an unprecedented feat in the sixth year of its lifecycle.

    July 2011 highlights from the NPD Group, an independent market research firm that tracks the video-game industry, include:

  • Weekend Reading: Aug. 12th Edition–The IBM PC Hits the Big 3-0, Xbox Stays in the Top Spot, plus Windows Phone, Kinect and Internet Explorer

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories about the 30th anniversary of the IBM PC, Xbox’s continued reign as the number one video-game console in the U.S. and a sterling review from Business Insider on Windows Phone “Mango.”

    You say it’s your birthday! Today is the 30th anniversary of the unveiling of the IBM PC. Earlier this week, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications Frank Shaw opined on what the PC has meant to Microsoft and the technology industry as a whole and what the future holds for the PC. Check it out.

    Xbox 360 tops the U.S. market yet again. Xbox 360 led the U.S. console market for the seventh consecutive month and has sold more units in the U.S. than any other console for 13 of the past 14 months. To see the rest of this story, read Thursday’s post on The Official Microsoft Blog, which includes the latest industry figures from the NPD Group, an independent market research firm that tracks the video-game industry.

  • The Future of the Living Room

    Summer is a transition time for many people: the break between school years; a vacation before tackling another year of work; and for network television that’s been a guest in our living rooms for so long, summer is a time of transition between seasons.

    It’s appropriate then that we are also in the middle of a fundamental transformation of the technology in our living rooms. Traditional broadcast and cable TV are steadily being augmented and enjoyed in new ways such as ‘time-shifted’ and on-demand TV via DVRs and other devices like the Xbox, PCs, tablets and even smartphones. Similarly, DVDs are being replaced by on-demand movie delivery via services such as Netflix and Hulu. And the standard 30- or 60-minute commercial program is no longer the only game in town – today’s entertainment options are a vast cornucopia of content from ultra-short to full length, all delivered over the Internet.

    At Microsoft, we believe there’s also a shift underway in how consumers access and control this ever-growing avalanche of TV shows, sports programming, movies, online videos, video games, music and more. At E3, we dropped a few hints regarding how we plan to enhance and expand the entertainment options available to consumers.

    Our philosophy is pretty simple: All the entertainment you want, with the people you care about, made easy…

  • The Midweek Download: Aug. 17th Edition–Windows 8 Gets a Blog, Microsoft Continues to Push NUI Technologies, plus Windows Phone, Xbox, Kinect and More

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got news about a new Windows 8 blog, Windows Phone “Mango” and two cool stories about how Microsoft’s pushing the envelope with natural user interface technologies (NUI). Read on!

    Building Windows 8 Blog launches. Earlier this week, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, kicked off the launch of the Building Windows 8 Blog. The new blog, Sinofsky writes, “allows us to have a two-way dialog with you about design choices, real-world data and usage, and new opportunities that are part of Windows 8.” Sinofsky goes on to write, “We’re genuinely excited to talk about the development of Windows 8 and to engage thoughtfully with the community of passionate end-users, developers, and information professionals.” So, check it out.

    What happens when I publish a Windows Phone ‘Mango’ application update? The opening of the Windows Phone Marketplace for Windows Phone Mango is drawing near. As we get closer, some people are asking us: what happens to their existing applications once they submit an update for Windows Phone ‘Mango?’

  • Weekend Reading: Aug. 19th Edition–The Future of the Living Room Entertainment, Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone, plus Hotmail and Internet Explorer

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on Microsoft’s vision for the future of the living room, Xbox LIVE features coming to Windows Phone, Hotmail and even a Microsoft employee who built a thermonuclear reactor in his garage in an attempt to inspire a passion for science in high school students.

    The future of the living room. Earlier this week, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Corporate Communications Frank Shaw blogged about Microsoft’s vision for the future of the living room and digital entertainment. “All the entertainment you want, with the people you care about, made easy…” is how Shaw summed up the company’s philosophy on the way people will (and to a certain extent, already do) consume the “ever-growing avalanche of TV shows, sports programming, movies, online videos, video games, music and more.” Don’t miss the 2-minute “Future of the Living Room” video that brings this vision to life.

    New Xbox LIVE features, games on the way for Windows Phone. Earlier this week, Microsoft previewed new Xbox LIVE titles and features coming to Windows Phone in the months ahead. The announcement came at the annual Gamescom conference in Cologne, Germany. We’ve already written about some of the changes on the way for the Games Hub in Mango, the next release of Windows Phone. But at Gamescom today members of the Xbox team outlined several other exciting capabilities coming this fall. Visit the Xbox press room for details or this Tuesday post on the Windows Phone Blog for a quick recap.

  • Where the PC is headed: Plus is the New “Post”

    In the past year, and again in the past few weeks, I’ve seen a resurgence of the term “post” applied to the PC in a number of stories including The Wall Street Journal, PC World and the Washington Post. Heck, I even mentioned it in my 30th anniversary of the PC post, noting that “PC plus” was a better term.

    Nothing draws more links and eyeballs than saying something is a foo-“killer” or that foo is “dead.” That’s human nature and part of the way we like our stories, simple and straightforward, black and white. A new thing shows up, kills the old thing, end of story. But in the world of technology, it’s rarely (but not never) that clear cut. Most of the time, in fact, new objects enhance and complement the things we’ve already got. They don’t replace them.

    This is especially true when the new product is more specialized than the existing product and most importantly, the existing product isn’t standing still.

  • The Midweek Download: Aug. 24th Edition–Building USB 3.0 Support into Windows, the Windows Phone App Hub Opens to Mango Apps plus Internet Explorer and Silverlight

    In this edition of The Midweek Download, we’ve got stories on USB 3.0 support in Windows, the Windows Phone App Hub opening up to developers and an agreement with China Standard Software Co. Ltd. (CS2C) to develop cloud-computing solutions. Read on!

    Building robust USB 3.0 support. This Monday post on the new Building Windows 8 Blog focuses on Microsoft’s efforts to build strong USB 3.0 support into Windows. Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, writes in an introduction, “One of the important roles Windows plays as part of a broad ecosystem is developing support for new hardware. This is a pretty involved process and so for this post we wanted to take a look at supporting USB 3.0, something we know everyone is anxious to be using because of the improvements it brings.” The post itself was authored by Dennis Flanagan, director of program management for the Devices and Networking group and features a 2-minute video. Check it out.

    Windows Phone App hub now accepting apps. Attention, Windows Phone developers! The Windows Phone App Hub is now accepting apps from developers for the next version of the Windows Phone platform, dubbed “Mango.”

  • Back to School: Stand Up to Cyberbullying

    September is synonymous with back-to-school for much of the world's youth – getting back in the classroom, reconnecting with friends and teachers and sharing tales of summer fun. For some, however, back-to-school often means a return to cyberbullying.                

    New Microsoft research shows that, on average, 27 percent of people in five countries have been exposed to cyberbullying in the last 12 months. The survey, conducted in Brazil, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States, shows that in these countries, cyberbullying features most prominently in Brazil (50 percent) and less so in the U.S. (16 percent).

    France, Germany and the UK, meanwhile, fall more in the middle of the pack, with 24 percent, 25 percent and 22 percent of respondents, respectively, stating that they or someone they know have been exposed to incidents of cyberbullying in the past year. These data are part of a larger Microsoft study about consumer online awareness, attitudes and behaviors, and are in line with other similar polling data. Statistics vary, but in the U.S., Europe, Australia, Japan and South Korea, between 10 percent and 40 percent of teens say that at one time or another, they’ve been victims of cyberbullying.

  • Weekend Reading: Aug. 26th Edition–A Glimpse into Windows 8 File Management, How to Stand Up to Cyberbullies plus Windows Phone, Bing, MSN and Hotmail

    In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories about new file management capabilities in Windows 8, Windows Phone news, a new Windows Phone app that utilizes Bing’s location services and 10 tips for standing up to cyberbullies.

    File management in Windows 8. In this Tuesday post on Building Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, writes, “We wanted to do an early Windows 8 post about one of the most used features, and one we have not improved substantially in a long time. With the increasing amount of local storage measured in terabytes, containing photos (in multiple formats and very large files), music, and video, these common operations are being taxed in new ways. These changes, along with consistent feedback about what we could improve, have inspired us to take a fresh look and redesign these operations.” Read the entire post, authored by Alex Simons, a director of program management on the Windows team, to find out more.

    More ways to get reminders from your Hotmail calendar. Hotmail Calendar has more than 18 million customers creating more than 1 million events per month. We're happy to announce that we've just released an update to Hotmail Calendar that addresses the most common request we get: improving the way reminders work. To find out more, read this Monday post on the Inside Windows Live Blog.

  • The Meaning of High Tech Whisker Wars

    Today, we kicked off two marketing campaigns designed to clearly highlight the customer benefit of Microsoft products/services compared to the competition; one focused on our private cloud solution and the other on our Microsoft Dynamics CRM offerings. Both have some great content worth reviewing, and I expect the private cloud video in particular will generate a fair amount of attention – there is something about a guy with a mustache – either you love it or you hate it. Smile

    Those not “stuck in the past” may have noticed that we’ve been having some fun and taking a more pointed tone in some of our communications of late. You know, things like pointing out the truth about Google FISMA certification and some interesting e-mail practices, highlighting our advantages in CRM versus SalesForce.com, using fish to demonstrate how much faster IE9 is than the competition, using Twitter to talk about IP issues and giving our opinion on the meme of a “post-PC” world.

  • The Midweek Download: Aug. 31st Edition–Two New Windows 8 Stories, What’s Next on Next, plus Windows Phone, Windows Azure Toolkit and Microsoft Dynamics

    This edition of the Midweek Download has two new stories from the Building Windows 8 blog, a glimpse at what’s next on the Next at Microsoft Blog as well as developer news from Windows Phone, Windows Azure and Microsoft Dynamics. Don’t miss it!

    Improvements in Windows Explorer. In this Tuesday post on Building Windows 8, Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows and Windows Live Division, writes, “Windows Explorer is a foundation of the user experience of the Windows desktop and has undergone several design changes over the years, but has not seen a substantial change in quite some time. Windows 8 is about reimagining Windows, so we took on the challenge to improve the most widely used desktop tool (except maybe for Solitaire) in Windows.” The post itself, written by Alex Simons from the program management team, goes on to take a closer look at the evolution of Windows Explorer. Don’t miss it. Also on Building Windows 8 this week, Rajeev Nagar, a group program manager on the Storage & File Systems team, writes about accessing data in ISO and VHD files.

    What’s next on Next. As the holiday season starts to wind down, Next at Microsoft Blog Editor Steve Clayton is thinking about what he’ll be covering in the coming months.

  • Microsoft Releases the Windows Azure Toolkit for Android

    Today, Microsoft released Windows Azure Toolkit for Android along with updated toolkits for Windows Phone and iOS platforms. Originally announced in May, the Android toolkit includes native libraries (for storage and authentication), a sample application, and unit tests.

    While there is tremendous market opportunity in building mobile applications, targeting numerous mobile platforms can be complex, costly and frustrating for developers. These new toolkits make it easier, and less expensive, for developers to extend their applications across major computing platforms.

    Previously, Microsoft showed how companies like American Airlines are using the Windows Azure Toolkits for Devices to push real-time flight status, gate change and baggage claim information from American’s reservation system directly to a Windows Phone Live Tiles via Windows Azure’s notifications system.