September, 2010

  • Microsoft Applauds FCC’s Ruling to Realize the Potential of “Super Wi-Fi” (White Spaces)

    Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to finalize rules that will enable the use of TV white spaces to provide wireless broadband connectivity.

    “As more people access information via mobile and other intelligent devices, additional strain is being put on existing wireless networks,” said Craig Mundie, Microsoft’s Chief Research and Strategy Officer. “Microsoft appreciates the hard work by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and the other FCC Commissioners and Congress leading up to this vote. Their action will deliver greater broadband connectivity to consumers, and promote growth and investment in a new generation of wireless broadband technologies.

  • Striking the Right Balance is Crucial to Enabling Broadband in the TV White Spaces

    Posted by Paula Boyd
    Regulatory Affairs Counsel

    In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission proposed rules to allow anyone to use the vacant channels in the television band, the so called “TV white spaces”, for wireless broadband.   Given the promise of greater broadband Internet access and the possibility of new broadband user scenarios Microsoft engaged the policy process and Microsoft Research began the technical work to realize the potential of the spectrum.  Now it is up to the FCC to finalize its rules striking the right balance between protecting existing users and putting in place the right policy framework to enable broadband to emerge in the white spaces. 

    In order to develop as well as demonstrate the potential of the white spaces, Microsoft Research established a white spaces network on Microsoft’s Redmond campus.  Using only two access points, Microsoft Research is able to provide Internet access covering one square mile of the campus.  The network leverages the white spaces to allow employees to connect to the corporate network using their laptops or smart phones while travelling around the campus.  In this instance, the white spaces made a wireless hotspot cost effective to deploy because signals transmitted over the white spaces cover a greater area than using today’s 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi technology.   

    At its open meeting on Thursday, the FCC can enable consumers to realize the tremendous potential of the white spaces by striking the right policy balance.  In order to achieve this goal, the FCC must avoid the overly burdensome technological requirement that white spaces devices include both geolocation and sensing technology.  Geolocation technology can effectively protect existing users.  Requiring that sensing technology also be built into a device will increase cost and slow the introduction of the white spaces technology without improvements in interference protections.  

  • Helping people protect their Hotmail accounts

    Posted by Walter Harp
    Director of Product Management, Windows Live

    Over the past few months, Windows Live has announced several new security features that will provide additional account protection for people on Hotmail, including Single Use Codes, Full Session SSL, SMS-based account recovery, and Trusted Senders – this all in addition to our SmartScreen safety filter, which helps protect people against phishing and malware.  You’ll see even more from us in the weeks ahead.

    In the last two years, consumer webmail and social networking services across the web have experienced an increase in the incidence of hijacking, which occurs when someone illegally gains access to another person’s account – email, social profile - and then uses that account for malicious activity. In a typical scenario, hackers will hijack large numbers of accounts and then use those accounts to send spam or social invites to the victims’ friends or others on the victims’ contact lists. 

    As two security experts from Google and Microsoft discussed yesterday on the video embedded in this blog, no consumer email or social networking service is immune to this challenge.

  • CGI Week: Turning ideas into actions that address social and economic issues

    Posted by Akhtar Badshah
    Senior Director, Global Community Affairs

    Founded in 2005 by President Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative was created to turn ideas into action creating a more integrated global community with shared benefits, responsibilities, and values. It brings together people from around the world, and channels the capacities of individuals and organizations to realize social and economic change. It focuses on practical solutions to global issues through the development of specific and measurable Commitments to Action.

    Microsoft is a proud partner of the Clinton Global Initiative. We share the same belief that collaboration between individuals and the private, public and nonprofit sectors can address the world's most pressing problems.

  • Helmut Panke: Executive, Scientist, and Microsoft Board Member

    Posted by John Seethoff
    Vice President and Deputy General Counsel

    Dr. Helmut Panke joined the Microsoft board of directors in 2003, bringing his insights about international business and brand building from an illustrious career at BMW which culminated in his leading that company from 2002 to 2006.  He recently sat down for an interview  for another installment of our profiles on Microsoft’s Channel 9 featuring our board of directors. 

    In his interview, Dr. Panke discusses topics including how he came to be Chairman and CEO of BMW, his scientific background, what it’s like to be a member of the Microsoft board, and offers a behind the scenes view of how the board operates.

    More information about the board of directors and corporate governance at Microsoft is available here.

  • Microsoft works with Demi and Ashton in new initiative to protect children

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    I am proud to work for a company like Microsoft that has a long-standing commitment to protecting children. I am especially pleased to be able to share that Microsoft is participating in a new collaborative effort with other technology companies, advocates and the Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA) to find new ways to put technology to work protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

    Today, I joined Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, the co-founders of the DNA Foundation, at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City to discuss this effort.  At the event, the DNA Foundation launched their “Real Men” campaign to raise awareness about the issues of child sex trafficking and exploitation. They also shared some information about the work Microsoft and others have been exploring with them in a task force to develop creative technological solutions to help address this horrible problem.

  • Congress Considers Cloud Computing

    Posted by Fred Humphries
    Managing Director, U.S. Government Affairs

    Over the last 25 years, technology has enabled data to move from the desk drawer to the desktop, to networks, to the Web and now into the cloud.  This rapid growth offers tremendous potential for efficiency, cost savings and innovations to individuals, businesses and governments alike. 

    For example, Microsoft’s HealthVault is helping the Cleveland Clinic to manage diabetes and heart disease by digitizing patient data, storing it online and making it easily accessible for patients and health care providers. Using at-home medical devices such as heart rate monitors and glucometers, patients can monitor their conditions and upload their data into HealthVault, which incorporates that information into the patient’s personal health record at the Cleveland Clinic.  This use of HealthVault by the Cleveland Clinic shows how cloud computing can improve communication and collaboration by making data easily accessible from anywhere at any time.

  • TV White Spaces: On the Verge of Realizing its Broadband Potential

    Posted by Paula Boyd
    Regulatory Affairs Counsel

    On Thursday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took an important step in making innovative wireless broadband services, devices and applications available to consumers. The Commissioners are now in the process of finalizing policies that will allow the vacant channels in the television bands (the so-called “TV white spaces”) to be used for wireless broadband.

    What are TV white spaces? In markets around the country, broadcasters use some—but not all—of the available channels to provide over-the-air television. Today, technology can make use of the unused channels, the TV white spaces, to provide wireless broadband connectivity while ensuring that there is no harmful interference to current users of the band. TV white spaces are particularly valuable since signals in this spectrum range are better able to penetrate walls and trees, and also to cover greater distances: two to three times further than the spectrum that is currently used for Wi-Fi. This means more reliable, higher-bandwidth wireless broadband connectivity and the potential to unleash exciting new user products and scenarios. It also has the potential to lower costs for consumers since the better range offered by white spaces enables a service provider to cover a greater service area with less equipment.

  • The Importance of Partnership in Education

    Posted by Brad Smith
    SVP and General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation

    In today’s Seattle Times, I wrote an op-ed calling upon Washington state to take new steps to improve education.   While much of this responsibility falls on legislators and educators, it’s also important for businesses to play a role in supporting positive educational reforms.  So, I’d like to describe what we are doing, at Microsoft, to support education at local, national and global levels.  

    • Microsoft recently committed $1 million to support early learning in the Seattle area, through a new Parent-Child Home Program being launched by the United Way.
    • In addition, we have spent $3 million to sponsor the multi-year Microsoft Math Partnership, which has helped eight Washington school districts improve their success rates in middle school math, thus helping students during this formative stage of their education.  We also support a number of local programs that encourage the pursuit of math and science, including MATHCOUNTS, MESA and FIRST Robotics Competitions, which add fun and excitement to learning.
  • The Importance of Reforming the Electronic Communication Privacy Act

    Posted by Mike Hintze
    Associate General Counsel
     
    Last week, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith and I testified in Congressional hearings on the need to reform the Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA). 
     
    In our testimony, we explained how the statute has failed to keep up with advances in technology.  When it was enacted in 1986, ECPA established the standards under which law enforcement can compel service providers to disclose customer content and account information, and in doing so, struck a balance between the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the public’s reasonable expectations of privacy.  But with the rapid growth in cloud computing, the balance Congress struck in 1986 has fallen out of alignment.  With dramatically more data now being stored in cloud-based services for longer periods of time, more and more user data is being put within the reach of law enforcement tools that require a lower burden of proof. 
     
    In both hearings, there was general agreement among the panelists that ECPA has failed to keep up with current technologies and that Congressional action can bring needed clarity and other improvements.  Representatives of law enforcement understandably raised concerns that reforms could go too far and hamper the ability of the government to fight high tech crime and protect the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber attacks.  Industry representatives stressed the many economic and societal benefits of cloud computing and pointed out that unless user privacy is adequately protected, these benefits may not be fully realized.  All the panelists agreed that there needs to be a balance, and that Congress should play a role in determining what that balance should look like today, just as it did in 1986. 

  • Rethink, Reform and Rebuild Education

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    At Microsoft, we are committed to help tackle some of society’s biggest challenges. In the past decade, I’ve worked alongside many dedicated colleagues who are passionate about making a difference in public education, as Microsoft employees, community advocates and parents. We all want to help improve educational outcomes for children and provide teachers with the tools and support they need. We are always looking for new and creative ways to support teachers, students and parents in these efforts.   

    Microsoft has a long history of involvement in education, with national and community-based programs designed to empower teachers and inspire students, such as Partners in Learning, EduConnect and Imagine Cup, as well as our ongoing support for the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and math). 

  • Brad Smith Discusses Security and Privacy Concerns with Respect to Cloud Computing

    Microsoft Senior Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith took a moment after testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee to talk about security and privacy issues, particularly with regard to cloud computing and how proposed policy can influence technological development and growth as well as the impact on consumers and society in general.

     

    You can find the full transcript of Brad Smith's remarks in front of the Senate Judiciary Hearing here.

    For more about cloud computing policy issues and the importance of the decision in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, please see our earlier blog post by Fred Humphries, Microsoft Managing Director for Government Affairs.

  • Microsoft Helps Create the UNESCO KINL (Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy) Portal

    Posted by Owen Linderholm
    Director, Microsoft on the Issues

    The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has announced that in conjunction with International Literacy Day it is launching a new portal for supporting and promoting literacy efforts globally. Microsoft shares the global concern with literacy – both for children and adults. It is estimated that there are 796 million illiterate adults worldwide and 67.4 million children not attending school and at risk of becoming illiterate adults. Reducing these numbers is a global priority. In fact, halving the global adult illiteracy rate by 2015 is one of the specific goals of the UN Literacy Decade that was launched in 2003.

    The portal, called the Knowledge an Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) has been supported by Microsoft and Verizon. 

    This new portal is intended to be a global workplace where literacy researchers and workers can connect, share information and discuss literacy in English, Spanish and French. The portal, called the Knowledge and Innovations Network for Literacy (KINL) has been supported by Microsoft and Verizon. The hope and expectation is that KINL will foster creativity and innovation in advancing literacy as well as be a support worldwide for people working on literacy. Microsoft shares the global concern with literacy – both for children and adults. It is estimated that there are796 million illiterate adults worldwide and 67.4 million children not attending school and at risk of becoming illiterate adults.

  • Gov 2.0: Reflections on Spectrum Allocation Policy

    Posted by Dan Reed
    Corporate Vice President, Technology Strategy and Policy

    A few weeks ago, Tim O’Reilly asked me if I would deliver a thought-provoking presentation on cognitive radio technologies and spectrum allocation policy at this year’s Gov 2.0 Summit.  In this post, I’d like to share a few highlights of my speech and expand on some related topics.

    Today, feature-rich smartphones and mobile computing devices and consumers’ seemingly insatiable appetites for text services, social networking and streaming media are placing unprecedented demands on wireless communication networks.  YouTube reports that 24 hours of video is now uploaded to the social video site every 60 seconds, and Cisco projects that streaming video will increase wireless data transmission demands by 20X-40X over the next five years.  If you have ever experienced a loss of wireless services in a densely populated area, you understand the problem we’re facing.

    In response, cellular carriers are scrambling to build new cell towers and deploy 4G technologies. However, all of this cellular infrastructure investment centers on a very small fraction of the total radio spectrum, allocated via regulatory and auction processes that date back decades to a far simpler and slower moving telecommunications world.

  • Elevate America: Extending our support for skills training

    Posted by Pamela Passman 
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    Today we are announcing the latest expansion of our Elevate America program, which aims to provide people across the United States with the technology skills they need to find employment. The Elevate America community initiative will focus on partnering with nonprofits to support job training programs and initiatives in local communities across the country.

    Elevate America was launched in February 2009 and since that time we have worked with 32 states and the District of Columbia to distribute over 800,000 training and certification vouchers. In March we announced the Elevate America Veterans initiative which is focusing on building a nationwide coalition to help U.S. veterans and their spouses transition from military to civilian employment. Through this work we have already learned a lot about the complexity of the unemployment issue and the importance of technology skills to those trying to enter or renter the workforce.

    The consistent theme across all our Elevate America programs is the necessity for partnership to be at the very core of addressing what is a complex and difficult issue. We acknowledge that while we can bring resources and expertise to bear, ultimately, to be successful, we need the knowledge, reach and skills of partner organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. Our Elevate America community initiative builds on a long standing commitment to working with nonprofits on the provision of technology skills training. Since 2003 we have worked in partnership with thousands of nonprofit organizations and reached more than 27 million people.

    Today we are issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for nonprofits that have demonstrated expertise in providing employment services with a focus on technology skills training, job placement and related support to connect individuals to sustainable jobs and careers. Following the selection process we are committing $4 million in cash, $6 million worth of software and training curriculum to support the successful applicants over the next two years.

  • How Providing Access to Research Helps Address the UN Millennium Development Goals

    Posted by Frank McCosker
    Managing Director, Global Strategic Accounts

    At Microsoft, we are driven by the idea that technology helps enable people to realize their full potential. Our involvement with Research4Life is a great example of how access to technology and the information it can provide helps others do great things. Research4Life is a global partnership formed from a shared vision of providing the developing world with access to leading scientific research information that can help them address the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

    This month, representatives from Microsoft, along with several UN organizations, the world’s leading scientific journal publishers, research universities and others met in New York City for the annual partners meeting to discuss the past, present and future of this multi-sector initiative. The passion and commitment of this group, who often volunteer their time and talents on top of their day jobs, was evident throughout the meeting, which was well timed as world leaders met at the Millennium Development Goals Summit during the UN General Assembly.

    Research4Life aims to grant access to top research and academic journals in the fields of environment, agriculture and health to institutions in developing countries either for free or for a fraction of the normal costs. Microsoft is the technology partner in Research4Life in what has quickly become a dynamic partnership between – the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Health Organization (WHO), leading academic publishers and Yale and Cornell Universities. 

  • Anti-Piracy Enforcement and NGOs

    Posted by Brad Smith
    Senior Vice President and Microsoft General Counsel

    (Cross-posted from the Official Microsoft Blog)

    A story in yesterday’s New York Times reports on anti-piracy enforcement actions in Russia that have been used for more nefarious purposes than protecting intellectual property rights. 

    As General Counsel for Microsoft, it was not the type of story that felt good to read.  It described instances in which authorities had used piracy charges concerning Microsoft software to confiscate computers and harass non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others engaged in public advocacy.  It suggested that there had been cases when our own counsel at law firms had failed to help clear things up and had made matters worse instead.
     
    Whatever the circumstances of the particular cases the New York Times described, we want to be clear that we unequivocally abhor any attempt to leverage intellectual property rights to stifle political advocacy or pursue improper personal gain.  We are moving swiftly to seek to remove any incentive or ability to engage in such behavior.

    Some of our internal teams around the world were already looking at these issues, and they had turned to human rights advocates to ask for advice.  We pulled these internal teams together to assess the issues raised in the New York Times story, and yesterday morning we had our internal counsel in Moscow, Paris, and London on the phone with a number of our senior Legal and Corporate Affairs personnel from the Seattle area.

  • R.I.P. Waledac: Undoing the damage of a botnet

    Posted by Owen Linderholm
    Director, Microsoft on the Issues

    Back in February, we wrote about Operation b49 – the groundbreaking legal and technical efforts led by Microsoft in cooperation with academic and industry experts around the world to shut down the notorious Waledac botnet, a network of tens of thousands of computers hijacked by bot-herders to spread malware, send spam and commit other forms of cybercrime. Today, we’re pleased to announce that our legal action to permanently shut down the botnet has been successful! The Official Microsoft Blog has additional details about today’s news, and you should also check out today’s edition of USA Today.

  • IT Employment and Innovation Fostering Recovery

    Posted by Pamela Passman
    Corporate Vice President, Global Corporate Affairs

    While employment in the overall U.S. economy shrank from 2008 to 2009, the number of jobs in the IT sector held steady, according to data released Tuesday by the U. S. Census Bureau.  This finding supports the results of earlier studies that demonstrated how IT employment, and investment in innovation, will contribute to the economic recovery in the U.S. and globally. 

    IDC found that jobs in the U.S. IT sector will grow at a rate of 1.6 percent annually through 2013, adding more than a million new family wage jobs and creating almost 13,000 new IT businesses -- at the same time overall employment shrinks.  The same study found that the 125,000 companies (most of them small and locally owned) in the Microsoft community of partners in the U.S. generated more than $169 billion in revenues for themselves in 2009.  The vast majority of these revenues remained in local communities to fuel further growth, opportunity, and innovation.  These Microsoft partners accounted for 36 percent of total U.S. IT employment and 39 percent of IT-related taxes.

    A 2010 study by Robert Atkinson and Scott Andes of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation found that the growth in IT employment between 1998 and 2008 grew by 26 percent, when overall employment grew by 6 percent.   

  • A Day of Caring

    Posted by Brad Smith
    Senior Vice President and General Counsel

    Today, more than 10,000 friends, neighbors, colleagues and citizens will participate in the United Way of King County Day of Caring. It’s an opportunity for people to connect with their local community and make a difference – whether it’s helping people who have become homeless, assisting with the completion of a tax return, reading to kids, or undertaking a habitat restoration project. People can make a difference.

    On a personal note, today also marks an important part of co-chairing the United Way of King County’s annual campaign with my wife Kathy Surace-Smith. When we agreed to co-chair together, we toured many of the service agencies supported by United Way and experienced first-hand, the challenges facing local community organizations. It’s one of the reasons we are both excited to take part in an event that benefits a huge cross-section of our community in a direct way.

    The turnout for this year’s Day of Caring is the biggest ever and is a great testament to the leadership the United Way has shown encouraging and helping people get involved by volunteering. There’s no question that more and more people in our society feel an increased desire to connect to their community. The need is more acute in today’s struggling economy, and a volunteer’s impact is greater than ever.