February, 2013

  • A Healthy and Vibrant Economy: Keep Incentives for Tech Employers on the Table

    Posted by DeLee Shoemaker
    Senior Director of State Government Affairs, Microsoft

    Editor’s Note: This post is part of a monthly series from Microsoft called “The View from Washington State.” The View from Washington State provides insight and commentary on topics and trends of importance to technology, education, corporate citizenship and public policy in Washington State.

    Last week, the state’s Economic and Revenue Forecast Council published its February revenue update.  There were no major surprises, and cumulated general fund revenue collections are now about two percent above the November forecast.

    The fact that actual revenue collections are running slightly above forecasted levels is good news for lawmakers working to close a gap in the budget estimated to be as much as $2.5 billion, including the costs of beginning to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling in the McCleary basic education funding case.

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  • The Data Dilemma

    Posted by David Tennenhouse
    Corporate Vice President, Technology Policy

    The world is awash in data—on one estimate, almost three zettabytes (three billion terabytes) of information had been created by 2012, a digital deluge that is growing at around 50% a year. A unique combination of technological innovation, social media, ubiquitous connectivity and digital globalization, among other factors, is fueling this exponential growth in the volume, variety and availability of data. At the same time, increasingly powerful computing technologies can now take massive amounts of these data, commingle them, and use advanced machine-learning and analytics to gain new insights and knowledge. And we are only at the start of this data revolution.

    As the World Economic Forum (WEF) observes in a new report, Unlocking the Value of Personal Data: From Collection to Usage, these technologies hold extraordinary potential for new innovations, economic growth and societal benefit. For example, predictive models developed from large-scale hospital data sets can be used to identify patients who are at the highest risk of being rehospitalized within 30 days after they are discharged. A recent analysis using Microsoft technology applied machine learning to a large multi-year data set of patient hospitalizations in the Greater Washington, DC, metropolitan area. The resulting predictive model can reveal risk factors that were previously undetectable: for example, if a patient was admitted for congestive heart failure, they were more likely to be readmitted within 30 days if they were depressed or taking drugs for gastrointestinal disorders.

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  • The SHIELD Act: Another Step in the Patent Reform Discussion

    Posted by Horacio Gutierrez
    Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

    Last week, BSA│The Software Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers held an event on Capitol Hill to talk about the benefits of software patents and what steps could be taken to improve the patent system while preserving its role as an engine of innovation. Microsoft participated in the event, and we outlined proposed steps that would increase transparency, curb litigation abuse, and improve patent quality. In doing so, we noted that no single actor can address shortcomings in the system, and that all interested parties – private companies, the USPTO, Congress, and the courts – have a role to play in ensuring that the patent system works to drive innovation, economic growth, and job creation.

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  • The Patent System: Fix What’s Broken, Don’t Break What’s Working

    Posted by Brad Smith
    General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, Microsoft

    Earlier today, I participated in an event on Capitol Hill about the U.S. patent system and software patents sponsored by BSA│The Software Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers. Panelists included representatives of tech companies, manufacturers, and start-ups, and it was interesting to see the extent to which all of us innovate in software and rely on the patent system to incentivize and protect those innovations.  This is not surprising: we live in a digital world. Many things that used to be done mechanically or via hardware – such as throttle control systems – are now implemented in software. 

    Recent studies from the Department of Commerce and the Brookings Institution show that patents drive job creation, productivity, and economic growth today.  Given the benefits of the patent system, it is important to ensure that it functions well. As I mentioned in my remarks today, there is no question that the U.S. patent system has tremendous strengths but also significant weaknesses. All of us – private companies, the USPTO, Congress and the courts – share responsibility for taking steps to improve the operation of the patent system. From Microsoft’s perspective, the key opportunities relate to increasing transparency, curbing litigation abuse, and improving patent quality.  Specific reforms we support include:

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  • From Cherokee to Wolof: Preserving Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Through Technology

    Frank McCoskerPosted by Frank McCosker
    General Manager, Global Strategic Accounts

    “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. The language of our thoughts and our emotions is our most valuable asset.

    Source: Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day 2012

    Today one of our partners, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) celebrates International Mother Language Day, which aims to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism. I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the urgency of the situation and what Microsoft is doing to promote the use of mother tongue languages while also making technology more accessible for speakers of those languages.

    With the launch of Windows 8, we have added 13 extra languages to our range of Language Interface Packs (LIPs), bringing the total number of languages supported by Windows 8 and Office 365 to 108.  Downloadable free of charge, LIPs enable the user to install a local language version as a "skin" on top of an existing installation of the Windows operating system and standard Microsoft Office system applications. Promoting access to mother languages is crucial to ensuring the survival of people’s common, living heritage. It is linguistic and cultural ties that strengthen communities and promote cohesion.

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  • New White House Initiative Takes Smart Steps Toward Stronger Protection of Trade Secrets

    Posted by Horacio Gutierrez
    Corporate Vice President & Deputy General Counsel, Microsoft

    Today the Obama Administration unveiled a new initiative addressing an issue that is critical to American business, including the software industry: trade secret theft. In today’s globally connected word, trade secrets and confidential information are increasingly subject to the threats of international espionage and intellectual property theft. Microsoft was pleased last year when President Obama signed the Theft of Trade Secrets Act of 2012 into law, which clarified the protection provided by existing law, but more can be done.

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  • One Billion and Counting…

    Posted by Lisa Brummel
    Chief People Officer, Microsoft

    In October of last year, we marked the 30th Employee Giving Campaign and celebrated a major milestone: $1 billion in cash raised by U.S. employees and our company match for more than 31,000 global nonprofit and community organizations since the start of the campaign in 1983.

    Four months later, we’ve tallied the result for 2012 alone and we’re proud to share that the Employee Giving Program raised $105 million last year for 18,755 unique nonprofit and community organizations in the United States and around the world.

    Microsoft’s Employee Giving Program is one of the largest in the world. Its impact is local and global, and real. At its heart stands our employees’ dedication to their communities, near and far. Time and again, I am impressed by the impactful stories they have shared with me, such as the employee who established the North Dakota Autism Center (NDAC), focused on bringing services to families affected by autism in the areas in and around Fargo. The center’s mission is clear: to help children affected by autism spectrum disorder (AUD) realize their full potential through excellence in care, therapy, instruction and support.

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  • Microsoft Research and The America21 Project Partnering to Put Urban Focus on STEM, Technology

    Posted by Rob Knies
    Managing Editor, Microsoft Research

    On Feb. 20, Microsoft Research, in conjunction with The America21 Project, announced the three pilot cities for the Activate Local Communities Across America Initiative (ALC): Chicago, Portland, Ore. and Cambridge, Mass.

    The ALC, which grew out of a challenge last summer from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and was featured Jan. 31 during the White House Tech Inclusion Summit, focuses on making America’s cities vibrant, inclusive centers of urban innovation and entrepreneurship that can connect talent from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students in diverse communities to the economic opportunities of the 21st century.

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  • How Computing Research and Education Drives Positive Impact

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, Microsoft On the Issues

    "Many of the amazing capabilities of technology today are made possible by research done years ago, and innovations and impact sometimes result from unexpected combinations and outcomes at unexpected times," writes Elizabeth Grossman of Microsoft's Technology Policy Group in a post today on the Inside Microsoft Research blog. "One example is Kinect for Xbox 360, for which decades of research by Microsoft and others on artificial intelligence, graphics, motion detection, and voice recognition made it possible for your voice and body to be the game controller."

    The post continues by highlighting two key recent opportunities Microsoft has taken to highlight how computing research strengthens our economy, creates jobs, and enhances society and security. Read the full post to learn more.

  • New Cyber Security Policies Aim to Improve Critical Infrastructure Protection

    Posted by Scott Charney
    Corporate Vice President, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft

    It has been an interesting time for those that care about cyber security. Last week, the European Union introduced its formative cybersecurity strategy and draft directive on network and information security to better protect critical systems from security incidents and breaches. Two days ago, the White House released an Executive Order entitled Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity to drive a concerted effort across departments, agencies and industry to improve the posture of the nation’s critical infrastructures against cyber-attacks. The White House also issued Presidential Policy Directive 21 on critical infrastructure security and resilience to augment existing policy and enhance existing capabilities, partnerships, and strategies. Yesterday, a bill was also introduced on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) which will continue the important dialogue on the exchange of cyber threat information to help manage cyber risks.

    When reviewing the key definitions, approaches and activities outlined in the Executive Order, it is fairly well aligned with a set of global principles essential for enhancing cyber security. More specifically, it recognizes the principles of active collaboration and coordination with infrastructure owners and operators, outlines a risk-based approach for enhancing cyber security, and focuses on enabling the sharing of timely and actionable information to support risk management efforts. It is important to see these principles reflected in the Executive Order for three reasons.  First, it is the private sector that designs, deploys and maintains most critical infrastructure; therefore, industry must be part of any meaningful attempt to secure it.  Second, both information sharing and the implementation of sound risk management principles is the only way to manage complex risks.  Finally, while critical infrastructure protection is important, it cannot be the only objective of governmental policy; privacy and continued innovation are also critical concerns.

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  • Effective Strategies for Teaching STEM to the Next Generation

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, Microsoft on the Issues

    Last week, approximately 100 leading education experts from the public and private sectors engaged in a conversation addressing the steps the United States can take to best prepare American students to compete in our 21st century economy.

    The @Microsoft conversation, “Securing American Competitiveness: Effective Strategies for Teaching STEM,” featured Council of Chief State Schools Officers Director of Federal Relations Peter Zamora, National Education Association Secretary-Treasurer Becky Pringle and Montgomery County Springbrook High School Computer Science Teacher Pat Yongpradit.  Microsoft Partners in Learning General Manager Andrew Ko moderated the discussion.

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  • Microsoft Comments on Orphaned Works and Mass Digitization

    Posted by Jeff Meisner
    Editor, Microsoft on the Issues

    This morning the U.S. Copyright Office posted Microsoft’s comments regarding orphan works and mass digitization. Microsoft has worked for orphan works reform for nearly a decade, participating in and supporting efforts by the Copyright Office, Congress and others to devise a solution to this critical problem. 

    Orphan works – works still under copyright whose owner is unknown or unidentifiable – remain an issue with significant implications for the development of technology, the fostering of creative activity and the preservation of our cultural heritage. The problem is in need of a solution that both protects rights holders and avoids works lying fallow, thereby maximizing the public benefit of the copyright system.

    Microsoft’s comments focus on four specific themes that have developed in recent years and must inform any solution, including:

    1. The promise and benefits of mass digitization are enormous.
    2. The orphan works problem remains an impediment to mass digitization.
    3. Additional solutions to enhance the 2008 legislative proposal may be needed.
    4. Any solution must be structured to further the public interest and not merely benefit private parties motivated by self interest.

    Microsoft continues to support the Copyright Office and the end goal of resolving the issue of orphan works and mass digitization through a solution that takes into account the interests of all stakeholders, including copyright owners, users of orphan works and the public more broadly.

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  • Get Safer Online – at Home and on the Go – on Safer Internet Day

    Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
    Director, Trustworthy Computing, Microsoft

    Typically, when leave our homes, we lock our doors. We take this simple and, perhaps, habitual step to help protect our families and our belongings. Yet, when we go online, we don’t always take the same precautions with our personal information.

    Today, on Safer Internet Day (SID), we want to remind consumers the world over to promote responsible use of the Internet and mobile technology. Organized by Brussels-based Insafe and co-founded by the European Union, this year marks the tenth celebration of SID and, once again, Microsoft is playing an active role. 

    We’ve released results of our second annual Microsoft Computing Safety Index (MCSI), a survey of consumer online safety behaviors in 20 countries. This year, we added a mobile component to the study, enabling comparisons between people’s PC and mobile practices.

    [Read more...]

  • Bringing Low-Cost, Off-the-Grid Broadband Access to Rural Kenya

    Posted by Paul Garnett, Director, Technology Policy Group and Louis Otieno, Legal and Corporate Affairs Director, Africa Initiatives, Microsoft.

    Despite our increasingly interconnected world, many people are still unable to access the benefits provided by technology. In Kenya, only 2% of Kenyans subscribe to broadband services, as defined by the Communications Commissions Kenya. In many countries in Africa, even fewer are connected. This digital divide is perpetuated by business models, technologies, and regulatory frameworks not suited for delivering low-cost, high-quality broadband access.

    To help address this challenge, Microsoft has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding that presents a framework of cooperation with the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communications and industry partner Indigo, a Kenyan Internet Service Provider (ISP). Through this framework of cooperation and as part of the Microsoft 4Afrika Initiative, we installed and today launched a project that is delivering low-cost, high-speed wireless broadband access to locations previously unserved by even basic electricity.

    The technology making the project possible is called dynamic spectrum access, which enables wireless devices to opportunistically tap into unused radio spectrum to establish broadband connections. The project in Kenya utilizes TV white spaces, the unused portions of wireless spectrum in the television frequency band, as well as solar-powered base stations. TV white spaces are particularly well-suited for a range of applications from better in-home networks to rural broadband, to hotspot access and mobile traffic offload to machine-to-machine applications. As television has begun to switch from analog to digital around the world, even more of this spectrum can be used to fulfill those needs.

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