Tech Strategy Trends

May 10, 2011  8:16 AM

Microsoft Buys Skype for $8.5 Billion

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft is buying Skype.

For the past week there have been rumors that a Skype purchase was imminent, but all of the speculation revolved around Facebook and Google as the new custodian of the VoIP calling and online communications icon. Microsoft swooped out of nowhere to announce that it has agreed to purchase Skype for $8.5 billion in cash–the largest purchase in the history of Microsoft.

It will be interesting to see what Microsoft does with Skype and how it integrates Skype services with other Microsoft products. The Microsoft press release mentions tie-ins with Xbox and Kinect, as well as integration with Lync and Outlook. There are many innovative ways that Skype can add value and enable better real-time communications for Microsoft products.

Of course, I’m sure Microsoft is glad that it was not the steward of Skype the past couple months when it was discovered that Skype for Android exposes personal data on the smartphone platform, or the revelation that Skype for Mac leaves Mac OS X systems open to dangerous compromise. Those types of events would not be good for Microsoft’s reputation, and hopefully the first thing Microsoft will do with Skype is tighten the development process and implement better security practices to ensure those things don’t happen on its watch. 

For more details, read the Microsoft press release: Microsoft to Acquire Skype

May 7, 2011  2:35 PM

Apple Ditching Intel in Favor of ARM Processors?

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

There are rumors circulating that Apple intends to move to ARM processors for future generations of its MacBook laptops. Are Intel’s days of dominance coming to an end?

The speculation on the street is that Apple is ready to embrace ARM processors for its laptops (and possibly even Mac desktops) as soon as there are 64-bit ARM chips available–likely late 2012 or early 2013. Moving to ARM would continue the convergence of traditional PCs and mobile devices, and would allow Apple to engineer and manufacture its own processors.

Considerthat Microsoft intends to embrace ARM on some level as well. Microsoft probably won’t abandon x86 processors completely any time soon, but it has demonstrated an early prototype of Windows 8 running on an ARM platform, and it intends to make the next-generation Windows OS more tablet friendly–a market where ARM is the dominant architecture.

Because of its dominant role in server, desktop, and laptop PCs, Intel will not be hurt too much by an Apple defection to ARM. But, the rise of mobile devices–smartphones and tablets–, combined with Microsoft giving its official blessing to ARM, and Apple possibly dropping Intel chips in favor of ARM, illustrate the culture shift that is going on, and indicate that Intel’s days as a virtual monopoly may be over.

April 30, 2011  9:00 PM

Maybe Microsoft’s Tablet Strategy is Genius

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft seems to waiver between dismissing the tablet market as a non-issue, and embracing the tablet market…when the time is right. Microsoft is taking its time jumping into the tablet fray, which I have previously thought foolish. But, perhaps there is a spark of genius in the “wait and see” strategy.

Other vendors are rushing ahead at their own peril. Their strategy seems to be more like rushing in with a blindfold on and hair on fire and hoping something works. The Samsung Galaxy Tab was going to be an “iPad killer”, then the Motorola Xoom, then the BlackBerry PlayBook, and there will continue to be more.

The problem is that these tablets focus too much on hardware specs–processor, memory, etc.–and not enough on actually delivering a solid user experience that people are willing to pay for. Some of the tablets–namely the BlackBerry PlayBook–seem like a beta unit that still needs some finishing touches developed before it should be offered for sale.

The Apple iPad, and now the iPad 2, continues to sell as fast or faster than Apple can produce them–easily outselling all rival tablets combined…by a lot. Many will enter the market, and many will fail. Eventually the dust will settle and only a couple tablet players will remain. Meanwhile, Microsoft can take its time, learning from other’s mistakes and developing a solid mobile OS and tablet experience, and come in with guns blazing ready to fight.

Only time will tell if that strategy is sound, but what we know for a fact so far is rushing a product to market is not the way to go.

April 30, 2011  8:46 PM

Pin Hulu Plus in IE9 to Get a Free Month

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

It was big news this week that Hulu Plus is now available on the Xbox 360. Yay! In fact, in celebration, Hulu Plus is giving Xbox 360 users a free week of service!

I have a secret for you, though. If you use WIndows 7 and Internet Explorer 9, you can get a free month of Hulu Plus service. All you have to do is drag the Hulu Plus site to the Windows 7 task bar to pin it, and Hulu will set you up with a free month of service.

Take that Xbox 360 users!

April 22, 2011  9:30 PM

What If Your PC Could Just Recognize You?

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Forget hitting CTRL-ALT-DEL, or having to remember archaic username and password credentials to type in. This is 21st centruy Star Trek type stuff where you’re just on a first name basis with your PC.

Technologizer’s Jared Newman points out in this Techland post that leaked early builds of Windows 8 contain signs of the facial recognition technology that was hinted at in leaked memos from Microsoft last year (maybe Microsoft should do something about all of this leaking…unless it’s the kind of ‘leaking’ that is done intentionally on the sly to build anticipation without publicly announcing anything).

You have to admit, it would be pretty cool to have a PC that will turn a cold shoulder to unauthorized users, but will instantly light up and log in when you sit down. However, the technology is not without its potential downsides as well.

What happens if an attacker just holds up a roughly life-sized photo of your face in front of theirs when they sit down at your computer? What happens if you change your hair style, or get a black-eye, or there is some other alteration to your face and your PC doesn’t recognize you? Or, what happens when hackers figure out how to tap into the camera connected to your PC that is always on and constantly scanning the area so it recognizes when you sit down?

Still, put the facial recognition together with voice recognition, and a vocal response capability and you have a computer capable of interacting conversationally a’ la Star Trek…or HAL 9000.

April 22, 2011  2:55 PM

Visiting Madrid? Rent Yourself an iPad

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

[Note: This post has been updated to correct some confusion over pricing. The Pad In The City rate is 39 euros, not 39 euro cents. So, I still think the concept is awesome, but I think that these guys are pricing themselves out of the market.]

I am going to file this one under the “Damn! Why didn’t I think of that?” category. A couple of friends have started what could be an awesome tourist industry–renting iPads by the day for people visiting and touring Madrid, Spain.

The business–Pad In The City–rents out 3G iPads pre-loaded with a comprehensive selection of apps to make your visit more enjoyable. The apps include weather, car rental apps, the Metro Madrid app, videos about Madrid, a unit converter for the metric-challenged, local maps, and even Angry Birds HD for when you just need to chill.

The Pad In The City crew will arrange to deliver your rental iPad to you when you arrive in Madrid, and they will even come and pick it up from you when you’re done with it. The rental does require a 390 euro deposit in case you decide to skip town with the tablet, but  the daily rental rate is 39 euros per day. At current conversion rates, that is about $55 USD per day, so you could use an iPad to help you plan and navigate your Madrid trip for about $385 per week.

I think the concept is brilliant. If I were doing it, I think I would charge less–something like $5 per day, or $25 per week. The Pad In The City rate is too high. If you wanted to rent it for more than two days you’d be better off to just buy one, and then sell it on eBay when you’re done. People are willing to pay $20 a day to rent a stripped down Chevy Aveo from Hertz, so it seems reasonable to think they’d be willing to pay $5 a day for an iPad that will make the visit much more efficient and enjoyable.

I wonder if they’d be willing to sell me the Pad In The City rights for Houston?

April 22, 2011  10:45 AM

Windows 7 Hits New Milestone

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Microsoft announced today–exactly 18 months to the day from the official launch of Windows 7–that the flagship desktop operating system has hit a new milestone. Windows 7 has officially sold 350 million copies worldwide.

A Blogging Windows post notes that total licenses is one way of measuring success, but providing a positive and productive PC experience is equally crucial. The post explains, “Analyst firms like IDC estimate that more than 90% of businesses are currently in progress with their Windows 7 migrations. And we’ve seen that companies who have deployed Windows 7 save an average of $140 per PC per year – showing a 131 percent return on investment in just more than 12 months.”

Windows XP still ranks as the number one OS globally, but Windows 7 recently surpassed XP in the United States to reign as the leading OS, and it continues to climb in market share. Any predictions for when it will hit the 500 million mark, or when it will pass XP for good to be the number one OS in the world?

April 21, 2011  10:21 PM

Sometimes It Pays To Be Certifiable

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Admittedly, it has been quite some time since I focused on adding more letters after my name. I am A+ certified. I am a Microsoft MCSE, MCSA, and MCP. I am a CISSP-ISSAP. I am a Microsoft MVP. I even have a couple vendor-specific niche certifications that I don’t even recall. I used to voraciously pursue certifications more or less for the sake of the certification, and eventually it got old.

My drive for certifications plummeted when I went from being a security consultant in the field to being primarily a writer. I work for myself. I don’t have to impress anyone with an endless string of letters after my name. Last I checked, I wasn’t willing to give myself a promotion or pay myself more money based on certifications.

But, in the “real world” certifications still matter…at least some of them. Certifications aren’t a silver bullet guaranteeing you a promotion or raise, or even a job at all, but they can’t hurt. For employers, the certifications often serve as a baseline common denominator for even being considered, so whether or not you have a given certification might determine whether or not your resume even gets looked at.

Don’t just go chasing after the first certification you see, though. Check out the Global Knowledge survey of the 15 Top Paying IT Certifications and find one that has a reasonable chance of helping you get ahead.

April 18, 2011  3:25 PM

Microsoft Opens Office 365 Beta to the Public

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

As of today, Microsoft has expanded the Office 365 beta to the world. I have been playing with a beta release of Office 365 for a few months now, and now you can too.

I realize that many swear by Google Apps, but I prefer Microsoft Office. It is what I am used to. It is what I am comfortable with. It is the ‘standard’ that the world recognizes and runs on. Don’t believe me? Try making a Google Docs or OpenOffice that is completely separate from and incompatible with Microsoft Office and see how well it does.

Still, there is something to be said for the universal access of a cloud-based solution like Google Apps, and most small and medium businesses don’t have the budget or IT personnel required to implement a complete Microsoft communications and productivity suite. Until now.

Office 365 provides small business customers (up to 50 users) with Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and Lync Online, as well as access to the suite of Office Web apps for only $6 per user per month. Check out the Office 365 beta and see if the service is right for your communications and productivity needs.

April 12, 2011  12:24 PM

Microsoft Unveils Internet Explorer 10

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Yes. You read that right. At the MIX ’11 conference that kicked off today in Las Vegas, Microsoft launched the initial Platform Preview for the next iteration of the Internet Explorer Web browser–IE10.

Less than a month after the official public launch of IE9, Microsoft’s Dean Hamovitch announced IE10 in his MIX ’11 keynote. Hamovitch stated, “The only native experience of HTML5 on the Web today is on Windows 7 with Internet Explorer 9,” adding “With Internet Explorer 9, websites can take advantage of the power of modern hardware and a modern operating system and deliver experiences that were not possible a year ago. Internet Explorer 10 will push the boundaries of what developers can do on the Web even further.”

Given the incubation between the initial Platform Preview of IE9 and its public release, it seems reasonable to expect about a year of Platform Previews, Betas, and finally the Release Candidate before IE10 will officially become Microsoft’s flagship browser.

While it is nowhere near as aggressive as the 18 week development cycle being pursued by Mozilla for the Firefox browser, an annual major release of Internet Explorer is significantly faster than Microsoft has traditionally developed the next version of its browser, and could still put a strain on IT admins and businesses when it comes to testing and implementing the browser release and being able to get some value out of it before the next one comes along.

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