Posts Tagged ‘microsoft’

A Microsoftie’s Healthcare.gov (Comic)

December 21, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

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Sony PlayStation 4 Makes Right Play for Gamers

December 19, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Every holiday season, there are always a few hot-ticket items that everyone clamors for, and this year, it’s pretty safe to say that the much-anticipated Xbox One from Microsoft and PlayStation 4 from Sony are at the top of a lot of people’s wish lists. For gamers, it has been a long wait for these next-generation game consoles (Microsoft released the Xbox 360 eight years ago, and the PlayStation 3 debuted seven years ago), and some early adopters have probably already made their decision on which system to buy. But what about the rest of us, especially those who might be purchasing a console for the first time? Which one should you get? To start, it’s worth noting that both companies have a pretty different view of what a console should be. For Microsoft, the aim of the Xbox One is to be the central hub for all digital living-room activities, including TV watching and streaming media. Meanwhile, Sony’s goal in designing the PlayStation 4 was to create the most powerful console for gamers. My colleague Katie Boehret reviewed the Xbox One a few weeks ago, and she found that it offers a number of media and entertainment features that would appeal even to the non-gamer

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Top Products in Two Decades of Tech Reviews

December 18, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

This is my last column for The Wall Street Journal, after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products here. So I thought I’d talk about the dozen personal-technology products I reviewed that were most influential over the past two decades. Obviously, narrowing so many products in the most dynamic of modern industries down to 12 is a subjective exercise and others will disagree. Though most were hits, a couple weren’t blockbusters, financially, and one was an outright flop. Instead, I used as my criteria two main things. First, the products had to improve ease of use and add value for average consumers. That was the guiding principle I laid down in the first sentence of my first column, in 1991: “Personal computers are just too hard to use, and it’s not your fault.” Second, I chose these 12 because each changed the course of digital history by influencing the products and services that followed, or by changing the way people lived and worked. In some cases, the impact of these mass-market products is still unfolding. All of these products had predecessors, but they managed to take their categories to a new level. Some readers will complain that Apple is overrepresented. My answer: Apple introduced more influential, breakthrough products for average consumers than any other company over the years of this column.

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AllThingsD Week in Review: Nokia’s Android Phone, Bitcoin Funding and Facebook the Newspaper

December 15, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

In case you missed anything, here’s a quick roundup of some of the news that powered AllThingsD this week: Most people think of Facebook as a place to share photos, keep up with friends and family members, or see and share those funny, viral stories and LOLcat pictures. This is not how Facebook thinks of Facebook. Is Nokia really working on an Android-based phone, and would Microsoft really go ahead with such a device? The answer to the first one is definitely yes. And, surprisingly, the answer to the second question may be yes, as well . The saga of Yahoo’s problematic latest Mail product continues: The Yahoo in charge of Mail made some fellow employees a bit upset when he suggested that the company would have to “kick the users hard” in a certain body part to get them to leave. Functionality is returning for many after a recent outage, but up to two weeks of mail may be missing. CEO Marissa Mayer has apologized . Facebook and Twitter let advertisers turn their (free) posts into (paid) “native ads.” Now Google+ is joining the native ad party, too — but there’s a twist . The independent videogame Minecraft is a global sensation, but it almost went down a very different path. In an excerpt from a new book about the game, we learn how Minecraft’s original creator, Markus Persson, almost took a job at Valve .

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Qualcomm Taps Steve Mollenkopf, Rumored as Microsoft Successor, as Its Next CEO

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

A day after he was mentioned in a news report as a possible dark-horse successor to outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Steve Mollenkopf, COO of wireless chipmaker Qualcomm, has been named as the company’s next CEO. Mollenkopf will replace Paul Jacobs, who will remain executive chairman of Qualcomm, and who is the son of the company’s founder, Irwin Jacobs. The appointment will become effective on March 4. Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Mollenkopf had emerged as a new name in the race to succeed Ballmer. The software giant has considered several outside candidates, including Ford CEO Alan Mulally and VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger. Internal candidates include Tony Bates , Microsoft’s current head of business development, and its enterprise chief, Satya Nadella. Mollenkopf has been with Qualcomm since 1994, and has recently led its wireless-chipset business unit, known as QCT. On his watch, the company acquired the Wi-Fi-chip company Atheros in 2011 for $3.1 billion

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PlayStation 4 Tops Gaming Hardware Sales in November, but Game Sales Are Way Down

December 13, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

The NPD Group has released hardware sales numbers for the first month of “next-gen” consoles (which, I guess, is now officially current gen ), and Sony won, but only kinda sorta. The PlayStation 4 outsold the Xbox One in the U.S. in November, with “the highest first month sales of a hardware platform on record,” according to the NPD report. However, the PS4 debuted on Nov. 15, while Microsoft’s new console debuted on Nov.

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With Microsoft CEO Race in Home Stretch and Mulally Fading, Here’s My Dark-Horse Pick: VMware’s Gelsinger

December 12, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about the possibility of an outsider dark-horse candidate emerging in the race to become CEO of Microsoft. Now it might be more of a possibility than ever before, tracking on sources inside the company that have consistently said that there is a male tech executive in the running who has not been named publicly as yet. Said one person about this candidate: He is “in tech, someone folks are excited about, but not a done deal.” By definition, the term “dark horse” is meant to describe a come-out-of-nowhere winner, or, as Wikipedia notes , “a race horse that is not known to gamblers and thus is difficult to place betting odds on.” And make no mistake, this CEO search has turned into a race, with the variety of candidates pulling ahead and then falling behind, with all of them jockeying for position, as the crowd of investors and insiders have also tried to put their own fix in. At the time of my post in mid-November, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was the clear front runner of the process to replace outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer. Also in that mix: Enterprise chief Satya Nadella; COO Kevin Turner; strategy exec Tony Bates (whom I have dubbed the Silicon Valley choice); and Nokia exec Stephen Elop. Elop was considered the top contender (by me, at least), after Microsoft bought the mobile phone division of Nokia. But — for a variety of reasons — he soon fell behind two other internal candidates, Bates and Nadella. And further back still, Turner. Among the outsiders, Mulally — who has done a lot of deft lobbying for the job, after helping Ballmer in his efforts to restructure Microsoft — has always been in the forefront of the choice

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"Hour of Code" Calls on Students to Program Computers, With Support From Obama (And the Republicans, Too!)

December 9, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

By now you may have heard about the United States’ woeful lack of public coding classes , despite the economy’s ever-growing need for technical workers. For five years now, Computer Science Education Week has existed as a call to mobilize people to learn to program. This year, it’s getting a little more oomph, with promotion by various tech companies of the new nonprofit Code.org ’s “Hour of Code” initiative, five million students committed to participate globally at 33,000 schools in 166 countries, and endorsements by celebrities and public figures including both U.S. President Barack Obama and his political foil House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Here’s the video from Obama, in which he urges, “Don’t just buy a new video game, make one. Don’t just download the latest app, help design it. Don’t just play on your phone, program. No one’s born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one.” And here’s Cantor, who says “coding is the necessary tool of this century”: (By the way, the name “Hour of Code” is not meant to specify any specific hour, but rather the motivation for people to spend an hour learning to code at some point over the next week.) And it’s not just political rivals coming together, but also competing companies, noted Code.org co-founder Ali Partovi. All the Apple Stores in the U.S. plan to hold an open Hour of Code class on Dec.

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Plantronics Says It Can Be a Wearable Computing Company, Too

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

Look at Plantronics’ online catalog and you’ll see a lot of commonplace products: Telephones, speakerphones and a long list of headphones, earbuds and headsets for everything from music to gaming to telemarketing. But CTO Joe Burton thinks the company needs to “shift to mobility … [and] away from normal phones.” It needs, he said, to make itself a competitor in wearable computing. I know; I was skeptical, too. Hang in there. As it turns out, even though “normal phones” are still its bread and butter, Plantronics has been experimenting for the past few years, loading its headsets with sensors like the ones you might find in a smartphone or, say, Google Glass. And with these sensor-laden hardware experiments, the company has been reaching out to third-party developers over the past few months through a secondary website, PLT Labs , to develop conceptual hardware and software . And some of these sensor-headsets are already out in the wild. At Cisco’s call center, Burton said, once a customer support rep puts on a phone headset, a motion sensor registers that it is being worn and the rep is automatically added to the call routing queue. If near an active webcam, he or she is put in the special video support queue. One of Plantronics’ internal experiments also piqued my interest. The company has hacked an Xbox to let the motions of a headset wearer leaning from side to side control a motorcycle racing game. In other words, Oculus Rift-esque motion tracking on a gaming console based on sensors connected to the body rather than the one-step-removed Kinect camera. As I wrote last month , the gaming startup Mind Pirate says wearables becoming as ubiquitous as cell phones is an “inevitability,” and believes it can help shape their future: Rather than trying to solve consumers’ problems, the idea is that entertaining apps will validate new categories of devices for consumers, which you could argue was a big chunk of the mobile story as well. Getting in front of games for devices like Google Glass may mean helping to figure out just what, exactly, a world of omnipresent games would look like. By contrast, Burton maintains that Plantronics’ chances at breaking into wearables may stem from the converse of that idea. That is, the company already has a history of convincing people to put stuff on their heads. He broke sensors down into four types: Near you (e.g. in your phone); on you (e.g. via a Fitbit clip); touching your body (e.g. an activity tracker on your wrist); and touching your head.

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Siri Gets Serious, Microsoft Gets Its Mojo Back and Everything Gets Encrypted in 2014

December 6, 2013  |  All Things Digital  |  No Comments

If it’s December, it’s time to start predicting what’s going to dominate the headlines and trends of 2014. I make it a point every year to sit down with Mark Anderson, an industry analyst and CEO of Strategic News Service, and get an early look at the predictions he makes in a speech at an annual dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. As with previous rounds of predictions he has made (See 2011 , 2012 and 2013 ), some already make sense if you’ve been paying attention to the way things are going, and will become more pronounced in the year ahead. Others are a little more surprising. Siris head into silos. There will be more products like Apple’s Siri, and they’ll spread out and dive deep into vertical markets. Current voice-recognition products are sitting in the range of 60 percent to 80 percent accuracy, which is still too frustrating to be effective for daily use. “You still get a lot of Siri jokes,” Anderson says. “But as that rate approaches 90 percent and above, they’ll get more useful and start appearing in industry-specific products.” Customers will start trusting these systems more. Visualization goes mainstream. As more companies spin up efforts to harness the capabilities of big data and analytics, making the results more useful will become a higher priority. That’s going to bring a new emphasis on visualization tools. “Let’s stop talking about Big Data and start talking about seeing data. We haven’t yet had any big improvements in ways to help us use all this data we’re gathering.” Price rules consumer electronics

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