With the new technologies coming in the market every other day, life has become advanced these days. In this modern era, you have to be on your toes all the time especially if your career in related to the field of IT: one has to stay updated with all the latest programs and their features in order to stay ahead of his peers. For instance, there was a time when Gramophone was the invention of the century but then it was replaced with mobile phones. Similarly, the invention of television and radio created quite a heap in the early 20th century but later on, the thunder was stolen by computers in the late 20th century.
In this day and age, computers and internet have become the center of attention. Consequently, IT has become the most popular field. IT experts are quite in demand these days; but with the emergence of new programs every other day, they have to keep up with the latest technology in order to stay ahead in the race. One way of staying ahead is the certification courses. These courses ensure that the candidate has attained all the latest knowledge and is ready to roll in the world of technology.
This article will discuss some of the most popular certification courses offered by Microsoft.
Microsoft Technology Associate
This is a certification course designed for the starters: people who want to start their line of business in the field of technology. Accordingly, it tests the fundamentals of IT and validates that the candidates have a basic understanding of the essentials. This course has been divided into three tracks and the candidates can choose any one of the tracks, depending on their preference. The tracks are: IT infrastructure, Database Design and Developer.
Microsoft MCSA- Windows Server 2008
This exam is designed for the IT personnel and it validates their skills in Server Networking management. IT professionals and System Administrators are suggested to take MCSA- Windows Server 2008 exam especially if they are looking forward to earning their MCSE certification.
Microsoft MCSA- Windows Server 2012
This certification exam is an advanced level exam which validates that the candidates have sufficient knowledge of Windows Server 2012 for its proper installation, configuration and working. MCSA- Windows Server 2012 certified can easily get the position of Network Administrator, Computer Systems Administrator or Computer Network Analyst.
Microsoft MCSE- Server Infrastructure
This certification course is designed for IT experts and it will get you the title of ‘Solutions Expert’. It tests individual’s skills in effectively and efficiently running a modern data center with some experience in virtualization storage and networking, identity management and systems management.
Microsoft MCSE- Desktop Infrastructure
This course validates that the individuals can manage desktops and devices, while maintaining their security and integrity, from anywhere around the globe. It also tests individuals’ expertise in application and desktop virtualization together with remote desktop services. With this certification in hand, you can easily qualify for a job of Data and Application Manager or Desktop and Device Support Manager.
Microsoft MCSE- Messaging
This certification is an expert level certification and it validates that the applicant has relevant skills in order to increase user productivity and flexibility. It also validates that the person has sufficient knowledge as to how to improve data security and reduce data loss. After passing this certification exam, candidates can easily qualify for the position of Network and Computer System Administrator.
Microsoft MCSE- Communication
This certification validates candidates’ expertise in using Lync Server to create an effective communication path that can be accessed from all around the globe. This certification is also an expert level certification and you can easily qualify for the position of Network and Computer System Administrator with it.
Microsoft MCSE- SharePoint
This Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert certification course verifies that the candidates have the necessary expertise to share, synchronize and organize the data across the organization. SharePoint 2013 is the updated version of Microsoft Office, and passing this certification can get you a job of Systems or Network Analyst.
Microsoft MCSD- SharePoint Application
This Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer certification course is another of expert level certification courses which validates individuals’ expertise in web programming. It also requires the individuals to design and develop applications with Microsoft SharePoint. With this certification, you can easily secure the position of Software Developer or Web Developer.
Microsoft Private Cloud
MCSE- Private Cloud certification course tests candidates’ expertise to manage Private Cloud computer technologies. It also verifies that the candidate can implement these technologies in a way to optimize service delivery. You can easily get the position of Server Administrator and Network Manager with this certification on your resume.
Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager
Microsoft System Center Certification focuses on the skills to manage computer and clients. The candidates should be able to configure, administer and deploy System Center 2012 in order to pass this exam. You can earn the title of Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist through this certification.
Microsoft Server Virtualization
This certification verifies that the candidate is familiar with Server Virtualization, both on Windows Server and System Center. This course expands individual’s expertise and skills in order for him to meet the rapidly modernizing technological business needs, and it can get him the title of Microsoft Specialist in no time.
Microsoft Office Certifications
Microsoft offers many certifications that verify candidates’ skills in handling and using Microsoft Office Applications. These certifications start from beginners level and go up to the master level. Microsoft Office Specialist is a beginner level certification whereas Microsoft Office Specialist Expert is an advanced level certification. Last but not the least; Microsoft Office Specialist Master is a master level certification.
Microsoft MCSA- Office 365
This course focuses on individual’s skills in handling Office 365 together with productivity tools and cloud-based collaboration. This certification can easily get you the position of Cloud Application Administrator or SaaS Administrator.
This Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certification confirms an individual’s expertise in Microsoft dynamics: a specific module can be chosen for this certification. However, this certification will be withdrawn from the market, at the end of this year, and replaced with the new ones.
Some countries that can’t get Surface Pro 2 yet never will, Microsoft says.
Microsoft says that in some countries where its Surface Pro 2 tablet is not yet available, it never will be; the Surface Pro 3 will have to do.
Rather than introduce the device then end-of-life it within months, the company will skip the earlier version of the device altogether in those countries and go with the newer model announced last week, says Cyril Belikoff, the director of Surface marketing at Microsoft.
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That still means at least months of waiting for those countries that don’t yet have access to Surface Pro 2 despite its being available in the U.S. since last October. The newer Surface Pro 3 ships first in the U.S. and Canada June 20, and then to 31 other regions into which Microsoft divides the world. But that won’t be for two or three months at the earliest, Belikoff says.
The unavailability of the device rankles some in countries where it’s not sold. For example, a participant in a Reddit Ask Me Anything session this week, Deniz Yakamoz wanted to know when Surface would be available in her country, Turkey. The answer, written by the Surface Team in Turkish and translated by another AMA participant, was, “Since our plans aren’t finalized, I definitely can’t answer your question, but be certain it’s at the top of my list.”
Belikoff says that demand for Surface Pro 2 in countries where it is already available is strong enough that Microsoft will continue selling it and not relegate it to end-of-life.
Surface Pro 3 is larger (12-inch screen v. 10.5-inch) and has more processor options. Surface Pro 2 comes with Intel Core i5, while Surface Pro 3 has options for i3, i5 and i7 processors.
Meanwhile the company has put Surface Pro 2 on sale in the U.K., according to a ZDNet report by dropping the price of the 64GB version from 771 pounds to 569 pounds, although it’s unclear whether that’s to reduce inventory in anticipation of Surface Pro 3 demand.
Belikoff says in the Surface Blog that corporate customers Avande, BMW Group, The Coca-Cola Company, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy and Seattle Children’s Hospital have chosen Surface Pro 3 as one of the devices their organizations issue. Despite the devices being unavailable for a month, they have committed to deploying between hundreds and thousands of them to select groups within the companies, he says.
Anti-malware vendors advise about downloaders used to infect PCs
Microsoft is placing makers of downloader software on observe when it sees that their softwares are getting used to infect PCs, and it is effective anti-virus vendors that maybe these downloader agenda ought to be tagged as malware.
In its latest Security Intelligence Report the corporation comments that the use of previously benign downloaders has ever more become a means to infect computers with malware, mainly click-fraud programs and ransomware in which assailant extort cash from wounded in return for return their equipment to a useful state.
As part of its manufacturing teamwork, Microsoft shares the data it gathers from its clients about infections with related parties. In this case it tells the downloader makers in hopes they can restrict use of their products to legitimate purposes.
It tells anti-malware vendors so they are aware that certain downloaders represent a threat and should be removed from computers protected by their products, says Holly Stewart, a senior program manager in Microsoft’s Malware defense Center.
A downloader called Rotbrow was the one mainly often used to help malicious actions throughout the last partially of 2013, most usually by downloading a click-fraud app called Sefnit. Before that Rotbrow didn’t record at all as a tool use by attackers, Stewart says.
characteristically the downloaders are bundled with useful freeware such as software to unzip archive. The downloaders might be used legitimately to download updates to the unzip programs, or to download malware, Stewart says.
The dominant types of malware Microsoft observed being downloaded in this way during the last half of 2013 were BitCoin miners and click-fraud programs.
Bitcoin miners run in the background of infected computers to confirm and process Bitcoin transactions in exchange for earning Bitcoins. The attacker reaps the Bitcoins earned by the infected computers. Click fraud forces the infected computer’s browser to automatically click on advertisements that earn cash for each click logged. In both cases indication of the infections can decrease performance of the engine involved.
Microsoft also experimental the proliferation of ransomware, with one called Reveton important the pack and enjoying a 45% raise in use during the last half of 2013, Stewart says. The need to disinfect Microsoft computers of ransomware tripled during the same time period, according to the Security Intelligence Report.
Microsoft procedures prevalence of malware by including the number of computers cleaned per 1,000 computers that are execute Microsoft’s Malicious Software Removal Tool. For ransomware in general, that count rose from 5.6 to 17.8 between the third and fourth quarters of last year, Stewart says.
Ransomware attacker’s goal picky regions with particular ransomware platforms, she says. For example, the one called Crilock is aimed mostly at computers in the U.S. and U.K. while Reveton aims at the likes of Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Hungary and Austria.
Microsoft cheaper to use than open source software, UK CIO says
British government says every time they compare FOSS to MSFT, Redmond wins.
A UK government CIO says that every time government citizens evaluate open source and Microsoft products, Microsoft products forever come out cheaper in the long run.
Jos Creese, CIO of the Hampshire County Council, told Britain’s “Computing” publication that part of the cause is that most staff are already familiar with Microsoft products and that Microsoft has been flexible and more helpful.
“Microsoft has been flexible and obliging in the means we apply their products to progress the action of our frontline services, and this helps to de-risk ongoing cost,” he told the publication. “The tip is that the true charge is in the totality cost of ownership and exploitation, not just the license cost.”
Creese went on to say he didn’t have a particular bias about open source over Microsoft, but proprietary solutions from Microsoft or any other commercial software vendor “need to justify themselves and to work doubly hard to have flexible business models to help us further our aims.”
He approved that there are troubles on together sides. In some cases, central government has developed an undue dependence on a few big suppliers, which makes it hard to be confident about getting the best value out of the deal.
On the other hand, he is leery of depending on a small firm, and Red Hat aside, there aren’t that many large, economically hard firms in open source like Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft. Smaller firms often offer the greatest innovation, but there is a risk in agreeing to a significant deal with a smaller player.
“There’s a huge dependency for a large organization using a small organization. [You need] to be mindful of the risk that they can’t handle the scale and complexity, or that the product may need adaptation to work with our infrastructure,” said Creese.
I’ve heard this argue before. Open source is cheaper in gaining costs not easy to support over the long run. Part of it is FOSS’s DIY ethos, and bless you guys for being able to debug and recompile a complete app or distro of Linux, but not everyone is that smart.
The extra problem is the lack of support from vendors or third parties. IBM has done what no one else has the power to do. 20 after Linus first tossed his creation on the Internet for all to use, we still don’t have an open source equivalent to Microsoft or Oracle. Don’t say that’s a good thing because that’s only seeing it from one side. Business users will demand support levels that FOSS vendors can’t provide. That’s why we have yet to see an open source Oracle.
The part that saddens me is that reading Creese’s interview makes it clear he has more of a clue about technology than pretty much anyone we have in office on this side of the pond.
You have been instructed to make sure that the auditing requirements of usp_UpdateArtistName
are supported by ABC-SR13.
Which of the following actions should you take?
A. You should consider including the Distributed Transaction Coordinator (DTC) in the solution.
B. You should consider including the Kernel Transaction Manager Resource Manager in the
C. You should consider including the Remote Procedure Call (RPC) service (RpcSs) in the
D. You should consider including the Component Object Model (COM) in the solution.
You have received instructions to make sure that server-side paging is supported by the
usp_SelectArtistsByName stored procedure. You want to make sure that actual development is
reduced as much as possible.
Which of the following actions should you take?
A. You should consider including an OFFSET-FETCH clause.
B. You should consider including a DISTINCT clause.
C. You should consider including and COLLATE clause.
D. You should consider including a ROLLUP clause.
You are in the process of writing code to create a table, named Performers. The table will include
a stored procedure, named usp_ PerformersReport.
You have to make sure that the code allows for a reduction in the length of time required for usp_
PerformersReport to complete.
Which of the following should be included in the code?
A. The nvarchar data type.
B. The bit data type.
C. The int data type.
D. The char data type.
You are writing code to create two tables, named Sets and Artists. You need to make sure that
referential integrity exists between the two tables.
Which of the following should be included in the code?
A. You should consider including a primary-key constraint.
B. You should consider including a foreign-key constraint.
C. You should consider including a unique-key constraint.
D. You should consider including a CHECK constraint.
You are writing code to add a column, named Verified, to the Performers table. The column should
allow for disk space usage to be reduced, and have a default value of False.
Which of the following actions should you take?
A. You should consider adding an int column.
B. You should consider adding a bit column.
C. You should consider adding a char column.
D. You should consider adding an nvarchar column.
You are employed as a database administrator at ABC.com. The ABC.com network consists of a
single domain named ABC.com.
A current ABC.com application is configured to host item information, which is saved in XML
format, will be transformed into mechanical drawings for engineering purposes. This process will
be facilitated by making use of a newly developed Microsoft .NET Framework assembly, named
ProcessItems.dll, which was generated via the use of the ProcessItem.es source code file.
ProcessItems.dll includes a single class, named ProcessItem, and a method, named Transform().
Furthermore, the drawings are to be stored as illustrations.
You are informed that every XML should include a single item with a root element, named Item.
You have generated a schema for the items xml, named Production.ItemSchema. The items xml is
configured to have a product type of eleven characters.
•The first five characters reference the category of the product.
•The last six characters refer to the subcategory of the item.
You are planning to create a new database on a server running SQL Server 2012 to support the
application. You have, however, detected that the application includes a number of performance
and security concerns. You are planning to create two tables, named Items and
ManufacturingStages. The Items table will include the following columns:
•ItemID, which is configured as the primary key.
The ManufacturingStages table will include the following columns:
A sequence, named Production.ItemID_Seq, will also be added. You are also planning to generate
a certificate, named ABCItemsCert, in master and a certificate, named ABCDBCert in
ABC.com wants an application to be configured to perform dynamic T-SQL statements against the
You are required to make sure that all stored procedures are signed, and that the original item
specifics are stored in the database. You also have to make sure that an XML schema is
employed to authenticate the item specifics, and that the assembly is accessible via T-SQL
You have been informed that a table-valued function should be created to search products by
type, and that dynamic T-SQL statements should be converted to stored procedures. You have
also been informed that indexes should be boosted from time to time according to their fragmentation.
You need to configure the highest level of encryption to safeguard backups. Furthermore, you
have to make sure that the manufacturing stages stored in the ManufacturingStages table relates
to an item via an identical identifier employed by the Items table
Lastly, you have to make sure that the consumption of disk space and administrative effort is kept to a minimum.
But extends end-of-sales date for business PCs running Windows 7 Professional
Microsoft has set Oct. 31 as the end of sales of new consumer-grade Windows 7 PCs, but for now has left open the do-not-sell-after-this-date for business machines.
On the site where it posts such policies, Microsoft now notes that Oct. 31, 2014, is the end-of-sales date for new PCs equipped with Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium or Ultimate. All three are consumer-oriented versions of Windows 7; Home Premium has been the overwhelming choice of OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) for consumer systems.
Microsoft’s practice, first defined in 2010, is to stop selling an older operating system in retail one year after the launch of its successor, and halt delivery of the previous Windows edition to OEMs two years after a new version launches. The company shipped Windows 8, Windows 7’s replacement, in October 2012.
The setting of a deadline for consumer Windows 7 PCs followed a glitch last year when Microsoft named the same Oct. 31 date for all Windows 7 PCs, but then quickly retracted the posting, claiming that the notification had been posted “in error.”
Some OEMs, notably Hewlett-Packard, have made headlines for marketing consumer-grade Windows 7 PCs, a sign of the fragmentation of the once-dominant Windows oligarchy, which always pushed the newest at the expense of older editions.
But while it has established an end-of-sales date for consumer PCs with Windows 7 pre-installed, Microsoft has yet to do the same for business PCs.
Microsoft will give a one-year warning before it demands that OEMs stop selling PCs with Windows 7 Professional, the commercial-quality version. Under that rule, Microsoft will allow computer makers such as Lenovo, HP and Dell to continue selling PCs with Windows 7 Professional until at least February 2015.
It’s likely that the extension will be much longer.
Windows 7 has become the standard version for businesses, which have spurned Windows 8, largely because of its two-user interface (UI) model, which they consider disruptive to productivity and a needless cost that would require employee retraining.
Most analysts believe that Windows 7 will remain the most popular Microsoft operating system deployed by companies for years to come.
“There’s a good chance that enterprises will stay on Windows 7 as long as possible,” said Gartner analyst Michael Silver in an October 2013 interview. If his prediction turns out to be accurate, Windows 7 may reprise the stubborn persistence of Windows XP, the nearly-13-year-old OS that Microsoft will retire in April.
Even after Windows 8’s launch, Windows 7’s user share, a rough measurement of the prevalence of the OS on operational machines, has continued to grow. From October 2012 to January 2014, Windows 7’s user share increased nearly 3 percentage points, representing a 6% gain during that period, according to data from analytics company Net Applications.
Some of Windows 7’s gains certainly came at the expense of Windows XP, which has fallen more than 11 percentage points, a 28% decline, since October 2012 as users abandoned the old OS.
By making Windows 7 available, Microsoft and its OEMs not only continue to serve customers who want the OS, but make sure that new PC sales do not slump even more dramatically than they have already.
Consumer PC sales have plummeted — last month Microsoft said sales of consumer-grade Windows licenses fell 20% in the December quarter compared to the same period the year before — while the Redmond, Wash. company’s business line of operating systems grew 12% year-over-year. In effect, enterprise spending kept PC shipments from tanking even more than the 10% contraction the industry experienced in 2013.
Extending Windows 7 Professional’s availability on new hardware will also give Microsoft breathing room to continue its retreat from Windows 8’s radical shift to a touch-first, tile-based UI, and to roll out a successor that caters even more to customers who rely on keyboard and mouse.
Microsoft is expected to unveil an update to Windows 8.1 this spring, perhaps in April, that will restore several desktop-oriented features and tools. Some reports based on leaked builds of this Windows 8.1 Update 1 have noted that on non-touch devices, the boot-to-desktop option will be enabled by default; if accurate, most users of traditional PCs will skip the colorful, tile-style Start screen. Windows 9 may appear as early as April 2015.
Retail sales of Windows 7 by Microsoft to distributors and customers were officially halted as of Oct. 31, 2013, but that deadline has been meaningless, as online retailers have continued to sell packaged copies, sometimes for years, by restocking through distributors who squirreled away older editions.
As of Saturday, for example, Amazon.com had a plentiful supply of various versions of Windows 7 available, as did technology specialist Newegg.com. The former also listed copies of Windows Vista and even Windows XP for sale through partners.
Even after Microsoft pulls the plug on Windows 7, there will be ways to circumvent the shut-down. Windows 8.1 Pro, the more expensive of the two public editions, includes “downgrade” rights that allow PC owners to legally install an older OS. OEMs and system builders can also use downgrade rights to sell a Windows 8.1 Pro-licensed system, but factory-downgrade it to
Windows 7 Professional before it ships.
And enterprises with volume license agreements will never be at risk of losing access to Windows 7, as they are granted downgrade rights as part of those agreements, and so will be able to purchase, say, Windows 8.1 or Windows 9 PCs in 2015 or 2016, then re-image the machines with Windows 7.
The end-of-sales dates for Windows 7 are not linked in any way to the support schedule for the 2009 operating system. Microsoft will provide free non-security bug fixes and vulnerability patches for Windows 7 until Jan. 13, 2015 — called “mainstream support” — and follow that with a five-year stretch of “extended support” during which it will ship free security updates until Jan. 14, 2020.
Will automatically push malware cleanup tool to Windows XP until July 2015
Microsoft will be able to silently reach into Windows XP PCs for more than a year after it stops patching the aged OS to clean malware-infected machines, sources close to the company confirmed Friday.
The Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT) will continue to be updated and deployed via Windows Update through July 14, 2015, 15 months after the Redmond, Wash. company serves its final public security patches for XP on April 8 of this year.
By extending the life of the MSRT — and more importantly, automatically running it each month — Microsoft will be able to clean some PCs if massive malware outbreaks hit Windows XP after it’s retired from support.
MSRT is updated monthly as Microsoft targets one or more major malware families it believes are the biggest current threats. The tool is posted for manual download on Microsoft’s website and distributed through the Windows Update service on “Patch Tuesday,” the second Tuesday of each month when Microsoft pushes security patches to customers running still-supported editions of Windows. MSRT automatically installs on PCs with Automatic Updates enabled, and then runs a seek-and-destroy mission in the background without any action on the part of the user.
MSRT is not an antivirus program, but rather a cleaning utility designed to eradicate malware that has already snuck onto a Windows PC. The tool was first released in 2005, but was last updated Jan. 14, 2014, when Microsoft added detection and deletion capabilities for the “Bladabindi” malware family.
The extension of MSRT availability was part of the firm’s decision earlier this month to offer new anti-malware signatures to XP customers who run the company’s free Security Essentials antivirus (AV) software.
Previously, Microsoft said it would stop shipping Security Essentials’ signature updates to XP PCs after April 8. But in a tacit nod to XP’s widespread use, Microsoft postponed the cut-off until July 14, 2015.
With MSRT, Microsoft will have a weapon at the ready in case widespread malware infections strike XP machines after April 8, something the company has said is likely. If new malware pops up, or an older virus, worm or Trojan horse begins infecting large numbers of Windows XP systems — perhaps because they exploited a vulnerability that will never be patched — Microsoft can at least use the MSRT to try to disinfect those PCs.
Extending MSRT’s life on XP will not only help customers still running the 13-year-old OS, but is also smart for Microsoft, which could face a public relations backlash if large numbers of compromised Windows XP machines are used by hackers to infect other devices running Vista, Windows 7 and Windows 8.
Although Microsoft has not stopped urging customers to dump XP, it has recognized that millions of machines will continue to run the ancient OS for months and maybe even years to come.
According to metrics company Net Applications, Windows XP’s user share — the percentage of all personal computer owners who went online with that OS — stood at 29% at the end of December 2013. Computerworld has predicted that about 20% of all personal computers will be running the operating system at the end of 2014.
Andreas Marx, CEO of AV-Test, a German company that evaluates security software, said Microsoft’s decision to continue providing signatures for Security Essentials was prompted by the still-large numbers of PCs running XP.
“It’s a significant move, which is likely driven by the (still) high market share for Windows XP, especially in countries like China or India, as well as the millions of users who are using Security Essentials as anti-virus protection on Windows XP,” said Marx in an email reply to questions earlier this month.
Security Essentials has performed poorly in AV-Test’s recent exams, and Marx cautioned users who plan to reply on it to keep their systems safe after Microsoft stops patching XP. “[Security Essentials] is baseline protection and well-suited for people who are not often using the Internet,” Marx said. “But if you’re online quite often and for long times, if you do financial transactions with your system and the like, I would strongly recommend switching to a commercial security suite.”
Most antivirus vendors will continue to provide customers running Windows XP with up-to-date signatures for years after Microsoft pulls the patch plug in April.
Kaspersky, BitDefender and Avira — the last is free — were the top-scoring consumer antivirus programs for Windows XP in AV-Test’s latest head-to-head comparisons. For business PCs, Kaspersky, Symantec and Trend Micro ranked 1-2-3.
Instructions for turning on XP’s Automatic Updates can be found on Microsoft’s support site, along with a “Fixit” tool that takes care of the chore with a single click.
Some urge patience, but many have long lost it
Even as Microsoft promised to speed up work on a re-release for a flawed Surface Pro 2 firmware update, customers continued to damn the company for the fiasco.
Microsoft yanked the firmware update earlier this month, about a week after it shipped the non-security fixes on Dec. 10. Surface Pro 2 owners had complained that the update reduced their tablets’ battery life and spontaneously changed how the devices went into or out of the power-saving sleep mode.
Originally, Microsoft said that it would re-release the firmware update “after the holidays,” which the company confirmed should be interpreted as some point after New Years Day, or Jan. 1, 2014.
However, this week the Redmond, Wash. company revised its timeline. “We are working to release an alternative update package as soon as possible,” a spokeswoman said via email on Thursday. She declined to be more specific about the re-release’s availability, reiterating only that it would be ASAP.
Microsoft has not said whether the update will repair already-affected Surface Pro 2 tablets.
By the comments posted to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 support forum, many owners had run out of patience.
“Come on Microsoft — give us a date for release of a fix — confirm what an update will fix and exactly when it will be available,” said TrevM in a message posted Thursday on one of the longest support threads about the firmware problems. “My [Surface Pro 2] is now a major pain. All I want to do is use it and not spend hours trying to make it stable when this is the least I would expect!”
Some customers have returned their Surface Pro 2 tablets for replacements, or simply given up on the device.
“I’m quite fortunate that I had just purchased my machine 2 weeks ago,” said someone who identified himself as Mario. “I took my 128GB model back and exchanged it for a new 128GB pre-update, and what a difference. It was night and day.” “I am a consumer and accountant and dropped $1,100 on the Surface Pro 2 last month with my bonus money,” a Computerworld reader reported via email Friday. “Now the thing won’t turn on. I will bring it back to Best Buy.” Microsoft launched the Surface Pro 2, its second-generation Intel-powered tablet, in late September.
It has had to pull flawed updates before — in October, Microsoft yanked the Windows RT 8.1 update after customers reported it “bricked” their tablets — but typically the firm reissues fixes within a few days.
The slower response to the Dec. 10 issues may have been due to engineering staff shortages during the holidays, the complexity of a fix or a combination of the two.
A few people took the problems in stride, and urged people to be patient. But others said the update had soured them on Microsoft and its 2-in-1 tablet.
“I think the question is no longer ‘When does this get fixed?’ It’s been too long already,” said beemr on Tuesday in another long thread. “Now the question is, ‘How does Microsoft regain our trust?’ It is absurd that they haven’t released a firmware [update] that would at the very least just undo the Dec. 10 update. It would seem to me that the overheating (twice for me) and constant charging, draining, charging would take a toll on the lifespan of our SP2’s. Microsoft needs to take ownership and extend its standard and Microsoft Complete warranties by at least another year.”
He’s locked his successor into a plan with little wiggle room
Like a juggler walking away with dozens of objects suspended in the air, Steve Ballmer is leaving his successor at Microsoft not only a tough act to follow but an even tougher act to continue.
During his last months at the company, Ballmer has set in place a string of changes that won’t be anywhere near completion when he goes, even if his replacement doesn’t come on board until next August, the deadline for him to leave.
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That means whoever it is has to come up to speed fast and have the talent to implement Ballmer’s plans or to change them mid-course without having things fall apart.
Here is a look at some of what Ballmer leaves and how it might affect the products and services Microsoft sells.
The big management picture
Ballmer is responsible for One Microsoft, the overarching plan announced in July that that relaxes the divisional separations under which the company was organized before.
“This means we will organize the company by function: Engineering (including supply chain and data centers), Marketing, Business Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, HR, Legal, and COO (including field, support, commercial operations and IT),” Ballmer said in the memo announcing the changes.
This calls for Microsoft’s disparate products to be seen as part of a larger coherent whole, something not immediately obvious considering they range from gaming consoles to data center infrastructure. “All parts of the company will share and contribute to the success of core offerings, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Surface, Office 365 and our EA offer, Bing, Skype, Dynamics, Azure and our servers,” Ballmer wrote. “We will see our product line holistically, not as a set of islands.”
Big ideas but even in his overview of how they will be implemented Ballmer leaves a lot to sort out.
For example, Tami Reller is executive vice president of marketing under the new organization, but here’s what Ballmer says about the job: “Mark Penn will take a broad view of marketing strategy and will lead with Tami the newly centralized advertising and media functions.” This begs the question of who exactly is in charge.
There is similar ambiguity with Dynamics, Microsoft’s ERP and CRM software lines. “Kirill Tatarinov will continue to run Dynamics as is, but his product leaders will dotted-line report to Qi Lu, his marketing leader will dotted-line report to Tami Reller and his sales leader will dotted-line report to the COO group.”
Tony Bates runs business development and evangelism but also has some uncertain sway over OEM partners. “OEM will remain in [the sales marketing and services group] with Kevin Turner with a dotted line to Tony who will work closely with Nick Parker on key OEM relationships.”
The new CEO will be expected to execute these sometimes unclear directives or to sort out who’s in charge in particular instances. The structure is flexible, but it leaves some individuals answering to two masters.
+ALSO ON NETWORK WORLD Some argue Microsoft should sell off Xbox +
Ballmer’s plan draws management lines, then creates project management rules that cross them. “Each major initiative will have a champion who will be a direct report to me or one of my direct reports. The champion will organize to drive a cross-company team for success, but my whole staff will have commitment to the initiative’s success. We will also have outgrowths on those major initiatives that may involve only a single product group.”
Ballmer has locked the company in to a $7.2 billion deal to buy Nokia and make use of its phones, phablets and tablets. While the company’s own Surface tablets could have been discontinued – it took a $900 million write-down for Surface RT tablets – it’s unlikely the board of directors will walk from the Nokia investment.
The practical goal is to sell more phones running the Windows Phone operating system, which held just 3.6% of the market share in the third quarter of this year, miles behind Android (81%) and significantly lagging Apple’s iOS (12.9%). The task is to find a strategy for producing and selling the phones in markets where demand is high but still unfulfilled.
To do so means addressing the dearth of signature apps to run on the phones, an area where Android has a significant lead. Microsoft has kicked off Project Siena to help address the problem. Siena is an app to help non developers develop Windows Phone apps.
Microsoft indicates without much detail that it is somehow bringing its various operating systems closer together in order to promote a common user experience and make it simpler for developers to reuse code when they port a new app from one platform to another. Ballmer has set the company on course to more commonality among Windows (including Windows RT, Xbox and Windows Phone, with some talk of merging Windows Phone and Windows RT into one.
A related but apparently different operating system reform called Threshold has been reported by Mary Jo Foley.
Threshold seems to incorporate a vision he describes in a memo written when he announced One Microsoft. “Our devices must support the same high-value activities in ways that are meaningful across different device types” he wrote. “Developers must be able to target all our devices with a common programming model that makes it easy to target more than one device.”
Project Threshold will ensure that all the operating systems support the same set of high-value activities – personal expression, decision-making and tasks, social communication, and serious fun. That means a common user interface backed by a common service shell in the cloud that delivers the services to all forms of devices. He outlines what he means in the memo, but it’s still pretty vague.
Personal expression seems to incorporate Office 365 – the cloud Office service that includes client software – for more producing and viewing complex documents. “These documents will be readable from a browser, but the experience will be infinitely better if read, annotated or presented with our tools,” the memo says.
“Decision-making and tasks mean different things in personal versus professional lives, yet they are important in both places,” he says in the memo. “Bing, Excel and our InfoNav innovations are all important here.”
Social communication is meant to designate “meetings, events, gathering, sharing and communicating.” But these activities won’t copycat what is already being done via social media. “We can create new ways to interact through hardware, software and new services…We will not focus on becoming another social network for people to participate in casually, though some may use these products and services that way,” he says.
By serious fun he means activities that fully engage participants for a long time during individual sessions. “Interactivity takes engagement and makes things serious; it really requires differentiated hardware, apps and services,” he says, broadly pointing to what it might entail.
No doubt there is a plan for that which has not been made public but which the new CEO will be locked into.
Ballmer has launched the second generation of its two models of Surface tablets, changing the names from Surface RT to Surface 2 and from Surface Pro to Surface Pro 2, which is a full-blown Windows 8 PC with a touch screen. These will have to be reconciled with whatever Nokia gear might be seen as redundant.
But the larger question for Microsoft is how to continue making Surface devices and selling (formerly Nokia) tablets and PCs without upsetting its OEM partners even more in order to protect OEM revenue.
This is delicate because Microsoft needs to continue its devices initiative given the money it’s already invested. Yet it still relies on partners to license its operating system to make devices of their own.
The point is that despite Microsoft hardware partners making arguably better Windows 8 products, the company has bought its way into the hardware business at such a high price that it would be difficult for Ballmer’s successor to walk away from his decision. The company has committed to a four-month Surface ad campaign for 2014 and rumors of a Surface Mini coming out sometime next year persist.
Into the cloud
The One Microsoft manifesto Ballmer issued in July sets down the overall plan: create a set of devices that can reach cloud services that include customers’ personal data stored in that cloud.
This cloud shell of services that support all its devices is evolving and embraces Azure, Office 365, Xbox Live and SkyDrive. It represent a lot of parts moving toward the goal of presenting customers with unified and integrated access to all their personal resources.
The process is started and is such a key part of the overall Microsoft mission that the new CEO will not be able to back off it and will be challenged to bring it to fruition as quickly as possible.
Ballmer seems serious in his manifesto about Microsoft workers being more collaborative. “Collaborative doesn’t just mean ‘easy to get along with.’ Collaboration means the ability to coordinate effectively, within and among teams, to get results, build better products faster, and drive customer and shareholder value,” he says.
Toward that end he eliminated one of the most criticized aspects of working at Microsoft, stack ranking: job performance reviews that pit team members against each other rather than encouraging collaboration. It forces workers to try to stand out individually on collaborative projects in order to avoid bad reviews or even firing. The system could penalize workers unduly or fail to reward them sufficiently because it imposes a bell curve over the performance rankings of each group.
On paper it seems like a good idea to get rid of it as a way to produce better work and better morale, but in practice it’s still uncertain what it will unleash. The impact on Microsoft in general has yet to play out.
Microsoft launches tech, legal, transparency campaign to thwart government prying
In the midst of the NSA snooping scandal, Microsoft is talking up a three-pronged approach to keep customer data safe from the prying eyes of governments.
In a blog post, the company’s top lawyer pledges Microsoft will use more encryption, fight government demands for customer data and make its own source code available to the scrutiny of government customers
While some of these measures are already in place and some won’t be available to all customers, they represent an effort to take a stand against government efforts – such as the NSA mass surveillance – to gather information about Microsoft customers, says the statement by Brad Smith, the general counsel and executive vice president for Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs.
We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might.
— Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith
“Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures – and in our view, legal processes and protections – in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data,” Smith writes. “In particular, recent press stories have reported allegations of governmental interception and collection – without search warrants or legal subpoenas – of customer data as it travels between customers and servers or between company data centers in our industry… We want to ensure that important questions about government access are decided by courts rather than dictated by technological might.”
The new efforts being announced call for expanded use of encryption, taking a stronger stand against government demands for information and adding regional centers where government customers can examine Microsoft source code for security, he says.
Smith promises “a comprehensive engineering effort to strengthen the encryption of customer data across our networks and services,” which includes Windows Azure cloud services, Office 365, SkyDrive and Outlook.com. Some of the measures he promises are already in place, but the list includes encrypting customer-to-Microsoft as well as Microsoft data-center-to-data center communications, and calls for encrypting data at rest.
Microsoft partners whose applications are available through Azure will have the option to encrypt or not, but Microsoft will provide tools for them to do so easily, Smith says.
He doesn’t specify what encryption will be used other than to say in some cases it will include perfect forward secrecy and encryption keys of 2048 bits, which is the same length it recommends its customers use. He says Microsoft is making an effort to enlist cooperation of third parties to protect data moving between services, such as email traveling from one provider to another.
Some of the work is already done. Customer data in Office 365 and Outlook.com customer is already encrypted between customers and Microsoft. Most Office 365 traffic and Windows Azure storage is encrypted between data centers, he says.
On the legal front, Microsoft says it will notify customers when it receives legal orders to release their data. If the orders call for keeping the action secret, the company will challenge the orders in court, he says, something it has done in the past. If the data is stored in other countries, Microsoft will assert objections that the requesting government has no jurisdiction over the data, he says.
“Except in the most limited circumstances,” Smith writes, “we believe that government agencies can go directly to business customers or government customers for information or data about one of their employees – just as they did before these customers moved to the cloud – without undermining their investigation or national security. And when those limited circumstances arise, courts should have the opportunity to review the question and issue a decision.”
As for transparency, corporate customers will gain no benefits, but Smith says Microsoft will expand its program of letting government customers review its source code in order to assure themselves there are no security back doors. Network transparency centers will be opened in Europe, Asia and the Americas to give government customers a greater ability to run assurance tests.