Penny Arcade – Surface Pro 3 update

Mike “Gabe” Krahulik of Penny Arcade had some complaints from an artist’s perspective about the Surface Pro 3. Microsoft responded, and it’s pretty interesting:

Last time I talked about the Surface Pro 3 I laid out some of the problems I had with the device. MS reached out to me and asked if I would be willing to come over to the campus and meet with some folks from the Surface team. Basically they wanted to get me in a room with the designers and engineers and just have them watch me draw for a while.

It’s good to see Microsoft not just listening to stuff like this, but responding in a big way. Still, considering that it’s been pitching the Surface as a tool partly for artists like Krahulik, I’m a little surprised these problems slipped through in the first place.

Microsoft’s U.S. law enforcement and national security requests for last half of 2012 – Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft’s U.S. law enforcement and national security requests for last half of 2012 – Microsoft on the Issues – Site Home – TechNet Blogs

For the six months ended December 31, 2012, Microsoft received  between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal).

and:

We have not received any national security orders of the type that Verizon was reported to have received that required Verizon to provide business records about U.S. customers.

Electronic Frontier Foundation – Who Has Your Back? 2013

Electronic Frontier Foundation – Who Has Your Back? 2013

When you use the Internet, you entrust your conversations, thoughts, experiences, locations, photos, and more to companies like Google, AT&T and Facebook. But what do these companies do when the government demands your private information? Do they stand with you? Do they let you know what’s going on?

 

In this annual report, the Electronic Frontier Foundation examined the policies of major Internet companies — including ISPs, email providers, cloud storage providers, location-based services, blogging platforms, and social networking sites — to assess whether they publicly commit to standing with users when the government seeks access to user data. The purpose of this report is to incentivize companies to be transparent about how data flows to the government and encourage them to take a stand for user privacy whenever it is possible to do so.

I’m surprised to see Apple and Amazon among the worst ranked (though AT&T and Verizon aren’t surprising). Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, and Dropbox go to bat most often. I’ve never seen this EFF report before, but I’m glad I have now.

When Apple, Microsoft, and Google took on touch

When Apple took on touch, it created a new OS (though, yes, based on OS X) with entirely new UI conventions. It threw out everything end users knew about getting around in software and started building anew with the finger as the foundation.
When Microsoft took on touch, it first tried to bolt it onto Windows 7, then got off its ass and built an entirely new interface for Windows 8. This time Microsoft used the finger, but also the pen, as the foundation.

When Google took on touch, it slapped a web browser in a traditional PC notebook, gave it a price tag of $1,300, and said ‘good luck tapping tiny 30-year-old UI buttons designed for mice and keyboard shortcuts’.

The Verge: Journalists and activists report having their Skype calls tapped

Not a great accusation against Skype, which is billed as a secure, encrypted communication platform for business. It’s also Microsoft’s largest—and therefore most significant, in some ways—acquisition ever at $8.56 billion.

People are still unaware, and Microsoft hasnt moved to improve the situation, so publishing this letter matters a lot. If we can make Microsoft move just an inch its all worth it.

– Martin Johnson of Greatfire.org

Nokia sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones over the holidays

Slow and steady good news for Windows Phone, and a sizable bump from 2.9 million units in Q3. But it’s still not the major leap that Apple and Samsung make over the holidays. For comparison, RIM—which is arguably caught in a death spiral—sold 7.4 million BlackBerrys in the same time.
Still, Windows Phone is a good OS, and Microsoft made it a cornerstone of its strategy moving forward. Slow and stead has won its fair share of races.

ZDNet | Microsoft commits to Surface with Windows RT for at least four years

On one hand, this sounds promising, and Ed Bott is right to point out that Apple looks a bit stingy by cutting the original iPad off from updates after less than two years on the market.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s track record for supporting its new generation of mobile software and devices isn’t exactly getting off to a great start.

Hang on a second, Microsoft

Let me get this straight. You:

  • take over five years to get your shit together and tell us Office Mobile will finally arrive for iPhone (and Android) in early 2013 (ok, four years if you don’t count the App-Store-less dark ages, a.k.a. 2007)
  • decide it’s a smart idea to make Office Mobile free out of the box but handicap it with view-only functionality
  • want us to sign up for a subscription to unlock “basic editing”
  • state, in the same breath, that it will essentially be a crummy experience compared to the desktop version of your cash cow
  • expect us to give a crap?

That’s just darling.

OneThirtySeven – Paying a Visit to the Microsoft Store

Matt Alexander:

The Surface, in my eyes, is a truly good product. I found the hardware package to be extremely well done, the OS to be attractive, functional and forward-thinking, and the Touch Cover to be a pleasant novelty accessory akin to Apple’s Smart Cover. But, at the same time, there’s a dogged truth that Microsoft must find developer support for this operating system and product-line or it will — as has happened in the past — fail miserably.

On the plus side, I believe the narrative being told by Microsoft is one of the most important in the industry today. Beyond Apple releasing a thinner and lighter iPad, Microsoft is attempting something uncharacteristically bold and, in many respects, it’s doing a very good job of it so far. The Store is an obvious riff on the successful Apple model, but it’s engaging and attractive for consumers. The operating system lacks widespread developer support, but it’s functionally delightful and promising. In short, Microsoft’s intentions are of the utmost importance and affability. What remains — and has yet to be seen — are its practical levels of success in the marketplace.

After that initial, ridiculous Stomp the Microsoft Yard Surface commercial, I have seen other Surface TV ads which do a far better job of engaging consumers and showing them real-world benefits of of Surface and the new Windows interface. Why those ads haven’t been posted to Microsoft’s Surface YouTube channel is anyone’s guess, but its message is getting better for once.

Educating consumers on why the Windows experience has been completely uprooted, and attracting developers to a platform that people used to brag had the most apps, will be key if Microsoft wants the don’t-call-it-Metro UI to get anywhere.

Oh yeah, and growing a backbone by not wussing out of a product naming dispute would certainly help. Metro was—is—a great name for this new interface.