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Microsoft

Microsoft Program Manager Mistakenly Tweets Office 365 Will Be Rewritten in JavaScript (thurrott.com) 95

"A Microsoft employee claimed publicly that 'all of Office 365' was being 'completely rewritten' in JavaScript," writes Paul Thurrott, adding "And then all hell broke loose." First things first. It's not true. So if you were freaking out that Microsoft was somehow abandoning C# and C++ for its most mission-critical offerings, freak out no more. It's not happening. So what is happening? A Microsoft program manager named Sean Larkin perhaps got a little overly-exuberant on Monday... he tried to clarify things in follow-up tweets when his original missive exploded intro controversy. Which shouldn't have been a surprise. And yet, somehow, it was...

[H]e finally corrected himself on Reddit, blaming Twitter's character limitations for his many factual errors. "We are not abandoning C++, C#, or any of the other awesome languages, APIs, and toolings that we use across Microsoft," he clarifies. "Nothing [in Office 365] is converting to 'all/completely' JavaScript/TypeScript."

Thurrott, a long-time Windows blogger, concludes that "getting something this big this wrong is inexcusable."
Security

Inside the Private Event Where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and Other Rivals Share Security Secrets (geekwire.com) 48

News outlet GeekWire takes us inside Building 99 at Microsoft, where security professionals of the software giant, along with those of Amazon, Google, Netflix, Salesforce, Facebook (and others), companies that fiercely compete with one another, gathered earlier this week to share their learnings for the greater good. From the story: As the afternoon session ended, the organizer from Microsoft, security data wrangler Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, complimented panelist Erik Bloch, the Salesforce security products and program management director, for "really channeling the Ohana spirit," referencing the Hawaiian word for "family," which Salesforce uses to describe its internal culture of looking out for one another. It was almost enough to make a person forget the bitter rivalry between Microsoft and Salesforce. Siva Kumar then gave attendees advice on finding the location of the closing reception. "You can Bing it, Google it, whatever it is," he said, as the audience laughed at the rare concession to Microsoft's longtime competitor.

It was no ordinary gathering at Microsoft, but then again, it's no ordinary time in tech. The Security Data Science Colloquium brought the competitors together to focus on one of the biggest challenges and opportunities in the industry. Machine learning, one of the key ingredients of artificial intelligence, is giving the companies new superpowers to identify and guard against malicious attacks on their increasingly cloud-oriented products and services. The problem is that hackers are using many of the same techniques to take those attacks to a new level. "The challenge is that security is a very asymmetric game," said Dawn Song, a UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor who attended the event. "Defenders have to defend across the board, and attackers only need to find one hole. So in general, it's easier for attackers to leverage these new techniques." That helps to explain why the competitors are teaming up.
In a statement, Erik Bloch, Director Security PM at Salesforce, said, "This is what the infosec and security industry needs more of. Our customers are shared, and so is our responsibility to protect them.
Privacy

Some Prominent Tech Companies Are Paying Big Money To Kill a California Privacy Initiative (theverge.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: As data-sharing scandals continue to mount, a new proposal in California offers a potential solution: the California Consumer Privacy Act would require companies to disclose the types of information they collect, like data used to target ads, and allow the public to opt out of having their information sold. Now, some of tech's most prominent companies are pouring millions of dollars into an effort to to kill the proposal.

In recent weeks, Amazon, Microsoft, and Uber have all made substantial contributions to a group campaigning against the initiative, according to state disclosure records. The $195,000 contributions from Amazon and Microsoft, as well as $50,000 from Uber, are only the latest: Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon have each contributed $200,000 to block the measure, while other telecom and advertising groups have also poured money into the opposition group. After Mark Zuckerberg was grilled on privacy during congressional hearings, Facebook said it would no longer support the group. Google did not back down, and the more recent contributions suggest other companies will continue fighting the measure.

Microsoft

Windows 10 is Adding SwiftKey, Laying the Groundwork For Dual-Screen Tablets (cnet.com) 41

Sean Hollister, writing for CNET: Microsoft-owned SwiftKey was one of the first virtual keyboards to offer intelligent, predictive swipe-typing on Android and iOS phones, and now Microsoft has announced that it will become the default keyboard for touchscreen-equipped Windows 10 computers as well. "SwiftKey will now power the typing experience on Windows when using the touch keyboard to write in English (United States), English (United Kingdom), French (France), German (Germany), Italian (Italy), Spanish (Spain), Portuguese (Brazil), or Russian," reads a portion of Microsoft's blog post. Which could be pretty handy if the rumors are true: Microsoft is reportedly planning to ship several new Surface tablets this year, including a new low-cost Surface slate and the dual-screen "Andromeda." Dual screens were a theme among laptop manufacturers at Computex last week, too.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Working on Technology That Would Eliminate Cashiers and Checkout Lines From Stores, Says Report (reuters.com) 252

Microsoft is working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, in a nascent challenge to Amazon.com's automated grocery shop, Reuters reported, citing six people familiar with the matter. From the report: The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts, the people say. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, three of the people said. Microsoft's technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, a highly automated store that opened to the public in Seattle in January. Amazon customers scan their smartphones at a turnstile to enter. Cameras and sensors identify what they remove from the shelves. When customers are finished shopping, they simply leave the store and Amazon bills their credit cards on file. Amazon Go, which will soon open in Chicago and San Francisco, has sent rivals scrambling to prepare for yet another disruption by the world's biggest online retailer. Some have tested programs where customers scan and bag each item as they shop, with mixed results.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Give Office 365, Office.com Apps a Makeover (zdnet.com) 88

On the heels of recent redesigns by Google and Apple, Microsoft is giving its Office apps a facelift over the coming months. From a report: Over the coming months, Microsoft will begin rolling out changes to the interface of Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for Office 365 and Office Online (Office.com) users. Key to the Office app redesign are an updated Ribbon, icon refreshes and new ways to more easily see changes coming to the Office suite. There's a simplified version of the Office Ribbon, which allows users to collapse it so it takes up less space and hides many options, or keep it expanded into the current three-line view. Microsoft is starting to roll out this new Ribbon in the web version of Word to "select consumer users today in Office.com." In July, Microsoft will also make this new Ribbon design available in Outlook for Windows. "We've found that the same ten commands are used 95% of the time by everybody," said Jon Friedman, General Manager of Design Management and Operations. In Outlook such as "Reply," "Reply All" and "Forward" are basically universal. But that other five percent is different for every person, so Microsoft is adding an option to remove commands from the Ribbon, such as Archive, for example, and pin others to it, such as "Reply by IM."
Microsoft

A Vulnerability in Cortana, Now Patched, Allowed Attacker To Access a Locked Computer, Change Its Password (bleepingcomputer.com) 59

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: Microsoft has patched a vulnerability in the Cortana smart assistant that could have allowed an attacker with access to a locked computer to use the smart assistant and access data on the device, execute malicious code, or even change the PC's password to access the device in its entirety. The issue was discovered by Cedric Cochin, Cyber Security Architect and Senior Principle Engineer at McAfee. Cochin privately reported the problems he discovered to Microsoft in April. The vulnerability is CVE-2018-8140, which Microsoft classified as an elevation of privilege, and patched yesterday during the company's monthly Patch Tuesday security updates. Further reading: Microsoft Explains How it Decides Whether a Vulnerability Will Be Patched Swiftly or Left For a Version Update.
Microsoft

Microsoft Explains How it Decides Whether a Vulnerability Will Be Patched Swiftly or Left For a Version Update (zdnet.com) 45

Microsoft has published a new draft document clarifying which security bugs will get a rapid fix and which it will let stew for a later release. From a report: The document outlines the criteria the Microsoft Security Response Center uses to decide whether a reported vulnerability gets fixed swiftly, usually in a Patch Tuesday security update, or left for a later version update. Microsoft said in a blogpost the document is intended to offer researchers "better clarity around the security features, boundaries and mitigations which exist in Windows and the servicing commitments which come with them." The criteria revolve around two key questions: "Does the vulnerability violate a promise made by a security boundary or a security feature that Microsoft has committed to defending?"; and, "Does the severity of the vulnerability meet the bar for servicing?" If the answer to both questions is 'yes', the bug will be patched in a security update, but if the answer to both is 'no', the vulnerability will be considered for the next version or release of the affected product or feature.
Software

Google Brings Offline Neural Machine Translations For 59 Languages To Its Translate App (techcrunch.com) 46

Google is rolling out offline Neural Machine Translation (NMT) support for 59 languages in the Translate apps. Some of the supported languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Spanish, French, and Korean (TechCrunch has a full list of the languages in their report). From the report: In the past, running these deep learning models on a mobile device wasn't really an option since mobile phones didn't have the right hardware to efficiently run them. Now, thanks to both advances in hardware and software, that's less of an issue and Google, Microsoft and others have also found ways to compress these models to a manageable size. In Google's case, that's about 30 to 40 megabytes per language. Users will see the updated offline translations within the next few weeks.
Nintendo

Sony Is Blocking Fortnite Cross-Play Between PS4, Nintendo Switch Players (theverge.com) 90

Earlier today, Nintendo announced during its E3 press conference that Epic Games' Fortnite would be coming to the Switch console. Unfortunately, when Epic Games PR representative Nick Chester confirmed cross-play compatibility, the PS4 wasn't on the list. The Switch version of Fortnite will only support cross-play with Xbox One, PC, Mac, and mobile. The Verge reports: That aligns with past cross-play implementations between Xbox One, PS4, PC, and mobile, with Sony blocking other console platforms from playing with its own. You can cross-play between PS4, mobile, and PC. Unfortunately, this also suggests that PS4 players of Fortnite won't be able to log in to their Epic accounts on the Switch, meaning you won't be able to have any weekly progress carry over or gain access to any of your skins or emotes. This is because your Epic account is tied up with your PSN username in most cases. For instance, you can't log in to an Epic account tied to PSN on the Xbox One version of Fortnite, and it sounds like the same will be true for the Switch.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Next-Gen Xbox Will Arrive in 2020: Report (thurrott.com) 69

Brad Sams, writing for Thurrott blog: This past week, I was tipped off that the next generation Xbox was codenamed Scarlett and in an effort to track down if this information was accurate, I was able to view content that highlighted several unannounced Microsoft products that are coming in the next two years. Microsoft is planning for the next Xbox console release to arrive in 2020. But what is more interesting, is that Microsoft describes 'Scarlett' as a family of devices; meaning we may see multiple pieces of hardware released that year.
Microsoft

Carmel, Libra, and Andromeda Are the Next Wave of Surface Devices: Report (thurrott.com) 38

Brad Sams, writing for Thurrott blog: To help grow to the footprint of the brand, Microsoft is working on updates to its existing products as well as a couple new offerings. I was able to view a few pieces of internal documents that outlined some of the future plans of the Surface brand that identify previously unknown codenames for upcoming products. The Surface Pro 6 is internally known as Carmel, the upcoming low-cost Surface Tablet is going by the name of Libra, and then, of course, there is the Andromeda device that we have been talking about for many months. The Libra tablet is likely the device that Bloomberg reported about earlier this year; a low-cost Surface tablet slated for 2018. The Surface Pro 6 (Carmel) does not list a shipping date and considering that Microsoft only recently released the LTE variant of the Surface Pro 5, this product may not arrive as soon as many have hoped. That being said, a refresh of the product is in the pipeline and actively being developed. And then there is Andromeda; here is where this gets a bit more interesting. According to the documentation, the device is scheduled to be released in 2018. Microsoft thinks of this hardware as a pocketable device to create a truly personal and versatile computing experience.
Math

Canada's 'Random' Immigration Lottery Uses Microsoft Excel, Which Isn't Actually Random (gizmodo.com) 224

An anonymous reader writes: Last year, Canada introduced a new lottery system used to extend permanent-resident status to the parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens. The process was designed to randomly select applicants in order to make the process fairer than the old first-come, first-served system. There's just one problem: the software used to run the lottery isn't actually random. The Globe and Mail reported the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses Microsoft Excel to run the immigration lottery to select 10,000 people for permanent resident status from a field of about 100,000 applications received each year. Experts warned that the random number generating function in Excel isn't actually random and may put some applicants at a disadvantage.

First, it's best to understand just how the lottery system works. An Access to Information request filed by The Globe and Mail shows that IRCC inputs the application number for every person entering the lottery into Excel, then assigns them a random number to each using a variation of the program's RAND command. They then sort the list from smallest to largest based on the random number assigned and take the first 10,000 applications with the lowest numbers. The system puts a lot of faith in Excel's random function, which it might not deserve. According to Universite de Montreal computer science professor Pierre L'Ecuyer, Excel is "very bad" at generating random numbers because it relies on an old generator that is out of date. He also warned that Excel doesn't pass statistical tests and is less random than it appears, which means some people in the lottery may actually have a lower chance of being selected than others.

Microsoft

Microsoft To Stop Offering Support For Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Old Surface Devices in Forums (betanews.com) 156

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft has announced that starting next month it will no longer be participating in the technical support forums for Windows 7, 8.1, 8.1 RT and numerous other products. On the software front, the company says that it will also no longer provide support for Microsoft Security Essentials, Internet Explorer 10, Office 2010 and 2013 as of July. It is not just software that is affected. Microsoft is also stopping support for Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface RT, Surface 2, Microsoft Band and Zune. Some forums will be locked, preventing users from helping each other as well.
Microsoft

How Microsoft's Windows Red Team Keeps PCs Safe (wired.com) 83

Wired has a story on Windows' red team, which consists of a group of hackers (one of whom jailbroke Nintendo handhelds in a former life, another has more than one zero-day exploit to his name, and a third signed on just prior to the devastating Shadow Brokers leak), who are tasked with finding holes in the world's most used desktop operating system. From the story: The Windows red team didn't exist four years ago. That's around the time that David Weston, who currently leads the crew as principal security group manager for Windows, made his pitch for Microsoft to rethink how it handled the security of its marquee product. "Most of our hardening of the Windows operating system in previous generations was: Wait for a big attack to happen, or wait for someone to tell us about a new technique, and then spend some time trying to fix that," Weston says. "Obviously that's not ideal when the stakes are very high."

[...] Together, the red teamers spend their days attacking Windows. Every year, they develop a zero-day exploit to test their defensive blue-team counterparts. And when emergencies like Spectre or EternalBlue happen, they're among the first to get the call. Again, red teams aren't novel; companies that can afford them -- and that are aware they could be targeted -- tend to use them. If anything, it may come as a surprise that Microsoft hadn't sicced one on Windows until so recently. Microsoft as a company already had several other red teams in place by the time Weston built one for Windows, though those focused more on operational issues like unpatched machines. "Windows is still the central repository of malware and exploits. Practically, there's so much business done around the world on Windows. The attacker mentality is to get the biggest return on investment in what you develop in terms of code and exploits," says Aaron Lint, who regularly works with red teams in his role as chief scientist at application protection provider Arxan. "Windows is the obvious target."

E3

Microsoft is Working on its Own Game Streaming, Netflix-Like Service (theverge.com) 73

Phil Spencer, Microsoft's gaming chief, revealed the company is building a streaming game service for any device. Our cloud engineers are building a game streaming network to unlock console gaming on any device, he said, adding this service will offer "console quality gaming on any device." From a report: "Gaming is now at its most vibrant," he said. "In this significant moment we are constantly challenging ourselves about where we can take gaming next." He said that Microsoft is recommitting and harnessing the full breath of the company to deliver on the future of play. That includes experts in Microsoft research working on developing the future of gaming AI and the company's cloud engineers building a game streaming network. He added that the company is also in the midst of developing the architecture for the next Xbox consoles. Further reading: Microsoft Acquires Four Gaming Studios, Including Ninja Theory, As It Looks To Bolster First-Party Catalog.
E3

Microsoft Acquires Four Gaming Studios, Including Ninja Theory, As It Looks To Bolster First-Party Catalog (venturebeat.com) 44

Microsoft has never had as many internal studios as Sony or Nintendo, and that has prevented it from having many first-party exclusives this generation. That changes today. From a report: At E3 trade show in Los Angeles on Sunday, the company's gaming chief Phil Spencer announced the creation of a new studio called The Initiative led by industry veteran Daryl Gallagher. He then followed up with revealing the Microsoft acquisitions of Ninja theory, Playground Games, Compulsion Games, and Undead Labs. This bolsters the company's first-party efforts, and Spencer said it is evidence of his dedication to Xbox and its fans. Ninja Theory is best known for producing 2017's break out indie hit Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Playground has long overseen the Forza Horizon series for Microsoft. Compulsion is responsible for We Happy Few. Undead Labs created State of Decay. Also at E3, Microsoft teased Halo Infinite, and announced Forza Horizon 4. It also announced the availability of Automata, and unveiled FromSoft's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, a new Battletoads game, new downloadable content for its exclusive platforming shooter Cuphead, a crossover game that features some of the biggest anime franchises, including Dragon Ball, One Piece, and Naruto, Devil May Cry 5 , a skating game called Session, Tom Clancy's The Division 2 is hitting PC and consoles, Bethesda's Fallout 76, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and improvements to Xbox Game Pass.
Businesses

Linux Foundation Celebrates Microsoft's GitHub Acquisition (theverge.com) 162

The Linux Foundation has endorsed Microsoft's acquisition of GitHub. In a blog post, Jim Zemlin, the executive director at the Linux Foundation, said: "This is pretty good news for the world of Open Source and we should celebrate Microsoft's smart move." The Verge reports: 10 years ago, Zemlin was calling for Microsoft to stop secretly attacking Linux by selling patents that targeted the operating system, and he also poked fun at Microsoft multiple times over the years. "I will own responsibility for some of that as I spent a good part of my career at the Linux Foundation poking fun at Microsoft (which, at times, prior management made way too easy)," explains Zemlin. "But times have changed and it's time to recognize that we have all grown up -- the industry, the open source community, even me." Nat Friedman, the future CEO of GitHub (once the deal closes), took to Reddit to answer questions on the company's plans. "We are not buying GitHub to turn it into Microsoft; we are buying GitHub because we believe in the importance of developers, and in GitHub's unique role in the developer community," explains Friedman. "Our goal is to help GitHub be better at being GitHub, and if anything, to help Microsoft be a little more like GitHub."
Software

Should Apple Let Competitors Use FaceTime? (cnet.com) 211

In 2010, Steve Jobs first introduced FaceTime and promised it would become an open industry standard that could be used by Apple's competitors -- not just Apple. Well, eight years later and that still hasn't happened. CNET's Sean Hollister provides a theory as to why that is: There's also an ongoing lawsuit to consider -- as Ars Technica documented in 2013, Apple was forced to majorly change how FaceTime works to avoid infringing on the patents of a company called VirnetX. Instead of letting phones communicate directly with each other, Apple added "relay servers" to help the phones connect. Presumably, someone would have to pay for those servers, and/or figure out a way for them to talk to Google or Microsoft or other third-party servers if FaceTime were going to be truly open. But that doesn't make a broken promise less frustrating. Particularly now that Apple could potentially fix annoying business video calls as well. A Skype-killing video chat service that worked on Mac, iOS *and* Windows, Android and the open web? That's something I bet companies would be happy to pay for, too.
The Almighty Buck

Internal Microsoft Poll Shows Employees Are Less Satisfied With Pay (cnbc.com) 54

According to an annual companywide survey, obtained by CNBC, Microsoft employees said they're less fairly paid in 2018 than they were in any of the past three years. When asked if "total compensation (base pay, bonus, equity) is competitive compared to similar jobs at other companies," only 61 percent said it was, down from 65 percent in 2017 and 67 percent each of the two prior years. From the report: Additionally, just 62 percent of the employees agreed that "people are rewarded according to their job performance," down from 63 percent last year and 64 percent in 2016. Those two questions received some of the lowest scores on the survey. The company said that 86 percent of Microsoft's employees participated. The results, shared by Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan in April, are a further indication of the challenge that Microsoft and other tech companies face in hiring and retaining top talent. Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, Washington, is just a few miles from Amazon's home and isn't far from the Seattle offices of Google, Facebook and a growing number of start-ups. Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said the company takes the issue "seriously," and that it will work to ensure a more balanced pay structure.

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