Posts Tagged ‘Software’

Microsoft fixes Exchange Online outage after almost 9 hours

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The company pinned the blame on a networking infrastructure failure

Microsoft has finally fixed an Exchange Online outage that left affected users without access to email for almost nine hours on Tuesday, prompting many to vent their frustration online as they struggled to get their work done.

The company hasn’t said how many customers were impacted, but judging by the volume of complaints posted in discussion forums and social media sites, it must have hit a substantial number of users.

Plus, the length of the outage, and the fact that it struck during U.S. work hours, makes it a significant and embarrassing one for Microsoft, which is locked in a fight with Google in the cloud communication and collaboration software market.

Exchange Online is sold as a standalone service, and also as a component of Office 365, Microsoft’s cloud communication and collaboration suite for businesses, schools, government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

In an update posted in page 15 of a discussion thread in the Office 365 support forum, a Microsoft representative declared that the service had been restored around 6 p.m. U.S. Eastern Time. The outage hit shortly after 9 a.m.

“Investigation determined that a portion of the networking infrastructure entered into a degraded state. Engineers made configuration changes on the affected capacity to remediate end-user impact,” wrote the Microsoft support official, identified as David Zhang.

A common theme among affected users who complained online was that Microsoft was slow to acknowledge the outage and didn’t communicate well with customers. Many felt that the Office 365 status dashboard wasn’t updated quickly enough to reflect the problem.

A good sample of these complaints is encapsulated in the reactions to this update Microsoft posted to the Office 365 Twitter account at one point during the afternoon.

Outages such as this one create difficult situations for IT departments whose companies have shut down their on-premises servers and switched to vendor-hosted cloud services like Office 365. In these situations, IT pros have little to no control over the outage and yet have to field queries and complaints from their angry users.

Inevitably, these types of outages also trigger second-guessing of the decision to move to cloud services and give up the inherent control of running one’s own servers for email and other applications. This second-guessing is usually directed at the high-level IT executive who pushed for the move to the cloud, like CIOs, CTOs and IT managers.

Office 365 comes in a variety of editions that vary in price and in the applications and tools they include. Most Office 365 editions come with Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Lync Online and OneDrive for Business, and some also include the full-featured Office productivity app suite.

The basic version of Office 365 for Education, called A2, is free, while the most sophisticated version for businesses, Office 365 Enterprise E4, costs US$22 per user, per month and includes a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee.

A Microsoft spokeswoman contacted via email acknowledged the problem, but didn’t provide details about the number of customers affected.

Microsoft greases the skids for Windows 8 developers

Microsoft Build 2012 attendees receive free Microsoft tablets, phones, storage, SDKs to encourage Windows 8 apps

How badly does Microsoft need attractive applications for its Windows 8 operating system?

So badly that it’s giving everyone attending its Build 2012 developers conference a Surface tablet/PC, 100GB of free cloud storage via SkyDrive, a free Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 phone and a discounted developer’s registration to the Windows store.

The company also announced the availability of a software developer’s kit for Windows Phone 8.

The goal is to get developers to buy into the Microsoft mobility vision — that applications can readily be written to run on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 machines, share resources via SkyDrive and make money for developers to boot.

During today’s kickoff keynote for the four-day conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured) himself ran through a demonstration of key Windows 8 features on machines as diverse as an 84-inch touchscreen, the Microsoft Surface tablet/laptop (where the tablet meets the PC, Ballmer says) and Windows Phone 8 smartphones.

“This is our real step into the mobile world,” Ballmer told the gathering in a tent on the Microsoft campus.

The company announced that ESPN, SAP and Twitter all plan or have ready Windows 8 applications, demonstrating to developers the elite realm in which they might play, too.

Presentations also hammered home how developers can make money off their apps. If they sell through the Windows store, they reap $75% of the take for the app up to $25,000, then they make 80%. Also, the developers’ kit enables setting up a tile within the app that can host an advertisement that the developer can sell and change.

The apps can also support in sales within applications — like buying a level upgrade for a game while logged into the game.

Ballmer showed how changes made to a document in OneNote and stored in SkyDrive show up when accessed by other devices. Similarly, changing the photo on the lock screen and storing that to SkyDrive appear on the user’s other Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 devices.

Ballmer says the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 this fall when considered as a single event represent one of the top three events in Microsoft history, the other two being the release of the IBM PC with a Microsoft operating system and the launch of Windows 95.

Getting developers to create a broad inventory of apps that showcase Windows 8 new features is key to Windows 8 success, so Ballmer walked the crowd through them:

= Live tiles that display updated information on colored rectangles on the start screen. Developers need to tap into this capability to show, for instance, current temperatures to go with weather apps or scores to go with sports apps.

= Embedding software services in applications. For example, interfacing applications with the system search feature enables searching with that app for a given term. The example he used was searching for references to Jessica Alba — who participated in the Windows Phone 8 launch this week — in Internet Explorer, Outlook emails, Xbox, Finance, etc.

= Enabling the Windows 8 snap feature in apps so users can display them in a quarter of the screen at either side, to keep them visible even while working in another app. It’s a way to track, say, the stock market while doing other work in Excel.

“They’re all springboards for your imagination,” Ballmer says.

Presenters at the keynote spent time explaining how with the new WinRT application architecture enables easy reuse of code for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. The apps written for one can’t run in the same form on the other, but due to a common set of APIs for the two operating systems, entire blocks of code can be written for one and inserted in the other. This makes it much simpler to write apps for both platforms.

After giving attendees a free Surface tablet/laptop, Ballmer asked that they go out and create lots of apps for the Microsoft environment, promising that Microsoft would follow through with advertising that should boost the market for those apps.

“We will do more marketing for Windows 8 system, for Windows phones and for Surfaces,” he says. “You will see our best work, and you will not be able to go to a magazine, to the Internet or turn on the television set without seeing our ads frequently.”


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Microsoft: Expect 100,000 Win 8 apps by Feb. 1; 400M devices by July

Microsoft has set some ambitious goals for Windows 8 — 400 million devices in customer hands by next July and more than 100,000 applications stocked in the Windows Store by the end of January, according to a top Microsoft sales exec.

That’s according to a Beet.TV interview with Keith Lorizio, Microsoft’s vice president for U.S. sales and marketing, who calls the success of Windows 8 a guarantee.

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He cites the 400 million Windows 8 devices out of a potential 1 billion devices in the marketplace as massive distribution of the new operating system. These devices would include both new sales and upgraded Windows 7 machines.

The company hopes to draw customers with the unified look and feel of Windows 8 with its Xbox and Windows Phone 8 platforms that rely on touch and tiles as their navigation preferences, he says.

But having a wealth of Windows 8 applications on tap is essential to the success, he says. “We’re expecting to aggressively pursue 100,000-plus apps over the first three months.” That would be a significant jump over the current inventory, estimated at about 3,000.

These apps are apparently vital to the financial success of the operating system because they will be rife with paid ads that Lorizio claims won’t be a distraction.

“So all of the ads are going to be integrated, they’re not going to be disruptive for the user/consumer experience but beautiful, relevant and useful,” he says. Microsoft will split ad revenues with the apps’ developers under terms each will work out, he says. “It’s critical for us to get a critical mass of apps in order for the users to integrate in the … highest consumer-oriented experience.”

It’s a costly venture for Microsoft to generate the needed volume of applications. “[W]e’re putting millions of dollars against that effort and working with publishers in order to their apps live as quickly as possible,” he says.

The company is running developer seminars to advise on how to write compelling Windows 8 apps that conform with the common look, feel and navigation Microsoft promises across all the applications. It is also vetting all applications before they are put up for sale at the Windows Store.

“[I]n order for us to reach our goal which is a conservative estimate of 400 million units in the marketplace by July first,” Lorizio says, “we know that we have to have a very, very healthy ecosystem of applications.”

 

 

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Microsoft announces app updates for Windows 8 RTM

Windows 8 RTM users will on Friday begin seeing app updates prior to the Windows 8 launch.

In a Thursday blog post, Microsofts Steven Sinofsky, president of the companys Windows group, announced a slew of app updates that will roll out to early adopters of Windows 8 RTM in the coming days and weeks.

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Starting tomorrow, a Bing update will be available to download in the Windows Store, with more updates rolling out steadily until the Windows 8 launch on Oct. 26. In Sinofskys blog, Microsofts Gabriel Aul detailed the list of upgraded apps, which were first released in the manufacturing build of Windows 8 in August. AulA also delved into specific improvements for each program.

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Aul said the updates will also be available for PC manufacturers to ship with new Windows 8 models as well as users who have installed Windows 8 RTM.

SkyDrive, Mail, Calendar, People, Photos, Maps, News, and Games are among the apps to receive refreshes in the weeks preceding Windows 8s launch. Microsoft late last month announced updates to SkyDrive , and will soon add a search within SkyDrive function and allow you to rename and move folders.

Among other interesting app updates, the Mail app will include a conversation view of your inbox, and the Photos app will support photo cropping and rotation, as well as auto-curated slideshows. The Maps app will include a bird’s eye view function, some 3,000 indoor maps, driving direction hints, and integration with Microsoft’s own Bing and Travel apps.

Speaking of Bing, a new file picker will let you grab images for use on your lock screen. The News app, meanwhile, will add content from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and include an improved article reader with font customization, zoom and other features. The Weather app will also improve, with up to 10 days of weather forecasts, and more granular temperature reports.

The upshot? While the Windows Store might be suffering serious problems with third-party inventory, it’s nice to see that Microsoft is paying attention to propping up the apps over which it has direct control. For the full list of improvements to built-in Windows 8 apps, hit Sinofsky’s blog entry here.

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