Category Archives: Microsoft Blog

Microsoft Blog

Azure adds real-time analytics for Hadoop and new machine learning capabilities

Today at Strata + Hadoop World in New York, one of the industry’s premier big data events, we’re announcing the expansion of our Azure data services. These announcements and our participation in the event are part of our commitment to bring big data to everyone by leveraging the power, flexibility and scale of the cloud.

We’re announcing support of real-time analytics for Apache Hadoop in Azure HDInsight and new machine learning capabilities in the Azure Marketplace. Our partner and Hadoop vendor Hortonworks also announced how they are integrating with Microsoft Azure with the latest release of the Hortonworks Data Platform. On Friday, my colleague Corporate Vice President of Machine Learning Joseph Sirosh, will give a keynote at the conference where he will discuss how removing the barriers to broad adoption of advanced analytics creates new opportunities for our customers and data scientists.

Big data, including Hadoop and advanced analytics, is changing the way our customers do business. As they collect and store more data than ever before, they expect more from their data and want more insights from it, including being able to do real-time analytics over streams of data to complement their existing Hadoop deployments. Microsoft’s approach is to make it easier for our customers to work with data of any type and size — using the tools, languages and frameworks they want — in a trusted cloud environment.

To do this, we are delivering a comprehensive set of cloud solutions — from Azure Machine Learning, Azure HDInsight and our other Azure data services — to managed data services from our partners. We’re committed to supporting the broadest data platform so our customers find real value in the cloud, on their terms. With our big data and cloud solutions, customers like MediaCom, Pier 1 Imports and ThyssenKrupp Elevator have more options to enable new scenarios to gain deeper insight from their data and improve the way they deliver services and products to their customers.

Azure HDInsight combines the best of Hadoop open source technology with the elasticity and manageability enterprises require. Available in preview today, we are supporting Apache Storm in HDInsight, allowing our customers to process millions of items of Hadoop data from their Internet of Things devices in near real time using a fully managed Hadoop service. By bringing real-time analytics capabilities to HDInsight, we are opening up new customer scenarios such as the ability to analyze operational data in real time for predictive maintenance.

apache-storm

On Wednesday, Microsoft introduced Apache Storm for real-time analytics for Hadoop.

The preview availability of Storm in HDInsight continues Microsoft’s investment in the Hadoop ecosystem and HDInsight. Recently, we announced support for HBase clusters and the availability of HDInsight as the first global Hadoop big data service in China. And together with Hortonworks, we continue to contribute code and engineering hours to many Hadoop projects.

As part of their integration with the Azure platform, Hortonworks Data Platform (HDP) has achieved Azure Certification. In the next version of HDP, Hortonworks is also delivering hybrid data connectors so customers can extend their on-premise Hadoop deployments to Azure and leverage the cloud for backup, scale and testing.

apache-storm-2

Announced Wednesday, Hortonworks HDP 2.2 includes hybrid connectors to move data to Microsoft Azure. It will be available in November.

Introduced this summer and available now in preview, Microsoft Azure Machine Learning helps customers and partners rapidly design, test, automate and manage predictive analytics solutions in the cloud. For example, search engines, online product recommendations, credit card fraud prevention systems, GPS traffic directions and mobile phone personal assistants all use the power of machine learning to provide people with valuable insight.

Today, we are introducing new machine learning capabilities in the Azure Marketplace enabling customers and partners to access machine learning capabilities as Web services. These include a recommendation engine for adding product recommendations to a website, an anomaly detection service for predictive maintenance or fraud detection and a set of R packages, a popular programming language used by data scientists. These new capabilities will be available as finished examples for anyone to try.

On Thursday, Joseph Sirosh will share more about these new capabilities on the machine learning blog. To find out more about how Microsoft’s data platform is helping customers create new solutions that bring together big data insights, predictive analytics and powerful visualizations, go here.

Read a choose-your-story adventure inspired by ‘Project Spark’

It’s 11 a.m. and you’re still in your pajamas – plaid shorts, a faded David Bowie t-shirt and worn moccasin slippers. Brows furrowed, deep in thought, you tap your fingers on the desktop, creating concentric circles in your now-cold coffee. Your eyes drift back and forth between a stack of notebooks (filled with your handwriting) and the Microsoft Word document on your laptop (all but empty).

“’Project Spark’ – where players create, and creators play.” It’s all you’ve managed to type so far. Your word-starved cursor blinks eagerly. How do you even begin to tell the story of “Project Spark?” The new video game for Xbox One and PC is a traditional game in some ways, but it’s also a digital bucket of Legos that players of all skill levels can use to make virtually anything.

We’re talking creativity unfettered, here. During its beta, “Project Spark” users built a little bit of everything – first-person shooters, medieval quests, movies, music videos, heroes, villains, flying cows, flaming sand beasts – even a 30-foot guy in his underwear dancing “Gangnam Style” in a village square. Everything.

With “Project Spark” making its official world debut in stores this week, its creators and early devotees hope the game will spread far beyond its million beta users and help break the glass between players and their adventures (not unlike how YouTube helped transform a world of video watchers into an army of camera-wielding, homespun videographers).

Your gaze rises to the wall above your computer. There hangs a small postcard of Ira Glass, one of your storytelling heroes. You imagine him giving you an unsympathetic look, pushing his glasses up and gently chiding you in his trademark public radio cadence: “You know, great stories happen to those who can tell them.”

“But imaginary Ira, how do I tell this one? And how do I make it great?”

Before postcard Ira can answer, you’re interrupted by the ding of a new email. It’s your boss, Ben, suggesting that you travel to a video game convention in Boston to get a better idea of what “Project Spark” is all about.

Read the full story at microsoft.com/stories.

A first look at Windows 10 — Weekend Reading: Oct. 3rd Edition

In this edition of Weekend Reading, we’ve got stories on the introduction of Windows 10, the relationship between Microsoft and the NFL, and a YouthSpark expedition into the jungle with five young technologists.

Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Operating Systems, introduced Windows 10 as “the first step of a whole new generation of Windows.” Windows 10 will run across a broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. “We’re not talking about one UI to rule them all – we’re talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device. And across this breadth of devices, we are delivering one application platform for our developers. Whether you’re building a game or a line-of-business application, there will be one way to write a universal app that targets the entire family. There will be one store, one way for applications to be discovered, purchased and updated across all of these devices.”

Now that the NFL season is in full swing, fans and teams can find new and better ways to experience this fall favorite thanks to the ongoing collaborative sponsorship between Microsoft and the NFL. Through the Microsoft NFL app for Xbox One, fantasy football aficionados and amateurs can fully engage in the fierce competitiveness that defines the fun and the drama of this pastime within a pastime. And on the field, players and coaches are using the specially designed Microsoft Surface Sideline Viewing System.​

Five young technologists who entered Microsoft YouthSpark’s “Challenge for Change” contest are thrust into a situation that will challenge them to the core, and in doing so, change them forever. They sent in ideas for how to use technology to make their communities better. Then, they were named among 20 finalists and after public voting online, they each won a pile of Microsoft technology, $2,500 for their projects and a two-week trip to Ecuador to help them boost their leadership skills and galvanize their knack for creating change.

The new MSN arrived. The new MSN rolled out Monday to more than 425 million people in 50 countries that come to the site each month. The top of the homepage now has one-click access to all favorite services including Outlook.com, Office, OneNote, OneDrive, Skype, Facebook and Twitter. It provides a global, comprehensive perspective from thousands of authoritative sources across 11 categories and it’s easy to personalize based on your interests. With this release, there is now one unified, consistent Azure-powered experience that spans the apps on Windows 8.1 devices to MSN in the cloud. While Bing will continue to provide search and intelligent experiences, now the apps will be branded to reflect their alignment with MSN.

HP General

Microsoft Office released a preview of a new content creating tool and new Office 365 plans for small and mid-sized business. Office Sway provides an easy way to make and share interactive creations. A “Sway” is the canvas you create using Sway. Drop in your content from your cloud storage, your devices or social networks. Sway’s built-in design engine takes the hassle out of formatting your content, integrating it into a cohesive layout as you work. New Office 365 plans for small and mid-sized businesses became available this week. They offer more flexibility, with the ability to mix and match plans to meet specific employees’ needs. They also provide more value by offering additional services such as Yammer.

Fans of games and apps found sales, updates and new additions to the Stores. The latest Red Stripe Deals give you discounts of at least 50 percent, for instance. Now, you can tell Cortana to “Shazam” that song on the radio. Get your motor running and head out on the highway with the App of the Week, “Asphalt Overdrive.” And, the Sibos financial conference revealed new apps and services from Microsoft customers and partners.

This week on the Microsoft Facebook page, we asked fans about their passions outside of work. Tell us how you own your #5to9.

5To9_EOD

Thanks for checking out this edition of Weekend Reading. Hope your first fall weekends are going well. See you next week!

Posted by Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

The heart of the jungle: How five young technologists changed their communities, the jungle and themselves

Even in the jungle, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

It will also be one of the only times to catch Sara Stifler, Sathya Narayanan Subramanian, Dominic Co, Juan Carlos Murillo and Laura Fulton holding still. It will be where we discuss life, love, technology and the point of it all over eggs, toast, plantains and exotic juices. 

Over the clatter of coffee cups and silverware, these five will slowly reveal themselves and their plans to change the world and, in doing so, swiftly dispatch of any unflattering notions I may have had lingering about Millennials. (In fact, their optimism is so contagious, and their capabilities and confidence so comforting, that one day I caught myself humming “We Are the World” while leaving breakfast – entirely without irony.)  

Like John Hughes’ coming-of-age masterpiece nearly 30 years ago, this Breakfast Club consists of five young people with seemingly very little in common who are thrust into a situation that will challenge them to the core, and in doing so, change them forever. Unlike the original Breakfast Club, these five have reported to a lodge in the Amazon rainforest, not detention. (Also, as the oldest among them was born in 1991, none of them have even seen the movie, but they politely listen and nod while I explain its premise and cultural importance.)

Months ago, before they shopped for two weeks’ worth of quick-dry clothing and headed for a lodge in South America, these five entered Microsoft YouthSpark’s “Challenge for Change” contest. First, they sent in their (vastly different) ideas for how to use technology to make their communities better. Next, they were named among 20 finalists and then, after a tense period of public voting online, they emerged victorious. They each won a pile of Microsoft technology, $2,500 to help with their projects and a two-week trip to Ecuador to help them boost their leadership skills and galvanize their knack for creating change. 

Breakfast is where we will learn that Fulton earned a patent before she graduated from high school (for a synthetic tooth enamel she invented), and that at home Murillo has a parrot named Max that does a spot-on imitation of his mom calling him to dinner, and that Co doesn’t really like ice cream (though his mother runs Dippin’ Dots in the Philippines), and that Subramanian is 100 percent reliable at cracking wise when things get too serious or heavy, and that Stifler spent the summer living in a tent in the woods mainly just to see if she could.

In the span of two weeks, five young adults who started out as strangers armed only with boarding passes and backpacks would become far-flung siblings. In August, they left their homes all over the globe, boarding airplanes bound for an adventure. (Technically the destination was Ecuador, not adventure, but from here on out it is safe to consider the two synonymous.)

Read the full profile at microsoft.com/stories.

New Office 365 plans for small and mid-sized businesses available today

On Thursday, we released a new set of Office 365 plans tailored to meet the needs of businesses ranging in size from one to approximately 250 employees. The new plans are specifically designed for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) at a price point that makes Office 365 an easy decision.

The new Office 365 plans provide the applications and services SMBs need to be productive and successful. They offer more flexibility, with the ability to mix and match plans to meet specific employees’ needs. In addition, the new plans provide more value by offering additional services like Yammer for social networking within a company.

The new Office 365 plans for SMBs are:

  • Office 365 Business: The full Office applications – Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Publisher – and OneDrive for Business cloud storage, which allow SMBs to access, edit and share documents across their Windows PC, Mac, iPad, Windows tablet and smartphone.
  • Office 365 Business Essentials: The core cloud services for running a business – business class email and calendaring, Office Online, online meetings, IM, video conferencing, cloud storage and file sharing and much more.
  • Office 365 Business Premium – Get everything from both the Office 365 Business and Business Essentials plans.

We made these changes to the existing Office 365 plans in response to feedback from our customers, and as part of our longstanding commitment to bring the benefits of cloud-based productivity to every SMB.

Office 365 Plans for SMBs

Overview of the new Office 365 plans for small and medium-sized businesses, including pricing information.

Whether people work for large or small companies, nowadays they regularly work from multiple locations and on multiple devices during their day—maybe checking email on their phone over breakfast, catching up on news from their tablet during the commute, and from their laptop at the office. According to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), 62 percent of small business employees use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to access their email, which is up from 39 percent just three years ago.

Given this new norm, SMBs are realizing that their competitive advantage comes from what they do with technology in and out of the office. The same BCG study referenced above found that tech-savvy SMBs – those using modern technologies such as the cloud – grew their revenue 15 percentage points faster than their counterparts using less technology.

Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, which has locations across the United States, is one such tech-savvy business. The company was growing fast, and to keep pace it chose Office 365 for its comprehensive email and collaboration capabilities. Sky Zone saved $8,800 in email archive renewal fees on the first day it implemented Office 365, and the company predicts the switch will save it more than $1 million over the next five years. Learn more about Sky Zone’s story – and similar stories from other SMBs that have adopted Office 365 – here.

As always, small and midsized businesses have to be smart about their technology investments. Cloud services like Office 365 aren’t just affordable, they’re transformational for SMBs. They’re easy to deploy, easy to manage and give SMBs a competitive advantage.

To learn more about how Office 365 can help, talk to a technology consultant or sign up for the new plans here.

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Microsoft and NFL give more to fans and teams

The New England Patriots use the Surface tablet during a Sept. 7 game against the Miami Dolphins

The New England Patriots use the Surface tablet during a Sept. 7 game against the Miami Dolphins

For a lot of people in the U.S., autumn is synonymous with football. Now that the NFL season is in full swing, fans and teams can find new and better ways to experience this fall favorite thanks to the ongoing collaborative sponsorship between Microsoft and the NFL.

“We have a passion for innovating and improving the quality of our devices and services, and are especially excited about this opportunity to improve the productivity for coaches and players on the sidelines not to mention the ability to bring a whole new experience to the NFL fans from the comfort of their living rooms,” says James Bernstrom, Microsoft product marketing director for devices and studios.

Through the Microsoft NFL app for Xbox One – “The Official Game Console of the NFL” – fantasy football aficionados and amateurs can fully engage in the fierce competitiveness that defines the fun and the drama of this pastime within a pastime. They can turn to the app for the ultimate in personalized information on their carefully chosen NFL.com Fantasy players, including in-game highlights, real-time updates, news, scores and stats. It’s the ultimate companion on the journey to the Super Bowl.

And on the field, players and coaches will use the specially designed Microsoft Surface Sideline Viewing System.

The solution is made up from Surface tablets – “The Official Tablet of the NFL” – and a Microsoft application that allows coaches to quickly analyze images from previous offensive or defensive series to plan their next plays – a process that previously relied solely on printers and paper. Microsoft technology is helping make analysis of the game more efficient, productive and competitive, starting with streamlining the photo viewing process.

Read about how the NFL and Microsoft are working together to provide more for fans and teams at the Microsoft News Center.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Office Sway re-imagines how you create and share interactive content

The introduction of Office Sway provides an easy way to make and share interactive creations using the cloud and adapting to whatever device people use to view your creations.

A “Sway” is the canvas you create using Sway. Drop in your content from your cloud storage, your devices or social networks. Built-in content sources include OneDrive, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Sway’s built-in design engine takes the hassle out of formatting your content, integrating it all  into a cohesive layout as you create. As you add more content, Sway continues to analyze and arrange it based on algorithms and design styles incorporated into Sway.

With today’s announcement and Sway Preview, we are just starting our journey with Sway. We want you to help us shape its future by working closely with us during Preview while we continue building Sway.

Request an invite to join Sway Preview at Sway.com and read more about it on Office Blogs.

Athima Chansanchai
Microsoft News Center Staff

Windows 10: ‘The first step of a whole new generation of Windows’

Windows 10

Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s executive vice president, Operating Systems, says Windows 10 will be “built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world.”

Windows 10 “represents the first step of a whole new generation of Windows,” writes Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Operating Systems, in a blog post. “Windows 10 unlocks new experiences for customers to work, play and connect. Windows 10 embodies what our customers (both consumers and enterprises) demand and what we will deliver.”

Windows 10 will run across an incredibly broad set of devices – from the Internet of Things, to servers in enterprise datacenters worldwide. “Some of these devices have 4-inch screens – some have 80-inch screens – and some don’t have screens at all,” he writes. “Some of these devices you hold in your hand, others are 10 feet away. Some of these devices you primarily use touch/pen, others mouse/keyboard, others controller/gesture – and some devices can switch between input types.”

We’re not talking about one user interface to rule them all, he writes. “We’re talking about one product family, with a tailored experience for each device.”

Windows 10 will be “built from the ground-up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world. This new Windows must help our customers be productive in both their digital work and their digital life. This new Windows must empower people and organizations to do great things.”

Windows 10 will “deliver the right experience on the right device at the right time. It will be our most comprehensive platform ever.”

To read Myerson’s post, head over to Blogging Windows, and to learn more read the press release.

Suzanne Choney
Microsoft News Center Staff

The new MSN arrives

Earlier this month, we unveiled a first look at the new MSN. Over the past 3 weeks, nearly 10 million of you took the opportunity to test out the new site and more than 80,000 of you even took the time to tell us what you thought. Based on your feedback, we have made numerous changes to the site. From everyone here, a sincere thank you.

Over the next 72 hours, we will roll out the new MSN to the more than 425 million people in over 50 countries around the world that come to the site each month. In addition, people using Windows and Windows Phone 8.1 will have the option to update their devices to the new MSN apps starting today. At the top of the homepage, you will see easy one-click access to all of your favorite services including Outlook.com, Office, OneNote, OneDrive, Skype, Facebook and Twitter.

The new MSN is here

The new MSN is completely built from the ground up on Azure to provide massive, cost-effective scale (with more than 30,000 Azure cores for serving and 100 Terabytes of storage), reliability, and ongoing agility for a cloud-first, mobile-first world. Every single line of code was re-written to ensure that you have one consistent experience regardless of whether you are accessing your stocks in MSN Money, your favorite sports teams in MSN Sports, or your recipe collections in MSN Food & Drink. All of those experiences will always be with you across your devices.

The new MSN provides a global, comprehensive perspective from thousands of worldwide, authoritative sources across 11 categories. It’s simple to personalize what you want to see based on your interests. In the coming months, we will release a suite of MSN apps across iOS and Android to complement today’s release of the Windows and Windows Phone apps. You only need to set your favorites once, and your preferences will be connected across MSN, Cortana, Bing and other Microsoft experiences.

MSN app updates arrive on Windows 8.1

In Windows 8, we introduced Bing Apps to help you explore your world with a set of immersive vertical experiences. With today’s release, we now have one unified, consistent Azure-powered experience that spans the apps on your Windows 8.1 device to MSN in the cloud. While Bing will continue to provide search and intelligent experiences, now the apps will be branded to reflect their alignment with MSN as a premium experience for content, combined with personal productivity features. Aside from Bing Finance, which will now be MSN Money, all of the apps retain their existing names.

MSNPreviewLaunchMSN_Web

We are also rolling out updates to the Health & Fitness and Weather apps, making it easier to access what’s happening from the lock screen of your phone. Now at a glance, you will see up-to-the-minute weather statuses from the Weather app. If you’re running the Nokia 1520, 630 or 635, you can keep track of steps taken via the pedometer and GPS tracker in the Health and Fitness App directly from the lock screen. No need to launch the individual apps.

MSN apps

World class content

With the new MSN, we focused on bringing the best-in-class content from the leaders in both content and data from around the world. In the U.S., some of our premier partners include The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CNN, AOL (including TechCrunch and Huffington Post) and Condé Nast (including Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Bon Appétit).

Worldwide, we’re excited to showcase The Yomiuri Shimbun and The Asahi Shimbun in Japan; Sky News, The Guardian and the Telegraph in the United Kingdom, NDTV and Hindustan Times in India, Le Figaro and Le Monde in France, and many more.

As autumn has just arrived, we urge people to go check out the site and customize the Sports experience to showcase your favorite NFL team or peruse the Food & Drink section to find that perfect recipe for fall.

Look out New York City! Microsoft to open flagship retail store on Fifth Avenue

Excited store associates celebrate the grand opening of a Microsoft retail store as they prepare to welcome customers in Boston.

Excited store associates celebrate the grand opening of a Microsoft retail store as they prepare to welcome customers in Boston.

When we opened the first Microsoft retail store back on Oct. 22, 2009, our intention was simple: deliver outstanding choice, value and service for everyone who walks into our stores. Microsoft Stores were designed to create a meaningful, direct connection to our customers and give them the best place to experience and purchase Microsoft technology. Nearly five years after our first store in Scottsdale, Arizona opened, our footprint has reached a scale where 80 percent of Americans are within 20 miles of a Microsoft Store and includes 104 Microsoft retail store physical locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, online stores in 189 countries and an expanding physical presence through our store-in-store locations in China.

Today, I am pleased to confirm we have signed a lease to open a flagship store at 677 Fifth Avenue in New York City. As our first flagship store, it will serve as the centerpiece of our Microsoft Stores experience. This is a goal we’ve had since day one – we were only waiting for the right location. And now we have it. Our Fifth Avenue location will be much more than just a Microsoft Store. In addition to retail, there will be experiential space for Microsoft as a company to further engage with our customers and partners in new and innovative ways. This is an important milestone for Microsoft overall, our Stores team and millions of our current customers, as well as the millions to come. We could not be more excited to join one of the most visited streets in America.

Our New York City flagship location is coming at the right time. We are proud of the progress we’ve made to make Microsoft Stores the best place to go for Microsoft products like Surface Pro 3, Windows Phones, Xbox One and more, as well as a full lineup of accessories. Our passionate and knowledgeable store associates are building individual relationships with our customers and making sure each store is part of the fabric of the community that it operates in. Our Answer Desk experts can help you with all of your tech needs – with numerous services for free. And with the Community Theaters in many of our stores, anyone can come and discover how to get the most out of Microsoft products – for example, kids can learn about science and technology, how to program and more; and small businesses can take classes on how to be more productive – all at no cost.

Microsoft Stores will play a key role in our strategy as we continue to deliver the outstanding choice, value and service for customers everywhere. While we build out the Fifth Avenue location, we will continue to open more stores – in fact, we’re opening 10 more locations in time for this holiday season. But our New York flagship store – five years in the making – will be worth the wait. 

We look forward to sharing more details as we get closer to the opening, and look forward to inviting everyone out to come celebrate with us in NYC!