Tag Archives: Microsoft

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, with touch cover

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 i5

Model 1631 (i5, 128 GB, 4 GB RAM) with Windows 8.1 Pro.
This has been reset and has the current patches applied.

The device is in used condition and has some surface marks / scratches. There is a small dent to the bottom left hand side of the device (see pictures).

The screen is in excellent condition.

Comes with surface touch cover in black / grey (backlit keyboard), however as pictured many of the keys are quite worn (shiny), the lettering hasn’t worn off.

Comes with original power adaptor, the adaptor has an integrated USB A port so that you could charge a smartphone simultaneously with the laptop.

I do not have the original box but would ensure that it is packaged sufficiently well protected and normally used RMSD for delivery. Postage would include insurance to the value of the sale price.

Price and currency: £250
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: BT, PPG or Cash on collection
Location: Near Uxbridge (collection may be possible from W1 also)
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, with touch cover

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 i5

Model 1631 (i5, 128 GB, 4 GB RAM) with Windows 8.1 Pro.
This has been reset and has the current patches applied.

The device is in used condition and has some surface marks / scratches. There is a small dent to the bottom left hand side of the device (see pictures).

The screen is in excellent condition.

Comes with surface touch cover in black / grey (backlit keyboard), however as pictured many of the keys are quite worn (shiny), the lettering hasn’t worn off.

Comes with original power adaptor, the adaptor has an integrated USB A port so that you could charge a smartphone simultaneously with the laptop.

I do not have the original box but would ensure that it is packaged sufficiently well protected and normally used RMSD for delivery. Postage would include insurance to the value of the sale price.

Price and currency: £250
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: BT, PPG or Cash on collection
Location: Near Uxbridge (collection may be possible from W1 also)
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Inside the private event where Microsoft, Google, Salesforce and other rivals share security secrets

Speaking this week on the Microsoft campus, L-R: Erik Bloch, Salesforce security products and program management director; Alex Maestretti, engineering manager on the Netflix Security Intelligence and Response Team; David Seidman, Google security engineering manager; and Chang Kawaguchi, director for Microsoft Office 365 security. (GeekWire Photos / Todd Bishop)

REDMOND, Wash. — At first glance, the gathering inside Building 99 at Microsoft this week looked like many others inside the company, as technical experts shared hard-earned lessons for using machine learning to defend against hackers.

Ram Shankar Siva Kumar, Microsoft security data wrangler, spearheaded the event.

It looked normal, that is, until you spotted the person in the blue Google shirt addressing the group, next to speakers from Salesforce, Netflix and Microsoft, at a day-long event that included representatives of Facebook, Amazon and other big cloud providers and services that would normally treat technical insights as closely guarded secrets.

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.

Dawn Song, UC Berkeley computer science and engineering professor.

“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.

“At this point in the development of this technology it’s really critical for us to move at speed to all collaborate,” explained Mark Russinovich, the Microsoft Azure chief technology officer. “A customer of Google is also likely a customer of Microsoft, and it does nobody any good or gives anybody a competitive disadvantage to keep somebody else’s customer, which could be our own customer, insecure. This is for the betterment of everybody, the whole community.”

[Editor’s Note: Russinovich is a keynoter at the GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, June 27 in Bellevue, Wash.]

This spirit of collaboration is naturally more common in the security community than in the business world, but the colloquium at Microsoft has taken it to another level. GeekWire is the first media organization to go inside the event, although some presentations weren’t opened up to us, due in part to the sensitive nature of some of the information the companies shared.

The event, in its second year, grew out of informal gatherings between Microsoft and Google, which resulted in part from connections Siva Kumar made on long-distance runs with Google’s tech security experts. After getting approval from his manager, he brought one of the Google engineers to Microsoft two years ago to compare notes with his team.

The closing reception for the Security Data Science Colloquium at Microsoft this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Things have snowballed from there. After the first event, last year, Siva Kumar posted about the colloquium, describing it as a gathering of “security data scientists without borders.” As the word got out, additional companies asked to be involved, and Microsoft says this year’s event was attended by representatives of 17 different tech companies in addition to university researchers.

The event reflects a change in Microsoft’s culture under CEO Satya Nadella, as well as a shift in the overall industry’s approach. Of course, the companies are still business rivals that compete on the basis of beating each other’s products. But in years or decades past, many treated security as a competitive advantage, as well. That’s what has changed.

“This is not a competing thing. This is not about us trying to one up each other,” Siva Kumar said. “It just feels like, year over year, our problems are just becoming more and more similar.”

Siamac Mirzaie of Netflix presents at the event. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

In one afternoon session this week, representatives from Netflix, one of Amazon Web Services’ marquee customers, gave detailed briefings on the streaming service’s internal machine learning tools, including its “Trainman” system for detecting and reporting unusual user activity.

Developing and improving the system has been a “humbling journey,” said Siamac Mirzaie from the Netflix Science & Analytics Team, before doing a deep dive on the technical aspects of Trainman.

Depending on the situation, he said, Netflix uses either Python, Apache Spark or Flink to bring the data into its system and append the necessary attributes to the data. It then uses simple rules, statistical models and machine learning models to detect anomalies using Flink or Spark, followed by a post-processing layer that uses a combination of Spark and Node.js. That’s followed by a program for visualizing the anomalies in a timeline that people inside the company can use to drill down into and understand specific events.

“The idea is to refine the various data anomalies that we’ve generated in the previous stage into anomalies that our application owner or security analyst can actually relate to,” Mirzaie said.

The stakes are high given the $8 billion that Netflix is expected to spend on content this year.

But the stakes might be even higher for Facebook. The social network, which has been in the international spotlight over misuse of its platform by outside companies and groups, says it uses a combination of automated and manual systems to identify fraudulent and suspicious activity.

Facebook, which held a similar event of its own in April, was among the companies that presented during the gathering at Microsoft this week. Facebook recently announced that it used new machine learning practices to detect more than 500,000 accounts tied to financial scams.

Mark Russinovich, Microsoft Azure CTO, in his conference room on the company’s Redmond campus this week. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

During his keynote, Microsoft’s Russinovich talked in detail about Windows PowerShell, the command-line program that is a popular tool for attackers in part because it’s built into the system. Microsoft’s Windows Defender Advanced Threat Protection is designed to detect suspicious command lines, and Microsoft was previously using a traditional model that was trained to recognize potentially malicious sequences of characters.

“That only got us so far,” Russinovich said in an interview.

After brainstorming ways to solve the problem, the company’s security defense researchers figured out how to apply deep neural networks, more commonly used in vision-based object detection, for use in PowerShell malicious script detection, as well. They essentially came up with a way to encode command lines to make them look like images to the machine learning model, Russinovich explained. The result surpassed the traditional technique “by a significant amount,” he said.

At the closing panel discussion, David Seidman, Google security engineering manager, summed up the stated philosophy of the event. “We are not trying to compete on the basis of our corporate security,” Seidman said. “Google is not trying to get ahead of Microsoft in the cloud because Microsoft got compromised. That’s the last thing we want to see.”

“We are fighting common enemies,” Seidman added. “The same attackers are coming after all of us, and an incident at one company is going to affect that customer’s trust in all the cloud companies they do business with. So we have very much aligned interests here.”

Microsoft Teams e-discovery enabled for hybrid clouds

For businesses with on-premises Exchange mailboxes, Microsoft will facilitate the electronic discovery of Microsoft Teams chats — a feature that should appeal to large enterprises in the process of migrating to the cloud.

Upon request, Microsoft will create cloud-based mailboxes for the sole purpose of storing the Teams chat data of users with on-premises Exchange mailboxes. Those users must have their on-premises identities synced to the cloud in Office 365’s Azure Active Directory. 

Organizations that take advantage of the tool will be able to search, preview and export Teams chat data stored in the cloud. That activity could be useful for Microsoft Teams e-discovery cases, compliance reviews or data service requests related to the General Data Protection Regulation.

However, businesses won’t be able to apply Office 365 retention policies to that chat data or place it on hold. In a blog post announcing Microsoft Teams e-discovery for hybrid setups, Microsoft said it would “provide more updates about our plan to address this gap soon.”

Microsoft Teams muddles path to cloud for large enterprises

Microsoft needs to continue to promote hybrid capabilities, such as its new Microsoft Teams e-discovery feature, to help on-premises customers feel comfortable with the transition to the cloud — a process that could take years.

“It’s messy to be in the middle, and I think Microsoft forgets that if you’ve got 100,000 people, you’re going to live in the middle for a long time,” said Kevin Kieller, a partner at consulting firm EnableUC in Oakville, Ont.

Many large enterprises with on-premises Skype for Business deployments had previously been gearing up to transition to the cloud version of that platform, Kieller said. Then, Microsoft introduced Teams last year, significantly complicating the cloud migration path for those businesses.

Microsoft has been steadily rolling out interoperability features between Skype for Business and Teams over the past several months, such as persistent chats and aggregated presence. But almost all of those features require businesses to have their employees registered through Skype for Business Online, the cloud version of the service.

“As far as I’ve seen, there isn’t really a good and easy way to migrate from Skype for Business on-prem to Teams,” said Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research in Westminster, Mass. “It just seems like [Microsoft] didn’t think about it very well.”

Advanced telephony features for Teams coming soon

Microsoft is on track to add dozens of telephony features to Teams that are critical to large enterprises by the end of June, including call queues and organizational auto attendants. The final advanced calling features are expected to come online by year’s end.

The perception that Microsoft Teams lacks the full capabilities of Skype for Business has slowed adoption of the platform, particularly among large enterprises. But even as those features get added, Microsoft faces another hurdle: perception.

It could take months to get the message across that Teams is fully built-out, Kieller said. “Microsoft has a tough time, as everybody does, in terms of discoverability of the right information for somebody that’s contemplating this migration.”

Still, there is no end date in sight for support of Skype for Business on premises. However, while Microsoft plans to release a new on-premises server in 2019, the vendor is expected to keep some of its latest and most advanced collaboration tools as cloud-only offerings.

“It’s almost, by definition, going to be a hybrid mode,” Kieller said. “It’s just another way that I think Microsoft, even for on-prem customers … [is] effectively pushing them, moving them, cajoling them to move to the cloud.”

Microsoft making progress on quantum computer ‘every day’

Microsoft is “all-in” on building a quantum computer and is making advancements “every day”, according to one of the company’s top experts on the technology.

Julie Love (above), Director of Quantum Computing, called the firm’s push to build the next generation of computer technology “one of the biggest disruptive bets we have made as a company”.

Quantum computing has the potential to help humans tackle some of the world’s biggest problems in areas such as materials science, chemistry, genetics, medicine and the environment. It uses the physics of qubits to create a way of computing that can work on specific kinds of problems that are impossible with today’s computers. In theory, a problem that would take today’s machines billions of years to solve could be completed by a quantum computer in minutes, hours or days.

While Microsoft has noted that no one has yet built a working quantum computer, Love said the company has the right team in place to make progress and eventually create a system and software that can tackle real-world issues. Over the past decade, Microsoft has built a team comprised of some of the greatest minds in quantum physics, mathematics, computer science and engineering. It is also working with some of the leading experts in universities across the world.

“Quantum computers could solve a set of problems that are completely intractable to humans at this time, and it could do so in 100 seconds,” she said during a speech at London Tech Week. “Microsoft’s enterprise customers are interested in changing their businesses using this technology, and we have set our sights beyond the hype cycle. We have a good understanding of what’s needed.

“Microsoft is working on the only scalable solution, one that will run seamlessly on the Azure cloud, and be much more immune to errors. The truth is that not all qubits are equal; most are inherently unstable and susceptible to error-creating noise from the environment. Our approach uses topological qubits specifically for their higher accuracy, lower cost and ability to perform long enough to solve complex real-world problems.”

Microsoft is the only major company attempting to build topological qubits, which aims to significantly reduce any interference at a subatomic level that might affect the machine. With this approach, the computational qubits will be “corrected” by the other qubits.

“When we run systems, there are trade-offs in power, because they have to be very cold. However, we get higher compute capabilities,” said Love, who started studying quantum computing in the late-1990s.

Last year, Microsoft released a Quantum Development Kit, which includes its Q# programming language for people who want to start writing applications for a quantum computer. These can be tested in Microsoft’s online simulator. Q# is designed for developers who are keen to learn how to program on these machines whether or not they are experts in the field of quantum physics.

“We have released the Quantum Development Kit so developers can learn to program a quantum computer and join us on this journey,” Love added.

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For Sale – Microsoft Surface Pro 3 – i5, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD, with touch cover

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 i5

Model 1631 (i5, 128 GB, 4 GB RAM) with Windows 8.1 Pro.
This has been reset and has the current patches applied.

The device is in used condition and has some surface marks / scratches. There is a small dent to the bottom left hand side of the device (see pictures).

The screen is in excellent condition.

Comes with surface touch cover in black / grey (backlit keyboard), however as pictured many of the keys are quite worn (shiny), the lettering hasn’t worn off.

Comes with original power adaptor, the adaptor has an integrated USB A port so that you could charge a smartphone simultaneously with the laptop.

I do not have the original box but would ensure that it is packaged sufficiently well protected and normally used RMSD for delivery. Postage would include insurance to the value of the sale price.

Price and currency: £250
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: BT, PPG or Cash on collection
Location: Near Uxbridge (collection may be possible from W1 also)
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
This message is automatically inserted in all classifieds forum threads.
By replying to this thread you agree to abide by the trading rules detailed here.
Please be advised, all buyers and sellers should satisfy themselves that the other party is genuine by providing the following via private conversation to each other after negotiations are complete and prior to dispatching goods and making payment:

  • Landline telephone number. Make a call to check out the area code and number are correct, too
  • Name and address including postcode
  • Valid e-mail address

DO NOT proceed with a deal until you are completely satisfied with all details being correct. It’s in your best interest to check out these details yourself.

Security Servicing Commitment clarifies Microsoft patch policy

In an effort to be more transparent with customers, Microsoft is clarifying patch management policies that experts said have been generally understood, but never properly codified.

Alongside the June 2018 Patch Tuesday release, Microsoft published the Security Servicing Commitment, which it hopes will help customers understand whether a reported vulnerability will be addressed during the monthly patch cycle or in the next version of a product.

In order to make this determination, Microsoft has specified two key criteria for immediate security patching: whether the vulnerability is severe enough and whether it “violate[s] a promise made by a security boundary or a security feature that Microsoft has committed to defending.”

“If the answer to both questions is yes, then the vulnerability will be addressed through a security update that applies to all affected and supported offerings,” Microsoft wrote in the Security Servicing Commitment. “If the answer to either question is no, then by default the vulnerability will be considered for the next version or release of an offering but will not be addressed through a security update, though in some cases an exception may be made.”

The security boundaries described in the Security Servicing Commitment are the points of “logical separation between the code and data of security domains with different levels of trust,” including network boundaries, kernel boundary, virtual machine boundary and more. Security features include Windows Defender, BitLocker and Windows Resource Access Controls.

However, Microsoft makes a distinction between these features and boundaries and defense-in-depth features, which it claims “may provide protection against a threat without making a promise.” These features include address space layout randomization, data execution prevention, user account control and more.

Codifying understood policy

Experts said there wasn’t really anything new in Microsoft’s Security Servicing Commitment, although the clarification was welcomed.

Dustin Childs, communications manager for Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative, said the policy description was less of a change and more of a clarification.

Chris Goettl, director of product management for security for IvantiChris Goettl

“Some of this information was publicly available, but it wasn’t found in a consolidated source with full details,” Childs wrote via email. “It’s hard to say why they chose to publish this now. Perhaps there has been an increase in submissions that don’t meet their servicing bar and have caused confusion with researchers.”

Chris Goettl, director of product management for security for Ivanti, based in South Jordan, Utah, said it was good “to see some clarity regarding severity of vulnerabilities to better understand how updates are classified” with the Security Servicing Commitment.

“Public and private disclosure of vulnerabilities can be a messy ordeal. I think this commitment provides the ethical hackers of the world with rules of engagement for disclosing bugs with Microsoft,” Goettl wrote via email. “Overall, I think it provides transparency to those who are committing their time so they know it will be worth the effort and are not disappointed or surprised by a response where Microsoft is not committing to provide a fix or a bounty.”

Public and private disclosure of vulnerabilities can be a messy ordeal.
Chris Goettldirector of product management and security for Ivanti

Allan Liska, threat intelligence analyst at Recorded Future, based in Somerville, Mass., said the Security Servicing Commitment was “spot on and laid out in a smart, strategic way.”

“Given Microsoft’s breadth and depth of products and constant commitment to security, this is a good approach on their part. What stood out, especially, was that they made the distinction between a potential exploitable security vulnerability versus a defense in-depth feature,” Liska wrote via email. “While there will always be people who question security moves a company as large and impactful as Microsoft makes, overall, this is good step in the direction of transparency, and I think it should be applauded.”

Childs said the Security Servicing Commitment constituted “a pretty comprehensive list” of policies, but it could be better.

“Due to the complexities of modern code, it’s unlikely any list such as this could ever be 100% complete and cover every scenario,” Childs wrote. “While this level of transparency is good to see, it would be great if they also committed to fixing bugs — especially severe bugs — faster or committed to improving patch quality or communications.”

The beauty that comes from nuance: to help their daughter, a Microsoft employee and a filmmaker became transgender allies – Microsoft Life

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Chadd Knowlton and filmmaker Vlada Knowlton underwent a “radical transformation” and then made a documentary to tell stories of families like theirs

By Natalie Singer-Velush

Chadd and Vlada Knowlton will never forget the day they most feared for their youngest child.

They were driving to school and from the back seat of the car piped a little voice, asking where babies came from. Vlada Knowlton, a filmmaker and former Microsoft employee, explained to her 4-year-old that babies grew in moms’ bellies and came out when they were ready.

“I want you to put me back in,” said the trembling voice. “I know I’m a girl. It’s not fair.”

The parents worried immediately that this was their preschooler’s way of saying that life didn’t feel worth living.

“I kept the car straight. I tried to keep driving. But it was terrifying,” Vlada Knowlton said.

The Knowltons’ youngest child had always been artistic, creative, curious, and intelligent—but also, lately, very unhappy.

“She was born with the body of a boy. Everybody assumed she was a boy. [In the beginning] we never in a million years imagined anything different,” Vlada Knowlton said. “But . . . from about the age of 2, she seemed frustrated, unsatisfied with her life.”

At home, the Knowltons, who also have an older son and daughter, had been allowing their youngest to wear dresses and play with more stereotypically girly toys, and things seemed better during those times. But in public, their preschooler was frustrated and angry when presenting as a boy, which was leading to depression and withdrawal.

“She couldn’t express herself the way she felt she wanted to,” Vlada Knowlton said.

The day in the car was the turning point for the parents. Their daughter felt she was a girl, and so she should be able to live that way, they decided.

“We had to go through a radical transformation to learn, to understand, and to accept. Our daughter didn’t really transition—she was the same before. We transitioned as parents.”

“It was a great moment of clarity,” said Chadd Knowlton, a corporate vice president at Microsoft. “We were coming from a place of total unknown. Once we did the research and we understood how gender is formed in the brain, we could accept it. Gender is what it is.

“We had to go through a radical transformation to learn, to understand, and to accept. Our daughter didn’t really transition—she was the same before. We transitioned as parents. And then we moved ahead into a new kind of personal activism that we had never had to call upon in our lives before.”

That activism includes making a documentary about LGBTQ+ rights and the movements that threaten them. The film, “The Most Dangerous Year,” recently had its world premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival. It tracks a wave of antitransgender legislation, including bathroom bills, and tells the story of a coalition of Washington State families who have transgender children who join together to fight it. Vlada Knowlton directed, wrote, edited, and produced the film; Chadd Knowlton served as the supervising sound editor and composed the score.

As they navigated their daughter’s and family’s journey, the Knowltons have been supported by many of their communities, including Microsoft.

“The environment is inclusive, accepting, and empowering for people to express themselves and to be allies,” Chadd Knowlton said of the company’s culture. “One of the first things I thought about was hey, maybe my daughter could get a job at Microsoft one day because I know it’ll be a great place for her to work.”

Their family’s journey has broadened their perspective in a way that now empowers them to be advocates and allies.

“We were new people after this, and honestly we’re thankful for that,” Chadd Knowlton said. “Gender is not binary. You could be anywhere on that spectrum. It’s one of the things I think people struggle with in our society. They really want things to be easily categorized and named. But the world is all nuance—and that’s the beauty of it.”

Meet more Microsoft employees who are changing hearts and minds and advancing human rights.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/topic/pride/

See how Microsoft is celebrating Pride 2018 and how you can be an ally.
https://www.microsoft.com/pride/

Learn how Microsoft and its LGBTQ+ employees push for change across borders.
https://news.microsoft.com/life/pride/

3 brilliant design details from the new Microsoft Office

Since the introduction of Google Docs, many of us avoid Microsoft Office like the plague. But Office is still a mainstay in business. Excel, for instance, is the untouchable spreadsheet champion of the world, which is why a remarkable 1 billion people on the planet still use the software suite. And for all of them, Microsoft is rolling out a series of welcome design updates that should make the experience better. The company is focusing on creating simplicity–but without costing users power.

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These updates are a year in the works and promise to be but the first of many starting this June. “We’re on the beginning of the journey. I want to make that part clear,” says Jon Friedman, chief designer on Microsoft Office. “This is not the older world of software where you deliver something and move on to the next thing.” Here are three new features that aren’t just useful–they show where Microsoft is taking its flagship business tools.

A simplified ribbon

Here’s a staggering stat: 95% of people use only 10 commands in the top “ribbon” bar of Outlook. That means that of 32 (or so) functions that might be in a typical Outlook bar, 22 are wasted space. So Microsoft hid them, spreading those functions across various tabs. And that’s true whether you’re in Outlook or Word.

[Image: Microsoft]

Microsoft paired less information with cleaner information by remaking all of the functions as clean, wireframe icons. They’re actually optimized for accessibility for the vision impaired, and scale to tiny sizes clearly. But they also give the ribbon a sense of white space that was lacking before, allowing you, as Friedman puts it, to focus on your emails rather than your menus.

AI Buttons

But can a simpler menu bar become too simple? In some cases, yes. So Microsoft had to negotiate where–and how–to surface the rest of the program’s deep library of commands. “It turns out, 95% of the things people do are 10 commands in Outlook,” Friedman reiterates. “The other 5% are the 11th, 12th, and 13th commands that I use, and they’re completely different from the 11th, 12th, and 13th commands that you use.” In other words, we’re all the same user until the point we’re different. And when we’re different, we’re incredibly different.

[Image: Microsoft]

To accommodate each unique case, Microsoft deployed AI. Tap on a search bar, and search lists the top three commands on your screen that you’re most likely to need–customized to you. The technology is called “0-Query” and it doesn’t even need you to type in the search bar to give you a predictive answer. Truth be told, it’s similar to the way that iOS and Android suggest apps that you’re likely to open at any given time, but it’s the first time we’ve seen this tool applied to desktop productivity software.

“We’re very [focused on] anticipating people’s needs,” says Friedman. “We think this is what’s going to allow us to find that balance between simplicity and power.”

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Emotional Understanding

Another addition? “We have this little Coming Soon button in Outlook, and we want to give [users] a heads up,” says Friedman. “If an Outlook visual refresh is coming soon, we show them it’s coming up, and ask them if it helps [to get the heads up].”

Sounds minor, right? Why create this feature?

[Image: Microsoft]

As part of the design process, Microsoft did empathic research, surveying users to figure out what made their favorite productivity apps their favorites–and that included studying their own software and that of competitors.

What Microsoft concluded was that people wanted to feel three sensations when working with business tools: productive, in control, and safe. And they wanted to avoid two feelings: inadequacy and uncertainty.

Moving forward, Microsoft wants to focus many of its design updates in Office in response to these core emotions. Perhaps that sounds too heady, but it’s not really that complicated.

A perfect example of how small design features can quell uncertainty? “If you chase [features] without understanding the emotional response to them, then you might find yourself in a place where you have something highly efficient but not enjoyable,” says Friedman.

Proposed Microsoft-GitHub buy confirms open source role in cloud

Microsoft has not always been about the developer. That is just its roots. At a time when software development was limited to people with access to mainframes, the company forged its early fortune on the backs of easily available developer tools.

Some would say the developer focus dimmed at Microsoft with the departure of co-founder Bill Gates — one of the most exemplary programmer nerds there ever was. With the ascendancy of Satya Nadella to CEO in 2014, the developer’s song is being heard again. And it’s being heard particularly loudly now, as Microsoft-GitHub nuptials loom; last week, the company agreed to buy GitHub for $7.5 billion in stock.

Microsoft is a well-established commercial presence. Its status with open source is less established, despite its much-reported cuddle-up to Linux. Because it has often been aggressive in pushing its own standards, its proposed acquisition of GitHub has naturally been met with rumblings of concern.

Satya Nadella, CEO of MicrosoftSatya Nadella

However, the Microsoft-GitHub pairing should not be unexpected, according to Warner Chaves, a long-time Microsoft data developer and principal consultant at technical services provider Pythian, based in Ottawa.

“People have strong memories of the anti-open-source Microsoft, but the fact is that Microsoft is the corporation with the largest number of [GitHub] open source contributors,” Chaves said. “It wants to keep attracting this type of developer to Azure as part of the ongoing war for cloud market share.”

‘Doubling down’ on open source

People have strong memories of the anti-open-source Microsoft, but the fact is that Microsoft is the corporation with the largest number of [GitHub] open source contributors.
Warner Chavesprincipal consultant at Pythian

If nothing else, the GitHub move confirms developers are foremost again at Microsoft and elsewhere. Data professionals don’t really need to be told that is the case. All the hallmark technologies of big data — NoSQL databases and machine learning, as well as Apache Hadoop and all its friends and family — have been driven by developers. Hadoop and its ilk have returned the developer role to prominence in decisions about data architecture — something they hadn’t enjoyed since the early days of the relational database.

In fact, GitHub has been home to important open source projects — many of the big data variety. As many as 1,500 Apache projects and over 500 Eclipse projects are hosted on GitHub. Much of the new machine learning activity reposes on GitHub, not the least of which is TensorFlow — the library of tools open-sourced by Google in 2015.

Merv Adrian, GartnerMerv Adrian

In recent years, the Microsoft Azure cloud has driven more openness in APIs at the company. Apache Hadoop, Hive and Spark are notable cases of open source support on the Azure cloud. The reality is, if Microsoft does not have a heaping helping of open source software on Azure, its cloud could lag in overall developer support. Buying GitHub means the company is “doubling down on open source,” said Gartner analyst Merv Adrian.

Microsoft’s move is “consistent with the need to attract developers to the Azure platform,” Adrian wrote in a blog post on the GitHub purchase. He said the company could increase the connection between GitHub and Azure, but noted its vow to maintain the openness of any such connection.

Home is where the GitHub is

Microsoft could very well be a good home for GitHub, according to Ian Skerrett, a technology marketing consultant and former Eclipse Foundation executive.

“Microsoft definitely understands developers and will be able to help push GitHub into the enterprise development world,” Skerrett said.

Still, open source is very much about choices, and the fact that so many of those choices came to reside on GitHub may give pause, Skerrett indicated.

“GitHub has a near monopoly on open source project hosting,” he said. “There aren’t many alternatives, and this is a problem.” Skerrett added that he hoped one side effect of this blockbuster purchase is competition will arise for GitHub.