Tag Archives: Microsoft

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Pro 4 i5, 256GB, 8GB RAM + Pen + Alcantara TypeCover

Microsoft Surface Pro 4:

  • Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Tablet with: Intel 57, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, Windows 10 Pro
  • Genuine Microsoft Alcantara Signature Type-cover Keyboard (Platinum)
  • Genuine Microsoft Surface Pen (Silver/Platinum)

Original boxes included

This machine is light enough to carry all day, every day. Yes powerful enough to handle video, spreadsheets, design and multitasking.

Condition:
The machine has been loved and cared for and is in perfect condition. The type-cover has slight discolouring on the bottom left corner but I have read that this can be cleaned with mild detergent (due to the resilience of the alcantara fabric).

Advertised elsewhere

Price and currency: 799
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: BT, Cash
Location: Stanmore, HA7
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

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PCs made everyone more productive at home, school, and at work — and artificial intelligence could change the world just as much

better capitalism header
_


harry shum microsoft researchMicrosoft

  • This post is part of Business Insider’s ongoing series
    on Better
    Capitalism.
  • We’re already seeing the impact of AI, argues
    Microsoft’s Harry Shum.
  • To make it truly benefit everyone, it needs to be
    developed responsibly.

When Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft more than 40
years ago, their aim was to bring the benefits of computing —
then largely locked up in mainframes — to everyone.

They set out to build software for a “personal” computer that
would help people be more productive at home, at school and at
work.

The personal computer democratized technology that was previously
available only to a few select people. Today, artificial
intelligence has the same potential.

AI offers incredible opportunities to drive global economic and
social progress.

The key to bringing the benefits of AI to everyone — not
just a select few — is to develop AI to be human-centered.

Put simply, AI systems should be created to augment human
abilities. We want AI technology to enable people to achieve
more, and we’re optimistic that this can happen.

Already, we are seeing how AI can have a tangible, useful impact.

For example, with the world’s population expected to grow by
nearly 2.5 billion people over the next quarter century, AI can
help to increase food production. A Microsoft research project
called FarmBeats is providing farmers with insights
that can help them improve agricultural yield, lower overall
costs and reduce their environmental impact.

A collaboration between Microsoft and university researchers,
called Project Premonition , aims to use AI to detect
dangerous pathogens in the environment before a disease such as
Zika becomes a full-fledged public health emergency. The system
uses everything from autonomous drones to robotic mosquito traps
to try to identify pathogens as they are emerging.

Microsoft recently announced a partnership with Seattle-based
Adaptive Biotechnologies. Our shared goal is to create a
universal blood test that reads a person’s immune system to
detect a wide variety of diseases, including infections, cancers
and autoimmune disorders, when they can be most effectively
diagnosed and treated.

Clearly, AI is beginning to augment human understanding and
decision-making. Therefore, it’s imperative for companies to
develop and adopt clear principles that guide the people
building, using and applying AI systems.

Among other things, these principles should ensure that AI
systems are fair, reliable, safe, private, secure, inclusive,
transparent and accountable.  

To help achieve this, the people designing AI systems should be
diverse, reflecting the diversity of the world in which we live.

When AI systems are used to help make life decisions, it is
particularly important that they are transparent, so people
understand how those decisions were made. And those who develop
and deploy AI systems need to be accountable for how their
systems operate.

There’s no single company or organization that can develop these
principles in a vacuum.  

Business leaders, policymakers, researchers, academics and
representatives of non-governmental groups must work together to
ensure that AI-based technologies are designed and deployed in a
responsible manner. Organizations such as the Partnership on
AI , which brings together experts from industry, academia
and civil society, will be important vehicles in advancing this
important dialogue, including by developing best practices.

By encouraging open and honest discussion, we believe that
everyone can help create a culture of cooperation, trust and
openness among AI developers, users, and the public at large.

Harry Shum is Microsoft’s executive vice president for
Artificial Intelligence and Research. Microsoft recently
published the book “
The Future Computed: Artificial intelligence
and its role in society

Get the latest Microsoft stock price here.

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Studio 28″ Touch – Quad-core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB, All-in-One Desktop Computer

Microsoft Surface Studio 28″ Touch – Quad-core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB, All-in-One

RRP: £4,300

Tech specs

Display
Screen: 28 in PixelSense Display
Resolution: 4500 x 3000 (192 DPI)

Processor
i7

Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GPU GDDR5 memory

Storage
128GB SSD with 2TB HDD

Memory
32GB RAM

In the box

Surface Studio
Surface Pen
Surface Keyboard
Surface Mouse
Power cord with grip-release cable

Price and currency: £3,399
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: Cash, Bank Transfer Or Paypal
Location: Solihull, West Midlands,Uk
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I prefer the goods to be collected

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  • 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.

Microsoft announces expansion of Montreal research lab, new director

Geoffrey Gordon has been named Microsoft Research Montreal’s new research director. Photo by Nadia Zheng.

Microsoft plans to significantly expand its Montreal research lab and has hired a renowned artificial intelligence expert, Geoffrey Gordon, to be the lab’s new research director.

The company said Wednesday that it hopes to double the size of Microsoft Research Montreal within the next two years, to as many as 75 technical experts. The expansion comes as Montreal is becoming a worldwide hub for groundbreaking work in the fields of machine learning and deep learning, which are core to AI advances.

“Montreal is really one of the most exciting places in AI right now,” said Jennifer Chayes, a technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal.

Chayes said Gordon, currently a professor of machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University, was a natural choice for the job in part because he’s interested in both the foundational AI research that addresses fundamental AI challenges and the applied work that can quickly find its way into mainstream use.

“We want to be doing the research that will be infusing AI into Microsoft products today and tomorrow, and Geoff’s research really spans that,” she said. “He’ll be able to help us improve our products and he’ll also be laying the foundation for AI to do much more than is possible today.”

Jennifer Chayes, technical fellow and managing director of Microsoft Research New England, New York City and Montreal.

Chayes also noted that Gordon’s broad and deep AI expertise will be a major asset to the lab. She noted that Gordon is an expert in reinforcement learning, in which systems learn through trial and error, and he’s also done groundbreaking work in areas such as robotics and natural language processing. The ability to combine all those areas of expertise will be key to developing sophisticated AI systems in the future.

“Given that we want a very broad AI lab, Geoff is the ideal person to lead it, and to create the fundamental research that underlies the next generation of AI,” she said.

Gordon said he’s especially interested in creating AI systems that have what we think of as long-term thinking: the ability to come up with a coherent plan to solve a problem or to take multiple actions based on clues it gets along the way. That’s the kind of thing that comes easily to people but is currently rudimentary in most AI systems.

Over the last few years, AI systems have gotten very good at individual tasks, like recognizing images or comprehending words in a conversation, thanks to a combination of improved data, computing power and algorithms.

Now, researchers including Gordon are working on ways to combine those skills to create systems that can augment people’s work in more sophisticated ways. For example, a system that could accurately read clues based on what it is seeing and hearing to anticipate when it would be useful to step in and help would be much more valuable than one that requires a person to ask for help with a specific task when needed.

“We have, in some cases, superhuman performance in recognizing patterns, and in very restricted domains we get superhuman performance in planning ahead,” he said. “But it’s surprisingly difficult to put those two things together – to get an AI to learn a concept and then build a chain of reasoning based on that learned concept.”

Microsoft began developing its research presence in Montreal a year ago, when it acquired the deep learning startup Maluuba.

The Microsoft Research team in Montreal has already made groundbreaking advances in AI disciplines that are key to the type of systems Gordon imagines. That includes advances in machine reading comprehension – the ability to read a document and provide information about it in a plainspoken way – and in methods for teaching AI systems to do complex tasks, such as by dividing large tasks into small tasks that multiple AI agents can handle.

Gordon said he was drawn to the new position both because of the work the team in Montreal is doing and the opportunity to collaborate with the broader Montreal AI community.

“Research has always been about standing on the shoulders of giants, to borrow a phrase from a giant – and it’s even more so in the current age,” Gordon said.

The city has become a hotbed for AI advances thanks to a strong academic and research presence, as well as government funding commitments.



Yoshua Bengio, an AI pioneer who heads the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms, said Gordon’s presence and the Microsoft lab’s expansion will help continue to build the momentum that the Montreal AI community has seen in recent years. He noted that Gordon’s area of focus, on AI systems that can learn to do more complex tasks, is complementary to the work he and others in the community also are pursuing.

“It’s one of the strengths of Montreal,” said Bengio, who is also an AI advisor to Microsoft.

Joelle Pineau, an associate professor of computer science at McGill University and director of Montreal’s Facebook AI Research Lab, said she was thrilled to hear Gordon would be joining the Montreal AI ecosystem.

“There is no doubt that the Montreal AI community will be deeply enriched by his presence here,” Pineau said.

Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development, said he was looking forward to seeing the work that Gordon and Microsoft Research Montreal will produce.

“I am pleased that our government’s investment in innovation and skills continues to position Canada as a world-leading destination for AI companies and impressive researchers like Geoff Gordon,” he said.

The expansion of the Montreal lab is part of Microsoft’s long history of investing in international research hubs, including labs in the U.S., Asia, India and Cambridge, United Kingdom. Chayes said the company’s international presence has helped it attract and retain some of the world’s best researchers in AI and other fields, and it also has helped ensure that the company’s AI systems reflect a diversity of experiences and cultures.

For example, Chayes said the fact that Montreal is a bilingual city could help inform the company’s work in areas such as translation and speech recognition.

“It’s a culture where you go back and forth between two languages. That’s a very interesting environment in which to develop tools for natural language understanding,” she said.

The French version of this blog post can be found on the Microsoft News Center Canada.

Related:

Allison Linn is a senior writer at Microsoft. Follow her on Twitter.

Next Generation Washington 2018 – Microsoft on the Issues

Last January, we published for the first time a blog that outlined the positions Microsoft would be advocating as we walked the halls of our state capitol in Olympia. As we pointed out, public interest groups had called for greater transparency by companies, and we had concluded that they made a good point. People seemed to appreciate last year’s publication, so we’re taking the same step this year.

We appreciate the hard work and personal sacrifices our state legislators make each year. As we move forward in this year’s session, I’ve sketched Microsoft’s priorities in Washington state below. You’ll find our thoughts on several issues, including education and workforce development, climate change, rural economic development, the Cascadia Corridor, the Special Olympics and a few others. No doubt you may agree with some of our positions more than others. But regardless of the substance of the issue, we hope you’ll find this helpful.

Strengthening education and workforce development

The short 2018 legislative session provides an opportunity to build on the accomplishments that our legislators achieved last year in Olympia during the six-month session. Last year they passed a landmark bipartisan budget designed to inject an additional $7.3 billion into schools over the next four years. As we noted last July, this continued a trend that began with the McCleary decision in 2012. That year, the state spent $13.4 billion per biennium (two years) on K-12 education. By the 2019-2021 biennium, the state will spend $26.6 billion on K-12 education. Much of the new funding is based on student need, which helps to close stubborn opportunity gaps for many students in high-poverty schools.

While the state’s Supreme Court has acknowledged the importance of this progress, it has also called on the legislature to accelerate this spending increase. As a result, this is an important priority for this legislative session, and we hope it can be addressed effectively.

At the same time, it’s critical that our legislators take additional steps to address other education and workforce development needs. Technology is changing jobs and people will need to develop new skills to succeed in the future. For the people of our state to be successful, we need to continue to increase high school graduation rates and then provide a path towards a post-secondary credential, whether that’s an industry certification, a college degree or some other credential. The state has set the important goal of helping 70 percent of Washingtonians between the ages of 25 to 44 to achieve a post-secondary degree or credential by 2023. Today, that figure is only 51 percent, with larger deficits among important racial, geographic and economic segments. In short, we have a lot of work to do.

One of our best opportunities is to invest in a strong career-connected learning strategy that will provide young people with learning and training programs that will provide them with the skills and credentials they need to pursue our state’s jobs. Microsoft has been a strong supporter of Gov. Jay Inslee’s goal of connecting 100,000 young people with career-connected learning opportunities. I’ve co-chaired – along with MacDonald-Miller’s Perry England – the governor’s task force to address this issue. We’ve learned from the business, labor, education and policy leaders involved what an important opportunity our state has to lead the nation in better preparing our young people for the full range of jobs across the state. I’m excited about the recommendations we’re finalizing and will present to the governor and public next month. I hope our legislators will support the governor as he continues to lead the state on this issue, and I hope that companies across the business community and organized labor groups will work closely with our educators to make these opportunities real for our young people.

While we undertake this new career-connected learning initiative, it’s also important for the 2018 session to address two areas of narrower but vital unfinished business left over from last year. The first is to provide $3 million in supplemental funding to complete the doubling – to over 600 – of computer science degree capacity at the University of Washington’s Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering. We’re exceedingly fortunate as a state to have in the Allen School one of the world’s premier computer science departments located in the middle of a region that is creating so many computer science jobs.

I chaired the effort that completed the fundraising in 2017 to build a second computer science building at the University of Washington. Microsoft was a major contributor, as was the state itself, Amazon, Zillow, Google and so many generous individuals. Now that we’ve raised over $70 million of private money to build this building, we’re hoping the legislature will allocate $3 million so the university can fill it with Washington students.

Finally, we have a key opportunity to continue to help remove financial barriers for lower-income students to pursue college degrees in high demand STEM and healthcare fields by advancing and funding the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS).

Microsoft has supported WSOS and I’ve chaired the program’s board since it was founded in 2011. Thanks to the terrific leadership of Naria Santa Lucia, our executive director, and some remarkable partners across the state, the WSOS program is already leading the nation with its innovative work to match private sector contributions with state funding and services for our scholars. More than 3,800 students who grew up in Washington state are attending colleges in the state on these scholarships this year. Because the program continues to grow, just over 1,750 of this total are new scholars added this year. And consider this: 60 percent of this new group are female, 72 percent are among the first generation in their families to attend college and 73 percent are students of color. It helps put our state at the forefront of national efforts to create better opportunities for young people of all backgrounds.

The legislature can take two additional steps this session to help the WSOS achieve even more. The first is to include an additional appropriation in its supplemental budget to match the increasing level of private donations to the program. And the second is to authorize WSOS to provide new support to students looking to pursue industry certification and associate degree programs in STEM-related fields at our state’s 34 community and technical colleges.

Addressing climate change

A second important issue on the state legislature’s agenda this year is one of the broadest issues for the planet: climate change. As a company, Microsoft is focusing on new ways we can use artificial intelligence and other technology to help address this problem, including through our AI for Earth program. This builds on ongoing work to ensure our local campus and our datacenters worldwide use more green energy. This includes setting an internal price on carbon we charge our business units, purchasing renewable energy and establishing extensive commuting and carpooling programs.  As companies across the tech sector help address climate issues, we believe that Washington state has a key role to play as well.

We applaud Gov. Inslee for his longstanding commitment to this issue, as well as the work of several legislators who have emerged as leaders in addressing it. Washington is already one of the lowest carbon emitters per capita, in part because of the important clean energy investments made by Washington businesses and families. But we all need to do more.

We hope the legislature will work with stakeholders across the state to drive reductions in total carbon emissions, while minimizing economic disruptions, creating new job opportunities and addressing the water infrastructure needs that are so vital for the eastern part of our state. In 2017, we saw the value of diverse interests coming together to craft a balanced solution that makes Washington a leader on paid family leave. A similar collaborative approach can help us forge progress in addressing climate change.

Supporting rural Washington

One of the issues we learned a lot more about in 2017 was the importance of expanding opportunities for people in rural communities in the United States. The more we’ve learned, the more passionate we’ve become. We’re now working with state governments across the country, and we hope that our own legislature will take the steps needed to ensure we can do work in our home state that matches the work we’re doing and witnessing elsewhere.

One of the issues that deserves more attention is the broadband gap in the state and across the country. As we see firsthand every day, cloud computing and artificial intelligence are reshaping the economy and creating new opportunities for people who can put this technology to use. But it’s impossible to take advantage of these opportunities without access to broadband. Today there are 23.4 million Americans in rural counties who lack broadband access. Many rural communities, especially east of the Cascades, lack adequate broadband. Whether they are parents helping their children with homework, veterans seeking telemedicine services, farmers looking to explore precision agriculture or small business owners wanting to create jobs, people in these communities are at a disadvantage to those living in cities with high-speed connectivity.

The goal of Microsoft’s Airband initiative is to help close this rural connectivity gap by bringing broadband connectivity to 2 million people in rural America by 2022. Through our direct work with partners, we will launch at least 13 projects in 13 states this year, including Washington. We believe the public sector also has a vital role to play, including the investment of matching funds to support capital equipment projects. Today, 11 states have earmarked funds to extend broadband service to their rural communities. But Washington is not one of them.

We hope the legislature will act this year to join the ranks of other states that are acting to advance rural broadband connectivity. Encouragingly, the legislature this year has taken a first step in this direction by recently adopting a capital budget with $5 million in grants for the Community Economic Revitalization Board to support the expansion of rural broadband. However, the bill failed to reach projects addressing the homework gap or providing telemedicine capacity. Legislative leaders have stated they will make supplemental adjustments to the biennial budget in the upcoming weeks. We hope the legislature will continue to pursue a more expansive use of rural broadband funds and will reestablish the Rural Broadband Office in the Department of Commerce. This office would then lead state planning to prioritize and sequence the delivery of high-quality broadband access to unserved and underserved communities.

Advancing the Cascadia Corridor

The legislature can also act in 2018 to build on the growing momentum to advance the Cascadia Corridor. The past year saw several important advances in this area by leaders in Washington, British Columbia and Oregon. This included new education and research partnerships, businesses working more closely together and transportation initiatives, all supported by government leaders across Washington state. Gov. Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine and University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce have all played key leadership roles, which we greatly appreciate.

At the same time, urban congestion is making even more compelling the need to spread economic growth more broadly to more areas around the Puget Sound. One way to do that is to strengthen transportation ties from Vancouver to Seattle to Portland. The ability to move more quickly would help spur growth in places from Bellingham and Anacortes to Tacoma and Olympia, among others.

While we believe there is an important role for future investments in autonomous vehicles and highway improvements to accommodate them, we also believe there are vital steps the legislature can take in another area – high-speed rail. The construction of a high-speed rail connection between Portland and Vancouver, B.C. would be a game changer. An initial high-level report already supports the concept and Gov. Inslee has proposed a more detailed study of potential ridership, routes and financing. We support funding for this additional feasibility analysis, and in light of the recent Amtrak tragedy, urge lawmakers to examine both economic opportunities and public safety requirements.

Other issues

There are three additional issues that deserve continuing attention in Olympia and across the state this year. These are:

  • Immigration. Over the past year, state Attorney General Bob Ferguson has emerged as a national leader in addressing the urgent needs of people who have come to our state from other countries. We greatly appreciate the role he and his staff have played in helping to protect our employees, who work for us lawfully and in full compliance with federal laws. As we look ahead, we remain concerned not only about steps taken over the past year but by new steps that could come in the year ahead. These could impact our employees and families, as well as many others across the state. We’re grateful that we live in a state that has an attorney general who is committed to continuing efforts, if needed, to bring these types of issues properly before the courts.
  • Criminal justice system improvements. We hope that officials across the state will continue to build on the steps taken last year in this area. In 2017 the legislature provided $1.2 million in additional funding for the state’s Criminal Justice Training Center (CJTC) to improve situational de-escalation capabilities and build stronger trust between law enforcement and communities. Microsoft is supporting this with a $400,000 investment through 2019 to pilot the Center’s 21st Century Police Leadership program. We’re grateful that CJTC Executive Director Sue Rahr – a nationally recognized expert in policing and a long-time law enforcement leader in our state – is leading this work. We are also working with leaders in our state’s court system to build technology solutions that will help judges improve fairness and just outcomes in legal financial obligations. We look forward to continuing to pursue additional advances in 2018 with a wide range of partners.
  • Net neutrality. Like most tech companies and many consumers, we’re also concerned about the decision by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to rescind net neutrality rules. We’ve long supported net neutrality rules at the federal level, and we endorsed the FCC’s adoption of strong net neutrality protection in 2015. Given the federal government’s withdrawal of net neutrality protections, we believe it’s appropriate and helpful for the legislature to adopt at the state level the rules that the FCC rescinded. We hope the legislature will include a provision that will sunset these rules automatically if the FCC re-adopts rules that are the same or substantially similar in the future. This would create a long-term incentive for all stakeholders to move net neutrality in the United States back to the place where it can be governed effectively at the national level.

Ending on a very bright note – the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games are coming to Seattle!

Finally, as we contemplate the challenges of our time, there’s one thing we should all get excited about. The Special Olympics USA Games will take place in Seattle. On July 1, 4,000 athletes and coaches from across the country will arrive to compete in 14 sports. They include many remarkable athletes and their families, and it will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

It will be one of the largest sporting events ever held in Seattle, with more than 50,000 spectators expected. Microsoft is honored to be the presenting sponsor of the games, I’m thrilled to serve as the honorary chair, and we thank (and even salute!) lawmakers for the $3 million in state support, further demonstrating our state commitment to showcasing the power of diversity.

While many of the issues I’ve noted above call for leadership by our legislators and other officials, the Special Olympics provide an opportunity for individual leadership by every one of us. Literally.

The Special Olympics have played a transformative role in the lives of athletes with intellectual disabilities and has become a global movement of acceptance and inclusion. Through sports, health, school and youth engagement, the organization brings people around the world together, with and without intellectual disabilities, to foster tolerance, unity and respect.

I hope you’ll join in to make the USA Games a special moment not only for the athletes and their families, but for all of us who live in Washington state. Please join us at the opening ceremonies on July 1. It will be an event to remember. Or, attend one of the 14 sports events that will take place around Puget Sound. Consider volunteering to help, showing our local hospitality to our visitors while learning more about how we can all learn from each other in new ways.

We also believe the USA Games can provide another opportunity as well. As we prepare for the event, one of the themes we’ve adopted is “Seattle as a city of inclusion.” We’re hoping that local employers will join together not only to encourage employee volunteerism, but to learn more about programs like the one that we’ve benefited from at Microsoft that has helped us recruit, hire and develop some sensational employees who also happen to deal with autism every day. As we’ve learned, talent flourishes all around us, but sometimes we need to look around a bit more broadly to appreciate how we can benefit from it – and how we can help other people along the way.

*        *        *

As we look to the months ahead, there’s no doubt that 2018 will bring its share of twists, turns, and even challenges. But when we look at what our legislators can accomplish and what the rest of us can contribute, there is no shortage of opportunities. Let’s make the most of them together!

As always, we welcome your thoughts on our ideas.

Tags: Brad Smith, Cascadia Corridor, education, employment, Environment, legislation, Next Generation Washington

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Laptop

I have my Microsoft Surface Laptop for sale, purchased it on Boxing Day as I thought I would try and move from my mac to windows after 10 years but didnt go well, so selling on to someone to get themselvies a bit of a bargain.

Purchased 26th December 2017 and in excellent condition.
Fulled boxed with charger never taken out of box or used
i5/256GB/8GB RAM
Model no 1769

I will also include the Microsoft Surface Mouse (worth £40-ish) for free.

This is being boxed up today so ready for next day delivery

Price and currency: £910
Delivery: Delivery cost is included within my country
Payment method: Bacs
Location: Reading
Advertised elsewhere?: Not advertised elsewhere
Prefer goods collected?: I have no preference

______________________________________________________
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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.

Microsoft Project

Choosing to use Microsoft Project as your team’s dedicated project management app makes sense only when a number of stars align. First, you really must have a certified project manager on board to drive the software. Second, time has to be on your side and your certified project manager can’t be rushed to learn to use the tool. Third, your team should already be a Microsoft house, or it should be willing to become one. Fourth, the number of projects your team manages and their level of complexity should be quite high. If your organization meets these criteria, Microsoft Project may prove to be an invaluable tool. If not, you’re better served by another option, and there are many.

Similar Products

If you’ve read this far and realized that Microsoft Project isn’t right for your team, I recommend three other options. For small businesses, Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects are the PCMag Editors’ Choices. Both are reasonably priced and very easy to learn to use, even if you’re not a project management master yet. The other tool that earns the Editors’ Choice is LiquidPlanner, a high-end tool that’s ideal for larger teams managing not just projects but also people and other resources.

A Few Caveats

Microsoft Project takes a long time to learn to use and even longer to master. I am writing this review from the point of view of someone who has not mastered it (not even close) but who has experimented with it for some weeks and asked questions of Microsoft representatives to learn more. My point of view includes comparison testing with dozens of other project management apps, from lightweight ones designed for small businesses to enterprise-grade options.

Because Microsoft Project is something of a bear, I would recommend complementing my article with user reviews by people who have worked with the tool extensively and can provide different insights into how it holds up in the long term.

Pricing and Plans

There are two ways to buy Microsoft Project. You can add it to an Office 365 subscription or you can buy a standalone version for on-premises deployment. The options get confusing, so let me go through them piece by piece.

Office add-on. When you add Microsoft Project to an Office subscription, you get the cloud-based version of the app. There are three pricing levels for this type of purchase: Project Online Professional, Premium, and Essentials.

Project Online Professional costs $30 per person per month. With this level of service, each person gets to use the Microsoft Project desktop app on up to five computers for project management only, not portfolio management. Even though it’s a desktop app, it still runs in the cloud (i.e., it requires an internet connection to use). Access via web browsers is also included.

Project Online Premium costs $55 per person per month. It offers everything in the Professional account, plus portfolio management tools. It comes with advanced analytics and resource management features that you don’t get in the Professional account.

The third level, Essentials, is not a tier of service so much as a role type you can choose for team members who have fairly limited responsibilities in the app. It costs $7 per person per month. You have to have a Professional or Premium membership first to utilize the Essential option. Essential users can only access Microsoft Project via a web browser or mobile device. They can only update task statuses, work with timesheets, share documents, and communicate with colleagues. They don’t get desktop apps or other functionality.

Standalone on-premises deployment. If you don’t want to use the cloud-hosted version of Microsoft Project, you can host it locally, and there are three options for how to do it.

One is Project Standard, which costs $589.99 charged as a one-time flat fee. With this version, you get one piece of software installed locally on one computer, and only one person can use it. It’s old-school software in the sense that it doesn’t have any collaboration features. You get project management tools, but nothing for resource management.

The next option is Project Professional for $1,159.99. Each license is good for only one computer. It has everything in Project Standard, plus the ability to collaborate via Skype for Business, resource-management tools, timesheets, and the option to sync with Project Online and Project Server.

Project Server, the last option, is a version of Microsoft Project that enterprises can get with SharePoint 2016. I could go into detail about how to get SharePoint 2016 and the three tiers of enterprise service for Office involved, but I’ll assume that if this option is of interest to you, you already have a support person at Microsoft you can ask for more information.

Comparison Prices

If we use the $30 or $55 per person per month price for Project Online Professional as our base for comparison, which are the tiers of service I imagine are in your wheelhouse if you’re reading this article, then Microsoft’s prices are on the high end for small to medium businesses.

TeamGantt is a good place to start for comparison. It offers service ranging from a Free account to an Advanced membership that costs $14.95 per person per month. It’s a web-based tool that includes collaboration and is much easier to learn to use than Project.

A comparable plan with Zoho Projects costs a flat rate of $50 per month, regardless of how many people use it. Teamwork Projects offers a similar flat monthly rate ($69 per month for as many team members as you need), as does Proofhub ($150 per month).

If we turn to more high-end tools, LiquidPlanner starts at $599.40 per year for a small business account of up to five people. That price is based on a rate of $9.99 per person per month, but this particular plan is only sold in a five-seat pack. LiquidPlanner’s most popular plan, Professional, is better for medium to large businesses. It works out to be $45 per person per month, with a ten person minimum. Like Microsoft Project, LiquidPlanner takes time to master in part because it offers so many tools for both project management and resources management.

Other project management platforms that are suitable for larger organizations include Clarizen (from $45 per person per month), Celoxis ($25 per person per month; five-person minimum), and Workfront (about $30, depending on setup).

Getting Started

I can’t stress enough the fact that Microsoft Project is meant to be used by experienced, or more precisely trained, project managers. It’s not designed for learning on the fly. It doesn’t come with clear tutorials for getting started. It assumes familiarity with both big concepts and fine details of project management. If you’re thinking you might use this software but you (or the lead person who will be using the app) don’t know what a burndown report is, I would seriously advise you to consider a different tool.

The app itself looks a lot like Excel. It has the same familiar tabbed ribbon interface seen in other Microsoft Office apps. The spreadsheet portion of the app holds all the data related to tasks or resources. To the right of the cells is a Gantt chart reflecting the schedule as you build it.

Microsoft Project supports all the typical things you’d want to do in a project management app. For every task, you can enter a lot of detail, such as a description, notes, start date, task duration, and so forth. Recurring events are supported, as are dependencies, custom fields, and baselines for tracking actual progress versus planned progress.

The bars in the Gantt chart are interactive, so as you adjust them, the information in the cells updates as well. When a task is in progress, you can indicate the percent that it’s done by sliding a smaller line inside its associated spanner bar toward the right.

In addition to having a Gantt chart view, Microsoft Project offers calendar and diagram views as well. The calendar view is self-explanatory, while the diagram view is similar to the Gantt view, only it contains additional details about the task. If you follow a timeline better when there’s some sense of a narrative behind it, the diagram view could be useful.

As mentioned, the first time you use the app, there isn’t much coaching on how to get started. Some apps provide interactive on-screen tutorials. Others start you out in a sample project. Still others point you early to a channel of help videos for getting started. Microsoft Project has none of that. In fact, the little that Project does provide may merely add to your confusion, such as this little nugget of information that I saw on day one:

“To be clear, Project Online is NOT a web-based version of Project Professional. Project Online is an entirely separate service that offers full portfolio and project management tools on the web. It includes Project Web App, and can, depending on your subscription, also include Project Online Desktop Client, which is a subscription version of Project Professional.”

Even after having gone through all the pricing and plan options in detail, those words still make my head spin.

Features and Details

Microsoft Project is powerful when it comes to the more detailed aspects of project management, such as resource management, reports, and timesheets. Powerful doesn’t mean easy or simple, of course.

In Microsoft Project, with the tiers of service that include resource management, you can manage work (which includes both generic people and specific people, as well as other “work” related resources), materials, and costs. You can do a lot with these elements if you have the time and the inclination.

For example, you can add detail to materials resources, such as a unit of measure, and if you want to get really detailed, you can enter costs for materials. What if the costs of a material changes over time? In Microsoft Project, an additional detail panel allows you to track and account for changes in cost over time.

With work resources, I mentioned you can track specific people or generalized people. Depending on the work you’re tracking, you may need to assign general human resources, such as a “front-end programmer” or “QA tester,” rather than a specific person. It all depends on what you’re managing and how.

Reports are highly customizable, although, like the rest of the app, it takes time to learn how to use them. Some of the more rudimentary features are neat and surprisingly simple to use, however. You can generate a report by navigating to the report section and selecting what data you want to appear in different modules on the page. Using a field selection box on the right, you can make the topmost element the project, and below it you might add a table showing how much of each phase of the project is already complete, and so forth.

All the elements you add to the report are stylized, and they don’t automatically adjust to accommodate one another. For example, if text from one element runs long, it can crash into another. Other minor visual elements often need finessing, too. You can end up wasting a lot of time resizing boxes and nudging elements left and right to make it look decent, which probably isn’t what you’re getting paid to do. That’s a designer’s job, really.

That said, styling the reports in this way has a purpose. Once you finish with all the adjustments, the final product looks ready to export to a presentation directly (in PowerPoint, no doubt), so you can go from generating reports to sharing them without many additional steps.

Within the timesheets section, for those versions of the app that include it, you can have team members fill out weekly time sheets for whatever duration you need, such as weekly or monthly. Team members can report not only time spent on tasks related to projects, but they can also indicate what time of work it was, such as research and development or fulfillment. Another option lets people add time to their time sheets for tasks aren’t specifically related to a project. For example, if Julia drives to meet with a client, the team might want to record that time and bill for it, even though the travel doesn’t appear as a task on a project.

Room for Improvement

I’ve already alluded to the fact that Microsoft Project could offer more assistance in helping people get started with it and learn to use it.

Additionally, Project is weak when it comes to in-app communication. The problem is that Microsoft is a kingdom, and within its realm it already has plenty of tools for communicating. You can fire off an email with Outlook, or schedule a meeting in Calendar, or pop into Microsoft Teams for chat, or Yammer for conversations, or Skype for video calls, and so forth. But sometimes, when you’re working on a project, you just want to @ message someone or ping them in a chat and ask a question without breaking the context of your work by navigating to another app. Seeing as these tools already exist, why duplicate them in Project? (Some might refer to Microsoft as having an “ecosystem” rather than kingdom. An ecosystem can’t help but be what it is, but a kingdom chooses its boundaries.)

Indeed, traveling around the kingdom annoyed me to no end while I was testing Microsoft Project. A desire to share information might result in the app whisking me away to Outlook. A need to update something about a meeting scheduled in my project could leave my computer loading a new tab for Calendar without my consent. Many times, I wanted the ability to adjust all the details related to my project from within the project management app, not somewhere else.

While Microsoft has plenty of its own apps that work with Project, many organizations rely on tools that come from somewhere else, Salesforce being a prime example. Project does not integrate with many other tools. It’s not supported by Zapier either, which is an online tool that can sometimes connect apps and services that don’t natively talk to one another. If you’re hoping to loop your project management application into other online services that your team already uses, whether Slack or Trello or Salesforce, then Microsoft Project is not a good tool to choose.

A Powerful Tool Within Its Realm

While powerful and thorough in many respects, Microsoft Project fits only very specific companies. More and more, this is the case with many Microsoft apps. Your team needs to already be invested in Microsoft products for Project to make sense. It also works best for medium to large organizations, but not small ones. Plus, you need a qualified and experienced project manager on the team to be the person driving the app.

If Microsoft Project isn’t an ideal candidate for your project management needs, I suggest small outfits look into Zoho Projects and Teamwork Projects, whereas larger organizations managing many more projects and resources take a dive into LiquidPlanner. All three earned the PCMag Editors’ Choice.

Welcome to 2018, the year of AI – Asia News Center

By Ralph Haupter, President, Microsoft Asia. This article was originally posted on LinkedIn.

If the history of human advancement has taught us one thing it is this: genuine step-change progress does not occur because of a single technology breakthrough, but a combination of multiple complementary factors coming together at the same time.

The Industrial Revolution, which began in the UK around 1760, was driven by an amalgamation of steam power, improvements in iron production and the development of the first machine tools.

Similarly, the PC revolution of the early 1970’s was the outcome of simultaneous advancements in micro-processing, memory storage, software programming and other factors.

Now, as we enter 2018, we are at the cusp of a new revolution, one that will ultimately transform every organisation, every industry and every public service across the world.

I’m referring, of course, to Artificial Intelligence – or AI – and I believe 2018 is the year that this will start to become mainstream, to begin to impact many aspects of our lives in a truly ubiquitous and meaningful way.

AI: Over 65 Years In The Making
The concept of AI is not new. In fact, it stretches back to 1950 when early computing pioneer Alan Turing famously posed the question “Can Machines Think?” and it would be another 6 years, in 1956, before the term “artificial intelligence” was first used.

So it has taken nearly 70 years for the right combination of factors to come together to move AI from concept to an increasingly ubiquitous reality. And there are three innovation trends driving its acceleration and adoption right now.

  • The first is Big Data. The explosion of Internet-connected devices, sensors and objects has expanded exponentially the amount of data the world is now producing. In this increasingly digital era, data is the “new oil”– a source of value and sustainable competitive advantage.
  • The second factor is ubiquitous and powerful Cloud computing. Today, anyone with an idea and a credit card can access the same computing power that, traditionally, only global multinationals or governments have possessed. Cloud computing is democratizing technology and accelerating innovation on a global scale.
  • The third factor driving AI capabilities is breakthroughs in software algorithms and Machine Learning that can identify sophisticated patterns implicit within the data itself. If data is the new oil, Machine Learning is, perhaps, the new combustion engine.

So, it is this combination of powerful industry trends, all maturing at the same time, that is accelerating – and democratizing – AI today.

AI Everywhere
My colleague Harry Shum, who leads our AI & Research Group, refers to the way in which AI will impact our lives as an “invisible revolution”. What he means is that, increasingly, AI will be everywhere—powering your online recommendation engine, acting as a virtual assistant chatbot for your bank account or travel agent, personalizing your newsfeed or guarding your credit card against fraud. AI will be more pervasive – and yet less invasive – than any previous technology revolution.

In particular, AI will be embedded seamlessly into existing, well-established products and services to enhance their capabilities. Let me share a simple example of how AI is helping me work more effectively today. I travel frequently and am often required to present to multinational, multilingual audiences during business trips across Asia Pacific. Now, with a small piece of AI technology called Microsoft Presentation Translator, I can help overcome any language barriers as PowerPoint can show real-time subtitles in more than 60 languages, simultaneously as I speak, during my presentations.

In business, AI will be used by most companies for at least some part of the value chain either in research and development, design, logistics, manufacturing, servicing or customer engagement. In fact, leading IT industry analyst IDC believes that by next year, 40% of digital transformation initiatives globally will be supported by AI capabilities[1].

And you do not need to be a start-up or hi-tech company to embrace the possibilities of AI, just have the vision and commitment to make it happen. Take, for example, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation (MFTBC), an 85-year-old Japanese auto manufacturer, which has given itself just two years to become a “100% digital operation” – complete with cloud-based capabilities in AI, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Mixed Reality (MR).

One of the initiatives they have recently implemented is an AI-powered chatbot where all its 10,000 employees can access information and assistance they need in a faster, more intuitive and reliable way. This significantly reduces the time employees spend on learning the Intranet site navigation, searching for information or calling each other for help. The company is now planning to extend chatbot technology to boost customer services, productivity, and maintenance across the whole company.

AI in 2018
As we stand at the cusp of the new year, I see four key AI developments happening over the next 12 months:

  1. Mass adoption of AI starts from 2018:AI adoption is set to soar in 2018 and beyond when organizations start to see clear benefits being reaped by AI innovators such as MFTBC. IDC forecast that worldwide AI revenues will surge past US$46 billion in 2020[2]. Closer to home, AI investment in Asia Pacific is predicted to grow to US$6.9 billion by 2021, expanding rapidly by 73% (CAGR)
  2. Ubiquitous Virtual Assistants: We will begin to see the adoption of broad-scale AI in the form of conversational AI chatbots in both consumer and business scenarios. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2020 more than 85% of customer interactions with the enterprise will be managed without a human interaction and AI will be the key technology deployed for customer service[3].
  3. Democratizing data and decision-making: In a world where more data exists than ever before, the ability to deliver meaningful business insights from that data to the maximum number of relevant employees becomes of paramount importance. AI will be the key technology for making that happen by bringing together data from employees, business apps, and the world.
  4. Building trusted foundations for AI:There will be increasingly more discussions at governmental and industrial levels to create formal governance and regulations in the usage of AI. We saw these discussions with the onset of eCommerce and the advent of cloud technologies. It is critical for transparent public-private conversations to take place as they will shape how AI can benefit economies and societies in a fair, transparent and trusted way.

The future of AI burns brightly and I see 2018 as the year that will establish a solid foundation for the mass adoption of this exciting and vital technology.


[1] IDC Reveals Worldwide Digital Transformation Predictions, Nov 2017

[2] IDC, Worldwide Spending on Cognitive and Artificial Intelligence Systems Forecast to Reach $12.5 Billion This Year, According to New IDC Spending Guide, April 2017

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2011/09/27/customers-dont-want-to-talk-to-you-either/#ff504bc70dcd

For Sale – Microsoft Surface Studio 28″ Touch – Quad-core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB, All-in-One Desktop Computer

Microsoft Surface Studio 28″ Touch – Quad-core i7, 32GB RAM, 2TB, All-in-One

RRP: £4,300

Tech specs

Display
Screen: 28 in PixelSense Display
Resolution: 4500 x 3000 (192 DPI)

Processor
i7

Graphics
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GPU GDDR5 memory

Storage
128GB SSD with 2TB HDD

Memory
32GB RAM

In the box

Surface Studio
Surface Pen
Surface Keyboard
Surface Mouse
Power cord with grip-release cable

Price and currency: £3,399
Delivery: Delivery cost is not included
Payment method: Cash, Bank Transfer Or Paypal
Location: Solihull, West Midlands,Uk
Advertised elsewhere?: Advertised elsewhere
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