Microsoft acquires immensely popular calendar app Sunrise in its quest to become a productivity leader in mobile

sunrise calendarMicrosoft has been acquiring start-up companies lately with an aim to produce the best productivity experiences in mobile as their goal to spread their services across all major platforms continues.

Its recent purchase of popular productivity email app Acompli for just over $200 million resulted in a release of an incredible iOS Outlook app in record time. Microsoft even put a version of Outlook for Windows Phone on the back burner until Windows 10 arrives. It has caused waves upon its release and is currently the most popular productivity app in the iOS App store in many countries and receiving rave reviews and recommendations.

According to TechCrunch, Microsoft has just acquired yet another start-up called Sunrise which happens to make a very popular calendar app called Sunrise Calendar, and it did so for more than $100 million.

sunrise calendar1Sunrise is said to be the best mobile calendar app available with its powerful feature set and fantastic UI design. Additionally, it does a great in job consolidating calendars from different providers such as Microsoft Exchange, Google, iCloud and many third party apps. Sunrise also imports photos and details from your LinkedIn contacts which is very helpful for being aware of the person you may be meeting with.

This is a very popular app on the iPhone, iPad, and even Android devices, and according to TechCrunch, Microsoft intends to keep the app alive as it uses the technology behind it to better its own offerings at a much faster pace.

sunrise calendar2Take a look at the video below which will give you a great example of how powerful and effective this app is.

Source: TechCrunch via BI

Microsoft releases yet another inspiring ad on empowering cancer research

Microsoft’s new ad campaign is all about “empowering” which started at last year’s Super Bowl and during this Sunday’s Super Bowl continued with two new 68-second ads.  Today, there is yet another one which focuses on how Microsoft’s Cloud computing platform (Azure) drives cancer research forward with empowering cancer researchers in their daily tasks.

Just like this Sunday’s Super Bowl ads, this one is also narrated by artist Common which narrates Satya Nadella’s previous speech.  These new “empowering” ads from Microsoft have been met with very warm reception and are an essential part of its transformation of a new united Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft on YouTube

Sony trims further and sells-off its "SOE" division, which will now also make Xbox games under new ownership

Sony online entertainmentSony has officially sold its online gaming subsidiary, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) to a third-party investment firm called Columbus Nova. SOE will now be known as Daybreak Games, and its president John Smedley has just tweeted today about his excitement on making Xbox games.

sony SOE tweet2 sony SOE tweet

Today, we are pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Columbus Nova, an investment management firm well known for its success with its existing portfolio of technology, media and entertainment focused companies. This means that effective immediately SOE will operate as an independent game development studio where we will continue to focus on creating exceptional online games for players around the world, and now as a multi-platform gaming company. Yes, that means PlayStation and Xbox, mobile and more!

Columbus Nova is said to provide more resources to the team previously known as Sony Online Entertainment. This will improve upon their existing IPs as they embrace a new multi-platform world that includes the addition of Xbox and mobile games.

Sony Online Entertainment has churned out some intriguing and successful MMO games, with many titles under their belt.  The first-person shooter “PlaneSide“, the hugely successful “EverQuest” role-playing franchise, “DC Universe Online” and the recent zombie-themed “H1Z1”.  There is a possibility that some of these titles make their way to the Xbox platform, specifically H1Z1.

Sony’s financial woes have caused for trimming of the company in order to reach profitability. We have seen the start of this trimming with Sony’s decision to sell-off its PC business last year, along the spinning-off of their TV division. A few weeks ago, Sony’s CEO Kaz Hirai reported that it’s considering even getting out of the smartphone business, which is acknowledgment that the company is in a dire financial situation at the moment.

Sony’s PlayStation 4 is definitely selling extremely well, and is handily outselling its rival Xbox One.  However, everything the company executes with the console is critical, as there isn’t much room for error that could cause financial strain impossible to reverse.  Sony surprised everyone with its success of the PlayStation 4, it would be a shame that the company’s financial troubles destroy the success of this console.

Source: SOE, & John Smedly on Twitter

Microsoft spends big to deliver these two inspiring ads at tonight's Super Bowl


microsoft empowering

Microsoft had a big ad at last year’s Super Bowl, and during tonight’s Super Bowl match between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots it will have two more.  These 68 second ads are surely expensive as a typical 30 second slot is roughly around $4.5 million.

In these new ads, Microsoft continues its theme of “empowering” which it started last year in the ad featuring Steve Gleason, as it showed how its technologies improved his life after he was diagnosed with ALS.

Microsoft’s goal is to show that its technologies matter, as they empower both businesses and people to improve in profound ways.   Additionally, to show the world the new Microsoft, one that’s ready to be loved.

In these ads, American hip hop recording artist Common is narrating passages that were previously delivered by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.  The first ad focuses on Braylon O’Neil, a six-year-old  who was born missing both fibia and tibia bones in both of his legs, and with the help of Microsoft technologies and prosthetic legs, is now able to play sports.

The second is about Estella Pyfrom and her Brilliant Bus which brings technology to kids that need it most.  This mobile learning station serves communities in which kids are under-privileged and gives them an opportunity to learn and better themselves with Microsoft technologies.

Microsoft’s image in the public eye is certainly changing these days, and with these types of ads, along with the direction Satya Nadella is taking the company in, they may benefit greatly as Windows 10 comes along.

Microsoft is showcasing all of its Super Bowl commercials at their new Empowering Site, and these include ads aired at last year’s Super Bowl.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft backs Cyanogen with investment in their attempt to de-stabilize Android


Android was intended to be an “open source” operating system which hardware makers would install on their devices for free. However, Google requires hardware manufacturers to feature Google Apps and set Google as the default search engine in exchange for access to their core services such as YouTube or the millions of apps in the Play Store.

This is something not all Android manufacturers comply with, and the ones that didn’t, represented 37% of all Android shipments worldwide this past quarter. With such requirements from Google, it makes it difficult for Microsoft to be effectively distributing their own apps on the Android platform, as they would always have to be manually searched and downloaded from the Google Play Store while Google’s services are front and centre.

This is where Cyanogen comes in, as it offers an alternate version of Android which is free from such restrictions and is already 50 million users strong. As Cyanogen continues building their own version of Android free of Google’s control, Microsoft intends to support that with roughly $70 million of investment. With Microsoft going the multi-platform route – making their software available on all platforms, it’s exploring any possibilities to reach out to as many potential customers. Cyanogen is considered to be worth somewhere just below $1 billion, which would make Microsoft a minority stake holder.

Cyanogen’s Chief Executive,  Kirt McMaster was just recently quoted as saying “We’re going to take Android away from Google”.

It looks like Microsoft and Cyanogen have the same goal in common, which is destabilizing Android and loosening Google grip on the OS. Microsoft is looking to pre-load their own services in future builds of the Android such as Bing, Nokia’s Here maps, Outlook, Office, Skype and more. Since Cyanogen will not be able to use the Google Play store, Microsoft may be there to lend a helping hand.

Source: WSJ

Minecraft already contributing stacks of cash to Microsoft

minecraft hololens2Microsoft announced its financial results from the second quarter of its 2015 fiscal year just recently and as part of those results, their first-party video game revenue saw an increase of 79% to $171 million compared to the same time last year.  The contributing factors of this increase were “mainly due to sales of Minecraft following the acquisition of Mojang Synergies AB (“Mojang”), and the launches of Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Forza Horizon 2 in the current fiscal year.”

Another interesting tidbit is that Microsoft expects their $2.5 billion acquisition of Mojang last year to “be break-even” in the 2015 fiscal year based on standard accounting principles.

When Microsoft purchased Mojang many people were puzzled as to why Microsoft would be interested in owning Minecraft.  However, after the Windows 10 event and the unveiling of HoloLens, which showed off  how it would take Minecraft to a whole new level of immersion makes this purchase become a lot clearer and one that benefits both Microsoft and the Minecraft audience.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft reports $26.5 billion in revenue for FY15 Q2, here are the highlights

microsoft-headquartersMicrosoft has reported earnings for its second fiscal quarter of 2015 ending on December 31 and has generated a total of $26.5 billion in revenue. This is up compared to the same time last year when the company was able to generate $24.5 billion in revenue.

However, net income was down to $5.86 billion compared the same time last year where it generated $6.55 billion.

These financial results include $243 million of integration and restructuring expenses, or a $0.02 per share negative impact, related to both Microsoft’s restructuring plan announced in July 2014 and the ongoing integration of the Nokia Devices and Services (“NDS”) business.  There is also a $0.04 per share negative impact related to income tax expense resulting from an IRS audit adjustment.

Devices and Consumer revenue grew 8% to $12.9 billion, with the following business highlights:

  • Surface revenue of $1.1 billion, up 24%, driven by Surface Pro 3 and accessories
  • Office 365 Home and Personal subscribers increased to over 9.2 million, up 30% sequentially over prior quarter
  • Search advertising revenue grew 23%, with Bing U.S. market share at 19.7%, up 150 basis points over prior year
  • Xbox console sales totaled 6.6 million units, with strong holiday season performance
  • Phone Hardware revenue of $2.3 billion, with 10.5 million Lumia units sold driven by growth in affordable smartphones
  • Windows OEM Pro revenue declined 13%; revenue was impacted by the business PC market and Pro mix returning to pre-Windows XP end of support levels and by new lower-priced licenses for devices sold to academic customers
  • Windows OEM non-Pro revenue declined 13%, with license growth from opening price point devices

Commercial revenue grew 5% to $13.3 billion, with the following business highlights:

  • Commercial cloud revenue grew 114% driven by Office 365, Azure and Dynamic CRM Online, and is now on an annualized revenue run rate of $5.5 billion
  • Office Commercial products and services revenue declined 1%; transactional revenue was impacted by the continued transition to Office 365 and declines in commercial PCs following the XP refresh cycle
  • Server products and services revenue grew 9%, with double-digit growth of SQL Server and System Center
  • Windows volume licensing revenue increased by 3%, with annuity revenue growth partially offset by declining transactional revenue

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft acquires Israeli machine learning firm Equivio for an unknown sum

dataMicrosoft has just announced its acquisition of text analysis company Equivio for an undisclosed sum.  Equivio is an Israeli-based start-up which uses machine learning to sort large amounts of data into groups, helping large businesses and governments manage and mine data and sensitive documents effectively.  One of their neat uses of machine learning is that their predictive coding software adapts to your inputs helping you find relevant documents, which imitates human intuition.

Equivio has achieved a broad acceptance and is currently used in many large organizations such as NASA, the U.S. department of Defense, the Federal Trade Commission, as well as other government agencies and hundreds of law firms.

Businesses and governments generate enormous amounts of data on a daily basis, and it has been steadily outpacing people’s ability to manage it effectively. Through advanced machine learning techniques, Equivio manages to sift through data intelligently, finding what is relevant to the matter and save both time and money for organizations.

“It uses advanced text analytics to perform multi-dimensional analyses of data collections, intelligently sorting documents into themes, grouping near-duplicates, isolating unique data, and helping users quickly identify the documents they need. As part of this process, users train the system to identify documents relevant to a particular subject, such as a legal case or investigation. This iterative process is more accurate and cost effective than keyword searches and manual review of vast quantities of documents.”

Microsoft already has advanced eDiscovery tools and information governance capabilities in Office 365, but they plan to use Equivio’s machine learning technology to further improve upon their own capabilities.

The software giant is heavily focused on machine learning these days, and in recent years, they’ve made some serious advancements in this field.  Google and Amazon currently have popular tools for managing documents effectively, but Microsoft’s dominant position in business gives them a huge advantage over their competitors when adding new features to their line of business tools.

Source: Microsoft

New chart reveals how much Microsoft charges OEMs for each copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing on tablets

office-for-windows-10-video-demopngFor those of you wondering just how much money Microsoft makes from each copy of Windows 8.1 with Bing, the information has been disclosed thanks to a document published on Microsoft’s OEM Partner Centre site.  This chart reveals the pricing models for each type of Windows 8.1 SKU with Bing, and it shows that Microsoft is indeed giving away its OS for free on Intel tablets smaller than 9 inches.

This has been Microsoft’s plan to combat the Chromebook which has seen sales success due to its very low price-points and good looking hardware, despite it not being a full blown PC and requiring internet connectivity for its core services to function.  Windows 8.1 with Bing is designed to have Bing as the default search engine for any browser, and MSN to be set as the homepage.  Users can easily change the default search engine or homepage on their own afterwards, but OEMs are required to comply with these rules when selling the device. 

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Photo credit: ZDNet

When looking at the chart, it shows that “Windows with Bing” will cost OEMs $10, but looking at the line below it shows a $10 “configuration discount” – which when subtracted makes the OS free to OEMs building tablets smaller than 9 inches. 

Windows 8.1 with Bing on tablets equal to or larger than 10.1 inches costs $25 per copy, but when subtracting the $10 configuration cost it ends up costing OEMs only $15. However, looking at the Windows 8.1 with Bing SKU’s offering with a one year Office 365 personal subscription in the bundle shows that the cost remains the same for OEMs.  This is particularly interesting as this version of the OS is much more lucrative to OEMs – which means that Microsoft is effectively giving a one-year subscription of Office 365 Personal edition away for free on both SKU types.

Windows 10 will likely have a different pricing model, one that may be free in basic form  but would cost OEMs or users more with attached services.  Microsoft will have a big Windows 10 event this Wednesday, and although we doubt they will talk about which attached services will be at extra cost, we may get a rough idea on certain things with some consumer features like Xbox services.

Source: Mary Joe Foley @ ZDNet

Microsoft and PayPal partner on retail payments

paypal hereMicrosoft and PayPal have announced their partnership at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.  With this deal they aim to provide retailers an all-in-one point of sale solution using the PayPal Here app and card reader with a Surface Pro 3.  PayPal Here will also be available on Windows Phone and will  use a triangular dongle through the phone’s 3.5mm headphone jack in order to read credit cards.

PayPal Here will be available to download from the Windows Stores in the next few months.  In addition, later this year Microsoft retail stores and select partner retail locations will begin to sell the complete point-of-sale (POS) solution which includes a Surface, the PayPal Here app and card reader.

Perhaps the major advantage of using the Surface Pro 3 for POS is that it eliminates the need for two devices, which businesses usually rely on.  Typically they would use a tablet with a card reader for these types of transactions, and a PC for inventory, accounting and customer information. Surface Pro 3 completes the job of both device types and has an actual Pen which is a much more professional way to sign a screen than your finger.

Microsoft has prepared a video showcasing what using the Surface Pro 3 and Lumia devices as POS would be like.