Microsoft is Under the Antitrust Microscope in China

Apparently, China has “major issues” it wants Microsoft to explain…

chinese-flagIn July of 2014, China raided Microsoft’s local offices and confiscated a lot of data as part of an antitrust investigation. On 2016-01-05, Chinese regulators demanded that Microsoft explain “major issues it discovered with that data”. This was the first time in over a year that China gave any indication that their antitrust investigation would be moving forward.

Microsoft has publicly stated that it is “serious” about complying with Chinese law and to addressing SAIC’s (China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce) concerns.

At the beginning of the investigation, China said it was interested in information on how both Windows and Office were bundled, about compatibility between the two and other unnamed concerns.

China’s most recent demands haven’t been clarified or spelled out, but SAIC has asked Microsoft to submit their “defense in a timely manner.”

God knows what they need to defend, or what Microsoft needs to respond to.

Some are speculating that this is retaliation due to Microsoft retiring Windows XP and discontinuing support for it to any and all customers – including the Chinese government and its citizens. China had asked Microsoft to extend XP’s lifespan. Microsoft refused. China said, “pretty please;” and Microsoft STILL said no. China has banned the use of Windows 8 on any government computers.

Microsoft is heavily pushing the adoption of Windows 10 around the world, and China is no exception to this marketing strategy. A short while ago, as of this writing, Microsoft expanded a partnership with one of China’s largest defense firms where it would license Windows 10 to government agencies and some state owned corporations in the energy, telecommunications and transportation industries.

While this is a serious issue, and while Microsoft is giving this issue the appropriate level of priority, it seems as though Microsoft could make all of this go away if they simply provided continued Windows XP support to the Chinese government.

I’m pretty certain, however, that capitulation isn’t a consideration for Microsoft, for a number of different reasons, the most important being

  1. Microsoft isn’t providing preferred XP support to anyone
  2. Microsoft is pushing the world’s Windows users to Windows 10
  3. Windows XP has been heavily pirated in China

Given all of this – and especially the last two points – Microsoft doesn’t really have any incentive TO capitulate. I know I wouldn’t want to if I were Satya Nadella.

Until SAIC can specify what they want Microsoft to respond to, I’m not certain how anyone would reasonably respond to this – in a timely manner or not.

What do you think? Is China’s SAIC just ticked off that their XP PC’s are unsupported? Does Microsoft have anything tangible to worry about in China? What do you think the final outcome will be?

Why don’t you meet me in the discussion area below and let me know what you think?

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Microsoft Wants You…

To help it kill Windows XP as part of the XP Army

winaccess denied2014-02-07 marks 60 days until support for Windows XP will officially die. After that, its malware defs only until that finally craps out sometime next year. After  2014-04-08, everyone running XP will be a target for hackers everywhere.

Oh, goody.

So, what’s a techie to do?   Easy… help Microsoft prevent the PC apocalypse by getting friends and family everywhere to upgrade to a different version of Windows – preferably Windows 8.x – ASAP.

Effectively, as suggested by Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc, you need to find a PC buddy, and if they’re running XP, get them to upgrade or help them purchase a new PC.

Wait… What?!

Don’t get me wrong. I am all about helping friends and loved ones. I really am…but when most people are so poor, they can’t afford to pay attention, let alone help someone pay for a new PC.   What’s more upsetting, is that neither Microsoft nor LeBlanc are offering any kind of price breaks on either Windows 7 or Windows 8.x or on new hardware.   While no one at Microsoft actually came out and said, “give your friends and family money so they can upgrade their rig,” the point was clearly taken.   They want everyone moving to Windows 8.x ASAP.

While Windows 8 was dirt cheap for a   while after its initial release on October 2012, it jacked the price back up to $120 bucks for the consumer version and $200 bucks for the enterprise version.   Microsoft also killed Windows 7 during this time, so you have no choice but to move to Windows 8.x at this point, whether you want to or not, whether you like it or not.

Everyone – from OEM’s, to security experts to tech enthusiasts, experts and journalists as well as the consumer community – has been pushing Microsoft to offer a (permanently) affordable SKU of Windows 8.x.   If they want the world off of XP, they need to make it super easy and silly not up upgrade immediately.

If this whole thing isn’t a stick in the eye from Microsoft, I really don’t know what is. While I don’t have any PC’s that run XP, either in physical or VM form, at home or at work, I know many people still do.   Its likely the 3rd  party development community will continue to support XP for a while until all of their customers upgrade, which may or may not happen any time soon.

I think the biggest scenario I’m afraid of, is someone who paid, like, $2500 for their XP computer, who refuses to upgrade, because their determined to get their money’s worth, and they get a huge virus that empties their bank accounts and files a civil suite against the Redmond software company; or worse yet, replace the consumer with a bank (many ATM’s run on Windows XP), and have the same thing happen. That could get ugly.

What do you think? Are you still using Windows XP?   Does anyone in your family? Will you buy an upgrade to the OS, or will you buy a new computer, if you upgrade at all?   I’d love to hear what you think of this situation, as well as what might happen  61 days from now in the comments section below.

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(Son of) The Operating System that Wouldn’t Die

Microsoft extends security update support for Windows XP for an additional 15 months.

securityI’m not surprised, but in a way, I kinda am. It’s like a “B” horror movie from the 1950’s. Windows XP is an operating system that Microsoft desperately wants to kill, but the darn thing just won’t stay dead.

Microsoft announced today that due to customer concerns, it will further extend security update support for Windows XP by an additional 15 months. The new, new end of support/ end of life date for Windows XP is now  2015-07-14.

Its currently estimated that even by THAT time, 10% of all PC’s in medium to large businesses will still be running Windows XP. Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for its anti-malware and security products – System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune running on Windows XP as well as for Microsoft Security Essentials.

Users will need to insure that their PC’s remain secure after the  2015-07-14  deadline. That may involve a platform change. That may involve a hardware change. It likely will involve both at this point, if PC’s that fall within this category are intended to remain on main network lines within the organization.

To further help protect these machines that will live in a perpetual Zero-Day threat status after support ends, Microsoft and analysis firm Gartner recommend that IT departments segregate their XP-based PC’s onto a private network. This additional insulation will limit external exposure and prevent XP machines from becoming infected on the wider, more accessible, corporate network.

For Microsoft, the challenge is not continuing support, but helping their channel and other partners move up to more current versions of Windows. Windows XP was never meant to last for 15 years.   Windows 7 – the likely landing spot for those still running XP at this time – will be 6 years old at that time, and likely two or more whole versions back from the current version of Windows (anticipated to be Windows 9). While IT departments do need to just get over it and spend the money required to update their infrastructures, middleware and end points, shareholders need to understand the costs involved and not freak out when their profit margins flatten out due to increased operational charges. It’s at this point that Microsoft’s newest organizational structure and focus could be of help.   If Windows 9 does end up being free, AND if it runs on legacy equipment, it may be a lot easier to afford the required upgrades.

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What you Should Do if You (Still) Run Windows XP

Just an FYI – Microsoft is officially ending support on 2014-04-08…

gravestoneI’ve skirted around this issue a couple different times.  However, if you’re a consumer and you’re still using Windows XP, you have just a little bit of time to figure out what you want to do. Around Tax Time next year, the 15 year party comes to a close.

So, what should you do?  Great question. My good friend, and former Editorial Director of BYTE, Larry Seltzer wrote an interesting article on this today. It’s funny, because I had the same questions poised to me by an aunt who isn’t very computer savvy. She asked pretty much the same question Larry’s relative asked –

Why should I upgrade a computer that’s working just fine?

Let’s look at that quickly, and then look at what you can do.

Why You Should Upgrade from Windows XP

The simple and short answer is for security purposes.

Windows XP has been around since 1999. That’s almost 15 years by the time Microsoft officially stops supporting it via Windows Update.  As an operating system, it’s an extremely well known quantity and most of its flaws and problems are very well known.

Microsoft has been issuing security patches for it (and older versions of Internet Explorer – IE 9 and older) for a very long time. If you’re still using Windows XP because its ok, doing what it’s supposed to be doing and you’re just not a person who wants to update your computer’s operating system, I understand.  I understand completely.  However, as my Nana used to say – “the party’s over…”

Malware developers (or hackers) are going to be hoping you just don’t upgrade. They’re banking on you hating the idea of upgrading an existing computer to Windows 7 or Windows 8.x SO much, that you stay on Windows XP.  At that point, after 2013-04-08, they’re going to start hitting websites and perhaps your mail server or your PC directly with Phishing attacks, Zero Day exploits and other malware so they can steal personal and private information that either contains financial information or will lead them to it.

Make no mistake, there are criminals everywhere on the planet who WILL try this, and keeping your computer on Windows XP isn’t just you laughing in the face of danger, it’s you begging to be hacked.  In many cases, people don’t know they’re being infected with a virus or other malware. Its only AFTER the infection has set in – after the damage is done – that they see the problems.

So, get used to the idea.  You have 7 months as of this writing to figure out what you want to do.  Once you make the decision to bite the bullet, you have a couple of options.

What you Should Do

This is a GREAT question and it’s a great question to ask now – at this time of year – because there are a number of options open to consumers.  You have back to school sales as well as the upcoming 2013 Holiday Season sales to look forward to, to help you out.  It also gives you some time to get comfortable with the decision.

So basically, you have 2 choices –

  • Upgrade your Existing PC
  • Purchase a New PC

Let’s take a quick look at both. There are Pros and Cons to both scenarios.

Upgrade Your Existing PC


  • (May be More) Cost Effective
  • (Probably) No Additional Hardware Required


  • No direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7
  • Must Wipe and clean install for direct to Windows 7
  • Additional software upgrades may be required
  • Windows XP PC’s may not work well with Windows 8 (a clean install is still required)

In many cases, upgrading is always the cheaper route, but in this case, it may not be. There’s no direct upgrade path from Window XP to Windows 7. In order to keep all of your programs installed and on your computer without reinstalling them, you have to upgrade to Windows Vista first. The bad thing with that is you have to buy a license for Vista (which wasn’t cheap) in order to keep all your apps installed.

Upgrading directly to Windows 7 from Windows XP requires a clean install. That means you have to reinstall all of your software from scratch after the OS install completes. That’s a lot more work and that’s if you can find the install media, download links or registration codes for your apps.  After 15 years, that may be a problem.  You may find you need to contact the software provider and request a replacement code or you may have to purchase a new license.

In short, upgrading to Windows 7 from Windows XP can be a hot mess, and may be more problematic than it’s worth, if you’re not savvy enough to jump through all the hoops.

Purchase a New PC


  • Cleaner
  • Easier for non-technical users


  • More expensive
  • Windows 7 may not be an available OS option at time of PC purchase
  • Windows 8 is drastically different than Windows 7 & is not optimal for non-touch enabled PC’s

Purchasing a new PC is always more expensive, and learning how to use new hardware can present a number of unknown challenges. However, if you’re not up to switching from XP to Windows 7 (Vista isn’t sold any more), this is the easiest way to go.

The biggest thing you have to consider here is if purchasing a touch enabled PC (either Win8 tablet or touch enabled desktop) is what you want to do. In many cases, depending on the vendor, you may be able to order a PC with Windows 7 on it, or request it from the provider to replace Windows 8.
At the end of the day, if you’re still using XP, it’s time to change. You have a few months to get used to the idea, but you need to make that upgrade or purchase choice, very, very soon.

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Microsoft Returns the Simple to Windows 8 Editions

Microsoft has announced how it will release  Windows 8 in three different editions, two of which should be right for most.

Microsoft has always taken an unusual stance when it comes to how to distinguish between the different versions of Windows. Barring special editions that were released as a result of litigation or court proceedings, such as Windows XP Starter Edition for developing markets or Windows XP Edition N, Microsoft made it easy for most of us with just two versions of Windows XP – Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional. It really doesn’t get much simpler than that.

Microsoft released Windows Vista with a bit more diversity.  Vista came in five different editions – Home Basic, Home Premium, Ultimate, Business and Enterprise.  Windows 7 was similar with Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise and Ultimate. Microsoft is taking a “Windows XP Editions” approach with Windows 8.  There will be two – Windows 8 and Windows 8 Professional.  Windows 8 is the edition that most everyone will use. It replaces Windows 7 Home Premium and includes the ability to switch languages on the fly, which was previously only available in Windows 7 Enterprise or Ultimate.

BitLocker and Encrypting File System support are part of Windows 8 Professional. It also has client Hyper-V virtualization and can boot from a virtual hard drive (VHD).  Windows 8 Professional is the edition you’re most likely to see in the enterprise, as it also allows you to join a Windows domain, contains support for group policies and has Remote Desktop host.  Currently, these features are only available in Windows 7 Ultimate or Enterprise.

Both Windows 8 editions will be installed at the factory, and will be sold at retail locations. They will be the only editions available to the consumer.  Microsoft also plans on releasing Windows 8 Enterprise; but it will only be available to corporate customers with a Software Assurance agreement.

Windows on ARM, or WOA, has been rebranded as Windows RT. It does not come with the Microsoft Windows 8 brand, even though it has a similar feature set and the Windows 8 code-base. It will only be installed on ARM-based computing devices at the factory. It will not be available for purchase in any retail or corporate channel. Pricing for all Windows 8 editions is still unknown.

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Windows 8 Part 1 – Repeating Windows 7 Success

The Windows 8 Consumer Preview (or Beta) is due out on 29-Feb-12 at Mobile World Congress. While it may be strategically important to Microsoft, consumers may not thing so.

I’ve been part of nearly every Windows Technical Beta Team since Windows 95. I’m used to being one of Microsoft’s go-to external testers. I also was part of their Windows 7 Launch, as I was chosen in 2009 to host a Windows 7 Launch Party at my home. I covered the event for a local paper as well, and spun off into a print column for them called, “Technically Speaking.” At the time of its release, Windows 7 was the right operating system for Microsoft’s ailing desktop operating system business – It provided enough of a reason to compel enterprise users to move away from Windows XP, and wasn’t the consumer-worrying, performance deprived, hardware consuming mess that Windows Vista was.

With the release of Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to address two big issues.

1. Repeat the Windows 7 success
2. Address the tablet trend

In this two part series, we’re going to look at both of these issues and try to make sense of it all.

Windows 7 vs. Windows 8 – Repeat the Success

There are a couple basic reasons why Windows 7 was so successful, and both of them are operating system related. Interestingly enough, both reasons have nothing do to with Windows 7.

Windows 7 wasn’t Windows XP

Windows 7 owes a lot of its past and current success to Windows XP. WinXP was released over 11 years ago. It stuck around in the enterprise for so long because it was solid. Even though it still has a number security issues, it’s still a huge player in the enterprise space because of XP’s longevity and familiarity with IT support staff. Simply put, they’ve been working with it for so long, they’re familiar with the pain it causes, know where the problems are, and know how to deal with them.

However, its time has come and gone. Many companies that are still running the aged OS are in the process of phasing it out of the enterprise and are making in the process of drafting or implementing approved Windows 7 migration plans. IT support staff members feel confident that their users will be able to effectively make the transition without too many use or support issues. It’s enough like XP that users will be able to make a smooth transition, and improved enough that the support issues encountered with XP have been successfully and effectively addressed. Microsoft had also clearly made its plans for sun setting the OS widely known.

Simply put, Windows 7 was a success because the need for an XP replacement was clear. XP needed a replacement and the enterprise and consumer public was more than ready for it.

Windows 7 Clearly was NOT Windows Vista

One of the biggest reasons why Windows 7 was such a success was that it clearly was NOT Windows Vista. While Vista may have introduced a new interface, desktop theme and new technology, it unfortunately came with a lot of problems.

Microsoft moved everything. Windows XP users moving to Vista had a huge problem using the OS. Many of the features and functions that they were used to going to in location X were now located in location Z (location “Y” would have made sense, but MS seemed to randomly move things to new locations that only THEY understood the reasoning behind…).

Vista was late to market. The OS, originally code named Longhorn, was well over 7 years late being released. Worse yet, it was riddled with performance issues. Correcting them was easy and after SP1 was released, it actually wasn’t a bad OS.

Its problems were marketing in and PR-based. Windows 7 didn’t have a hard time being a success. In fact, based on Vista’s bad PR and XP’s overly long longevity, Windows 7 couldn’t have been much else other than a success. Microsoft did what it needed to do to address some interface and user experience issues, further improved the underlying performance and put some marketing money behind the release. The result was instant success.

Come back next time, and we’ll address some items in the Windows 8 Developer’s Preview and what’s supposed to be happening with the Consumer Preview to address the increasing popularity of tablets at both home and at work.

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Last week’s highlights #3

It’s Monday and time to recap the highlights from the last week:

Safari for Mac and PC: fast and elegant

While Internet Explorer may hold the top browsing seat in the Windows environment, it’s not the only browser choice available.  The browser wars may or may not be over, and choices now abound. If you’re looking for an alternative for your Windows platform, or have made a switch to OS X, then you’re going to want to take a look at Apple’s Safari browser. It’s one of the best browsers around, and like most, it’s free.

Safari is a great browsing alternative, and offers a great deal of features and functionality. The only down side that I’ve seen is that not all features are available to Windows users, though it is the default browser on all Apple Mac systems. On the Windows side, its security features and speed make it a worthy choice in replacement, or in addition to, any other browser you may currently use.

Download Safari for Windows | Download Safari for Mac

Internet Explorer drops below 50% of web usage

Even by the most generous estimates, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is used by barely 50% of Internet users worldwide, meaning that we are approaching or even past the point where most people aren’t using the browser. It’s been a shocking decline from the mid-1990s when as many as 95% of people were on IE. But the big story now isn’t Microsoft’s losses, but rather that it’s Google picking up much of the slack.

It’s important to note that the methods used to create browser market share figures vary from source to source. Most involve using website traffic logs which record the browser used by each visitor to a site. Some of the leading market share figure reports come from web analysis companies who get data from hundreds of thousands of clients, making a reasonably representative sample of the entire web, but this can vary. Still, even while the figures vary (and most sources already have Microsoft below 50%), the pattern is consistent

Microsoft XBOX 360 Kinect is 1 year old

Microsoft’s Kinect system was designed simply to be a way for the Xbox 360 games console to compete with the Nintendo Wii for a family audience. But one year on it is among the fastest selling consumer gadgets ever as well as being adapted for a wide range of non-gaming uses.Kinect, originally known as Project Natal, came about after Nintendo revolutionized the gaming industry with its Wii motion control system that brought a whole new meaning to “pick up and play.” Suddenly TV news reports on gaming were no longer of stereotypical greasy-haired teen loners mastering intricate control systems: instead we had families playing together and even nursing home boxing contests.

10 years of Windows XP

It has now been a decade since Windows XP revolutionised the world of computers and on October 25 of this year the world’s most popular operating system turned ten years of age. Although the world has been flooded with wave after wave of new technology since the initial launch of Windows XP, the simple fact remains that Microsoft’s most successful and longest lasting operating system is not going anywhere, anytime soon. It is still the computer software of choice amongst millions of people and companies worldwide, and despite the hype and marketing surrounding Windows 7, Windows XP will still be used by many of us another ten years from now.
Let’s take a look at the beginnings of Windows XP, why it became so immensely popular, and why only a fool would bet against it still ruling the roost by the time it turns 20.

Nexus Prime – First Ice Cream Sandwich Smartphone

The Galaxy Nexus had the working title of Nexus Prime, taken from a backstory for the Transformers movie series. It’s an appropriate name as Google is hoping the device will continue to help Android transforming the smartphone market. The Nexus is produced by Samsung but will be specifically marketed by Google itself, following on from the Nexus One and Nexus S.

One of the key elements of the Galaxy Nexus is that it will be the first commercial phone to run Android 4.0, the latest edition of Google’s mobile operating system, with the odd marketing name of Ice Cream Sandwich (previous updates included Cupcake, Eclair, Gingerbread and Honeycomb.)


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10 years of Windows XP

It has now been a decade since Windows XP revolutionised the world of computers and on October 25 of this year the world’s most popular operating system turned ten years of age. Although the world has been flooded with wave after wave of new technology since the initial launch of Windows XP, the simple fact remains that Microsoft’s most successful and longest lasting operating system is not going anywhere, anytime soon. It is still the computer software of choice amongst millions of people and companies worldwide, and despite the hype and marketing surrounding Windows 7, Windows XP will still be used by many of us another ten years from now.
Let’s take a look at the beginnings of Windows XP, why it became so immensely popular, and why only a fool would bet against it still ruling the roost by the time it turns 20.

A Star is Born

Initially, sales were slow for Windows XP when it first hit the high-street and was introduced around the globe in 25 different languages. For example, in the United States only 260,00 copies were sold during the first three days. However, with little steps epic journeys begin and when system vendors began selling computers with Windows XP pre-installed it took off in a big, big way.

The Rise and Rise of Windows XP

The XP in Windows XP stands for experience, and Microsoft’s ambition was to have one codebase covering everything from consumers to corporate desktops. By 2006, Windows XP was being used by 400 million computers worldwide. With its user friendly interface and options to personally adapt and customise, Windows XP was hailed as one of the most reliable operating systems ever released. Reviewers lined up to write line after gushing line about its gorgeous design and innovative features and called it a marvel of conception. In short, nothing it seemed could come close to Windows XP.

The Champ’s Title Defence

Windows XP’s successor, Windows Vista was launched at the beginning of 2006, but it was widely rejected by the growing legion of XP adherents. Vista never caught the imagination of the public of businesses due to bugs and poor hardware driver support. Consequently Windows XP still reigned supreme, and despite announcing it was discontinuing the sale of Windows XP several times, Microsoft only stopped the line on June 30, 2008. Extended support for XP users is still available until April 8, 2014.

If it isn’t broke don’t fix it

Windows 7 was released in 2009 and according to recent statistics, Windows XP is just starting to lose its grip among PC users. Yet estimates show that XP still has a hold of 48% on the Windows market, which is far more than Vista ever did, after peaking with 28% in October, 2009. Businesses especially are reluctant to part with a tried and tested model they have used for the last ten years in favour of a major upgrade they feel they do not need – despite Microsoft’s urgings to the contrary. With Windows 8 on the horizon, many feel XP will shortly expire, but ten years from now you can bet your bottom dollar there’ll still be a large number of PCs worldwide operating through Windows XP, because if it isn’t broke there’s no need to fix it.

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