Microsoft: Government’s data gag order practices worse than first thought

Microsoft has significantly upped the tally of U.S. government gag orders slapped on demands for customer information, according to court documents filed last week.

In a revised complaint submitted to a Seattle federal court last Friday, Microsoft said that more than half of all government data demands were bound by a secrecy order that prevented the company from telling customers of its cloud-based services that authorities had asked it to hand over their information.

The original complaint — the first round in a lawsuit Microsoft filed in April against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Attorney General Loretta Lynch — had pegged the number of data demands during the past 18 months at 5,624. Of those, 2,576, or 46%, were tagged with secrecy orders that prevented Microsoft from telling customers it had been compelled to give up their information.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella follows Apple’s Tim Cook to India

Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella is visiting India, reflecting the growing importance of the country as a market for multinational technology companies. Nadella’s visit follows the first visit to India by Apple CEO Tim Cook, who visited the country this month to drum up support for the company’s plans to offer refurbished iPhones in the price-sensitive […]


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Pivotal raises $253M led by Ford, Microsoft

Pivotal, the platform as a service company spun out from VMware and EMC three years ago, today announced plans to close a series C financing round worth $ 253 million led by Ford, Microsoft and its existing investors GE and its two parent companies.

Pivotal is one of the leading vendors behind the Cloud Foundry PaaS, the commercialized version of the open source project. Cloud Foundry provides an environment for developers to build applications; it provisions the infrastructure needed to run and scale them.

Perhaps most interesting about the announcement are the new investors: Ford and Microsoft. Ford follows GE as an investor in the company, indicating its heavy use of CF and its desire to ensure the company’s future viability and success. Ford last week launched FordPass, a consumer platform that the company says was built with Pivotal.

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Network World Cloud Computing


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At Build, Microsoft tried a different way to mobile developers’ hearts

At its Build developer conference last week, Microsoft showed how it plans to stay relevant in the mobile computing market without a popular mobile OS.

Microsoft’s plan isn’t so much to rely on developers building applications for Windows 10 Mobile, but rather to create tools to help them build apps on any OS and hope this trickles down to help Microsoft as a whole.

One key move in this regard is releasing Xamarin’s tools to developers for free. Xamarin, which Microsoft acquired a few weeks ago, lets developers create apps for iOS and Android using C#, a programming language that Microsoft originated.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead said in an interview that Microsoft’s Xamarin announcement would be huge news for enterprises, which would benefit immensely from the ability to write in one language and deploy across three different platforms.

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Microsoft unveils Graph improvements, Office for Mac add-ins, new Skype SDKs, and Office 365 connectors

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At its Build 2016 developer conference in San Francisco today, Microsoft announced three improvements that help developers leverage Microsoft Office. Qi Lu, executive vice president at Microsoft, took the stage to show off what’s new with Microsoft Graph, Office for Mac 2016, Skype, and Office 365.

In November 2015, Microsoft launched the Microsoft Graph, which gives applications access to digital work and digital life data across the Microsoft cloud. Put another way, the company opened the door for developers to leverage data, intelligence, and APIs with a single authorization token in their own apps.

Today, the Microsoft Graph expanded to include a user’s out-of-office status, recent email attachments, as well as new APIs that return “relevant documents” and suggestions for meeting times based on real-time calendar availability. Applications that consume Office data will also be more responsive, Microsoft promises, as they can now get notifications through Microsoft Graph for changes to users’ email, calendar, and contacts.

On stage, DocuSign was demoed to show how users can pick files directly from their OneDrive account, search for signatories from their contacts and colleagues by expertise or phonetic name matches, and be notified when a colleague they are emailing a document to is out of the office. Zapier meanwhile was showed off using the Excel REST API to interact with a file sitting in OneDrive for Business and add data to an Excel spreadsheet.

Next, Microsoft announced add-ins are coming to Office 2016 for Mac “later this spring.” The company also promised centralized deployment and programmatic creation of ribbons and buttons.

Three examples were given Starbucks is developing an Outlook add-in that allows people to send gift cards within Outlook, schedule meetings at nearby Starbucks locations, and eventually even arrange for coffee delivery. Baydin has built a Boomerang add-in with custom ribbon buttons for email productivity tools inside Outlook and the officeatwork Document Wizard add-in offers data-driven Word templates.

Last but not least, Microsoft unveiled the new Skype Web SDK, Skype for Business App SDK, and Office 365 group connectors. The first two allow companies combine “cloud voice, meetings, and messaging” in their apps across a range of web and device platforms.

Office 365 group connectors allow developers to push data from their own services into an Office 365 group conversation in Outlook. Microsoft also announced that Office 365 Connectors will be coming to the Outlook Inbox “soon.”

Out of all of the above, add-ins are probably the easiest to grasp. It remains to be seen which ones developers race to implement though, as Microsoft is clearly still at the stage of trying to figure out how best to reach its 1.2 billion Office users.


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Microsoft Edge gets its first browser extensions

Microsoft Edge
Microsoft is making good on its promise to bring support for extensions to its Edge browser. The latest preview build includes this capability and Windows Insider testers can try it now. Edge currently supports three extensions: Microsoft Translator, which automatically translates pages in over 50 different languages, an early version of Reddit Enhancement Suite which adds useful features for browsing the site, as well as one to recognize mouse gestures for things like switching tabs. The company says that other extensions from the likes of Adblock Plus, Amazon, LastPass and Evernote will become available later this year. These extensions currently…

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Microsoft Targets The Luxury Smartphone Market With Premium Priced Lumia

Microsoft is set to engage with the smartphone marketplace with two new Windows-powered Lumia devices. The upcoming handsets should be totemic devices for Redmond and have been priced accordingly. The time for chasing the low-end budget market is over. With cloud services looking to be the new lifeblood of the company, the Lumia devices have a stronger role to play in branding and self-confidence than simply shifting boxes.


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Microsoft cuts deals in China with government organizations and companies

Microsoft announced three new tie-ups in China on the same day that the country’s President Xi Jinping and a delegation visited its campus at Redmond, Washington.

The seven deals with Chinese companies and government institutions will likely give Microsoft greater access to the country’s large market. Other companies like Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard have also announced ties with Chinese companies, a market that has been proving complex for U.S. companies because of the strong backing of the government for local players.

Microsoft, for example, announced an agreement with its cloud partner in Beijing, 21Vianet, and IT company Unisplendour to provide custom hybrid cloud solutions and services to Chinese customers, particularly state-owned enterprises.

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Microsoft pact makes Baidu the Edge browser’s default search engine in China

Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 6.58.05 PM
Microsoft has announced a new partnership with Baidu, the hugely popular Chinese search engine. In China, Baidu.com will be the default home page and search engine for the new Microsoft Edge browser. Additionally, Baidu will deliver Universal Windows Applications for search, video, cloud and maps for Windows 10. The company plans to deliver a customized experience for Baidu’s more than 600 million users, featuring local browsing and search. Microsoft will make it easy for customers to upgrade to the official Windows 10 via a Baidu “Windows 10 Express” distribution channel. Microsoft isn’t abandoning Bing in China in its support for Baidu. According to Yusuf…

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Microsoft cuts deals in China with government organizations and companies

Microsoft announced three new tie-ups in China on the same day that the country’s President Xi Jinping and a delegation visited its campus at Redmond, Washington.

The seven deals with Chinese companies and government institutions will likely give Microsoft greater access to the country’s large market. Other companies like Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard have also announced ties with Chinese companies, a market that has been proving complex for U.S. companies because of the strong backing of the government for local players.

Microsoft, for example, announced an agreement with its cloud partner in Beijing, 21Vianet, and IT company Unisplendour to provide custom hybrid cloud solutions and services to Chinese customers, particularly state-owned enterprises.

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Work collaboration platform Teambition raises $12M to take on Microsoft 365

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Shanghai-based workplace collaboration platform Teambition announced this week that it has raised $ 12 million in Series B funding from investors including NLVC, IDG, Vangoo Capital, and Gobi Partners.

Teambition is an online platform that allows for workplace collaboration on things like events, tasks, posts, and cloud-based file libraries. Immediate comparisons that come to mind include Planner, Asana, Basecamp, Wunderlist, Trello, Slack, Jive, Dropbox, Google for Work, and even Microsoft 365.

This Series B round brings Teambition’s total funding to date to $ 17 million — it previously raised a $ 5 million Series A in December last year, and was, ironically, a 2013 graduate of Microsoft Ventures Accelerator program in Beijing. The company declined to comment on valuation.

The money will be used to further build out its existing freemium model, expand sales efforts, diversify the team, and hire more global talent from outside China. It also plans to adapt and customize the product “to what specific industries need to collaborate.”

Qi Junyuan

Above: Qi Junyuan

Teambition’s chief executive, Junyuan Qi, a 2012 graduate in management information systems from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, told VentureBeat he is confident of strong traction in China going forward, but is also looking to grow internationally.

To that end, the company recently hired Paris-based Florian Monfort to head up international growth. Monfort, who has experience at companies like Dropbox and LibreOffice, will be moving to Shanghai in the coming weeks.

From VentureBeat

Location, location, location — Not using geolocation to reach your mobile customers? Your competitors are. Find out what you’re missing.

“If you think about services available on the Market today, they are mostly separate and/or bundled,” Monfort told VentureBeat. “This is as close as we get to any form of integration and interaction between each collaboration function.”

“We tackle this by creating an application that has the primary features those services provides, all integrated into one app. This means one account that everybody can use without having to jump between services and apps all the time,” he added.

Teambition is available on both Android and iOS, but also Mac and Windows. Here’s a further breakdown of some of the key functionality it offers, as laid out in the product description:

Tasks — On Task Board, you can share project progress with your colleagues straightforwardly, break tasks down to sub-tasks, add attachments and deadline. And all of these can be discussed in real-time .

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Posts — You can share your ideas and knowledge with other members on Post Wall. All the posts are editable, and all the involved members will be noticed when the posts are updated. We also provide a Chrome add-on to help you sharing posts easier.

File library — As convenient as Dropbox, File Library is where to share documents with your colleagues and keep them updated. Each shared document can be discussed specifically. And best of all, Teambition File Library offers unlimited storage.

Events — Arrange a meeting and invite members to participate, and start online discussion on Teambition Events. We offer a subscription link which you can subscribe to your calendar app.

But to gain popularity and grow beyond China — clearly something that is playing on the company’s mind, now more than ever — it will need to persuade both free and paying users that it can be trusted with their data. As of now, all of its servers are still based inside mainland China, and that might not sit comfortably with everyone.

Monfort offers an example of how a developer who’s doing some programming based on a task on the platform may benefit.

“The task has some content linked to it: a design file, a post, and an event,” he said. “We let people link content, not only files. People can link to a task Teambition posts, events, or other tasks. Now, every time the designer will change the mock-ups, the developer will receive a notification in this task saying something has been updated.”

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 17.09.20“This means at the end of the day, everybody works on the same content and items, in the search for a precise goal defined by the project itself. No need for extra services, everything you need is in there. We also put an extreme emphasis on mobile. Being China based, we evolve in a market where mobile and apps dominate,” he added.

In its home market, the company faces the strongest competition in its space from local players, including Worktile, Tower, and Mingdao. As of now, the only number it’s sharing is users, which stand at 500,000, as of August. It declined to comment on revenue or China market share.

Ultimately, Teambition sees Microsoft 365 as its single biggest competitor globally — Monfort believes the Redmond-based giant has moved forward by leaps and bounds on the productivity front under Satya Nadella’s leadership.

“This has made it a bit more difficult today, though I also believe that our value proposition sets us apart enough that we can feed on different pies,” he concluded.

Bringing in more integration with existing players is something that the company may consider going forward, but for now it wants to focus on creating a solid user experience — and not risk sacrificing that by stretching its “limited resources” too thin.

If you’re a China tech watcher, these guys are probably worth keeping on your radar.


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Apple drops iCloud prices, matches rival storage services from Google and Microsoft

For the second year in a row, Apple reduced prices for its expanded iCloud storage plans, putting costs in line with rivals like Google, Microsoft and Dropbox.

Apple announced changes to iCloud extra storage pricing earlier this month at the event where it unveiled new iPhones, the larger iPad Pro and a revamped Apple TV.

Although the Cupertino, Calif., company did not boost the amount of free storage space — as Computerworld speculated it might — and instead continued to provide just 5GB of iCloud space gratis, it bumped up the $ 0.99 per month plan from 20GB to 50GB, lowered the price of the 200GB plan by 25 percent to $ 2.99 monthly, and halved the 1TB plan’s price to $ 9.99.

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InfoWorld Cloud Computing


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Microsoft launches meeting app Invite for iPhone, coming soon to Android and Windows Phone

One of the meeting rooms at Communitech, a startup mecca in Waterloo, Ontario. Google also has 200 employees here.

Microsoft today launched a new standalone app for scheduling meetings called Invite. Available only for iPhone users in the U.S. and Canada for now, you can download Invite now directly from Apple’s App Store.

Here is how it works. First you suggest times that work for you, and then invite attendees to vote. You can send invites to anyone with an email address — even if they are outside your organization. The recipients select all the times they can attend from the app itself or from a browser, once votes are in, you pick the time that works best.

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The best part is that anyone invited can see what options work best for other attendees, and suggest their own times as well. The sender chooses a final date and time whenever they’re ready, hitting Send Calendar Invites to get it on everyone’s calendars.

Here is how Microsoft explains its thinking behind the app:

Invite is designed to overcome the biggest obstacle when scheduling meetings — not being able to see the calendars of attendees outside your organization. As a result, your proposed meeting can be repeatedly declined until you find a time that works.

From VentureBeat

Location, location, location — Not using geolocation to reach your mobile customers? Your competitors are. Find out what you’re missing.

Certain events and meetings can be moved if something more important comes up, but only each person knows best where they are flexible. By letting attendees pick times that work for them, even when it means moving one of their own meetings, can stop that meeting from being scheduled on a Friday evening.

Invite is mainly designed for users with Office 365 business and school accounts. That said, the app also works with any email account, including Outlook.com, Gmail, and Yahoo Mail.

The app’s launch and limitations are very similar to Microsoft’s Send, a lightweight email app that debuted in July. Like Send, Invite is starting out as iPhone-only, available only in two countries, and with the promise of “coming soon” to Android and Windows Phone.

Invite is the latest in a long line of apps to emerge from Microsoft Garage, the software giant’s lab for experimental tinkering. At this rate, Microsoft will soon have more experimental apps than “final” apps.

And that’s okay, as long as some of them are eventually released or integrated into existing products.

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Microsoft will bring BitLocker and Secure Boot to Windows 10 IoT Core

Raspberry Pi

Microsoft is beefing up the security capability of Windows 10 IoT Core, the compact version of Windows intended for Internet-connected devices. Microsoft’s BitLocker data encryption technology and its Secure Boot system for only supporting trusted software will both appear in in an upcoming release of the operating system, Microsoft announced today.

“By building this into IoT Core you can get these highly valuable security features without needing to build your own implementations meaning you can get your project done faster and still be more secure,” Steve Teixeira, director of program Management for the Internet of Things team in Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, wrote in a blog post.

The build packing BitLocker and Secure Boot will be available to people participating in the Windows Insider Program, Teixeira wrote.

The OS became publicly available last month following a preview that came out in April, days after the formal release of Windows 10 proper.

For those who want to try it out, a new Windows IoT Core Starter Kit might be just the thing. It costs $ 114.95 with a Raspberry Pi 2 and $ 75 without the Pi. An SD card in the kit comes with the OS installed.


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Capgemini recruits Microsoft Azure in cloud service expansion push

CloudCapgemini has added Microsoft to its cloud services programme as it seeks to give a broader range of cloud services to more clients. Microsoft is the first in a number of vendors that CapGemini is seeking to add to its cloud service portfolio, it said.

Under the new Capgemini Cloud Choice with Microsoft scheme it will offer cloud advice, managed platforms and ‘applied integrated innovation’ services. Initiatives include OneShare, which speeds the testing and development of Microsoft Azure systems and offers to control costs through usage monitoring and resource scheduling.

A second mooted offering is SkySight, which is described as an ‘Azure-like’ private cloud which aims to help enterprises to speed up the installation of new applications. Capemini says it will help clients get value for money on managed services and fine-tune the configuration process.

A third scheme will create industry-focused IP offerings, such as a system tailored to the specific needs of the banking sector, based on the experiences of Capgemini’s own in house banking specialists. The domain expertise will be offered in all major industries, including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and the health sector.

The cloud offering will cover all solutions encompassed within hybrid, public, hosted and private cloud services using Azure.

As part of the offering, Capgemini will align activities with independent software vendors and start-ups to create new ways of delivering integrated solutions. New ventures and start-ups will also benefit from the offering, Capgemini says, as partners will become a focal point for integrating new innovations into the Capgemini solutions portfolio.

The expansion comes after Capgemini subsidiary Sogeti reported that it managed to cut the costs of one client, Dutch postal service PostNL, by 20 per cent by migrating its IT services onto the cloud with Microsoft Azure.

“Capgemini helped us to define our roadmap to migrate more than 40 applications and now operates its Cloud Platform for us,” said Marcel Krom, CIO at PostNL. “We have reduced costs and gained flexibility in handling volume variances.”

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