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Date: Friday, 10 Oct 2014 02:48

Update 6:12 p.m.: Nadella has issued an email to Microsoft employees in which he says that when he was asked for advice on pay raises, "I answered that question completely wrong." His email is here.

From earlier:

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, speaking Thursday at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing where thousands of women in tech gather each year, said women needn't ask for raises but should trust in the system and good karma to get them the salaries they deserve.

Nadella was speaking as part of a Q&A; session with Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and a member of Microsoft's board.

Klawe asked Nadella what his advice would be for women who are uncomfortable asking for a raise. Nadella said, in part:

It's not really about asking for the raise but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. And that, I think, might be one of the additional superpowers that quite frankly women who don't ask for raises have. Because that's good karma. It’ll come back. Because somebody's going to know: 'That's the kind of person that I want to trust. That's the kind of person that I want to really give more responsibility to.' And in the long term efficiency, things catch up.

And I wonder -- and I'm not saying that's the only approach -- I wonder whether taking the longterm[view] helps solve for what might be perceived as this uncomfortable thing of: 'Hey, am I getting paid right, am I getting rewarded right.' Because the reality is your best work is not followed with your best rewards. Your best work then has impact, people recognize it, and then you get the rewards. So you have to somehow think that through, I think."

That answer did not seem to sit well with the audience, which gave his reply no applause. And "audience murmurs suggested confusion and displeasure with career advice that both goes against everything women are told in the "Lean In" era, and seems woefully out of touch," according to ReadWrite, which first reported on the comments.

But the audience did applaud when Klawe followed up on Nadella's answer by saying she disagreed.

Klawe said she'd always been uncomfortable asking for things for herself, telling the story of how when she was offered the position of dean of engineering at Princeton, she took it without having negotiated a salary first. She told the university to pay her whatever it thought was right.

"I probably got a good $50,000 less than I would have," Klawe said, adding that when she took on the job leading Harvey Mudd, she also got offered "quite a bit less than what I thought was appropriate." She advised the audience to do their homework, find out what reasonable salaries are, and to role play asking for the salaries they deserve.

Nadella, meanwhile, tweeted later Thursday that he had been "inarticulate" in his answer. Here's his tweet:

https://twitter.com/satyanadella/status/520311425726566400

Microsoft declined to comment on the matter.

Up until that point, Nadella had been giving fairly thoughtful answers about how the industry as a whole needed to get more women into tech, and how Microsoft itself might do better.

Last week, Microsoft had released figures showing the company's employees were about 29 percent female -- about par for the industry. The percentage of women in its technical and leadership positions stood at about 17 percent each.

He said of the gender gap issue:

It’s an all up problem in the sense that the industry has an issue .… I, in fact, do not want to fall for the crutch of: ‘Hey, there’s a supply side issue, go tackle that.’ That, I think is also an issue that we do need to deal with. But I think the real issue in our company is to figure out how to make sure that we are getting women who are very capable into the organization and are well represented, especially in our case, into development. I think we do pretty well in a lot of other functions. We don’t do as well in development.

He talked about how the company's presence at the conference was part of making sure the company was great at recruiting at the entry point. Then, he said, it was about mentoring and making "the culture of the place be such that women can do their best work. That is something that I’m committed to."

He had also talked about the need to create a workplace environment where mid-career women who made a choice to take time off to raise their families could come back without losing ground:

I realized women have lower tolerance for bullshit. Especially mid-career because they look at that stark trade-off between 'Do I have to put up with this or can I just go spend time with family.' ... Therefore I think it's really incumbent on us to create an environment where culturally we don’t make that tradeoff that stark. ... There's a real investment that needs to be made in terms of job opportunities and the ability to map people’s re-entry to be a success. It can’t be left to the internal labor market.

Nadella had also talked earlier in the keynote about trusting in the system when Klawe had asked him about his career path.

He was talking about a previous boss -- a woman -- who had also been a mentor at a point when he was striving hard to advance and was insecure about whether it was getting him where he wanted to go. His mentor sat him down and said: "Think about the work you do, the craft, the impact, and believe in the system and that the right things will happen," Nadella said.

The video of the Q&A; keynote is here. (His statements on the raise issue start at about the 1:35 mark.)

Author: "--" Tags: "Microsoft Pri0"
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Date: Thursday, 09 Oct 2014 19:21

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer didn't feel "completely in charge" of Microsoft until Bill Gates left entirely in 2008. Ballmer felt deeply betrayed by Gates when Gates and the rest of Microsoft's board initially told Ballmer they wouldn't approve a Microsoft purchase of Nokia. Current Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella had his top execs read something called "Nonviolent Communication."

Those are some of the tidbits in an engrossing Vanity Fair article out now that looks at the breakdown of the relationship between Gates and Ballmer, some of their major missteps, and what the company is attempting to do now under Nadella.

While there's no major news in the article, by writer Bethany McLean, there's plenty of access and  rich detail.

McLean writes about a Microsoft culture that was "confrontational from the start. But what worked so well when the company was young and small carried the seeds of future problems."

A confluence of events led to increased pressure on Ballmer to step down as CEO, including behind-the-scenes agitation for change by institutional investor Capital Group, as well as by hedge fund ValueAct, which was then pushing for a board seat. In addition, Windows 8 launched to a poor reception.

When Ballmer told the board that he would be stepping down -- an announcement made in August 2013 -- "no one, including Gates, tried to stop him from quitting," according to the Vanity Fair story.

Unlike Ballmer and Gates, both of whom one former executive said had personalities that were passionate, crossing into abusive at times, Nadella is regarded as a genuinely nice person, well liked and well respected.

Moreover, Nadella had been and continues to be open to talking to people from outside the company -- an important hallmark of the more open Microsoft he is shaping.

Even before Nadella took over as CEO, when he still headed the Server and Tools business, "he did a bunch of things that were totally un-Microsoft-like," according to the Vanity Fair report. "He went to talk to start-ups to find out why there weren't using Microsoft. He put massive research-and-development dollars behind Azure, a cloud-based platform that Microsoft had developed in Skunk Works fashion, which by definition took resources away from the highly profitable existing business."

A former executive quoted in the story talks about the change in Microsoft's worldview under Nadella this way: "Holding our breath until we turn blue is not going to change the world. It's not the world we wished it were, or the world we thought it was. It is an example of Satya embracing the world as it is."

Gates, meanwhile, who is devoting 30 percent of his time to being technology adviser to Nadella, says his role now at Microsoft is "way more intense" than it was when he was board chairman. (Gates remains on the board but the chairman is now Virtual Instruments CEO  John Thompson.) Gates and Nadella talk briefly in the article about exploring ideas for a meeting-room application that can recognize people who walk into a meeting room and automatically allow them to share notes and other resources.

Read the full story here.

 

 

 

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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 02:26

Microsoft has released some new diversity statistics and among them is this notable figure:  The percentage of women in its global workforce  jumped to 29 percent in the past year, after several years of remaining stubbornly flat at 24 percent.

Though that's a big jump for Microsoft, that almost puts it on par with the percentage of female employees at Google with 30 percent, Facebook with 31 percent, Twitter with 30 percent, and Apple with 30 percent.

The percentage of women in tech positions at Microsoft stands at 17.1 percent; the percentage in leadership positions at 17.3 percent.

There's been increased focus lately on diversity in tech, with a lot of the attention focused on the lack of women working in the field.

Tech companies have started disclosing more of their diversity statistics. Microsoft, which has disclosed some of its diversity data publicly since 2006, has put together an updated website with new workplace demographic data and information on its diversity programs.

Microsoft declined to explicitly say to what it attributes the jump in the overall percentage of women in its workforce, aside from an email sent to all employees by Lisa Brummel, head of human resources.

In the email, she talked about the programs the company has supported to reach more youths, including girls.

"The pipeline we invested in years ago is now coming back to us – a result every company strives for," she wrote. "It is a slow process, but we are seeing momentum from our efforts."

Microsoft also disclosed ethnicity data for its employees in the U.S. Those figures break down to 60.6 percent Caucasian, 28.9 percent Asian, 5.1 percent Hispanic, 3.5 percent African American, 1.2 percent multi-racial, 0.5 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.3 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.

The data is through Sept. 30, so includes the Nokia acquisition and subsequent layoffs at Microsoft.

In her email to employees, Brummel noted:

Have we made progress? Yes, we certainly have, and I am proud of the progress we have made. But we can all agree that much work remains to be done to increase the diversity of our company and the tech industry.... Diversity and inclusion are a business imperative. Diversity needs to be a source of strength and competitive advantage for us. Our customer base is increasingly diverse. As our business evolves to focus more on end-to-end customer experiences, having a diverse employee base will better position Microsoft to anticipate, respond to and serve the needs of the changing marketplace. And representation itself is not enough – we must also create an inclusive work environment that enables us to capitalize on the diverse perspectives, ideas and innovative solutions of our employees.

Here are some charts on the gender and ethnicity breakdowns for some of the big tech companies, based on the companies' publicly disclosed data:

 

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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 02:03

Microsoft says Samsung owes it more than $6.9 million in interest for late payments on a royalty agreement reached between the two companies.

That's according to a court document unsealed Friday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York.

The interest would be for a late payment of more than $1 billion that Samsung paid to Microsoft last year, according to the document.

The document stems from a lawsuit Microsoft filed in August against Samsung, seeking to enforce two agreements.

In one of the agreements, Samsung agreed to pay royalty to Microsoft for each Android phone it produces. Microsoft contends that certain features in the Android operating system uses patented Microsoft technology. The software giant has reached agreements with a number of hardware manufacturers in which the manufacturers pay Microsoft royalties for each Android device they produce.

Initially, Samsung made the royalty payments.

But last year, Samsung, which pays Microsoft once a year, was late with its payment and did not pay Microsoft interest for those late months. And Microsoft is concerned Samsung will not make its payments in the future.

The second agreement between the two companies is a business collaboration agreement aimed at promoting the development and sale of Windows smartphones and tablets by Samsung.

Microsoft says Samsung has suggested that Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's phone business breached the Redmond software giant's business collaboration agreement with Samsung.

Microsoft, in turn, contends that Samsung may use Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business as an excuse to break both the licensing and business collaboration agreements.

"We are confident that our case is strong and that we will be successful," David Howard, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, said in a blog post.

Samsung could not immediately be reached for comment.

Microsoft is seeking the $6.9 million in interest and a court judgment that  its acquisition of Nokia’s phone business does not invalidate its agreements with Samsung.

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Date: Saturday, 04 Oct 2014 00:16

For decades, Brian Valentine led big projects at big companies.

At Microsoft, where he worked from 1987 to 2006, Valentine led the Exchange, Windows XP and Windows 2000 teams. At Amazon.com, where he worked from 2006 until his retirement this February, he led the company's eCommerce platform organization.

But now the longtime tech exec is working at a small startup geared toward creating other startups.

Valentine recently joined Ivy Softworks, a Seattle-based company located in Pioneer Square that calls itself an "innovation studio."

Ivy Softworks is trying to create a new model for startups.

The traditional startup model is of a team of people working on one idea, with occasional input from advisers, and constantly going after rounds of funding.

Ivy Softworks, which currently has 15 employees, aims to hire a core team of people who will work on several ideas/projects at a time, with senior-level advisers available daily. If, for instance, a team member enjoys working at the prototyping stage, she'll be able to work on that across multiple projects; or if a person prefers growing a company to the IPO stage, he'll be able to do that across several projects.

Once a project becomes ready to spin off from Ivy Softworks as a company in its own right, the employees that have worked on that project have the choice of becoming an employee of the spun-off company, or remaining an employee of Ivy Softworks, Valentine said.

The company is "well funded for the next five years," said Valentine.

He declined to disclose who the investors are but said that that information will be revealed when the company unveils its first project sometime in the first half of next year. Ivy Softworks already has ideas or visions about several different products or companies, and is currently working on three of them, all having to do with consumer productivity and collaboration, he said.

Valentine, along with Napster co-founder Jordan Ritter and former Pharmacy OneSource CTO Kaj Pedersen, will lead Ivy Softworks.

When Valentine retired from Amazon in February, he had no intention of going back to work so soon. He did a bunch of things on his bucket list, including traveling to Pakistan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, and Turkey, sometimes staying for a month in each place. His intention was to spend a few years doing the things on his bucket list.

But within a couple of weeks of leaving Amazon, he was contacted by several startups, and decided that if he went back to work again, it wouldn't be at a large company but at a startup.

Then he read about Ritter starting Ivy Softworks. He was intrigued and contacted the company. He became excited about "the chance for me to work on multiple things at the same time, build the teams around those companies, work with other cool people, and not have to all day long be looking for the next round of money."

At Ivy Softworks,Valentine, a managing principal, will be responsible for growing the engineering team for the studio, as well as working with the engineering teams of companies that may spin out from Ivy Softworks.

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Date: Wednesday, 01 Oct 2014 16:11

Microsoft introduced on Wednesday Office Sway, a design and presentation app for Office.

Sway allows users to search a variety of sources from within the app -- everything from a user's devices to OneDrive, social networks and the web -- and to drag and drop content from those sources onto what Microsoft is calling the Sway canvas. The app then creates a layout as the user is working, continually adjusting it as the user adds more content. The user can also modify the design along the way.

Sway is "built from the ground up for the web and devices," according to an official Office blog post. "A Sway adapts to fit the device that it’s viewed on, large or small, so your ideas always get the best treatment. A Sway is cloud native: you just drop in your content from your cloud storage, your devices or your social networks."

Sway is currently in (invitation-only) preview mode, with Microsoft aiming to get feedback from users as it builds Sway. Invitations can be requested at Sway.com. The company plans to slowly issue invitations over the next several months to those on the preview waitlist.

Here's a Microsoft video showing what the company is aiming for with Sway:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jw-g6IuBVJE

 

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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 19:30

Update 11:10 a.m.:

Microsoft, at an event in San Francisco Tuesday, revealed an early look at Windows 10, the official name it's giving to the next release of its operating system.

Here's my colleague Brier Dudley's live blog post on the event. He writes:

With Windows 10, Microsoft will offer a single platform on which to develop applications for phones, tablets, laptops, desktops and wall-sized PCs. It’s not one size fits all, and instead will vary depending on the hardware on which it’s running.

Among the changes, Windows 10 will indeed bring back a more traditional Start menu, though the menu will also include the newer-style live tiles introduced with Windows 8.

And Windows Store apps  that, with Windows 8, had taken up the entire screen, will now launch in windows the same way that traditional desktop programs do. Those apps can be resized and moved around, and will have title bars at the top, like traditional windows.

Microsoft, in a bid to woo corporate customers turned off by Windows 8, emphasized features important to enterprises. Security, identity and information features are built into Windows 10, the company said in a blog post, and management and deployment has been simplified.

A technical preview of Windows 10 will be available to early testers on Oct. 1. The broader release will probably take place in mid-2015, after Microsoft's Build developer conference in April, according to Dudley.

 

From earlier:

Microsoft is hosting an event Tuesday in San Francisco giving an early look at its next version of Windows.

The company has not yet said what the official name of this next Windows release will be but media oulets and blogs have been referring to it as "Windows 9."

My colleague, Brier Dudley, is at the event in San Francisco and will be blogging about it starting at about 10 a.m.

Here's my earlier story on what's at stake with the release.

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Date: Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 13:26

Microsoft opened a temporary store in Times Square for the 2012 launch of Windows 8 and Surface, and subsequently set up a couple of smaller stores, offering a limited selection of products, in two New York City locations.

But it's never had a permanent, full-line retail store in the city -- until now.

The company said today that it's signed a lease to open a flagship store at 677 Fifth Avenue in New York City. 

"As our first flagship store, it will serve as the centerpiece of our Microsoft Stores experience," David Porter, Microsoft's corporate vice president for retail stores, said in a blog post. "This is a goal we’ve had since day one – we were only waiting for the right location. And now we have it. Our Fifth Avenue location will be much more than just a Microsoft Store. In addition to retail, there will be experiential space for Microsoft as a company to further engage with our customers and partners in new and innovative ways."

The location currently houses a Fendi shop, according to The Wall Street Journal, which also notes that the new Microsoft flagship store has some of the city's highest retail rents and will be several blocks south of Apple's store.

Microsoft currently has 104 brick-and-mortar retail store locations (including both full-line stores and the smaller specialty shops that offer a more limited selection). It plans to open 10 more by this holiday season, Porter wrote.

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Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 05:18

Whitman College in Walla Walla is establishing a computer science program, and a computer science chair, thanks in large part to a gift from Microsoft.

The college has offered computer science courses since the 1970s but has not had a formal computer science program until now.

A $2.5 million gift from private donors, including Microsoft, changed that.

Microsoft contributed a significant portion of that $2.5 million, allowing the college to establish the chair, said Michelle Ma, a Whitman spokeswoman.

The search to fill the new Microsoft Chair of Computer Science is underway, and there will be expanded course offerings beginning in the fall of 2015, according to the college.

"Computer science drives innovation that touches every aspect of our daily lives – business, government, education, health care and the arts," Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, said in a statement. "Students at colleges throughout the state should have the opportunity to discover the exciting opportunities that it can create for their futures."

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Date: Friday, 26 Sep 2014 05:18

Former Microsoft CEO and current Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has always been one of the biggest cheerleaders for Microsoft products.

And that apparently hasn't stopped, even though he stepped down as head of the company in February, and stepped off the board in August.

In an interview with Reuters Wednesday, Ballmer talked about switching those Clippers who are using iPads over to Windows tablets. According to the Reuters story:

"Most of the Clippers on are Windows, some of the players and coaches are not," Ballmer said.

"And Doc kind of knows that’s a project. It's one of the first things he said to me: 'We are probably going to get rid of these iPads, aren’t we?' And I said, 'Yeah, we probably are.' But I promised we would do it during the off season."

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Date: Wednesday, 24 Sep 2014 19:46

Microsoft will be launching Xbox One in China on Sept. 29, the company said Tuesday.

Microsoft had originally planned to launch the console there on Sept. 23 but had delayed it for unexplained reasons.

The company still did not offer an exact reason for the delay but alluded to the issues in a statement Tuesday:

Every new market launch is unique, but like in all markets where Xbox One is available, we take great care to ensure that we meet or exceed regulatory standards. After receiving government approval for the first wave of games, we've decided to launch with digital copies of the first 10 games now and will continue our work to bring more blockbuster games and a broad offering of entertainment and app experiences to the platform in the months to come.

The 10 games available at launch include digital versions of "Forza Motorsport 5," "Kinect Sports Rivals" and "Powerstar Golf," according to a Microsoft news release.

Another 70 games are in the pipeline, the company said.

The Sept. 29 launch will make the Xbox One the first game console to be sold in China in 14 years, according to Microsoft.

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Date: Monday, 22 Sep 2014 18:04

Microsoft is delaying the launch of its Xbox One console in China -- a launch that was supposed to take place this Tuesday but will now happen sometime before the end of the year.

The company didn't give a reason for the delay but issued the following statement:

Despite strong and steady progress, we are going to need a bit more time to deliver the best experiences possible for our fans in China. At Xbox, we pride ourselves on delivering first-rate gaming and entertainment experiences, and to allow us to deliver on that promise, we need to reschedule the launch of Xbox One. Working with our partner, BesTV, we look forward to launching in China by the end of this year. We're looking forward to hosting our fans and partners in China on Sept. 22 at the Oriental Pearl Tower as planned, and will have hands-on gameplay, entertainment and Xbox One giveaways.

Microsoft's efforts to launch the Xbox One in China follows the lifting earlier this year of a 13-year ban by the Chinese government on the sale of foreign consoles.

Microsoft, which  has partnered with China-based BesTV, for the venture, is selling the console starting at ¥3,699 CNY (about $603 USD).

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is set to visit China, along with Japan, Korea and India, on a trip this month. The trip comes amidst an antitrust investigation of Microsoft conducted by the Chinese government — one of several such probes the government has launched against foreign companies. Antitrust authorities there have raised questions about compatibility issues related to Windows and Office, as well as Microsoft’s use of verification codes.

Microsoft has not said whether Nadella will be meeting with Chinese officials about the investigation, or whether Xbox One issues are on his trip agenda.

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Date: Friday, 19 Sep 2014 02:02

Microsoft is notifying approximately 2,100 employees Thursday that they're being laid off in the second round of layoffs since the company announced in July that it would be cutting 18,000 jobs.

Of the layoff notices going out Thursday, 747 are in the Puget Sound area.

The cuts are spread across multiple business units and countries, a Microsoft spokeswoman said.

The 747 local jobs being eliminated starting Thursday are in addition to the 1,351 Puget Sounda-area jobs the company already cut in July, bringing the total number of Puget Sound-area jobs that Microsoft has cut so far to 2,098. That's nearly 5 percent of the 43,351 workforce the company had in the Puget Sound region at the end of its last fiscal year on June 30.

The separation date for those losing their jobs locally begins Nov. 17, according to the state Employment Security Department.

[Update 11:58 a.m.: Microsoft is closing its Silicon Valley research lab, and laying off the employees there as part of a total 160 positions in California that the company is eliminating.

Microsoft Research Silicon Valley, located in Mountain View, has more than 75 researchers focusing on distributed computing, researching areas including privacy and security.

Microsoft Research is closing that lab as it consolidates its work. About 50 researchers are affected by the cut. A small number of them will remain to continue their work or are being offered positions in the company's other labs.

Microsoft Research has about 1,100 advanced researchers working in a dozen labs worldwide.

The company employs about 2,500 employees overall  in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area region.]

[Update 3:13 p.m.: Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing group, which works on cybersecurity and privacy issues, is being broken up.

Trustworthy Computing employees who work on the technical side will fall under the purview of  Scott Guthrie, executive vice president of cloud and enterprise.

Those who worked on policy issues will join those reporting to Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel and executive vice president of legal and corporate affairs.

Some positions in Trustworthy Computing are also being eliminated, although Microsoft declined to say the number affected.]

The jobs being cut Thursday are part of the 18,000 jobs -- representing 14 percent of its worldwide workforce -- that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in July that he would be eliminating over the next year.

The cuts are partly related to Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia’s phone business, which brought in some 25,000 Nokia employees to Microsoft, and partly a reflection of Nadella’s vision of a Microsoft that's less management heavy and more agile.

Most of the cuts — about 12,500 professional and factory positions — are former Nokia positions, with some Microsoft positions also being eliminated because of job duplication related to the Nokia acquisition. The remaining 5,500 jobs cut across multiple functions, including marketing and engineering.

Of the 18,000 jobs, Microsoft had started in July to eliminate 13,000 of them. Taken together with Thursday's notifications, about 2,900 more positions remain to be eliminated. Microsoft had said in July that it was committed to notifying the vast majority of those who jobs are to be eliminated by the end of the year.

The company is also cutting contractors.

Last week, MSN cut a number of contractors, according to sources who asked not to be identified.

In July, Microsoft had imposed new restrictions on contractors -- a move many saw as aimed at decreasing the tens of thousands of contractors the company uses.

The new rules limit those who work for Microsoft through vendors and temp agencies to 18 months of access to Microsoft buildings and corporate networks, after which they will be required to take a 6-month break from access.

Microsoft on Thursday declined to confirm the contractor cuts at MSN or to comment on contractor cuts in general.

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Date: Wednesday, 17 Sep 2014 13:52

Longtime Microsoft board members Dave Marquardt and Dina Dublon are stepping down from the board, while Kraft Foods executive Teri List-Stoll and Visa executive Charles Scharf will be joining it.

List-Stoll, executive vice president and chief financial officer of Kraft Foods Group, and Scharf, CEO of Visa, will join the board effective Oct. 1, Microsoft announced Tuesday.

Marquardt and Dublon, meanwhile, have decided not to seek reelection to the board and will retire at the end of their current term following the annual shareholders meeting in December.

The board also declared a quarterly dividend of 31 cents per share, reflecting a 3-cent, or 11 percent, increase over the previous quarter’s dividend. The dividend is payable Dec. 11  to shareholders of record on Nov. 20, the company said. The ex-dividend date will be Nov. 18, 2014.

List-Stoll, 51, joined Kraft in September 2013 as senior vice president leading the business unit finance teams, and was appointed CFO in December, according to Kraft.  Prior to that, she spent nearly 20 years at Procter & Gamble, serving most recently as senior vice president and treasurer. She also serves on the board of Danaher Corp. and as a trustee of the Financial Accounting Foundation, according to the Microsoft news release.

Scharf, 49, CEO of Visa since November 2012, spent nine years before that at JPMorgan Chase as CEO of its retail financial services and managing director of One Equity Partners, the firm’s private investment arm.He has also served as CEO and CFO of BankOne Corp, and CFO of Salomon Smith Barney and the global corporate and investment bank division of Citigroup, according to Microsoft. He serves on the board of trustees of Johns Hopkins University and the board of directors of the Financial Services Roundtable.

“I’m excited to have both Teri and Charlie joining our board,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in the news release. “Teri brings exceptional financial and operational expertise, as well as great insights from her two decades of experience in consumer and retail industries. Charlie, as a sitting CEO of a large global business, brings additional strategic and operational depth to the Microsoft board, as well as a deep understanding of how commerce is changing globally.”

Marquardt, 65, a founding general partner of private venture capital firm August Capital, has served on Microsoft's board since 1981,

Dublon, 61, former CFO of JPMorgan Chase, has been on the board since 2005.

“As one of our earliest board members, Dave has played an indispensable role in Microsoft’s growth and development, providing sage counsel and invaluable industry insights,” Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and technology adviser, said in the news release. "Dina has also been a great board member for almost a decade, and we all appreciate her guidance and support.”

In addition to Gates, Dublon, Marquardt and Nadella, Microsoft's current board consists of John Thompson, board chairman and CEO of Virtual Instruments; Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College; G. Mason Morfit, president of ValueAct Capital; Charles Noski, former vice chairman of Bank of America; Dr. Helmut Panke, former chairman of the board of management at BMW AG; and John Stanton, chairman of Trilogy Equity Partners and Trilogy International Partners.

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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 21:01

Add another item to Microsoft's growing list of cross-platform offerings.

 

Microsoft has come out with a mobile keyboard designed to work not just with Windows tablets, but also with iOS and Android devices.

According to a Microsoft blog post, the Universal Mobile Keyboard "works with iPad, iPhone, Android devices and Windows tablets. ... The Universal Mobile Keyboard has an OS switch that lets you change from one operating system to another while maintaining a fully functional keyboard."

The Bluetooth the keyboard allows users to pair up to three different devices using different operating systems at the same time. The keyboard also allows access to each platform's unique keys on the keyboard.

The keyboard has a cover that works as a stand and that can be detached. It will sell for $79.95 starting in October.

Here's Microsoft video on the keyboard:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdPT-TzgU84

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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 04:42

Microsoft is expected to announce some details of its next version of Windows -- referred to in news outlets and blogs as "Windows 9" -- at an event in San Francisco on Sept. 30.

Microsoft sent out invitations Monday, but declined to say whether the event will mark the official debut of Windows 9.

The company said only that the event is an update for press and analysts at which Microsoft will discussing "what's next for Windows and the enterprise."

The discussion will be led by Terry Myerson, head of Microsoft's Operating Systems Group, and Joe Belfiore, a corporate vice president in the group.

For Microsoft, much rides on the shoulders of the next version Windows. For one thing, the company needs to win back enterprise customers who didn't find Windows 8 particularly appealing for business use.

"The next major release of the Windows client system has to be suitable for corporate users," IDC analyst Al Gillen said in an earlier Seattle Times story on what's at stake with Windows 9.

“The problem with Windows 8 has been that initially it was such a radically different experience, especially for power users who really needed applications that lived in the Windows 7 [desktop] environment," Gillen said. "It was not inviting to business customers.”

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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 04:41

It's official: Microsoft said Monday morning that it's buying Mojang, maker of the popular "Minecraft" video game, for $2.5 billion.

The Mojang team will join Microsoft Studios, maker of games such as the "Halo" and "Forza" franchises, according to a Microsoft news release.

"Microsoft’s investments in cloud and mobile technologies will enable 'Minecraft' players to benefit from richer and faster worlds, more powerful development tools, and more opportunities to connect across the 'Minecraft' community," the company said in the news release.

Microsoft said it expects the acquisition, which is expected to close in 2014, to be break even in fiscal year 2015.

"Minecraft" has had more than 100 million downloads on PCs alone since its launch in 2009, is the most popular online game on Xbox, and the top paid app on the iOS and Android platforms in the U.S., Microsoft said.

"The 'Minecraft' community is among the most active and passionate in the industry, with more than 2 billion hours played on Xbox 360 alone in the past two years," the company said in the news release. "Minecraft fans are loyal, with nearly 90 percent of paid customers on the PC having signed in within the past 12 months."

Microsoft also touted the appeal as "Minecraft" as as a platform rather than just a stand-alone game such as Angry Birds -- with the ability to build modifications to the game driving up user engagement.

"Minecraft is more than a great game franchise – it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft," CEO Satya Nadella said in the news release.

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox and Microsoft Studios, said in a blog post Monday morning:

We respect the brand and independent spirit that has made Minecraft great, and we’ll carry on the tradition of innovation to move the franchise forward. ... 

Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC. 

Microsoft is also interested in seeing if "Minecraft" can reach new audiences in schools, according to someone with knowledge of the matter. There are already modifications to the game, at MinecraftEdu, that are currently in use in classrooms.

Mojang is a small, independent game developer studio based in Stockholm, Sweden. Last year, the company made a profit of 816 million Swedish kroner ($128 million) on 2.07 billion kroner in revenue ($360 million), according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported last week that Microsoft was considering the purchase.

"Change is scary, and this is a big change for all of us," the Mojang team wrote in a blog post Monday morning, seeking to reassure the community of "Minecraft" players. "It’s going to be good though. Everything is going to be OK."

Mojang agreed to be acquired, the game studio said in the blog post, because "Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance. Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big."

Markus Persson -- known by gamers as "Notch" -- is the creator of "Minecraft" and is Mojang's majority shareholder. According to the Mojang blog post, Notch decided:

He doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. ...

There are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves. We’ve worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development. We’re confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way.

The company said it expects most of Mojang's employees to remain there for the time being, though Mojang's three founders -- including Persson -- are leaving.

This is Nadella's first major acquisition since becoming Microsoft CEO in February.

In a July memo, in which Nadella outlined his vision for the company, he said the company would focus on "digital work and life experiences that are reinvented for the mobile-first and cloud-first world."

"The single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world is gaming," he said in the memo.

Given Nadella's vision, the "Minecraft"/Mojang acquisition is important to Microsoft's mobile strategy, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said in an email Monday morning.

Hilwa continued:

Microsoft is a mobile ecosystem owner and has no choice but to keep building it if it is to maintain its relevance in the long term. ... Minecraft strengthens Microsoft’s hand in the battle with Google, Apple and Amazon. ... Minecraft is a solid business with intense user loyalty. That it can be purchased with overseas cash is also a part of the attraction, but its strategic value is that it is another brick fortifying Microsoft’s consumer services, a key lever in its mobile relevance. Gamers on other platforms will demand Minecraft for some time to come...

Successful and sticky games like Minecraft are powerful strategic consumer services for their owners. Microsoft is wise to build up its services assets to make its mobile platform more compelling.

 

 

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Date: Tuesday, 16 Sep 2014 04:41

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella made his big civic appearance debut Monday on the same day the company announced it was buying "Minecraft" maker Mojang for $2.5 billion -- Nadella's first major acquisition since he became CEO in February.

“We’re really excited about being the stewards of the community of 'Minecraft,' " Nadella told the crowd of about 1,100 people at the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual meeting/luncheon.

Nadella spoke briefly of the success of "Minecraft," which has more than 100 million downloads on PCs and is the top paid app on the iOS and Android platforms in the U.S.

But "what Minecraft represents is more than a game franchise," Nadella said. "It's an open-world platform."

He also spoke of the possibility of getting kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields by playing "Minecraft."

“It’s the one game parents want their kids to play," he said.

Nadella's comments came as part of a "fireside chat" with Seattle Chamber President and CEO Maud Daudon, who noted that Nadella's appearance was a civic "coming out party" for him.

Their chat touched on a number of different areas, including company culture, Microsoft's plans in the mobile space, and a couple of more personal topics.

When asked by Daudon how he plans to increase Microsoft's mobile market share (the company currently has less than 5 percent market share worldwide in smartphones and tablets), Nadella said he wasn't focused on today's market share.

“When you define mobile in the marketplace, we don’t think of it by just today’s market share position on a given form factor," he said. "Devices sizes come and go."

Rather, he said, the vision for Microsoft is not of the devices as central, but of the individual user as the center of a host of digital memories and productivity experiences accessed through her devices.

And though Microsoft's share of mobile devices currently is small, "we're very grounded in the cross-platform world," said Nadella, referring to services such as Office and Skype, which are on multiple platforms.

And now, he added, laughing, Minecraft will be "on every 8-year-old's phone."

Nadella said he was focusing much attention on creating a company culture that "fosters constant renewal and learning."

Especially in the tech world, he said, if companies are not innovating and changing, they won't have longevity.

Daudon also asked Nadella what he would say to inspire young people and why he came to Microsoft.

Nadella said of his experiences to date: "It's pretty surreal."

Until he was 18, he said, he hadn't thought much of the world west of Bombay, India. (Nadella was born and grew up in India.)

"And here I am in Seattle," he said. "In fact, when I showed up in Wisconsin -- that was quite a culture shock for a kid who had not seen snow."

One thing he's learned, he said, is that "it’s not so much all the plans that you may have, but the choices you make with both the opportunities and challenges that come your way that perhaps shape you."

He made the choice to come to Microsoft because "I wanted to be part of a team, a company that could change the world" -- something he believes Microsoft can still do.

Daudon noted that many of Nadella's memos that he's issued in the past few months have been peppered with literary quotes.

"Reading great literature has been a source of inspiration," Nadella said. “Literature, in fact, captures the essence of what the human condition is.”

Now that his attention span has decreased, he joked, he's turned to poetry.

He didn't think many people would notice or make much of his references to literature, but, he noted with a laugh, people were quick to point out when he misquoted Oscar Wilde.

Nadella also said that in the next three weeks, he will be visiting China, Japan, Korea and India.

He didn't say what was on the agenda for the trip, other than to note that China is "somewhere we've been for many, many years. I’m enthusiastic about what opportunity there is to have real impact and business success with it."

Microsoft is launching its Xbox One console in China Sept. 23 and, earlier this year, became the first multinational company to offer public cloud services in China with the launch there of Microsoft Azure. But in addition to opportunities, there have been challenges.

Chinese government officials are conducting an antitrust investigation of Microsoft -- one of several such probes the government has launched against foreign companies. Antitrust authorities there have questions  about compatibility issues related to Windows and Office, as well as Microsoft's use of verification codes.

It's unclear whether Nadella will be discussing the investigation with Chinese officials. Microsoft had issued a statement earlier saying Nadella's trip was planned before the Chinese government investigation began and that it's committed to complying with China's laws and addressing the government's concerns.

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Date: Wednesday, 10 Sep 2014 00:37

Microsoft is close to buying game studio Mojang, maker of the popular "Minecraft" video game, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

The deal, estimated at more than $2 billion, could be signed as early as this week, the Journal reported, citing a person with knowledge of the matter.

Mojang is a small, independent game developer studio based in Stockholm, Sweden. Last year, the company made a profit of 816 Swedish kroner ($128 million)  on 2.07 billion kroner in revenue ($360 million), according to the Journal.

Adding "Minecraft" and the studio behind it could provide a boost for Xbox and for Microsoft's mobile efforts.

More than 50 million copies of the game have been sold since its release in 2011, according to The Associated Press, and it's among the top downloaded mobile apps.

While Xbox and video gaming may not be central to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's vision of a Microsoft that's focused on "productivity and platforms," Nadella has indicated his support for Xbox, calling it “one of the most-revered consumer brands."

He also indicated his support for gaming. "The single biggest digital life category, measured in both time and money spent, in a mobile-first world is gaming," he said in a July memo to employees that outlined his vision for the company. "We are fortunate to have Xbox in our family to go after this opportunity with unique and bold innovation. "

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

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Date: Tuesday, 09 Sep 2014 04:42

[This story ran in the print edition of The Seattle Times on Sept. 7, 2014.]

When Microsoft presents its first public glimpse of Windows 9 — it’s expected to happen late this month or early next — a lot more than just an operating system is at stake.

Smartphones and tablets are firmly entrenched as important, sometimes even primary, computing devices for many people. At the same time, a recent upsurge in PC sales notwithstanding, sales of desktops and laptops are declining.

With Microsoft’s share of the worldwide smartphone and tablet markets still under 5 percent, “really, what’s at stake is the continued dominance of Windows as a thing that people use every day,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

Windows 8 was supposed to be Microsoft’s solution to that challenge — an operating system, the company said, that worked equally well for mouse-and-keyboard PC users as for touch-centric tablet users.

Turned out, not all users agreed.

Windows 8, launched two years ago, jammed together two different user interfaces — a tile-based, touch-friendly mode that was radically different from any previous version of Windows, and the traditional desktop interface.

Many users found it jarring to go back and forth between the two.

“Certainly Windows 8 did not set the world on fire the way Microsoft had hoped,” said Stephen Kleynhans, an analyst at research firm Gartner. “They tried the big departure and it wasn’t quite what people were looking for.”

With Windows 9 — the name Microsoft presumably will give the operating system code named “Threshhold” — it’s anticipated that Microsoft will bring back some familiar features from Windows past.

In addition, the new OS is believed to be more specifically tailored to the type of input — whether touch or keyboard-and-mouse — the person is using at a given time.

The world is likely to know in late September or early October, when the company reportedly will have a technical preview of Windows 9 at a media event.

[Continue reading the story here.]

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