Home » Posts tagged 'Xbox'
Tag Archives: Xbox
My verdict: The 3 phase launch strategy is almost flawless, as well as the functionality of the product. So the remaining question is whether the execution will be as flawless or not?
July 29, 2015, BBC News: Microsoft boss Nadella on Windows 10
From this interview 2 things are very important to remember:
- Cortana is the near term means to generate excitement for the Windows 10.
- Then the Hololens is to be launched within a year to drive that excitement even further into the augmented and virtual reality scenario which is expected to generate $150 billion in combined annual revenue by 2020, according to Digi-Capital, a research and advising firm.
Finally in the end of that interview Nadella is mentioning another important point:
It is a 5 year journey. It’s a beginning. Even the smart phone journey with touch was a 7 year – 8 year journey. So this is how you should think about these fundamental changes.
With all the client markets out of their real growth period such a way of thinking is the only possible one. See the specific posts on the client categories, with additional remarks highlighted here from them:
- Aug 5, 2015: PC Market Trends is particularly drawing the attention to the fact that phones and tablets with detachable keyboards, i.e. 2-in-1 devices running either Windows or Android are remaining a competitive issue for the category.
- Aug 4, 2015: Tablet and smartphone market trends on the other hand is emphasizing that the key going forward for the Windows will be if the coming wave of 2-in-1 detachable tablets (expected to be on the market in Q4) is a hit with consumers or if they go the way of the netbook-style laptops. This will determine how much the current Q2 2015 9% market share (which was just 5% in Q2 2014) of Windows-branded tablets could increase with the new Windows 10.
Additional readings/information on Windows 10 Mobile:
- July 29, 2015: Windows 10 coming soon to Lumia smartphones – Microsoft – Global which has indicated that “The following Lumia smartphones will receive a free upgrade when available: Lumia 430, Lumia 435, Lumia 532, Lumia 535, Lumia 540, Lumia 640, Lumia 640 XL, Lumia 735, Lumia 830, and Lumia 930. … In order to upgrade to Windows 10, your Lumia device will need to have the Lumia Denim software update [Jan 7, 2015] installed.“
- Aug 4, 2015 8:03 tweet by Gabriel Aul, Vice President, WDG Engineering Systems team, Re: “No new builds today … Jürgen Winter Sooo, maybe on Friday? And what build is currently in testing? 10240 or even newer?”: “It will be a few more days. We’re moving to a new branch for [Windows 10] Mobile and that takes a bit of prep. Newer than 10240.” Note that people on the Insider program currently using the 10166 version.
- Aug 4, 2015 8:20 tweet by Gabriel Aul, Vice President, WDG Engineering Systems team: “10240 has a blocking bug for [Windows 10] Mobile, we need a newer build with the fix.“
Remark as of Aug 5, 2015: The Windows 10 launch caused below average rate of interest. One evidence is this same July 31 post. It had just 5 views so far and at least 3 of them were based on my Hungarian Facebook post. Even my “Embedded Android — a VIA Technologies …” post of July 28 had 12 views just in the first 3 days and none of them were generated from my Facebook page as I’ve not posted there about that.
July 29, 2015: Windows 10 UK Launch Party by Microsoft UK for a “launch atmosphere”
IMHO Microsoft’s irresistible message is:
The upgrade to Windows 10 is free within the first year, and once you’ve upgraded it remains free on your device for life!
So I did the upgrade for both my devices yesterday, and it went very smoothly. One 2GB “classic” Toshiba laptop with Win7 on it, and a 4GB Lenovo Flex 2 dual-mode laptop with Win8.1. The upgrade took about 3 hours on each, and now I am absolutely satisfied with the new Windows on them in all respects. Recommending the upgrade for everyone ASAP.
July 21, 2015: CEO Satya Nadella on “some amount of delay due to Windows 10 on the OEM side” in the Windows business, from Q4 2015 Earning Call Transcript (the 2 video inserts are mine), in order to understand Microsoft’s business strategy with the Windows 10 launch:
The way the Windows ecosystem works is there are phases to it … in some sense we’ve taken a very different approach with this Windows-as-a-service even when it comes to OEM relations and how they’re able to co-create the products with us. … there are three distinct phases:
- The first phase is what I will describe as the upgrade phase. That’s what starts in a week’s time, and that is a more retail execution and upgrade.
July 28, 2015: 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10: WINDOWS STORE (the other 9 you can find in the 10 Reasons to Upgrade to Windows 10 playlist of the Windows YouTube channel)
July 28, 2015: How to customize the Start Menu after Upgrading to Windows 10 by Scott Hanselman from Microsoft
for more information see Scott’s Getting Started with Windows 10 post containing other very useful videos as well
- Then come the fall, you will see the devices from all the OEMs going into the holiday quarter.
- And then the enterprise upgrades; in fact, we have a release of enterprise features, which I mentioned in my script, which will ship in that timeframe. And I expect piloting to start and deployments to start in the second half of the fiscal year.
So that’s how I would think about the OEM as well as enterprise adoption. So my bullishness [in business sense] for Windows 10 is more in the second half of the fiscal year, and of course it will build. It will build starting in a week’s time in retail and in the upgrades, but I see this in three phases.
July 28, 2015: Microsoft Windows 10 Official Demonstration by Ger Lynch from Microsoft Ireland for a mix of a salespitch (in good sense) and a walkthrough:
July 21, 2015: CEO Satya Nadella on “the new strategy around the phone business” and “how … that business trending over a longer period of time” from the Q4 2015 Earning Call Transcript (for the phone-specific Win10 information read the Windows 10 coming soon to Lumia smartphones page by Microsoft and note the “In order to upgrade to Windows 10, your Lumia device will need to have the Lumia Denim software update installed.” warning):
The big shift that we are making when it comes to phones is to not think about phones in isolation. That’s perhaps the biggest shift because I think about Windows 10 in its entirety, the Windows ecosystem in its entirety.
We clearly are going to have premium first-party portfolio, and you’ve seen some of the numbers, some of the progress we have made in Surface. I feel that we have a formula there that I would like to apply more broadly in terms of growing, just delivering innovation, growing our own economic return for it, stimulating demand, creating categories. All of that is what I want to do broadly. And it applies to phones, it applies to Surface hardware, it applies to Hololens, and that’s how I view it.
I believe our participation in the phone segment by itself with Windows phones and Lumia phones being there is important, and that’s why we picked the three areas where we have differentiation and we want to focus on it.
- We’re going to have great flagship phones for Windows 10. That’s actually a segment we don’t today have good devices, and we hope to change that with Windows 10.
- We have in fact good traction in the business segment. This is business customers who are actually buying phone devices, which is basically a radio with essentially a smartphone to be able to deploy their line-of-business applications. That’s where we have pretty unparalleled value, which is we have Visual Studio Online and some of the tools I talked about, so you can generate these apps at a low cost of ownership, manage them, secure them, and deploy them to our phone endpoints, and then of course, management and security. So that’s a place where we want to continue to focus.
- And in the value smartphones, that’s the place where I want us to be much more efficient. We clearly have some value to add there because of the uniqueness of Office and Skype and our services. But at the same time, I think we want to be smart about how many of these phones do we want to generate, how many, which price points we want to participate. That’s where you will see the most significant operational changes from how we operated last year to the coming year.
May 4, 2015: Satya Nadella’s Keynote from Ignite 2015 on the Windows Community YouTube channel (see also the Microsoft announces new solutions
to empower IT professionals press release for more information) in order to understand the place of Windows 10 in the overall strategic setup of the company
July 21, 2015: CEO Satya Nadella on Microsoft’s “third bold ambition to create more personal computing experiences with Windows and our devices” as the company’s equally important strategic ambition (in addition to “reinventing productivity in business processes” and “building the intelligent cloud platform with Azure“) from the Q4 2015 Earning Call Transcript
I am thrilled we are just days away from the start of Windows 10. It’s the first step towards our goal of 1 billion Windows 10 active devices in the fiscal year 2018. Our aspiration with Windows 10 is to move people from meeting to choosing to loving Windows. Based on feedback from more than 5 million people who have been using Windows 10, we believe people will love the familiarity of Windows 10 and the innovation. It’s safe, secure, and always up to date. Windows 10 is more personal and more productive with Cortana, Office, universal apps, and Continuum. And Windows 10 will deliver innovative new experiences like Inking on Microsoft Edge and gaming across Xbox and PCs, and also opens up entirely new device categories such as Hololens.
Windows 10 will deliver significant value to enterprise customers as well. Windows 10 provides advanced security capabilities with additional features for hardware-based security, mobile work and data protection. It also provides a single device management platform across all devices, from phones to laptops to Internet of Things devices. And Windows 10 helps enterprises stay up to date with Windows Update for Business and Windows Store for Business.
While the PC ecosystem has been under pressure recently, I do believe that Windows 10 will broaden our economic opportunity and return Windows to growth.
- First, we have an OEM ecosystem that is creating exciting new hardware designs for Windows 10. In fact, our OEM partners have over 2,000 distinct devices or configurations already in testing for Windows 10 upgrades as well as hundreds of new hardware designs. We are delighted that the first of these exciting new devices will start to be available on Windows 10 launch day, and by this holiday we will be selling the widest range of Windows hardware ever available.
- Second, we will generate new growth through gross margin on our own differentiated first-party premium device portfolio. We will also significantly reduce our losses on the phone by operating more effectively and efficiently with a more focused portfolio.
- Third, we will grow monetization opportunities across the commercial and consumer space. In the enterprise, customers will continue to value our unparalleled management security, app dev, and servicing capability. And for consumers, Windows 10 creates monetization opportunities with store, search, and gaming. We are confident that these are the right levers to revitalize Windows and restore growth. The progress we made this quarter and the forward-looking guidance that Amy will share shows the opportunity for renewed growth is real.
In hardware, both Surface and Xbox had an incredible Q4.
- We more than doubled Surface revenue to nearly $900 million this quarter, capping off a year in which it delivered more than $3.6 billion in revenue. Both consumers and enterprise customers love this device. Surface is clearly a product where we have gotten the formula right, earned fans, and can apply this formula to other parts of the hardware portfolio.
- Gaming is an important scenario for Windows 10, and our success with Xbox this quarter gives us a strong starting position heading into launch. Xbox Live users grew 22% this quarter and logged nearly 3.5 billion hours of gameplay. Our growing fan base is excited for the best games lineup in our history. All of this comes together with Windows 10, when fans can connect with each other, stream all of their Xbox One games to Windows 10, and experience the best virtual reality platform given our partnership with Oculus Rift and Valve.
- In search, Bing will now power both differentiated experiences on Windows 10 such as Cortana as well as search and search advertising across the AOL portfolio sites in addition to the partnership we already have with Yahoo!, Amazon, and Apple. With advertising revenue growth of 21% year over year, Bing will transition to profitability in the coming fiscal year.
July 28, 2015: Windows 10 available in 190 countries as a free upgrade Microsoft news release for the summary of what has been launched worldwide overall
REDMOND, Wash. — July 28, 2015 — Microsoft Corp. announced that Windows 10 will become available Wednesday as a free upgrade1 or with new PCs and tablets. Windows 10 includes innovations such as Cortana,2 an Xbox app and Microsoft Edge for a familiar, yet more personal and productive, experience. The most secure Windows ever, Windows 10 is delivered as a service and kept automatically up-to-date with innovations and security updates. Windows 10 offers one experience that will become available on the broadest range of devices, including PCs, tablets, phones, Raspberry Pi, Xbox One, HoloLens and more — with more than 2,000 devices or configurations already in testing. The new Windows Store and Windows Software Development Kit also become available Wednesday, opening the door to new and innovative app experiences on Windows 10.
People around the world will celebrate the launch of Windows 10 Wednesday at fan celebrations in 13 countries and via a new yearlong initiative to celebrate people and organizations making a difference around the world. Microsoft encourages people to share how they plan to #UpgradeYourWorld and to vote for a global nonprofit to receive a cash donation by simply mentioning the nonprofit in a post on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and using the hashtags #UpgradeYourWorld and #vote. More information on Upgrade Your World can be found at http://www.windows.com/upgradeyourworld.
“A new era of Windows starts today. From the beginning, Windows 10 has been unique — built with feedback from over 5 million fans, delivered as a service and offered as a free upgrade,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president, Windows and Devices Group, at Microsoft. “Windows 10 delivers on our more personal computing vision, with a natural, mobile and trusted experience. Along with our partners, we’re excited to deliver the best Windows ever, which will empower people and organizations around the world to do great things.”
Windows 10: Best Windows ever
Windows 10 is fast and familiar — with the return of the Start menu and Live Tiles for instant, streaming updates of what matters most. Windows 10 is the most secure Windows Microsoft has ever released, with enhancements to Windows Defender and SmartScreen to help safeguard against viruses, malware and phishing and innovations such as Windows Hello, which offers a fast, secured, password-free way to log in.3 Keeping up-to-date is also simple, as free updates will help people stay current with the latest features and security updates for the supported lifetime of the device.
Windows 10 is more personal and productive, with voice, pen and gesture inputs for natural interaction with PCs. It’s designed to work with Office and Skype and allows you to switch between apps and stay organized with Snap and Task View. Windows 10 offers many innovative experiences and devices, including the following:
- Cortana, the personal digital assistant, makes it easy to find the right information at the right time.
- New Microsoft Edge browser lets people quickly browse, read, and mark up and share the Web.
- The integrated Xbox app delivers the Xbox experience to Windows 10, bringing together friends, games and accomplishments across Xbox One and Windows 10 devices.
- Continuum optimizes apps and experiences beautifully across touch and desktop modes.
- Built-in apps including Photos; Maps; Microsoft’s new music app, Groove; and Movies & TV offer entertainment and productivity options. With OneDrive, files can be easily shared and kept up-to-date across all devices.
- A Microsoft Phone Companion app enables iPhones, Android or Windows phones to work seamlessly with Windows 10 devices.
- The all new Office Mobile apps for Windows 10 tablets are available today in the Windows Store.4 Built for work on-the-go, the Word, Excel and PowerPoint apps offer a consistent, touch-first experience for small tablets. For digital note-taking needs, the full-featured OneNote app comes pre-installed with Windows 10. The upcoming release of the Office desktop apps (Office 2016) will offer the richest feature set for professional content creation. Designed for the precision of a keyboard and mouse, these apps will be optimized for large-screen PCs, laptops and 2-in-1 devices such as the Surface Pro.
Windows 10: Best platform for businesses
Feedback from millions of IT pros has shaped Windows 10, the most extensively tested version of Windows ever. Ready for corporate deployments, Windows 10 will help companies protect against modern cyberattacks, deliver experiences their employees will love and enable continuous innovation with a platform that keeps companies up-to-date with the latest technology. Businesses will be able to control the frequency of their updates and select the features and functionality that are right for each group of their employees.
Windows 10 includes built-in, enterprise-grade security, so customers can replace passwords with more secure options, protect corporate data and corporate identities, and run only the software they trust. New management and deployment tools simplify device management, help lower costs, and enable companies to power their business with the enterprise strength of the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Top apps available on Windows 10
The new Windows Store will open Wednesday and begin accepting new apps for Windows 10. The Windows Store offers one-stop shopping for popular free and paid apps, games, movies, TV shows and the latest music, which can work across all Windows 10 devices. The new Windows Store is the only store where people can use Cortana to control apps with their voice5 and get real-time notifications on their app tiles. All Windows Store content is certified by Microsoft to help keep devices safer. In addition to existing Windows 8.1 apps such as Netflix, Flipboard, Mint.com, “Asphalt 8: Airborne” and The Weather Channel, the Windows Store provides a constant stream of new and updated Universal Windows Apps and games, including Twitter, “Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta,” Hulu, iHeartRadio, USA TODAY, “Candy Crush Saga” and others including WeChat and QQ, which will launch soon.6
Easy upgrade, devices now available
Upgrading to Windows 10 is easy for customers running a genuine Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 PC or tablet. Starting Wednesday, people who reserved their upgrade to Windows 10 will be notified in waves when their upgrade is ready to be installed. For business customers, Windows 10 is available to start deploying within their work environments, and starting Aug. 1, organizations that have volume licensing can upgrade to Windows 10 Enterprise and Windows 10 Education.
Retail partners are ready to help people upgrade to Windows 10 with our largest tech bench program ever, including more than 100,000 trained retailers and tens of thousands of stores around the world. Free upgrade programs will be available Wednesday, with Windows 10 software becoming broadly available in retail stores around the world between mid-August and September. Devices running Windows 10 will be available in some retail stores on Wednesday, with many, many more devices to become available in the weeks and months ahead.
Microsoft has also worked closely with retailers to introduce programs to help people easily upgrade, including Best Buy, Bic Camera, Croma, Currys/PC World, Darty, Elkjøp, Fnac, Jarrir, Incredible Connection, Media Markt, Staples, Yamada Denki, Yodobashi and many more leading retailers from around the world.
Information on upgrading, new and compatible devices, and apps for Windows can be found at http://www.windows.com. Additional information and media assets are available at http://blogs.windows.com/launch.
Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) is the leading platform and productivity company for the mobile-first, cloud-first world, and its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
1 Limited time free upgrade offer for qualified and genuine Windows 7 and 8/8.1 devices. Hardware and software requirements apply; see http://www.windows.com/windows10upgrade for details.
2 Cortana available in select markets at launch; experience may vary by region and device.
3 Windows Hello requires specialized hardware, including fingerprint reader, illuminated IR sensor or other biometric sensors.
4 An Office 365 subscription is required to edit Office apps on Windows 10 PCs or larger tablets.
5 Hardware dependent.
6 Some apps and content sold separately. App and content availability and experience may vary by region and device.
This video is speaking for itself (and for the title): Why I Love my Microsoft Surface 2 : Tips and Tricks [Sean Ong YouTube channel, Nov 3, 2013]
That is how Sean Ong, a senior consultant at Navigant (focussing there on “technical, economic, and policy analysis of energy efficiency and renewable energy systems”) and himself an energy analysis engineer, was able to present the above, truly incredible customer value from current and especially future point of view for Windows 8.1 in geneneral and Surface 2 (ARM based) in particular. It is even more remarkable as nobody, I REPEAT NOBODY, from Microsoft worldwide could do that. I know even a highly professional, true world class Windows 8/Windows 8.1 expert who was not only fascinated himself by the above video, but acknowledged honestly that he was unaware of the speech recognition progress in Windows 8.1. And we are talking about an internal expert who has already been involved in the internal expert network of similar, most devoted Microsoft specialists in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 for years.
For me this video is incredibly important because:
on one hand with Unique Nokia assets (from factories to global device distribution & sales, and the Asha sub $100 smartphone platform etc.) will now empower the One Microsoft devices and services strategy [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 3, 2013], Microsoft partners empowered with ‘cloud first’, high-value and next-gen experiences for big data, enterprise social, and mobility on wide variety of Windows devices and Windows Server + Windows Azure + Visual Studio as the platform [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 10, 2013], Windows Azure becoming an unbeatable offering on the cloud computing market [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, June 28, 2013], Windows 8.1: Mind boggling opportunities, finally some appreciation by the media [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, June 27, 2013] and Microsoft: With cloud services investments starting to pay off Windows 8 and Windows Blue will bring more competitive devices particularly in new smaller form factors targeting the tablet market I’ve found quite a number of positive signs (for the future)
while there are—on the other hand—quite a number of extremely worrisome negative signs (for the future) with Microsoft could be acquired in years to come by Amazon? The joke of the day, or a certain possibility (among other ones)? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 16, 2013], The question mark over Wintel’s future will hang in the air for two more years [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 15, 2013], An ARM-focussed Microsoft spin-off could be the only solution to save Microsoft in the crucial next 3-years period [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 24, 2013], Windows [inc. Phone] 8.x chances of becoming the alternative platform to iOS and Android: VERY SLIM as it is even more difficult for Microsoft now than any time before [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 20, 2013], Android to overtake the overall PC market? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 24, 2013], and With Android and forked Android smartphones as the industry standard Nokia relegated to a niche market status while Apple should radically alter its previous premium strategy for long term [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 17, 2013]
NOT ONLY FOR THE FUTURE OF MICROSOFT BUT FOR THE WHOLE STATE OF COMPUTING
AS THE MISSING COMMUNICATIONS FROM MICROSOFT, EVEN THE TOTAL INABILITY OF MICROSOFT TO COMMUNICATE THE INHERENT WINDOWS 8.1/SURFACE 2 VALUES, WERE CLEARLY POINTING TO TOTAL LACK OF MARKETING COMPETENCY FOR ITS GAME-CHANGING, MICROSOFT-ONLY, POST PC AREA INNOVATIONS INHERENT IN WINDOWS 8.1/SURFACE 2
Although these signs (both the positive and negative ones) were coupled with a number of competitive positive changes for Microsoft, such as:
Xamarin: C# developers of native “business” and “mobile workforce” applications now can easily work cross-platform, for Android and iOS clients as well [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 15, 2013]
Multi-tasking and multi-window view used together for high performance productivity scenarios in the state-of-the-art UX environment of Microsoft Windows 8.1 – the ultimate solution not available with Apple and Android devices [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 26, 2013] together with 2nd generation Microsoft Surface family of productivity tablets priced upto $2420 (when for an All-in-One configuration) [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 24, 2013]
The long awaited Windows 8.1 breakthrough opportunity with the new Intel “Bay Trail-T”, “Bay Trail-M” and “Bay Trail-D” SoCs? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 14, 2013]
Microsoft betting on boosting Windows RT demand with top level ARM SoCs from its SoC partners, Windows 8.1 enhancements, Outlook addition to the Office 2013 RT and very deep tactical discounts to its OEM partners for tablet offerings of more value and capability [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, June 6, 2013]
Deep technical evangelism and development team inside the DPE (Developer and Platform Evangelism) unit of Microsoft [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, May 17, 2013]
But a number of competitive negative changes for Microsoft became even more worrisome (than any time before) lately, such as:
Q3’13 smartphone and overall mobile phone markets: Android smartphones surpassed 80% of the market, with Samsung increasing its share to 32.1% against Apple’s 12.1% only; while Nokia achieved a strong niche market position both in “proper” (Lumia) and “de facto” (Asha Touch) smartphones [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 14, 2013]
Samsung has unbeatable supply chain management, it is incredibly good in everything which is consumer hardware, but vulnerability remains in software and M&A [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 11, 2013]
The first multimode Android tablets and laptops from Lenovo [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 8, 2013]
Leading PC vendors of the past: Go enterprise or die! [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 7, 2013]
Why Intel is pressed to go as far down as to $99 with its Android tablet prices (but not with Windows 8.1)? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 12, 2013]
Companion Device Computing as envisaged and implemented by Pranav Mistry and his TTT team from Samsung: the case of Galaxy Gear + Galaxy Note 3 [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 12, 2013]
Dell’s all Intel tablets and laptops targeting the evolving mobile workforce even with their most consumer specific Android tablets [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Oct 3, 2013]
Amazon’s move into overall leadership: Kindle Fire HDX with Snapdragon 800, “revolutionary on-device tech support” (Mayday), enterprise and productivity capable Fire OS 3.0 forked from Android 4.2.2 etc. PLUS a significantly enhanced, new Kindle Fire HD for a much lower, $139 price [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 27, 2013]
Sinofsky’s ‘continuous productivity’ idea to be realised first in Box Notes [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 12, 2013]
The new Air Command S Pen User Experience making the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 phablet, and Galaxy Note 10.1, 2014 Edition tablet next-generation devices [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 12, 2013]
Xiaomi announcements: from Mi3 to Xiaomi TV [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 5, 2013]
Jingdong (former 360buy) e-commerce value proposition and ongoing global expansion [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 2, 2013]
The value of Taobao.com and TMall.com in China, as well as outside [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 2, 2013]
Opinion Leaders and Lead Opinions: Reflections on Steven Sinofsky’s “Era of Continuous Productivity” vision [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 1, 2013]
Assesment of the Xiaomi phenomenon before the global storm is starting on Sept 5 [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 30, 2013]
Mark Zuckerberg’s personality is hyped (again) with a quite worthwhile initiative (otherwise) but with substantial global financial interests behind it as well [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 24, 2013]
Google Play catchup with iOS App Store and its way of assuring compatibility across Android 1.6 to 4.3 [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 13, 2013]
The Upcoming Mobile Internet Superpower [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 13, 2013]
China is the epicenter of the mobile Internet world, so of the next-gen HTML5 web [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 5, 2013]
Superphones turning point: segment satured with Tier 1 globals while the Chinese locals are at less than 40% of the Samsung price [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 3, 2013]
Xiaomi, OPPO and Meizu–top Chinese brands of smartphone innovation [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Aug 1, 2013]
GiONEE (金立), the emerging global competitor on the smartphone market [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 22, 2013]
20 years of Samsung “New Management” as manifested by the latest, June 20th GALAXY & ATIV innovations [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 2, 2013]
Fortunately we already know:
from the announcement issued back in August that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months [Microsoft press release, Aug 23, 2013]
Board of directors initiates succession process; Ballmer remains CEO until successor is named.
Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.
“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company’s senior leadership team to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry.”
“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
- Ballmer thanks Microsoft Employees in farewell address [The Verge, YouTube channel, Sept 28, 2013]
- and finally when, what was and is going behind from Ballmer on Ballmer: His Exit From Microsoft [The Wall Street Journal, Nov 15-17, 2013]
Steve Ballmer paced his corner office on a foggy January morning here, listening through loudspeakers to his directors’ voices on a call that would set in motion the end of his 13-year reign as Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT -0.47% chief executive.
Microsoft lagged behind Apple Inc. AAPL -0.60% and Google Inc. GOOG -0.16% in important consumer markets, despite its formidable software revenue. Mr. Ballmer tried to spell out his plan to remake Microsoft, but a director cut him off, telling him he was moving too slowly.
“Hey, dude, let’s get on with it,” lead director John Thompson says he told him. “We’re in suspended animation.” Mr. Ballmer says he replied that he could move faster.
But the contentious call put him on a difficult journey toward his August decision to retire, sending Microsoft into further tumult as it began seeking a successor to a man who has been at its heart for 33 years.
“Maybe I’m an emblem of an old era, and I have to move on,” the 57-year-old Mr. Ballmer says, pausing as his eyes well up. “As much as I love everything about what I’m doing,” he says, “the best way for Microsoft to enter a new era is a new leader who will accelerate change.”
Mr. Ballmer, in a series of exclusive interviews tinged with his characteristic bluster and wistfulness, tells of how he came to believe that he couldn’t lead Microsoft forward—that, in fact, Microsoft would not be led by him because of the very corporate culture he had helped instill.
Mr. Ballmer and his board have been in agreement: Microsoft, while maintaining its strong software business, must shake up its management structure and refocus on mobile devices and online services if it is to find future profit growth and reduce its dependence on the fading PC market.
The board’s beef was speed. The directors “didn’t push Steve to step down,” says Mr. Thompson, a longtime technology executive who heads the board’s CEO-search committee, “but we were pushing him damn hard to go faster.”
Investors, too, were pushing for transformation. “At this critical juncture, Wall Street wants new blood to bring fundamental change,” says Brent Thill, a longtime Microsoft analyst at UBS AG. “Steve was a phenomenal leader who racked up profits and market share in the commercial business, but the new CEO must innovate in areas Steve missed—phone, tablet, Internet services, even wearables.”
The Microsoft board’s list of possible successors includes, among others, former Nokia Corp. NOK1V.HE +0.25% CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft enterprise-software chief Satya Nadella and Ford Motor Co. F -0.12% CEO Alan Mulally, say people familiar with the search. In conjunction with Microsoft’s annual shareholder meeting Nov. 19, the board plans to meet and will discuss succession, says a person familiar with the schedule.
Representatives for Mr. Elop and Mr. Nadella say the men have no comment on the search. A Ford spokesman says “nothing has changed” since November 2012, when Ford said Mr. Mulally would remain CEO through at least 2014, adding: “Alan remains absolutely focused on continuing to make progress on our One Ford plan. We do not engage in speculation.”
Microsoft’s next chief will be only the third in its history. Mr. Ballmer joined in 1980 at the suggestion of his Harvard University pal, co-founder Bill Gates, and is its second-largest individual shareholder and a billionaire.
After growing up in Detroit, where his father was a Ford manager, Mr. Ballmer roomed down the hall from Mr. Gates at Harvard. He dropped his Stanford M.B.A. studies to become Microsoft’s first business manager.
He was Mr. Gates’s right-hand man, helping turn Microsoft into a force that redefined how the world used computers. He took the reins in 2000, further solidifying Microsoft’s position in software markets and keeping the profit engine humming. Revenue tripled during his tenure to almost $78 billion in the year ended this June, and profit grew 132% to nearly $22 billion.
But while profit rolled in from Microsoft’s traditional markets, it missed epic changes, including Web-search advertising and the consumer shift to mobile devices and social media.
Last year, Mr. Ballmer sought to reboot. In an October shareholder letter, he declared Microsoft would become a provider of “devices and services” for businesses and individuals.
He told the board he wanted to lead the charge and remain until his youngest son graduated from high school in four years. He began his own succession planning by meeting potential candidates in what he calls “cloak-and-dagger” meetings.
Mr. Ballmer’s reboot plan required a corporate overhaul. For guidance, he called his longtime friend, Ford’s Mr. Mulally, once a top Boeing Co. BA +0.73% executive. They met Christmas Eve at a Starbucks on Mercer Island near Seattle.
Mr. Ballmer brought a messenger bag, pulling out onto a table an array of phones and tablets from Microsoft and competitors. He asked Mr. Mulally how he turned around Ford. For four hours, he says, Mr. Mulally detailed how teamwork and simplifying the Ford brand helped him reposition it.
The Ford spokesman says: “Ford and Microsoft have a long-standing business partnership, and many of our leaders discuss business together frequently.”
It was a wake-up call for Mr. Ballmer, who had run the software giant with bravado and concedes that “I’m big, I’m bald and I’m loud.”
Microsoft’s culture included corporate silos where colleagues were often pitted against one another—a competitive milieu that spurred innovation during Microsoft’s heyday but now sometimes leaves groups focused on their own legacies and bottom lines rather than on the big technology picture and Microsoft as a whole.
He recalls thinking: “I’ll remake my whole playbook. I’ll remake my whole brand.”
The board liked his new plan. But as Mr. Ballmer prepared to implement it, his directors on the January conference call demanded he expedite it.
Pushing hardest, say participants, were Mr. Thompson, who had held top jobs at International Business Machines Corp. IBM +0.54% and Symantec Corp. SYMC +0.38%, and Stephen Luczo, CEO of Seagate Technology STX -2.33% PLC. Mr. Luczo declines to comment.
“But, I didn’t want to shift gears until I shipped Windows,” Mr. Ballmer says he told the directors on the call, explaining that he hadn’t moved faster in late 2012 because he was focused on releasing in October the next generation of Windows, Microsoft’s longtime cash cow.
Mr. Ballmer swung into gear, drafting a management-reorganization plan to discuss during a March retreat at a Washington mountain resort. He invited Mr. Thompson and another director, to get board perspective on his plan.
Instead, he got more pressure. Mr. Thompson says he told Mr. Ballmer and his executives: “Either get on the bus or get off.”
Mr. Ballmer says he took that as an endorsement of his plan. That evening, some of them played poker, drank Scotch and gathered around the lodge’s fireplace.
The next month, hedge fund ValueAct Capital disclosed a $2 billion Microsoft stake. ValueAct’s CEO Jeffrey Ubben at a conference said Microsoft’s stock was undervalued. Other shareholders were urging it to increase its dividend and shed noncore businesses. A ValueAct spokesman declines further comment. In September, Microsoft increased its dividend but hasn’t sold off businesses investors have urged it to, such as the Bing search engine.
Mr. Ballmer hewed to Mr. Mulally’s recommendations. For years, he had consulted with Microsoft’s unit chiefs individually, often dispensing marching orders. Now, he began inviting them to sit together in a circle in his office to foster camaraderie.
It was a lurching corporate-culture change. “It’s not the way we operated at all in Steve’s 30-plus years of leadership of the company,” says Mr. Nadella, an executive vice president.
Mr. Ballmer says his senior team struggled with the New Steve. Some resisted on matters large—combining engineering teams—and small, such as weekly status reports.
Qi Lu, an executive vice president, submitted a 56-page report on applications and services. Mr. Ballmer sent it back, insisting on just three pages—part of a new mandate to encourage the simplicity needed for collaboration. Mr. Lu says he retorted: “But you always want the data and detail!”
Mr. Ballmer says he started to realize he had trained managers to see the trees, not the forest, and that many weren’t going to take his new mandates to heart.
In May, he began wondering whether he could meet the pace the board demanded. “No matter how fast I want to change, there will be some hesitation from all constituents—employees, directors, investors, partners, vendors, customers, you name it—to believe I’m serious about it, maybe even myself,” he says.
His personal turning point came on a London street. Winding down from a run one morning during a May trip, he had a few minutes to stroll, some rare spare time for recent months. For the first time, he began thinking Microsoft might change faster without him.
“At the end of the day, we need to break a pattern,” he says. “Face it: I’m a pattern.”
Mr. Ballmer says he secretly began drafting retirement letters—ultimately some 40 of them, ranging from maudlin to radical.
On a plane from Europe in late May, he told Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith that it “might be the time for me to go.” The next day, Mr. Ballmer called Mr. Thompson, with the same message.
Mr. Thompson called two other directors, Mr. Luczo and Charles Noski, former Bank of America Corp. BAC +0.84% vice chairman, and says he told them: “If Steve’s ready to go, let’s see if we can get on with this.”
At the board’s June meeting in Bellevue, Wash., Mr. Ballmer says he told the directors: “While I would like to stay here a few more years, it doesn’t make sense for me to start the transformation and for someone else to come in during the middle.”
The board wasn’t “surprised or shocked,” says Mr. Noski, given directors’ conversations with Mr. Ballmer. Mr. Thompson says he and others indicated that “fresh eyes and ears might accelerate what we’re trying to do here.”
Mr. Gates, Microsoft’s chairman, told Mr. Ballmer that he understood from experience how hard it was to leave when Microsoft was your “life,” says someone familiar with Mr. Gates’s thinking. Mr. Gates told the board he supported Mr. Ballmer’s departure if it ensured Microsoft “remains successful,” this person says.
That night, after Mr. Ballmer watched his son sing at his high-school baccalaureate ceremony—a Coldplay song with the lyrics: “It’s such a shame for us to part; nobody said it was easy; no one ever said it would be this hard”—he says he told his wife and three sons he was probably leaving Microsoft. They all cried.
On Aug. 21, the board held a conference call to accept Mr. Ballmer’s retirement. Mr. Gates and Mr. Thompson sat with Mr. Ballmer in his office. It was over in less than an hour.
Mr. Ballmer vows not to be a lame duck.
“Charge! Charge! Charge!” he bellows, jumping up from an interview and lunging forward while pumping his fist forward like a battering ram. “I’m not going to wimp away from anything!”
He has remained active, shepherding a $7.5 billion deal to buy Nokia’s mobile businesses and fine-tuning holiday-marketing strategies for Microsoft’s Surface tablets and new Xbox game console. In October, Microsoft reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings.
At his final annual employee meeting this September, Mr. Ballmer gave high-fives and ran off the stage to the song: “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” from the movie “Dirty Dancing.”
Last month, walking along Lake Washington, Mr. Ballmer bumped into Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was fired from earlier jobs and now is thriving. Mr. Carroll says he told his neighbor he went through “something like this” and predicted it is “going to be great.”
Mr. Ballmer says he is weighing casual offers as varied as university teaching and coaching his youngest son’s high-school basketball team. He plans no big decisions for at least six months—except that he won’t run another big company. He says he’s open to remaining a Microsoft director.
At a recent executive meeting, he perched on a stool to review developments. His third slide was labeled “New CEO.”
“Not a soul in this room doesn’t think we need to go through this transition,” he said. As he stood up, his voice started to crack: “As much as I wish I could stay your CEO, I still own a big chunk of Microsoft, and I’m going to keep it.”
He walked back toward the stool, then turned around and said in a near-whisper: “Please take good care of Microsoft.”
You could read also Reporter’s Notebook: Two Days With Steve Ballmer [The Wall Street Journal, Nov 15, 2013] ending this way:
… This summer when he was deciding whether to step down, Mr. Ballmer quietly met with big institutional investors in Boston and San Francisco. The head of one big institution told him, “Microsoft would be better served with you gone.” Mr. Ballmer, who’s the second largest individual shareholder, knew the investor might get his wish. Yet, he argued, “Who cares more about Microsoft than I do? I own a lot. It’s my life.”
And that showed how his emotions alternate between bluster and wistfulness. The deed is done, the decision has been made, a new CEO is imminent. But Mr. Ballmer is struggling because Microsoft has been so much more than a job … as he said, “my life.”
My closing remarks:
- The next CEO problem to be solved is definitely the #1 issue for the future of the Microsoft
- The #2 issue is how successfully the Unique Nokia assets (from factories to global device distribution & sales, and the Asha sub $100 smartphone platform etc.) will now empower the One Microsoft devices and services strategy [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 3, 2013] for which the Microsoft answers to the questions about Nokia devices and services acquisition: tablets, Windows downscaling, reorg effects, Windows Phone OEMs, cost rationalization, ‘One Microsoft’ empowerment, and supporting developers for an aggressive growth in market share [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Sept 4, 2013] is providing an interim answer, i.e. till the arrival of the new CEO
- The #3 isssue is How the device play will unfold in the new Microsoft organization? [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 14, 2013]. If Stephen Elop, former CEO of Nokia, and a previous senior executive of Microsoft, will become the next CEO then Minutes of a high-octane but also expert evangelist CEO: Stephen Elop, Nokia [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 13, 2013] could provide some clue for changes to be expected as a strategic evolution of the current one described in the already mentioned [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 14, 2013]. Even in case when he will not be selected by the Microsoft board as the next CEO he will have very strong influence on the device play for the initial first year integration of the acquired Nokia businesses into Microsoft, for very simple reason, that nobody could do this, and a successfull integration is a higher priority, #2 issue.
- Strategically, however, the most important issue is the
Everything else which might be a crucial issue during this process is highly controversial, without any official clues from Microsoft or any other stakeholder sources. The most controversial among all of them is the issue of non-profitable and/or not necessarily integral to Microsoft businesses. These are the Bing and the Xbox businesses. The range of external opinions is extremely large with investment circles firmly believing that neither Bing nor Xbox are inherently integral to Microsoft, and most of the external development community with an exacly opposite belief of those businesses being inherently internal.
My personal opinion is that with spin-off both extremes could be served sufficiently well, and even open completely new business development opportunities for both Bing and Xbox to grow substantially faster and bigger than otherwise. I would be especially enthusiastic for an Xbox spin-off as that business is already (with upcoming Oct 22 introduction of Xbox One) not a gaming console, but an entertainment ecosystem type of business. As such it would get enormous growth opportunities with its spin-off from the tightly integrated Microsoft mother ship.
The ultimate issue for me, however, is how the currently quite crippled and/or bureaucratic marketing machinery of Microsoft could be completely overhauled as part of Nokia integration, and how fast that could be achieved, if any? I mean a new marketing machinery which is thriving on the huge number of opportunities provided by already delivered game-changing products and technologies, instead of not understanding them at all. I mean not simply an ability to produce videos like the one in the beginning of this post, but a competency to produce whole storyboards for production of such videos and other communication materials. One might call it “high-octane marketing” for simplicity. Even more I envisage such integration of the marketing activities into the whole supply chain management (SCM) as is done in Samsung. See my Samsung has unbeatable supply chain management, it is incredibly good in everything which is consumer hardware, but vulnerability remains in software and M&A [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, Nov 11, 2013] post for that, from which I will copy the following illustration here as well:
Microsoft reorg for delivering/supporting high-value experiences/activities [‘Experiencing the Cloud’, July 11, 2013]
With Intel Media: 10-20 year leap in television this year [Feb 16, 2013] and Microsoft entertainment as an affordable premium offering to be built on the basis of the Xbox console and Xbox LIVE services [Feb 13, 2013] this is a highly probable assumption.
There is other evidence as well. In fact plenty of them. Especially from Microsoft side:
The Entertainment and Devices Division (EDD) of Microsof is currently the place where all of Microsoft consumer-only activities are concentrated. EDD revenue, however, was 11% down for the latest quarter vs. that of a year ago. Moreover, it was just 17.6% of the overall Microsoft revenue vs. 20.3% in the quarter a year ago.
– in Microsoft Reports Record Revenue of $21.5 Billion in Second Quarter [Microsoft press release, Jan 24, 2013] great progress was reported in the non-consumer segments of Microsoft:
“Our big, bold ambition to reimagine Windows as well as launch Surface and Windows Phone 8 has sparked growing enthusiasm with our customers and unprecedented opportunity and creativity with our partners and developers,” said Steve Ballmer, chief executive officer at Microsoft. “With new Windows devices, including Surface Pro, and the new Office on the horizon, we’ll continue to drive excitement for the Windows ecosystem and deliver our software through devices and services people love and businesses need.”
The Windows Division posted revenue of $5.88 billion, a 24% increase from the prior year period. Adjusting for the net deferral of revenue for the Windows Upgrade Offer and the recognition of the previously deferred revenue from Windows 8 Pre-sales, Windows Division non-GAAP revenue increased 11% for the second quarter. Microsoft has sold over 60 million Windows 8 licenses to date.
“We saw strong growth in our enterprise business driven by multi-year commitments to the Microsoft platform, which positions us well for long-term growth,” said Peter Klein, chief financial officer at Microsoft. “Multi-year licensing revenue grew double-digits across Windows, Server & Tools, and the Microsoft Business Division.”
The Server & Tools business reported $5.19 billion of revenue, a 9% increase from the prior year period, driven by double-digit percentage revenue growth in SQL Server and System Center.
“We see strong momentum in our enterprise business. With the launch of SQL Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012, we continue to see healthy growth in our data platform and infrastructure businesses and win share from our competitors,” said Kevin Turner, chief operating officer at Microsoft. “With the coming launch of the new Office, we will provide a cloud-enabled suite of products that will deliver unparalleled productivity and flexibility.”
The Microsoft Business Division posted $5.69 billion of revenue, a 10% decrease from the prior year period. Adjusting for the impact of the Office Upgrade Offer and Pre-sales, Microsoft Business Division non-GAAP revenue increased 3% for the second quarter. Revenue from Microsoft’s productivity server offerings – collectively including Lync, SharePoint, and Exchange – continued double-digit percentage growth.
– while Entertainment and Devices Division Performance and KPIs for Earnings Release FY13 Q2 [Microsoft Investor Relations, Jan 24, 2013] were reported as:
Continued leadership position in console market
- 5.9M consoles sold, down 28%
- Halo 4 best-selling title of gaming franchise
- Xbox LIVE members >40 million
- Windows Phone sales were over 4 times greater than last year
- 138 billion minutes of calls on Skype in quarter, up 59%
EDD revenue decreased, primarily due to lower Xbox 360 platform revenue, offset in part by higher Windows Phone revenue. Xbox 360 platform revenue decreased $1.1 billion or 29%, due mainly to lower volumes of consoles sold and lower video game revenue, offset in part by higher Xbox LIVE revenue. We shipped 5.9 million Xbox 360 consoles during the second quarter of fiscal year 2013, compared with 8.2 million Xbox 360 consoles during the second quarter of fiscal year 2012. Video game revenue decreased, primarily due to $380 million of revenue deferred associated with the Video Game Deferral. Windows Phone revenue increased $546 million, including patent licensing revenue and increased sales of Windows Phone licenses.
EDD operating income increased, due mainly to lower cost of revenue and sales and marketing expenses, offset in part by decreased revenue and increased research and development expenses. Cost of revenue decreased $544 million or 19%, mainly due to decreased sales of Xbox 360 consoles, offset in part by payments made to Nokia related to joint strategic initiatives and increased royalties on Xbox LIVE content and video games. Sales and marketing expenses decreased $92 million or 21%, primarily reflecting decreased Xbox 360 platform marketing. Research and development expenses increased $98 million or 25%, primarily reflecting higher headcount-related expenses.
– and here we should consider the following Segment Information for the Entertainment & Devices Division excerpted on Feb 17, 2013:
Entertainment and Devices Division (“EDD”) develops and markets products and services designed to entertain and connect people. EDD offerings include the Xbox 360 entertainment platform (which includes the Xbox 360 gaming and entertainment console, Kinect for Xbox 360, Xbox 360 video games, Xbox LIVE, and Xbox 360 accessories), Mediaroom (our Internet protocol television software), Skype, and Windows Phone, including related patent licensing revenue. We acquired Skype on October 13, 2011, and its results of operations from that date are reflected in our results.
Note here the inclusion of Mediaroom (MS IPTV platform) into the portfolio which was not in the FY12 portfolio as per Microsoft 2012 Annual Report [Microsoft Investor Relations, Oct 9, 2012]. Mediaroom is described by the Microsoft Mediaroom Newsroom [excerpt as of Feb 17, 2013] as:
Microsoft Mediaroom powers multi-screen entertainment services for consumers in partnership with operators. Visit: Mediaroom Website
Microsoft Mediaroom is the world’s most deployed IPTV platform. Mediaroom-powered TV services are being offered by more than 40 of the world’s leading operators, delivering services to more than eleven million consumer households equaling more than 22 million set top boxes deployed throughout the Americas, EMEA and APAC. Operator partners including AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and TELUS are already giving their subscribers the freedom to watch TV how they want, while gaining the most innovative ways to reach them wherever they are.
Windows Media Center will be available as an economical “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro. If you are an enthusiast or you want to use your PC in a business environment, you will want Windows 8 Pro.
With further details provided in Making Windows Media Center available in Windows 8 [Building Windows 8 blog, May 4, 2012]
On the PC, … online sources [such as YouTube, Hulu, Netflix] are growing much faster than DVD & broadcast TV consumption, which are in sharp decline (no matter how you measure—unique users, minutes, percentage of sources, etc.). Globally, DVD sales have declined significantly year over year and Blu-ray on PCs is losing momentum as well. Watching broadcast TV on PCs, while incredibly important for some of you, has also declined steadily. These traditional media playback scenarios, optical media and broadcast TV, require a specialized set of decoders (and hardware) that cost a significant amount in royalties. With these decoders built into most Windows 7 editions, the industry has faced those costs broadly, regardless of whether or not a given device includes an optical drive or TV tuner.
Our partners have shared clear concerns over the costs associated with codec licensing for traditional media playback, especially as Windows 8 enables an unprecedented variety of form factors. Windows has addressed these concerns in the past by limiting availability of these experiences to specialized “media” or “premium” editions. At the same time, we also heard clear feedback from customers and partners that led to our much simplified Windows 8 editions lineup.
Given the changing landscape, the cost of decoder licensing, and the importance of a straight forward edition plan, we’ve decided to make Windows Media Center available to Windows 8 customers via the Add Features to Windows 8 control panel (formerly known as Windows Anytime Upgrade). This ensures that customers who are interested in Media Center have a convenient way to get it. Windows Media Player will continue to be available in all editions, but without DVD playback support. For optical discs playback on new Windows 8 devices, we are going to rely on the many quality solutions on the market, which provide great experiences for both DVD and Blu-ray.
Windows 8 Pro is designed to help tech enthusiasts obtain a broader set of Windows 8 technologies. Acquiring either the Windows 8 Media Center Pack or the Windows 8 Pro Pack gives you Media Center, including DVD playback (in Media Center, not in Media Player), broadcast TV recording and playback (DBV-T/S, ISDB-S/T, DMBH, and ATSC), and VOB file playback.
According to Should I Upgrade to Windows 8 Media Center? [About.com Guide, Nov 23, 2012]
The short answer? No. As of this writing, Media Center 8 is an exact duplicate of Media Center 7. No new features, no improvements, nothing.
So with Windows 8 Microsoft was clearly placing the bet on the on-line video!
Then we should consider also that Microsoft was just Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services [Scott Guthrie’s blog, Jan 22, 2013] supporting Xbox and IPTV (?i.e. when instead of Mediaroom –I would assume [to be verified!]– the content comes to the IPTV set-top boxes from Windows Azure Media Services?) as well:
What was announced is the V1 of the cloud-based variety of the overall Microsoft Media Platform (built on foundations of Windows Azure, Internet Information Services, Smooth Streaming and PlayReady) as defined in Microsoft Media Platform: Encoding and Serving Choices and Migration Considerations [Microsoft whitepaper, Jan 2, 2013] (corrections, emphases and additions are mine):
Two Microsoft Media Platform Technologies are on-premises (that is, they run on servers placed directly in an enterprise), while the latest, Windows Azure Media Services, is cloud-based as part of Microsoft’s Windows Azure cloud computing platform ( http://www.windowsazure.com/).
On-premises media technologies:
- Windows Media Services (with versions for Windows Server 2008 and Windows Server 2008 R2)
- IIS Media Services 4.1 (which runs on Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012)
Cloud-based media technologies:
The initial components of Windows Azure Media Services, including Ingest [Upload media], Encoding [encode assets using a range of standard codecs, including popular adaptive bitrate formats], Content Protection [store and deliver your content securely using Microsoft PlayReady DRM or Apple AES Encryption], and On-Demand [Streaming] [deliver a fast, smooth, and adaptive experience to users while leveraging format conversion on the fly], are available
or shipping soonwith this release. Advertising (Ad Insertion) is currently available through Client SDKs. Additional components, including Live Streaming and Analytics, will be rolled out as they become available. When all of the components are in place, Windows Azure Media Services will offer a complete end-to-end media services solution, including video ingest, encoding and conversion, content protection, on-demand streaming, live streaming, and analytics.
The current environment for video streaming is experiencing new challenges. The video portion of Internet traffic today is significant and growing rapidly, as is the number of internet connected TVs and mobile devices. In this environment, video providers and broadcasters are switching to IP as the medium of choice to reach this wide diversity of endpoints.
To address these challenges, Windows Azure Media Services is designed to become a one-stop platform for securely encoding, packaging, and delivering video content from Windows Azure or CDNs, thus offering the scalability and reach of the cloud.
Some of advantages of migrating to Windows Azure Media Services are:
- Windows Azure Media Services has the scalability and reliability of a cloud platform and can handle large bursts in demand for video applications.
- It is widely available for a global audience and can use third-party CDNs like Akamai, Level3, or Limelight.
- Windows Azure Media Services has cloud-based versions of familiar Microsoft Media Platform and media partner technologies.
- As a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Windows Azure Media Services is faster, cheaper, and lowers risk:
- PaaS is faster because there is less work for developers. End-to-end solutions benefit from a single platform that solves integration issues. As a result, applications can go from idea to availability more quickly.
- PaaS is cheaper because it offers less administration and management overhead, and greater economies of scale: you pay only for what you use, and large capital outlays for media servers and network infrastructure can be replaced by the more efficient operating expenses of cloud computing.
- PaaS lowers risk. Because the platform does more for you, there are fewer opportunities for error.
- Security Standards and Certifications: Windows Azure Media Services Security is working towards SOC2 (Service Organization Control 2) compliance and plans to complete a CDSA (Content Delivery and Security Association) certification process and an MPAA audit in 2013.
Windows Azure Media Services have the flexibility and power to enable you to create whatever media services solution that you envision. Some key usage scenarios are:
- Creating an end-to-end workflow in the cloud. For example, a content management service can use Windows Azure Media Services to process on-demand Smooth Streaming video and distribute it to a variety of mobile and desktop clients.
- Developing hybrid workflows that incorporate pre-existing on-premises resources. For example, a video production house might upload its finished videos to Windows Azure Media Services for encoding into multiple formats, and then use the Windows Azure Media Services Origin Service and a third-party CDN to deliver video on demand.
- Choosing to utilize built-in Media Services components, or mixing and matching your own custom components or components from third parties. Individual Windows Azure Media Services components can be called via standard REST APIs for easy integration with external applications and services.
[see more detailed information in the whitepaper itself and in the announcement blog referred earlier]
I should only highlight one particular additional feature with the V1 release from Announcing Release of Windows Azure Media Services [Scott Guthrie’s blog, Jan 22, 2013]
… our on-demand streaming support also now gives you a cool new feature we call dynamic packaging.
Traditionally, once content has been encoded, it needs to be packaged and stored for multiple targeted clients (iOS, XBox, PC, etc.). This traditional packaging process converts multi-bitrate MP4 files into multi-bitrate HLS file-sets or multi-bitrate Smooth Streaming files. This triples the storage requirements and adds significant processing cost and delay.
With dynamic packaging, we now allow users to store a single file format and stream to many adaptive protocol formats automatically. The packaging and conversion happens in real-time on the origin server which results in significant storage cost and time savings:
Today the source formats can be multi-bitrate MP4 or Smooth based, and these can be converted dynamically to either HLS or Smooth. The pluggable nature of this architecture will allow us, over the next few months, to also add DASH Live Profile streaming of fragmented MP-4 segments using time-based indexing as well. The support of HLS and the addition of DASH enables an ecosystem-friendly model based on common and standards-based streaming protocols, and ensures that you can target any type of device.
ADDITIONAL MPEG DASH / MICROSOFT RELATED INFORMATION:
– Microsoft Announces Support for MPEG-DASH in Microsoft Media Platform [Microsoft Media Platform team blog, April 16, 2012]
– Alex Zambelli of Microsoft at Streaming Media West – held on Oct 30-31, 2012 [streamingmediavideo YouTube channel, published on Jan 2, 2013]
as well as the quite universal aspect of multitargeting even in this V1:
Windows Azure Media Services provides a large set of client player SDKs for all major devices and platforms, and they let you not only reach any device with a format that’s best suited for that device – but also build a custom player experience that uniquely integrates into your product or service.
Your users can consume media assets by building rich media applications rapidly on many platforms, such as Windows, iOS, XBox, etc. At this time, we ship SDKs and player frameworks for:
- Windows 8
- Flash Player (built using Adobe OSMF)
- Windows Phone
- Embedded devices (Connected TV, IPTV)
To complement all that here is a brief introduction into the whole Microsoft Media Platform (the on-premises varieties as well) followed in details with how HTML5 is fitting into that, from streamingmediavideo YouTube channel [May 9, 2012]:
In Streaming Servers 2012: New Features, New Opportunities [StreamingMedia.com, Oct 24, 2012] the latest features of the streaming server/platform solutions from Adobe, Anevia, CodeShop, Microsoft, and RealNetworks are overviewed, together with some upcoming features. This shows quite well how much the Microsoft Media Platform is advanced and hence could be the best platform for such an effort as that of Intel Media.
There is a wortwhile comment as well from the same Microsoft specialist as already shown in the videos above:
Just a few corrections: The latest version of IIS Media Services, known as IIS Media Services 5.0 Premium, targeting OTT linear TV scenarios is available exclusively to Mediaroom customers as part of Mediaroom Component Technologies.
See also: How to Use Continuous Network DVR Feature in PlayReady Premium and IIS Media Services Premium? [PlayReady blog, Dec 29, 2012] “PlayReady 2.x Premium and IIS Media Services 5.0 Premium have enabled the following four key features which are needed for scalable live TV service:”
This is showing that Mediaroom is using the latest technologies available in the Microsoft Media Platform along with Windows Azure Media Services.
Finally Intel Media is heavily betting on the new H.265/HEVC standard. This is how the same Alex Zambelli (since January working for a premium video workflow services and products partner of Microsoft) is viewing this issue in his H.265/HEVC Ratification and 4K Video Streaming [Alex Zambelli’s Streaming Media Blog, Jan 28, 2013] post:
The media world today is abuzz with news of H.265/HEVC approval by the ITU. In case you’ve been hiding from NAB/IBC/SM events for the past two years – or if you’re a WebM hermit – I will have you know that H.265 is the successor standard to H.264, aka MPEG-4 AVC. As was the case with its predecessor it is the product of years of collaboration between the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG). The new video coding standard is important because it promises bandwidth savings of about 40-45% for the same quality as H.264. In a world where video is increasingly being delivered over-the-top and bandwidth is not free – that kind of savings is a big deal.
What most media reports seem to have focused on is the potential effect that H.265 will have on bringing us closer to 4K video resolution in OTT delivery. Most reports speculate that H.265 will allow 4K video to be delivered over the Internet at bit rates between 20 and 30 Mbps. In comparison, my friend Bob Cowherd recently theorized on his blog that 4K delivery using the current H.264 video standard would require about 45 Mbps to deliver 4K video OTT.
While I think the relative difference between those two estimates is in the ballpark of the 40% bandwidth savings that H.265 promises, I actually think that both estimates are somewhat pessimistic. Given the current state of video streaming technology, I think we’ll actually be able to deliver 4K video at lower bit rates when the time comes for 4K streaming.
A common mistake that most people dealing with lossy video compression seem to make is to assume that the ratio between bit rate (bps) and picture size (pixels/sec) remains proportional and fixed as the values of both axis change. I don’t think that’s the case. I believe that the relationship between bit rate and picture size is not linear, but closer to a power function that looks like this:
In other words, I believe that as the pixel count gets higher a DCT-based video codec requires fewer bits to maintain the same level of visual quality. Here’s why:
The size of a 16×16 macroblock, which is the smallest unit of DCT-based compression used in contemporary codecs such as H.264 and VC-1, grows smaller relative to the total size of the video image as the image resolution grows higher. For example, in a 320×180 video the 16×16 macroblock represents 0.444% of the total image size, whereas in a 1920×1080 video the 16×16 macroblock represents only 0.0123% of the total image. A badly compressed macroblock in a 320×180 frame would therefore be more objectionable than a badly compressed macroblock in a 1920×1080 frame.
As many studies have shown, the law of diminishing returns applies to video/image resolution too. If you sit at a fixed distance from your video display device eventually you will no longer be able to distinguish the difference between 720p, 1080p and 4K resolutions due to your eye’s inability to resolve tiny pixels from a certain distance. Ipso facto, as the video resolution goes up your eyes become less likely to distinguish compression artifacts too – which means the video compression can afford to get sloppier.
Historically the bit rates used for OTT video delivery and streaming have been much lower than those used in broadcasting, consumer electronics and physical media. For example, digital broadcast HDTV typically averages ~19 Mbps for video (in CBR mode), while most Blu-ray 1080p videos average ~15-20 Mbps (in 2-pass VBR mode). Those kinds of bit rates are possible because those delivery channels have the luxury of either dedicated bandwidth or high-capacity physical media. However, in the OTT and streaming world video bit rate has always been shortchanged in comparison. Most 720p30 video streaming today, whether live or on-demand, is encoded at average 2.5-3.5 Mbps (depending on complexity and frame rate). 1080p30 video, when available, is usually streamed at 5-6 Mbps. Whereas Blu-ray tries to give us movies at a quality level approaching visual transparency, streaming/OTT is completely driven by the economics of bandwidth and consequently only gives us video at the minimum bit rate required to make the video look generally acceptable (and worthy of its HD moniker). To put it bluntly, streaming video is not yet a videophile’s medium.
So taking those factors into consideration, what kind of bandwidth should we expect for 4K video OTT delivery? If 1080p video is currently being widely streamed online using H.264 compression at 6 Mbps, then 4K (4096×2304) video could probably be delivered at bit rates around 18-20 Mbps using the same codec at similar quality levels. Again, remember, we’re not comparing Blu-ray quality levels here – we’re comparing 2013 OTT quality levels which are “good enough” but not ideal. If we switch from H.264 to H.265 compression we could probably expect OTT delivery of 4K video at bit rates closer to 12-15 Mbps(assuming H.265′s 40% efficiency improvements do indeed come true). I should note that those estimates are only applicable to 24-30 fps video. If the dream of 4K OTT video also carries an implication of high frame rates – e.g. 48 to 120 fps – then the bandwidth requirements would certainly go up accordingly too. But if the goal is simply to stream a 4K version of “Lawrence of Arabia” into your home at 24 fps, that dream might be closer to reality than you think.
One last thing: In his report about H.265 Ryan Lawler writes that “nearly every video publisher has standardized [H.264] after the release of the iPad and several other connected devices. It seems crazy now, but once upon a time, Apple’s adoption of H.264 and insistence on HTML5-based video players was controversial – especially since most video before the iPad was encoded in VP6 to play through Adobe’s proprietary Flash player.” Not so fast, Ryan. While Apple does deserve credit for backing H.264 against alternatives, they were hardly the pioneers of H.264 web streaming. H.264 was already a mandatory part of the HD-DVD and Blu-ray specifications when those formats launched in 2006 as symbols of the new HD video movement. Adobe added H.264 support to Flash 9 (“Moviestar”) in December 2007. Microsoft added H.264 support to Silverlight 3 and Windows 7 in July 2009. The Apple iPad did not launch until April 2010, which was also the same month Steve Jobs posted his infamous “Thoughts on Flash” blog post. So while Apple certainly did contribute to H.264′s success, they were hardly the controversial H.264 advocate Ryan makes them out to be. H.264 was already widely accepted at that point and its success was simply a matter of time.
– What Is HEVC (H.265)? [StreamingMedia.com, Feb 14, 2013]
– Episode 99 – Windows Azure Media Services General Availibility [Microsoft Channel 9 video, Jan 25, 2013]
In this episode Nick Harris and Nate Totten are joined by Mingfei Yan Program Manager II on Windows Azure Media Services. With Windows Azure Media Services reaching General Availability Mingfei joined us to demonstrate how you can use it to build great, extremely scalable, end-to-end media solutions for streaming on-demand video to consumers on any device and in this particular demo shows off the portal, encoding and both a Windows Store app and iOS device consuming encoded content.
For more information visit the Windows Azure Media Services page to learn more about the capabilities, and visit the Windows Azure Media Service Dev Center for tutorials, how-to articles, blogs, and more information and get started building applications with it today!
– How to build customized Media Workflows using the Media Services .NET SDK – Part I [Microsoft Channel 9 video, Feb 5, 2013]
In this two part video, Mingfei Yan will teach you how to use the Windows Azure Media Services .NET SDK to create your own media workflow including how to upload, encode, package and deliver your video assets. In this part you will learn how to create media asset and upload a video file from local drive.
After completing this part you can watch part II here. You can get started with Windows Azure Media Services today for free!
– How to build customized Media Workflows using the Media Services .NET SDK – Part II [Microsoft Channel 9 video, Feb 5, 2013]
This blog gives an overview of what kind of client support Microsoft offers as part of Windows Azure media Services. On one side, you could create, manage, package and deliver media asset through Windows Azure media services. Many popular streaming formats are supported, such as Smooth Streaming, Http Llive Streaming and MPEG-dash. On the other hand, we provide various SDKs and frameworks for you to consume media asset by building rich media applications rapidly on many platforms, such as PC, XBox, mobile and etc.
– Introducing Microsoft Media Platform [Media & Entertainment Insights blog, April 12, 2011]
– Microsoft Media Platform – David Sayed interview [Quantel blog April 20, 2011]
– H2 2012 Media Platform Product Update Roundup [Alex Zambelli’s Streaming Media Blog, Nov 16, 2012]: “It’s been a busy summer with most of the team focused on Windows Azure Media Services, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few other Media Platform releases of the past few months:”
– Mediaroom 2.0 Unites Software and Cloud Services to Power New TV Experiences Across Three Screens [Media & Entertainment Insights blog, April 6, 2010]