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June 20, 2014

Microsoft Agency Offered to Pay Bloggers for Positive IE Posts

A Closer Look at Windows 8's Browser: Internet Explorer 10 How much would it cost for you to say that Internet Explorer is the best browser? Because Microsoft wants to know.

According to several reports, journalists have been offered compensation by a third-party vendor working for Microsoft, if they write nice things about IE. That includes TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington, who received an invitation to "collaborate on a sponsored post opportunity for Internet Explorer."

"Compensation for this post is available, and there will also be ample opportunities for fun prizes and rewards throughout the duration of the program," the invite said.

He promptly blogged about that instead, leading to a bit of a social media mess for Microsoft and marketing agency SocialChorus.

"This action by a vendor is not representative of the way Microsoft works with bloggers or other members of the media. The program has been suspended," Microsoft later said in a statement to Arrington.



June 13, 2014

Ex-Microsoft Employee Gets 3 Months in Prison for Win 8 Leaks

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update

The ex-Microsoft employee who pleaded guilty to theft of trade secrets will spend three months in prison.

U.S. District Court judge also fined Alex Kibkalo $100 for his crime.

Kibkalo was arrested in March after he leaked early copies of Windows 8 to a French blogger. The seven-year Microsoft employee—first in Russia, then in Lebanon—provided documents to the blogger in 2012, just ahead of the OS launch.

In early April, Kibkalo pleaded guilty to the crime, which included sharing Windows 8 RT software updates, which were distributed only to manufacturing partners, as well as the Activation Server software development kit (SDK).

Microsoft pinpointed the leaker after searching the Hotmail account of the unnamed French blogger. Redmond initially defended the move, but later said that it would change its policy surrounding email snooping.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.



June 12, 2014

Microsoft Promises Not to Scan Accounts for Targeted Ads

New Microsoft Logo

Let's face it — you probably don't read privacy policies. And for good reason. They're typically super long and riddled with unreadable legal jargon, making for torturous reading material. But Microsoft is looking to change that.

The software giant just announced it has updated its Services Agreement and privacy statement, eliminating much of the legal mumbo jumbo to make its policies more transparent. With the update, Microsoft is also taking a more definitive stand against targeted advertising, pledging not to use the content in your emails to target you with ads.

"As part of our ongoing commitment to respecting your privacy, we have updated the Microsoft Services Agreement to state that we do not use what you say in email, chat, video calls, or voice mail to target advertising to you," Microsoft wrote in a FAQ sheet about the new agreement. "Nor do we use your documents, photos, or other personal files to target advertising to you."

Microsoft has taken aim at Google for anonymously scanning the content of Gmail messages to serve up targeted ads. But Google says all scanning is done via an algorithm and humans at Google are not reading your messages.

Microsoft's Services Agreement, meanwhile, basically details your rights as a Microsoft customer. It covers a range of Microsoft services, such as Outlook.com, OneDrive, Bing, and Office.



June 1, 2014

Microsoft Cautions Against Using Registry Trick for Windows XP Updates

Why You Should Ditch Windows XP Now

Well, that was easy. News of a new hack for Windows XP users has been making the rounds this week — and trust us, it's a good thing if you're one of those holdouts who is now using the operating system in the Wild, Wild, West. Which is to say, you're still running your day-to-day operations on Windows XP, even though we've passed Microsoft's cutoff date for support, patches, updates, and what-have-you.

According to numerous sources, a simple registry tweak allows you to fool Microsoft into thinking that your version of Windows XP is actually a version of "Windows Embedded POSRready 2009" In doing so, you'll set yourself up to receive updates from Microsoft all the way through April 9, 2019. That all said, the company hascaught on that this trick is in use, and it has an as-you-might-expect warning for anyone giving the registry tweak a shot:

"We recently became aware of a hack that purportedly aims to provide security updates to Windows XP customers. The security updates that could be installed are intended for Windows Embedded and Windows Server 2003 customers and do not fully protect Windows XP customers. Windows XP customers also run a significant risk of functionality issues with their machines if they install these updates, as they are not tested against Windows XP. The best way for Windows XP customers to protect their systems is to upgrade to a more modern operating system, like Windows 7 or Windows 8.1," reads Microsoft's statement.



May 20, 2014

Microsoft Reveals 12-Inch Surface Pro 3

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Microsoft today revealed the Surface Pro 3 tablet, which the company touted as "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

You can pre-order one Wednesday; the U.S. release is June 20 with a worldwide release in late August. Starting at $799, the tablet will be available in three configurations: with an Intel Core i3, Core i5, or Core i7 processor.

Though many thought Redmond would reveal a small Surface, Microsoft actually went bigger with a 12-inch Surface tablet device. But it is lighter than the Surface Pro 2 at 800g and is only 9.1mm, the thinnest Intel Core product ever made, Microsoft said.

The Surface Pro 3 sports a 2,160-by-1,440 display, which Panos Panay, head of Microsoft's Surface division, said provides the "highest contrast ratios in the industry." That's important, he said, because it means your eyes will get "less tired" as you work.

He dropped the Surface Pro 3 from shoulder height to the carpeted stage floor below to show off its durability.



May 20, 2014

China Bans Windows 8 on Government PCs

8 Windows 8.1 Tips for Business

Microsoft is facing another hurdle in its bid to encourage adoption of Windows 8: China has reportedly banned Redmond's latest OS on government computers.

As reported by the official Xinhua news agency, all desktops, laptops, and tablets used by central state agencies must run on an OS other than Windows 8, according to China's Central Government Procurement Center.

"All computer products are not allowed to install [the] Windows 8 operating system," says a translated post on the center's website.

The center did not specify why it was banning Windows 8, but Xinhua said the country wants to avoid losing support for an operating system like it did recently with Windows XP. Last month, Redmond stopped providing support for the aging operating system, despite the fact that many public and private users were still using it.

According to Xinhua, a majority of government-issued machines run on Windows XP. Overall, XP has a 70 percent market share in China.

The ban applies only to government offices; the personal computer market remains unaffected.



May 18, 2014

Rumor: Microsoft to Unveil Surface Pro 3 Tablet at Tuesday Event

Surface Pro 2 Alt

What will Microsoft be unveiling at this Tuesday's press event? A lot of talk has been swirling around the possibility of Surface Mini tablets getting the grant reveal: Devices with a 7- to 8-inch screen designed to more closely compete with Apple's iPad Mini tablets.

However, Windows Phone Central has apparently gotten its hands on some key information about another product that Microsoft's allegedly going to be revealing Tuesday (for sure). It's the Surface Pro 3 tablet, an Intel Haswell-based tablet whose size is currently unknown — but could even run with a larger screen size than the 10.6-inch Surface Pro 2, so the rumors go. It's though that Microsoft will debut both this and the Surface Mini Tuesday but, as always, we caveat that all these whispers may or may not actually come true.

Nevertheless, here's what Windows Phone Central was allegedly able to find out. The Surface Pro 3 will debut in five different configurations: One with an Intel i3 chip, two with Intel i5 chips, and two with Intel i7 chips. The i3-based Surface Pro 3 will allegedly come with 4GB of memory and 64GB of storage space — and, we would assume, support increase that storage via a microSD memory card that can be inserted into the tablet. The tablet itself will cost $799, the lowest-priced of Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 offerings.



May 12, 2014

Windows Phone 8.1 Launching June 24

Microsoft Windows Phone 8.1 (Developer Preview)

If you're waiting for Microsoft to roll out Windows Phone 8.1, you'll have to be patient for six more weeks.

Microsoft plans to start sending the updated smartphone operating system to existing Windows Phone 8 users on June 24. Redmond unveiled the news on its product support website, noting that it will provide updates for devices running Windows Phone 8.1 for three years from the lifecycle start date, which is listed on the page as June 24. Mainstream support for Windows Phone 8.1 is slated to end on July 11, 2017.

"Microsoft will make updates available for the operating system, including security updates, for a minimum of 36 months after the lifecycle start date. These updates will be incremental, with each update built on the update that preceded it. Customers need to install each update in order to remain supported," Microsoft said.

"The distribution of these incremental updates may be controlled by the mobile operator or the phone manufacturer from which you purchased your phone, and installation will require that your phone have any prior updates. Update availability will also vary by country, region, and hardware capabilities."



May 7, 2014

Microsoft Tips Surface Mini at May 20 Event

Surface 2 Alt

Microsoft this week sent invitations to members of the media for a May 20 event in New York City, where the software giant is expected to unveil a scaled-down version of its Surface tablet.

"Join us for a small gathering," reads a message on the invite, which also includes a prominent Surface logo.

Rumors about a so-called Surface Mini with a 7- to 8-inch screen have been making the rounds for some time. The introduction of a smaller tablet would be a logical move for Microsoft, given that its 10.6-inch Surface and Surface 2 tablets (pictured) already exceed that of Apple's competitor, the 9.7-inch iPad.

Recent reports pegged the Surface Mini for a second-quarter debut, which isn't the first launch window that's been speculated for the smaller tablet.



May 1, 2014

Microsoft Fixes Nasty IE Bug, Even for Windows XP

Windows XP Update Reprieve

Earlier this week PCMag reported on a zero-day bug in Internet Explorer that would allow cybercrooks to run arbitrary code on users' PCs. Just visiting a malicious website would suffice to allow the attack, and the bug affected all versions of IE from 6 to 11. Worse, given that XP has reached its end of support, those holdouts still using XP would be permanently vulnerable. Good news! Not only has Microsoft released a patch for all versions of IE, they're even patching XP's Internet Explorer 8.

According to a Microsoft post, the patch started rolling out around 10am (Pacific time) today. If you have automatic updates enabled, you don't need to do a thing. If you've chosen to have Windows Update await your confirmation before installing updates, be sure to give it that confirmation as soon as you see the notification. Of course, if you've turned off automatic updates altogether, you'll have to perform a manual installation.