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Vol 1 Issue 189
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Will new CEO ripples change Microsoft?
Win8.1's Update 1; XP's End of Life


On February 4, Microsoft ended its five-month CEO search. Company insider Satya Nadella was chosen as only the third chief executive in the firm's history. He replaces Steve Ballmer, who retired in August. Ballmer took the reins in 2000 when Bill Gates stepped aside after 25 years.

In a Day One webcast, Nadella said his vision for Microsoft would be to create products and services where "the end-user gets the experience they want - and IT gets the control that they want."

The 22-year veteran of the company, moves up from his position as executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, the division responsible for some of the firm's fastest-growing services and most-profitable products, including the Azure cloud platform and SQL Server. The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, " he said, "but to seize it, we must move faster, focus, and continue to transform."

Microsoft's new 46-year-old India-born boss has a solid background: he attended Mangalore University, studying electrical engineering. He then moved to the United States to get his masters degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then another master's in business administration from the University of Chicago. After that, Nadella went to work at Sun Microsystems before joining Microsoft in 1992.

Gates obviously approves: "During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft." The co-founder (with Paul Allen in 1975 ), stepped down as chairman of the board and takes on new duties as Founder and Technology Advisor.

In the ensuing ripple of moves, Ballmer assumes a position on Microsoft's board of directors. He said he was: "pumped for the future . . . that the firm's senior leadership team has never been stronger."

Other changes include John Thompson, former CEO of Symantec Norton. He led the CEO-search committee and now replaces Gates as Microsoft's board chairman.

Thompson was Symantec CEO from 1999 to 2009 and earlier was a top executive at IBM. He is also currently CEO of Virtual Instruments, a privately held company that rates itself as "the leader in Infrastructure Performance Management for physical, virtual and cloud computing environments."

Another is Scott Guthrie, who is (for now) . . . interim" Cloud & Enterprise Executive Vice President replacing Nadella. Guthrie was Corporate Vice President of the .Net platform in the Developer Division and in 2011, moved up to head the Azure team in the Business Platform Division.

A major advocate for developers, he has made a priority of integrating open-source tools and technologies into the Microsoft stack. Insiders say he will be confirmed in the new post shortly.

Mary Jo Foley, in her ZDNet blog, All About Microsoft said: "When I spoke with Nadella in December 2013, he professed to be onboard with the One Microsoft reorg Ballmer had put in place. He seemed to be a firm believer in the need to keep Microsoft intact, maintaining both consumer-and enterprise-centric businesses as part of a mutually reinforcing whole.

"Not everyone shares that view. Most notably, ValueAct's Mason Morfit -- who is expected to take a seat on Microsoft's board around March of 2014 - is said to favour a strategy via which Microsoft's enterprise products and cloud services take centre stage. Bloomberg has reported that ValueAct is believed to want Microsoft to jettison or scale back its efforts in consumer hardware like Surface, Windows Phone and Xbox."

The challenges ahead

Listing the daunting challenges that await Nadella, Juan Carlos Perez of IDG News writing in PC World said: "While he deals with these issues and with the myriad others that cross his desk as CEO, Nadella will be expected to be a tech visionary, much more so than Ballmer was, and anticipate hot market opportunities . . . ."

Preston Gralla of Computerworld says: "Nadella is just entering the honeymoon phase as Microsoft CEO. . . . But if Windows 9 doesn't right Microsoft's listing ship, don't be surprised if Nadella gets jettisoned for a new CEO.

"There's no doubt that the Win8 disaster led to Ballmer's resignation. Creating a single OS with two interfaces aimed at two different audiences pleased no one. It couldn't have come at a worse time . . . That's why there's so much riding on Win 9, expected to be released in the middle of 2015, although at least one rumour has it arriving in October this year."

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer says: "Microsoft set Nadella's annual base salary as CEO at $ 1.2 million, nearly twice his predecessor's, but on average with the industry.

Things not to be overlooked - Ballmer, a major stockholder, remains on the small Microsoft board, as does Gates. It has 10 members now, with Moffit to be added shortly (as noted above). Change could be a matter of viewpoint - but relatively slow.

Update 1 target date

Windows 8.1 Update 1, which everyone knows about via online leaks, contains a number of features and fixes that at this writing appear near final code lock down. The January leaks had suggested a Patch Tuesday release of Update 1 in March. To the uninitiated, that's Microsoft's second-Tuesday-of-each-month's delivery day to customers of patches and fixes involving current operating systems.

But on February 4, after the CEO kerfuffle had stilled some, Mary Jo Foley on All About Microsoft heard from two sources that Microsoft's target for Update 1 has been delayed until April's Patch Tuesday. In her words: "the original March target was fairly ambitious. OEMs are still likely to get the Windows 8.1 Update 1 bits in early March for pre-loading on new PCs."

John Callahan of Neowin.net says: "It would certainly make more sense for Microsoft to release Windows 8.1 Update 1 April 8, since that follows right after the company has its annual BUILD developer conference in San Francisco." News breaks there would be a natural.

Getting personal - I find Win8.1 is usable, but only after my modifications (Start8 software), but not as good or convenient for writing work as Win7. I worry about Update 1's changes, which may add to my dislike.

Paul Thurrott on Supersite for Windows referred to the product as: "a combination of two OSes . . .a mess." He too is concerned about the changes coming in Update1: "I'm beginning to question the validity of this new direction, and am now wondering whether Microsoft has simply fallen into an all-too-familiar trap of trying to please everyone, and creating a product that is ultimately not ideal for anyone. . . " But he still uses and recommends W8.1.

May Jo Foley has said on many occasions she finds Win8 "uncomfortable for work, " but adds in her post that: "Most of the new features are aimed at making Windows 8.1 more palatable to those who prefer using a mouse to navigate . . .

"A leaked Windows 8.1 Update 1 test build (from mid-January) showed a number of new features, including the ability to pin Metro apps to the Desktop task bar; new right-clickable context-sensitive menus and adding dedicated search and power buttons to the Start screen. A new Enterprise Mode for Internet Explorer 11 is also part of that build . . . "

Callahan adds that: "among other Update 1 leaks is a new context menu that appears when users right click on Live Tiles. There are three new scaling options (200 %, 250 %, and Custom) for high-resolution displays, the ability to show currently open Metro apps on the taskbar and a shortcut to the Control Panel in the PC Settings' menu."

Boot-to-Desktop feature

Ian Paul writing in PC World said: " Microsoft is currently testing having the Win8.1 refresh boot to the desktop by default for keyboard-and-mouse PC users, according to the long-reliable Russian Windows leaker Wzor."

However Foley says her sources indicate: "The default-to-desktop option may not be included in Windows 8.1 Update 1, since the final feature set may already be locked in place."

The Verge's Tom Warren on the boot option says: "The option isn't enabled by default, and it's buried in an arcane submenu in a dark corner of the operating system. . . . Warren stresses that the test is subject to change between today and the final Update 1 roll out. . . . "

Brad Sams Neowin.net says: "it's only a matter of time before the build is leaked to the general public. . . . this build still boots directly to the desktop . . . the enterprise mode is still around and the rumour du jour is that this mode will be coming to the Windows 7 version of IE11 too. . . ."

Paul Thurrott on his Supersite while working with the latest leaked Build - (16610) - suggests Microsoft's intention: "is to do the right thing: Boot to Start on touch systems and to the desktop on non-touch systems." Which would make good sense to all.

Video Background: If you'd like to delve deeper into some thought-provoking background on all the recent Microsoft developments, I'd suggest, Windows Weekly #348. It's a video round table with Paul Thurrott, Mary Jo Foley and moderator Leo Laporte. They cover many angles in a detailed discussion - run time: 2:04:33.

Yah gotta love this!

Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker says: "Bill Gates's first day at work in his newly created role got off to a rocky start. The official MS Technology Advisor struggled for hours to install the Windows 8.1 upgrade!

"The installation hit a snag early on, sources said, when Gates repeatedly received an error message informing him that his PC ran into a problem that it could not handle and needed to restart. After failing to install the upgrade by lunchtime, Gates summoned the new CEO Satya Nadella, who attempted to help him with the installation, but with no success.

"While the two men worked behind closed doors, one source described the situation as tense.

"Bill is usually a pretty calm guy, so it was weird to hear some of that language coming out of his mouth, the source said.

"A Microsoft spokesman said only that Gates's first day in his new job had been a learning experience and that, for the immediate future, he would go back to running Windows 7."

That big April date

Beyond the CEO fanfare and the leaks of Update 1, the existence of which Microsoft has NOT EVEN said exists, April 8 also looms large for users of Windows XP. That's when the 13-year-old OS reaches its official End of Life cycle.

Although a great OS, I finally abandoned it five years ago. It was then mounted on a machine for old software testing. And yes, I know others who still use it, some actually for business!

There's actually a massive XP install base out there, second only to Windows 7. One section, surprisingly, consists of retailers. A scaled-down version of XP powers a majority of modern cash registers, security vendor Symantec warned in a report Feb.3.

The April 8 event: "will certainly place POS (point-of-sale) operators under increased risk of a successful attack . . . operators should already have mitigation plans in place to meet this coming deadline," Symantec's 12-page report said.

Tech companies are preparing to support the system in a limited fashion. Google will, for example, support Chrome for XP until April 2015. End of life cycle is often not fully understood. It doesn't mean that XP computers will stop working, that XP can no longer be installed, or that existing security patches will be pulled from Windows Update.

What it does mean, one Microsoft end-of-life site states: "is that after April 8, 2014, there will be no new security updates, non-security hotfixes, free or paid assisted support options or online technical content updates (for XP or Office 2003).

"Potential issues include security risks, but also a drop-off in new third-party application versions that will work with XP." The site also says a typical business migration of XP to Win7 or 8 takes 18 to 32 months depending on the size of the operation.

Some XP users hope MS will have a change of heart, that all will somehow stay as is. Paul Thurrott writing for IT Pro says: "My money is on No, but there is . . . data to suggest that doing otherwise might in fact be in Microsoft's - and in their customers' - best interest. That is, there are over 400 million XP desktops in the world, if you assume 1.2 billion PCs and believe NetMarketShare's most recent OS usage share stats. Some estimates place actual PC usage at 1.5 billion PCs, which would raise the number of XP desktops even higher."

And so, says Thurrott, future-gazing: "Unless something dramatic happens with Win8.x this year, it's likely that most of those XP holdouts will be moving to Win7 whenever they do finally upgrade. Win7 will be heading off into the sunset on January 14, 2020 . . . I wonder how many millions of PCs will still be running that then-ancient OS when its milestone arrives"

Time marches on . . . .

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