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Founded in 1975 by Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft is the world’s largest software maker.

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SEATTLE — Emily Parkhurst, who covers technology for the Puget Sound Business Journal, gives her views Tuesday on the appointment of Satya Nadella to the top job at Microsoft.

REDMOND (CNN) — Still concerned about some faceless government bureaucrat peeking at your emails and other online communications? Well, you’ve got a new champion: Microsoft.

The computing giant has announced a set of new privacy features, in a post that specifically calls out “government snooping” as the reason.

Responding to news reports that the National Security Agency may be monitoring more online activity than was previously believed, Microsoft attorney and executive vice president Brad Smith wrote that the company is rolling out three new features:

– Expanded encryption across Microsoft services.

– Reinforced legal protections for customer data.

microsoftEnhanced transparency designed to show customers that Microsoft products don’t have “back doors” that make government surveillance easier.

“Like many others, we are especially alarmed by recent allegations in the press of a broader and concerted effort by some governments to circumvent online security measures — and in our view, legal processes and protections — in order to surreptitiously collect private customer data,” Smith wrote in the post published late Wednesday.

“… If true, these efforts threaten to seriously undermine confidence in the security and privacy of online communications. Indeed, government snooping potentially now constitutes an ‘advanced persistent threat,’ alongside sophisticated malware and cyber attacks.”

Just over a month ago, a Washington Post report said the NSA can tap into overseas data links to collect millions of text, video and audio records from tech giants like Google and Yahoo every day. The NSA denied that report.

Wednesday’s post says Microsoft launched “a comprehensive engineering effort” to enhance encryption on communications via tools like email service Outlook, productivity suite Office 365, SkyDrive and Windows Azure.

Data sent between customers and Microsoft is now encrypted by default, meaning messages will be garbled during transition so they become useless to anyone who may intercept them between the sender and intended recipient. All messages traveling between Microsoft servers will be added.


REDMOND — At Tuesday’s Microsoft shareholder meeting, viewers got a new look at Microsoft’s growing lineup of computers, tablets and devices as it transitions to a devices and services company, and Chairman Bill Gates updated shareholders on the current search for a new CEO.

Gates was one of the first speakers to address the crowd. When speaking o the current search for the new CEO of Microsoft, the chairman wouldn’t give names or a timetable for any announcement.

“We’ve been doing a lot of meetings with both internal and external candidates and we’re pleased with thew progress,” Gates said. “In fact, we met last night and talked a lot about where we are. It’s a complex role to fill. A lot of skills and capabilities we need.”

Ford CEO, Alan Mulally. is believed to be one of the top candidates for the job.

Current CEO Steve Ballmer announced he was retiring and leaving the company back in August. Ballmer has been the CEO for Microsoft since 2000.

Local News

Microsoft unveils new Cybercrime Center in Redmond

REDMOND, Wash. — Every year, about 400 million people are victims of cybercrime. It costs consumers an estimated $113 billion annually.

That’s why Microsoft has decided to take all the experts they have in fighting cybercrime, and give them one state-of-the-art center in Redmond to call home.

BZEcD-cCMAAZ-yYAs the head of Microsoft`s Digital Crimes Unit, David Finn spends a lot of time trying to figure out how his company`s software and services can be corrupted.

“The Internet is a great force for good,” he said Thursday. “Unfortunately, there are organized criminal groups who want to endanger that experience. They want to defraud some of the most vulnerable people of society.”

They use malware to infect computers, steal users’ identities, and sometimes exploit children.

Microsoft has been trying to stay one step ahead of those criminals for the past 10 years. But their investigators, engineers and technology experts were spread out across the globe. Now they have a central center in Redmond.

“Right here, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we have a team of incredibly talented passionate people fighting cybercrime,” Finn said. “They’re using big data and business intelligence and cutting-edge technology and tools to cut those criminal organizations off at the knees.”

That technology this summer helped them take down Citadel, a malicious network targeting financial institutions. Using new mapping software, they discovered a high number of infected computers in Western Europe but virtually none in the Ukraine. They figured out that`s where the criminal organization was based.

Microsoft is confident they`ll have more success stories like that in the new center. But they know they can`t do it alone. That`s why they`ve set aside space for law enforcement and other partners to work with them.

“I think the work we`re doing here is going to push us forward towards a cleaner, safer Internet,” Finn said.

REDMOND — Microsoft Corp. has announced a new program to provide software development training and testing to active duty service members looking to transition out of the military.

The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy aims to give U.S. veterans the opportunity for new careers in technology.


The Microsoft Software & Systems Academy will train veterans for new careers in the technology field. Photo courtesy Dept. of Defense

“American service members possess the drive, self-discipline and problem-solving skills that are essential for the technology industry,” Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith said.

The Academy consists of a 16-week course designed to help participants obtain the certification required for technology careers. Service members who complete the program will be hired into entry-level roles and software testers by either Microsoft or Launch Consulting, the firm administering the program.

The program will begin at Saint Martin’s University at Joint Base Lewis- McChord, and will expand to bases in California and Texas later this year.

REDMOND — After slowly building momentum with Windows Phone, Microsoft is adding new features and functions to the platform. Windows Phone Update 3 will be rolling out to phones over the next several months, the company said on Monday, and will also bring new, more powerful handsets to the market.

With the new software, Microsoft will support full HD resolution screens on phones with 5 to 6-inch displays. That’s a needed improvement on larger-screened devices that don’t look as sharp with 720p resolution. The new phones will also support Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip; arguably the most powerful available for a Windows Phone handset.

Windows PhoneBoth new and old phones will gain new features including:

    • A new, customizable Driving Mode designed to limit notifications on the lock screen
    • The ability to now close apps in multi-tasking mode
    • Screen rotation lock, new ringtones, better storage management and Bluetooth improvements

On the surface, it’s easy to dismiss this update as Windows Phone simply playing catching up to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android platforms. It’s true; that’s what much of this update is. But Windows Phone has survived while BlackBerry has imploded. Yes, the user base is relatively small, but in some countries it has more than 10 percent market share.

Windows Phone Update 3 isn’t going to hand Microsoft 25 percent of the smartphone market. But the company has shown that it has staying power and that it is committed to the mobile market. As a result, these updates are exactly what Windows Phone needs to keep its slow and steady progress in what Microsoft calls a marathon.

From CNN 

Local News

Bill Gates: ‘Control-Alt-Delete was a mistake’

BillGatesSEATTLE — Bill Gates fully admits he is not infallible.

After years of complaints and grumbles, the founder of Microsoft admitted Windows log-in command “Ctrl+Alt+Del” was a mistake.

“You want to have something you do with the keyboard that is signaling to a very low level of software,” Gates explained in verbalizing the necessity of a log-in command. But he went on to say the same function could have been done with a single button.

“It was a mistake,” he said. Gates was speaking at a recent Harvard fundraiser.

The admission of guilt drew huge laughs from the Harvard crowd and chuckles from Gates.

Watch the video below at about 16:00 to see Gates fess up to the mistake, or visit Geekwire for a bit of a history on the command.

Local News

Microsoft unveils new Surface tablets

surfaceNEW YORK — Microsoft unveiled two new Surface tablets — Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 — early Monday morning at a tech event in New York City.

According to Microsoft, the new tablets will feature increased battery life, display and camera resolution. Microsoft said the devices will be even more powerful, and feature software such as unlimited Skype. It will also be lighter and come with a new kickstand.

Customers will be able to buy the tablets in Microsoft stores and other retailers starting Oct. 22. Pre-orders can be made beginning Sept. 24.

microsoftREDMOND, Wash. — In an era of change and shifting company priorities, Microsoft Corp. announced a new $40 billion stock buyback program and increased its dividend 22 percent Tuesday morning.

The company’s quarterly dividend will raise to 28 cents a share, payable on Dec. 12. The $40 billion buyback program replaces an older program sent to expire at the end of the month.

“These actions reflect a continued commitment to returning cash to our shareholders,” Amy Hood, chief financial officer of Microsoft, said in a company release.

Shares rose 3.5 percent in early trading following the announcement.

The company, founded in 1975, is currently seeking a replacement for outgoing Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer.