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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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Photo courtesy: Microsoft

SEATTLE — Microsoft’s new Xbox Music service is now available on Android and iOS devices with a monthly subscription. Xbox Music is a cloud-based service that allows users to stream music over different devices, even those not running on Windows.

Xbox Music also now offers free streaming of its 30 million-song library on the web, putting it in direct competition with popular music streaming service Spotify. Customers willing to pay a $9.99 monthly or $99.99 yearly subscription fee can also access their collections and playlists through mobile devices.

With the free, ad-supported Web version and the new apps, the company will try to reach more users by allowing access to music through a variety of connected devices. It’s the latest move in Xbox’s transition from primarily a multi-player gaming system to a full entertainment service.

“It’s really to fill out the number of places where a Microsoft customer may want to use their music,”  said Scott Porter, Xbox’s principal program manager, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “It broadens out and completes the ubiquity that users expect from music.”

Read more about Xbox Music from the L.A. Times here.

XboxREDMOND, Wash. — Xbox One, Microsoft’s newest gaming console, will launch on Nov. 22 in 13 different markets, Microsoft announced Wednesday.

The initial launch market will include the U.S., Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain and the UK. Other markets are scheduled to follow in 2014.

Pre-ordered consoles have already sold out, Microsoft said, but a limited number of additional Xbox One Day One consoles will be available for pre-order soon. Development teams recently increased CPU from 1.6GHZ to 1.75GHZ, roughly a 10 percent increase in CPU performance.

Microsoft previously released the Xbox 360 on Nov. 22 2005.

For more on the release, click here.


VIDEO: What’s behind Microsoft’s Nokia deal?

SEATTLE — Emily Parkhurst, a reporter who covers technology for the Puget Sound Business Journal, discusses Microsoft’s announcement that it is buying Nokia’s mobile phone business for $7.2 billion.

Steve Ballmer

Steve Ballmer

REDMOND, Wash. — In a major announcement, Microsoft Corp. said it will purchase Nokia’s Devices & Services business, license Nokia’s patents and license and use Nokia’s mapping services for $7.17 billion in cash.

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will pay EUR 3.79 billion to purchase substantially all of Nokia’s Devices & Services business, and EUR 1.65 billion to license Nokia’s patents, for a total transaction price of EUR 5.44 billion — or $7.17 billion U.S. at Monday’s currency rate.

Microsoft will draw upon its overseas cash resources to fund the transaction.

“Today marks a moment of reinvention,” Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer and Nokia CEO Stephen Elop said in an open letter to Microsoft employees on the corporation’s blog. “Building on this successful partnership (with Nokia), we announced some important news today:  An agreement for Microsoft to purchase Nokia’s Devices & Services business, to deliver more choices, faster innovation, and even more exciting devices and services to our customers.

“Today’s agreement will accelerate the momentum of Nokia’s devices and services, bringing the world’s most innovative smartphones to more people, while continuing to connect the next billion people with Nokia’s phone portfolio.

With the commitment and resources of Microsoft to take Nokia’s devices and services forward, we can now realize the full potential of the Windows ecosystem, providing the most compelling experiences for people at home, at work and everywhere in between.

“We will continue to build the mobile phones you’ve come to love, while investing in the future — new phones and services that combine the best of Microsoft and the best of Nokia … together we will redefine the boundaries of mobility.”

In a news release announcing the agreement, Microsoft said it “aims to accelerate the growth of its share and profit in mobile devices through faster innovation, increased synergies, and unified branding and marketing. For Nokia, this transaction is expected to be significantly accretive to earnings, strengthen its financial position, and provide a solid basis for future investment in its continuing businesses.”

“It’s a bold step into the future – a win-win for employees, shareholders and consumers of both companies,” Ballmer said in the news release. “Bringing these great teams together will accelerate Microsoft’s share and profits in phones, and strengthen the overall opportunities for both Microsoft and our partners across our entire family of devices and services. In addition to their innovation and strength in phones at all price points, Nokia brings proven capability and talent in critical areas such as hardware design and engineering, supply chain and manufacturing management, and hardware sales, marketing and distribution.”

“We are excited and honored to be bringing Nokia’s incredible people, technologies and assets into our Microsoft family. Given our long partnership with Nokia and the many key Nokia leaders that are joining Microsoft, we anticipate a smooth transition and great execution,” Ballmer said. “With ongoing share growth and the synergies across marketing, branding and advertising, we expect this acquisition to be accretive to our adjusted earnings per share starting in FY15, and we see significant long-term revenue and profit opportunities for our shareholders.”

The transaction for a total of $5.44 billion EUR in cash — or $7.17 billion in U.S. cash — is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to approval by Nokia’s shareholders, regulatory approvals and other closing conditions.

Local News

Microsoft’s Ballmer to retire within a year

REDMOND, Wash. – Microsoft Corp. announced Friday morning that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, once he has chosen his successor.

Ballmer1Ballmer will continue as the CEO as he and a special committee work to find his replacement, Microsoft announced in a press release early Friday. The special committee, appointed by the company’s board of directors, will largely direct the transition in leadership. The committee will be led by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Bill Gates and others.

The special committee is working with an executive recruiting firm to consider external and internal candidates. In the meantime, Ballmer said he will do his best to bring high-quality products and services to the consumer as he transitions out of leadership.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said in a release. “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.”

Ballmer informed Microsoft employees of his departure via email Friday morning. He called this an “important” time for the company, and is proud of what he has achieved in his time at the helm.

“This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do,” Ballmer said in his email. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the ting outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.”

Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 and was named CEO of Microsoft in 2000. Microsoft was founded in 1975 by Bill Gates, and has become one of the world’s leaders in software design, but lately has come under fire for struggling to keep up with diminishing PC sales and a shift to tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft’s stock jumped more than 7 percent to above 34 points in the moments following the news.

Here is the full text of Ballmer’s email to Microsoft employees:

“I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.

This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.

I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.

I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.

This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.

Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.”


Ballmer at WE Day 

surfacetabletREDMOND — Microsoft has been slapped with another class-action lawsuit over its Surface tablet, according to the Seattle Times.  The lawsuit claims the company misled shareholders about how well the Surface RT was selling.

In addition to the company itself, the suit names CEO Steve Ballmer, and former CFO Peter Klein, among others.  The Times reports shareholders claim they violated federal securities laws by issuing false and misleading statements.

The lawsuit alleges that Microsoft was holding a huge inventory of unsold tablets by the end of the March 31 quarter but kept that fact from investors.

The Times says Microsoft has never said how many Surface tablets it has sold.  Microsoft has not commented on the suit.

By Salvador Rodriguez, The Los Angeles Times
What hasn’t Paul Allen done?

The man is a billionaire and a philanthropist. He co-founded Microsoft, and he owns three professional sports teams. And this week, he released a rock album.

“Everywhere at Once,” by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers, a 13-song rock album went on sale this week on iTunes and Amazon.

The album features Allen and his band playing blues guitar songs with numerous rock stars, including Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders, Joe Walsh of the Eagles, David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, and Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart.

paul allen album

Ad for Paul Allen’s “Everywhere at Once”

Allen wrote or co-wrote all of the songs, including “Devine,” a track that was used in last year’s movie “Magic Mike” starring Channing Tatum.

The album is being put out by Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment, and all the proceeds will go toward educational programs at Allen’s Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle. A number of free tracks can be found on the album’s website.

The 60-year-old rocker told Guitar Aficionado magazine that his interests in high school were programming and playing the guitar. Although Allen went the way of tech, he said rock ‘n’ roll always remained a part of his life and that he has only continued to get better with the guitar over the years.

“Making this album was fun and rewarding for me,” he told the magazine. “We came up with more than 70 songs over the last year and a half. I’ve been fortunate in my life to play with some of the greatest guitarists and rock and roll musicians ever. It was an amazing thrill to have some of them play on the album.”

Allen is the second founder of a tech company to release a rock album this year. Earlier, Groupon founder and former CEO Andrew Mason also released an album, called “Hardly Workin‘,” but the soft-rock, motivational album was not very well received.

surface tabletBy Salvador Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

Microsoft appears to be having a hard time selling its Surface RT tablets. The computer giant announced Thursday that it had to take a $900-million charge against earnings because of what it described as “inventory adjustment” for the device.

The large write-off may explain why Microsoft cut the price of its Surface RT models by $150 this month and gave away thousands of free Surface Pro tablets to attendees at its developers conference in June. Surface RT runs on a stripped-down version of Windows 8.

News of the Surface’s struggles is a bad sign for the company, considering that the tablet was essentially the flagship Windows 8 device and required that Microsoft step out of its software comfort zone and into the world of hardware manufacturing.

Microsoft posted a nearly $21.9-billion profit for the year, but the company missed analysts’ projections for revenue and earnings. Its shares, which closed Thursday at $35.40, down 30 cents, slid nearly 6% to $33.40 in after-hours trading.

Despite missing estimates, Microsoft said it was positioned for growth.

“Our new products and the strategic realignment we announced last week position us well for long-term success, as we focus our energy and resources on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value the most,” the company said in a statement.

Microsoft will have to do a better job with the Surface, as the company said it would focus more on products like the tablet and other services going forward, rather than just relying on its Windows software.

REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Monday the world is in “a golden age of computer science” and that he believes the next great advances will be in education, medicine, agriculture and better communication.

gatesGates returned to the Redmond headquarters of the company for the first time in more than five years as the keynote speaker at a summit focused on Microsoft’s research.

“We’re in a golden age of computer science,” Gates told the audience. “The original vision of Microsoft, that we ought to dream about what software could do if we had infinite computing and infinite storage — that’s almost is our reality today.”

Technology has helped his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation focus on improving education in this country while tackling extreme poverty and health problems in the poorest countries around the world, he said.

“We’ve saved about 10 million lives (overseas) that otherwise wouldn’t have been saved,” he said. “And our goal for the next decade is 50 million.

“It’s clear that innovation, particularly technical innovation, new vaccines, new seeds, monitoring things to make sure government workers do what they’re supposed to, including education, that we can make much faster progress to get these people out of these poverty traps now than ever before.”

In 1975, Gates and Microsoft created a goal — of a computer on every desk in every home in America. Now, many people carry computers in their pockets, too.

He said the next advances will be in education, medicine, agriculture, digital currency and better communication — and social media will play a role.

“People can make fun of it (social media) because a lot of it is used for ‘what my cat had for breakfast’ type things,” Gates said. “I  think of it in a broader context — the enrichment of communications to people who have common interests. And there, I see it will be a strong foundation.”

Gates didn’t just talk about Microsoft’s successes, but also about its mistakes. He drew a roar of laughter from the crowd when he said that in those cases of mistakes, the company was clearly just ahead of its time.

The Microsoft summit brought leading researchers and educators from around the world to Redmond to talk about the next big thing.

“The opportunity to solve a lot of these problems is about finding people to put together … experts in different fields … then you’ve really got something,”  said Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Shofield.

One of the trends Microsoft is looking at is establishing better communication between people and their computing devices.

Microsoft spends about as much on computing research as the federally funded National Science Foundation.