Microsoft expands FastTrack migration service

Microsoft is expanding the free services it offers to help enterprise customers adopt its products.microsoft stock campus building

The company announced Monday that its FastTrack services now encompass Dynamics 365, Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams. Those come in addition to Office 365 and the Enterprise Mobility Suite, which were already covered under FastTrack.

Each service is designed to help companies get the most out of products they’ve already subscribed to and adopt products that the company has recently released. FastTrack includes adoption guides, tools to find a Microsoft partner company to help with migration, and consulting help from Microsoft employees on particular issues.

FastTrack began life a year and a half ago as a one-time service to help companies migrate to Office 365. Since then, the service has evolved to support continued use of Microsoft products and adoption of new features.

Organizations evaluating a Windows 10 deployment will be able to use FastTrack in planning a rollout and upgrading users. For Dynamics 365, FastTrack will offer expert guidance on how to get the most out of Microsoft’s suite of business apps, which include CRM and operations management tools.

Getting customers to use the subscription services they pay for is important to the long-term success of products like Office 365 and Dynamics 365. If companies aren’t using the subscriptions, they won’t renew them.

It’s a common issue for most enterprise software companies, including Oracle, IBM, Salesforce, SAP, and smaller players like identity and access management vendor Okta.

“In our world, if the product doesn’t get deployed, [customers] don’t renew. They’re not successful, we’re not successful,” Okta CEO Todd McKinnon said at a press event last week.

Including Windows 10 in the FastTrack service should help Microsoft get customers to upgrade to the new OS. It will provide a centralized set of resources for IT administrators dealing with difficult aspects of migrating their users, like ensuring apps are compatible with the new OS.

On the Dynamics 365 side of things , Microsoft is offering technical talks, workshops and ongoing calls from its engineers to help with adoption of its products, which launched last year. It’s a suite of different products that compete with the likes of Salesforce, Zendesk and ServiceNow.

The Microsoft Teams support for FastTrack includes guides that help walk users through scenarios that might be helped by the live collaboration service.

Cyril Belikoff, a senior director of Office marketing at Microsoft, said in a blog post that the company is making those resources available ahead of the launch of Teams so it’s easier for administrators to get people to use it.

Samsung sees 2016 profit jump despite Note 7 debacle

Samsung Electronics said its profit rose almost 20 percent in 2016 despite nearly flat sales and the costly recall of the Note 7 smartphone.mam 239835 391149 de 100612905 orig

The company reported an annual net profit of 22.7 trillion won (US$19.5 billion), up 19.2 percent, on sales of 201.9 trillion won (US$173.5 billion), up just 0.6 percent.

Samsung saw some of its biggest sales gains in memory chips on the back of strong demand from smartphone makers. The company is one of the world’s biggest memory chip manufacturers.

The mobile division saw sales fall 3 percent in 2016 to 97.8 trillion won. It’s Samsung’s biggest division by sales and was hit by the recall of the Note 7 smartphone and slowing demand for high-end phones.

A day earlier, Samsung divulged that battery problems were to blame for the fires and explosions that led to the massive recall. It said batteries from two manufacturers suffered from internal problems that caused a short circuit and fire.

Looking ahead, Samsung said it expects the smartphone market to slow down while artificial intelligence services present a new business opportunity. To date, Samsung handsets have featured Google’s AI personal assistant, but the company reportedly is developing its own assistant.

Samsung also signaled that it plans to boost the competitiveness of its mid-to-low-end smartphones by adding features that were previously only available in more expensive models.

In the consumer electronics business, sales barely rose but profit more than doubled to 2.6 trillion won. Samsung said it sees high-end QLED televisions and large-screen 4K televisions as key to growth in 2017. It will also attempt to expand the business-to-business side of its home appliance division.

Trump names net neutrality foe Ajit Pai to lead the FCC

President Donald Trump has named Commissioner Ajit Pai, an outspoken opponent of the FCC’s net neutrality rules, as the next head of the agency.13959900047 bede3e5ba4 o

The choice was widely expected after Trump’s election last November. Pai is the senior Republican on the commission, having served since 2012. He doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate because he is already on the Commission.

Pai attacked the reclassification of broadband as a utility in 2015, saying it would place excessive burdens on service providers, other internet players and consumers. The expansion of broadband service through a competitive marketplace has been one of Pai’s themes as a commissioner.

“I look forward to working with the new Administration, my colleagues at the Commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans,” Pai said in a statement Monday.

Former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed the net neutrality plan and former President Barack Obama strongly supported it. Trump and Republicans in Congress have criticized the rules and are expected to target them as part of an overall push for deregulation.

Although Pai can take over as chairman without a confirmation vote, he will need to be renominated and reconfirmed at the end of this year when his current term on the Commission expires.

The FCC customarily includes three members from the president’s party and two from the opposition. If Trump follows suit, he will name one more Republican and one more Democrat. In addition to Pai, Democrat Mignon Clyburn and Republican Michael O’Rielly are on the Commission now.

Pai grew up in Parsons, Kansas, the son of immigrants from India, according to his biography on the FCC’s site. In addition to several positions as an attorney in the federal government, he was an associate general counsel at Verizon from 2001 to 2003

Pompeo sworn in as CIA chief amid opposition from surveillance critics

Mike Pompeo was sworn in late Monday by U.S. Vice President Michael Pence as the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, amid protests from surveillance critics who worry about his conflicting views on a number of key issues.161118 pompeo 1

The oath of office was administered to him after the Senate voted in favor of his confirmation in a 66-32 vote.

Critics of Pompeo, a Republican representative from Kansas, are concerned that he may weigh in with the government on a rollback of many privacy reforms, including restrictions on the collection of bulk telephone metadata from Americans by the National Security Agency under the USA Freedom Act. There are also concerns that the new director may try to introduce curbs on the use of encryption and bring in measures to monitor the social media accounts of people.

The new CIA chief wrote in January last year in an op-ed that Washington is “blunting its surveillance powers” with measures like the USA Freedom Act. Pompeo had previously voted in favor of the legislation.

“Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database,” Pompeo wrote in the op-ed he coauthored with constitutional lawyer David B. Rivkin.

During a recent confirmation hearing, Pompeo did not provide details of limits he would accept, if any, to the new surveillance powers he has suggested.

His proposals have not unexpectedly irked critics of the government’s surveillance, who are concerned that Pompeo has not clarified when asked for details about the kind of data he would like the government to collect.

“After two rounds of submitted questions and a hearing, we still don’t know what Congressman Pompeo meant when he referred to ‘all metadata’ or how he defines ‘publicly available financial and lifestyle information,'” said Ron Wyden, Democrat senator from Oregon, in a speech in the Senate.

Wyden said that on issue after issue, whether on surveillance, torture or Russia, Pompeo had “taken two, three or four positions, depending on when he says it and who he’s talking to.”

The CIA last week updated rules governing the collection, retention and dissemination of information on U.S. persons with an eye to addressing concerns about the collection and handling of information on U.S. persons in the course of overseas surveillance. One of the measures was to put a five-year limit on the holding of sensitive data. The rules introduced under the administration of former President Barack Obama come into effect on March 18.

Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option

Microsoft today officially launched a premium-grade Outlook.com email service in the U.S. that omits ads, provides five inboxes and supports personalized addresses.outlook.com preview page

The service, labeled “Outlook.com Premium,” had been branded “Preview” until today, according to the Thurrott.com blog, which had been tracking its progress for almost a year.

Outlook.com Premium appeared to target both small businesses and families with the five user accounts and the personalized address. The domain name for the latter will be free for the first year, Microsoft said, and those who already own a domain could use it with the email service free of charge.

As with the consumer-oriented “Ad-free Outlook.com,” a $20 per year deal that scrubs advertisements from the service, Outlook.com Premium also erases ads from the five inboxes.

According to the small print on the Premium website, 12 months of the service will cost $20 until the end of March, at which time it will climb to $50, its regular price.

Renewals for those who get in under the discount wire will run up to $30 — $20 for the Outlook.com service, $10 for the domain name, if there is one — apparently until Microsoft decides to raise the price. “You will be notified if the price changes,” the website said.

Microsoft has aggressively promoted subscriptions for several years, but with the launch of Windows 10 — and that operating system’s “software-as-a-service” model — the company accelerated efforts with new enterprise-grade subscriptions to Windows as well as programs targeting consumers, such as the Groove music streaming service and now Outlook.com Premium.

The firm has made no secret of the subscription campaigns’ goals. In July, CEO Satya Nadella told Wall Street that Microsoft would use three ways to track progress of its operating system business. The second of the trio, Nadella said, was to “grow new monetization through services across our unified Windows platform.”

This story, “Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option” was originally published by Computerworld.

Sprint takes a 33 percent stake in Tidal

Mobile phone service provider Sprint announced this morning that it has taken a 33 percent stake in Tidal, one of the few music-streaming services to offer high-resolution audio streams. As part of the deal, Sprint says its customers will get exclusive access to certain content. Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will also join Tidal’s board of directors.Sprint Tidal

“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” Tidal owner Jay Z (née Shawn Carter) said in a press release. “Marcelo understood our goal right away and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”

Prior to this investment Tidal had been unique among the major music-streaming services in that it was owned by a coalition of recording artists, including Jay Z, his wife Beyoncé, Jack White, Madonna, and several others. This ownership arrangement has enabled the service to offer exclusive streams and music videos to its subscribers. According to Sprint’s press release, Sprint’s investment means that “Tidal and its artists will make exclusive content that will only be available to current and new Sprint customers.” We’ve reached out to Tidal and Sprint to ask if that means Sprint customers will get content that Tidal subscribers won’t.

Tidal is also one of the few media-streaming services to offer CD-quality music (in FLAC format) as a premium, $20-per-month tier. That’s double what competing streaming services charge, including Spotify, which streams MP3 files, and Apple Music, which uses the AAC format. Tidal has sought to further differentiate its higher-end service by adding support for the MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) codec at no additional cost (the service offers 30,000 MQA tracks from Warner Music Group).

: Jay Z dropped $56 million to acquire Tidal in early 2015, but Sprint’s press release is light on details, including how much its 33 percent ownership stake is worth and whether it was made with cash, stock, or a mix of the two. (An unnamed source told Marketwatch the stake is worth $200 million.) Here’s hoping that it was cash and that Tidal’s management dedicates a chunk of it to improving its product and infrastructure, especially its clunky app.

Despite the exclusive content and the availability of higher-resolution music files, Tidal has struggled to differentiate itself from the competition. The company has had a tough time convincing a generation of music fans who’ve grown up with relatively low-resolution MP3 and AAC files being the only recorded music they’ve ever heard that FLAC—and now MQA—are worth paying double for.

Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8

Now that the results of its investigation into the Galaxy Note7 fires has been completed and reported, Samsung can fully turn its attention to the launch of one of the most anticipated phones of the year, the Galaxy S8. But don’t get your hopes up just yet. It looks like it’s going to take a little longer than usual to arrive.Samsung Galaxy S7 EMBARGOED until Sunday Feb. 21 1 PM EST

During an interview with Reuters following the announcement of the results of the probe into the Note7 batteries, Samsung mobile president DJ Koh said the Galaxy S8 would not be unveiled during its customary slot at the Mobile World Congress show next month. Rather, the company is taking a little longer with the production of its new handset as it implements an extensive set of testing to ensure the batteries are functioning normally.

Koh did not offer a time frame for the release, but reports have indicated that the handset could arrive in late March or April, possibly at an event in New York City. After Samsung was forced to pull the Note7 off shelves in October and implement a massive global recall, it found that the battery was to blame, and the company has since put an 8-point battery safety check in place to ensure future devices don’t have the same issues.

Samsung also revealed that there will indeed by a Note8 handset. In a separate interview, Koh told CNet that the company is not retiring the established Note name and instead “will bring back a better, safer, and very innovative Note 8.” He said there are “lots and lots of loyal Note customers,” but Samsung will surely need to work to build trust around the brand again. Samsung has said that 96 percent of the 3 million activated handsets have been returned.

: The delay in Samsung’s launch of the S8 might be disappointing to fans anxiously awaiting to upgrade, but it’s good to hear Samsung taking its time with the new phone. Reports have indicated that part of the battery issues with the Note7 stemmed from the company’s aggressive production timeline (both before and after the initial launch), and Samsung certainly seems to be treating its new phones with the care and attention they deserve. As far as the Note brand goes, it remains to be seen whether Samsung can win over skeptical customers, but it’s refreshing to see a company embrace its history, warts and all, and not use marketing smoke and mirrors to hide their past mistakes.

This story, “Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8” was originally published by Greenbot.

All new Chromebooks will get Android app support

If you’re buying a Chromebook released in 2017 or later you’ll no longer need to worry about whether or not it will run Android apps.chromebook android apps primary

Google recently added a note saying as much to its Android apps for Chrome OS support page, as first spotted by Android Police. “All Chromebooks launching in 2017 and after…will work with Android apps in the coming future,” the note says.

That was pretty much expected to be the case, but it’s nice to see Google guarantee this for buyers of new devices. Even though Google is saying Chromebooks from here on out are getting Android support, it still plans to extend support to older devices. Chromebooks designated for Android support are still listed as they were before, and Google says they will still get Android support.

 

Even with this new policy, it’s not going to get any simpler figuring out if that Chromebook you want to buy is getting Android app support. New Chromebooks for 2017 have yet to appear, and even when they do there will likely be a glut of older Chromebooks available—especially if you buy online. Be sure to check Google’s support page (link above) to see whether or not the Chromebook you’re interested in will support Android apps.

Chromebooks have always found a home in the education market but they’ve yet to become popular with home users. With Android apps coming to Chromebooks, at least some computer makers are hoping that will change.

Fresh battles lines between Chromebooks and Windows PCs were drawn at CES 2017 in January. Asus introduced the next iteration of the Chromebook Flip. Samsung, meanwhile, unveiled the Chromebook Plus and Pro, two premium touchscreen devices that aim to make the most of Chromebook Android integration.

Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8

Now that the results of its investigation into the Galaxy Note7 fires has been completed and reported, Samsung can fully turn its attention to the launch of one of the most anticipated phones of the year, the Galaxy S8. But don’t get your hopes up just yet. It looks like it’s going to take a little longer than usual to arrive.
Samsung Galaxy S7 EMBARGOED until Sunday Feb. 21 1 PM ESTterview with Reuters following the announcement of the results of the probe into the Note7 batteries, Samsung mobile president DJ Koh said the Galaxy S8 would not be unveiled during its customary slot at the Mobile World Congress show next month. Rather, the company is taking a little longer with the production of its new handset as it implements an extensive set of testing to ensure the batteries are functioning normally.

Koh did not offer a time frame for the release, but reports have indicated that the handset could arrive in late March or April, possibly at an event in New York City. After Samsung was forced to pull the Note7 off shelves in October and implement a massive global recall, it found that the battery was to blame, and the company has since put an 8-point battery safety check in place to ensure future devices don’t have the same issues.

Samsung also revealed that there will indeed by a Note8 handset. In a separate interview, Koh told CNet that the company is not retiring the established Note name and instead “will bring back a better, safer, and very innovative Note 8.” He said there are “lots and lots of loyal Note customers,” but Samsung will surely need to work to build trust around the brand again. Samsung has said that 96 percent of the 3 million activated handsets have been returned.

The delay in Samsung’s launch of the S8 might be disappointing to fans anxiously awaiting to upgrade, but it’s good to hear Samsung taking its time with the new phone. Reports have indicated that part of the battery issues with the Note7 stemmed from the company’s aggressive production timeline (both before and after the initial launch), and Samsung certainly seems to be treating its new phones with the care and attention they deserve. As far as the Note brand goes, it remains to be seen whether Samsung can win over skeptical customers, but it’s refreshing to see a company embrace its history, warts and all, and not use marketing smoke and mirrors to hide their past mistakes.

This story, “Samsung pushes back Galaxy S8 release, promises a ‘very innovative’ Note 8” was originally published by Greenbot.

Reports: Apple, Foxconn considering a $7 billion manufacturing plant in the U.S.

Apple is reportedly considering moving some of its iPhone production to the United States. Taiwanese iPhone producer Foxconn is considering a $7 billion joint investment in a display production facility, the company’s chairman told reporters.20150922 151214

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou said “Apple is willing to invest in the facility together” because it needs display panels for its products. The plant could create 30,000 to 50,000 jobs.

But Gou said U.S.-made iPhones would likely cost more than those produced at Foxconn’s Zhengzhou, China facility, which churns out more than 100 million iPhones per year.

“In the future they may be paying some $500 more for [U.S.] products, but those do not necessarily work better than a $300 phone,” Gou told reporters.

He asked American officials for concessions on land and electricity, which would offset the higher labor costs.

Apple has come under fire from President Donald Trump over making its products in China, with the president even calling for a boycott of Apple products before he was elected. Trump has played nice since Election Day, promising Apple tax breaks and reduced regulations if Apple builds plants in the U.S. in a phone call with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

“Tim, you know one of the things that will be a real achievement for me is when I get Apple to build a big plant in the United States, or many big plants in the United States,” Trump recounted the phone call to the New York Times.

Apple hasn’t commented on Foxconn’s statements, although this isn’t the first time reports that Apple may move some of its manufacturing to the U.S. have popped up. This report, however, comes from a more direct source with deeper insight into Apple’s manufacturing processes.

This story, “Reports: Apple, Foxconn considering a $7 billion manufacturing plant in the U.S.” was originally published by Macworld.