Microsoft's week saw the company prep for Windows Intune, wrestle with its Windows Phone 7 update and announce some Bing partnerships.
Microsoft continued to chase the cloud this week, prepping
for the launch of its Windows Intune IT management platform and trying to get
the most recent software update for its Windows Phone 7 back on track.
cloud-based Windows InTune
gives IT administrators for midsize businesses
an enterprise-style level of control over a network, via a combination of
cloud-based services, on-site PC management tools and added malware protection.
Whether setting up an automatic antivirus policy, checking on whether software
licenses are up to date, or diagnosing unbootable PCs, the platform's features
are supposed to be streamlined for those IT pros' ease-of-use.
Microsoft is also bundling Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade
rights with Windows Intune, the better to a.) increase the business presence of
Windows 7, which it relies on to drive a major portion of its revenue, and b.)
allow businesses to standardize on the same operating-system version. Starting
March 23, the Intune platform will be available for either purchase or 30-day
trial in 35 countries.
"Windows Intune builds on our history of delivering cloud
services at scale, including Hotmail and Windows Update, and leverages
Microsoft's cloud experience with Azure, Dynamics CRM Online and Office 365,"
Gavriella Schuster, a general manager at Microsoft, wrote in a Feb. 28 posting
Under pressure from rivals such as Google and Salesforce,
Microsoft has made substantial inroads into the cloud over the past year, using
its conferences and other events to push cloud-based IT services to
corporations. However, the cloud continues to generate precious little revenue
for Microsoft itself. Given that lack of bottom-line positivity-which continue
to be driven by more traditional offerings such as Windows and Office-some
Redmond executives may be wondering (with increasingly anxiety) if one particular
cloud release will finally ignite the sort of broad-based interest that, in
turn, translates into significant dollars.
On the IT administrator side of the equation, it could be
Intune. Microsoft originally rolled out the platform beta in April 2010, only
to close the offering to new users after two days of what the company described
as "overwhelming response." Beta-program slots had apparently filled in less
than 30 hours.
IT administrators alone, however, won't translate into
billions of dollars' worth of revenue, meaning the day the cloud rains cash for
Microsoft remains at some nebulous point in the future. That being said,
Microsoft continues to hold out hope that its Windows Phone 7 platform will, in
fact, start producing some substantial money in the near future.
To that end, Microsoft resumed its latest Windows Phone 7
update to Samsung smartphones, which it had pulled in the wake of users
reporting technical glitches.
"Starting today, we plan to resume rolling out the February
update to Samsung phones," Michael Stroh, a writer for Microsoft's Windows
in a March 2 posting on The Windows Phone Blog
. "Meanwhile, we're
continuing to dispatch the update to other Windows Phone models. As has been
the case, the software patch is being sent out on a rolling schedule."
Stroh added that Microsoft's engineering teams had
apparently "pinpointed and fixed problems" that caused some Windows Phone 7
devices to stall in mid-update. "We apologize again for the delay," he wrote,
"and continue looking for ways to improve the update process."
Microsoft had originally described the update as a "smaller
infrastructure update that will help future updates," including one scheduled
for the first two weeks of March that will add cut-and-paste and faster
mobile-application loading. Within a day of the update's original rollout,
though, users began reporting it stalled their smartphones.
In the wake of those users taking their complaints to
Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 help forum, the company shifted into full-on
damage-control mode, claiming in a corporate blog posting that only 10 percent
of users' smartphones had stalled because of the new software. "Has the update
process gone perfectly? No-but few large scale software updates ever do, and
the engineering team here was prepared," Michael Stroh, a writer for
Microsoft's Windows team, wrote in a Feb. 23 posting on The
Windows Phone Blog
Of the 10 percent whose Windows Phones had stalled, he
added, "nearly half failed for two basic reasons-a bad Internet connection or
insufficient computer storage space."
Microsoft may have reinstituted the update for Samsung
phones, but reports abounded that the update was still causing issues for some
users. "The new update is failing as well but gives a new error," one user
wrote on Microsoft's
March 2. Similar messages-with tech-support responses-began cropping
up on Windows Phone support
Twitter feed starting March 3
Microsoft hopes that Windows Phone 7 will eventually slow
the company's declining market-share in the mobile arena, and allow it to
compete more heartily against the likes of Google Android and the Apple iPhone.
Speaking of battles, Apple fired back this week against Microsoft's attempts to
deny it the trademark to the term "app store."
asked the federal agency's Trial and Appeal Board to deny
"app store" to Apple on the grounds that "'app store' is generic for retail
store services featuring apps and unregisterable for ancillary services such as
searching for and downloading apps from such stores."
In a Feb. 28 filing with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office,
Apple sought not only to undermine its rival's argument, but also deliver a few
rhetorical jabs. "Microsoft, missing the forest for the trees, does not base
its motion on a comprehensive evaluation of how the relevant public understands
the term APP STORE as a whole," wrote Apple's legal counsel. "What it offers
instead are out-of-context and misleading snippets of material printed by its
outside counsel from the Internet and allegations regarding how the public
allegedly interprets the constituent parts of the term APP STORE, i.e., -app'
Microsoft also lashed back against Google this week, with a
set of Bing announcements tailored to draw users to the search engine. In
partnership with The Dealmap, Bing
is now offering local deals
via both its mobile Website (m.bing.com) and
via its search results for businesses. Microsoft is also partnering with Kayak
to help with airfare searches. Both deals come at a time when Microsoft and
Google are locking horns in a number of areas-not just search, but also the