Microsoft Unveils Ad-free Version of Bing For Schools

microsoftYesterday Microsoft announced that it would offer an advertising-free version of its Bing search engine for schools, which also includes extra privacy and filtering of adult content.

Commenting on this, Microsoft’s Matt Wallaert said,”Bing For Schools will offer schools in the US the option to tailor the Bing experience for (elementary and secondary) students by removing all advertisements from search results, enhancing privacy protections and the filtering of adult content, and adding specialized learning features to enhance digital literacy. The program is completely voluntary: schools have the choice of participating or keeping the normal Bing experience. For those that opt-in, Bing will enable the experience across all searches from within the school’s network on Bing.com, without any need for special software.”

He further added that while Bing already offers the ability to filter out adult content, the new services will automatically default to the strict setting and remove kids ability to change it.

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Microsoft launches Office 365 Suite For Businesses In India

microsoftYesterday Microsoft announced the launch of the next-generation Office 365 for businesses in India. Office 365 works across multiple devices, is social and integrates seamlessly with the cloud. It unlocks newer productivity scenarios and provides organizations with the desired IT control and management.  Customers can purchase the next generation Office 365 directly from Microsoft online or through an authorized retail outlet or partner.

According to the company, the Office 365 suite is the most comprehensive with Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Access, InfoPath and Publisher), Project and Visio. In addition, it also includes updated Microsoft Lync Online, Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and the all new Yammer. Office 365 can be installed on up to five devices for a single user under the Office 365 licensing.

The SharePoint feature integrates with Yammer and Lync to provide a social layer that brings people and teams together to collaborate and share organizational knowledge and information. The Office 365 suite operates seamlessly across multiple devices – tablets, PCs, phones, hybrids, etc.

Commenting on the launch, Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India said,”In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, the next generation Office 365 unlocks social and mobility scenarios that will allow businesses and individuals to take full advantage of the cloud. It gives them the freedom to do things, when, where and how they want.”

Since its launch in mid-2011, Office 365 is one of Microsoft’s fastest growing businesses globally. Lupin, Godrej Group, Tata Communications, AEGON Religare, Tata Elxsi, FICCI, SIRO Clinpharm, Unilog, Gavs Technologies, Visaka Industries, ACME Tele Power, Dabur India, Adhunik Group and Infiniti Retail are a few companies already using Office 365.

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Facebook To Acquire Atlas Advertiser Suite From Microsoft

facebook-atlasOn Thursday, Facebook announced that it has agreed to acquire the Atlas Advertiser Suite from Microsoft. The Atlas Advertiser Suite is a world-class media measurement platform, delivering billions of impressions every day. Through this acquisition, Facebook aims to help advertisers to see a more complete view of the effectiveness of their campaigns.

The Facebook blog stated,”Many marketers that advertise on Facebook today use Atlas, and Atlas has been an approved partner for measurement since June. Today’s agreement brings us closer together in a way that benefits both Facebook and Atlas’ agency and marketer clients. Atlas clients should not see any change to the service they receive today, and we will continue to innovate and invest in the Atlas platform.”

It further added,”We plan to improve Atlas’ capabilities by investing in scaling its back-end measurement systems and enhancing its current suite of advertiser tools on desktop and mobile. We will also work to improve the user interface and functionality with the goal of making Atlas the most effective, intuitive, and powerful ad serving, management and measurement platform in the industry. Ultimately, Atlas’s powerful platform, combined with Nielsen and Datalogix, will help advertisers close the loop and compare their Facebook campaigns to the rest of their ad spend across the web on desktop and mobile.”

The Atlas Team will continue to operate from its current location Seattle.

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Microsoft Launches English Club – An Exclusive English Learning App

microsoftMicrosoft has launched an exclusive Windows 8 application, English Club – its latest English learning app. This app aims to take users with basic English language proficiency to the next level so that they can. English Club can be downloaded on to Windows 8 devices and comprises of a range of fun-filled language learning resources presented in an entertaining and often humorous format. The app is free and has been downloaded more than 125,000 times already.

The content for this app has been created by the British Council, a pioneer in creating content for mobile learning platforms. The app includes standard words, advanced words, business terms, hangman, jumbled words, as well as stories for kids etc, all of which users can access to learn English and have fun on the go. It enables users to learn new vocabulary, to identify the meaning of select words and idioms, spell and pronounce the words correctly and practice their usage in active situations. Users can also monitor their progress and compete with others using the same app.

Each vocabulary set contains word sets for general, intermediate and advanced learners and a special collection of business-related vocabulary for learners who need to use English as part of their work.

Each word also features:

  • a fun animation showing the word in context through natural dialogues.
  • high quality audio used to demonstrate the correct pronunciation
  • the meaning of the word explained in simple language
  • the usage of the word demonstrated through videos using real-life situations.

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Microsoft Expands Retail Distribution for Microsoft Surface With Windows RT

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced its plans to make Microsoft Surface available at additional retailers as soon as mid-December. Apart from this, Microsoft also announced the extension of the Microsoft holiday stores, including the transition of several of the stores into permanent Microsoft retail outlets.

Panos Panay, general manager, Microsoft Surface said, “The public reaction to Surface has been exciting to see. We’ve increased production and are expanding the ways in which customers can interact with, experience and purchase Surface.”

Now by mid-December, consumers in the United States and Australia will be able to purchase a Surface with Windows RT at retail stores. It will be subsequently available in a number of countries in the coming months.

“Our plan has been to expand the retail presence for Surface after the first of the year. Based on interest from retailers, we are giving them the option to carry Surface with Windows RT even earlier,” said Steve Schueler, corporate vice president, Microsoft Retail Sales and Marketing.
Starting at US$499, Microfosft Surface will continue to be available for purchase at all Microsoft retail stores in the United States and Canada and online in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Based on the success of the Microsoft holiday stores, the company will extend all of these locations into the new year. These stores will transition into either permanent brick-and-mortar retail outlets or specialty store locations.

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Skype Replaces Microsoft's Messenger Online Chat Service

Yesterday Microsoft announced that its Messenger online chat service will be replaced by the recently-acquired Skype.

Skype said in a post at its website,”Skype and Messenger are coming together. By updating to Skype, Messenger users can instant message and video call their Messenger friends.”

The transition began a few weeks ago with the release of Skype 6.0 software that lets people sign into the online communication service using Microsoft accounts. “We want to focus our efforts on making things simpler for our users, while continuously improving the overall experience,” Skype said.

Microsoft’s messenger service will “retire” in every country except China in the first quarter of next year.

Skype, which bypasses the standard telephone network by channelling voice and video calls over the web, allows users to make low-cost or free phone calls over the internet using their computers or smartphones.

Skype was acquired by Microsoft last year for $US8.5 billion ($A8.24 billion) in a move seen as aimed at boosting its presence in an online arena dominated by Google and Facebook.

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Microsoft Launches Windows 8

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the availability of Windows 8 for its customers in India and around the world. Starting today, October 26, consumers and businesses worldwide will be able to experience all that Windows 8 has to offer— a beautiful new UI, a wide range of apps with the grand opening of the Windows Store, available on a variety of Windows 8 certified PCs and tablets.

In India, Windows 8 PCs and tablets will be available from 14 OEM partners – Acer, Asus, Dell, Fujitsu, HCL, Hewlett Packard, Lenovo, RP Infosystems, Sai Info System, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba, Wipro and Zenith Computers on a variety of form factors — from tablets and hybrids to laptops and ultrabooks — on both touch and non-touch devices. Over 250 Windows 8 enabled devices, including 23 completely new SKUs of Windows 8 PCs are available across 100 cities and more than 2500 retail stores in India.

Mr. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd. said,“With the launch of Windows 8, Microsoft is unveiling a reimagined Windows to the world.Whether you want a tablet or a PC, whether you want to consume or create, whether you want to work or play – Windows 8 delivers a personalized experience that fits your unique style and needs.”

Windows 8 comes with a new smooth and intuitive start screen and tiles that are brimming with content, and update in real time. It is natively cloud-connected and users only need to sign in once with their Microsoft account to ensure that all the things they care about most including mails, calendars, contact, pictures etc. are seamlessly synced across multiple devices. Further, Windows 8 comes with a reimagined browser, Internet Explorer 10 that is touch-ready and delivers a full screen browsing experience.

It will be available in two versions at retail, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. Windows 8 Enterprise offers new possibilities in mobile productivity to business customers who have signed up for software assurance. It provides them with features like Windows To Go, DirectAccess, and BranchCache, as well as enhanced end-to-end security with features including BitLocker and AppLocker. Launching at the same time is a new member of the Windows family designed for ARM-based tablets, Windows RT, which will be available pre-installed on new devices.

In India, a range of immersive, free and paid apps can be downloaded including Bharat Matrimony, BigFlix, BookMyShow, Bookyourtable, Burrp, Dhingana, Fastrack Tees, Flyte MP3, Gaana, Goibibo, Hindustan Times, ICICI Bank iMobile, ICICIDirect, JustEat, MakeMyTrip Explore, MapmyIndia, my airtel, NDTV Play, PVR Cinemas, Tarla Dalal, The Times of India, Yahoo Cricket, and Zovi, among others.

In addition to the range of new devices available, consumers can also upgrade their existing PCs. From 2nd June 2012 until 31st January 2013, consumers currently running PCs with Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, are qualified to download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs. 1,999. And Windows 7 PCs purchased between June 2, 2012, and January 31, 2013 can download Windows 8 Pro for an estimated retail price of Rs. 699 with the Windows Upgrade Offer, available at www.windowsupgradeoffer.com.

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Microsoft India Launches Ed-vantage Program

Microsoft India is launching an employability enhancement and internship-placement support program at Indian technical and non-technical colleges. To fulfill this, it aims to tie-up with colleges where its technologies, training support, certifications and in the later stage connections to internship and placement will be available. Microsoft will provide most of the technologies for free and some at subsidized costs to colleges coming into the program.

The program was launched in Pune by Sanket Akerkar, Managing Director, Microsoft Corporation India. He also addressed a meeting of the company’s resellers, who will further take the program to colleges. Every college which aims to become a part of this program — the company calls it Ed-vantage–, can send in an email to indiacad@microsoft.com and start the process to get in to the program.

The IT/ITES industry association Nasscom last year came up with the now famous statistics of only 25% technical graduates being employable. A study by MBAUniverse-Meritrac pegged MBA employability at 21% in August this year. Early this week, assessment company Aspiring Minds in a report stated that employability is below 10% for functional role in HR, marketing or finance, and as low as 2.5% for business consulting roles.

According to Akerkar, employability is a major challenge for companies and also for colleges. He said,”With the Ed-vantage program, we have a structured way for colleges to work with Microsoft, use our technologies and training programs, and enhance skills in their students to become both employable and innovative.”

Under this program, there are four levels of partnership status for colleges, which differ in benefits available to them. Colleges accumulate points as and when their students make use of the technologies and build skills. Perks to colleges include listing on Microsoft’s portal, connections with corporates for internships and placements, free training programs from Microsoft, etc.

In order to be eligible to enrol in the program, educational institutes should be using licensed versions of Microsoft software, mainly Windows and Office. The company also expects all students to be subscribers of the hosted-version Office 365, which anyway is free for students. Colleges will be monitored on their progress and as they keep on accruing points, the benefits available to them also increase.

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Microsoft Unveils Xbox Music – The All In One Music Service

Microsoft has launched Xbox Music which combines free music streaming, music subscription and purchasing into an all-in-one service. On Tuesday, the service was rolled out on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game console and later in October it will be available on personal and tablet computers and smartphones. Xbox Music will come pre-installed as the default music player for Windows 8, officially launching on Oct 26.

“The launch of Xbox Music is a milestone in simplifying digital music on every type of device and on a global scale,” said Don Mattrick, president of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft. “We’re breaking down the walls that fracture your music experiences today to ensure that music is better and integrated across the screens that you care about most — your tablet, PC, phone and TV.”

The Xbox service will enable users to listen to streaming songs for free, from a catalog of over 30 million titles, on PCs and tablets running on Windows 8. They can also choose to pay $9.99 per month to get unlimited access to songs on various devices. The service includes an on-line store that allows users to buy single songs or entire album on their computers or smartphones. It also allows users to create the so-called “Internet radio” based on their favorite artists.

Since Xbox Music is a cloud-based service, users can access their carefully-created playlists and play their favorite music on any device. Yusuf Mehdi of Microsoft said,”There are a lot of individual services that do a good job, but today there isn’t a service which can pull together the benefits of download-to-own, music subscription, or free streaming services.”

Xbox Music is Microsoft’s new move to compete with technology giants, including Apple and Google, which have launched their own digital music services. According to Microsoft, Xbox Music will eventually be available on other platforms such as Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS as mobile applications.

Xbox is Microsoft’s premier entertainment service for the TV, phone, PC and tablet. It’s home to the best and broadest games, as well as one of the world’s largest libraries of music, movies, TV and sports.

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Windows 8 AppFest at Bangalore creates a World Record

With more than 2500 registered developers and 18-hour non-stop coding session, Microsoft’s App Fest at Bangalore has created a Guiness World Record for the maximum number of developers coding for a single event at a common location. Windows App Fest, Microsoft’s 18 hour nonstop marathon coding festival was held at Karnataka Trade Promotion Organization (KTPO) in Bengaluru.The record has been set at 2567 developers coding non-stop for 18 hours.

Developers came from different parts of India and beyond to participate in the event hosted by Microsoft building, designing and testing apps for the Windows platform. Though majority of the participants were students from science and engineering background, the app fest also saw professional developers and teams from app development companies taking part in the event. Some of the best tech teams from Microsoft worked alongside the participants to help them convert their ideas into final applications.

A certificate validating the record was presented to Jon DeVaan, Corporate Vice President for Windows Development at Microsoft and Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft Corporation India Pvt. Ltd.

Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India said,” This Guinness Record at Windows AppFest is a great accomplishment by all the developers who participated. Over the course of the 18 hours of the Windows AppFest we saw some outstanding talent and many innovative apps being developed”.

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