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How Modern Software Improves Modern Hardware

Since dual core and 64-bit processors started going mainstream, computer users have had more power than they know what to do with. In fact, they’ve had more power than their software knows what to do with. To truly take advantage of major advances in modern processors, modern software is required, all of which makes the upgrade cycle much more interesting.

Previously, software and hardware advances were less interrelated, and an advance in one did not advance or require as much the other. Sure, you might need a faster processor to run a faster version of Windows, or a new game to push that new graphics card to the limit, but these were questions of pure speed, not capabilities. It’s analogous to the difference between a faster car and a self-driving car. A faster car runs faster everywhere, but a self driving car is just a regular car until you have roads that allow and support the use of cars that can drive themselves.

The speed race in processors and other pieces of hardware ended years ago. If it hadn’t, Intel® would be releasing a 15 gigahertz Pentium 4 by now. Instead, you can buy an off-the-shelf PC today that runs at the same basic speed a PC released in 2002 could have. The newer PC smokes the old one because while both processors might be running at 2.2 GHz, the modern one isn’t one processor, it’s many. A 64-bit processor can run instructions 4 billion times as large as a 32-bit one. A dual core processor is almost like having 2 processors, and a quad core is twice that. Add in multi-threading, and you have a maching that for all practical purposes might as well have 4 or 8 2.2 GHz processors.

None of this means anything without the right software. Install an old version of Windows on the newest, fastest Dell with a 64-bit quad- or six-core chip, and you might get nothing more than the power of a single logical processor, not the 8-12 logical processors you paid for and would have gotten with a more up-to-date release. As a result, upgrading your software will often upgrade the hardware because the powerful hardware you bought years ago pre-dated the advancements in software required to take advantage of it.

Since we are in the midst of a series examining different modern IT issues, it’s useful to point out that it used to be that aging software in a corporate environment was the norm, but that trend has strong reasons to change. Older hardware is better capable of running modern software than at any time in the past. Windows 8′s system requirements are “If you could run Windows 7, you can run Windows 8 faster”. “If you could run Windows Vista, you can run Windows 7 faster”. Efficient operating system design by Microsoft means that a PC from 2006 could run Windows 8 in 2013, some without any upgrades. Business computers are in fact the most likely to have been more powerful than average when purchased seven years ago, and more likely to have survived until now, to be able to make the move to the new OS.

The fact is that while everyone knows that newer hardware is faster than older hardware, many software developers have been doing such a great job writing apps that, with each upgrade, run faster than the previous version. Sometimes it’s a new feature that makes use of the software more productive, but more often these days it’s better written code and better use of modern hardware and software capabilities that makes that newer software so much more awesome.

We’ve had amazingly fast computer hardware for a decade at this point. 2013 hardware is faster than 2003 hardware, but 2013 software can run faster on 2003 hardware than 2003 software ever could and draw less electricity while doing it. We’ve had dual core processors for years, but modern software knows what to do with it. We’ve had 64-bit processors since the 90s on desktop PCs (and the 70s in other cases), but if you aren’t running a very up-to-date version of your favorite software, it isn’t taking advantage of it. In fact, until a couple of years ago, it was common for systems with 64-bit processors to ship with the 32-bit version of the OS installed for compatibility reasons. Thankfully, that trend is almost dead.

Businesses have more reasons to perform upgrades, since they can then do more with the hardware they already have. Windows 8, or the latest Office or Photoshop can put both cores on your CPU to work (or all four cores or more, as it were). They can serve up 64-bit instructions to that CPU many times faster than a 32-bit one would have been. A new OS, in turn, adds APIs and features to your computer, while new software takes advantage of those additions so that they, too, can run faster. All of which is why it once you put a price on productivity, it can often be more expensive to keep the older, slower version of critical business software than absorbing the cost of the next version.

It’s extremely likely that whatever machine you are using right now, the software you are running isn’t taking full advantage of its capabilities, and in some instances, the software needed to take advantage does exist yet. For this reason, it’s important to look at PC hardware as an investment that can grow over time. By picking a processor with features that haven’t been fully utilized yet, you are picking a computer that will only get better with age, like a fine wine.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

April 29th, 2013 Posted by | Adobe, Applications, Corporate, General, IT Series, Mobile, Office, Sponsored, Tablets, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, XP | no comments

IT’s Challenges in An Evolving Mobile Device Landscape

Ten years ago, managing IT in a company was simple. Okay, to be fair, it was incredibly complex, with enormous tasks facing system administrators, who had to configure complex computer systems, often with out of date hardware, major security concerns, and inadequate tools. IT has never had it easy, but there are very different challenges today, and one of the biggest questions modern IT departments now face is how to manage the myriad devices users bring into the corporate environment.

A lot of the more complex traditional challenges of IT, including corporate servers and security, have been greatly simplified by evolving and more powerful tools and cloud solutions, and that outdated hardware we all knew and loved has mostly been replaced by cheaper and more than adequate PCs. Since nature abhors letting anything become too easy, the void left by those challenges has been filled by smartphones, tablets, and whatever other strange devices users decide to plug into the company network.

It used to be that IT could declare mastery of at least the hardware on every desk. Every PC could be similar, every access point could be locked down, and if you wanted email, you might be lucky enough to get a Blackberry. The huge evolutionary leap forward taken by smartphones (and the lack of participation by the old standard Blackberry in those innovations) meant that a huge percentage of users now have devices in their pockets that rival those on their desks, and are upgraded every 18 months. While certainly some organizations are still fighting that development, forward thinking ones know they can take advantage of all that power, if they can meet those challenges head on. Plus, who wants to tell the CEO he can’t use his shiny new iPhone?

With smartphones breaking down the device firewall, other dominoes have fallen. Laptops outsell desktops now, with tablets pacing to outsell laptops in the near future. Wifi networks are ubiquitous at modern offices, making it easier to bring those home devices to work and get some more productive use out of them (or play Angry Birds during lunch). This means employees can be more efficient, taking their entire corporate server to meetings, to lunch, to offsite events, and not be tethered to a desk, leading to more productive meetings, more active and mobile workforces, and more possibilities for where and how work gets done.

While all of this may sound like a bright future, and for the average employee, it is. The average IT department, however, faces new questions every day on how to support the transition from a secure device monoculture to an omni-diverse free-for-all, where not only can employees have many different devices, but any employee can walk in with some new and odd device and demand it work with their usual workflow. In this four part series, we will examine some of these challenges, and with the help of some suggested solutions from our sponsors, IDG, Dell and Intel®, show how modern IT departments are and will continue to handle these challenges and allow users to take advantage of this new world.

April 8th, 2013 Posted by | Corporate, General, IT Series, Mobile, Sponsored, Tablets, Windows, Windows 8 | no comments

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Microsoft Working On 3,500 Open XML Concerns

Microsoft’s battle to get Open XML approved as an international standard continues, with them working their asses off to clear three thousand, five hundred twenty two comments from international voting members. The members of Ecma have addressed their concerns, and if Microsoft wants their votes, they have to address those concerns. Microsoft’s Brian Jones, who is Microsoft’s sole Ecma member, explains what the company is currently doing to whittle those down.

There are 3522 comments in total, but when you group them into similar buckets it narrows down pretty quickly into a more manageable list… but still pretty impressive!

There are currently 662 responses, and the plan is to provide updates to this list every few weeks. We still have almost 2 months until the deadline, but given that we have a lot of issues to work though, we thought it would be best to provide the responses earlier than the Jan deadline to allow for more time to discuss the issues.

So far I think we’re doing a pretty good job of doing what the national body is asking for. Most of the comments were accompanied by a proposed resolution, and most of them are great suggestions, so our response back is often that we’ll do exactly what they are asking for.

More at Computer World and Slashdot.

November 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Applications, Corporate, Office | no comments

Microsoft Fires CIO Stuart Scott

Microsoft abruptly fired Chief Information Officer and corporate VP Stuart Scott this week, and everyone’s been trying to figure out why he was kicked out. Valleywag leads the pack, as always, wondering what the company means when it says he fired “for violation of company policies”. They also suggest that Microsoft fired him while he was traveling to his sister’s funeral, in order to further embarrass him. Most of the speculation is in the direction of him being fired for cheating, or rather having an affair with an employee of his.

Valleywag talks about another firing at the beginning of the year, that of Martin Taylor, Steve Ballmer’s right hand man. Apparently the rumor mill has been spinning on that one, with company insiders saying Taylor was given the boot for charging the company for hotel rooms he charged the company for, rooms he used for weekend getaways as part of an affair with a coworker.

Seems to be becoming a pattern, or perhaps not. People are always having office romances, and some people are always cheating on their wives (just read InsideGoogle). Microsoft is just standing up and being willing to fire these people, no matter how important they are to the company. You’ve got to respect that, applying company policies to everyone no matter their pay grade, though having to hire a fourth new CIO in four years must be getting tiring.

November 11th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, General | 3 comments

Microsoft Stock Up Another $10 Billion

Microsoft stock continues to gain, closing earlier today at $36.81, up another 3 1/2%, up over 19% in the last week since its blowout earnings report. It’s up 23% on the year, 40% over the last two years. The stock hasn’t been this high since June 2000, 88 months ago. Microsoft’s market cap is now just shy of $350 billion.

Amazing, just amazing.

November 1st, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | 5 comments

Hillary Clinton, Fake Steve Jobs, Speak At Microsoft

In seperate events, former First Lady and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and “Fake Steve Jobs” blogger, editor and author Dan Lyons spoke at Microsoft yesterday. Todd Bishop spoke with Fake Steve and has an interview up, asking Dan how it feels, as a fake Apple icon, to be at the Microsoft campus. If you like reading, here are some quotes from the interview. Here’s Fake Steve announcing his plans to come to Microsoft, saying “Apparently the Microtards just can’t get enough of my abuse”.

This Microsoftie seemed quite impressed with Hillary’s speech earlier that day. This photo is from the event and was taken by Jeff Maurone, licensed under CC:

October 26th, 2007 Posted by | Apple, Corporate | no comments

Microsoft Has Blowout Quarter, Stock Up Over $30 Billion

Microsoft has released its quarterly earnings report, and how good was it? The stock is up $30 billion!


Microsoft stock in after hours trading is up $3.55, which translates to $33.37 billion. Microsoft gained in the last few hours more than most companies are worth, smashing nicely above the $300 billion barrier. Microsoft stock was last $35.56 in July of 2001, a huge gain for the stock.

How good was the quarter? The facts:

  • Revenue of $13.76 billion, 27% higher than the same quarter last year.
  • Operating income:$5.92 billion
  • Net income: $4.29 billion
  • Diluted earnings per share: $0.45
  • Fastest growth of any first quarter in eight years
  • Cash on hand: $6.637 billion (enough to buy 1/3 of Facebook and have over a billion left over)
  • Microsoft beat estimates by $1.2 billion and 6 cents, proving the doom and gloom about the software company is dead wrong.
  • Microsoft has now sold 85 million copies of Vista (hardly a failure), 25 million in the last two months.
  • $1.8 million copies of Halo 3 have been sold, bringing in revenue of $330 million.
  • Operating margins: 43%, meaning the company is immensely profitable.

My favorite part, the revenue and profit/loss per division:

Three Months Ended
September 30,

2007 2006



$4,138 $3,316

Server and Tools

2,900 2,496

Online Services Business

671 536

Microsoft Business Division

4,111 3,419

Entertainment and Devices Division

1,929 1,011

Unallocated and Other

13 33

  Total revenue

$13,762 $10,811

Three Months Ended
September 30,
Operating Income / (Loss)

2007 2006



$3,367 $2,660

Server and Tools

962 771

Online Services Business

(264) (102)

Microsoft Business Division

2,694 2,227

Entertainment and Devices Division

165 (142)

Corporate-Level Activity

(1,006) (940)

  Total operating income

$5,918 $4,474

As you can see, revenue in the Entertainment and Devices division was up 90%, resulting in the first-ever profit for the division, almost entirely attributable to Halo 3 (but not entirely, so its possible, but not guaranteed, they could show a profit next quarter, too). Revenue was up over twenty percent in the Online Services division, but it lost 150% more money, due to rising costs. Revenue in the Client division, which sells Windows Vista, was up $800 million, a really good sign.

Amazing, just amazing. Microsoft really hit this one out of the park.

UPDATE: Venkat reminds me in the comments that this is, indeed, the Entertainment and Devices division’s second quarterly profit. The first? When Halo 2 came out, of course!

October 25th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, General | 5 comments

Cute Microsoft Job Recruiting Site


Check out this funny website marketing that explains why you should want to work at Microsoft. It’s worth your time, as the videos are quite entertaining.
(via Heather)

October 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, General, Humor, Marketing | no comments

The Ballmer Peak: Alcohol = Coding Skill

Love this comic from xkcd.

October 11th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, Humor | one comment

Two Microsofties Die In Plane Crash

Ralph Abdo, a Microsoft Office program manager, and Bryan Jones, a systems engineer at Windows Live, were identified among the ten victims killed in a plane crash late Sunday near White Pass, Washington. The Cessna 208B was full of skydivers, part of a skydiving weekend. Todd Bishop at the Seattle PI is asking for stories about the victims, if you’d like to share them.

Both Abdo and Jones worked at Microsoft for seven years. Abdo was 27, Jones was 34.

Abdo’s LinkedIn profile says he attended McGill University. He is the owner of a patent for “Provisioning computing services via an on-line networked computing environment”. He posted on Yahoo Groups like this windsurfing one under the name “LetsGoScubaDive“.

October 9th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | one comment

Ballmer Among Most Underpaid Executives

Microsoft CEO “Screamin” Steve Ballmer is one of the most underpaid chiefs in the industry, receiving a pay package of $1.3 million last fiscal year. Ballmer received a salary of $620,000 and a bonus of $650,000, plus $6,750 for his 401K and $3000 for life insurance and his gym membership. Of course, Ballmer owns 4.3% of all Microsoft shares, and with MS stock rising over 30% on the year, he made about $3 billion off the company’s success anyway.

Microsoft’s compensation committee believes Ballmer is underpaid, especially considering the success Microsoft enjoyed last year and Ballmer’s growing role as Gates retires. Gates reportedly received less than Ballmer and four others at the company. Ironically, because of the performance of Ballmer’s stock, he didn’t need to be paid much, but if the company did worse, they might have to pay him more to make up for it.

At the annual meeting scheduled for Nov. 13, Microsoft shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on two shareholder proposals, also disclosed in Friday’s filing.

One, brought by the New York City’s comptroller, William Thompson, asked Microsoft to change its business practices in countries he described as “authoritarian.” His proposal asks Microsoft to stop keeping data that can identify individual users who live in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other countries, and to refrain from giving equipment or training to government agencies in countries he identified as restrictive.

The other proposal asked Microsoft to establish a board committee on human rights.

Microsoft’s board recommended shareholders vote against both proposals, citing existing efforts in both areas.

October 5th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | 2 comments

Comparing Bill Gates and Steve Jobs’ Presentation Styles

Presentation Zen takes another look at Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and how they use presentation slideshows. As they explain, while Jobs obviously does it right, if you were to do what Gates does for work, you’d be fired. I’m amazed that there’s no effort at Microsoft to stop using the nested bullet point/flowchart diagram model.

As the article says, “Bill’s slides aren’t really necessary”. Sadly, the things Bill says, especially at trade shows, are often unnecessary as well, talking about “possible” products that someone else might create in the future. I’ll miss Bill and the leadership he brings to Microsoft, but I doubt anyone will miss his presentations and ill-fitting shirts.

Photo by Blind Justice and dfarber under CC

October 4th, 2007 Posted by | Apple, Corporate, General | 2 comments

As Always, Bill Gates Is The Richest There Is

As much as he was last year, and for many years before, Bill Gates is still the richest man in the country, now with $59 billion. Gates earned $6 billion this year to keep his status, staying ahead of Warren Buffet, who earned six as well to reach $51 billion, far ahead of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who earned $8 billion to get to $28 billion.

Head to InsideGoogle for info on the Google founders, who shot all the way up to #5 and 6.

September 24th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | 2 comments

Microsoft Providing Windows Live Developer Toolkit

Mary Jo reports that Microsoft is planning on releasing some new developer tools in November that will make it easier to develop applications on Windows Live platforms. The Windows Live toolbox kit will work with the company’s Visual Studio developer software and look and work like Microsoft’s Facebook developer toolkit. Developing apps on the cloud is an important part of how Windows Live will become Microsoft’s next big operating system, and since an OS is only as good as its developers, these tools will help it along the way.

September 18th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, Live, Windows | no comments

Microsoft Announces Another Dividend

Microsoft has announced its latest dividend, increasing the regular dividend to an 11-cent one, which will be payed December 13 to shareholders as November 15. After this divident, Microsoft will have returned $4.50 to shareholders over the last four years.

September 17th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | one comment

Dave Cutler Wins First Bill Gates Award

Another report from Microsoft’s annual company meeting says that outgoing Microsoft boss Bill Gates unveiled a new award, The Bill Gates Award, which will be given yearly to the Microsoft employee who has made the absolute highest contribution to Microsoft. The award will only be given to candidates who truly deserve it, and thus will not be given if a suitable winner can be chosen. Bill Gates has said that he will return and personally present the award whenever it is given.

The first recipient of the award was Dave Cutler, who earlier this year won the TCN award, which used to be the top award. Cutler has been instrumental in the development of Windows NT, Windows XP 64-bit, Windows Server 2003 SP1 64 and Windows Vista, and he currently works on Windows Live.

September 10th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | no comments

Microsoft Simplifies Volume Licensing

eWeek reports that Microsoft is trying to widen the appeal of its Volume Licensing program by simplifying it so customers can better understand it. Microsoft is slashing the number of price points and program options, updating the language and bringing better consistency to the agreements, and even removing most of the places participants are required to sign the contracts, all in order to make it easier for potential customers.

September 9th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate | no comments

Microsoft Hires WebGuide Developer, Software Now Free


Microsoft has gone and hired Doug Berrett, developer of WebGuide. WebGuide is an amazing piece of software that lets you access Windows Media Center (XP or Vista) from a web browser, letting you watch live TV and recordings, schedule new recordings, access music and pictures, all over any internet connection, and do pretty much the same thing through Windows Mobile as well. It’s amazing, and it is now 100% free!

Microsoft hired Doug to work on Media Center development (though not related to the things WebGuide does), so he wrapped up development and removed the $18 price tag. Active development of WebGuide is over, which is a shame, so hopefully someone will think about doing open source updates, though the software is pretty excellent already. Download WebGuide now that it’s free and see what the fuss is about.

Interestingly, there is a recent beta of WebGuide for Windows Home Server. Hopefully Doug will let someone else complete the project, because that is too damn useful to not be finished.
(via Download Squad and Neowin)

September 6th, 2007 Posted by | Corporate, Home Server, Media Center, Server, Windows | no comments