Microsoft recently slapped TomTom with a patent infringement suit. The Redmond-based tech behemoth has claimed that TomTom’s devices are in direct violation of eight of its patents.
Some fear Microsoft’s suit against TomTom may be a straw in the wind, as three of the claims are related to the use of the Linux kernel. Microsoft’s lawyer Horacio Gutierrez tried to dispel such misgivings. He told Cnet that the claims pertaining to the implementation of “file management techniques used in the Linux kernel” are only specific to TomTom.
He insisted that Microsoft is not going to mount a massive legal assault against the open-source community. Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, also feels that it is unfair to jump to conclusions about the scope of this lawsuit. Gutierrez and Zemlin certainly don’t think that Microsoft’s suit against TomTom is an indicant of trouble for the open-source community. What do you think?
Microsoft made the Windows 7 Beta public, and many of you heeded the call of duty. With your bug testing hat on and feedback hands ready to type, you’ve made it possible for Microsoft to announce a whopping 36 updates to the release candidate.
“We’ve been quite busy for the past two months or so working through all the feedback we’ve received on Windows 7. It should be no surprise but the Release Candidate for Windows 7 will have quite a few changes, many under the hood so to speak but also many visible,” wrote Steven Sinofsky on Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 blog.
Among the laundry list of changes are edits so the desktop experience, networking upgrades, changes to the control panel, windows media player updates and performance upgrades. If you’re looking to check out the whole list of changes, be sure to check out the blog here.
Microsoft offers plenty of software, there’s no doubt about that. And, currently in their server division alone there are 45 different packages for potential buyers to choose from. Still, the big wigs up in Redmond feel that they’re missing out on one group entirely, and that’s the sub-$500 crowd.
Within the next couple months Microsoft plans to introduce a low-cost, low-price, low-functionality Windows Server SKU named Foundation Edition. He’s comparing this server software to the netbook phenomenon, which has allowed Intel to sell millions of processors to a newly created platform in a very short period of time.
The primary target for these servers will be emerging markets, but if the netbook is any indication as to what happens once smart people get their hands on cheap tech, saturated markets mighty take advantage of this as well.
If you've ever been subjected to a babel of echoing voices during a teleconference, Microsoft Research is working on a solution. As demonstrated (link requires Microsoft Silverlight) at this week's TechFest, MR's audio spatialization project enables a PC with stereo speakers to spatially separate different members of a teleconference. Audio spatialization's been used for years in 3D gaming, but Microsoft Research has added a new twist: to make it work for teleconferencing, it's also added echo cancellation. As researcher Zhengyou Zhang puts it:
Audio spatialization uses speakers to create the illusion that call attendees have different locations spatially. This allows you to use the audio sense you already have, that you normally use in conversation, to isolate who you’re talking to, and to associate a location in space with a particular individual... In a conference where there are multiple voices coming out of multiple speakers, it becomes important to eliminate the echoes that might naturally occur.
Microsoft has posted a video demonstrating its Situated Interaction project, which the company says "aims to enable a new generation of interactive systems that can reason about their surroundings and embed interaction deeply into the natural flow of everyday tasks, activities, and collaborations."
To show off the technology in a possible real-world application, researcher Dan Bohus introduces a virtual receptionist he says is capable of free-flowing conversation. In the video, a realistic looking woman appears on screen and immediately recognizes everyone within view of the camera and tracks their poses, such as whether an individual is facing the screen or looking around elsewhere. Combined with which direction the microphone picks up sounds, the clothes worn by the 'actors,' and other variables, the virtual receptionist is able to figure out which individuals are in a group together.
The demonstration is pretty impressive, marred only by the woman's voice. This undoubtedly will improve over time, but as far as the video goes, we're reminded of the old Dr. Sbaitso program for DOS, a virtual psychiatrist app that came with some Sound Blast soundcards in the early 1990s.
View the video here, then hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Microsoft Research's latest chance to shine is this week's TechFest 2009. Microsoft Research has a long list of innovations, including the Microsoft Surface touch-sensitive interface, the Unwrap Mosaic video editor, the Songsmith music composing utility, Image Composite Editor, and many more. TechFest serves two purposes: it makes sure that everyone at Microsoft can tap into what's being developed at Microsoft Research, and it acts as a sort of high-tech equivalent to an auto show, demonstrating the concepts that might (or might not) make their way into future products from Redmond.
This year's TechFest features projects as varied as combining multiple cell phone videos to create a high-res version; using digitized books on video DVD to create a high-capacity, low-cost library and school resource for developing countries, and ways to create Augmented Reality, which overlays digital data with real-world information, to name just a few.
So, how important are Microsoft Research projects to Microsoft's future? As Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid sees it, the investment Microsoft makes in research is "really about an investment in survival." What do you think is the coolest concept at this year's TechFest? Join us after the jump and tell us about your favorites.
Look what the mail truck dragged in! After first announcing the X8 in early September (where we got our first look and photos of the mouse), Microsoft has finally shipped the latest addition to the Sidewinder gaming mouse family. The X8 adopts Microsoft’s proprietary Bluetrack technology, which empowers it with 4000 DPI tracking resolution (scalable from 500) and the ability to work on almost any surface. We tested this claim on five different surfaces, from a rough wood desk to Styrofoam board and even coarse carpet. The mouse worked fine (though understandable not perfectly smooth) on all of our test surfaces, and only failed when we tried moving it over glass.
The shipping version doesn’t differ much from the pre-production model we fondled back in September, and retained the nice grip and smart button placement that we liked from our first hands-on. The included rechargable battery was a cinch to install, and tethering the mouse to the thin magnetic cord didn’t hinder our sweeping mouse movements. The wireless receiver is built into a clunky puck-like disc that sits on your desk, which ensures that you get better reception than if the receiver was hidden on a USB key behind your PC. The X8 still feels big for some hands, but our initial impression is that this is a winner. We’ll post our full review soon, but for now, enjoy these sexy unboxing and handling photos.
A major theme of this year’s TechFest—the conference for Microsoft’s researchers to show off all their coolest projects—has been human-computer communication. Of all the demos we’ve seen so far, we think the Commute UX in-car dialog system, seen in this video, is the most likely to actually impact our lives within the next, say, five years.
Commute UX is an advanced speech recognition system designed for use in cars. In the video, Principal Architect Ivan Tashev shows off how it can be used to quickly and smartly (based on incomplete information) select a song to play from an onboard MP3 player. It can also manage your cell phone, allowing you to dial a contact by voice (yawn), or even to dictate a reply to a text message (!). Finally, Tashev demonstrates how the car’s user manual can be integrated into the system, allowing you to ask questions about the operation of your vehicle, a feature that will be especially useful in rental cars.
We may have exaggerated a little in the title; Commute UX isn’t going to help you fight crime, or even keep you company on the long, lonely road. Still, it does look like it could be an incredibly practical technology for controlling the peripheral elements of your automobile. Stay tuned for coverage of other new technologies shown at TechFest!
Microsoft made headlines yesterday when it was discovered the company had been asking some of the 1,400 employees it laid off last month to pay back money it had overpaid as part of their severance. The letter blamed the mistake on an "inadvertent administrative error," which had our readers divided on whether or not Microsoft was justified in asking for the money back. Reader 'Phated1' pointed out how even a small overpayment could add up if multiplied by a large number of employees, but the best reader comment came from 'punditguy':
"Now I'll have to redo my Silicon Valley edition of Monopoly: 'Microsoft Error in Your Favor. Pay $200.'"
While a Microsoft spokesperson at first refused to offer any details saying it was a "private matter between the company and the affected people," the software maker is now saying it will not pursue trying to get its money back, perhaps figuring out the alternative is not worth the bad publicity.
"Last week, 25 former Microsoft employees were informed that they were overpaid as a part of their severance payments from the company," Microsoft wrote in a statement. "This was a mistake on our part. We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals."
According to Microsoft human resources chief Lisa Brummel, the 25 former Microsoft employees received, on average, about $4,000 or $5,000 in extra pay. An additional 20 former employees were underpaid, and Microsoft said it will immediately reimburse them.
Will Windows 7 bring glad tidings for gamers? Chris Lewis, VP of Interactive Entertainment Business for Microsoft EMEA, certainly believes the new OS will keep gamers happy.
"It's all good news - it's even more robust, it's quicker relatively, and the early testing cycles are proving very promising overall,” an excited Lewis told Gameindustry.biz in an interview. He said the company will divulge more details later this year.
Lewis didn’t forget to reassure gamers that Microsoft remains committed to PC gaming. “Ultimately we're a Windows and PC company at heart,” Lewis accentuated Microsoft’s commitment to its roots.