It might not be well publicized, but there's a major war brewing between Microsoft and Adobe, and they're fighting for you. Each one of them wants to be your provider for rich media content, a task that has traditionally been served by Adobe with its Flash player, but one Olympic sized loss could change the game in Microsoft's favor.
It was Microsoft who won the deal to supply NBC with video-viewing technology via Silverlight for the Olympics in Beijing, and while Microsoft and NBC have ties that go back to their collaboration building MSNBC, Adobe could have been considered a favorite to the win the account based the mature nature of Flash technology. So how did Microsoft secure the gold?
"We talked about features like adaptive streaming, the ability to automatically keep checking how much bandwidth you have and deliver the appropriate quality stream and how to be smart about knowing what's coming up in the stream," said Rob Bennett, the general manager of sports for MSN.
In other words, Microsoft won the account on a combination of Silverlight's feature-set, and convincing NBC that Flash's scalability had never been put to an Olympic-size test, unlike Silverlight's underlying technology which is based on Windows Media technologies.
Of course, it's only one account, but it's not so much what Adobe lost, but what Microsoft gained. While download specifics have not been disclosed, we do know that it's registering 1.5 million downloads a day, and according to a spokeswoman for Microsoft, "in the last several days, more than 50 percent of the visitors to NBCOlympics.com on MSN already have Silverlight 2 installed."
The last thing you want to see while hanging from a wire high above a crowd of spectators is Microsoft's Blue Screen of Death lingering in mid-air, but that's exactly what happened to Li Ning, one of China's sporting greats. The incident took place during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, and as Ning geared up for the torch lighting climax inside the Bird's Nest, stadium projectors beamed the BSOD onto the roof where it was clearly visible for all to see.
The BSOD came as an unfortunate side effect to using specialized theatrical computer controlled lighting equipment to light up the Bird's Nest, making the process not only automated, but susceptible to software failures. But hey, at least Windows was only running the light show and not the high wire act!
Microsoft demonstrated its newly-unveiled Unwrap Mosaic video editing research project this week at SIGGRAPH. Unwrap Mosaic enables users to add shapes ("artifacts") to home video. As Gizmodo describes it, you can use it to put "a handlebar mustache on Grandma."
If that makes Unwrap Mosaic sound no more sophisticated than a spray-paint can in the hands of a tagger, consider Geek.com's summary:
[Unwrap Mosaic] is best described as the Photoshop of video editing tools. With UM you can literally take a video and change the appearance of the objects it contains. The demonstration video shows this in action with the male star having a moustache, bushy eyebrows and rosy cheeks added. The result looks natural, moving realistically with the face, and the first-time viewer would think he’d had a moustache all along.
Don't go banging down the doors at your local "Software-R-US" store or start surfing for your own copy of Unwrap Mosaic just yet, though. It's still a research project, but you can learn more at the Microsoft Research website. Unwrap Mosaic is just one of 13 different presentations that Microsoft is offering at SIGGRAPH 2008.
Are you looking forward to the chance to use photo-editing tools on your videos? Worried about a further blurring of the line between reality and "virtual reality"? Sound off after the jump!
It's a super-sized Patch Tuesday this month, and here's what to expect Windows Update to be sending you in the next day or so (if not already). Follow the links if you prefer to install the updates immediately.
Critical updates include:
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Image Color Management affects users running Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 SP4 (Windows Vista users can breathe easy on this one).
A fix for a sextet of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 5.01, 6, and 7 affects users of Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008.
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in the ActiveX control for Microsoft Access's snapshot viewer affects Office 2000 SP3, Office XP SP3, and Office 2003 SP2 and SP3 (Office 2007 users, you ducked this one).
Innovation. In gaming, it's a weighted word, but really, what does it even mean? Portal was "innovative" because it allowed players to slap portals onto walls and travel into their depths. But at one point, Warcraft III was declared "innovative" for mixing basic RPG elements with tried-and-true RTS gameplay. And then we have things like the Wii, which can (potentially) add brand new dimensions to the way we play games.
So, in your opinion, what actually makes something innovative? Do you think an innovative game has to blow minds and shift paradigms, or can it be something as simple as Call of Duty 4's experience system -- subtle, yet effective?
Today's Roundup sees so-called innovators both succeed and fail, with one highly unexpected title snagging an award for Interactive Innovation, while another causes its creator to drop out of the gaming industry altogether. Also, in the "And More" section: data that shows PCs beating consoles at their own game. Hit the break for the full scoop.
As we told you last week, Microsoft rolled out two new security programs, Microsoft Active Protections Program and Microsoft Exploitability Index, during the Black Hat USA 2008 Conference. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same conference saw a presentation by security experts Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov that renders these and other protections for Windows Vista, including its much-touted Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) features, effectively null and void.
How did they do it? The full presentation (available here in PDF format) is quite technical, but here's the short version. according to SC Magazine:
In explaining the problem, the researchers said that most memory protection mechanisms are based on two things: detecting corruption and stopping common exploit patterns, and attempts to reinforce these are integral to Vista. But in many cases, some of the built-in protection mechanisms in Vista are not enabled by default for compatibility reasons.
“At the desktop level, compromises had to be made because of compatibility issues. Exploiters have a lot more control over browsers,” Sotirov said.
And in many cases, third-party applications are not compiled to use the Vista memory protections. For example, Java and Flash are not compiled using the critical protection called ASLR.
What can be done? My take: Microsoft needs to rethink the balance of compatibility versus protection, do a better job of informing users of what's protected and what's not, and get third-party application vendors to take advantage of the protection features in Vista. What about ordinary users like us? Watch out for compromised legitimate websites, and, as always, as our own Will Smith says, think before you click.
What's your take on Vista and other browser security issues? See us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
It’s hard to imagine Windows, or some other rich operating system not being at the center of my digital word. But then again, 10 years ago it was hard to imagine having a digital world at all. Intense speculation over the future cloud computing and the explosion of platform agnostic web applications has lead Microsoft to officially kick off the new R&D project, code named Midori. Midori would be a cut back operating system that would be capable of keeping up with the pace of rapid innovation in a post Windows world.The biggest shift for Midori would be the move away from operating systems tied to a single PC. By contrast, the Windows platform is traditionally locked down to a particular set of hardware and trying to keep consistency across multiple PC’s or electronic devices is already proving to be a burden. Midori would free users from these shackles and recognizes that users of the future will be increasingly mobile. Midori is widely seen as an ambitious attempt by Microsoft to catch up in the field of virtualization, an emerging trend in the computer industry. Users of the future will want a small, lightweight operating system they can take with them and use as a virtual client. The biggest challenge for Microsoft will be how it would cope financially without Windows. Michael A. Silver, a distinguished analyst at Gartner is quoted as saying “If Windows ends up being less important over time as applications become more OS agnostic where will Microsoft make its money?". Though it has yet to be officially confirmed, rumor has it that Midori will be the successor to Singularity, which is the OS following Windows 7. Though, with predictions this far into the future, I would recommend a consultation with your magic 8 ball before you place any bets.
Microsoft has always been an ardent proponent of digital distribution and now it’s this long held belief that is reflected in its recent decision to pull Microsoft Money off store shelves. It has decided that the financial software only be sold as an online download from here on. But the company isn’t in any hurry to renounce boxed software and realizes that an absolute transition to digital distribution will take some time.
A MS employee, Chris Jolley, told Cnet about MS Money sales trends that instigated the current move. About half of the total sales of the financial software in the last one year have been generated through the internet, according to Jolley.
Microsoft’s much delayed SQL Server 2008 is available now. Despite the delay in SQL Server’s launch, MS is patting its back for having released the new version of its popular database product within two to three years of the SQL Server 2005 launch. Apart from the free version, there are a variety of paid ones for both PCs and Windows Mobile devices.
SQL Server 2008 is expected to further strengthen Microsoft’s promising database business. In fact, it made immediate impact on Microsoft’s VP Ted Kummert, who has dyed his hair orange due to the product’s release. Kummert had vowed to dye his air orange if the developers were able to meet the latest launch deadline.