This week’s technology news – 13th February 2015

HP’s doomsday cyber forecast

HP’s CTO Andrzej Kawalec, speaking at the European Information Security Summit in London on 10th February, has predicted a ‘catastrophic cyber attack’ in the next five years.   Before people settle back comfortably and think it is ‘just another cyber attack on a brand’, think again.  Kawalec foresees this as far more serious: “We expect an attack that will cause significant and lasting damage to a major world economy through physical and economic impacts”.

Kawalec acknowledges the enormous challenges around creating a resilient single digital online identity.  Much of the blame he identifies as being a lack of common standards amongst social media platforms, the cloud and devices connecting to the Internet of Things (IoT).

Kawalec identifies a tricky balance to be struck between managing regulatory and privacy concerns and the potential impact on cross-border trade, or exposing industry to financial risk – which must be avoided.

HP have therefore identified three areas of cyber security in 2015 that they will urgently focus on:
• Spending more time and effort understanding our adversaries and how to disrupt them at every step.
• Understand and identify risk to ourselves to ascertain how best to protect, as well as enable information assets.
• The need for businesses to collaborate more – and share information with each other to get a unified view of the threats and extend cyber security capabilities beyond one organisation (as our adversaries have stolen the march on this – and THEY collaborate faster and more efficiently, without being weighed down by any legislation.

On a technical note, Kawalec noted the need to improve management of open-source software within organisations.   He also flagged the need to address security vulnerabilities within supply chains (referring to the 2nd largest US attack on retailer Target in December 2013 which hit 40m payment card users and was the result of a compromise via their air-conditioning supplier).  This highlights the need to change the way organisations deal with their suppliers – and finally, Kawalec impressed on the audience the need to improve securing the end user and the data.

Ultimately, alternatives to password-based authentication will evolve he sees – with greater focus on protecting data.  This, he said, was all part of “understanding our information environments better, see how they work and find better ways of making them secure”.

Amicus ITS has joined the UK Cyber Security Forum, echoing these sentiments that shared knowledge of enterprise security specialists will help create greater strength and unity in 2015.  To find out more click on http://ukcybersecurityforum.com/

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IoT revenue opportunity vs business cost
The latest report by technology research marketing company Beecham Research has identified that IoT security could present a revenue opportunity, with security and data management for the internet of things (IoT) a big value-add revenue opportunity for service providers, instead of it being seen as a business cost.

With the growth and complexity of the myriad applications of IoT and emerging smart lifestyles, Beecham Forrester see this will be accompanied by an urgent need to manage connecting devices which use short-range wireless and fixed-line technologies.

Principal analyst and report author, Saverio Romeo anticipates, “Companies will increasingly rely on outsourcing and we expect that revenues from device authentication, device management, data management, billing and security will exceed $3bn by 2020. Out of these, we see security and data management services generating some $1.8bn alone”.

Data management for IoT remains currently a small market, however Beecham Research believes it has the most potential for high gross margins, with IoT security as the most strategic, across the network, device and services domains.  Romeo commented:  “…we see IoT security providers offering high-value, end-to-end security to service and application providers”.

This follows their last report 5 months ago urging industry to take decisive action to secure IoT devices which should be managed over their entire lifecycle (with resets an option, to enable remote remediation to rebuild and extend security capabilities over time).

As with the cyber security story above, this report has highlighted the need for industry players to unite and enable the securing of IoT devices end to end (from silicon semiconductor manufacturers to network operators and systems integrators), with particular attention to the identification, authentication and authorisation of devices and people in IoT systems.

A strong pattern is thus emerging for 2015 in the technology industry with security themes dominating. Where the core value of security is shared by organisations, there is surely a compelling argument for the different businesses to come together, share knowledge and give the end user assurance that they are safe using such devices. This can surely only result in one result:  greater take up in the long term and profitability for all involved.

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Value of IT outsourcing review

Figures out by Business Process Outsourcing analysts (BPO), Nelson Hall, regarding UK spend in 2014 on outsourcing and IT totalled £6.65bn, with IT outsourcing accounting for £3.44bn.

New business deals accounted for 55.5% of those signed, up from 33% in 2013. 66% of those deals were fully onshore by UK suppliers, with the remainder having an offshore element and 8% delivered exclusively from offshore locations.

The drive by organisations to digitise through Cloud and software development (DevOps) saw a substantial rise in private and hybrid cloud transformation.  However, the desire for many businesses to transform their business IT infrastructure environment and the costs involved, meant that many could not fully migrate and so a transactional and usage-based pricing model in contracts emerged.

• Private enterprise accounted for 63% of the spending.
• Local government saw 15% increase in average contract values rise to £30.3m.

• The financial services industry spend was £1.1bn in 2014.
• With energy and utilities companies accounting for 187% growth in IT spending (the fastest growing, which reached £1.07bn).

MSPs which can offer a comprehensive array of IT services and on top of this can apply a flexible approach to their customers with fully secured Cloud solutions and 24×7 support will be the beneficiaries of this increasing trend as 2015 gets underway.

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Keeping your keys out of the Box

Cloud storage provider Box has announced a new service that could be a first in the file storage arena. The new service is currently in Beta and allows organisations to hold their own encryption keys for their data. This differs from the traditional approach where the service provider tightly guards everyone’s encryption keys.

This new service called Enterprise Key Management (EKM) will appeal to highly regulated industries such as healthcare, finance, government and the legal sector. EKM will also appeal to those worried about hackers, government requests for data and Cloud providers’ own employees having access to their data.

EKM essentially gives you control over the one master key for your data.  But, it also gives you FULL responsibility. You may no longer need to worry about the threat of hackers getting to your data through your service provider but this should only alleviate concerns if you believe your own security is sturdier.

If you do consider EKM, the most important consideration will be the storage of the encryption key itself.  Of course it will need to be resilient enough to survive hardware or site failure, but the strategy to make sure it is backed up, specifically regarding access to it and backups, will need to careful consideration. Whilst EKM does solve many of the issues some have with Cloud storage solutions today it also comes with its own set of new unique challenges and should only be chosen after great consideration.

 

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Ever Greener Apple

Apple is no stranger to being green. Not only does the company promote their own products with an environmental check-list on launch, the iPhone producer also uses renewable energies like solar to power their services.

Apple has detailed plans to spend $850 million on a new solar farm in California. This deal marks the largest ever supply of ‘clean power’ to a commercial user. The farm itself will cover 2,900 acres and will have the equivalent to power 60,000 Californian homes. The power from the new farm will be split with 130-megawatts going to Apple to power buildings such as its future campus, while the remaining 150 megawatts is being sold to the Pacific Gas & Energy’s grid.

This huge spend continues Apple’s commitment to use 100% clean energy – and if successful could be used as the blueprint for many other clean energy driven enterprises going forwards.

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This Week’s Technology News – 14th November 2014

Goodbye Lync, Hello Skype for Business

Microsoft has announced they will rename Lync, their corporate unified communications platform, to Skype for Business in 2015.   Not only will the platform have a change of name but the look and feel will also be more similar to consumer focused Skype.

Microsoft purchased VOIP company Skype back in 2011 in their largest acquisition costing $8.56 billion.  At the time, Microsoft’s consumer based product was MSN Live Messenger and their corporate offering was still Lync. The purchase of Skype, especially at the price paid raised many eyebrows, and questions surrounding the future of both Live Messenger and Lync.

Early last year Microsoft retired Messenger globally, auto directing users to download and use Skype instead.

Now Lync is following suit, being replaced by the Skype brand.   In its official press release Microsoft reiterated that despite the name change and look and feel of Skype for Business, users can expect the same enterprise security, compliance and control that Lync currently offers.  In addition Skype for Business when it is released in the first half of 2015, will also give organisations the reach into hundreds of millions of regular Skype users outside their business. The update will not require new hardware and if your are on Office 365 the migration will be automatic.

In what initially looks like yet another rebranding from Microsoft, the logic to their largest acquisition to date now makes more sense commercially with the visual interface changes also echoing Microsoft’s “one interface across all devices” approach of recent years.  The new Skype strategy allows a single toolset to communicate within a company, to their partners and separately to consumers alike.  All in all a very powerful move forward.

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Nokia and HP in dance to create Cloud network for mobile operators

Cloud driven infrastructures have changed how many businesses plan their commercial strategies and implement their own IT infrastructure.  Mobile network operators however have not seen as much momentum going from traditional hosted infrastructures to a Cloud based system and this lack of forward thinking will slow down the roll out of new services.

Nokia and HP have partnered to deliver NFV (Network Functions Virtualisation), based on HP’s Helion OpenStack which they announced in May 2014 with a $1 billion pledge in open Cloud products and services. Nokia will be providing the management tools and network functions required, to deliver calls and internet access to users on HP’s platform.

Nokia and HP are not the only ones fighting for this lucrative new market. Alcatel-Lucent this week also announced a suite of NFV applications and last month Dell announced their own platform.

The switchover of the network that operators rely on to deliver telephony and mobile broadband, will not be quick but it is an inevitability.  Whoever is the most prepared to offer a mature, secure platform for today’s dynamic and ever-changing mobile world will reap the benefits in years to come.

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This week’s technology news – 10th October 2014

HP Divides

Hewlett-Packard has announced it will be splitting the 75-year-old tech giant in two. The computer and printer business will form one half with the corporate hardware and services making up the other half. Current shareholders will be given a stake in each new company. Since the announcement on Monday, HP shares have dropped 8.77% The division is expected to complete the restructure at the end of the 2015 fiscal year, which is the period originally pinned for CEO Meg Whitman’s 5-year recovery plan (which we covered May of this year and November 2013, the year after she took over from former CEO Leo Apotheker. With the split of the company being the last step of HP’s recovery plan, how well do we think these 2 new companies will fare? The computer and printer business is by far the healthiest on the books, so this split may indicate the intention to sell off its more costly corporate hardware and services business, if things do not improve after split. HP has made many changes in direction in recent years including CEOs with each bringing their own dissimilar strategies to the table. The purchase of Palm for $1.2 Billion by former HP CEO Mark Hurd is a crystal clear example of this, when the project was publicly scrapped just weeks after the first device was shipped by his successor, Leo Apotheker. The HP split strategy shows yet another costly change in direction for the tech giant and one that will also be followed by expected large job cuts again worldwide. HP is too large to simply vanish but it is looking like it will be a very different beast in just a few short years.

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Not quite a big enough bite of the Apple

Apple sapphire crystal glass manfacturer GT Advanced Technologies (GTAT) faces a bleak future now after its US share value plunged by more than 90% as the firm filed for bankruptcy this week. Following a buoyant bank position with a valuation of $1.5bn at the end of last week, GTAT was left with only $175m in the piggy bank four days later. The picture seemed so much rosier in November 2013, with a deal signed with Apple to manufacture sapphire materials. Analysts took this to mean GTAT’s glass would be rolled out into the new iPhone models.  But the news this summer that the factory being built with Apple would not be up and running till 2015 means that GTAT have missed the boat to produce the glass required. GTAT’s CEO made a robust statement about the company’s continued viability as it filed for “debtor in possession” status and is still expected to have its sapphire glass crystal in two of Apple’s new Watch wearable devices. However, the magnitude of the gap in potential business earnings is palpable and should act as a cautionary note to smaller tech firms as it shows the vulnerability of having all ones eggs in a Giant tech’s basket. _78047162_455056638

My Signature is Your Command!

With security an ever increasing buzz for data systems, Taiwanese start up, AirSig, has entered the market with a “Harry Potter” style password replacement. The notion is that to access a login, the user wafts their smartphone “wand style” to emulate creating their virtual signature.  Although this seems a bit loosey goosey and reminiscent of playing with sparklers on Bonfire Night, AirSig advocate that their recognition rates are at 99.2%.  The technology company uses gyroscope sensor hardware already found in smartphones, smartwatches and other wearable tech to create a unique algorithm from the virtual signature.  This enables an array of tasks to be performed ranging from authenticating yourself, to unlocking your phone, paying a transactions, to auto-opening doors and playing games and the password is changeable at any time. There is no naivety behind this innovation, as manufacturing giant Foxconn have already backed AirSig to the tune of $2m and the product aroused intrigue from tech giants LG and Samsung because of the possibilities for channel restriction for families through TV remotes as the technology is already embedded in the TV sets. The manufacturers recognise that the game changer would be adoption by a major provider like Facebook.  With companies jostling to create the next foolproof authentication method, only time will tell if AirSig will gain traction with mainstream commercial markets, but with the technology already incorporated in Android apps, it has a chance of succeeding if the naysayers can be convinced.       600_phpFLJFqD

The Adobe touch

This week saw Adobe’s annual Max creativity conference in Los Angeles where they show off their latest products and features used by millions in creative industries. New desktop versions of their Creative Cloud applications showcased, improved touch support for Windows 8 and Microsoft’s own Surface Pro 3. This will enable graphic artists to draw directly into applications like Photoshop, whilst also providing touch friendly controls and gestures for all the advance options the suite provides. Apple’s desktops have traditionally had the premium reserved slot in marketing and graphical design departments. Some of the reason given by Mac users were its stability and exclusive applications. Photoshop originally was a Mac exclusive application before also coming out to Windows. Where Microsoft can potentially take the lead with creative minds is its drive with touch and stylus computing. Apple has shown disinterest in putting touch screens on macs and keeping them exclusive to their iPhones and iPads, which are unable to run desktop software like Photoshop. Drawing and manipulating graphics directly on the same machine cuts out peripherals and enables enhanced portability, making the once Mac exclusive application now more commercially inviting for Windows. In addition to Windows as a platform this news also makes Microsoft’s own devices like the Surface Pro 3 a much more viable option for graphic designers. Microsoft’s Marketing team has shifted comparisons of its Surface line from iPads to MacBook Air’s with the aim to convert users of Apple’s lightest computers. The surface Pro 3 is thinner and lighter, with a higher resolution screen and full touch screen with included stylus all for less cost than a MacBook Air. Will we see a future where Macs are replaced with Microsoft touch enabled devices in graphic departments or will Apple play catch up and offer this support on its next generation of computers or even merge iPad and Macs closer together?  Only time will tell, but for now Microsoft has the edge and we will see how willing artists are to trade in their existing tools to take advantage of a touch enabled Adobe suite. Surface_Pro_3

This week’s technology news – 23rd May 2014

Duh! How not to manage mobile phone security
If ever there was a perfect storm around Mobile Device Management, the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson, could safely be said to have been at its apex this week. The well known British journalist lost his mobile phone whilst off duty watching a football match at Manchester United. Ordinarily this would have been a mere inconvenience, but when your phone contains the mobile contact details for most of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, it’s more than just an ouch of embarrassment! The BBC have not given further details about whether it was their corporate issued device, or Nick Robinson’s personal mobile. No.10 are treating it as a “serious security breach” and it is being investigated also by the Information Commissioner. Whatever the case, the BBC’s security governance policy should cover all devices for those staff who carry sensitive data of any nature, in which case they could have shrugged it off lightly with a mere remote lock and wipe.

Telemetics uptake in Transportation offers better security and customer service
The drive for logistics operators to make their business uber competitive, with ever economic solutions, cost-savings and service-led delivery has just got a step closer with the increased adoption of telematics for the industry. Longstanding operators and one of the first pilot customers, Logistik in XXL use the TC eMap® software with an integrated tracking function and software from telematics provider Daimler FleetBoard to which it is linked and which helps make the process transparent. MD for Logistik in XXL Volker Asche, comments: “Our dispatchers are able to determine the whereabouts of the goods in real time, optimally plan routes and inform customers about the location of the cargo. Via Daimler FleetBoard’s connection to TimoCom’s freight and vehicle exchange, the whole fleet is displayed on only one screen making complicated switching between different apps a thing of the past. In addition, protracted telephone calls with drivers are spared without limiting the information flow”. This ability to locate the vehicles automatically on the exchange adds to customer trust with the increase in offering of security measures, all of which emphasises the importance of effective mobile device management across logistics organisations to safeguard their door to door service.

More job cuts at HP bring count to 50,000 under Whitman
Hewlett-Packard’s second quarter results are out, and the picture is not pretty. Off the back of this HP announced another 10,000 to 16,000 job cuts are imminent. This brings the total of layoffs since Meg Whitman became CEO to a staggering 50,000. Besides this unpleasant news Meg Whitman said that the HP turnaround remains “on track” during an earning call, we also learned that the turnaround is now at its midpoint. The job cuts are primarily coming from HP’s services, an area they have struggled in recent years. The long-term turnaround is based on less reliance on low-end PCs and increased sales of high-end servers. Which of course makes a lot of sense on paper, but is a lot easier said than done. At this point it is uncertain how well the HP turnaround will go in the long-term and hopefully we have seen the last of the job cuts from HP for a long time.

Third time’s a charm: Surface Pro 3 Impresses
With Surface Pro 2 launching just last October Microsoft caught many off-guard when it announced its successor, the Surface Pro 3 this week. The Surface Pro range does not chase after the iPad market and instead has defined itself by the difficult balancing act of being both a tablet, when on the go and a laptop, when in the office. The Surface Pro 3 is shaping up to be the best realisation of this concept thanks to several clever updates. The Pro 3 is both lighter and thinner than the MacBook Air, touts a new 12” screen and battery life is up to 9 hours. In an uncharacteristic move for Microsoft, pre-orders went live the same day as the announcement. Will these upgrades be enough to finally tempt corporations to exchange their laptop and tablets for Surfaces? For most, not yet, but Microsoft has given us the most convincing argument for device convergence yet, a strategy that could not only increase security, productivity and mobility – but also reduce management and admin costs.

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This Week’s technology news – 29th November 2013

Are firms doing enough to secure their data?
Spearfishing, long-lining, phishing and waterholes add up to an idyllic image of a Caribbean beach. The reality however, as pointed out in this week’s Computing webinar is far darker, illustrating the lengths hackers will go to, to stalk their victims, sometimes over great lengths of time. With so much personal info freely available on social media websites, profiles enabling seemingly harmless, but highly informed communications will continue to penetrate systems – and are only a key stroke away. Whilst good CIOs will restrict website (and social media) access by staff, it requires an integrated approach with email. HR can help by integrating process, people and technology with regular staff awareness training to create a “neighbourhood watch” protection. If we think technology is changing fast, then the sophistication of attacks is progressing at an even faster pace.

Is it scarier to adopt something because it is virtual?
In a recent Cisco study, 77% of respondents confirmed they had some sort of virtualisation employed. However, security lay at the heart of 51% of business respondents’ concerns in SMBs. With the many types of solution (server virtualisation, virtual desktops infrastructure, storage virtualisation, network visualisation or remote desktop access), there is proven agility, efficiency and portability in the technology. This make it easier to back up data in the event of compromise – and thus as counter-argument for some, a more compelling reason for adoption. Change can create risk for larger businesses, however aversion (possibly through lack of understanding) might cause more damage down the line, if CIOs do not stay ahead of the game as virtualisation proliferates in industry.

US Army fined $50 million for running unlicenced Microsoft software
In January this year the U.S Defence Department signed a 3 year deal worth $617 million to fit out the U.S Army, Air Force and Defence Information Systems Agency with Microsoft Products, including Windows 8. This was the largest licencing agreement Microsoft had signed with the U.S Department of Defence. Despite this, the US Army has just been fined $50 million for copyright infringement after admitting the use of unlicenced Microsoft software on thousands of devices on both servers and devices. Whether this incident was highlighted because of the agreement is unknown. With corporate’s dependance on Microsoft software, making sure all your IT estate (irrespective of who is installing it), is fully compliant, is fundamental and will save you from similar prosecution and fines.

The HP turnaround
In 2011, former eBay chief Meg Whitman was named CEO of HP, with the difficult task of turning around the fortunes of the company, especially after the purchases of Autonomy ($11bn) and Palm ($1.2bn) – both since written off. Whitman vowed to turnaround the company by 2016 and has since cut 26,000 staff and changed the management structure. So how are things looking now? There are positive signs, beating Wall Street projections with the enterprise group growing for the first time in two years. PCs also fared better than expected, largely due to the upcoming XP expiry looming in April 2014. HP still has a long journey ahead, and Whitman seems to be headed in the right direction, whether she will be successful in turning around this computing behemoth is uncertain.

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 20th September 2013

Redundancy alarm bells ringing for the NHS
The NHS is starting to wake up to the fact that 85% of its desktops are running on an obsolete Microsoft operating system. With Windows XP expiry looming like the grim reaper in April 2014, EHI Intelligence’s research calculates there are 677,000 computers in the NHS which will be unsupported after this date. 14% (or just 110,000) are running the Windows 7 OS and just 1% using Windows 8. There are ways to avoid an expensive PC upgrade. Amicus ITS is holding a seminar on 7 November specifically for healthcare and the public sector markets with IGEL, regarding their UDC converter and Amicus ITS’s management solutions. Book a place now via marketing on: 02380 429475.

App wrapping hits the right note for enterprise
Two main technologies to protect mobile business application data have been vying for the attention of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). According to ABI Research, app wrapping solutions are anticipated to have a 27% surge in adoption through to 2018, due to their simplicity. With the evolution of the enterprise mobility market, Mobile Device Management (MDM) vendors are identifying the benefits as a value-added solution for customers. As long as MSPs are able to meet the needs of enterprise’s increasing demands associated with their growth and MDM requirements and security needs, they should keep their customers satisfied.

HP laptop incoming with Leap Motion built in
HP today announced a new device line-up including a Laptop with Leap Motion built in. Leap Motion was original funded via Kick Starter and afterwards sold as a standalone device you can plug up to your PC via USB. Leap Motion lets you use touch less hand gestures to control your PC. With HP now official supporting Leap and building it right into their Laptop it gives users a new way to interactive with their PC, this makes even more sense when paired with the very touch friendly interface of Windows 8. Using hand gestures arguable makes allot more sense that touching a screen attached to your laptop depending of course on how well it is integrated.

Meet Jolla a new phone from ex-Nokia employees
Jolla is a company founded by ex-Nokia employees with the goal of making new, innovative phones. Their first model which is planned to release at the end of the year runs on a new OS called Sailfish. The phone is simply called Jolla and in addition to running native apps is compatible with the Android App store. The real challenge Jolla faces is fierce competition from the very mature platforms out there; Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Unfortunately it’s not just a great phone needed to tackle today’s market but the entire ecosystem.

This week’s technology news from Amicus ITS – Friday 19th July 2013

NHS penalty for loose disposal of data
NHS Surrey has been issued with a £200,000 fine by the ICO for failing to clear patient records off decommissioned computers sold on through an auction site. The hospital used a 3rd party trust to handle the data destruction, which promised to wipe sensitive data from hard drives before selling on. One PC had 3,000 patient records on it and records for equipment passed for destruction in a 12 month period had been lost. No formal contract, guidelines or monitoring were in place to explain the provider’s legal requirements under the Data Protection Act. The data destruction company was unable to trace computers or confirm how many might still contain personal data. Effective management and regulated control mechanisms extending during and beyond the lifecycle of a company device is critical in order to maintain confidence and commercial credibility.

HP vs Lenovo
Last week for the first time Lenovo de-throned HP in global PC sales. Although all PC vendors saw shrinking sales, HP’s drop of 4.8% was enough to bring them below Lenovo by 200,000 units. An HP spokesman has commented “We don’t like being number two and we don’t plan to stay there”. HP has been caught off guard while restructuring it business, recently losing some large government contracts to Lenovo. Gartner predicts HP will be back at the top after Q4 thanks to the consumer holiday season, an area in which Lenovo currently struggles. With declining PC sales across the board and mobile devices fiercely on the rise, it will be the company who can successfully create the next mass market consumer tablet that will secure dominance going forwards.

Microsoft risky re-organisation
Steve Ballmer has announced plans for a massive restructuring of Microsoft. The product groups are being dissolved, with devices and services divisions in their place. Everything is now aligned around engineering rather than products with four key areas: operation systems, applications, cloud and devices. One division will handle all of Microsoft’s operation systems instead of different teams depending on the product. The objective is to create a cohesive experience for users across the full portfolio from Windows Server to Windows Phone. The danger here is throwing away a corporate model that has made Microsoft the world’s largest software company and a money making power house. Will Ballmer’s risky bet will pay off? We will have to wait a few years to find out.

Broadband in space
Nature report that NASA and the ESA are bringing broadband to space using lasers by creating a much needed data link speed increase between satellites, spacecraft and Earth using laser beams. ESA launches Alphasat on 25th July communicating at 300 Mbps. Separately, the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer will launch on 5th September. Using an atmosphere penetrating AM-style infrared laser beam and eight ground telescopes, the lasers will avoid radio interference and bring 6 times faster data link speed from the moon. How long it will take for these benefits to impact on consumers has yet to be determined.

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