Category Archives: windows 7

Parallels Desktop 6 for Mac: nice work but beware Windows security settings

I’ve just set up Parallels Desktop 6 on a Mac, in preparation for some development work. Installed Parallels, created a new virtual machine, and selected a Windows 7 Professional with SP1 CD image downloaded from Microsoft’s excellent MSDN subscription service.

The way this works is that you install the Parallels application and the create a new virtual machine, selecting a boot CD or image. Next, you have a dialog where you select whether or not you want an Express installation. It is checked by default. I left it checked and proceeded with the install.


The setup was delightfully smooth and I was soon running Windows on the Mac. I chose a “Like my PC” install so that Windows runs in a window. The alternative is to hide the virtual Windows desktop and simply to show Windows applications on the Mac desktop.

Everything seemed fine, but I was puzzled. Why was Windows not installing any updates? It turns out that the Express install disables this setting.


It also sets user account control to an insecure setting, where the approval dialog does not use the secure desktop.


The Parallels Express install also sets up an Administrator account with a blank password, so you log on automatically.

No anti-virus is installed, which is not surprising since Windows does not come with anti-virus software by default.

These choices make a remarkable difference to the user experience. Set up was a pleasure and I could get to work straight away, untroubled by prompts, updates or warnings.

Unfortunately Windows in this state is insecure, and I am surprised that Parallels sets this as the default. Disabling automatic updates is particularly dangerous, leaving users at the mercy of any security issues that have been discovered since the install CD was built.

In mitigation, the Parallels user guide advises that you set a password after installation – but who reads user guides?

If you uncheck the Express Install option, you get a normal Windows installation with Microsoft’s defaults.

These security settings are unlikely to matter if you do not connect your Windows virtual machine to the internet, or if you never use a web browser or other Internet-connected software such as email clients. If you do real work in Windows though, which might well include Windows Outlook since the Mac version is poor in comparison, then I suggest changing the settings so that Window updates properly, as well as installing anti-virus software such as the free Security Essentials.

Microsoft financials: Office and server dominate as Windows falters

Microsoft has released its quarterly figures for January-March 2011. My at-a-glance summary is below.

Quarter ending June 30th 2011 vs quarter ending June 30th 2010, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Profit Change
Client (Windows + Live) 4740 -41 2943 -123
Server and Tools 4643 +494 1774 +214
Online 662 +94 -728 -40
Business (Office) 5777 +402 3618 +399
Entertainment and devices 1485 +341 32 +204

Business as usual? More or less, but there are a few points to note.

The figure that jumps out is the stunning performance of Office, which includes SharePoint and Exchange. Why is everyone buying Office 2010, when a document like the one I am typing now could be done just as well in Word 2.0 from 1991, or more plausibly the free OpenOffice?

The answer is the Microsoft has successfully transitioned many of its customers to using Office with SharePoint and Exchange, making it harder to stick with old versions and selling CALs (Client Access Licences) as well as the Office suite itself. This is highly profitable, though the aspect that puzzles me is that Office 365, which is cloud-hosted SharePoint and Exchange, is more cost-effective for the customer since it includes server software, CALs and in some cases the Office client for a commodity-priced subscription.

In other words, I find it hard to see how Microsoft can remain equally profitable if a significant proportion of its customers switch to Office 365. The company may be depending on its ability to upsell those customers to further online services; or perhaps it has not fully thought this through and has set Office 365 pricing at what it needs to be in order to compete with Google.

Fortunately for Microsoft, there is enough doubt concerning the safety of cloud services to sustain continued strong sales of on-premise solutions.

Second notable thing: Windows is in decline. The reason: it is losing market share to Apple and to Google Android. Netbook sales are down 41% according to the release, and I would guess that those sales have mostly gone to Apple iPad and Android tablets rather than to Windows notebooks.

Will Windows 8 reverse the decline? Speculation of course, but it will not repeat the success of Windows 7. In fact, my guess is that Windows 8 will be a hard sell to enterprises which have finally been persuaded to migrate from Windows XP. They are settling down for another five years of stability. Windows 7 was a consolidation release, just the sort of thing enterprises like. Windows 8 will be a revolution release, with most of the interest focused on what it can do in mobile and tablets. If it does succeed, it will do so slowly; there will be no rush to upgrade from 7 other than from the usual early adopters. It may improve sales in the consumer market, but neither Mac nor iPad nor Android is going away.

That leads on to mobile, the figures for which are buried under a pile of Xbox consoles. A good quarter for Xbox, though note how poor the margins are compared to those for Office or Windows.

Finally, the online money drain continues. Note that this is Bing and online advertising, not Azure or Office 365. Microsoft must feel that it the strategic value of these online services is worth the cost, particularly since they tie into mobile and the ecosystem which Nokia is depending on for a reversal of its fortunes. Given that the company has money to burn, there may actually be some sense in that; though for a segment to make such large and consistent losses over a long period has to be a concern.

Apple iCloud: i is for integrated

Apple has announced iCloud, smart cloud storage for Apple devices.

The iCloud will store documents, email, contacts and appointments, and synch the data to multiple devices including iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, Mac or PC. You get 5GB free with more available to purchase. Books are synched so that your place is saved from one device to the next, a feature borrowed from Amazon Kindle.

Apple has also exposed an API for developers:

Apple apps are seamlessly integrated with iCloud, and we’ve given developers the tools to make their apps work with iCloud, too. So you’ll be able to paint a masterpiece, play a game, create reminders, edit stock lists, and more — and have it all stay with you on all your devices.

This API allows for key-value pairs to be stored as well as documents.

The iCloud also backs up settings, including device settings and app data. If your iOS device is stolen, restoring it should be just a matter of reconnecting:

When you set up a new iOS device or need to restore the information on one you already have, iCloud Backup does the heavy lifting. Just connect your device to Wi-Fi and enter your Apple ID and password. Your personal data — along with your purchased music, apps, and books from iTunes — will appear on your device.

This is similar to what Google is promising for the Chromebook; in fact, there are quite a few parallels there.

Email is also synchronised, provided you use Apple’s email account. Users of Microsoft Exchange or similar server-based systems already have the experience of email, appointments and contacts synched across all devices; now iCloud brings this to all Apple users.

There is also special provision for music. In this case you do not actually have to upload the tracks in most cases, since Apple will “scan and match” your collection. This applies to CDs you have ripped as well as iTunes purchases, which strikes me as a big concession from the music industry, since there is actually no way to tell if you ripped your own CD or copied it from a friend. You do have to pay $24.99 annually for this though, so it is a kind of music subscription. However it falls short of Spotify’s play-anything offer, since you have to acquire each track by some separate means first.

Taking each feature individually, there is little new here other than Apple’s deal with the music companies. Taken together though, this is a big deal. Apple iOS devices are no longer tied to an iTunes installation on Mac or PC; they are now cloud devices. If you think as I do that cloud+device is the direction of computing today, this is a key move.

One weak point is collaboration. The iCloud seems to be a private store, whereas with technology like Microsoft SharePoint or Google Apps you can publish documents to selected individuals or to the world.

I expect it is just a matter of time before Apple adds document sharing based on Apple IDs or email identities. Another obvious move would be some sort of web site integration so you can publish certain kinds of data.

Another weak point is system requirements. Some features will require iOS 5 or OS X Lion. However, in the past iOS upgrades have been free so that is unlikely to be a problem; and even an upgrade to Lion will only be $29.00, provided your Mac is compatible – it needs Intel Core 2 Duo or better.

There is also the question of whether you want to store all your critical data on Apple’s servers. In my own encounters with Apple’s online security I have not been impressed. Someone managed to sign up for iTunes using my email address once; I could have had full access to his account and stored credit card details. Apple also uses the notorious “security questions” technique for resetting passwords. It is also not clear whether data in iCloud is encrypted.

That said, as with the iPad versus Microsoft’s Tablet PC, I am struck by how Apple has taken a feature which Microsoft has worked on for years but failed to implement sensibly and consistently. Microsoft had Live Mesh for example back in 2008 complete with an API for synchronising documents across PCs. The API was poor, there was an operating system component which could be problematic to install, and mobile device support never really came. Then in 2010 Microsoft scrapped most it and replaced it with a new Live Mesh based on SkyDrive which is now part of Windows Live Essentials. It is an optional extra for Windows users and aimed at consumers; business users can get some of this using Exchange and SharePoint as mentioned above, though these are usually privately hosted. Everything is an extra, some things free, some things paid for. In the confusion third party services like Dropbox have flourished.

Microsoft will learn from Apple and we will see a nicely integrated cloud story in Windows sometime around 2014, based on past performance.

Microsoft refuses to comment as .NET developers fret about Windows 8

There is a long discussion over on the official Silverlight forum about Microsoft’s Windows 8 demo at D9 and what was said, and not said; and another over on Channel 9, Microsoft’s video-centric community site for developers.

At D9 Microsoft showed that Windows 8 has a dual personality. In one mode it has a touch-centric user interface which is an evolved version of what is on Windows Phone 7. In another mode, just a swipe away, it is the old Windows 7, plus whatever incremental improvements Microsoft may add. Let’s call it the Tiled mode and the Classic mode.

Pretty much everything that runs on Windows today will likely still run on Windows 8, in its Classic mode. However, the Tiled mode has a new development platform based on HTML and JavaScript, exploiting the rich features of HTML 5, and the fast JavaScript engine and hardware acceleration in the latest Internet Explorer.

Although D9 is not a developer event, Microsoft did talk specifically about this aspect. Here is the press release:

Today, we also talked a bit about how developers will build apps for the new system. Windows 8 apps use the power of HTML5, tapping into the native capabilities of Windows using standard JavaScript and HTML to deliver new kinds of experiences. These new Windows 8 apps are full-screen and touch-optimized, and they easily integrate with the capabilities of the new Windows user interface. There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today.

Program Manager Jensen Harris says in the preview video:

We introduced a new platform based on standard web technologies

Microsoft made no mention of either Silverlight or .NET, even though Silverlight is used as the development platform in Windows Phone 7, from which Windows 8 Tiled mode draws its inspiration.

The fear of .NET developers is that Microsoft’s Windows team now regards not only Silverlight but also .NET on the client as a legacy technology. Everything will still run, but to take full advantage of Tiled mode you will need to use the new HTML and JavaScript model. Here are a couple of sample comments. This:

My biggest fears coming into Windows 8 was that, as a mostly WPF+.NET developer, was that they would shift everything to Silverlight and leave the FULL platform (can you write a Visual Studio in Silverlight? of course not, not designed for that) in the dust. To my utter shock, they did something much, much, much worse.

and this:

We are not Windows developers because we love Windows. We put up with Windows so we can use C#, F# and VS2010. I’ve considered changing the platform many times. What stops me each time is the goodness that keeps coming from devdiv. LINQ, Rx, TPL, async – these are the reasons I’m still on Windows.

Underlying the discussion is that developers have clients, and clients want applications that run on a platform with a future. Currently, Microsoft is promoting HTML and JavaScript as the future for Windows applications, putting every client-side .NET developer at a disadvantage in those pitches.

What is curious is that the developer tools division at Microsoft, part of Server and Tools, has continued to support and promote .NET; and in fact Microsoft is soon to deliver Visual Studio LightSwitch, a new edition of Visual Studio that generates only Silverlight applications. Microsoft is also using Silverlight for a number of its own web user interfaces, such as for Azure, System Center and Windows InTune, as noted here.

Now, I still expect that both Silverlight and native code, possibly with some new XAML-based tool, will be supported for Windows 8 Tiled mode. But Microsoft has not said so; and may remain silent until the Build conference in September according to .NET community manager Pete Brown:

You all saw a very small technology demo of Windows 8, and a brief press release. We’re all being quiet right now because we can’t comment on this. It’s not because we don’t care, aren’t listening, have given up, or are agreeing or disagreeing with you on something. All I can say for now is to please wait until September. If we say more before then, that will be great, but there are no promises (and I’m not aware of any plans) to say more right now. I’m very sorry that there’s nothing else to share at the moment. I know that answer is terrible, but it’s all that we can say right now. Seriously.

While this is clearly not Brown’s fault, this is poor developer communication and PR from Microsoft. The fact that .NET and Silverlight champion Scott Guthrie is moving to Windows Azure is no comfort.

The developer division, and in fact the whole of Server and Tools, has long been a bright spot at Microsoft and among its most consistent performers. The .NET story overall includes some bumps, but as a platform for business applications it has been a remarkable success. The C# language has evolved rapidly and effectively under the guidance of Technical Fellow Anders Hejlsberg. It would be bewildering if Microsoft were to turn its back on .NET, even if only on the client.

In fact, it is bewildering that Microsoft is being so careless with this critical part of its platform, even if this turns out to be more to do with communication than technical factors.

From the outside, it still looks as if Microsoft’s server and tools division is pulling one way, and the Windows team the other. If that is the case, it is destructive, and something CEO Steve Ballmer should address; though I imagine that Steven Sinofsky, the man who steered Windows 7 to launch so successfully, is a hard person to oppose even for the CEO.

Update: Journalist Mary Jo Foley has posted on what she “hears from my contacts” about Jupiter:

Jupiter is a user interface library for Windows and will allow developers to build immersive applications using a XAML-based approach with coming tools from Microsoft. Jupiter will allow users a choice of programming languages, namely, C#, Visual Basic and C++.

Jupiter, presuming her sources are accurate, is the managed code platform for the new Windows shell – “Tiled mode” or “Tailored Apps” or “Modern Shell – MoSH”; though if that is the case, I am not sure whether C++ in this context will compile to managed or unmanaged code. Since Silverlight is already a way to code using XAML, it is also not clear to me whether Jupiter is in effect a new Windows-only version of Silverlight, or yet another approach.

A pivotal moment for Microsoft as it attempts to escape its Windows legacy


Last year I wrote a piece for The Register on 25 years of Windows. I even ran up Windows 1.0 in a DOS box to have a look.

The surprising thing about Windows is not how much has changed in 25 years, but how little. The WIMP model (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer) has stayed the same. Inevitably, Windows was completely rebuilt during that period, in the form of Windows NT, but Microsoft was careful to make the user interface reassuringly familiar. Windows NT 3.1 looked the same as Windows 3.1, but did not crash so often. Windows NT 4.0 used the Windows 95 user interface. Further, as far as possible old applications still ran. In fact, Notepad on Windows 1.0 looks very like Notepad on Windows 7.

Then Apple releases the iPhone in 2007, and suddenly Microsoft has a problem. Apple demonstrates that it is possible to create a touch user interface, without a stylus, that really works. Apple does this by creating a new operating system, iOS, which is incompatible with its existing OS X used for desktops and laptops. Yes, much of the underlying code is the same, but OS X applications do not run. Nobody would expect them to on a phone; but then Apple does the iPad, approaching the screen size of a laptop, but still iOS, touch-centric, and incompatible with Mac OS X.

The advantage of Apple’s clean-room approach is that there are no compromises or fudges to make applications built for keyboard and mouse somehow work. iPhone and iPad are huge hits, and users seemingly do not mind sticking with OS X for their productivity applications like Microsoft Office and Adobe PhotoShop, and using the iPad and iPhone for web browsing and for apps that are more about consuming than creating – except that productivity apps like the iWork suite are now creeping onto iOS, and this together with the web application/cloud computing model may mean that OS X gets used less and iOS more over time; but OS X is not going away.

What about Microsoft? It has a big hit with Windows 7, but suddenly it all feels rather legacy. What about the new computing model which is mobile, touch-centric, and enjoyable to use in a way previously unknown in computing? One thing is sure: Microsoft cannot continue with WIMP. It has to break with 25 years of Windows and find a different user interface model.

2010, and Microsoft does Windows Phone 7. This is Microsoft’s iOS: same old Windows underneath, though based on the cut-down Windows CE, but otherwise a complete break from the past. The user interface is a new touch-centric effort called Metro and based on sliding tiles. The main thread of continuity for developers is its app platform based on Silverlight, which runs .NET code written in C# and Visual Basic.

You might have thought that Microsoft would follow Apple by using the phone OS for other form factors as well, and making Silverlight its core app platform for Windows (the cross-platform dream is long gone).

Instead, Microsoft embarked on a third strategy.

“We introduced a new platform based on standard web technologies”, says program manager Jensen Harris in his preview video. Windows 8 uses elements from the Windows Phone 7 UI, but driven by HTML and JavaScript rather than by Silverlight. Well, maybe you can use Silverlight instead; or maybe native code. Not everything is clear yet; but what Microsoft is choosing to focus on is its use of web technology.

Who will buy touch-centric Windows 8 devices? Microsoft’s problem: there is already a touch-centric OS out in the market, supported by countless third-party apps. As it has discovered with Windows Phone 7, it is not enough to do a decent alternative. So what, says the market, we already have iOS, and if we want something non-Apple, there’s Android. And WebOS. And Blackberry PlayBook.

The one thing Microsoft can do that others cannot is run Windows. Not new Windows, but old Windows. There is a reason why Windows 7 was the fastest-selling operating system of all time – most of the business world runs on Windows.

Therefore Windows 8 does both. There’s the new platform, and there’s the old platform, and you just swipe between them.


Windows 8 is a migration strategy. Is a mobile, touch-centric UI the future of client computing? Quite possibly, but in the meantime you have all this old stuff to run, not least Microsoft Office. Here is the answer: run both.

There are a few problems with this strategy.

First, while Microsoft will focus on the new HTML-based platform, in the real world people will buy Windows to run their existing Windows apps. That means they will need keyboard and mouse. Windows 8 OEMs will be fighting an old battle: how to make devices that run well as tablets, but also have keyboard and trackpad, and a competitive price. We have seen that approach fail with the old Tablet PC line and its swivel screens.

Alternatively, we will see touch-only devices and users will curse as they try to run Excel.

Second problem: Microsoft’s Windows team is focused on the new UI. The old one will likely be pretty much Windows 7. The success of Windows 7 was driven by innovations and improvements that matter whatever you run, rather than ones that you can only use if you are running apps built for the new platform.

A split personality means divided attention, and one or other or both will suffer. Is Windows 7 now frozen in time as the last of its line? That does look possible.

Third, what is the developer story? Hitherto, the Windows developer story has been pretty simple and single-minded. There is native code and the Windows API, or for the last decade or so there has been .NET. All-conquering C# has been the unifying language from desktop to server, with Silverlight bringing it to the browser.

Now Microsoft is saying HTML and JavaScript. Plaudits from the standards folk – who mostly do not run Windows and still will not – but confusion for the Microsoft-platform community.

That said, I will be surprised if Silverlight is not also an option for new-style apps, enabling Windows Phone apps to be ported easily.

Even so, there must be a reason for Microsoft’s emphasis on HTML and JavaScript for local apps as well as web applications. It does feel as if the one common thread to the company’s developer story has suddenly been cut, and for no good reason given that Silverlight fits perfectly with the new UI model.

Let me add, it is hard to see a future for the Windows Phone 7 OS, given what we have seen in Windows 8. It seems plausible that Windows Phone 8+ will use the same code as Windows 8, which is another reason to suppose that Silverlight will be fully supported.

I can see where Microsoft wants to get to. It wants to succeed in mobile and in the new touch-centric world, as the alternative is gradual erosion of its entire market and Windows ecosystem. Is this the best way, and will it work? Open questions; and the company has some tricky positioning to do, especially to its developers. The forthcoming Build conference will be critical.

Cracks appear in Microsoft’s bundled installers for Visual Studio 2010 as I try ADFS

I am trying out Microsoft Active Directory Federation Services (ADFS), chasing the dream of single sign-on between on-premise Active Directory and the cloud.

Oddly, although ADFS has been around for a while, it feels more bleeding edge than it should. ADFS is critical to Microsoft’s cloud platform play, and it needs to build this stuff right into Windows Server and .NET rather than making it a downloadable add-on.

The big problem with installers, whether on Windows or elsewhere, is dependencies and versions. You get some variant of DLL Hell, when A requires the latest version of B, and C requires an old version of B, and you need both A and C installed. The issue on Windows has reduced over the years, partly because of more side-by-side installations where multiple versions co-exist, and partly because Microsoft has invested huge effort into its installers.

There are still issues though, and I ran into a few of them when trying ADFS. I have Visual Studio 2010 installed on Windows 7 64-bit, and it is up-to-date with Service Pack 1, released in April. However, after installing the Windows Identity Foundation (WIF) runtime and SDK, I got this error when attempting to start Visual Studio:


Only some of the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 products on this computer have been upgraded to Service Pack 1. None will work correctly until all have been upgraded.

I’m guessing that the WIF components have not been updated to take account of SP1 and broke something. Never mind, I found my Visual Studio SP1 .ISO (I avoid the web installs where possible), ran setup, and choose to reapply the service pack. It trundled along until it decided that it needed to run or query the Silverlight 4 SDK setup:


A dialog asked for silverlight_sdk.msi. I wasted some time over this. Why is the installer looking for silverlight_sdk.msi in a location that does not exist? I’d guess because the Silverlight SDK installer is wrapped as an executable that unpacked the MSI there, ran it and then deleted it. Indeed, I discovered that both the Silverlight 4 SDK and the Silverlight 4 Tools for Visual Studio are .EXE files that wrap zip archives. You can rename them with a .zip or .7z extension and extract them with the open source 7 Zip, but not for some reason with the ZIP extractor built into Windows. Then you can get hold of silverlight_sdk.msi.

I did this, but then discovered that silverlight_sdk.msi is also on the Visual Studio SP1 ISO. All I needed to do was to point the installer there, though it is odd that it cannot find the file of its own accord.

It also seems to me that this scenario should not occur. If the MSI for installation A might be needed later by installation B, it should not be put into a temporary location and then deleted.

The SPI repair continued, and I got a reprise of the same issue but with the Visual C++ runtimes. The following dialog appeared twice for x86, and twice for x64:


These files are also on the SP1 .ISO, so I pointed the installer there once again and setup continued.

Unfortunately something else was wrong. After a lengthy install, the SP1 installer started rollback without so much as a warning dialog, and then exited declaring that a fatal error had occurred. I looked at the logs

I rebooted, tried again, same result.

I was about to trawl the forums, but thought I should try running Visual Studio 2010 again, just in case. Everything was fine.


Logic tells me that the SP1 “rollback” was not quite a rollback, since it fixed the problem. Then again, bear in mind that it was rolling back the reapplication of the service pack which is different from the usual rollback scenario.

Visual Studio, .NET, myriad SDKs that each get updated at different times, developers who download and install these in an unpredictable order … it is not surprising that it goes wrong sometimes; in fact it is surprising that it does not go wrong more often. So I guess I should not beat up Microsoft too much about this. Even so this was an unwelcome reminder of a problem I have not seen much in the last few years, other then with beta installs which play by different rules.

Microsoft releases IE10 preview, talks up native HTML5

Microsoft has released an early preview of Internet Explorer 10, which you can download now. It shows the company’s commitment – for the moment – to an energetic release cycle for its web browser.


Why use IE? Microsoft is pushing the notion that only IE is truly native on Windows:

IE10 continues on IE9’s path, directly using what Windows provides and avoiding abstractions, layers, and libraries that slow down your site and your experience.

In practice, this means using the Windows graphic stack directly and integrating with the Windows shell through features like jump list support on Windows 7.

IE10 supports more CSS3 standards including multi-column layout, Grid layout and Flexible Box Layout,  and Gradients. There is also support for EcmaScript 5 Strict Mode, which enforces tighter standards so reducing the likelihood of errors. Strict Mode is optional; if a web browser tried to apply it to the entire web lots of pages would break.

Microsoft is promising to support additional CSS3 standards including transitions and 3D transforms, though these are not in the preview. New preview releases will appear every 8-12 weeks.

According to Corporate VP Dean Hachamovitch, the company is steering a tight path between falling behind, and implementing immature standards:

When browsers prematurely implement technology, the result is activity more than progress. Unstable technology results in developers wasting their time rewriting the same site.

he writes in a blog post.

IE10 was announced today at the Mix conference in Las Vegas. Mix seems to be featuring equal measures of HTML5 and Silverlight, which makes for an interesting tension. News on Windows Phone is also promised, though I am not sure whether this is the moment when Microsoft will tell us about the next generation of Windows Phone and how it ties in with Windows 8 and with tablet devices. All will be revealed (or not) tomorrow.

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 install failures common?

There are reports coming in of Windows 7 install failures causing problems for users. There will always be some failures, but normally there is an easy way to rollback; unfortunately SP1 is making machines unbootable in a number of cases:

I have about 10pc’s in my company. They all failed this morning after the service pack 1 for windows 7 x64 systems.

I wonder on a global scale what financial damage this service pack caused. Isn’t a service pack made for fixing issues instead of creating new ones.

So now what? Tomorrow windows installs it again and the company stops working again? Is there a fixed update in the making???

A typical issue is “fatal error c0000034 applying update operation”.

If this happens to you, there are some emergency fixes suggested in the thread referenced above.

Server and Tools shine in Microsoft results – so why is Bob Muglia leaving?

Microsoft released quarterly results yesterday:

Quarter ending December 31 2010 vs quarter ending December 31 2009, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Profit Change
Client (Windows + Live) 5054 -2139 3251 -2166
Server and Tools 4390 412 1776 312
Online 691 112 -543 -80
Business (Office) 5126 612 3965 1018
Entertainment and devices 3698 1317 679 314

Microsoft highlighted strong sales for Xbox (including Kinect) as well as for Office 2010, which it said in the press release is the “fastest-selling consumer version of Office in history.”

Why is Office 2010 selling better than Office 2007? My hunch is that this is a Windows 7 side-effect. New Windows, new Office. I do think Office 2010 is a slightly better product than Office 2007, but not dramatically so. SharePoint Workspace 2010, about which I mean to post when I have a moment, is a big disappointment, with a perplexing user interface and limited functionality.

Windows 7 revenue is smaller than that of a year ago, but then again the product was released in October 2009 so this is more a reflection of its successful launch than anything else.

What impressed me most is the strong performance of Server and Tools, at a time when consolidation through virtualisation and growing interest in cloud computing might be reducing demand. Even virtual machines require an OS licence though, so maybe HP should worry more than Microsoft about that aspect.

I still think they are good figures, and make Server and Tools VP Bob Muglia’s announced departure even more puzzling. Just what was his disagreement with CEO Steve Ballmer?

Server and Tools revenue includes Windows Azure, but it sounds like Microsoft’s cloud is not generating much revenue yet. Here is what CFO Peter Klein said:

Moving on to Server and Tools. For Q3 and the full year, we expect non-annuity revenue, approximately 30% of the total, to generally track with the hardware market. Multi-year licensing revenue which is about 50% of the total, and enterprise services, the remaining 20%, should grow high-single digits for the third quarter and low double-digits for the full fiscal year.

This suggests that 80% of the revenue is from licensing and that 20% is “enterprise services” – which as I understand it is the consulting and enterprise support division at Microsoft. So where is Azure?

Online services, which is Bing and advertising, announced another set of dismal results. Another part of Microsoft’s cloud, Exchange and SharePoint online, is lost somewhere in the Business segment. Overall it is hard to judge how well the company’s cloud computing products are performing, but I think it is safe to assume that revenue is tiny relative to the old Windows and Office stalwarts.

Windows Phone 7 gets a mention:

While we are encouraged by the early progress, we realize we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and we remain focused and committed to the long-term success of Windows Phone 7.

It looks like revenue here is tiny as well; and like most corporate assertions of commitment, this is a reflection of the doubts around Microsoft’s mobile strategy overall: how much of it is Windows Phone 7, and how much a future version of full Windows running on ARM system-on-a-chip packages?

Still, these are good figures overall and show how commentators such as myself tend to neglect the continuing demand for Windows and Office when obsessing about a future which we think will be dominated by cloud plus mobile.

Fixing slow access to SharePoint mapped drives in Windows 7

I’ve heard recently from a couple of people who found that accessing SharePoint folders via mapped drives in Windows Explorer had suddenly become very slow – even taking several minutes to open a folder. This is in Windows 7, but the same might (or might not) apply to other versions of Windows.

SharePoint folders in Windows Explorer use WebDAV (Web-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning) under the hood, so although it looks like just another shared drive it is actually using HTTP calls to list the files. It is useful if you are out and about, because you can get at documents on your internal network over the internet, using SSL to secure the connection.

The fix that has worked in both cases is a mysterious one. You open Internet Explorer (even if you use a different browser), go to Tools – Internet Options – Connections, click LAN settings, and uncheck Automatically detect settings.


I am not sure why this works but presumably with this option checked there is some sort of useless auto-detection going on which times out and then repeats.

No promises; but making this change can dramatically improve performance.