Microsoft Band: do you want to track your health? and with a Microsoft device?

Data on human health has immense value. At an individual level, use of that data has the potential to enhance well-being and productivity, to extend life, and in some cases to avert disaster – such as prompting early investigation into a heart condition. In aggregate, more data on human health enables deeper medical research, especially when combined with other data about lifestyle, profession, location, diet and so on. Medicine is big business, so this is a business opportunity as well as (one hopes) a benefit to humanity.

There is also a dark side to this data. The more data an insurance company has on our health, the more likely they are to exclude the conditions we are most likely to suffer (defeating the purpose of insurance) or to ratchet up premiums for worse risks. Do we trust the industry, whether that is the IT industry or the insurance industry, to safeguard our personal data from being used against us?

The value of this data goes some way to explaining the IT industry’s obsession with fitness gadgets, an obsession that seems to go beyond the demand. I tried a Fitbit for several months, a wristband version. It is a great device, and I found the data interesting, but not enough to motivate me to keep the thing charged up and on my wrist, after the novelty wore off.

The reality is that most of us strike a balance between keeping vaguely fit while not allowing health concerns to dominate our lives. Coffee may be bad for you, but it is also a lovely drink; there is no point in extending life if you cannot also enjoy it.

How much health data, then, is too much?

These questions are likely to come to the fore as increasing numbers of health-monitoring devices come our way, especially multi-purpose devices that do health monitoring as one of several useful functions.


Enter Microsoft Band, which the company successfully kept under wraps until a couple of days ago. It’s $199, works with Windows Phone, Android and iOS, and packs in a lot of features, though its 48 hours battery life is too short for my liking (I am hard to please; my plain old watch has a 10-year battery life).

Band hooks into the Microsoft Health platform. There are apps for all three supported phones, and data goes into a cloud service which delivers “intelligent insights” for you. “The more you share with Microsoft Health, the more accurate and helpful your insights will become,” says the blurb. There seems to be a link with Health Vault, a service which provides for sharing of health information with health professionals; of course the company says privacy and security are highly protected.

If I buy one (only available in the US currently) it will be more for its non-health features. Microsoft Band (by linking to your mobile over low-energy Bluetooth) will do calendar alerts, email previews, plain old watch mode (so it is actually a smartwatch), facebook posts, Twitter messages, weather, and (on Windows Phone only), Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant.

There is a built-in microphone and you can speak to Cortana on the go. I’ve been trying Cortana since it was was announced at Microsoft’s Build conference earlier this year, and she/it is pretty good. Cortana is not just voice activated search; it is also an example of voice UI, so you can make appointments, take notes, or ask for directions. Its voice recognition and question parsing is impressive, in my experience, though of course not perfect.

As ever I have a developer’s eye on this and I think it is interesting. Voice recognition, touch screen, and semi-permanent link with a smartphone is a powerful combination, if Microsoft opens this up to developers; and I will find it surprising if it does not.

In fact, there are already third-party apps, if you count the Starbucks partnership. You can pair a Starbucks card with Microsoft Band, and pay for coffee with it. The method is rather low-tech: the Band will display a barcode which the Starbucks scanner can read, but still, it beats searching for your card or even pulling out your mobile.

And there is of course the health tracking aspect. There are a ton of sensors here:

  • GPS
  • UV monitor (detect when sunscreen is required)
  • Optical heart rate sensor
  • Gyrometer
  • 3-axis accelerometer
  • “Galvanic skin response”: probably measures electrical conductivity of the skin to assess moisture level
  • Skin temperature
  • Microphone and touch screen

Haptic vibration is used for alerts.


Can Microsoft make a success of the Band and steal a march from Apple, whose Watch (which also does fitness tracking) is coming early next year? Apple’s device will be more beautiful, more expensive, and has more functions; but it will not work so well with Android or Windows Phone.

The big downer with Microsoft Band is that it is US only for the moment. Health Vault is already in the UK so we may see a UK release; the possibilities for global rollout are uncertain.

Microsoft financials show robust performance, Office in transition to subscription, both cloud and server growth

Microsoft released its financial results yesterday, for the quarter ending September 30th 2014. It was a good quarter in most respects, though consumer Windows and Windows Phone licensing are weak.

Good news outweighs bad though, particularly the company’s success in transitioning Office customers from perpetual licences to subscription, even in the consumer market. It also seems to be performing some magic in the server segment, growing both cloud and on-premises revenue, a trick CEO Satya Nadella attributes to the “unique hybrid and private cloud capabilities that are built into our Servers”.

Here is the segment breakdown, if you can make sense of Microsoft’s segments:

Quarter ending June 30th 2014 vs quarter ending June 30th 2013, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Gross margin Change
Devices and Consumer Licensing 4093 -391 3818 -102
Computing and Gaming Hardware 2453 +1044 479 +274
Phone Hardware 2609 N/A 478 N/A
Devices and Consumer Other 1809 +255 312 -12
Commercial Licensing 9873 +262 9100 +295
Commercial Other 2407 +805 805 +531

A few notable stats.

Devices and Consumer licensing is weak, in line with the PC market, a decline in Office consumer review (these figures exclude Office 365), and a 46% decline in Windows Phone revenue – the non-Nokia licensees.

Surface Pro 3 is a hit and brought in revenue of $908 million, “twice the [sales] rate of Surface Pro 2”, according to CFO Amy Hood. The gross margin on Surface is “positive this quarter”, said Microsoft, though it is undoubtedly negative over the lifetime of Surface.

2.4 million Xbox consoles were sold (including 360 as well as Xbox One), and overall revenue is up 58%; a decent performance considering that Sony’s PlayStation 4 is generally outselling Xbox One.

Windows Phone: Nadella reported “modest growth driven by sales in Europe, where we gained share with lower priced devices”. 9.3 million Lumias were sold overall. Non-Lumia devices are expected to decline; Microsoft is not interested in this business, though it said sales were “in line with the market for feature phones.” No mention of the mis-conceived Nokia X.

Devices and Consumer Other is where Office 365 consumer revenue lives. There are now over 7 million consumer subscribers and it grew 25% over the previous quarter (most comparisons are year on year). Microsoft’s ability to shift customers to a cloud-based subscription model is key, especially as more of them run Office on an iPad or Android tablet.

Windows Server, System Center and SQL Server grew revenue again; revenue from server products overall is up 13%

Cloud – Office 365, Azure and Dynamics – delivered revenue up by 128%. Nadella added in the webcast that a “major Azure service or feature” is added every three days.

From a financial perspective, Microsoft has an advantage over cloud rivals Amazon and Google, in that its customers are more likely to purchase licenses for products like SQL Server along with the commodity-priced cloud infrastructure.

A key comment from Nadella: “Our premium services on Azure create new monetization opportunities in media, data, machine learning, advanced analytics and enterprise mobility.”

Aside: Microsoft created its online slide deck using a beta PowerPoint add-in called Office Mix, which I had not seen before. It creates a video from a powerpoint deck, with the ability to insert audio, video and interactive content like quizzes, as well as screen capture. Then you can upload it to the cloud. It is mainly aimed at education, but might also be useful for, say, journalists doing product review.

Naim strives for the mass market with mu-so

I was in London yesterday and could not miss the ads for Naim’s mu-so all-in-one music system.


In one sense it is just another wireless music streamer – with 6 integrated speakers, separately driven by 6 x 75w amplifiers – and support for Apple AirPlay, UPnP, Spotify Connect and Bluetooth – and I have no idea yet of how it sounds. It would be interesting to compare with Sony’s hi-res SRS-X9 (reviewed here), which is another all-in-one streamer with audiophile ambitions.

Naim’s mu-so is £895, whereas Sony’s SRS-X9 is £600.

But mu-so intrigues me for another reason. It is (as far as I am aware) Naim’s first effort at cracking a wider market than the traditional hi-fi enthusiast.

Naim came into prominence (within the hi-fi community) in the Eighties, with distinctive styling and a commitment to sound quality above features – in contrast to the Japanese brands of the time which seemed to compete on numbers of switches and lights.

When I think of Naim I think of products like this, a 250 amplifier with Hi-Cap power supply and 32.5 pre-amp:


– and yes, it still works nicely, though true believers would not stack them, but rather have each box on a separate acoustic table.

Buying Naim meant going to a a specialist dealer, doing an audition with your favourite records and a cup of coffee, and swallowing hard as you handed over thousands of pounds for these plain black boxes; they seemed to deliver music like nothing else at the time.

Now Naim is moving with the times and going on sale in John Lewis and in Apple stores; not exactly downmarket, but quite a change from those early days. You can even buy mu-so from hi-fi discounter Richer Sounds, though you will not get it any cheaper!


Note: Naim has always been based in Salisbury, but merged with French company Focal in 2011.

For more info on mu-so see Naim’s site here.

How is Microsoft Azure doing? Some stats from Satya Nadella and Scott Guthrie

Microsoft financials are hard to parse these days, with figures broken down into broad categories that reveal little about what is succeeding and what is not.

CEO Satya Nadella speaks in San Francisco

At a cloud platform event yesterday in San Francisco, CEO Satya Nadella and VP of cloud and enterprise Scott Guthrie offered some figures. Here is what I gleaned:

  • Projected revenue of $4.4Bn if current trends continue (“run rate”)
  • Annual investment of $4.5Bn
  • Over 10,000 new customers per week
  • 1,200,000 SQL databases
  • Over 30 trillion storage objects
  • 350 million users in Azure Active Directory
  • 19 Azure datacentre regions, up to 600,000 servers in each region


Now, one observation from the above is that Microsoft says it is spending more on Azure than it is earning – not unreasonable at a time of fast growth.

However, I do not know how complete the figures are. Nadella said Office 365 runs on Azure (though this may be only partially true; that certainly used to be the case); but I doubt that all Office 365 revenue is included in the above.

What about SQL Server licensing, for example, does Microsoft count it under SQL Server, or Azure, or both depending which marketing event it is?

If you know the answer to this, I would love to hear.

At the event, Guthrie (I think) made a bold statement. He said that there would only be three vendors in hyper-scale cloud computing, being Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

IBM for one would disagree; but there are huge barriers to entry even for industry giants.

I consider Microsoft’s progress extraordinary. Guthrie said that it was just two years ago that he announced the remaking of Azure – this is when things like Azure stateful VMs and the new portal arrived. Prior to that date, Azure stuttered.

Now, here is journalist and open source advocate Matt Asay:

Microsoft used to be evil. Then it was irrelevant. Now it looks like a winner.

He quotes Bill Bennett

Microsoft has created a cloud computing service that makes creating a server as simple as setting up a Word document

New features are coming apace to Azure, and Guthrie showed this slide of what has been added in the last 12 months:


The synergy of Azure with Visual Studio, Windows Server and IIS is such that it is a natural choice for Microsoft-platform developers hosting web applications, and Azure VMs are useful for experimentation.

Does anything spoil this picture? Well, when I sat down to write what I thought would be a simple application, I ran into familiar problems. Half-baked samples, ever changing APIs and libraries, beta code evangelised by Microsoft folk with little indication of what to do if you would rather not use this in production, and so on.

There is also a risk that as Azure services multiply, working out what to use and when becomes harder, and complexity increases.

Azure also largely means Windows – and yes, I heard yesterday that 20% of Azure VMs run Linux – but if you have standardised on Linux servers and use a Mac or Linux for development, Azure looks to me less attractive than AWS which has more synergy with that approach.

Still, it is a bright spot in Microsoft’s product line and right now I expect its growth to continue.

Coding Office for cross platform: Microsoft explains its approach

At last month’s @Scale conference in San Francisco, developers from a number of well-known companies (Google, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and others) spoke about the challenge of scaling applications and services to millions or even billions of users.

Among the speakers was Igor Zaika, Distinguished Engineer in the Microsoft Office team, and the video (embedded below) is illuminating not only as an example of how to code across multiple platforms, but also as an insight into where the company is taking Office.

Zaika gives a brief résumé of the history of Office, mentioning how the team has experienced the highs and lows of cross-platform code. Word 6.0 (1993) was great on Windows but a disaster on the Mac. The team built an entire Win32 emulation layer for the Mac, enabling a high level of code reuse, but resulting in a poor user experience and lots of platform-specific bugs and performance issues in the Mac version.

Next came Word 98 for the Mac, which took the opposite approach, forking the code to create an optimized Mac-specific version. It was well received and great for user experience, but “it was only fun for the first couple of years,” says Zaika. As the Windows version evolved, merging code from the main trunk into the Mac version became increasingly difficult.

Today Microsoft is committed not only to Mac and Windows versions of Word, but to all the major platforms, by which Zaika means Apple (including iOS), Android, Windows (desktop and WinRT) and Web. “If we don’t, we are not going to have a sustainable business,” he says.

WinRT is short for the Windows Runtime, also known as Metro, or as the Store App platform. Zaika says that the relationship between WinRT and Win32 (desktop Windows) is similar to that between Apple’s OS X and iOS.

Time for a brief digression of my own: some observers have said that Microsoft should have made a dedicated version of Windows for touch/mobile rather than attempting to do both at once in Windows 8. The truth is that it did, but Microsoft chose to bundle both into one operating system in Windows 8. Windows RT (the ARM version used in Surface RT) is a close parallel to the iPad, since only WinRT apps can be installed. What seems to be happening now is that Windows Phone and Windows RT will be merged, so that the equivalence of WinRT and iOS will be closer and more obvious.

Microsoft’s goal with Office is to achieve high content fidelity and consistency of functionality across all platforms, but to use native UX/UI frameworks so that each version integrates properly with the operating system on which it runs. The company also wants to achieve a faster shipping cycle; the traditional two-year cycle is not fast enough, says Zaika.

What then is Microsoft’s technical strategy for cross-platform Office now? The starting point, Zaika explains, is a shared core of C++ code. Office has always been written in C/C++, and “that has worked out well for us,” he says, since it is the only language that compiles to native code across all the platforms (web is an exception, and one that Zaika did not talk much about, except to note the importance of “shared service code,” cloud-based code that is used for features that do not need to work offline).

In order for the shared non-visual code to work correctly cross-platform, Microsoft has a number of platform abstraction layers (PALs). No #ifdefs (to handle platform differences) are allowed in the shared code itself. However, rather than a monolithic Win32 emulation as used in Word 6.0 for the Mac, Microsoft now has numerous mini-PALs. There is also a willingness to compromise, abandoning shared code if it is necessary for a good platform experience.


How do you ensure cross-platform fidelity in places where you cannot share code? The alternative is unit testing, says Zaika, and there is a strong reliance on this in Office development.

There is also an abstraction layer for document rendering. Office requires composition, animation and touch APIs on each platform. Microsoft uses DirectX on Win32, a thin layer over Apple’s CoreAnimation API on Mac and iOS, a thin layer over XAML on WinRT, and a thinnish layer over Java on Android.

The outcome of Microsoft’s architectural work is a high level of code sharing, despite the commitment to native frameworks for UX. Zaika showed a slide revealing code sharing of over 95% for PowerPoint on WinRT and Android.


What can Microsoft-watchers infer from this about the future of Office? While there are no revelations here, it does seem that work on Office for WinRT and for Android is well advanced.

Office for WinRT has implications for future Windows tablets. If a version of Office with at least the functionality of Office for iPad runs on WinRT, there is no longer any need to include the Windows desktop on future Windows tablets – by which I mean not laptop replacements like Surface 3.0, but smaller tablets. That will make such devices less perplexing for users than Surface RT, though with equivalent versions of Office on both Android and iOS tablets, the unique advantages of Windows tablets will be harder to identify.

Thanks to WalkingCat on Twitter for alerting me to this video.

Xamarin Evolve: developers enjoy the buzz around cross-platform coding with C#

“It’s like a Microsoft developer event back when they were good,” one exhibitor here at Xamarin Evolve in Atlanta told me, and I do see what he means. There is plenty of buzz, since Xamarin is just three years old as a company and growing fast; there is the sense of an emerging technology, and that developers are actually enjoying their exploration of what they can do on today’s mobile devices.

Microsoft is an engineering-led company and was more so in its early days. The same is true of Xamarin. It also also still small enough that everyone is approachable, including co-founders Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman. The session on what’s new in Xamarin.Mac and Xamarin.iOS was presented by de Icaza, and it is obvious that he is still hands-on with the technology and knows it inside out. Developers warm to this because they feel that the company will be responsive to their needs.


Approachability is important, because this is a company that is delivering code at breakneck speed and bugs or known issues are not uncommon. A typical conversation with an attendee here goes like this:

“How do you find the tools?” “Oh, we like them, they are working well for us. Well, we did find some bugs, but we talked to Xamarin about them and they were fixed quickly.”

Xamarin’s tools let you write C# code and compile it for iOS, Android and Mac. If you are building for Windows Phone or Windows, you will probably use Microsoft’s tools and share non-visual C# code, though the recently introduced Xamarin Forms, a cross-platform XML language for defining a user interface, builds for Windows Phone as well as iOS and Android.

The relationship with Microsoft runs deep. The main appeal of the tools is to Microsoft platform developers who either want to use their existing C# (or now F#) skills to respond to the inevitable demand for iOS and Android clients, or to port existing C# code, or to make use of existing C# libraries to integrate with Windows applications on the server.

That said, Xamarin is beginning to appeal to developers from outside the Microsoft ecosystem and I was told that there is now demand for Xamarin to run introductory C# classes. Key to its appeal is that you get deep native integration on each platform. The word “native” is abused by cross-platform tool vendors, all of whom claim to have it. In Xamarin’s case what it means is that the user interface is rendered using native controls on each platform. There are also extensive language bindings so that, for example, you can call the iOS API seamlessly from C# code. Of course this code is not cross-platform, so developers need to work out how to structure their solutions to isolate the platform-specific code so that the app builds correctly for each target. The developers of Wordament, a casual game which started out as a Windows Phone app, gave a nice session on this here at Evolve.

Wordament has an interesting history. It started out using Silverlight for Windows Phone and Google App Engine on the server. Following outages with Google App Engine, the server parts were moved to Azure. Then for Windows 8 the team ported the app to HTML and JavaScript. Then they did a port to Objective C for iOS and Java for Android. Then they found that managing all these codebases made it near-impossible to add features. Wordament is a network game where you compete simultaneously with players on all platforms, so all versions need to keep tightly in step. So they ported to Xamarin and now it is C# on all platforms.. 

I digress. The attendees here are mostly from a Microsoft platform background, and they like the fact that Xamarin works with Visual Studio. This also means that there are plenty of Microsoft partner companies here, such as the component vendors DevExpress, Syncfusion, Infragistics and ComponentOne. It is curious: according to one of the component companies I spoke to, Microsoft platform developers get the value of this approach where others do not. They have had only limited success with products for native iOS or Android development, but now that Xamarin Forms has come along, interest is high.

Another Microsoft connection is Charles Petzold – yes, the guy who wrote Programming Windows – who is here presenting on Xamarin Forms and signing preview copies of his book on the subject. Petzold now works for Xamarin; I interviewed him here and hope to post this soon. Microsoft itself is here as well; it is the biggest sponsor and promoting Microsoft Azure along with Visual Studio.

Xamarin is not Microsoft though, and that is also important. IBM is also a big sponsor, and announced a partnership with Xamarin, offering libraries and IDE add-ins to integrate with its Worklight mobile-oriented middleware. Amazon is here, promoting both its app platform and its cloud services. Google is a sponsor though not all that visible here; Peter Friese from the company gave a session on using Google Play Services, and Jon Skeet also from Google presented a session, but it was pure C# and not Google-specific. Salesforce is a sponsor because it wants developers to hook into its cloud services no matter what tool they use; so too is Dropbox.


Most of the Xamarin folk use Macs, and either use Xamarin Studio (a customised version of the open source MonoDevelop IDE), or Visual Studio running in a virtual machine (given that the team mostly use Macs, this seems to me the preferred platform for Xamarin development, though Visual Studio is a more advanced IDE so you will probably end up dipping in and out of Windows/Mac however you approach it).

Xamarin announced several new products here at Evolve; I gave a quick summary in a Register post. To be specific:

  • A new fast Android emulator based on Virtual Box
  • Xamarin Sketches for trying out code with immediate analysis and execution
  • Xamarin Profiler
  • Xamarin Insights: analytics and troubleshooting for deployed apps

Of these, Sketches is the most interesting. You write snippets of code and the tool not only executes it but does magic like generating a graph from sequences of data. You can use it for UI code too, trying out different fonts, colours and shapes until you get something you like. It is great fun and would be good for teaching as well; maybe Xamarin could do a version for education at a modest price (or free)?


I am looking forward to trying out Sketches though I have heard grumbles about the preview being hard to get working so it may have to wait until next week.


Adobe opens up Creative Cloud to app developers

At the Adobe Max conference in Los Angeles, Adobe has announced enhancements and additions to its Creative Cloud service, which includes core applications such as Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and Dreamweaver, mobile apps for Apple’s iPad, and the online portfolio site Behance. Creative Cloud is also the mechanism by which Adobe has switched its customers from perpetual software licences to subscription, even for desktop applications.

One of today’s announcements is a public preview version of the Creative SDK for iOS, with an Android version also available on request. Nothing for Windows Phone, though Adobe does seem interested in supporting high-end Windows tablets such as Surface Pro 3, thanks to their high quality screens and pen input support.


The Creative SDK lets developers integrate apps with Adobe’s cloud, including access to cloud storage, import and export of PSD (Photoshop) layers, and image processing using cloud services. It also gives developers the ability to support Adobe hardware such as Ink and Slide, which offers accurate drawing even on iOS tablets designed exclusively for touch control.

Adobe’s brand guidelines forbid the use of Adobe product names like Photoshop or Illustrator in your app name, but do allow words such as “Photoshop enabled” and “Creative Cloud connected.”

Other Adobe announcements today include:

Mobile app changes

Adobe’s range of mobile apps has been revised:

  • Adobe Sketch is now Photoshop Sketch and lets you send drawings to Photoshop.
  • Adobe Line is now Illustrator Line and lets you send sketches to Illustrator.
  • Adobe Ideas is now Illustrator Draw, again with Illustrator integration.
  • Adobe Kuler is now Adobe Colour CC and lets you capture colours and save them as themes for use elsewhere.
  • Adobe Brush CC and Adobe Shape CC are new apps for creating new brushes and shapes respectively. For example, you could convert a photo into a vector art that you can use for drawing in Illustrator.
  • Adobe Premiere Clip is a simple video editor for iOS that allows export to Premiere Pro CC.
  • Lightroom Mobile has been updated to enable comments on photos shared online, and synchronisation with Lightroom desktop.

There are now a confusingly large number of ways you can draw or paint on the iPad using an Adobe app, but the common theme is better integration with the desktop Creative cloud applications.

Desktop app enhancements

On the desktop app side, Adobe announcements include Windows 8 touch support in Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere Pro and After Effects; 3D print features in Photoshop CC; a new curvature tool in Illustrator; and HiDPI (high resolution display support) in After Effects.

New cloud services

New Adobe cloud services include Creative Cloud Libraries,a design asset management service that connects with both mobile and desktop Adobe apps, and Creative Cloud Extract which converts Photoshop PSD imagines into files that web designers and developers can use, such as colours, fonts and CSS files.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud is gradually growing its capabilities, even though Adobe’s core products remain desktop applications, and its move to subscription licensing has been executed smoothly and effectively despite annoying some users. The new SDK is mainly an effort to hook more third-party apps into the Adobe design workflow, though the existence of hosted services for image processing is an intriguing development.

It is a shame though that the new SDK is so platform-specific, causing delays to the Android version and lack of support for other platforms such as Windows Phone.

Adobe actually has its own cross-platform mobile toolkit, called PhoneGap, though I imagine Adobe’s developers feel that native code rather than JavaScript is the best fit for design-oriented apps.

VLC is coming to Windows Phone

The popular media playback app VLC is coming to Windows Phone as well as Windows tablets, according to an email sent to supporters of its Kickstarter project for VLC for WinRT (Windows Runtime).

A new preview release has been made available on the Windows Store, with the following changes:

  • using libVLC 2.2.0 core,
  • redesign of the interface,
  • huge performance improvements,
  • use of Winsock for networking instead of WinRTsock,
  • use of Windows 8.1 widgets,
  • move the interface code to Universal to prepare Windows Phone 8.1 port.

The app is currently x86 only, and this will have to change before a Windows Phone version is possible, since Windows Phone currently runs only on ARM chipsets. The VLC developers say:

While this release is still x86-only, we’ve made great advances on the ARM port. More news soon.

The progress of apps like VLC will be interesting to watch following the release of Windows 10 next year, which (from the user’s perspective) blurs the distinction between desktop apps (like the old version of VLC) and Store apps (like this new one). Can the Store app be good enough that users will not feel the need to have the desktop version installed? Even if it is, of course, the desktop version will remain the only choice for those on Windows 7 and earlier. In fact, make that Windows 8.0 and earlier, since the new version requires Windows 8.1.


Is this why it is Windows 10 (not 9): avoiding Windows 95 detection?

Why did Microsoft call the Windows release after 8 version 10 rather than 9?

Windows boss Terry Myerson said it was because it was such a huge release – but then he would say that.

A more prosaic reason could be the old software problem of false version detection. After all, we have had Windows 9x before – that is, Windows 95 and Windows 98.

Former Windows chief Steven Sinofsky tweeted this a few hours ago:


which if you follow the link gets this:


The first of these throws an exception if the name of the OS starts with “Windows 9”; and there are plenty of others like it.

Now, Windows version numbers are complex (Windows 95 actually reported itself as version 4.0) and well-written applications would get this right. There is also a year or so before Windows 10 is released, which gives time for developers, and the suppliers of runtimes like Java, to fix their code if necessary.

Still, it seems to me plausible that avoiding a version headache was a factor behind the naming of Windows 10.

Ian Hunter and the Rant band at the Stables, 30 Sept 2014

The Stables is a delightful small venue near Milton Keynes, and when I saw that Ian Hunter was due to play there with his Rant Band I grabbed one of the last remaining tickets.


He came on shortly after 9pm, following an energetic set from support act Federal Charm, and told us in a croaky voice that he wasn’t feeling too good. In that case he is a true star (he is anyway) since he went on to give a great performance; his voice was a little gruff at times, but hear him belt out Sweet Jane and you discover that he has no problem delivering powerful vocals when it counts.

I am a fan: I loved Mott the Hoople from the first time I heard them (it was the cover of At the Crossroads on the famous Island compilation Nice Enough to Eat); and both with Mott and on his work since, Ian Hunter is able to achieve a musical texture that is rich and evocative, as well as being able to rock out on occasion.

Hunter is a great songwriter too, coming over as an honest and thoughtful voice in an industry full of decadence and plastic.

I enjoyed every minute of the concert, even though I felt that Hunter’s voice was mixed too quiet and that the sound overall could have been better. I have not seen him perform since Hunter/Ronson days; it has been far too long.

Highlights for me included When I’m President (a more recent song), Irene Wilde performed from the keyboard, a powerful rendition of Bastard, All American Alien Boy with its sharp reflections on life in the US of A, Once Bitten Twice Shy of course, Sweet Jane and the closing medley including All the Young Dudes, I Wish I was your Mother, and a strong performance of Boy. “Genocidal tendencies are silly to extremes” – I wasn’t expecting to hear Boy (my hunch is that the lyric refers to Bowie’s Diamond Dogs) but it was great.

Thank you Ian for keeping on keeping on; it was a wonderful evening.