Richard Waters

You’re standing on the surface of Mars. You look down and marvel at the detail, then up to the horizon, following the ridge of mountains around to your left. You jump: the Mars Rover is right behind your left shoulder, taller than you are, one of its cameras slanted to the side and looking like a pet robot waiting for an order.

This isn’t some gamer version of Mars. It’s the real thing. Every rock, in clear 3D. In front of you stands the bronze avatar of a scientist ready to talk about the experiments you’re going to perform.

Microsoft has lacked the “wow” factor for some time. It’s been left to Google, Apple and Facebook, with its acquisition of virtual reality company Oculus, to set the standards in technical daring and creative ambition.

Not any more. With HoloLens, the “mixed reality” headset it unveiled on Wednesday, Microsoft is suddenly a contender in one of the most exciting races in the tech world: to mix the real and virtual worlds in ways that transform both.

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Richard Waters

The sliding Bitcoin price has provoked a fair amount of schadenfreude recently. But it hasn’t done much to dampen the spirits of the start-up investors flocking to the market.

A case in point: Coinbase has just raised $75m in what is the biggest publicly disclosed funding round yet for a Bitcoin company. Also notable is that the backers this time include the New York Stock Exchange, BBVA and former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit. Read more

Richard Waters

Faddish mobile apps and instant 20-something billionaires have become the public face of Silicon Valley’s latest boom. But some in the tech industry have ambitious ideas that could have a far more profound impact on the world.

In the latest Weekend FT magazine, we report on some of the ideas that will shape the future. Also: our take on life on the front lines of the tech boom, including what it’s really like to run a start-up (hint: it’s not all stock options and free food).

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Richard Waters

IBM and Twitter executives were not short of extravagant claims on Wednesday as they announced a partnership to apply data from the network to real-time business decisions.

For example: “It’s no longer social data, it’s world data.” Also: “People talk about the internet of things, but we’ve already instrumented the human race.” Read more

Richard Waters

The announcement of a new Windows isn’t what it used to be – even when you skip past little-loved 9 (a number which didn’t test well with focus groups, apparently) and jump straight to Windows 10.

But converging the different Windows operating systems on a single core, with distinct user interfaces suited to each type of device, is still an important step forward for Microsoft. It also represents the sort of evolution that might, in time, allow the Windows 8 debacle to fade into history. Read more

Richard Waters

Ray Ozzie, the man who once filled Bill Gates’ very big shoes as chief software architect at Microsoft, is back.

His latest start-up – a voice-powered collaboration tool for workers – looks like a not-so-subtle snub of his former employer. It is, he says, what Skype (now owned by Microsoft) might have become, had it not given up on “innovation in depth”. Read more

Richard Waters

CEOs love talking about the need for focus. But they’re not so good at picking things they’re not going to do as a result.

Satya Nadella has made a start. Five months after moving into the top job, he has finally admitted that the Xbox is not a core part of Microsoft’s business. What he hasn’t said yet is what he’s going to do with it. Read more

Richard Waters

Until now, Facebook has struggled – and failed – to strike the right note in response to the disquiet over its deliberate alteration of users’ moods for a research study.

On Wednesday it got another chance, as Senator Mark Warner wrote to the Federal Trade Commission asking it to investigate. What Facebook came up with in response still didn’t classify as an actual apology, but at least the company no longer sounded so bemused by all the fuss. Read more

Richard Waters

Venture capitalists are lining up to back bitcoin start-ups. On Monday, Xapo bagged some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names for its latest $20m round: Greylock’s Reid Hoffman and Index Ventures’ Mike Volpi, not to mention personal money from Max Levchin, Yuri Milner and Jerry Yang.

But all of this VC activity raises an interesting question. If these investors truly believe the crypto-currency will one day support a significant new financial services industry, why not just buy the currency and hold it? Read more

Richard Waters

Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com chief

Salesforce.com, the company that did more than any other to invent the software-as-a-service industry, is reaching a turning point.

After years of rapid growth, it has a pressing need for the more evolved infrastructure, processes and rounded management team of the large company it has become. And with growth starting to slow, it is coming closer to a seminal moment: when investors will start expecting it to report real profits, and not just on a pro-forma basis. The appointment of a new chief financial officer on Monday is the latest sign that is preparing for the changes. Read more

Richard Waters

The US Supreme Court has rejected Google’s bid to limit the legal fall-out from the StreetView spying case.

In the process, it has also delivered its second decision in a week that interprets how the country’s privacy laws should apply when it comes to new technologies. Both times, it has come down on the side of stronger legal protections for the individual. Read more

Richard Waters

Is Oculus, the virtual reality company being acquired by Facebook, going to make its own headsets? Or is it going to rely on some of the world’s biggest consumer technology companies to develop products using its software, turning it into the Android of VR?

Yes to both. Read more

Richard Waters

Will the smart home of the future be controlled by a single app to rule them all? Or will it be a more ad hoc affair, as a myriad different gadgets learn to play nicely together without a central “control panel”?

Before it was bought by Google earlier this year, Nest was pursuing the second of these visions. And to judge by the API it has just released so that other developers can write applications that draw on some of the functions of its devices, nothing much has changed since then. Read more

Richard Waters

It’s not every day an Apple executive gets personal.

That makes Angela Ahrendts’ first public comments since starting at the company – posted on LinkedIn – of more than usual interest. It is a sign that she intends to keep her own style, whatever the pressures of running Apple’s retail operations – and also that, under Tim Cook, Apple is evolving further beyond the Steve Jobs era. Read more

Richard Waters

All games, all the time. That’s what new Xbox chief Phil Spencer promised at the E3 games show on Monday, as Microsoft put the final touches to its comeback strategy for Xbox One.

He wasn’t kidding. Raging first person shooters were the order of the day. But Microsoft’s remedial action on the One has left the way open for Sony, whose E3 event is due later in the day in Los Angeles, to steal the show. Read more

Richard Waters

Without seeing Uber’s financials, it’s impossible to say whether its amazing post-money valuation of $18.2bn is deserved. But even if its business is starting to take off, as seems to the case, it still has a long way to go to live up to the hype generated by its latest fund-raising. Read more

Richard Waters

Ever wonder how far your email provider goes to protect your messages from prying eyes? If you’re using a Microsoft service (like Hotmail, Live or MSN), then the answer is: perhaps not as much as you’d like.

That is one of the conclusions from an analysis released by Google on Tuesday. It tracks the amount of encrypted traffic flowing to and from Gmail users. Only half the inbound messages from Microsoft’s services are encrypted, about the same as coming from Russian service Mail.ru. And some – like Comcast.net and Orange.fr – don’t seem to have encryption turned on at all. Read more

Richard Waters

It is nearly two years since Google took the wraps of Glass, its ambitious smart glasses project, and said it was aiming to put them on sale by the end of 2013. Read more

Richard Waters

Is there such a thing as permanence on the web? Former Facebooker Adam D’Angelo thinks so. He claims to be buying it, with the help of another $80m he has just raised for his question-and-answer service, Quora.

As with a lot of big fund-raising rounds at the moment, though, the main reason Mr D’Angelo is acting now is not hard to discern: just because he can. Read more

Richard Waters

Google’s founders have just completed a silent coup of their own company – and so far, it hasn’t cost them a dime.

The new class of non-voting Google stock that started trading on Thursday is selling at a discount of around 0.3 per cent to the existing, reduced-voting right shares. If that gap rises above 1 per cent, the company will have to pay out cash to compensate investors: but the narrow spread at the outset suggests that is no longer a risk. Read more