Software

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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Machines are getting smarter all the time, but could they ever attain the quintessentially human qualities of creativity and introspection?

Demis Hassabis – chess wunderkind, games designer and one of Google’s artificial intelligence whizzkids – thinks so.

He made a rare public appearance this week, speaking on a panel of philosophers and neuroscientists at the London School of Economics, to debate whether the brain is a “predictive machine”. Read more

Richard Milne

Angry Birds may be in free fall but two of the executives most responsible for its success are spreading their wings.

Just days after the company behind Angry Birds cut 16 per cent of its workforce amid disappointing growth, two former Rovio executives are launching their first game backed with $5m of venture capital money.

Andrew Stalbow, former head of strategic partnerships at Rovio and now chief executive at Seriously, said he hoped Thursday’s launch of Best Fiends would be the start of creating a mobile phone-centred entertainment brand. Read more

goog3

Smart watches, TVs and cars featured prominently on Wednesday as Google laid out its plans for pushing its Android smartphone software into new fields. At its annual I/O developer event in San Francisco, “wearables” had pride of place, with news that the first smartwatches based on Android Wear are now on sale – before Apple unveils its much-anticipated iWatch. With Android TV and Android Auto, on the other hand, Google was playing catch up with Apple. The event pointed to how the battle for the next big tech markets beyond the smartphone will be fought. Richard Waters and Tim Bradshaw were at the Moscone Center for this round. 

Software may be “eating the world”, in the words of venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, but should some software be given the same moral status as animals or even humans?

In a new paper, Anders Sandberg, a research fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, takes the reader on a whistle-stop tour of the various moral quandaries that may be raised by “brain emulations” – hypothetical software that can replicate the function and structure of a whole animal or human brain. Read more

Just weeks after internet security experts scrambled to patch up vulnerabilities exposed by the Heartbleed bug, a flaw has been found in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer software that is so serious the US department of homeland security is warning people and companies to avoid using the browser.

Should I be worried? Read more

This week Indian-born Satya Nadella (pictured) became the third chief executive in the history of the world’s largest software maker, Microsoft.It’s a major win for Nadella. It could be a win for Microsoft.

But apparently, it’s also a win for India.

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New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has produced an opening memo to employees that is rich in repetitive rhetoric but short on substance. Here is what he really meant.

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Richard Waters

Microsoft has ended its search for a new CEO. Now comes the hard part: shrugging off the PC past and grabbing a lead in the growth markets of mobile and cloud computing.

These are the four main issues Satya Nadella will have to deal with if he is to have a chance of making Microsoft as relevant to the tech industry’s future as it was to the past. Read more

Mustang Mulally: the Ford CEO, in a 2015 Ford Mustang (Getty Images)

Alan Mulally has a reputation for being decisive, so his declaration that he has “no plans to do anything other than serve Ford” – crushing speculation that he could leave to run Microsoft – should probably be taken at face value.

But Ford’s chief executive has wavered over big jobs before – notably when the carmaker was trying to lure him to Dearborn from Boeing in 2006.

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Analysts are looking at Christmas lists and wondering how many Apple products will feature on them – with the iPad Air and new versions of the iPad mini, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro launched at an event in San Francisco on Tuesday. Read more

Second is usually not good enough for Larry Ellison, but Oracle is still celebrating a runner-up spot today. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Prepare to download. Microsoft has announced the launch of Windows 8.1 – a significant update to a much-criticised touch-friendly version of its operating system. Read more

Windows 8 was panned and blamed for a historic fall in PC sales earlier this year, so let’s give some love to other versions of Microsoft’s much-maligned operating system in a look at the latest PC figuresRead more

Tim Bradshaw

Backlash? What backlash? Adoption of Apple’s latest update to iOS has been strong in its first 24 hours, despite fears that some iPhone owners would freak out at its bright colours and new design. Installs of iOS 7 are ahead of iOS 6 at the same point last year, according to external estimates. Read more

Mark Zuckerberg accused the US government of bad PR, saying it failed to communicate the balance of security and economic interests behind its internet surveillance efforts – in turn creating a massive PR problem for Facebook.

“I think the government blew it,” he said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Wednesday. “It’s my job and our job to protect everyone who uses Facebook and the information they share with us. It’s our government’s job to protect all of us and also to protect our freedoms and protect the economy and companies. And I think they did a bad job of balancing those things.” Read more

Chris Nuttall

Salesforce.com shares were back in positive territory on Wednesday – closing up 0.5 per cent at $37.95 – after an 8 per cent fall the previous day caused by its decision to spend $2.5bn on its biggest acquistion to date – ExactTarget.

Salesforce, whose CRM ticker name is an acronym for its business – customer relationship management, came to the market nine years ago as the leading exponent of a new way of working. Companies would subscribe to its online service through the internet cloud rather than run traditional software on their local machines. Read more

Chris Nuttall

Microsoft’s attempt to introduce consumers to the wonders of touch with Windows 8 amounted to a rough shove. The operating system’s poor reception has prompted a rethink and details of an updated version were unveiled on Thursday.

Windows 8.1, available as a preview from June 26, will bring back features familiar to and missed by Windows 7 users, including a Start button – but no Start menu – and the choice of not beginning their bootup experience with the touch-optimised “Modern” tile interface. Read more

Splashpath founder Dan Morgan (left) with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps

London startup Active in Time has taken the path less traveled to financing by licensing its Splashpath swim tracking app to Speedo. Read more

How profoundly will the new computing platform loosely known as “the cloud” disrupt the business software empires of companies like SAP and Oracle?

SAP went on the offensive this week, with the news that it would start running software for its customers in its own data centres. Hasso Plattner, SAP’s chairman and the man with the best claim to the title of Europe’s software visionary, called it the biggest thing from the German company since its flagship business applications software put it on the map 20 years ago.

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