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Microsoft Asks 400 Million People To Buy A New PC…And Other Small Business Tech News

Computer Stores Prepare For Release Of Microsoft Windows 7

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 — Microsoft is recommending that 400 million users buy new PCs by next month.

After recently announcing that they will be ending support for the Windows 7 Operating System, Microsoft released a statement this week suggesting that its nearly 400 million users still on Windows 7 switch entirely to Surface rather than upgrade their devices. The company detailed that—for most users who are using Windows 7—navigating over to a brand new PC that has Windows 10 Pro will be the most efficient move since—according to Microsoft—those devices are more secure, powerful, lightweight, and operate faster than the previous models. (Source: MS Power User)

Why this is important for your business:

OK, no one’s saying that you HAVE to buy a Surface. There are plenty of other great devices you can get for your business that also run Windows 10. But please…if your company still has computers running Windows 7 you have to do something. Upgrade. Switch to new devices. Turn them off. Computers running older operating systems like Windows 7 are very vulnerable to malware attacks which means that the cost of not upgrading could very well exceed the cost of replacing those older computers.

2 — Google is planning to kill support for third-party cookies that track you all over the internet. 

Google announced this past week that—within the next two years—it is planning to cease support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. Ad networks and advertisers are typically the ones who add third-party cookies in an effort to track users through various sites in order to help target advertisements and monitor performance. Before Google begins to dial back support for third-party cookies within Chrome, they first plan to navigate meeting the needs of advertisers, publishers, and users who will be impacted by the change. (Source: CNBC)

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Why this is important for your business:

This is a potentially big deal. Cookies from third parties are at the core of many brands’ efforts to track visitors and drive ads to their attention. If your business does online ad campaigns or use re-targeting services to drive traffic to your website, then Google’s potential change could impact your marketing plans. Stay tuned.

3 — Apple’s new privacy features have further rattled the location based ad market. 

The deliberate steps that Apple took this past September to help users stay more informed regarding their data and what they share seems to be working. With their new privacy protection approach, background location data that was available for advertisers to target in the past, is now data that those advertisers need to do without. With the new privacy feature, users are able to decide whether or not they want the apps they are using to share their data with companies who—in the past—would have had access to it. Currently, typically less than 50% of users opt-in to allow their data to be shared with apps when they are not being used. (Source: DigiDay)

Why this is important for your business:

Man, between Apple and Google this is a bad week for advertisers. Does your business use location based advertising to attract customers? If so, then Apple’s new privacy features may have an impact on your marketing spend. The best thing to do is to play close attention to what apps are generating business and make sure that these trends continue over the upcoming months. If you see a drop off, it could be because of Apple’s new privacy protections and may make you change some of your marketing investments.

4 — After years of decline, the PC market saw rare growth in 2019.

Research released this past week indicated that the PC market had seen growth for the first time in 8 years. According to Gartner and IDC—the firms conducting the research—annual PC shipments over the last year went up. Although the numbers released by both firms differed—with IDC estimating the increase at 2.7% year over year and Gartner finding the figure to be only 0.6%— any growth is a move in the right direction for the industry, with smartphones having taken precedence over desktop and laptop purchases. (Source: PCMag)

Why this is important for your business:

Maybe this is understated. If Microsoft had their way, the company (per above) would say another 400 million PCs to buyers too! Two thoughts on this: because PC sales have dropped so dramatically over the past decade, growth was inevitable because things can only drop so far. Secondly, it’s good news. As things have shaken out in the hardware market, it’s clear from what I see at most clients that businesses do need PCs and laptops and that tablets and phones can’t do it all. So go ahead: get that new PC.

5— TurboTax, H&R block, TaxSlayer, and more were described as the best tax software for 2020. 

Editors at CNET—a tech news website—revealed their picks this past week for the best tax software companies for 2020. TurboTax was highlighted as being the best tax software for live personal support, offering several options regardless of how complicated one’s tax scenario is. (Source: CNET)

Why this is important for your business:

Looking for tax software? CNET’s piece above is a great resource for you. According to the editors there, for the best multiplatform option, H&R Block was highlighted for their features helping with taxes such as unlimited technical support, as well as chat and phone support for customers who are on a higher tier. TaxSlayer was deemed as having the best overall pricing for the services it provides, while Credit Karma Tax, Tax Act, and FreeTax USA were also highlighted for their features and offerings.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I was a former senior manager at KPMG and since 1994 the owner of the Marks Group PC, a 10-person customer relationship management consulting firm based outside Philadelphia. I’ve written six small-business management books, most recently “The Manufacturer’s Book of Lists” and “In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash: Simple Lessons From Smart Business People.” Besides Forbes, I formerly wrote for The Washington Post and the New York Times and now write regularly for The Guardian, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Inc., Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine and Fox Business. I make no compensation from the number of people who read what I write.

Source: Microsoft Asks 400 Million People To Buy A New PC…And Other Small Business Tech News

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Amazon Alexa application is authoritatively accessible in the Windows 10 Store. Amazon Alexa can enable you to complete numerous things on Windows 10 with s

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Microsoft Faces Immense Pressure After CES Success

Microsoft Event

With this year’s CES now at an end, we have a good idea where manufacturers and designers see the future. Success will be found in all things that fold. All across the Las Vegas Convention Center were the concept laptops which flexed and folded like Optimus Prime in Transformers.

Which puts a huge amount of pressure on Microsoft. It needs to deliver a version of Windows that will allow the hardware to live up to all the gambles made in Vegas by the end of 2020.

Let’s take a look at the CES successes powered by Microsoft’s Windows 10.

Intel produced a concept device, obviously to show what its chips can do with new laptop forms, but the fact that it was showing off the new form as a foldable laptop with a single screen taking up the screen, bending round the inside hinge, and then down over the space normally associated with the keyboard is a clear indication that this is a route it is comfortable with.

How about two of Dell’s examples; the ‘Concept Duet’ which shows a twin screen no physical keyboard design, and the ‘Concept Ori’ which is closer to a tablet design that can hinge upwards into a laptop style angle.

While Asus didn’t go for a flexing screen, the Asus ZenBook Duo also works on two screens, although here the second screen shares the bottom half of the laptop design with a physical keyboard.

The there’s Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Fold, which does go with the full screen that curves into thing when closed just as a normal laptop.

But there’s a literal twist to all of these innovative laptops. At CES they were all running Windows 10 Pro, a workmanlike solution at this early stage but not refined to make a seamless foldable or dual screen device feel like magic.

Luckily Microsoft has an answer in Windows 10X.

Windows 10X was announced in October 2019 alongside the dual screened Surface Neo as the operating system that would power this device – and it would allow for an ecosystem of devices from Microsoft’s partners. I suspect this is one of the key reasons that the announcement of Windows 10X happened in Q4 2019… it placed Microsoft publicly in the driving seat of foldable laptops it used the Surface brand to continue pushing innovative form factors and software, and its announcement created a tacit agreement to its partners that it would be ready by the end of 2020,.

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All this amounts to pressure. The early announcement of Windows 10X, coupled with the Surface Neo release window of Q4 2020 has created a hard deadline for the OS team to deliver not just to the Surface team at the Redmond Campus, but to Microsoft’s key hardware partners who have shown their hand at CES.

Microsoft has always looked forwards into the future but it usually remains behind closed doors until everything is cooked. With multi- and folding-screen technology, it has decided to share that future vision today. Let’s hope that Microsoft has thought carefully about delivering to that timetable.

Now read how the Surface team have beaten Apple’s iPad team in one key area…

Check out my website.

I am known for my strong views on mobile technology, online media, and the effect this has on the public conscious and existing businesses. I’ve been following this space for over ten years, working with a number of publishers, publications and media companies, some for long periods of time, others for commissions, one-off pieces or a series of articles or shows. As Scotland’s first podcaster, I continue to be a prominent voice in the rise of podcasting and new media online, and picked up a British Academy (BAFTA) nomination for my annual coverage of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, alongside contributions to Radio 5 Live, the BBC World Service, presenting Edinburgh local radio’s coverage of the General Election. You’ll find me on Twitter (@Ewan), Facebook, and Google Plus.

Source: Microsoft Faces Immense Pressure After CES Success

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Walmart And Target Are A Step Ahead Of Amazon

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Traditional brick and mortar retailers Walmart and Target are a step ahead of Amazon in the delivery battleground: while Amazon is offering 1-day delivery Walmart and Target are already moving to same-day.

That’s according to retail equity analyst John Zolidis.

“It may be tempting to think that Amazon investing $800 million to move its Prime offer of 2-day shipping to 1-day delivery will put incremental pressure on large retailers,” he says.  “However, this move is not a surprise.  We spoke with Wal-Mart (WMT) CEO Doug McMillon about this in October last year. He told us that same-day delivery, not 1-day delivery, was going to be the real battleground.”

McMillon is right. As was discussed in a previous piece here something has changed in the retailing industry in recent years.

Instead of fading away into the archives of history, brick and mortar retailing has come back to complement and support on-line retailing. Shoppers are placing orders online and are picking up merchandise at neighborhood stores, saving time and avoiding shipping fees.

That’s especially the case for groceries, where speed of delivery is a crucial factor in maintaining freshness.

The merging of online retailing with traditional retailing has provided an advantage to retailers with extensive neighborhood store presence like Walmart and Target. “Both WMT and Target (TGT) are already at a huge advantage over AMZN in this respect — because both retailers already have product stored within a short driving distance of the vast majority of the U.S. population in their respective 1,000’s of stores,” notes Zolidis. “Further, both retailers are offering not just delivery (Target already has same-day delivery via Shipt) but various options for BOPIS (buy online pickup in store).

Amazon, Walmart, and Target Shares YTD

Amazon, Walmart, and Target Shares YTD

Koyfin

Then there are pick up points to enhance convenience. “WMT now has pickup towers in-store and are installing these across the chain, and it has established drive-through pick-up grocery lanes and is continuing to add these at a rapid pace,” adds Zolidis.  “Target is offering similar services and installing dedicated counters for customers to more conveniently grab items on the way home from work or after picking up kids from school. Target will also bring pre-ordered items out to your car in the parking lot.”

The strategy has been paying off. The two retailers have reported a rebound in both online sales and retail sales in recent quarters.

Simply put, Walmart and Target have changed the game in the retailing industry. And they have brought Amazon back into the world of the neighborhood store it once sought to eliminate by acquiring traditional retailers like Whole Foods — and by planning to open more grocery stores around the country to cater to markets not served by Whole Foods, as recently announced.

That’s why Zolidis thinks that investors would be making a mistake selling Walmarts and Target’s shares at this point.

“In our opinion,” he concludes, “it would be a mistake to sell large retailers on this announcement (WMT & TGT) as they have anticipated this for some time and are already rolling-out corresponding services.”

My recent book The Ten Golden Rules Of Leadership is published  by AMACOM, and can be found here. 

I’m Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post in New York. I also teach at Columbia University.

Source: Walmart And Target Are A Step Ahead Of Amazon

Microsoft Confirms Change To Windows 10 Passwords That Nobody Saw Coming

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Ask a bunch of security professionals what makes a secure password and you’ll get a bunch of different answers. Some will argue that it’s all about length, others that randomness and complexity are king while everyone will agree that password reuse is never acceptable.

Some will still argue that giving passwords an expiry date, after which they must be changed, is an essential part of the business security policy picture. It would appear that, with the arrival of the Windows 10 May update, Microsoft is finally no longer going to be amongst that latter group. According to Aaron Margosis, a principal consultant with Microsoft, Windows 10 will no longer recommend “ancient and obsolete” periodic password expiration in the security baseline settings starting with the May update.

While being most welcome, it has to be said nobody I have spoken to in the information security business saw that coming. Not least as the arguments for password expiration have been comprehensively dismantled for some years now yet Microsoft has not shown any inclination to jump from this particular sinking security ship.

The security baseline configuration has been part of the Windows staple diet for organizations wanting secure operating system settings out of the box for many years. It is actually a whole set of system policies that make good sense as a starting point for secure postures for many and as the default positioning for some. Things become problematic for organizations when they undergo an audit which uses the Microsoft security baseline and penalizes them for non-compliance if they have something other than the current 60 day Windows password expiration default maximum.

Yet, as Margosis writes “recent scientific research calls into question the value of many long-standing password-security practices such as password expiration policies, and points instead to better alternatives such as enforcing banned-password lists and multi-factor authentication.”

The United States National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has been recommending password expiration is dropped from security policy since 2016. Now it seems that Microsoft has finally caught up and will be dropping the requirement starting from Windows 10 (1903) and Windows Server (1903) onward. This makes perfect sense to me as someone who has been following information security trends for the best part of three decades.

Things have changed over those years, not least the technology that now enables threat actors to crack simplistic passwords in the blink of an eye. Forcing users to change passwords over relatively short timeframes inevitably leads to those users choosing the simplest, and therefore most memorable, passwords possible. Stand up everyone who has never seen incremental numbering of short passwords in a corporate environment. I’m guessing everyone is still sitting down.

The days of simplistic passwords changed often are long gone, replaced by longer and more complex ones which don’t expire but rather are reinforced with those banned password lists and multifactor authentication for example. “While we recommend these alternatives, they cannot be expressed or enforced with our recommended security configuration baselines,” Margosis says “which are built on Windows’ built-in Group Policy settings and cannot include customer-specific values.” What Microsoft isn’t doing is changing baseline requirements for minimum password length, history, or complexity.

It also isn’t stopping organizations from configuring password expiration if they must, for regulatory compliance reasons for example. “The password-expiration security option is still in Windows and will remain there,” Margosis says, adding “by removing it from our baseline rather than recommending a particular value or no expiration, organizations can choose whatever best suits their perceived needs without contradicting our guidance.”

Please follow me on Twitter or connect with me on LinkedIn, you can find more of my stories at happygeek.com

I have been covering the information security beat for three decades and Contributing Editor at PC Pro Magazine since the first issue way back in 1994.

Source: Microsoft Confirms Change To Windows 10 Passwords That Nobody Saw Coming

Microsoft Reportedly Working on Amazon Go-Like Cashier-Less Technology – Taylor Soper

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Amazon isn’t the only Seattle-area tech giant that wants to change how we pay for items at the grocery store. Microsoft’s business AI team is developing automated technology that tracks what shoppers put in their cart, according to a report from Reuters, which said that the company is in talks with retailers including Walmart about implementing the software.

When contacted by GeekWire, a Microsoft spokesperson said “Microsoft does not comment on rumors or speculation.” The cashier-less system would be a direct competitor to Amazon Go, Amazon’s own attempt to reinvent the physical store with the same mindset that brought one-click shopping to the internet.

Amazon debuted the first Amazon Go location at its headquarters in Seattle in December 2016; it opened to the public in January of this year. The company is opening additional Amazon Go locations in Chicago and San Francisco.

At Amazon Go, shoppers check in by scanning their unique QR code while overhead cameras work with weight sensors in the shelves to precisely track which items they pick up and take with them. When they leave, they just leave. Amazon Go’s systems automatically debit their accounts for the items they take, sending the receipt to the app.

Amazon Go is part of a broader push by Amazon into physical retail, including its acquisition of Whole Foods, its Amazon Books stores, and AmazonFresh Pickup locations.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has also been thinking about building technology that improves how customers shop at a physical store. In 2009 it opened its Retail Experience Center at the company’s Redmond, Wash. headquarters.

“The Retail Experience Center features in-store displays of Microsoft consumer products and showcases powerful ways to cut costs, create efficiencies, streamline operations, and promote and sell goods — within the aisles, in the employee break room, at receiving and shipping, at checkout, across the Web, and even at home or on the go,” a press release noted.

Reuters reported that Microsoft is working with six partners that are building cashier-less related technology using the company’s Azure cloud service. The company has also hired a computer vision specialist who worked on Amazon Go.

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