TagMicrosoft

Microsoft Store is No More

Microsoft, having been bit by not only the COVID-19 physical retail sales slump, but also lagging sales due to a much more popular Apple Store retail experience, is closing all but four stores.

The company announced the closure today, amusingly, as the Microsoft Store taking “a new approach to retail,” by which it means “not actually operating retail stores.” Although four locations—in London, New York City, Sydney, and Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash. campus—will remain open, they will become “experience centers,” where one can see, touch, and play with Microsoft products but not actually purchase any.

Kate Cox – Arstechnica

This is actually kind of wild, but expected. Microsoft is not one to roll over easily, but apparently the physical retail store was just not their game. Obviously, they’re not hurting. With Azure and Office 365 being what they are, they’re making money hand over fist, especially during this pandemic. Thinking back, I don’t really recall anyone actually being in one of their stores every time I passed it, or entered it out of curiosity.

I do feel bad for the workers, though. Retail is a tough gig.

It looks like OWA doesn’t support mailbox cleanup anymore. That means if you have a lot of email floating around from the last 10 or more years, you’re out of luck. You need to manually find and delete them. Retention policies are also a bear to get working.

Microsoft: Why are you making this hard?

My wife has a bunch of presentations to watch as part of this virtual conference she’s “attending”. One of the presenters is showing a slide deck in PowerPoint, like you do, but is not using presentation mode. I thought we were better than this!

Chrome Privacy

New changes to the way Google’s flagship application, Chrome, make it easier to stay on top of what Google is getting, and what you may be revealing to third-party sites. Another feature to be ignored by the masses, and questioned by people who still don’t trust them.

While, on their face, these changes make Google Chrome a little closer to other browsers in the privacy aspect. It still doesn’t feel like a genuine attempt at helping the user. It just so happens that keeping others away from their users, while still giving them privileged access to their data is something that dove-tails with their goals, for the moment. Still, they’re trying something Firefox and Safari take very seriously. Who knows where this will end up.

The Ecosystem of Google

Within Google’s sphere of influence, there is a lot to like for your average user:

  • Single sign on to lots of different first and third-party applications, like Docs, Drive, Gmail, GSuite and more
  • High quality web-based applications
  • User account data sync when you use Chrome or a Chromebook including passwords, extensions, preferences, wallets, subscriptions, etc.
  • Integration with your Android Smartphone
  • And much more

I won’t say that I haven’t been tempted to jump ship and join up with Google. I have an older Chromebook, and when I was signing into Google services, it was amazing. I could blow the thing away, and be back up in short order, everything back in place. If I weren’t so enamored with Linux and the Libre software movement, I can easily imagine me being either a hardcore Apple user or a hardcore Google user.

By and large, Google has ‘won’ this generation of smartphone, browser, search and advertising systems. The literal billions of users tied into those systems is no small feat. Even organizations like Mozilla and Microsoft often have to bend slightly to accommodate Google’s whims. This is a really weird time.

While no man lives forever, the same can be said about Google. They’re constantly killing services that don’t provide enough user telemetry or subscribers. Often, it feels like a gamble to use any one of their services because it’s just as likely to be killed a few months down the road. Other than their bread and butter, it’s a hard sell to build a business off of anything Google does.

Shiny Chromium

It’s hard to say that Chrome is a bad browser. The architecture, based on Apple’s WebKit (which, itself, was begot by KDE’s KHTML engine), and is screaming fast, well integrated on most platforms and can be used without the same UI. A feat that Mozilla has only weakly attempted in the past. The support for web standards (driven by a cabal of browser makers, such as it is) is pretty top notch.

The biggest problem with being such an 800lbs gorilla is that everyone starts to ape you. Sites target Chrome-features only, or support only Chrome are becoming more commonplace. A chilling throwback to the days of IE vs Netscape Navigator. The old beast has been felled, long live the new beast?

As I mentioned before, even titans like Microsoft bend to Google on occasion. In an attempt to hang on to browser users and tie them into their own ecosystem, Microsoft released Edge with the launch of Windows 10. A new browser, better, different and faster than their absolutely decrepit Internet Explorer (which still sees regular use in enterprise…). Try as they might, they could not edge out this competitor like they did to Netscape before. In this new Microsoft, they’ve adopted Chrome’s “Blink” engine and rebranded it as the new Edge. Same as Chrome, but different packaging.

History makes ready to repeat itself. What are we willing to do to make it fair, open and available to all? Firefox used to be all the rage, can we make it that way, again?

GitHub (née Microsoft) buys NPM

Weird timeline we’re in, eh? While we all sit and hope for the best with COVID-19 taking an unprepared humanity to task, Microsoft (through GitHub) is making an interesting move.

I have to say, it’s an interesting proposition. Microsoft wants to improve and control the popular NPM (Node Package Manager) repository. This is where JavaScript developers go to download modules for Node.js so that they can build their applications. Microsoft will now own this repository.

Honestly, I’m a little torn. On one hand, I dislike the increasing creep of JavaScript “applications” that are run on Node/Electron because they’re not usually well optimized and eat resources like crazy. On the other hand, Node’s repository has been notorious for squatters, malicious files being uploaded into popular modules and even the transfer or takeover of popular modules by hostile entities without any notification. Some sort of corporate curation and regulation (not to mention proper infrastructure and funding) will help.

Ultimately it seems like just another piece of the Open Source pie being consumed by corporations. While NPM is a handy tool for development in Node, I’m sure this change of ownership will prompt an exodus, as the GitHub acquisition did before it.

When it does, we’ll all be the better for it. More diverse sources allow for less single points of failure or control. I wouldn’t be surprised if the popular distributed git-forge idea spawns into a distributed NPM-analog.

Update: It was pointed out to me that there is, in fact, an alternate package repo tool/project tool: Yarn. I’m not a Node developer, but I am extremely happy that it exists and can be a stand-in for NPM.

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