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Tech Times

Published:Monday | January 26, 2015 | 12:00 AM

SEATTLE, Washington:

Microsoft seems to like something about Israeli data-analysis start-ups.

The company announced last Tuesday that it has acquired text-analysis firm Equivio, a few months after buying cloud security machine-learning startup Aorato.

Equivio's algorithms sift through documents and emails to group related documents and identify which ones might trigger a company's confidentiality provisions or other legal labels. With email and computers facilitating an explosion in the amount of documents companies and governments produce, sorting through those can quickly turn into a task that requires many hours of work by humans.

The Rosh HaAyin-based company, which on its website also lists an office in Rockville, Maryland, says its clients include the United States Justice Department and auditing and consulting giants KPMG and Deloitte.

The companies didn't disclose the terms of the deal, but The Wall Street Journal reported in October that Microsoft had signed a letter of intent to buy Equivio for about $200 million.


SEATTLE, Washington:

Microsoft upped its bid to capture the hearts and minds of technology consumers last week with Windows 10, announcing everything from free upgrades for the majority of Windows users to support for nascent holographic display technology.

The company's executives also showed off an interface for its operating system that they hope will bridge the gulf separating laptops, tablets and smartphones and will allow Microsoft to expand beyond dependence on the PC market.

Last Wednesday's gathering of journalists and analysts, featuring hours of presentations and demonstrations, was billed by Microsoft as an effort to show individual computer users what they can expect when the software is released at a date to be announced later this year.

"Undoing some of the damage around Windows 8 is probably the immediate goal" with Windows 10, said J.P. Gownder, an analyst with Forrester Research. "But you also want to make sure people don't defect to Chromebooks or Macs. (Microsoft) needs to solidify the ecosystem, and make sure that Windows 7 isn't the last Windows machine people have."

Windows 7 powers 56 per cent of personal computers, according to data from web analytics firm Net Applications. Windows 8 and its Windows 8.1 update together account for 15 per cent.

Microsoft said Wednesday it will offer free upgrades to Windows 10 to hook both sets of users. For the first year after the launch of Windows 10, Microsoft will offer users of Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, and Windows 7 free upgrades to the new operating system, Myerson said.

For those not enticed by free software alone, Microsoft has loaded Windows 10 with bells and whistles.

The operating system will feature a new web browser, code-named 'Spartan' that allows users to freeze and share web pages. Cortana, the search assistant released for Windows Phone last year, will be embedded in Windows 10, allowing users to use voice commands to find files, write emails, and other tasks.


Holographic technology


Microsoft also unveiled a wildcard: support for interaction with holographic objects. Microsoft announced its HoloLens headset - a wireless, see-through display that projects holograms into the world around its user.

"It sounds like they're pulling all the stops to make this a successful Windows release," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with researcher IDC. "When Nadella said explicitly that they want to be loved, that's sort of a deliberate new Microsoft strategy to connect with users."

The coming test, Hilwa said, is whether the software is able to help Microsoft make up ground in smartphones and tablets, where the company badly lags rivals Google and Apple.

Windows-powered smartphones and tablets have a single-digit share of the global market, in part because of a dearth of applications compared to the other main operating systems. Developers don't see much of a need to spend the hours coding applications for Windows Phone or the Windows store after already releasing versions for Google's Android or Apple's iOS.

Microsoft brass hope, Windows 10, will make it easier for developers to write applications that can be relatively painlessly repurposed for the operating system's smartphone, laptop, and tablet variants.

"The big deal here is making sure that interface works well between tablets and phone," Hilwa said. "Because mobile developers have a hard time supporting even two operating systems."


PALO ALTO, California:

Hoping to give a boost to its mobile-computing business, Hewlett-Packard (HP) unveiled eight new tablets and related products last week aimed at educators, retailers, health-care workers and other professionals.

The Palo Alto technology giant said it's challenging the one-device-fits-all approach that is sometimes foisted on business PC customers. Instead, HP said it's offering them a broad choice of systems.

Two of the tablets aimed at school professionals, for example, feature a design that HP said can resist dust, moisture and "the rigours of an education environment". In a related product, HP unveiled what it termed "easy-to-use classroom management software that allows teachers to view and control student devices, and encourages collaboration".

Another computer add-on announced by HP includes a carrying case that lets a tablet function as a point-of-sale device for stores, as well as "giving retail store operators an easier and more comfortable way to access inventory," HP said.


Wide range of prices


The tablets - some of which are available now, while others are expected to be on the market in a few weeks - range in price from $199 to $1,599.

HP is undergoing a major transformation after announcing recently that it will split itself in half this year, with HP Inc handing the personal computer and printing business and Hewlett-Packard Enterprises focusing on business-oriented computer servers, data-storage devices, networking systems, software and Internet-based services.

Although its biggest single source of money comes from PC sales, the company has been struggling to catch up with the growing consumer preference for mobile gadgets. Given that goal, the devices it announced Tuesday make sense to tech analyst Jack Gold.