Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is slated to make a rare television interview appearance Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes." (CNET News is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.) It's his first TV appearance since the release of "The Social Network," the unauthorized film about his founding of Facebook that has been both praised by reviewers and criticized for what some say is an unduly negative portrayal of the young founder.
As Microsoft's latest internal slogan is quick to point out, the software company is "all in" when it comes to the cloud.
But one of the products that points to such a statement being more of a half-truth is Office, which while in the process of being ported to the cloud and gaining an increasing number of Web interactions, is still a software program--and a very popular one at that.
In fact, Office is one of Microsoft's biggest and fastest selling software franchises next to Windows, as Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer pointed out at the top of the company's annual shareholders meeting this week. While Office may someday be an all-cloud affair, for the foreseeable future, it will continue to be offered as something you can install.
Heading up Microsoft's Office division is Kurt DelBene, who took up the reins just last month. Yesterday his group launched Lync, the successor to Microsoft Office Communicator, which mixes instant messaging, audio and video chat, and a VoIP service. It effectively completes the puzzle of apps that make up the Office suite. Lync, which goes on sale in two weeks, is beginning as a server product companies will be able to deploy on their own hardware, before moving to a hosted cloud service as part of Microsoft's Office365 suite early next year.
DelBene took time out of Lync's launch day to talk to CNET about a variety of topics, including the Lync platform, Microsoft's partnership with Facebook that is making MS Office attachments readable through the company's Office.com site, as well as how Office the software will coexist with Office the cloud service. Below is an edited transcript from that conversation.
Question: Congratulations on your promotion. DelBene: Thank you very much. I'm excited.
Can you talk about what, if any kind of collaboration the Lync team has with the Windows Live Messenger team? Obviously the two are very different products with different markets, and this product came to replace Messenger as part of the Communicator product, but I'd imagine things that come to Lync might one day end up in Messenger one day and vice versa. DelBene: There's actually a very good collaboration across the two teams. And so, if you think about the focus of the Office team and the Lync team as around business users, and think about the Windows Live team, or the Messenger team being around a consumer audience, then neither product really replaces the other. And so the goal is really more around how do you get interoperability between the two products, which is what we demonstrated in the launch event. And so, that's how you can see Chris (Capossela) being onstage being on Messenger, and talking to Gurdeep (Singh Pall) who is on Lync.
The partnership goes beyond that, though, in that the underlying technology is shared across the teams. And so we have some deep experts in audio-video conferencing within the Lync team. And so they actually work with the Messenger team to integrate those capabilities into the messenger client. And so we can share that expertise as opposed to duplicating it.
A lot of business is being done on phones now. Can you talk about some things that he was doing to make some part of the desktop experience carry over to mobile devices, especially with Lync? I know one of the things you guys talked about this morning was transferring an active conversation from one device to another. DelBene: That's one piece of it, because people when they're on the go, they think about wanting to connect, having their desk phone follow them. And so we make it super-easy for you to forward your calls, figure out a schedule onto which you forward your calls. So, it really becomes fairly seamless to think about the mobile phone.
And then you can take that a step further and think about clients that are on the mobile phone themselves, where you're in the presence of various of the people on our buddy list, or anybody from the organization would be present on your phone and you can actually connect to them from the phone originally, as well. And so you can think about starting from the mobile phone and starting from somebody's presence and making a phone call to them directly from the phone. So, in the announcement, I think Gurdeep mentioned connectivity to Windows Phone 7 in 2011, and for the iPhone, as well. So, that would be for actually having a client on the phone.
Was there anything in particular piece of hardware from what Gurdeep referred to as "the wall of fame" during today's Lync presentation that's really been specialized for Lync? Is there a big standout product that is maybe something competitors don't have? DelBene: Well, the first thing I think they don't have is the breadth of products. And so, the key differentiator, I think for Lync, is the focus on open standards and that customers will want choice in terms of what hardware they provide, or that they purchase. And so, I think the wall of fame is most impressive because of the variety of functionality that's there.
I think the second thing is the variety in terms of devices and solutions for the PC as well. And so there are people who are going to embrace Lync by having a PC experience, and there are people who are going to embrace it with a more traditional IP/PBX or IP phone, and we think there should be great solutions across both of those.
I will also say I continue to be excited about the roundtable solution, which is a great innovation of both hardware and software working together, and that's the panorama view that Gurdeep showed of everybody in the meeting. I think that the beauty of great software innovation coupled with great hardware design, that product is a great example of that and shows the kinds of things that you can do when you have hardware partners working with software partners on innovative solutions.
Speaking of which, the Kinect integration you guys showed off this morning is obviously a killer demo, but I'm wondering do you envision people getting home from work and maybe starting to play a game, and they get a call from their boss? Or is this more of an extra solution on top of what Kinect already does? DelBene: I think both. There are a couple of angles there. I think I am excited about that as an endpoint for users, and so the person who is playing a game with their children doesn't have to jump out of context, although their kids might be a little disappointed if they have to pause the game for a second. I'm also excited about the hardware and software innovation that it represents for Microsoft overall. I think that we've gotten some really good feedback from both the press and from customers of how game-changing Kinect is. It's not just about emulating what somebody else does, it's about phenomenal innovation for Microsoft. … Read more
REDMOND, WA.--Microsoft is betting big on the cloud and wants businesses to do the same.
After two years of building Windows Azure, Server and Tools President Bob Muglia said yesterday that the cloud operating system is ready for business customers of all sizes to give it a try. At its annual Professional Developers Conference, Microsoft announced several new Azure features including the ability to move existing applications and virtual machines into Microsoft's hosted service.
In an interview with CNET, Muglia talked about the new cloud advances, small business server products, as well as the impact on Microsoft of … Read more
VENICE, Calif.--Just a few blocks from Venice Beach in Southern California is a rather nondescript warehouse--a few windows, a parking lot decorated with an old basketball hoop. If you drove by, you might mistake it for the Public Storage building on the next block over.
But inside is special effects shop Digital Domain, and the only stored relics you'll find are movie prop miniatures like a replica of the Titanic and a 3-foot-tall Apollo space capsule. The rest of the building is made up of meeting rooms, gadget-filled workstations, two screening theaters, and a server farm that's … Read more
VENICE, Calif.--Sitting across from me, Jeff Bridges leans back into his chair, looking almost through me as we begin to chat about reprising his role as fictional game developer (and geek icon) Kevin Flynn in "Tron: Legacy."
This past weekend, we're sitting here in an executive office inside Digital Domain, the special-effects studio that's in charge of the dazzling effects seen in the highly anticipated sequel that picks up 28 years after the events of the 1982 classic. The entire room is a light brown and bathed in soft incandescent light, making Bridges, in his … Read more
We had the pleasure of sitting down in CNET's San Francisco offices on Wednesday with Finnish developers Mikael Hed and Peter Vesterbacka from Rovio, makers of hit iPhone and iPad game Angry Birds (download for iPhone/iPad).
Angry Birds has become the most successful paid iPhone app to date, selling more than 5 million copies of the 99-cent game in the past six months alone. Did it get there overnight? No, but in the world of App Store development, its ascension was brisk.
So how did it all start? Toward the end of last year, the Rovio developers said … Read more
Recently, I sat down with Ian Freed, an Amazon vice president in charge of the Kindle, to get a sneak peek at the new Kindles and discuss e-books and the Kindle business in general. Naturally, a good portion of the conversation centered on the design and features of Amazon's new e-readers, which you can read about here. But we also chatted about the e-book industry and Amazon's Kindle business in general. Here's a look at some of the more interesting parts of the conversation. Feel free to post your own analysis in the comments section.
CNET: You've been talking a lot lately about the growth rate of Kindle sales. You said it tripled...
Freed: There's actually two triplings. One is the number of e-books sold in the first quarter of 2009 versus the first quarter of 2010. And then the other is after we dropped the price of the Kindle to $189, we saw a tripling of the growth rate year over year [of the device itself].
CNET: How much of the rate of growth on the e-book side is attributable to the iPad and getting your app on these other devices like the iPhone and iPad?
Freed: Excellent question. Some numbers we haven't released before...80 percent of Kindle books we sell are sold to Kindle owners. They may have a Kindle app on a phone or an iPad or Mac or PC, but they at least have a Kindle. So 20 percent do not. I think it's a combination of the health of both businesses. The device business continues to grow with a device [the second-generation Kindle] that's over a year old, and then the content is growing both with the device sales and independently with the apps. We see a lot of customers start with apps and buy a Kindle later.
We see others who've had a Kindle for a year and half and have an Android phone and they've started using the Android phone for Kindle in the last month or so.
CNET: Now that most publishers have shifted to the "agency model" and are setting their own prices, how have the higher prices on many e-books impacted sales?
Freed: Happy to answer that. We have definitely seen a shift. We have data for the last 15 years on books. And since some of the publishers have decided to price their e-book above $9.99, we've definitely seen a shift of customers going to e-books that are $9.99 or less. The good news for them is that the selection of those books is very dramatic. We have about 630,000 books that are not public domain titles and of those 510,000 are sold for $9.99 or less. Of The New York Times best-sellers, 80 of them are $9.99 or less. So customers are voting with their pocketbook... … Read more
Let's be honest: none of us was expecting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's landmark ABC World News interview with Diane Sawyer on Wednesday night--coincided with the Palo Alto, Calif.-based social-networking giant's announcement of 500 million active users around the world--to drop any serious bombs.
Not only is Zuckerberg notoriously, even proudly noncolorful, he's also proven remarkably astute in his ability to stay quite stoic in the face of press interrogation. He's not one of those over-the-top CEOs who likes to throw wild claims around and talk big about himself publicly. When he was grilled … Read more
We've got a blockbuster summer on CNET Conversations, and the next big release is Chris Cox, vice president of product at Facebook and second-in-command under CEO Mark Zuckerberg (who, we can only imagine, is taking a break from interviews after a rough outing last month). I'm looking forward to a fresh face from Facebook and, hopefully, a good conversation and some solid answers.
Like it or leave it over privacy issues, Facebook's growth and popularity are unfettered--it is rapidly approaching 500 million users and Zuckerberg recently predicted it will hit a billion in the next three to … Read more
StoryCorps is a terrific nonprofit organization dedicated to recording, sharing, and preserving stories told by friends and family members. If you listen to NPR's Morning Edition, you've almost certainly heard some clips.
The StoryCorps app for iPhone lets you listen to some of these stories, then learn how to record and share interviews of your own. Unfortunately, the app falls short in one key area: it can't actually record.
The Stories tab is pretty straightforward: scroll through the list of available stories, tap one that sounds interesting, then listen to the streaming audio. If you like it, … Read more