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‘Skulls of the Shogun’ Emerges as a Cross-Platform Gaming Pioneer

REDMOND, Wash. – Jan. 30, 2013 — With the new game “Skulls of the Shogun,” players can do something new: Switch back and forth between all of their Microsoft devices as they bounce from battle scene to battle scene.

'Skulls of the Shogun'
'Skulls of the Shogun'
January 29, 2013
The first game to be available on all of Microsoft’s platforms, "Skulls of the Shogun" can be played solo or by up to four players at once in multiplayer mode.

The game, released today, is the first to reach all Microsoft platforms. “Skulls of the Shogun” can be downloaded and played on Xbox 360 via the Xbox LIVE Arcade, and on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices.

“’Skulls of Shogun’ is a title that really promotes this connected gaming world where you can play a game on any Microsoft device against other players, save it to the cloud, move to another device, and pick up where you left off,” said Christopher Rubyor, a senior game designer for Microsoft.

The story, in short: You are a famous general who dies on the eve of his last great battle and you wash up on the shores of the samurai afterlife. There you set out to defeat an evil impersonator, make your way through the afterlife to become the shogun, or general, of the dead, meeting and joining forces with ghost-samurai warriors, magical animal-monks and mustachioed samurai generals along the way.

Influenced by samurai movies and 1960s-flavored sorcery, “Skulls of the Shogun” is a mash-up of classic arcade and “turn-based” strategy games, said Rod Chang, senior game producer at Microsoft.

“It pays homage to what we grew up playing, especially gamers of my generation who were addicted to turn-based strategy games,” Chang said. “I feel that the game ‘Skulls of the Shogun’ takes this genre of games that hardcore gamers grew up loving, and makes it accessible and fun for hardcore gamers and casual gamers alike.”

Skulls Across Platforms
Skulls Across Platforms
January 29, 2013
"Skulls of the Shogun" can be downloaded and played on Xbox 360 via the Xbox LIVE Arcade, and on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 devices.

Added Rubyor: “It’s very accessible. It’s easy to play, and difficult to master.”

The game offers a 15-hour single-player campaign, but also has local and online multiplayer (up to four players) battles.

“The maps in the game range from small, blitz maps with five to 10 minutes of game play to larger campaigns that take hours,” Rubyor said. “You play at your own pace, and you can have up to four battles going on, bouncing back and forth. It’s actually a lot of fun.”

Never before has a Microsoft game been cross-platform at its launch. You can start playing “Skulls of the Shogun” on your Windows Phone 8 device while riding the bus, then press pause and pick up right where you left off on your Xbox 360 when you get home. In addition, players can compete cross-platform: Lucy in Iowa City can play “Skulls of the Shogun” on her Windows 8 PC against Edgar in Sarasota who is using a Surface RT.

The game’s developer, 17-BIT, pulled off a “monumental” task with no shortage of “daunting” logistical and technical challenges in order to create “Skulls of the Shogun” as a cross-platform game, said Rubyor and Chang, who worked closely with the Seattle-based boutique game developer.

Chris Rubyor
Chris Rubyor
January 29, 2013
Christopher Rubyor, senior game designer for Microsoft, said "Skulls of the Shogun" is a title that promotes a connected gaming world in which players can move between devices.

“We’re pioneers,” Chang said. Though 17-BIT is a tiny company, it demonstrated some serious skill, adaptability and perseverance in launching the game for all of Microsoft’s platforms. That said, the effort to make “Skulls of the Shogun” cross-platform has definitely helped pave the way for other games to do the same, he said.

“I like to use the David versus Goliath analogy,” Chang said. “They’re a really small company that accomplished really big things, and they did it to help achieve an important strategy for Microsoft – cross-platform gaming.”

Chang said he believes there’s a serious demand for cross-platform gaming.

“We think this type of game and service really does unite all of our platforms, and that can give us a more robust game portfolio than ever,” Chang said. “People look forward to taking their favorite games wherever they go.”

Rubyor agreed.

“I think as we look towards the future, more and more games will support this type of game play where players are always connected to their experience,” he said.

“Skulls of the Shogun” will be discounted for a limited time on Windows 8 and Windows Phone. The Windows 8 version will launch at US$9.99 in the Windows Store, and the Windows Phone version will launch at $4.99 in the Windows Phone Store. The game costs 1,200 Microsoft points on Xbox LIVE.

A View in Pictures: Microsoft Releases Office 365 Home Premium

NEW YORK — Jan. 29, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced worldwide availability of Office 365 Home Premium, a reinvention of the company’s flagship Office product line for consumers. Office 365 Home Premium is a cloud service designed for busy households and people juggling ever-increasing work and family responsibilities. The new offering includes the latest and most complete set of Office applications; works across up to five devices, including Windows tablets, PCs and Macs; and comes with extra SkyDrive storage and Skype calling — all for US$99.99 for an annual subscription, the equivalent of US$8.34 per month. People can learn more about Office 365 Home Premium or try it free for 30 days at

Caching In: How Some Organizations Are Using Big Data to Change the Way They Do Business

REDMOND, Wash. Feb. 12, 2012 Big data is changing the way organizations do business, make discoveries, and interact with each other. In fact, pundits are predicting that 2013 will be the year organizations across a range of industries begin implementing big data strategies, or face obsolescence. As David Selinger wrote in a recent article on Forbes online: “If executives don’t find a way to trap, tame, and train their data monsters, they’ll be extinct in two years—fossils who’ve missed the new world order.”

Microsoft believes that big data has the power to drive practical and theoretical insights that have eluded people to date. In the past, high costs and technology limitations have constrained access to data storage infrastructure and the tools needed to manage and analyze large quantities of data. This is finally starting to change.

And as many grapple with the “what” and “why” of big data, there are already customers leading the way and winning with better, faster insight. No organization knows this better than The Weather Company, parent company of The Weather Channel. Weather is at the core of many decisions that people make on a daily basis, and The Weather Company is at the forefront as they manage, consume and generate big data. The 1,200-person organization, based in Atlanta, Georgia, recognizes the opportunity that big data represents and is working to help consumers and businesses make intelligent decisions.

“Weather is probably the biggest big data platform. It plays a role in how you work, how you live, how you play and how you shop,” says Bryson Koehler, chief information officer at The Weather Company. “It impacts a significant portion of the world’s activity, and big data is about understanding how consumer behavior intersects with and is influenced by weather. With big data, we are helping our customers understand the data and take action in real-time.”

The Weather Company isn’t alone in this effort. A growing number of organizations are now thriving in the new world of big data. By using Microsoft solutions—including technologies that encompass machine learning and distributed computing—they have been able to ease the synthesis of big data to uncover powerful insights, effectively transforming massive data stores into a major competitive advantage. Some of these organizations include:

  • Bank New Zealand. BNZ implemented a self-service data analysis tool that can process data queries 60 times faster than its previous solution, making it possible for analysts to respond more quickly to market conditions and get higher quality insights.

  • CROSSMARK. A leading provider of sales and marketing services, CROSSMARK recently launched a new self-service data portal powered by Microsoft SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) and Microsoft SQL Server 2012 business intelligence tools. The company uses the portal to deliver actionable, real-time business insights to its manufacturer and retailer clients in the consumer goods industry. In 2012 alone, CROSSMARK supported 26 million in-store activities for its clients, generating enormous amounts of point-of-sale (POS) data. Now, through its Microsoft solution, the company can provide highly scalable, on-demand access to consolidated reporting to help clients maximize revenue.

  • Department of Veterans Affairs. By using Microsoft technologies, the VA—which is the single largest medical system in the United States—has consolidated its entire analytics infrastructure and established a state-of-the-art data warehousing and big data computing environment to synthesize its immense health information database and support initiatives to improve patient care and organizational performance.

  • Great Western Bank. With a new data warehousing and BI solution, the bank can make it fast and easy for nontechnical employees to get exactly the information they are looking for, such as lists of categories of account holders for marketing campaigns. Users can more easily ensure a better fit between customers and bank services.

  • National Health Index. NHI provides internet access to the most comprehensive reservoir of healthcare data at the zip code level. The organization’s newly announced solution with Microsoft Corp., called the National Clinical Trial Network (NCTN), delivers a platform providing a comprehensive database of clinical trial options to providers. NCTN will also be a data warehouse transforming isolated data repositories into an integrated, searchable, national archive, permitting the rapid identification of representative samples of risk populations who might benefit from a proposed therapy.

  • Super 8 Hotels (China) Co., Ltd. In just one system, Super 8 Worldwide gets data analysis, data integration, and data reporting, so management can more easily analyze the business from multiple dimensions. It intends to use the technology to intelligently expand from 450 hotels to 1,000 hotels in three years.

  • Stein Mart. By implementing a Microsoft data warehouse and business intelligence (BI) solution, the company can manage information more efficiently and cut reporting time from hours to minutes.

  • University of Washington. Renowned as one of the world’s premier research universities and widely regarded as a center of technology innovation, the various departments that make up the University of Washington need to manage and process enormous amounts of data each day. To fulfill its mission in fostering the development of big ideas and transformational solutions, University Advancement has moved one of its reporting solutions to the Windows Azure cloud platform. The greatest value it has gained is enabling non-technical teams to quickly uncover insights from hundreds of millions of columns of data, providing increased scalability and easier management to better tailor outreach efforts to its alumni, donors and friends.

“Our big data customers stand at the forefront of a technology super-trend, one that can unleash human creativity on a scale never seen before,” says Susan Hauser, corporate vice president of the Enterprise and Partner Group at Microsoft. “Big data’s shift from obstacle to asset can only happen when one can easily unearth insight, and that requires broad availability of great analytics tools. Microsoft intends to facilitate an era of unmatched innovation and creative disruption.”

Still, the promise of big data remains largely unfulfilled. Technology companies need to do more to empower more people, which will push big data forward into the mainstream. Microsoft’s goal is to bring big data to the masses, believing that when you empower more people to use technology, you pave the way for new opportunities and understanding on a global scale. This fundamental belief that technology can change the world and improve people’s lives is what drives Microsoft’s long-term investments.

Autolib’ Brings Intelligent Car-Sharing to the Streets of Paris and Suburbs

PARIS — Feb. 12, 2013 Paris is known for its broad boulevards, its picturesque side streets and its heavy traffic. Autolib’, an innovative car-sharing service, is helping make the traffic more manageable through a fleet of compact electric cars and an array of flexible services designed to help drivers reduce their reliance on privately owned cars — all connected and managed through an intelligent system based on Microsoft technology in the cars and at the points of registration, rental and service.

Autolib’ Brings Car-Sharing to Paris Area
Autolib’ Brings Car-Sharing to Paris Area
The Autolib’ car-sharing service, featuring the all-electric Bluecar, uses Microsoft technology in its registration and rental kiosks, in the in-car systems, and in the handheld devices used by agents to serve drivers. The service is designed to reduce traffic congestion and emissions in Paris and its surrounding suburbs by making energy-efficient vehicles available as drivers need them, decreasing reliance on privately owned gas-powered cars.

The city government, in collaboration with 46 surrounding municipalities, established requirements for a car-sharing service that would serve the more than 1 million people who drive into or through Paris each day and offer flexibility for the majority of Parisians who do not own cars. In February 2011, the cities selected the Bollore Group to design and develop the service. Bollore was already marketing the Bluecar, a four-person electric vehicle built around a powerful lithium metal polymer battery designed by the company; IER, a subsidiary of the Bollore Group, was given the task of designing and creating the technology and infrastructure for a car-sharing service that would make the Bluecar available to Autolib’ members.

The technology for the Autolib’ program consists of five major elements, including three kinds of kiosk for registration, rental and vehicle charging; an in-car system for driver access, navigation and customer assistance; and Ambassador handhelds to monitor vehicle location, charging levels and maintenance.

  • Registration kiosk. Seventy freestanding enclosed kiosks located throughout Paris and its suburbs enable new users to join the program within minutes. The kiosks, which run Windows Embedded POSReady, enable registrants to scan a credit card and valid driver’s license, connect to a customer service agent via videoconference, and within minutes receive an RFID-enabled membership card that grants access to the 1,750 Bluecars in the Autolib’ fleet. More than 60,000 subscribers have enrolled in plans ranging from one day to one week, month or year.

  • Rental kiosk. Autolib’ members check in with a membership card and use the Windows Embedded POSReady-based touch-screen system to reserve the most fully charged car near their location — which may be right next to the kiosk or a short distance away if no car is available at the nearest station. The kiosk provides a map and directions; if the nearest station is empty, the kiosk shows the closest stations at which a car may be reserved, or lets members connect to a customer service agent if additional assistance is needed.

  • Charging station. There are 1,750 electric cars available at 750 charging stations throughout Paris and its surrounding suburbs; each station has parking spaces for four to six cars. Display lights at each charging station indicate if a car is available (green), reserved (blue) or unavailable for technical reasons (red). Waving an Autolib’ membership card at the driver’s door unlocks the car and the cap to the charging cable. The driver can then disconnect and stow the charging cable, start the car, and drive away.

  • In-car system. The Autolib’ in-car system, running Windows Embedded Standard, greets the driver by name upon arrival and sets the temperature and radio station in accordance with the driver’s saved preferences identified during the registration process. The driver can access GPS navigation via touch screen or be connected to a customer service agent to find a parking place or report any problems.

  • Centralized Autolib’ data management system. A team of 400 mobile ambassadors, using Ambassador handheld devices running Windows Embedded Handheld to connect to the Autolib’ data system, circulates through the region to inspect and repair cars and assist members who are involved in accidents. Cars and kiosks are connected to a management system that incorporates Windows Server and SQL Server with proprietary software, enabling ambassadors to monitor car locations and charging levels in real time so that they can locate drivers who need assistance or move charged cars to locations where they are needed. The system also enables software and firmware maintenance and updates.

A key feature of the Autolib’ service is the ability to rent a car for a one-way trip, picking it up from one charging station and leaving it at another — ideal for drivers who want to connect to a bus or train line to continue their journey, or to drive to a social gathering and then take a taxi home. The one-way trip is particularly important for drivers going from suburb to suburb, where there are fewer public transportation connections than from suburb to city center.

A Driver Claims an Electric Car at an Autolib’ Kiosk
A Driver Claims an Electric Car at an Autolib’ Kiosk
A driver uses an RFID-enabled membership card to claim an all-electric Bluecar via the Autolib’ car-sharing service in the Paris metropolitan area. Swiping the card at pickup lets the driver unlock the vehicle, disconnect and stow the charging cable, and drive away; swiping at arrival lets the driver reconnect the charging cable and check the car back in so it’s ready for another driver.

“Another problem in Paris is that there are not enough parking spaces for all the cars that are there,” says Vanessa Colombier, Autolib’ spokesperson. Colombier estimates that more than 1.2 million trips have been completed in the all-electric cars, journeys that would have produced 1,500 metric tons of CO2 emissions if conventional combustion-engine cars had been used.

“It is estimated that 5 percent to 10 percent of the traffic in the capital is generated by people looking for a space — creating a lot of unnecessary emissions,” says Colombier. The Autolib’ Bluecars can be parked in any of the 750 dedicated stations and 3,900 charging points.

In addition, Autolib’ can be less expensive than car ownership for members who only make occasional car trips, with a one-year membership costing just 144 euros plus a modest hourly use rate, as compared with the 5,000 euros that car registration, ownership and use would cost a typical Parisian each year. And in neighborhoods where a taxi might be hard to find late in the evening, a driver can find an Autolib’ rental kiosk and car station within 200 meters of any location.

“We really started this project from zero,” says Christophe Arnaud, vice president of marketing and director of business development for IER. “In seven months we had to make everything: the charging infrastructure, the system in the cars, the monitoring and information systems. Everything was new.”

The program is attracting international attention; Arnaud says officials from all over the world have come to Paris to see the Autolib’ cars and kiosks for themselves and to learn more about how they might create similar programs in their own cities. Autolib’ also continues to develop the service, with plans for enhanced in-car music playback capabilities, pop-up applications that can offer drivers discounts or location-based promotions, or other real-time connectivity and personalized services.

“Paris is changing quickly nowadays, with a dynamic mayor who has a modern view of the city,” says Pierre Avril, deputy mayor of the city of Malakoff and vice president of Syndicat Mixte Autolib’, the Paris-area municipal alliance that manages the program. “Autolib’ is a new concept, an expression of modernity. And as a program that improves the environment it is helping us modernize but also protect the historical background of Paris. This is also true for the surrounding cities that have adopted Autolib’, like Malakoff.”

“The Autolib’ subscriber is using something that is shared with everyone in the region, but when they are in the car they feel like it’s just for them because it recognizes them,” says Arnaud. “Subscribers can have a personal experience without having to own their own car.”

emotive Helps Developers Create Apps for Enterprise Customers

REDMOND, Wash. — Feb. 12, 2013 —The founders of emotive, a middleware service for developers, set out to provide enterprise customers all the benefits of the mobile experience.

Paul Butterworth, co-founder and chief technology officer at emotive, is a distinguished engineer, having spent years at Oracle and Sun Microsystems. He co-founded emotive to help create intuitive mobile apps for enterprise customers.

The top issue he set out to address was to help create secure and easy access to information for enterprise customers. To do this, emotive built solutions to help developers create apps that continue to run when offline or when bandwidth is limited and automatically update when connectivity returns.

“Mobile devices are not good at talking to enterprise systems, and corporate IT is wary, at best, of mobile devices in the enterprise,” Butterworth said. “We take advantage of the cloud in our next-generation solutions, which bridge the gap between enterprise and mobile software.”

Established in 2011, emotive draws on the engineering-laden experience of its founders and staff members, who are steeped in database infrastructure, application development platforms, enterprise software, mobile and system management.

With the emotive platform, developers can use tools such as HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript to create mobile applications for voice, video and text. By taking advantage of Windows Azure, developers get end-to-end enterprise mobile cloud services, and the applications they write can automatically run on virtually any device.

Scott Crawford, chief operating officer at emotive, understands the challenges enterprises face, as well as their demanding work environments. His deep experience at IBM and his record of success working in enterprise software sales helped him develop an end-to-end solution for developers and their customers.

“emotive empowers software developers to build applications that deliver a user experience in tune with their mobile devices, laptops and desktops, as well as robust, security-enhanced access to enterprise information assets,” Crawford said.

Bridging the Mobile-Enterprise Divide

By creating a middleware solution for developers, emotive is helping to bridge the divide between how enterprise and mobile applications operate. Organizations that rely on multiple enterprise systems are ideal candidates for applications built using the emotive platform.

Depending on your location, mobile connectivity can be inconsistent. A user might lose a mobile connection while walking from one area in a building to another or while riding in a car or train. Yet enterprise applications are built with an assumption of continuous connectivity.

“We can’t solve underlying mobile connectivity issues, so instead we work around them,” Crawford said. “Our technology allows applications to be written to tolerate communication interruptions and bandwidth variations, so they deliver much better performance for interactive applications.”

For instance, a multinational company that has a network of sales reps within extensive geographic territories can benefit from emotive’s platform. Typically, sales reps rely on distributed mobile apps for managing inventory. Those apps become useless when they lose connectivity, which happens frequently in the field. This forces employees to resort to using pen and paper to record inventory data, then later enter the information into the application to catch up — wasting time and resources.

Applications built on the emotive platform have offline capabilities built in, so when the sales reps lose connectivity, they can continue to enter data. When connectivity returns, the emotive-based apps automatically update the data.

“emotive does much of the technical ‘heavy lifting’ involved in mobile enterprise application development — things such as mobile-optimized data displays, interrupt-driven messaging, asynchronous communications and pre-caching that are hard for developers to do themselves,” Butterworth added.

Taking Advantage of Windows Azure and BizSpark One

The company originally decided to move to Windows Azure for the ability to scale without compromise. emotive now takes full advantage of the platform, including the following:

  • Hosting all the company’s back-end systems in the cloud

  • Running its collection of servers as apps in the cloud environment; the apps are provisioned, loaded and kept running in the cloud

  • Using the Windows Azure virtual machine capability to store database information and logs

  • Drawing on Azure enterprise features such as distributed cache and the ability to test apps in their local development environment and instantly deploy them into the cloud, where they are accessible by virtually any device

In the future, emotive plans to add more capabilities, such as security and hosting, to existing enterprise applications.

Just as important as the technology benefits of Microsoft’s cloud platform have been for the company, emotive is taking advantage of the business development resources through the BizSpark One program.

“Microsoft has unparalleled credibility in the enterprise,” Crawford said. “Access to the Microsoft and Windows Azure ecosystems accelerates our learning curve and provides exposure that would otherwise be difficult for a startup such as ours.”

Connections and exposure are also what appealed to emotive about the BizSpark One program.

“Long before emotive, I had worked closely with Microsoft,” said Butterworth, who is on the Microsoft Interoperability Committee. “But even for someone with established ties, the BizSpark One program provides a great, clear entry point to Microsoft resources and to the ecosystem around Windows Azure. We use a ton of open-source software, and our BizSpark relationships have connected us with the people within Microsoft who have the expertise to run open-source software optimally in the Windows Azure environment. It’s helped us overcome all kinds of technical hurdles and get to market faster.”

Butterfield and Crawford continue to extend emotive’s platform through strategic planning and using input from its growing customer base. As it evolves, the company expects the flexibility of its platform, in concert with the technical and business opportunities afforded by its Microsoft and Windows Azure connections, will help erase the barriers between mobile experiences and enterprise resources for developers, organizations and their customers worldwide.

High Stakes: Businesses Make Big Data Bets

REDMOND, Wash. – Feb. 13, 2013 – For the first time in history, it’s going to start raining information.

Eron Kelly
Eron Kelly
February 12, 2013
Eron Kelly, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft SQL Server.
Web | Print

Hallelujah or headache? For businesses, it’s all about being ready to ride this perfect storm of big data – and their understanding of what’s at stake.

“I think everything’s at stake,” said Eron Kelly, general manager of product marketing for Microsoft SQL Server. “Organizations that harness the power of big data will outperform their peers.”

Digital data is now more vast than all the world’s oceans (there is 2.7 zetabytes of data on the planet versus the 1.37 zettalitres of seawater) and it’s multiplying at breakneck speed. And it’s just as easy to drown in information if your organization doesn’t have the right tools to garner useful insights from big data, Kelly said.

Today, the promise of big data remains largely unfilled. Microsoft’s goal is to make big data accessible to the masses, Kelly said. Whether it’s businesses, educational institutions, healthcare companies or governments, if organizations don’t take full advantage of all of the information around them, they will fall behind.

As big data becomes more mainstream, the tools used to manage it must follow suit, which is why Microsoft has invested in providing a wide-ranging suite of tools for all types of users – the geneticist sequencing and comparing DNA, a bed-and-breakfast owner looking at occupancy rates alongside weather data, or a car manufacturer looking for ways to increase productivity and reduce inefficiencies.

“Those that are able to derive insights from data will make better decisions,” Kelly said. “They’ll be more efficient, and they’ll move whatever agenda it is that they have forward much faster than those that don’t.”

Tools of the Trade

Dave Campbell, a technical fellow at Microsoft, has a degree in robotics and has worked with large data sets his entire career. About five years ago he started investigating big data issues in earnest.

Why the buzz now, he asked himself recently. What has fundamentally changed?

His conclusion is that big data, and its potential applications in business and beyond, have reached a tipping point. There are several reasons for this, he said. First, more data than ever is available in digital form. Data storage is now inexpensive and plentiful. And, finally, more advanced computers and software are handling the new deluge of data with gymnastic algorithms that can help spot never-before-seen trends and provide new insight.

What’s more, the technology needed to harness big data is available in the cloud, which makes it even more accessible for businesses – no up-front costs or infrastructure are needed to get going.

Armed with an understanding of the worth of big data, Campbell said, businesses should think of their data in two different dimensions of value – refined data, and combined data. Microsoft can help with both, he said.

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell
February 12, 2013
Dave Campbell, technical fellow at Microsoft.
Web | Print

Businesses can store large amounts of data with Windows Server, and once they have all of their data, they can manage and refine their structured databases with Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

Using their structured data, most universally found in databases that use Structured Query Language (SQL), businesses can select exact pieces of that data using columns and rows – perhaps the rows with a certain zip code or the columns with a specific product type.

However, one of the biggest areas of growth and opportunity in big data is around unstructured data. This data, which includes everything from email and Tweets to photos on Flickr and likes on Facebook, doesn’t have the architecture of structured data but can be just as valuable to a business.

Microsoft is working with communities around Hadoop, an open-source data platform for managing unstructured data, to help customers work will all types of data, both structured and unstructured.

“Being able to reach out and combine the data I have and to work with other groups and organization to bring in the world’s data provides a tremendous amount of value,” Campbell said. “Our approach is to put tools in the hands of businesses and other users that will allow them to derive their own insights.”

Microsoft is also working to integrate Hadoop with SQL Server and Windows Azure to ensure customers can combine all their data sources. The Windows Azure Marketplace can help businesses find trustworthy third-party data to combine with their own.

“Say I have a hotel on the beach in Florida, and I want to bring in weather data to improve my business planning for my hotel’s occupancy, and to better forecast room rates and demand. Now I can take my data, and combine it with information from an outside organization without making a lot of investment,” Kelly said.

Ashvini Sharma
Ashvini Sharma
February 12, 2013
Ashvini Sharma, group program manager in Microsoft’s Office Business Intelligence team.

With a firm handle on their data, and by incorporating outside data that can be combined with in-house data to help it pack an insightful punch, businesses can then turn to Microsoft’s business intelligence capabilities within Office, for example. Applications such as Excel, PowerPivot and SharePoint can help them find insight, analyze, and visualize that data.

“We know users, we know what they’re looking for, and we can provide them highly accessible ways of making a decision,” said Ashvini Sharma, group program manager in Microsoft’s Office Business Intelligence team.

Sharma said the main people using big data today are data scientists and others who are highly proficient at using technological tools. But that is all changing, and Microsoft will provide a familiar and intuitive platform for accessing big data, he said.

Sharma spoke to a business customer last year who was trying to incorporate more big data insight. Because Hadoop runs on Linux, the company would remotely connect its PCs to a Linux machine; open a text editor where they would type a query to Hadoop using the data warehouse system Hive to execute a search in that system; and then wait for minutes, hours or days for the search to return the search results. The company would FTP the search results back to PCs to open them.

“This is what people are doing today to get insights out of the big data world,” Sharma said.

What if businesses could run the query with their existing tools such as Office and save all of that effort? This is the big data value Microsoft is bringing to businesses.

”You’ll just take what you already know today and extend it to a new set of technology to get insights and wisdom you used to have to wait or ask others to get for you,” Sharma said.

Microsoft even uses its own big data tools, including Bing, to deliver more than 100 petabytes of data in the form of search results; at Microsoft Advertising to target 14 billion ads per month; at Kinect for Xbox 360, where machine learning and sensors have revolutionized hands-free controlling; and at Exchange, where Microsoft uses machine learning to detect spam in up to four billion e-mails a day.

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