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Short Takes: January 16, 2015

Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:28:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including the end of a good run, Google halts sales of Google Glass, Xiaomi launches yet another look-alike product, Intel posts strong PC numbers, high-tech firms settle poaching antitrust lawsuit, and Microsoft does the right thing (again) for the Xbox One.

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Short Takes: January 9, 2015

Fri, 09 Jan 2015 14:13:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including an ignoble end for Microsoft's advance security notification service, the malaise that is CES, Maryland chooses Office 365 and common sense, Microsoft supports Bitcoin on Windows Phone, you can play old MS-DOS video games on the web for free, Google is selling auto insurance, and Apple reaped $4.5 billion from third party app sales in 2014.

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AT&T Follows T-Mobile (Again), Offers Rollover Data

Thu, 08 Jan 2015 14:02:00 +0000

And consumers win
Continuing a theme that persisted throughout 2014, where T-Mobile blazes a path, the bigger wireless carriers follow, and more consumers benefit. This time around, the innovation is rollover data, a plan by which customers of the carriers can move unused data bandwidth to the next month.

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About All Those Things at CES 2015

Wed, 07 Jan 2015 15:26:00 +0000

Michael Crichton saw this one coming
The buzzword at this week's CES 2015 in Las Vegas is of course "The Internet of Things," an annoying term for something—interconnected embedded devices—that has been around for many years. This isn't the first time the tech industry has jumped the shark with a new term for something old—cloud computing is an obvious recent example—but surely there is a better way to discuss this technology and how it will impact our lives.

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PlayStation 4 Sales Hit 18.5 Million

Tue, 06 Jan 2015 14:30:00 +0000

With no need for price cuts
Sony on Monday announced that it had sold 18.5 million PlayStation 4 consoles to consumers since the device's launch in November 13, further distancing the front-runner from the Xbox One. Furthermore, the consumer electronics firm sold 4.1 million PS4 consoles in the final six weeks of 2014 alone, a healthier-than-expected end to an already dominant year.

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Apple Sued For iPhone Storage Shortfall

Mon, 05 Jan 2015 13:02:00 +0000

When is 16 GB really 11.5 GB?
Apple has been accused of misrepresenting the storage available in the 8 GB and 16 GB versions of various iPhone, iPad and iPod models courtesy of a new class-action lawsuit. And while the consumer electronics giant isn't alone in eating up copious amounts of onboard device storage for its OS—this has been an issue with PCs and other handsets and digital devices for years—Apple is of course a high profile target, and one that attracts mainstream customers unaware of such technicalities.

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US Suspects North Korea Had Help with Sony Attack

Tue, 30 Dec 2014 16:14:00 +0000

I get by with a little help from my hacker friends
Reuters is reporting this week that the US government now believes that North Korea didn't act alone in launching a massive cyber-attack against Sony Pictures. Instead, it "contracted" hackers from outside the isolated country to bring down the entertainment firm.

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Tech Predictions for 2015

Sun, 28 Dec 2014 20:49:00 +0000

Hey, it could happen
With 2014 winding to a close, I'm wondering what surprises await us in the New Year. So here's a quick rundown of some of the tech happenings and trends I see for 2015, with a particular emphasis on our favorite little tech colossus from Redmond.

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Hacker Group Takes Down Xbox Live and PSN on Christmas Day

Fri, 26 Dec 2014 17:10:00 +0000

I guess we'll be playing the single player campaign for now
A hacker group launched distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network on Christmas Day, making the services inaccessible for millions of users. As of Friday morning, some users were still experiencing difficulties connecting to certain parts of the services.

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Short Takes: December 24, 2014

Wed, 24 Dec 2014 14:41:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this short holiday week's other news
An often irreverent look at this short holiday week's other news, including a holiday break, Ireland supports Microsoft in email warrant case, Google and Microsoft team up to prevent hotel Wi-Fi blocking, Mississippi AG has it in for Google, and Sony relents on the overwhelming demand and will release the most eagerly-awaited film of all time on Christmas Day.

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North Korea Was Erased From the Internet on Monday

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 15:49:00 +0000

If only there was a "dislike" button
In what might have been the first sign of US retaliation against North Korea's electronic attack on Sony Pictures, the totalitarian country dropped completely off the Internet on Monday for several hours with widespread outages continuing into Tuesday. At this time, it's not clear what triggered the massive outage. But it does seem like the "proportional response" promised by US president Obama, especially when you consider that North Korea's small Internet-accessible population is largely military or governmental in nature.

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2014 Was the Year of Mobile First, Cloud First

Tue, 23 Dec 2014 12:45:00 +0000

Making it right again
With 2014 winding to a close, it's pretty clear that Microsoft's "mobile first, cloud first" mantra is the most important trend of the year, one will look back on and remember as an inflection point of sorts between or on premises and PC-based past and this new way of doing things. That slow-moving Microsoft was able to reinvent itself is amazing in its own right. But the real story here is whether its massive customer base moves forward with it.

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Obama: Sony Hack Was Cyber-Vandalism, Not Act of War

Mon, 22 Dec 2014 13:35:00 +0000

Crime, not war
US president Barack Obama said this weekend that the North Korean electronic attack of Sony Pictures' computer systems and subsequent leaking of information was an act of cyber-vandalism, not war. This declaration effectively limits any potential response to the attack the United States, though what that response might be remains to be seen.

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Short Takes: December 19, 2014

Fri, 19 Dec 2014 14:08:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including Dean Hachamovitch's exit from Microsoft, a bizarre but temporary anti-Google post, Microsoft will take on tech support scammers, a long-awaited Xbox VR headset may appear next year, and the US is trying to figure out an appropriate response to the North Korea hack of Sony.

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Reports: North Korea Identified as Source of Sony Hack

Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:18:00 +0000

A not so unsubstantiated threat after all
NBC News and The New York Times are independently reporting that the United States has determined that the North Korean government was indeed behind the electronic attack against Sony. This isn't the first time a government has instigated such an attack against a public company, but the terrorism threats that have accompanied the hack are a concerning new low.

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Apple Wins iPod/iTunes Antitrust Case

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 19:36:00 +0000

Probably the right decision
A federal jury in California has determined that Apple's efforts to undermine competitors to iTunes and the iPod a decade ago did not constitute antitrust violations and did not harm a class of consumers. The decision was reached after just four hours of deliberation.

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In Email Warrant Case, Microsoft Finds Friends in High Places

Tue, 16 Dec 2014 12:45:00 +0000

Lots of support for the law
Microsoft's efforts to prevent the US government from illegally seizing evidence held in its email servers in Ireland has garnered an incredible level of support from within the tech community and beyond. On Monday, the software giant announced that it has filed 10 legal briefs in the case which are signed by 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 leading computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations.

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Windows 10 Comes Into Focus

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 22:11:00 +0000

And I like what I see
In late January, Microsoft will hold a special event for press and analysts at which it will unveil more information about Windows 10 and how it will work on all kinds of devices, not just traditional PCs. But we don't need to wait until next month to gain a clearer picture of Windows 10: Thanks to a number of leaks, we can already see some of the hidden features that will make this release a more cohesive whole.

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In Rapid Rise, Xiaomi Not So Much Like Apple After All

Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:10:00 +0000

Going for volume
Xiaomi became the world's third largest maker of smart phones this year and has often been accused of copying Apple's products, promotional videos, and media event presentations. But with the China firm poised for a massive international expansion in 2015, it's come to light that Xiaomi isn't like Apple at all in some key areas. Like some other up-and-coming Chinese electronics firms, Xiaomi is thriving on a diet of razor-thin margins.

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Short Takes: December 12, 2014

Fri, 12 Dec 2014 15:04:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including the next milestone for Windows 10, Xbox One finally out-sells the PlayStation 4 but at what cost, Ford drops Microsoft from in-car tech, Microsoft supports Bitcoin for some online purchases, EU antitrust regulators move so slowly you need to speed up the film to see it, and Google News to shut down in Spain.

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Windows 10 Slips to Fall 2015

Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:16:00 +0000

So much for rapid release
Well, it's official: Windows 10, the long-awaited follow-up to the disastrous Windows 8, will ship to customers in "early fall 2015," a full three years after its predecessor. That's the traditional timeframe for Windows releases, and it suggests that for all the talk about "rapid release" in Redmond, the company isn't really able to rev its bigger product lines as quickly as many had hoped.

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Sweden Raids, Takes Down The Pirate Bay

Wed, 10 Dec 2014 14:17:00 +0000

Arrgh!
After offering freeloaders stolen copies of software, music, videos, pornography and other "warez" for over a decade, The Pirate Bay file sharing service has been raided and taken down by Swedish law enforcement officials. The takedown follows news last month that The Pirate Bay co-founder Gottfrid Svartholm was arrested on the Thailand/Laos border. He had been on the run since being convicted of copyright violations in 2009 and sentenced to 3.5 years in jail.

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Apple's iPod Antitrust Case Loses Both Plaintiffs

Tue, 09 Dec 2014 14:15:00 +0000

A crazy first week for Apple in court
We're just one week in and Apple's US antitrust case has been as long on drama as it will prove short on remedy. Judge Gonzales Rogers has listened to the testimony of senior Apple executives, and she has watched a video deposition of deceased tech titan Steve Jobs. But the biggest news in the case so far was more unexpected: Both of the case's plaintiffs have been dismissed because neither could prove they owned an iPod during the period of time covered by the case.

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New Version of MDOP Focuses on App-V and UE-V Improvements

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 22:59:00 +0000

Two of the tools get big updates
Two of the tools get big updates

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Microsoft Appeals Federal Order to Turn Over Data Held in Ireland

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 22:21:00 +0000

Yep, it's come to this
On Monday, Microsoft filed an appeal in its ongoing case challenging a federal warrant seeking customer data stored overseas in its Ireland-based datacenter. In the appeal, the software giant argues that email seizure should be held to the same standard the government has established for obtaining physical evidence outside the United States.

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Hacker Group Takes Down Xbox Live, PSN

Mon, 08 Dec 2014 14:50:00 +0000

Making a bad name for lizards everywhere
A hacker group called Lizard Squad has taken credit for shutting down Microsoft's Xbox Live and Sony's PlayStation Network (PSN) separately over the past several days. And now the group says it will continue wreaking havoc throughout December, and will take down Xbox Live on Christmas day.

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Short Takes: December 5, 2014

Fri, 05 Dec 2014 14:25:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including Satya Nadell's big payday, the end of the WOOK dream, an interesting legal gambit from Apple in iPod case, more info about the Sony hack, Sprint's on-again off-again relationship with Windows Phone, Apple's new campus, and Samsung heads back to court in attempt to reduce that $930 million damages payout.

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UK Offers Plan to Punish US Tech Giants that Avoid Paying Taxes

Thu, 04 Dec 2014 14:05:00 +0000

An election gambit, or real change?
Facing an election in May, the UK's leading political party announced plans for a so-called "Google Tax" this week. The tax is aimed at US technology giants and other international firms that routinely avoid paying taxes in the UK by shifting profits to lower-tax countries, and will be used to make up for a shortfall in the government's deficit reduction plan.

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North Korea May Have Hacked Sony

Wed, 03 Dec 2014 14:20:00 +0000

A new low, and not just for James Franco
Already reeling from a major hack that saw its web site defaced and its internal networks breached, Sony received some more bad news: The source of the attack may have been the government of North Korea, which is incensed about a coming Sony movie that parodies its leader, Kim Jong Un.

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Apple to Face Years-Old Antitrust Charges in Court

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 14:06:00 +0000

Too little, too late
A trial beginning today in Oakland, California will pit Apple against an antitrust class action brought by individuals and businesses who claim the consumer electronics giant illegally prevented them from using non-Apple music on their iPods. The case is almost a decade old and dates back to the pre-iPhone era when Apple's industry influence came solely from iPods and iTunes. But the big pull here is that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who passed away in 2011, will play a major role in the trial.

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(Re-)Embracing the PC

Tue, 02 Dec 2014 01:08:00 +0000

The PC is the comeback kid of 2014
I know the year isn't quite over yet, but if there's one thing I'm really happy about—excited for, really—in 2014, it's the resurgence of the PC. After three years of coping with the notion that mobile devices like smart phones and tablets could somehow replace PCs, we now have a more nuanced view. And the funny thing is, it took the rise of these mobile devices to drive home how relevant PCs really are.

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EU Parliament Calls on Regulators to Break Up Google

Mon, 01 Dec 2014 14:03:00 +0000

Ms. Vestager, tear down that search wall
It's official: Lawmakers in the European Union Parliament have called on antitrust regulators to break up search giant Google. And while the vote late last week was purely symbolic—the EU Parliament can't formally influence EU antitrust policies or laws in any way—it was also overwhelming, passing with 384 votes for and 174 against, and with 56 abstentions.

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Short Takes: November 28, 2014

Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:59:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this short week's other news
An often irreverent look at this short week's other news, including the Thanksgiving holiday, China charges Microsoft $140 million for tax evasion, Microsoft Band sells out (sort of), US warns EU on GOOGL, Apple may replace Google Search in Safari, HP reports another decline, Apple's iPad will experience a full year sales decline as Android, Windows tablets race upwards, and Amazon finally right-prices the Fire Phone.

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Microsoft is Opening Windows Store to Businesses

Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:45:00 +0000

Bigger than a Start menu
When Microsoft first announced Windows 10 back in early October, it did so at an event that was billed as being focused on businesses. But that wasn't really the case, and most of the short launch event just highlighted some of the user interface tweaks that will make Windows great on traditional PCs again. Since then, however, Microsoft has opened up about its plans a bit more. And one of the big changes coming in Windows 10 is that the firm will allow businesses to customize Windows Store and manage the delivery of apps to their users.

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Microsoft Sues the IRS

Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:17:00 +0000

Double Irish or Double Dutch?
Microsoft launched a federal lawsuit against the US Internal Revenue Service, accusing the agency of not fulfilling its legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act. Apparently, the IRS has hired an outside firm that specializes in litigation to examine the software giant's tax returns, and Microsoft had been seeking documentation explaining the terms of its contract with the IRS.

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T-Mobile Will Be More Transparent About Data Speeds

Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:49:00 +0000

The un-carrier tries to rise above the fray
T-Mobile and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced an agreement this week by which the wireless carrier will more transparently communicate accurate information about customers' wireless data speeds. This will be particularly helpful for those customers who hit their monthly data limits and are subjected to slower speeds, the carrier says.

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EU May Try to Break Up Google

Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:08:00 +0000

Ghost of Microsoft past
Legislators in the European Parliament on Friday are drafting a resolution calling on Google to be split into two companies so that the Internet giant can no longer unfairly leverage its search dominance to artificially prop up its other, money-losing, businesses and illegally harm its competitors.

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Short Takes: November 21, 2014

Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:29:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including Azure going down for the count, Intel's celebration of flat PC sales in 2015, an NSA prediction of a "dramatic" cyber-attack against the US in the next decade, Xiaomi's plot to unseat Samsung and Apple, Google settles mobile patent suit with industry group, Android is the new Windows, and GameStop misunderstands why they're doing poorly.

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Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines Choose Surface Pro 3 for their Pilots

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:45:00 +0000

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Microsoft Adds Skype Chat to Office Online

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 15:42:00 +0000

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Mozilla Ousts Google from Firefox in the US, Picks Yahoo Search

Thu, 20 Nov 2014 13:40:00 +0000

A plan that could backfire
Six months after usage of Google Chrome surpassed that of its own web browser, Mozilla has replaced Google with Yahoo as the default search experience in Firefox in the United States. The move was a long time coming—the two long-time partners have been at odds since Google launched Chrome back six years ago—but was waiting on the expiration of a 10-year search agreement between the two firms.

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Surface Pro 3 Firmware Updates for November Are Now Available

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:11:00 +0000

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Samsung to Cull Smart Phone Lineup in 2015

Wed, 19 Nov 2014 14:51:00 +0000

I recommend cutting even deeper than that
Reeling from the impact of cheaper Chinese rivals at the low-end of the market and Apple at the high-end, Samsung said this week that it would cut the number of smart phone models it makes next year by 25 to 30 percent. The firm is still the world's largest maker of smart phones, but it has seen its profits and growth plummet this year.

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Nokia Announces an Android Tablet

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 13:36:00 +0000

No, the real Nokia
This may be the real reason behind Microsoft so quickly dropping Nokia branding from its own devices: Nokia—the "real" Nokia—today launched a tablet of its own, and it runs the competing Android OS. Clearly modeled after Apple's iPad mini, the Nokia N1 looks like a master-crafted digital device and it comes with some unique software of its own. But it won't be sold directly by Nokia.

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The Dark Side of Tech Enthusiasm

Tue, 18 Nov 2014 00:27:00 +0000

Sometimes you get what you ask for
It's interesting watching Microsoft trying to develop Windows 10 openly, and under the ever-vigilant eyes of its biggest fans. After six-plus years of secretive silence under the previous regime, this new more transparent approach is both laudable and welcome. But as Microsoft is discovering, the open approach also has a downside: its most vocal fans are also its most vocal critics when things don't go their way.

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U.S. State Department Says Its Email System Was Hacked

Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:34:00 +0000

Warfare in the 21st century
The US State Department on Sunday revealed that the unclassified part of its email system had been breached by hackers, leading to a temporary shutdown of the system. This attack is just the latest of several such electronic attacks on US governmental systems in recent weeks. But it's not clear if the State Department breach is related to previous events involving the White House, Postal Service, National Weather Service, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, among other agencies.

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Short Takes: November 14, 2014

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:07:00 +0000

An often irreverent look at this week's other news
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including a triumphant Windows Phone OS at Pwn2Own, the DOJ's airplane-based spying kit, Nokia is the new winner of "The Biggest Loser," US government warns on iOS security flaw, the US final starts noticing what Google is really doing, and a web site CEO wants a new office so he quits.

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Microsoft Fixes Bug That Dates Back to Windows 95

Thu, 13 Nov 2014 13:51:00 +0000

When was the last time you thought about OLE?
If you're nostalgic for the good old days of Windows 95, a time when Microsoft could do no wrong and ruled the personal computing market with an iron fist, well this one's for you. Hidden among this week's Patch Tuesday fixes is a fix for a vulnerability that dates back to Windows 95 and is present in every version of Windows made since.

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EU's New Competition Commissioner to Meet with Google Competitors

Wed, 12 Nov 2014 13:44:00 +0000

No more special deals
Pledging to put competitive concerns over a speedy resolution, new EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said this week that she will meet with Google's competitors as part of an ongoing effort to resolve the search firm's long-running antitrust case. Vestager also indicated that the EU would limit the current case to the issues at hand and not allow it to spread to other areas of potential abuse.

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Lync to Transform Into Skype for Business

Tue, 11 Nov 2014 14:00:00 +0000

It's official
This should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to Microsoft's evolution of Lync over the past two years. But when the next version hits in early 2015, it will be rebranded as Skype for Business, and will include new client and server experiences and of course an update to Office 365.

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