Microsoft Surprises Again With Purchase Of Minecraft

Like the rest of the world, I was fairly shocked yesterday when I heard about the Microsoft purchase of Minecraft and its creator Mojang for $2.5 billion. That’s twice now that Microsoft has shocked me with its videogame strategy. The first time was about 15 years ago, when the software giant announced it would launch a new home console called the Xbox into an already crowded console market. The Xbox turned out to be a smashing success that continues to fuel a tiring Microsoft brand.
Most analysts paint the Minecraft purchase as a mobile strategy: Windows phones show a scant 3% marketshare, and Minecraft is one of the most popular apps for mobile platforms. True to a point, perhaps. But I also think the Minecraft purchase is another attempt to refresh the tiring Microsoft brand.
Think about it. On the one hand, the Xbox is hands-down the M-rated console, defined by blood-and-degradation titles like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Buy a 10-year-old an Xbox 360 and then try to find a game rated below Teen. You’ll be sadly disappointed.
On the other hand, Minecraft is appropriate for gamers of literally any age. It’s creative, it’s open-ended, and it singlehandedly launched the modern mega-million-dollar sub-economy in which of millions of gamers watch hundreds of gamers play games on “Let’s Play” YouTube channels. Minecraft delivers a feel-good salve for Xbox-hating parents, a feel-good salve for open-source-loving, Windows-hating millennials and a direct patch into the massive YouTube economy.
For a solution that broad and powerful, $2.5 billion doesn’t seem so high a price.
A few interesting links:
If you’ve never watched anyone play Minecraft on YouTube, here’s a good starter video from Tobuscus (note the 5-million-plus views):

If you have trouble understanding why anyone would want to spend hours watching a video of someone else playing a videogame, you’ll love this classic parody from The Onion about the World of World of Warcraft expansion pack.

(Feature image from

Microsoft Ending Technical Support On XP

According to the Boston Globe (March 13, 2014) almost 30% of the world’s desktop computers run Microsoft Corp.’s Windows XP, as do 95% of the world’s ATMs (per ATM maker NCR Corp.).
However, on April 8, 2014, Microsoft will stop providing technical support for the software. After the XP sunset, there won’t be any further updates or security patches, and protecting any sensitive data you may have from online piracy may prove to be difficult. You may become a ticking time bomb.
Microsoft will continue to update the XP version of its free Security Essentials program until July 2015. Other security software makers will do the same, but virus programs usually filter out attacks only after the damage is done. Besides, the security flaw that made the attack possible will still be present.
In addition, they’re saying that one single compromised computer in the home or office network exposes all the other computers to attack.
So what are your options?
1. Buy a new computer
2. Install the open operating system, Linux, as an easy interface with Windows
3. Complete a full Windows upgrade, with computers running on Windows 7 instead of Windows 8 which has been labeled by many as user-unfriendly.
4. Purchase an external harddrive and use it to back up all files on your old machine
(Photo: Sunset background courtesy of Kevin Dooley on Flickr.)

Microsoft Officially Ends Windows XP Support: Security Issues Arise

The end of extended support for Windows XP is official.  As of April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer develop or release security and/or updates for the ever-popular and overhauled Windows XP SP3 operating system. Microsoft has done the same for W95 & W98 in the past. Current data suggests that Windows XP is still running on 31% of desktops worldwide and is celebrating its 13th birthday, which is many years beyond its life expectancy.
Microsoft XP is just not built for the new digital world.
As well, Microsoft Vista will be end-of-life on April 11, 2017 and Windows 7 is scheduled for end-of-life January 14, 2020 – well within the 13-year-run XP has enjoyed.
What does this mean for Windows XP? It means no safeguards against viruses, spyware or intrusion from hackers, no updates, no patches and no support. Windows XP will not be able to support the latest and safest web-compatible versions of Internet Explorer or the latest hardware advances.
Web developers globally will be ecstatic to see XP-only IE 6, 7 and 8 go away.  Not to mention that you can’t upgrade from Windows XP to Windows 7 – instead, it must be installed from scratch with the average enterprise migration taking 18-24 months from business case to full deployment.

What are the implications?

A lot of software that only runs on XP will not run. After April 8, 2014, you will lose send/receive email, network/internet access, network printing services and data transfers from removable media. Attackers will exploit the security code and essentially Windows XP will have “zero day” vulnerabilities forever. There are many out there who argue there’s anti-virus software that can block attacks and clean up infections if they occur, but who can say for sure or want to take that risk?
Can the APIs Used By AV Companies Be Trusted? Will Microsoft’s DEP (Data Execution Prevention) key to XP’s security be overcome by attackers?
All very good questions, indeed.
All is not lost, however. One can always look to White List solutions and/or Linux! Stay tuned!