Opinion: Microsoft takes computing to the extremes

By Julio Franco · 16 replies
Sep 26, 2017
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  1. Sometimes, context and comparison can really make a difference. At the company’s combined Envision and Ignite events in Orlando this week for both business and IT professionals, Microsoft showed off its ability to reach the extremes of computing. It talked about both new low-end (sub-$300) Windows 10 S-based notebooks, as well as entirely new types of computing with a circuit board, prototype device, and programming language built for a functioning quantum computer.

    On a practical level, the new Windows 10 S devices coming soon from HP, Lenovo, and Acer are probably a much better iteration of what 10 S-based computers should look like. Recall that Windows 10 S is a “simplified” or cleaned-up version of Windows 10 that can only run modern Windows 10 applications available from the Microsoft store, and was (until now) primarily targeted towards the education market. Specifically, the apps must comply with all the “rules” that Microsoft has defined for the most optimized performance and long-term stability on Windows.

    Microsoft is targeting Windows 10 S at what it calls firstline workers—everyone from receptionists, to sales clerks, and 2 billion others who are often the people that first interact with a business’ customers on the front lines.

    In theory, 10 S is a great idea that can rid the world of problematic applications, allow PCs to run faster and more consistently and, best of all, avoid the inevitable Windows “rot” that slows your computer down as you use it over a period of time. In reality, however, there are a lot of applications that don’t conform to all of Microsoft’s rules—especially in business environments, where custom applications are extremely common.

    Not surprisingly, as a result, 10 S has seen relatively little adoption in the enterprise, even though Microsoft initially tried to drive a higher-end view of 10 S by installing it on the pricey Surface Laptop. With this week’s announcement, however, Microsoft is targeting Windows 10 S at what it calls firstline workers—everyone from receptionists, to sales clerks, and 2 billion others who are often the people that first interact with a business’ customers on the front lines. The argument is that many of these workers have more simplistic computing needs, so a less expensive, less powerful, and less flexible device will still be more than sufficient.

    While it’s easy to pick apart some elements of Microsoft’s position, frankly, this is the same group of workers that companies who build and sell thin clients have successfully focused on for years. At least with these new Windows 10 S notebooks they get a mobile computer and local storage—two key detractors against thin clients. Plus, it comes at a price point that is actually cheaper than some desktop-only thin clients. Finally, and most importantly, one of the real distinguishing parts of this new offering is a low-cost version of Microsoft 365, which combines Microsoft’s Office 365 productivity applications, along with security and manageability services. Taken together, it’s a pretty compelling package that I think will finally bring some life and opportunity to Windows 10 S in business.

    At the other extreme, Microsoft’s announcements on quantum computing were absolutely revolutionary. The company has chosen to follow the path of topological quantum computing—apparently, one of several options being researched around the world—and discussed an array of extremely complex math, physics, and computer science challenges coming together via a 12-year effort.

    Microsoft described its efforts to turn mathematical theory into practical reality via a chip that can perform quantum calculations, a steampunk-looking computing device that operates at near absolute zero, and even a programming language.

    Using a vocabulary that practically sounded like a foreign language—qubits, Majorana fermions, decoherence, etc.—the company described its efforts to turn mathematical theory into practical reality via a chip that can perform quantum calculations, a steampunk-looking computing device that operates at near absolute zero (the extreme cold is currently necessary to manipulate qubits), and even a programming language built into Microsoft’s Visual Basic programming environment that can create algorithms designed for quantum computing applications.

    All told, it was an extremely impressive, though still confusing, discussion of where the next several decades of computing will likely be focused. To make it a bit more practical, the company even announced the ability to create quantum computing algorithms that, for now at least, can be simulated on the Azure cloud computing platform.

    While Microsoft never made any comparisons between the low-cost Windows 10 S notebooks and quantum computing announcements, as an event attendee, you couldn’t help but notice how stark the difference was between them. Some might argue that the range was a bit too wide, but it reflects the breadth of Satya Nadella’s vision for Microsoft, and how the company has extended its idea of computing across an enormously broad spectrum of possibilities.

    Bob O’Donnell is the founder and chief analyst of TECHnalysis Research, LLC a technology consulting and market research firm. You can follow him on Twitter . This article was originally published on Tech.pinions.

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  2. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,280

    "qubits, Majorana fermions, decoherence???"
    Who was hosting the show? New employees M$ just recruited from the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings gangs? D'ya know what they sayin' dogs? I sure as hell don't but I think majorana must mean marijuana, decoherence could be a new psychedelic drug, fermions could allude to pheromones and qubits might be the equivalent of a key.
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
  3. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 2,748   +1,312

    He's got to say something that the general public will not understand, otherwise, the general public will think M$ is becoming irrelevant. What he is not saying is that he probably has no clue what he said, either.
  4. J spot

    J spot TS Addict Posts: 189   +105

    I don't like that term, "Windows rot." The way it's used makes it sound as if you leave your computer on, over time it will get slower, when in reality the reason why a Windows computer might get slower is because not so knowledgeable users install crap software. And even legit software from say companies like Adobe, have software that startup automatically with Windows, even if you barely ever use it. You can go to startup and disable them from starting up with Windows.
    Reehahs and hood6558 like this.
  5. BrianMontanye

    BrianMontanye TS Booster Posts: 70   +44

    I highly doubt they do not know what those are. Those are all quantum physics terms and very common when talking about quantum computing.

    jobeard and namesrejected like this.
  6. seeprime

    seeprime TS Maniac Posts: 221   +186

    JaredTheDragon likes this.
  7. namesrejected

    namesrejected TS Guru Posts: 398   +301

    I would consider the X-Box line a greater deviation from the roots of Microsoft than writing a quantum computing language. I just wonder how bad a BSOD on a quantum computer is going to be, and what it will cost to fix.
  8. hood6558

    hood6558 TS Evangelist Posts: 345   +100

    Very true - most of time it's caused by bad user practices, like installing crappy software, and failing to do routine cleanup and maintenance. I did have this problem in the past, when I was less knowledgeable - now that I know more, and have an established routine for maintenance, the problem no longer exists (for me). I've been rocking the same version of Win 10 for almost a year, with no problems at all, and no slowdowns.
  9. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 388   +250

    Gotta love how these morons are still touting "quantum computers" when they don't even have the correct quanta. Electrons do not cause electricity, nor magnetism.
  10. enemys

    enemys TS Maniac Posts: 168   +163

    Yeah... Except they didn't say anything like that at all, it's just a straight lie used as a clickbait title. One of the researchers from their team thinks they will be able to detect cancerous cells within 10 years, while other one says they will be able to cure it - probably.
    The first one: “It’s long term, but… I think it will be technically possible in five to 10 years time to put in a smart molecular system that can detect disease.”

    The second one: “If we are able to control and regulate cancer then it becomes like any chronic disease and then the problem is solved.”
    “I think for some of the cancers five years, but definitely within a decade. Then we will probably have a century free of cancer."
    And, since these are two short quotes placed together, they could have been stripped of some context to make them seem to mean more that they were supposed to.
  11. enemys

    enemys TS Maniac Posts: 168   +163

    "a programming language built into Microsoft’s Visual Basic programming environment" - it's Visual Studio, not Visual Basic.

    "a programming language (...) that can create algorithms"
    I'm pretty sure it's people who create algorithms, not programming languages alone. I haven't seen a programming language that could create algorithms on it's own.
    Reehahs likes this.
  12. erickmendes

    erickmendes TS Evangelist Posts: 404   +168

    Reehahs likes this.
  13. Vic1248

    Vic1248 TS Rookie

    That is fascinating. And, the stark difference between lite computing represented in Windows 10 S on the Surface laptop and quantum computing represented in the steampunk-looking computing device just shows how vast the scope of Microsoft's technical capabilities really is. I like Microsoft's and IBM's approach to quantum computing much better than Google's and D-Wave's, the formers are more realistic. And yes, de-coherence is what's holding quantum computing back at the moment.
  14. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,994   +1,314

    it's called a COMPILER :grin:
  15. enemys

    enemys TS Maniac Posts: 168   +163

    Compiler isn't a programming language, it can't produce output without input and it produces code that performs algorithms equivalent to the ones defined in the source code.
  16. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,994   +1,314

    Didn't say it was - - just that it produces algorithms. To get something from nothing (aka no inputs) would make you God :grin:
  17. jobeard

    jobeard TS Ambassador Posts: 11,994   +1,314

    Low level languages like C, C++, Perl, PHP are very direct in translating a language statement into a machine executable set of instructions.

    Higher level abstractions like Prolog and LSP {AI languages} have user defined predicates which can be combined into some very large algorithms from a single end-user input. As both of these languages are compiled (not interpreted), the compiler creates large algorithms.

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