ZIP folders were originally a Microsoft engineer’s side hustle until bosses figured out he worked for Microsoft

Also: Edge on Apple arrives in the Dev Channel, HealthBot goes to the cloud, and Chile to get an Azure Region

In brief  Retired Microsoft engineer Dave Plummer uploaded another Windows war story to his YouTube channel over the weekend, this time concerning the history of the handy zip folder functionality that has been a feature of the Windows shell over recent decades.…

In brief Retired Microsoft engineer Dave Plummer uploaded another Windows war story to his YouTube channel over the weekend, this time concerning the history of the handy zip folder functionality that has been a feature of the Windows shell over recent decades.

Plummer said that having made a few dollars selling software of his own (notably the Amiga HyperCache) he’d asked for a moonlighting clause to be added to his Microsoft contract to allow him to continue selling his wares.

“Microsoft had no objection,” he said, “and they cheerfully agreed.”

So long as he got approval from his manager. A vice president’s nod was needed if the software was directly related to his day job.

Plummer had already contributed one side project, Task Manager, to Windows. His next, a shell extension to browse into and drag and drop to and from ZIP files, he opted to sell himself. A rival, alas, took exception to competition in the shareware space from a Microsoft employee working in the shell team and complained to the higher-ups, we’re told.

Things escalated until a veep eventually ruled: “I have no problem with this,” according to Plummer.

Even back then, Microsoft’s left arm was frequently unaware of the activities of its right, and Plummer said he was later contacted by a member of the Acquisitions Team keen to add his wonder-extension to Windows. A bit of awkwardness ensued when Plummer suggested dropping by the office, but was told, “I should talk to Microsoft Travel and the Legal Department first,” before the penny dropped on the other end that he was actually a Microsoft employee.

Still, while Plummer noted that the way he’d had to implement the extension made it “no speed demon”, the offer he really couldn’t refuse did at least buy him a red Corvette, he said.

Microsoft Healthcare Bot heads to Azure

Microsoft’s “conversational AI experience for Healthcare” is making the unsurprising jump to Azure as the Windows behemoth stated “customers will be able to seamlessly migrate from Microsoft Healthcare Bot to Azure Health Bot with a few simple steps and no downtime.”

The Healthcare Bot is aimed at healthcare organisations looking for a chatbot that contains a medical database, understands clinical terminology and can be customised to meet specific needs and use cases. Corporate veep for conversation AI Lili Cheng threw out some impressive figures. Thousands of bots had been spawned from Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot, delivering “close to 1 billion messages to over 80 million people worldwide, spanning 25 countries.”

With the move to Azure, Microsoft has also added templates for checking the eligibility of those seeking COVID-19 vaccinations as well as answering related questions.

While Microsoft boasted of “the most comprehensive compliance coverage of any cloud service provider” for the Azure incarnation of the bot, the cloudy Doctor Tay* won’t be conversing with those not covered by the East US and West Europe regions.

* It definitely isn’t Tay, more’s the pity.

Edging closer to release on Apple silicon

As it approaches its first birthday, Microsoft’s Edge browser has continued to spread itself over more platforms with the arrival of a Dev build of the company’s Chromium take on web browsing for Apple’s homegrown chippery.

A Canary build had previously debuted, but the arrival of the port in the Edge Insider Dev Channel (updated weekly) means a version will be on the way in the six-weekly Beta Channel with a release following shortly after. The speed at which the browser is barrelling along may raise an eyebrow among those with Microsoft’s own flagship Arm-powered hardware who had to wait a while for their own native version, although the Edge team is keen to cover as many popular bases as possible.

And popular the browser appears to be by some measures. A job opportunity posted by Microsoft at the end of last year claimed the browser “has already reached 600 million customers.” It did not, however, specify how many of those actually used the thing nor how many used it just the once to download a certain rival browser in the traditional Edge manner.

Azure comes to Chile

Finally, Microsoft has unveiled plans for a new data center region in Chile, bringing the delights of Azure and friends to the South American country as part of the “Transforma Chile” initiative, which will also see the company skill up 180,000 Chileans.

As well faster access to Microsoft’s services, the new region will also allow users to store data within the country; something that has taken on increasing importance as cloud users ponder privacy and regulatory compliance.

Microsoft’s Santiago adventure will join the company’s other South American facilities, such as its Brazil South Region, located in São Paulo State. Arch rival in the cloud world, Amazon, has also spread AWS into the region, with Edge locations including one in Santiago and a Regional Edge Cache in Brazil’s São Paulo. ®

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