Friday, May 31, 2013

Microsoft Confirms Start Button Returns in Windows 8.1

Antoine Leblond, Corporate Vice President of Windows Program Management, wrote a lengthy blog on Thursday that provides a "first look" at Windows 8.1 although we've seen plenty in reports stemming from leaked builds over the last several months. The OS update will deliver improvements and enhancements in key areas, he states, like personalization, search, the built-in apps, Windows Store experience, and cloud connectivity. It will also include "big bets" for business in areas such as management and security.

"We’re only a bit more than seven months into this new, bold approach to computing," he says. "The response to Windows 8 has been substantial— from new devices to strong app growth to key enhancements to the OS and apps. We’ve learned from customers in how they are using the product and have received a lot of feedback. We’ve delivered hundreds of updates to the product and to apps. We’re just getting started, and the potential ahead is tremendous."...

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to prepare your business for Windows 8

 Windows 8, released to the wild last October, seems stuck in a no-win situation.

On the one hand, it is not catching on with Android- and iOS-loving consumers turned off by the Windows 8 tile-based interface and the Windows App Store, which by Android and Apple standards, is anemic and disorganized. And these days, consumer technology is frequently a precursor to enterprise technology as shown by the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon.

On the other hand, the situation for Windows 8 isn't any better in the enterprise. IT decision-makers interviewed for a new Forrester report don't see the Windows 8 experience as an improvement over the stable and well-liked Windows 7, mostly due to confusing behavior between applications running in the "Metro" touch interface and those running in the traditional desktop mode.

In the report, entitled "IT Will Skip Windows 8 as the Enterprise Standard," IT professionals reveal that a top concern about Windows 8 is the "potential for significant user training and support and the need for application redesign to take advantage of the new Windows 8 interface."...

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Does it still make sense to build your own computer?

Last summer I asked readers if it still made sense to buy a desktop. After all, laptops now offer more than ample power for most users, plus that whole portability thing. And with tablets starting to take the place of laptops, a desktop seems even farther down the computing food chain.

Then, a couple weeks back, I featured a nicely loaded desktop on my Cheapskate blog -- the first one in a while -- figuring most readers would respond with a yawn.

Quite the opposite. Turns out a lot of computer users still love desktops, and definitely want more deals on them. And I've complied with several since then, many of them selling out in the span of an afternoon.

This makes me ask: Does it still make sense to build your own computer? (Snark version: Did it ever?)

Once upon a time, this was a huge hobby. Cost-conscious buyers would peruse the pages of Computer Shopper (which in its heyday topped 1,000 pages) in search of the best deals on cases, motherboards, RAM, hard drives, and other components, the idea being that you could build your own for less than having a company build it for you...

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

Microsoft's Windows 8 Commercials for Asia Are Awesome

We'd love to see these airing in the States.

With Windows 8, Microsoft is attempting to completely reinvent the desktop space. Clever marketing is invaluable when you embark on such a challenging journey. If you though the Windows 8 commercials thus far have been a little uninspiring, you might like the campaign Microsoft has developed for Asia.

The Verge cites a Microsoft spokesperson who says the three commercials below were produced for Microsoft's Asian markets and posted to the company's general channel by mistake. They're all based around the same 'Windows 8 Training Camp' concept, and highlight the benefits of Windows 8, be it the touch screen interface, it's ability to combine work and play, and the quick and simple interface. Check them out below!...

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Start button's return to Windows 8? Probably, but there's no guarantee

Computerworld - Microsoft's head of Windows development on Tuesday came close to promising that the iconic Start button would return to the Windows 8 desktop, but never made a guarantee.

In a 25-minute interview at the Wired Business Conference, Julie Larson-Green, who with division CFO Tami Reller co-runs the group, talked about Windows 8 and the upcoming update, code-named "Blue" for now, that will ship later this year.

A public preview of Blue, which leaked copies have identified as Windows 8.1, will be made available on the Windows Store -- Microsoft's app market -- during BUILD, the developers conference set for June 26-28 in San Francisco.

Among the changes expected in Blue, according to reports last month, will be an optional restoration of the Start button and menu on the Windows 8 desktop, and perhaps another option to boot directly to that desktop, skipping the current tile-style Start Screen, which users now see first when they turn on their devices...

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Report: Global IC Foundry Market Rose 16% in 2012

According to a recent report from Gartner, the worldwide semiconductor foundry market rose by 16.2 percent in 2012 to a $34.6 billion in revenue. This year marked the first time that advanced technology for mobile applications directly drove foundry revenue and prompted foundries to increase yield in 28 nm process technology and “fine tune device performance of legacy nodes.”

These changes have been attributed to a restocking of inventory by customers, increased demand for smartphones, and the “unexpected fast rise of low-cost smartphones” in China and other emerging markets.

Gartner also reported that chips for mobile devices were mostly supplied by fabless companies as indicated by an increase in foundry revenue from fabless customers and flat or declining growth from IDM customers.

 With regards to the respective position of foundries themselves...

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Earth Day: Use Technology to Reduce Your Home Energy Use

Your appliances and devices may be sucking you dry while you sleep. In fact, the idle charger you keep plugged into the wall is drinking up electrical juice and probably costing you a few extra cents right this second. This is what we call "vampire energy" (sometimes referred to as "phantom power").

It's not new; energy efficiency programs have been spending billions for years to make consumers aware of just how much they're spending (and wasting) on electricity. Maybe it's even working. A couple of years ago the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) reported that in 2011 energy efficiency programs in the United States saved 107 terawatt hours of energy nationwide compared with the previous year. That's enough to power almost 9.3 million homes for a year. (Earth Day bonus: that in turn saved 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide generation at power plants.)

Utility companies offer many programs and tools to get you started; these programs comprised 86 percent of the savings mentioned above according to the IEE. If your company offers tools for saving power you'll save both money and energy, the latter of which could go to others who need it more...

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Advice for struggling PC software vendors

Despite all the headlines where teenage app makers sell their barely pubescent products for millions, being an independent software vendor — especially in the old-school PC world — is not an easy gig.

I'm talking especially about the makers of specialty PC software, particularly those who make what we used to call "utilities" or "power tools." In a world where PC sales drop precipitously, and our operating system makers seem to be dumbing everything down to an Angry Birds least common denominator, makers of deep, rich power tools are having some dog days.

These are the makers of the incredibly feature-rich text editor, developers of the screen capture program with 400 feature, authors of the thumbnail viewer that's really a full digital asset manager, creators of the file copy program that has more features buried in its graphical UI than the Linux shell has in all its arcane commands, and coders of the development environment that can do the craziest sorts of cross-platform live debugging.

Many of these vendors have been in business for a decade or more. They've been making money on one main piece of software and have continued to refine it, improve it, add customer-requested features, and chugged along, providing a unique value to a select set of customers with unique needs...

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Windows XP's looming retirement won't shake PC business out of sales funk

Computerworld - The looming retirement of Windows XP won't stem the dramatic drop in PC sales this year, but it may help bolster Microsoft's revenue, analysts said today.

Although experts expect some business laggards to buy new hardware as they try to replace the 12-year-old XP before it's retired in April 2014, the quantities won't be enough to move the PC shipment needle to the positive side of the meter.

"Replacements for Windows XP won't be enough to offset the declines on the consumer side," said David Daoud, an analyst with IDC.

Earlier this week, both IDC and rival Gartner released estimates of PC shipments for the first quarter. Both said sales had plummeted, with IDC pegging the contraction at 14%, a record in the 19 years since the firm began tracking shipments. Much of that decline was due to consumers ignoring new Windows 8 PCs, said IDC...

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Report: Microsoft Readying RT Version of 'Windows Blue'

Microsoft is reportedly hard at work on Windows Blue, the follow-up to the recently released Windows 8 operating system, and ZDNet reported Monday that there will be a Windows RT version of the platform.

A Windows Blue build identified as "number 9364" that leaked on the Internet this weekend is "real and is a direct internal engineering build, current as of the past week or so," according to ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley, who cited unnamed "trusted sources."

The leaked build refers to the following SKUs, according to MSFTKitchen (in fact, these references are among the few files in the leaked build that specifically refer to "Blue"):

    Windows Blue RT
    Windows Blue Personal
    Windows Blue Professional
    Windows Blue Standard Server
    Windows Blue Enterprise Server
    Windows Blue Datacenter Server
    Windows Blue Web Server...

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Seagate Hits Milestone with 2 Billionth Hard Drive

Seagate has announced that it has built its two-billionth hard drive. Seagate was founded in 1979; it took 29 years for them to ship their first billion hard drives. Since then, many applications have greatly increased the demand for storage. Particularly thanks to social media, cloud storage, and business computing, it only took Seagate four years to build another billion hard drives. As such, in 2013, Seagate is celebrating the shipment with its two-billionth hard drive...

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Can Samsung innovate?

 As with the semiconductors used in memory and screens, which gradually increase in complexity with each generation, the current wave of smartphones and tablets can be seen as a steady progression. Each new model gets thinner, with better screens and faster processors, plus hardware add-ons such as NFC (near field communication) chips, but the overall concept doesn’t change.

“Samsung is like the Japanese companies when they were at the their peak, pumping out tech products for cheaper and cheaper,” said Hiroyuki Shimizu, an analyst at Gartner.

Shimizu said one way out of this spiral is software, but Samsung has had little success in developing its own. The company has largely abandoned its Bada OS, first announced in 2010, and is almost entirely dependent on Android for core content like maps, apps and video.

“Samsung emphasizes speed and execution. But this is contradictory to creativity. If you want speed and execution, you don’t expect to create something new,” said Chang. “Software is more individual and requires out-of-box thinking.”

Still, Samsung has opened up new segments of the smartphone market...

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Why Microsoft's Surface RT Will Flop

Microsoft's Surface RT recently took a hit when Samsung halted its sales in Germany, but that's not the reason this tablet will soon bite the dust.

The Surface RT is going to fail in the market mainly because of its steep price. Microsoft is not willing to lowball the product in a competitive market even though it can easily afford to subsidize the machine and sell it for $200, rather than the $780 it goes for in Germany. This is simply too much money.

And, of course, Microsoft has no clue about marketing this device because it looks and feels like a Windows 8 machine though it is not.

I think this sort of look-alike marketing would have flown in 1997, when the computer-using public was smarter. But ever since the dot-com crash and the subsequent failure of many computer magazines, the public has been becoming dumber in matters of computing and how things actually work. The younger generations do not care about chips anymore and they look at all the devices as superficial appliances. Thus, when they see the Surface RT "Windows" machine, they do not understand why regular Microsoft Word does not work on it...

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Microsoft ships IE10 for Windows 7

Computerworld - Microsoft today released a final version of Internet Explorer 10 (IE10) for Windows 7, nearly two years after it introduced the browser at a company conference.

Customers who had earlier installed the IE10 preview will be the first to receive the upgrade through Windows Update. Others running IE9 on Windows 7 will be automatically upgraded "in the weeks ahead," according to the company, which did not get more specific than that about a timetable.

That day can't come too soon for many Windows 7 users, who have taken almost every opportunity to ask Microsoft -- most often in comments on company blogs -- when the new browser would reach them.

But IE10's debut was later than some analysts had once expected...

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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Tom's Guide: 10 Free Online Diagnostic Tools

Check out Tom's Guide's latest story on online diagnostic tools.

Keeping your computer squeaky clean and running smoothly isn't an easy task. You need to be mindful of what you download, keep an eye on performance for any changes, and keep all of your software up to date. Still, no matter how vigilant you are, you can't completely avoid computer problems. For those times, an online diagnostic tool might be your best bet for figuring out the issue without sinking a lot of time and money into special software. Check out '10 Free Online Diagnostic Tools' for some of our favorites...

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Reddit Recap: Bill Gates' Seven Best Responses

Microsoft founder Bill Gates won over the Reddit crowd by answering a plethora of questions.

Bill Gates is a rock star on so many levels. Yes, he co-founded Microsoft, built his net worth to tens of billions of dollars, and now spends his days doing philanthropy work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, all of which are admirable in their own right. It would be easy for someone in his position to be an egotistical jerk who's disconnected from the public at large, but instead, this is the same guy who once did the Robot next to Jerry Seinfeld, made us crave churros in another Vista ad, and more recently (as in, yesterday) answered a boatload of questions on Reddit.

He didn't just answer three or four questions. The man with more money than most of us could spend in a lifetime provided nearly three dozen responses to a near non-stop barrage of inquiries ranging from silly to serious, and everything in between. If you have a free moment, it's worth reading all of his replies, but in the meantime, here are seven responses that stood out:

Question: If Microsoft didn't take off, what would you have done and be doing instead?
Answer: If the microprocessor had NOT come along I am not sure what I would have done. Maybe medicine or theoretical math, but it is hard to say.

Question: How was your relationship with Steve Jobs? I always hoped that y'all were really good friends and competitors.
Answer: He and I respected each other. Our biggest project was the Mac where Microsoft had more people on the project than Apple did as we wrote a lot of applications. I saw Steve regularly over the years including spending an afternoon with him a few months before he tragically passed away...

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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Does Microsoft Fit Into Dell's $24.4 Billion Buyout?

Microsoft's $2 billion loan helped Michael Dell and partners purchase Dell for $24.4 billion.

First things first -- if you haven't heard by now, Dell is going private. Michael Dell, with the help of private equity firm Silver Lake and a significant loan from Microsoft, have agreed to pay Dell's public shareholders $13.65 a share, valuing the transaction at $24.4 billion. Now Mr. Dell is free to run the company without having to answer to shareholders, and while it will likely be years before we know if this was in the best interest of Dell, there's an interesting side story involving Microsoft that deserves attention.

Without Microsoft's $2 billion loan, either this deal doesn't go down, or another company with that kind of cash to spend steps in. What's Microsoft's play in all this?

"Microsoft has provided a $2 billion loan to the group that has proposed to take Dell private. Microsoft is committed to the long term success of the entire PC ecosystem and invests heavily in a variety of ways to build that ecosystem for the future," Microsoft said in a statement.

"We're in an industry that is constantly evolving. As always, we will continue to look for opportunities to support partners who are committed to innovating and driving business for their devices and services built on the Microsoft platform," the company added.

So there's Microsoft's official explanation on why it got involved to the tune of $2 billion. As far as what it's willing to admit, Microsoft's play is that it has an obvious vested interest in the PC ecosystem, and apparently it believes, as Michael Dell does, that taking Dell private is the right move at this time...

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Facebook Now Has a Reusable Gift Card

Facebook is inching even further into retail space with the introduction of a new gift card that can handle multiple balances. Starting Thursday, Facebook users can log on and purchase this Discovered-powered card, which is then physically delivered to the recipient. However, for now, it only supports four businesses: Jamba Juice, Olive Garden, Sephora, and Target.

To purchase one of these cards, users must direct themselves to the Facebook Gifts page. The new cards are found under the obvious Gift Cards & Digital category, but as of this writing were not present. Facebook indicated that Target, Olive Garden and the other two will be individually listed among Starbucks, iTunes, Hulu Plus and other current offerings.

Once the actual retailer is chosen, the sender determines the amount to be placed on the card. "Your friend will be notified instantly about your gift, and will receive a Facebook Card in the mail a few days later. As soon as it arrives, your friend can use the card at the retailer you've chosen for the amount you’ve gifted," Facebook said...

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dell Unveils Upgraded XPS 13 Ultrabook at CES

Powered by third-gen Intel Core processor, but omits touch.

Dell has unveiled an upgrade to the 2012 XPS 13 ultrabook, with the new model integrating newer third-gen Intel Core processors, as well as a brighter, full-HD 1080p 13-inch display.

While all Dell Inspirons laptops sport touch support, the technology has been omitted with the 2013 model of the XPS 13 ultrabook. Either way, it sports a 350-nit, 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution display option (the 2012 model has a 1,366 x 768 resolution) and can be powered via Core i5 or i7 processor configurations...

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Windows 8 Upgrade Deadlines Approaching in January

Microsoft is phasing out discounted and free upgrades, as well as the Windows 8 Preview in January.

If you intend to upgrade to Windows 8 soon, you will need to do so in January, as the $39.99 price for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade will expire on January 31. You can also purchase the upgrade now and install it at a later point in time. The shipped and packaged version is priced at $69.99. The offer includes about $70 in discounts for certain apps.

Microsoft will also phase out the free Media Center upgrade for Windows 8 Pro on January 31. Windows 8 users have to purchase the software for $69.99 (and get an upgrade to Windows 8 Pro)...

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