Add-ons Might Be Included in IE "Spartan"

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 04:49 PM |
Tagged: spartan, microsoft, internet explorer 12, internet explorer, ie12, extension

The next version of Internet Explorer is said to be codenamed "Spartan". The allusions to Halo from internal Microsoft names are strong this year. One exciting rumor is the ability to run native, x86 code as a browser extension. This is expected to be built upon the Xax browser plugin model, published as a white paper by Microsoft Research six years ago. Its age should be noted when reading how it discusses JavaScript compatibility and performance. A lot has happened since then.

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But why would Internet Explorer need extensions? The first, and most obvious, answer is that Microsoft is trying to win back some enthusiasts to their browser (and its platforms). If Microsoft relaxes certification requirements for extensions, compared to Windows Store, it could also bridge the gap between native app and web app for enterprises, especially smaller businesses, a give them a platform without the burden of sideloading.

We might also see this being used by third parties to contribute to Internet Explorer development. In much the same way as Nokia experiments with WebCL by a Firefox extension, others could use Internet Explorer add-ons as a testing ground. In fact, according to their aforementioned 2008 paper, Microsoft Research already tested an OpenGL rendering stack in Xax.

We will probably find out more about the next IE soon.

Source: ZDNet

Mojang Sells to Microsoft for $2.5 Billion. Founders Leave.

Subject: General Tech | September 15, 2014 - 03:23 PM |
Tagged: Mojang, Minecraft, microsoft

Mojang AB, a company with about 22 employees, has been sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Being that the studio is based in Sweden, I would expect that it was purchased with funds that would be taxed heavily if brought back into the States, so the large sum might not feel as large to Microsoft as if they were purchasing an American company. It should be noted that they did not require that the founders, Notch, Carl, and Jakob, stay on as employees -- and they aren't.

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This, of course, leads to many concerns for die-hard Minecraft fans. First of all, what platforms (if any) will be deprecated? PlayStation? Mac? Linux? Java itself? Second, how will Microsoft change the franchise? Will they remain faithful? Will they reduce or remove third party content?

As for the founders? Only Notch seems to have commented on his next plans: participating in game making competitions and creating "small web experiments". Additionally, he says, "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I'll probably abandon it immediately." Most of his blog post references issues between Mojang and its community, regarding the EULA, server and mod monetization, possibly the CraftBucket GPL issue, and so forth. Honestly, I like the idea that Notch would spend a significant amount of free time developing web demos. I think he would contribute a lot to Web standards, especially if he is happy doing it.

As for Microsoft? Clearly they are buying Minecraft because they are running out of Halo codenames.

Source: Mojang

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Is Selling Out?

Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 15, 2014 - 01:31 AM |
Tagged: surface 3, surface, microsoft

Through their blog, Microsoft claims that their Surface Pro 3 devices are selling out in their recently added, overseas markets. In parts of Australia, all models were sold out early in the first day (we can of course question how many is "some retailers" and how much stock each had). The company expects to have appropriate stock levels in a week or two.

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Honestly, I never quite get these announcements of low stock. While it is better than having too much stock, and these releases might ease the nerves of shy investors, having too low stock is a problem, too. It is often a sign of something lacking: production, confidence, market insight, distribution, and so forth. It can tell an interesting story if these sales figures are immense, see the Nintendo Wii, but often it just raises a critical eyebrow. This is especially true if concrete figures are danced around.

I mean, if someone is at a store and looking for a Surface but none is available, do you really need to let them know that you intend to make more?

Source: Microsoft

Alleged Windows 9 Screenshots Leaked

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 10:38 PM |
Tagged: windows 9, windows, threshold, microsoft, leaked build, leak

Update: September 12th @ 12:08pm EDT

A short video has just leaked online. The screenshots cover more, but obviously as still images. It's a good idea to check out both.

Can you read German? Yes. No.

Computerbase.de (linked above in "yes") claims to have access to Windows 9 Technical Preview Build 9834. This should be close to the pre-release that is rumored to be public later this month (again, if rumors are accurate). It seems to be focused on desktop usage, as rumored, but still is uncomfortably close to Windows Store and its certification requirements.

microsoft-windows9-pre-release.jpg

Image Credit: Computerbase.de

There are some significant changes over previous versions, from virtual desktops to a nearly borderless window look and feel, seemingly be default (saving probably about 8-10 pixels per window in width and just as much eyesore). This makes me wonder how true borderless apps (RDIO, GitHub for Windows, and Blizzard's Battle.net Launcher are examples) will play with these new styles. One of the main glitches that I have with Windows 7 is when something kicks me out of Aero and most of the non-standard styled windows freak out in one way or another (Trillian and Firefox being the most obvious offenders).

Maybe, just maybe, we will be able to get our hands on it later this month or early next month.

Mojang AB Is Subject of Microsoft Purchase Rumors

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 03:04 PM |
Tagged: mojang ab, Minecraft, microsoft, consolitis

First and foremost, I would like to remind everyone of the Twitch.tv and Google acquisition rumors. Things are not done until they are done and it could be significantly more complicated than it appears on the surface. And yes, I am speaking from the position of someone who was bitten and wrote a news post on the subject.

Regardless, discussion has been circulating that Mojang AB, creators of Minecraft, were in talks to sell their company to Microsoft for $2 billion dollars. First, this tells us that randomly generated diamond and gold is worth a fortune; second, it tells us that Mojang, like Oculus, is twice the company that Instagram was. I guess all it took was those OpenGL filter effects.

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Joking aside, two billion dollars is a significant chunk of money, about a third of Computing and Gaming Hardware's annual revenue. Minecraft is definitely a valuable asset, especially with the licensed media and merchandise, and would be a good addition to a publisher's portfolio (along with their employees if convinced to stay on). It is not entirely without basis, either. Competing publisher, Activision-Blizzard, allegedly planned to spend $500 million on Destiny, although Bungie denies that, which Activision claims is the cost of launching a new franchise nowadays.

The most interesting part of the rumor, to me, is the Bloomberg report which claims that Notch initiated the discussions. He was quite outspoken against Microsoft for a while, especially with the licensing requirements for Windows Store. Apparently, current head of Microsoft's Computing and Gaming Hardware division, Phil Spencer, is friends with Notch and has been visiting him and Mojang AB.

But until something official is announced, this is all speculation. That said, Notch has been particularly quiet about the topic on Twitter. To me, that strongly suggests that something is up.

Source: Bloomberg

Scratching the Surface 2 (in the Price Tag). $100 Off.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 26, 2014 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, Surface 2

While the Surface Pro 3 has just been released, the latest Windows RT version is still the Surface 2. It is powered by Tegra 4 and contains 2GB of RAM. It also cannot run anything, unless it comes from Windows Store, it is a Windows Update, or it is a website that runs in Internet Explorer 11. If what you are looking for is Microsoft Office 2013 RT (included), Netflix, Halo: Spartan Assault, and so forth, then all Surface 2 models are currently reduced in price by $100 at the Microsoft Store.

microsoft-surface2.jpg

Of course, the launch of the Surface Pro 3 without a corresponding Surface 3 suggests that this sale is a way to clear up-to year-old stock for a product refresh. In January, there were rumors circulating that a Surface 3 would appear with a Tegra K1 processor. Of course, with the first two RT-based Surface tablets containing Tegra SoCs, that could just be pattern recognition (rather than concrete information). Other rumors claim that Microsoft is interested in Qualcomm's chips, if only for a "mini" variant.

Either way, you can get a Tegra 4-powered tablet for $349 USD (32 GB), $449 USD (64 GB), or $579 USD (64 GB with LTE from AT&T). Previously, they were $449, $549, and $679, respectively.

The mysterious September Windows release

Subject: General Tech | August 26, 2014 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: windows, microsoft, threshold, win9

Something new will be announced by Microsoft in September but no one seems to know exactly what Threshold is.  It could be a work in progress version of Windows 9: The Button's Return, but then again it could be something completely different.  The rumours and speculation are rampant, as the current 982X build carries the name "Windows Technical Preview", similar to what Win8 was labelled before release but not specific enough to discourage enthusiasts from theorizing that it could be something else.  Also adding to the fuel is a new feature in Windows Update which will allow in place upgrades of your build of Windows, perhaps similar to the Windows Vista to 7 upgrade which caused much confusion.  You can follow the links from Slashdot to get your fill of the current guesses or wait until September 30th when Microsoft finally spills the beans.

windows-9-threshold.jpg

"Nobody seems to know for sure whether 'Threshold' and 'Windows 9' will be one and the same or separate operating systems, reports Woody Leonhard in his roundup of insights on Microsoft's forthcoming OS plans, expected September 30. 'Many people think the terms are synonymous, but longtime Chinese leaker Faikee continues to maintain that they are two separate products, possibly headed in different directions.

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Source: Slashdot

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station Now Available for $200

Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2014 - 11:12 PM |
Tagged: tablet, Surface Pro 3, peripherals, microsoft, docking station, dock

Earlier this year, Microsoft took the wraps off of its latest Surface tablet: the Surface Pro 3. The new tablet comes with several peripherals including a keyboard, stylus, and a docking station that was recently made available for purchase from the Microsoft Store for $199.99.

Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Docking Station.jpg

The docking station measures 12.9" x 3.8" x 4.4" and weighs 1.43 pounds. It acts as a stand for the Surface tablet and adds a number of full sized ports. Specifically, the dock includes the following I/O options.

  • 3 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1 x Mini DisplayPort
  • 1 x 3.5mm audio jack

The docking station also has a security lock slot and power input port. Speaking of power, it is driven by a 48W power supply which Microsoft says provides ample power for charging the Surface Pro 3 and any USB attached devices.

With the dock in play, the Surface Pro 3 becomes much more business and productivity focused and may well replace desktops in some shops as supporting one device per worker should be bother easier and cheaper than supplying and supporting a desktop and laptop (and possibly a tablet). Users can attach up to two external displays by utilizing the daisy chaining feature and the single mini DisplayPort output. In total, users will have access to six USB ports (five on the dock and one available on the tablet itself).

The Surface Pro 3 Docking Station is available now from the Microsoft Store and retailers with a MSRP of $199.99.

The price does seem a bit steep, but is in line with other Surface accessories and is not likely to get much cheaper any time soon. Will you be picking up a dock for your Surface?

Source: Microsoft

A Windows 9 teaser for the end of September

Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2014 - 01:07 PM |
Tagged: win9, microsoft

Windows 8.1 has not quite been kicked to the curb yet but it has been told to start packing its bags and to look for a job.  On September 30th the rumour is that we will see a teaser of a work in progress version of the new OS.  The build is nowhere near complete and The Register expects changes from the reveal at the BUILD Conference and even more changes before the RTM version arrives.  We can be fairly certain of a less charming desktop which should have something resembling the familiar Start button, although it is quite likely to be somewhat different from the previous incarnations.  Win 8.1 will continue to receive small updates as opposed to a Service Pack, hopefully with less BSoD's than the last batch produced.

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"MICROSOFT WILL REPORTEDLY REVEAL the successor to its Windows 8 operating system on 30 September."

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Source: The Inquirer

The third incarnation of Microsoft's Pro Tablet Surfaces

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2014 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

With a 12" 2160x1440 resolution screen, a 4th generation Core i3, i5 or i7 and a full version of Win 8.1 the new Surface Pro 3 is the best tablet offered by Microsoft so far.  Overall it is thinner but 1.5" larger than the Pro 3 with better resolution with a battery that should last about 8 hours while you are working, slightly longer when just browsing.  The Surface Pen is a nice addition to the dock and stand we have become familiar with.  Overall The Inquirer was fairly impressed with Microsoft's new offering, apart from the pricing which is rather prohibitive even before accessorizing.

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"THE SURFACE PRO 3 tablet brings some of the biggest and most welcome changes seen in the Surface tablet line yet, with a bigger and better 12in HD screen, a much thinner case and an improved keyboard and kickstand, meaning its never lived more up to its motto of "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

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Source: The Inquirer