Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 03:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 7, windows, microsoft signature, microsoft
Microsoft’s Signature program is a Microsoft Store and online service where the company resells OEM partners’ computers without all the traditional bloatware programs. The company puts a clean install of Windows on the hardware, installs Microsoft applications–including Microsoft Security Essentials, Live Movie Maker, and Live Mail–and optimized the OS for that particular machine’s hardware. This Signature install of Windows has only been available to users that purchased a new computer from Microsoft–until now.
According to Ars Technica, Microsoft is now offering to turn any OEM PC running Windows into a Signature edition of the operating system for a one-time fee of $99. DIYers and enthusiasts are likely to scoff at the nearly hundred dollar price tag for popping in a Windows 7 install disc and doing a clean install, but the Signature service is most certainly not aimed at the technically savvy market to begin with. Rather, this is a service for ordinary computer users to get the most performance out of their computer while avoiding the numerous “optimize my PC” scams and malware-programs-masquerading-as-Windows-utilities minefield. Doing a clean install and then optimizing the OS can take at least an hour (though enthusiasts can generally shave that time down quite a bit), and a straight fee of $99 is a lot less than consumers are likely to find elsewhere (especially since that includes 90 days of tech support). And that’s where I think this program is okay, and even a good thing. Most OEM systems come pre-loaded with a bunch of unwanted programs and trial offers that serve no real purpose besides making the OEM more money. There is also the issue of security. The majority of OEM systems come pre-loaded with some form of trial antivirus (usually Norton), and customers are notorious for not upgrading to the paid edition after the trial period or replacing it with (better) free antivirus applications. For $99, Microsoft will take the OEM machine and spruce it up to be the operating system that it should have been running in the first place. Besides price, the other barrier to this catching on is that customers need to bring the PC into a Microsoft Store (which are few and far between).
That statement is where many users are not pleased with Microsoft. They believe that Microsoft should exert more control over what OEMs are allowed to do with its operating system. Certainly, that is the ideal solution, but Microsoft is not Apple and they do not have the same level of control over the resulting hardware and what is bundled into the OS after it is purchased by OEMs. The Signature program is at least a step in the right direction and making the best of the situation. Also, it is an optional service that consumers are free to shop around to find a better price (or learn how to do it themselves by checking out guides online). It may not be the best thing, but at least Microsoft recognizes that there is a problem and is offering an alternative.
I’ll admit that I reacted unfavorably when I first read about the program, especially since it seemed so expensive for what comes as second nature to me. But not everyone wants to muck around in settings and for those with more money than time the Signature program is not a bad deal. It’s not for me, but I can see situations where it will work well. What are your thoughts on the program; do you see it as useful or is Microsoft way off base here?
Subject: General Tech | May 7, 2012 - 11:58 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xbox 360, microsoft, gaming, console
The Xbox 360 has now been available in some form for almost seven years and has sold approximately 67.2 million units. Consumers are able to get the updated Xbox 360 4GB model for $199 USD at many retailers along with the Kinect add-on for $99. If that price still seems too steep, Microsoft has started to offer a subsidized Xbox 360 and Kinect bundle for those users lucky enough to live close to a physical Microsoft Store. There are currently 17 stores in a number of US states, with four more listed as "coming soon."
Microsoft is offering a two year contract of Xbox Live Gold for $14.99 a month. As a promotion for signing the contract, the company will sell a 4GB Xbox 360 S and Microsoft Kinect add-on for $99 USD. In total, the system will cost $458.76 plus applicable taxes–$359.76 for the monthly contract and $99 for the hardware. Interestingly, the subsidized cost ends up being more expensive than buying it outright. In under five minutes of searching around Amazon, I found 2 1 year subscriptions to Xbox Live Gold and an Xbox 360 S 4GB and Kinect hardware bundle for $380.20.
That isn’t surprising but is still interesting that the subsidized model with contract does end up being more expensive. If you can’t afford the upfront cost the subscription may be worth it, especially with the Xbox Next not coming this year. Buying the hardware outright is going to cost less but considering the Xbox is rather dated at this point, paying $99 for the hardware–with the Xbox Live Gold contract not being locked to that one console– may be a better deal should the next Xbox be released within that two year window then buying both consoles outright. At least then, you can apply the contract towards the new console and not be out as much money on the original hardware. In the end, it is a nice alternative method for getting the console and Kinect hardware.
Subject: General Tech | April 13, 2012 - 08:57 AM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, leak, office 15, internet explorer 10
Microsoft had a very atypical reaction to the leak of slides which you can catch at The Register this morning. While most companies disavow any knowledge of leaks and refuse to either confirm or deny the veracity of the leaks, Microsoft came out and confirmed that the plans and dates are correct but that no one should bank on them actually meeting those deadlines. March of next year is when Office 15 is slated to arrive, along with Exchange, SharePoint, Visio and Project updates. Office 360 should continue to receive updates every quarter, so users of that SaaS may be the first to encounter any changes that will be incorporated into Office 15. Any users of IE should expect a new version this summer, but after that it will be two years before the next major rehaul of the browser occurs.
"Maarten Visser, CEO of Dutch cloud developer consultancy Meetroo, posted the plans, which were issued by Redmond at the end of last year, on his Twitter stream and they include launch dates for product as Office 15, Windows Phone and IE 10. Microsoft has confirmed the veracity of the images, but warns you shouldn't bet the bank on them."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Real-time movie FX editing on the Flash PCIe cards @ The Register
- Open-Source NVIDIA Driver Approaches Stable State @ Phoronix
- Thunderbolt Roadmap Unveiled for 2013 Apple Macs @ VR-Zone
- When super-sized smartphones become pocketable tablets @ The Tech Report
Subject: General Tech | March 20, 2012 - 11:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows on arm, windows 8, microsoft, arm
The Windows 8 Consumer Preview has been out for a few weeks now, and despite the controversy around the new interface it does seem to be coming along nicely as far as development and bug testing is concerned. While the Windows On ARM has received much less attention and Microsoft has publicly released very little about it, we can only assume that the company is working hard on getting it up and running on upcoming ARM tablets.
There have been several reports on release time frames, and the general consensus for the Windows 8 release will be Q4 2012 at the latest. Alternatively, if Bloomberg's sources "with knowledge of the schedule" are to be believed, the public will be getting both Intel and ARM versions of Windows 8 a bit earlier than expected. Specifically, Microsoft has chosen their upcoming operating system to "go on sale around October." Microsoft will also be releasing more specific dates during an event for its hardware partners in April.
Apparently, Microsoft has been rather strict with device makers in regards to hardware configurations allowed for launch devices that are to be powered by the Windows on ARM version of Windows 8. Of the ARM launch devices, only three of them will be tablets. Steven Sinofsky, president of the Windows business, has stated that both the ARM and Intel/AMD versions of Windows 8 will be released at the same time, and that “I wouldn’t be saying it’s a goal if I didn’t think we could do it.” Microsoft restricting the designs is likely the reason they are able to get WoA out of the door at the same time as the tried and true x86 and x64 versions.
More information on Windows 8 can be found around the site:
- Set up Windows 8 Consumer Preview in a virtual machine
- Windows on ARM details
- No more Start Button in Windows 8
- Windows 8 Defender at risk of anti-trust violation?
- Windows 8 news via the "windows 8" tag!
Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2012 - 07:35 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: WOA, windows 8, tablets, nokia, microsoft, arm
Earlier this year we heard talk of several planned Windows On ARM tablets that would run the upcoming Windows 8 operating system, and now more planned tablets have emerged. Asus is planning to release four Windows 8 tablets (two WOA versions), and according to Digitimes, Nokia will be joining the fray with their own WOA tablets.
Allegedly, Nokia will launch a 10" ARM tablet powered by Qualcomm's dual core System on a Chip (SoC) processor. The tablet will run the Windows on ARM version of Windows 8, and their sources have expressed that the Nokia tablet will further fuel the mobile tablet market and provide healthy competition for the iPad juggernaut.
Further, according to "sources at upstream component suppliers," Nokia will be outsourcing the manufacturing of their Windows 8 tablet to Compal Electronics. Also, the sources have stated that the first production batch will consist of 200,000 units.
Don't forget to check out our guide on virtualizing Windows 8 to get an idea of how the new interface works. More information on the Windows On ARM front as it develops.
Microsoft's juggernaut Windows operating system powers on with the company preparing Windows 7's successor in Windows 8. The new operating system (OS) was first released for public consumption during the last BUILD conference in the form of a "Developer Preview." This release was mainly intended for software developers to start to get a feel for the OS and its new features, but many consumers and technology enthusiasts also took a peek at the OS to get an idea of where MS was going with its next OS.
Coinciding with Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2012, Microsoft released the next iteration of the in progress OS, and this time it is aimed at getting consumer feedback. The aptly named Consumer Preview build is now available for download by anyone interested.
Windows 8 Consumer Preview Desktop
The question many consumers and enthusiasts are likely asking; however, is what to do with the MS provided ISO, and what the safest and easiest method for testing the beta operating system is. One appropriate answer, and the method covered in this guide, is to use a virtual machine program to test the Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a VM without needing to muck with or worry about effecting your existing system or settings. Installing to bare hardware will always be faster, but if you upgrade to Windows 8 CP from Windows 7, you will not be able to go back once the beta period is over. By installing Windows 8 Consumer Preview inside a virtual machine will allow you to test out the operating system in a secure environment, and if you have a recent machine with at least 4 GB of RAM, performance of the OS should be sufficient to get an idea of the new OS and whether you want to pursue a bare hardware full install.
I expect that many users are going to be curious about the new build as the Windows 8 OS has ignited several heated debates among enthusiasts concerning the direction Microsoft is going. The new Metro interface, removal of Start Menu, and the overhauled Windows logo are three of the major concerns users have raised, for example.
The specific program in question that we will be using is Oracle's VirtualBox software, which is a free VM host that is very easy to setup and use. Another alternative is VMWare, and the setup process will be very similar (though the exact steps and settings will differ slightly). This guide will show you how to go from the Windows 8 ISO to a fully functional installation inside a VirtualBox virtual machine. If you are familiar with setting up a new VirtualBox VM, you can safely skip those steps. I felt it prudent to go through the entire process; however, for those new to VirtualBox that wish to try out the new Microsoft OS.
Subject: Mobile | February 26, 2012 - 03:08 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: WP7, windows phone, smartphone, nokia, mobile, microsoft, marketshare
Last year Nokia and Microsoft announced a partner ship that would combine Nokia's hardware with Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 mobile operating system. Back then, the move by Nokia to abandon Maemo, MeeGo, and Symbian was not a popular one; however, it does seem to have worked out well for the company (despite some burned bridges).
According to a new report by Strategy Analytics, not only have Nokia Windows Phone 7 devices proved a popular choice, but the company has managed to propel itself to 33.1% marketshare; a number that makes Nokia the world's largest Windows Phone smartphone vendor in Q4 2011. Further, the company shipped just under 1 million units in Q4 2011 while the market as a whole saw 2.7 million units shipped. That is a significant jump from the previous quarter where Nokia did not ship any units and the market as a whole shipped only 2 million.
|Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q3'11||Vendor Shipments (Millions) Q4'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q3'11||Vendor Marketshare (%) Q4'11|
|Total||2 Million Units||2.7 Million Units||100%||100%|
While Nokia does not yet have majority share of the Windows Phone smartphone market all to themselves, they do have the most marketshare of any single vendor. The increased presence of Nokia helped the Windows Phone market as a whole see a total quarter over quarter growth of 36%, according to the report. Further, Director of Strategy Analytics Tom Kang noted that Nokia managed to snag most of it's marketshare from HTC who is also losing ground in the Android market to rival Samsung.
Neil Mawston, the Executive Director of Strategy Analytics determined that the Nokia Lumia WP7 smartphone series, and increased marketing and retail presence in Asian and European countries significantly helped Nokia grow it's marketshare.
Needless to say, Nokia management and shareholders are likely pleased by this turn of events. It will be interesting to see where Nokia is marketshare wise at the end of this year as their new Lumia series smarphones proliferate across the world. The full report is available here to Strategy Analytics clients.
Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2012 - 10:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, OS, microsoft, logo
That fluttering window containing flag that would carry Microsoft into Operating System dominance on the, er, wind of success debuted with Windows 3.0 in 1990. As the years have passed, the company has made alterations and updates to keep the design modern. After 22 years of ingraining into people's minds that the flag logo is Windows, Microsoft may be ditching it in favor of a new minimalistic monochromatic affair. According to Chinese site cnBeta.com, Microsoft will roll out the new Windows logo with the launch of Windows 8. Allegedly, the new logo will be four turquoise panels with a shifted perspective and separated by interior white borders. The site claims that the evidence lies in a logo photo and a photograph of a physical "Windows" button on a tablet.
Personally, I think Microsoft would be crazy to change their logo, and especially insane to switch to this particular alleged new logo. Minimalist designs certainly have their place, but the colorful Windows logo that we are all used to has always done a good job of catching the eye (and four blue-green rectangles just don't do it for me). Not to mention that the company has had 22 years to burn into the minds of consumers that the logo is Windows, and it will be difficult for people to accept the new logo. There is definitely a certain amount of nostalgia and consumer confidence associated with the "old" logo, and it seems odd that Microsoft would be so cavalier to throw it away just to make their logo look better on the Metro desktop. Perhaps if they were changing direction and entering a different market or if they had a line of crappy products they would want a new logo, but that really does not seem to be the case. Here's hoping the photos are just fake. On the other hand, if Microsoft does end up taking out the start button it's not like people will be seeing the new logo anyway (heh).
What are your thoughts on the new logo? Am I off base in thinking that the current logo has a lot of "mindshare" built up and it would be crazy to just leave it behind?
Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2012 - 08:19 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, windows, start orb, start button, microsoft, crazy
Microsoft is continuing full steam ahead with Windows 8 development where they axe many of the familiar features of previous Windows iterations. According to a post over at The Verge, the latest feature to get removed is the start button of all things. In the "Consumer Preview" version of the upcoming operating system, users will be greeted with a desktop that shows application icons and the Super Bar, but no start button in sight.
Oddly enough, they are removing the Start button in favor of a small area in the lower left of the screen that, when hovered over with a mouse or swiped over on a touchscreen, a Windows 8 charm (small menu) will appear along with a thumbnail preview of the mode that will be switched to upon clicking the element. For example, when you are in the Metro Start Screen mode, hovering over this area would show a small preview of the full Windows desktop and vice versa.
I'm a bit confused by this move as it doesn't really add anything to the experience, and makes the start "button" hover area harder to hit and find. Tech support people are likely crying now, as it is difficult enough to get people to click on the start button much less have the patience to hover over an area or perform a swipe action in the lower left of the screen! Not to mention that the start button has been a signature of the Microsoft operating system since Windows 95. At least the Windows key (i hope) still works as expected, but it seems like a non sensical move. How do you guys feel about the change? Will you be keeping your relatives and/or employees on Windows 7 (heh)?
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2012 - 12:48 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: portable, PC, microsoft, laptop, kinect
At CES 2012, Microsoft announced that they would be releasing a Kinect sensor and SDK (software development kit) for Windows. In that same vien, the company is now exploring the idea of integrating a Kinect sensor directly into laptop computers.
Not the actual prototype. Just a mock up I concocted.
The crew over at The Daily managed to get their hands on two such prototype laptops with integrated Kinect sensors. They state tha the two machines resemble Asus laptops that are running Windows 8; however, upon closer inspection, the laptops have removed the typical 1.3 megapixel webcam that is common in today's notebooks and have instead placed a Kinect sensor bar at the top of the display instead. They claim that a source within Microsoft has confirmed that the two laptops are indeed official prototypes.
Unfortunately, there aren't many details beyond that. Whether Microsoft will forge ahead with this idea and license out the Kinect technology to laptop makers or if the prototypes will go into some bunker somewhere and never see the light of day still remains a mystery. Currently at $250 (to end users, OEMs could likely cut a much better deal), it is not likely that we will see a proliferation of Kinect sensors into all manner of displays for notebooks, TVs, and desktops. If Microsoft could get the cost of the technology down far enough that manufacturers could justify adding it, it could definitely catch on. In the end, I don't think we'll be seeing Kinect powered computers any time soon, but in the future when the hardware is cheaper and there are Kinect for Windows applications readily available, it could happen. Would you like to see Kinect in your laptop (insert Xzibit meme here) or desktop monitor, and if so what would you like to do with it?
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