Windows 8 Going on Sale October 26, 2012

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2012 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, software, operating system, microsoft, metro ui

As the summer continues to fly by, Microsoft is hard at work on wrapping up its upcoming Windows 8 operating system and getting it ready for final release. While the company has indicated previously that the Metro UI-powered OS would be available sometime in October, it release a more specific date today. Specifically, upgrade editions of Windows 8 as well as Windows 8-powered OEM machines will be available for purchase on October 26th, 2012.

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The announcement was made at an annual sales meeting by Microsoft’s Windows and Windows Live President Steven Sinofsky today. Interestingly, the Windows Team Blog that reported on the announcement is noticeably absent of a mention for retail (not upgrade) editions of the Windows 8 operating system. That may well mean that physically packaged retail versions will not be available until a bit later in the year. Also missing is pricing; there is still no word on how much a full retail version of Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro will cost. Even so, considering Microsoft is making upgrade editions available to anyone with a previous (licensed) version of Windows for $39.99, the retail versions are going to be pretty difficult to justify as they will likely cost much more than the upgrades.

Are you ready for Windows 8?

Microsoft Releases Office 2013 Customer Preview

Subject: General Tech | July 17, 2012 - 06:56 AM |
Tagged: office, microsoft, windows, Metro, windows 8, software, outlook, office 2013, customer preview

Microsoft’s next generation Windows 8 operating system is due out later this year, which generally means a refreshed version of Microsoft Office – the company’s productivity software – is also on its way. To show off the new interface and updated features, Microsoft has decided to release what it is calling a Customer Preview of Office 2013 that will allow you to try out the new versions of Access, Excel, Word, Excel, OneNote, Outlook, PowerPoint, Publisher, and Word.

Office 2013 Title.jpg

The new Office programs feature a refreshed interface that does away with the aero glass windows in favor of the flat metro look, and integrates into Microsoft’s Skydrive cloud storage service. By default, you log into your Skydrive account during installation, and from then on it will store your documents and other files in your Skydrive folder. In addition, Office will allow you to log into the various social networks to retrieve contact data, which is a nice addition to the Outlook email client (in my opinion). You can also utilize the chat features to communicate with friends or coworkers from within the Office 2013 applications. Of course, being designed for Windows 8, Office 2013 has several new ways to interact with the applications using touch controls or a stylus.

The other major change with Office 2013 is the introduction of several new subscription service. While Microsoft has had the Office 365 subscription brand for awhile, they have not really advertised it. With Office 2013, you can choose from four tiers including Office 365 Home Premium, Small Business Premium, ProPlus, and Enterprise. The Home Premium tier is the one that will interest the majority of people as it provides an extra 20GB of Skydrive storage space, a synced Office experience on up to five computers, the ability to stream the Office 2013 applications to another Internet connected computer with Office on Demand, and sixty minutes (every month) of Skype calling minutes. From there, the Small Business Premium and above tiers add business-centric features like HD conferencing, encrypted email, archiving, and other goodies.

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Outlook 2013. As you can see, Office 2013's interface has been heavily influenced by Windows 8's Metro UI.

We’ll be playing around with the Office 2013 Customer Preview this week and will report back, so stay tuned. If you want to try it out for yourself, you can grab the Customer Preview download from the Microsoft website (an Internet connection is required during installation). It can be installed on computers running either Windows 7 or Windows 8.

Also, according to Tom’s Hardware, a version of Office 2013 – specifically Office Home and Student 2013 RT – will come pre-installed on all Windows 8 RT (ARM-based) computers, so that is a nice touch (especially since it’s basically the only traditional desktop application that the ARM tablets will be able to run, at least at launch).

Source: Microsoft

Ribbons and Clippy and Clouds, oh my! Office 15 may be revealed today

Subject: General Tech | July 16, 2012 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, office 15, office 2013, Metro

If you want to see professionals absolutely lose it, hang out in a office during the first time the encounter a new version of Microsoft Office.  Suddenly their barely tamed tool which delivers their emails and allows them to put together slide decks and documents has turned into a wild beast which stands between them and their deadlines.  Those that claim Microsoft has to change their Office Suite in order to stay relevant in the marketplace do not have much familiarity with the Sharepoint and Exchange driven companies which don't decide to stick with MS Office because the ribbons are pretty, they do so because their entire infrastructure is built around Microsoft products.

That hasn't stopped Redmond however and those of you in support positions at work or in your family are in for a nightmare as Office goes Metro.  That's right, if you thought explaining Ribbons to 'C' level executives was difficult just wait until you have to explain the new Windows GUI as the rumours and leaks we have seen all point to Office going Metro.  On the plus side, we should see some sort of Office Suite for ARM based WindowsRT systems, and it isn't Office 365.  The Register has some key dates and should post more info as it arrives.

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What Supersite for Windows saw

"Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is widely expected to announce details of the next version of the Microsoft Office productivity suite on Monday USA Today reports, giving the public its first glimpse of a product that has so far remained shrouded in secrecy.

Microsoft has been calling the new version "Office 15," but come Monday we'll probably know it as Office 2013, assuming Redmond sticks to convention. To date, only "a select group of customers" have had their mitts on the new suite, via a technical preview program that began in January, and then only under a strict nondisclosure agreement."

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Source: The Register

Surface is just a proof of concept?

Subject: General Tech | July 11, 2012 - 01:38 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, ballmer

Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer, recently referred to the Surface ultraportable as "just a design point".  This is bound to disappoint a lot of geeks who fell in love with the new touchscreen tablet/laptop which showed off the new Win8 interface in a much more effective manner than we have seen from previous computers.  On the other hand, many OEM's will find this announcement reassuring as when the Surface was first introduced they were less than impressed at a software company muscling in on their territory.  Still, he expects to sell a million or so of the devices so those who really desire a Surface should be able to get their hands on one.  Check out more about the conference Ballmer held in Toronto at The Register.

microsoftsurface.jpg

"Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has downplayed the impact of Redmond's "iPad-killer" – aka the Surface tablet – as he wrapped a comforting arm around PC OEMS that may feel a little unnerved by the move.

The covers were lifted off the shiny slate weeks ago, but it was dismissed by several hardware vendors, including long-time partner Acer, which said Microsoft should concentrate its efforts on software development."

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Source: The Register

Surprise! Overclocking your machine does make it less stable according to Microsoft

Subject: Systems | July 3, 2012 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, overclocking

If you've ever wondered if it was worth hitting that 'Report to Microsoft' button after you experienced a BSoD then perhaps this paper from Microsoft Research will enlighten you. After studying reports from 1 million machines that suffered CPU or memory problems, Microsoft broke down all of the data into both failure types and machine types so that they can contrast the results of overclocking laptops and desktops from both major CPU vendors as well as breaking the desktops into ones assembled by a major vendor and ones assembled either by the owner or by a small business. 

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The basic results are easy to sum up laptops are less likely to crash than desktops, CPU errors are more likely than memory errors and underclocking will indeed make your system less prone to crashes.  You are also less likely to see crashes on machines purchased from a major vendor than one assembled yourself or by a small business.  Of course the whitebox versus brand name ratings cannot differentiate between someone who just built a PC for the first time and one assembled by a veteran so it is possible that that rating is a little skewed.

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As for overclocking, you can see that the results are split between Vendor A and Vendor B as opposed to being labelled Intel and AMD but most readers will be able to make an intelligent guess as to which is which.  TACT represents Total Accumulated CPU Time, which does not have to be contiguous and could represent quite a few weeks of ownership if the computer in question is only run for a few hours a day and then shut off.  Whether this time was accumulated quickly or spaced out, it shows that overclocking either vendors chips will have a significant impact on the stability of your system.  Again, there is no division into experienced overclockers and neophytes nor between those who overclock manually or with software or hardware included with the motherboard they chose.  Even still the impact on stability is very large regardless of vendor and if you crash once you can be almost guaranteed to crash a second and third time.  The table only focuses on the first three crashes as by the time that third crash occurs it is obvious they will continue until something is changed.   Check out the abstract here or just head straight to the bottom of that page for the full PDF of results.

"Researchers working at Microsoft have analyzed the crash data sent back to Redmond from over a million PCs. You might think that research data on PC component failure rates would be abundant given how long these devices have been in-market and the sophisticated data analytics applied to the server market — but you’d be wrong. According to the authors, this study is one of the first to focus on consumer systems rather than datacenter deployments."

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Source: Microsoft

Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $39.99 Through January 31, 2013

Subject: General Tech | July 2, 2012 - 11:22 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, software, operating system

A few days ago we covered the Windows 8 upgrade process, and specifically what Microsoft will allow you to bring with you into a Windows 8 install from a previous version of the operating system. At the time of writing, we did not know the pricing for upgrade editions. However, today Microsoft released pricing information for upgrade licenses of the Windows 8 OS.

Through January 31, 2013, you will be able to purchase an upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 in 131 markets. Even better, you will further be able to add Windows Media Center for free via the “add features” option in Windows 8 after you have performed the update. The forty dollar price only includes the digital download version of the operating system. Using it, you will be able to either create your own media (USB or DVD) or purchase a physical installation DVD from Microsoft for an additional $15 plus shipping and handling.

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The Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant is Microsoft’s recommended vehicle for installing Windows 8 over a previous version, but they are also allowing clean installs. The upgrade process is very similar to past transitions (say, from Vista to 7). The difference is that you do not need to have the media downloaded to begin the upgrade. After purchasing, it has a built-in downloader that will download the required files and verify them (you can further pause and resume the download).

If you prefer to buy locally, you will be able to purchase a retail-packaged version of Windows 8 Pro Upgrade for $69.99 until January 31, 2013. Beyond the upgrade versions, Microsoft has announced that System Builder versions of Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be available, though they did not state a specific price for the DIY-friendly versions.

You can find more information over at the Windows 8 blog, but I have to admit that it is a much more attractive price than I expected for the Pro version (much less free WMC!). Is this a price that might convince you to upgrade, or will you be sticking with a previous Windows version regardless?

Microsoft Reveals Windows 8 Upgrade Options

Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 04:30 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, upgrade, operating system, microsoft

ZDNet has managed to get its hands on some details regarding Microsoft’s Windows 8 upgrade paths. The company will support upgrade installations from XP SP3 to Windows 7 in various forms, and with some caveats. Users will not be able to do cross-language upgrade installs or upgrades from x86 (32-bit) to x64 (64-bit) Windows 8 (or vice versa).

Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system (check out our guide) is set to be available to consumers this fall, and the company has started prepping its partners on how the upgrade process will work for users running previous versions of Windows. The short answer is that users running at least XP with Service Pack 3 will be able to perform an upgrade install to a version of Windows 8 with the same language and architecture as the current version. The longer answer is that – while you may be able to upgrade – you may not be able to keep all of your applications, system settings, and/or data when moving to Windows 8 depending on your particular configuration.

Let’s run down some example upgrade situations.

For users running Windows XP SP3 or higher, you will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 and keep all of you personal files. You will lose all system settings and installed applications, however.

If you are currently running Windows Vista pre-Service Pack 1 (SP1), you will be able to perform an upgrade installation to Windows 8. You will be able to keep your personal files, but will lose any installed applications and system settings.

If you have Windows Vista SP1 (or newer), you will be able to keep your personal files and system settings. On the other hand, you will lose any installed applications as a result of the upgrade to Windows 8.

Windows-8-Start-Screen.png

Further, as general rules of thumb, you can upgrade to Windows 8 (non-Pro version) from Windows 7 Starter, Windows 7 Home Basic, and Windows 7 Home Premium installs. You will be able to keep all of your settings, files, and applications. Also, you can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro from Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Pro, and Ultimate and keep the same system configuration, installed applications, and personal files. If you are a volume licensee currently running Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Enterpirse, you will be able to perform and upgrade installation to Windows 8 Enterprise without losing any data, settings, or applications.

Just as with previous releases of Windows, if you want to move to the new version of Windows that has either a different language or different architecture (32-bit/64-bit), you will be required to perform a clean installation (not a bad idea in any event, actually). One detail that has not been released (or leaked) yet is pricing and whether or not we will see steep discounts for student versions, those that tested any of the Windows 8 preview builds, or family packs. If you eschew the DIY route and buy a new OEM computer between now and January 31, 2013, you will qualify for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade copy for $14.99, however.  It will be interesting to see just how Microsoft prices its upcoming operating system, especially before any applicable discounts. Microsoft has streamlined the number of SKUs but also made Pro the version to get for even some home users; and because it’s the equivalent of Windows 7 Ultimate where they price it will be interesting (or rather disheartening should I let the cynical side of me win out).

Have you tried Windows 8 yet, and if so, will you be upgrading to it once it’s officially released? Any guesses on the final prices?

Source: ZDNet

The Surface Tablet should be cheaper than an Ultrabook, but not by much

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2012 - 01:34 PM |
Tagged: surface, ultrabook, Pegatron, windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft, arm, tegra 3

You've met Microsoft's two new Surface Tablet by now, either in Scott's write up or elsewhere on the net and are aware that there is a less expensive ARM and Tegra 3 version and a more expensive Ivy Bridge model.  What you might not have known is the expected pricing, a lack that DigiTimes remedies this morning with the prediction the WinRT model will cost at least $600 and the Win8 model more than $800.  Both are being assembled by Pegatron Technology but the amount being assembled is still unknown.  The Surface Tablet is certainly attention grabbing but it costs significantly more than other tablets and many full notebooks, but it likely to be lower priced than either Intel or Apple's ultraportable devices which puts it in an odd spot in the market.  How many will be willing to pay that much for a multi-touch tablet with dock?

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"Sources from notebook players have revealed that Microsoft's 10.6-inch Surface tablet PCs will be outsourced to Pegatron Technology for assembly; however, there is still not a firm estimate for order volumes.

The sources also estimated the end-market price of the Windows 8 Pro-based Surface tablet PC with Ivy Bridge processor to be at least above US$799, while the Windows RT-based model, featuring Nvidia's Tegra 3, will be priced above US$599."

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Source: DigiTimes

Microsoft Surface announced -- twice. ARM, x86: your choice.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | June 18, 2012 - 09:27 PM |
Tagged: windows rt, windows 8, tablet, microsoft

Steve Ballmer led the enigmatic announcement of “Surface”, a Microsoft branded consumer tablet. The tablet will contain a 10.6” display and run either Windows RT or Windows 8 Pro depending on whether you choose the NVIDIA-powered ARM variant or the higher-end Intel x86-based sibling. The device’s cover will contain a built-in Bluetooth keyboard and multi-touch trackpad.

Microsoft generated a lot of hype around their latest announcement.

In the end what we received the entirety of what was expected -- except the product looks compelling.

The Surface, borrowing the brand from their business-oriented smart table products, is a series of consumer tablets with a 10.6” 16x9 form factor. Would you like a full Windows 8 Pro experience on an Intel device or would you prefer a thinner and lighter Windows RT device powered by an NVIDIA ARM processor? Let us weight the Pro and cons.

surface-cover.jpg

So would this be like -- an Ultra…clipboard? Ooo -- Ultraclippy, that has brand power.

Early reports testify that the device feels well built. The announcement made somewhat of a big deal that the tablet has a magnesium chassis and a Gorilla Glass 2 screen. You will cover the screen of the device with a small Bluetooth keyboard which will be available in a few colors. With the tablet resting on its included kickstand and its keyboard cover flowing out from beneath it -- the Surface looks very similar to a laptop.

surface-kick.jpg

So -- magnesium chassis. This should be fun to thermite.

The Intel variant will feature a larger battery although extra battery life is not an immediate guarantee. The Pro device will allow for MicroSDXC cards, USB 3.0, and mini DisplayPort output. Both devices feature 2x2 MIMO antennae for their WIFI connectivity which could provide a fair chunk of bandwidth for streaming media.

Pricing and availability are currently unannounced except that they will be comparable to what is available. The ARM device will be available in 32 and 64GB models with the x86 Pro-class device available in 64 and 128GB.

Source: Microsoft

Can you spot the difference between Windows 8

Subject: General Tech | June 1, 2012 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: win8, microsoft, release preview

The Developer Preview of Windows 8 has been around quite a while now, yesterday's release of the almost final version of Windows 8 is what is now creating the online buzz.   Visually they indistinguishable, Metrosexual lucky Charms are still your main interface with a vastly increased amount of touch interface options for those who are using a device with that capacity.  It also has an integral pop-up keyboard and a lock screen, making it incredibly similar to a smart phone.  TechReviewSource did not delve below the surface to examine the technical changes to the OS but you can be assured that there will be information forthcoming on PCPer's front page in the near future.  In the mean time take a look at some of the new interface options in TRS' article.

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"This is an early look at Windows 8 Release Preview, Build 8400, installed on a slick and slim Samsung Series 9 ultrabook. Our take on the latest publicly available version of the next Microsoft operating system follows, but at the outset you should realize one thing: In appearance, it's nearly identical to the Consumer Preview released late last February."

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