So, about that non-transferable Office 2013 license? Not so much.

Subject: General Tech | March 7, 2013 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, office 2013

As many expected Microsoft has made an about face for the single machine licensing for Office 2013 which would permanently tie an Office 2013 serial number to a single machine.  In fact the licensing was so strict that an OS reinstall on a machine with an Office license would invalidate that license.  Now this would seem to be a way to convince customers to move to the subscription based Office 365 which has much a more lax licensing agreement when it comes to multiple machines.  Now all versions of Office 2013, barring the OEM version which has always had a rather draconian license, will allow the transfer of licenses as long as that license is only ever active on one single machine.  You can get more details on Microsoft's change of heart at The Register.

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"Based on customer feedback we have changed the Office 2013 retail license agreement to allow customers to transfer the software from one computer to another," Microsoft's Jevon Fark said in a blog post on Wednesday. "This means customers can transfer Office 2013 to a different computer if their device fails or they get a new one."

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Source: The Register

Office 365 Pro Plus for SMBs

Subject: General Tech | February 28, 2013 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: Office 365 Pro Plus, microsoft

The new subscription based Office Suite is now available for small businesses including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, OneNote, Access, Publisher, InfoPath, and Lync.  The subscriptions are on a per user license system, with Small Business Premium costing $150 user/year and the Midsized Business is $180 user/year for up to 250 employees.  Both versions are able to run along side old versions of Office and the Midsized version includes hosted SharePoint and Lync servers as well as Active Directory integration for use with existing infrastructure in addition to the Microsoft hosted Exchange and Cloud storage services.  Contrast that to Office 2013 which is purchased on a licensed per machine basis, a non-transferable license at that, making upgrading machines a more expensive undertaking for SMBs.  Get more details over at The Register.

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"One month after lifting the curtain on the updated version of its Office 365 subscription service for home users, Microsoft has officially launched the equivalent service for business customers with three new offers for small and midsized companies."

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Source: The Register

Dell To Go Private With $13.65 Per Share Buyout Offer

Subject: General Tech | February 6, 2013 - 05:53 AM |
Tagged: wall street, OEM, microsoft, dell

Dell, ranked third in terms of global market share, has announced that it is entertaining a buyout offer by CEO and founder Michael Dell and his associates. The $24.4 billion deal will see Dell leave wall street and return to a privately held company. Michael Dell has managed to secure funding for the buyout offer, which amounts to $13.65 per share.

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Funding sources for the buyout offer includes:

  • Cash and equity from Michael Dell and Dell cash on hand.
  • Cash from Silver Lake
  • Cash from MSD Capital
  • A $2 billion loan from Microsoft
  • A rollover of existing debt
  • New debt financing compromised of
    • Bank of America Merril Lynch
    • Barclays
    • Credit Suisse
    • RBC Capital Markets

The deal will leave Dell with $15 billion of new debt, but it will also allow them to go in new directions and focus on long term goals. Dell will no longer be forced to focus on short term growth and profitability over long term goals to keep stockholders/wall street content. It is an interesting move on Dell's part because traditionally companies do the opposite: transition from being privately to publicly held corporations. Michael Dell is at the forefront of the buyout offer and should it go through, Dell will remain the CEO of the now-private company. The deal is expected to close by the end of the company's second fiscal quarter (July 2013)-- though the board does have 45 days to solicit alternative offers.

According to the New York Times, Michael Dell wrote the following memo to employees.

“Dell’s transformation is well under way, but we recognize it will still take more time, investment and patience. I believe that we are better served with partners who will provide long-term support to help Dell innovate and accelerate the company’s transformation strategy.”

It is an interesting move, and hopefully Dell will be able to turn its luck around, and gain back its lost market share. Many enthusiasts are wondering whether or not the $2 billion loan from Microsoft suggests the software giant has a special interest in the OEM--and whether that means Dell will become some kind of premium partner for Windows and/or Windows Phone devices.

That is certainly one option, but it is not the only one. While I think Dell will continue to produce Windows-powered computers, there is also the growing popularity of Linux to consider. Dell could continue to produce Windows PCs without going private, but pursuing Linux in a big way might be one reason to do so. Dell has traditionally been supportive of the open source Linux operating system with initiatives like Project Sputnik. While it would not happen overnight and would require quite the effort, Dell could do for Linux what Apple has done for Unix with OS X.

It could focus on a premium line of computers running a Linux-based operating system along with quality customer support. It may be an unlikely option compared to the suggestions of a Dell and Microsoft premium partnership, but it is not completely without merit.

Why do you think Michael Dell is transitioning Dell to a privately-held company?  Will Dell cozy up to Microsoft for the next Surface, is there some other grand plan in the works, or is the answer more simple?

Source: Forbes

Won't sell Surface? You won't have a choice if we buy you!

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2013 - 01:02 PM |
Tagged: dell, microsoft, purchase

It is a bit of an exaggeration to entertain the thought that Microsoft is involved in buying Dell so that they will finally have a supplier that will have to sell Surface tablets but you can bet there will be some Dell branded Win8 ultra-portables bearing touchscreens released in the near future.  Microsoft and Dell have been close partners for quite a while, on the retail side but more importantly on the enterprise side and there will not be any changes to that partnership if Microsoft does indeed purchase a part of Dell.  What might change drastically is Dell's product lineup; with no stockholders demanding a steady dribble of short term profits regardless of the effect of long term profits Dell will be free to develop products and product lines which might be more varied.  That does not guarantee success in the development and sales of new products, but it will be interesting to see what Dell comes up with if the sale does go through.  On the other hand it could be that Dell's allegiance will be torn between the various companies involved in this buy out and that innovation will be stifled by it.  Get more predictions from The Register right here.

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"It’s a comment on the times that Dell floated in 1988, just as IBM compatible PCs – systems running Intel chips fused with the then-new Windows operating system – were exploding into people's homes and workplaces, taking the PC from the hands of enthusiasts. Two decades later, Dell's going private as PC sales tumble at the expense of tablets while web2.0 companies such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Zynga are the ones listing."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft Likes That Modern Will Not Get Them Sued: Compatibility Website "modern.IE" Launches

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | February 2, 2013 - 06:23 PM |
Tagged: webkit, w3c, microsoft, internet explorer, html5

Microsoft has been doing their penance for the sins against web developers of the two decades past. The company does not want developers to target specific browsers and opt to include W3C implementations of features if they are available.

What an ironic turn of events.

Microsoft traditionally fought web standards, forcing developers to implement ActiveX and filters to access advanced features such as opacity. Web developers would program their websites multiple times to account for the... intricacies... of Internet Explorer when compared to virtually every other browser.

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Now Google and Apple, rightfully or otherwise (respectively, trollolol), are heavily gaining in popularity. This increase in popularity leads to websites implementing features exclusively for Webkit-based browsers. Internet Explorer is not the browser which gets targeted for advanced effect. If there is Internet Explorer-specific code in sites it is usually workarounds for earlier versions of the browser and only muck up Microsoft's recent standards-compliance by feeding it non-standard junk.

It has been an uphill battle for Microsoft to push users to upgrade their browsers and web developers to upgrade their sites. “modern.IE” is a service which checks for typical incompatibilities and allows for developers to test their site across multiple versions of IE.

Even still, several web technologies are absent in Internet Explorer as they have not been adopted by the W3C. WebGL and WebCL seek to make the web browser into high-performance platform for applications. Microsoft has been vocal about not supporting these Khronos-backed technologies on the grounds of security. Instead of building out web browsers as a cross-platform application platform Microsoft is pushing hard to not get their app marketplace ignored.

I am not sure what Microsoft should fear most: that their app marketplace will be smothered by their competitors, or whether they only manage to win the battle after the war changes theaters. You know what they say, history repeats itself.

Source: Ars Technica

IE10; so nasty we know to block it before it even launches?

Subject: General Tech | February 1, 2013 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: irony, microsoft, IE10, blocker toolkit

It could only have been an unintentional slip that the verification that IE10 for Win7 is coming down the piped was that a tool was released to block the installation.  The Internet Explorer 10 Blocker Toolkit will prevent Windows Update from installing IE10 automatically, which would signal a change from Microsoft's usual way of introducing a browser.  Remember Beauty of the Web, the site used to distribute new Internet Explorer versions before they arrived as an automatic update?  The blocker toolkit is nothing new, most versions of IE which did not come with the OS coexisted with a toolkit to allow sysadmins to prevent updates to the new browser before they could test it fully.  We've been waiting about 9 months now for IE10 on Win7 and from what The Register and other sites say it will be worth upgrading when it arrives ... someday.

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"Microsoft has dropped a strong hint that the long-awaited version of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7 might actually ship soon – ironically, by releasing a tool that blocks installation of the browser on users' PCs."

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Source: The Register

Office 2013 brings a Java powered app store?

Subject: General Tech | January 31, 2013 - 12:47 PM |
Tagged: office 2013, microsoft

That might be exaggerating somewhat, Java runs between your library of apps and Office but the actual store is HTML and XML based; on the other hand why you need an app store for office or what these apps will be is a bit of a mystery.  The Register also noticed a rather poorly thought out feature, your controls recede into the background when you are working on your document which can make finding the right button on the ribbon a more difficult task than it should be.  On the plus side the controls are more spaced out making it easier to use with the touchscreen input capabilities of Windows 8 and who wouldn't want to build an Excel spreadsheet from scratch using a touch screen keyboard?  This release also marks a serious effort by Microsoft to make Office applications mobile, not only for Surface but iOS and Android as well, so there is that.

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"Fourteen revisions since the first Office that it may not be easy, because spell checking, grammar checking, wiggly underlines, paragraph styles and even Track Changes have been in Word since way back when.

With Office 2013 now officially available, is there anything in it actually worth upgrading for?"

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Source: The Register

RT Jailbreak Tool Allows Third Party Desktop Apps To Run On Windows RT

Subject: General Tech | January 15, 2013 - 09:55 AM |
Tagged: windows rt, microsoft, arm

One of the downsides to Microsoft’s ARM-powered Windows RT operating system is the lack of desktop applications. While Windows RT devices to retain the traditional Windows desktop, only Microsoft applications that come pre-packaged with Windows are allowed to run. Instead, Microsoft wants users to stick to Modern UI applications and the Windows Store to get new apps. (Granted, the ARM hardware powering these devices necessitates porting x86 desktop applications in order to run in the first place, but Windows RT locks out even recompiled apps).

Enthusiasts are working on changing that, however. A XDA Developers forum member known as Netham45 recently released a tool that allows users to run unsigned desktop applications on Windows RT. The new RT Jailbreak tool is a batch file that automates a hack discovered by another hacker known as clrokr.

The hack is currently only temporary, and needs to be redone after every computer restart. It does, however, allow Windows RT to run unsigned code on the desktop. After downloading the batch file, you run the runExploit.bat and follow the prompts. After it completes, you users can run recompiled desktop apps such as PuTTY, 7-zip, TightVNC, DOSBox, Quake 2, and more

While it is not a permaent solution, it is a step in the right direction, and makes ARM-powered Windows RT devices a lot more interesting and useful to power users. For more information on the RT Jailbreak hack, and to grab the batch file to unlock your WinRT tablet, check out this forum thread on the XDA Developers website

NVIDIA to rip the ARMs off of Surface?

Subject: General Tech | January 10, 2013 - 03:20 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, winRT, tegra 4, nvidia, arm

NVIDIA's new Shield gaming device might have distracted your attention from another new product they demonstrated which could be even more important to their success, a fully functional WinRT tablet.  The tablet is powered by a Tegra 4 chip and apparently runs smoothly even on this OS which was theoretically designed for ARM hardware.  DigiTimes feels that this is a sign that NVIDIA, who have had a long if somewhat troubled relationship with Microsoft, could become a chip supplier for new Surface devices and tablets.  Hopefully in the near future we will get to see a head to head review of two devices powered by different chips so that we can see which provides the best experience.

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"Nvidia unveiled a pilot tablet based on its new Tegra 4 processor and Microsoft's Windows RT operating system at CES 2013, and since the device is already operating smoothly, Nvidia will have a chance of becoming the CPU supplier for next-generation Surface tablets or Windows RT-based tablets from other IT players, according to Digitimes Research senior analyst Eric Lin."

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Source: DigiTimes

Nokia Sold 4.4 Million Lumia Phones in Q4’12

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2013 - 11:23 AM |
Tagged: wp8, nokia, microsoft, lumia

Finnish handset manufacturer Nokia has released a preliminary report on last quarter’s WP8 handset sales. There is good news and bad news.

On the positive side of things, Nokia managed to sell approximately 4.4 million Lumia-series smartphones running the Windows Phone OS. While not spectacular, it is a healthy ramp-up in Lumia phone sales versus previous quarters. For example, in Q4 of 2011 the company sold 1 million Windows Phone handsets, and then it managed to sell 2.9 million in Q3 of 2012 resulting in both year over year and quarter over quarter growth. Another interesting figure from the report is that Nokia has sold a total of 14.3 million Lumia smartphones to date. Lumia sales in Q4 2012 have also managed to surpass the company’s 2.2 million Symbian OS phone sales in Q4’12.

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And now for the slightly-less-good news. The Lumia series (and Windows Phone 8 OS/handsets in general) continue to occupy the spot of ‘mobile OS underdog’ by a significant margin. To put the Lumia/WP8 sales in perspective, according to Android Authority, Samsung made $8.1 billion through sales of approximately 65.7 million Android smartphones. On the other hand, Nokia’s sales of Windows Phone hardware has surpassed its sales of phones powered by Symbian OS (at 2.2 million in Q4’12).

The numbers do seem to suggest that the market for Nokia Lumia handsets is slowly growing so it will be interesting to see sales figures a few years down the road. (Note that historic growth does not necessarily equal future growth. It does suggest that it is on the rise though. heh).

Source: The Verge