Microsoft is hoping price cuts will make Win8 more attractive

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2014 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, win8

DigiTimes does not specifically mention Surface but there are not too many devices running Windows 8 which can be purchased for under $250.   By reducing the licensing fee by $35 for machines that are at that price level Microsoft might make system builders a little more interested to include low cost Windows 8 machines in their lineup as they can sell at a higher margin or at a lower MSRP.  Of course consumers would still have to buy them for those companies to make a profit and it seems very unlikely that a 10% price reduction will convince people they need a Surface or similar device when there are so many other alternatives available.  It does make you wonder if you could get your hands on a Win8 license at a lower cost if you promise to install it on a cheap system.

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"Microsoft plans to further decrease Windows 8.1 licensing rates for entry-level PCs priced below US$250 and tablets, from nearly US$50 currently to about US$15, according to Taiwan-based PC supply chain makers."

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Source: DigiTimes

Ditch the home server and run a dozen VMs on a laptop

Subject: General Tech | February 12, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: vmware, vTardis, home lab, win8

Thanks to the shortsightedness and inadequate investment of the currently popular style of IT Manager who just might be able to turn on a computer without requiring assistance the idea of a computer lab at work to allow you to test new software or infrastructure has more or less disappeared.  This has lead to the rise of home labs for many, as the repercussions of rolling out untried modifications can be very serious as can falling behind of the latest trends and technology.   With that in mind Simon Gallagher discovered a new use for vTardis; to set up ESX clusters on a laptop which is much easier on your electrical bill.  With the specific improvements to VM performance on the Core i7 3720QM and a laptop capable of handling 32GB of RAM he was able to set up ten ESX instances, complete with nested virtual machines.  There is one more trick to setting these clusters up, it seems you need Windows 8 to be able to pull it off though The Register does not specify why.  You could pull this off with an AMD processor as well, as long as it has Rapid Virtualization Indexing.

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"At last year's Melbourne VMware user group (VMUG) conference, VMware's Mike Laverick opined that IT pros need a home lab these days, because bosses have stopped shelling out for training."

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Source: The Register

You can't take the Start from me

Subject: General Tech | January 9, 2014 - 12:42 PM |
Tagged: start button, win8, microsoft, dumb

Somewhere along the line the marketing departments of many companies developed a strange theory regarding consumers; customers have no idea what they want until they are told what they want.  Somehow this theory has managed to become quite lucrative in some industries but has left other companies scratching their heads as to why it won't work for their customer base.  One example of the head scratchers would be Microsoft; a once a might empire with no competitors and the ability to dictate customers desires who now find themselves confused as to why no one wants Windows 8.  One particular reason is the removal of our beloved Start button, not the prettiest or best designed interface but one we have become accustomed to.  Pretending to put it back in Win8.1 but instead making it a button that simply metrosexualizes your GUI was a dirty trick but it was easily solved as third party companies would sell you a product which restores the familiar Start menu if you somehow found yourself forced to use Win8.  According to the leaked slides The Inquirer has seen Microsoft continues in their state denial with no sign of a restored Start button which will obviously lead to a huge increase in sales as we enthusiasts finally lobotomize ourselves and start buying only what we are told we want to buy.  At least some companies may benefit from Microsoft's delusional state.

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"According to Neowin, a leaked early build of the update has been seen in the wild and appears to change very little, having much in common with the Service Packs of older versions of Windows."

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Source: The Register

Hey look, Win 8.1 is better at something!

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2013 - 01:39 PM |
Tagged: win8, gaming, BF4

[H]ard|OCP found something that Win8.1 can do better than Win7, especially now that the mouse issue is not nearly as pervasive.  As it turns out the current non-Mantle version of Battlefield 4 performs between 3-6% faster when run on a Win8 machine.  While that finding does not imply a huge performance difference they also reported that the video was much smoother when run under Win8 with none of the choppiness that was present under Win7.  Think of the frame pacing examples Ryan has provided as a good demonstration of what they are referring to, though the cause may not be the same.  It will be interesting to see how the Mantle version will perform under both operating systems.

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"Is in-game real world Battlefield 4 gaming performance better on the Windows 8.1 operating system or on Windows 7? We look at video card performance between Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 in this game and find out if upgrading to Windows 8.1 is worth it or not for the much rumored performance advantage."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

Windows 8.1 for Enterprise? Most companies don't approve of working blue.

Subject: General Tech | June 4, 2013 - 02:08 PM |
Tagged: win8, win 8.1, microsoft

Microsoft has moved from promoting Win 8.1 for consumers and is now trying to convince Enterprise users that the coming upgrade makes Win8 business friendly.  From The Register we heard about improvements to BYOD support, something that many Enterprise sized businesses are fighting tooth and nail to resist.  Near Field Communication, and Wi-Fi Direct sharing are touted as something that Enterprise should want, thus making internet enabled printers even more of a security risk and while Miracast offers a way to connect to displays wirelessly it is unlikely that many users will have hardware which supports WiDi or the upcoming HSA standard.  Workplace Join will allow limited access to the corporate network for machines that are not actually members of the domain but at least Biometric authentication support is improved which could make that less of a risk.  The automatic launching of VPN when a network resource is requested while the user is outside of the corporate network could be useful with automatic authentication, something not commonly implemented in Enterprise level VPNs.

The Inquirer tells of a few other features, from the boot straight to desktop that has cheered many consumers and a confirmation of the date of June 26th being the initial preview release.  They do mention native device encryption being bundled in Win8, perhaps the only feature in this list that Enterprises might see as advantageous as it would mean they would not need additional software to encrypt machines; Endpoint Encryption is a common solution and as Microsoft now owns the security vendor the migration to native encryption could theoretically be quick and easy.

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"Much of Microsoft's marketing push for Windows 8 has focused on consumers, but Redmond took time at its annual TechEd conference in New Orleans to explain that its forthcoming Windows 8.1 update will include lots of new enhancements for enterprises, as well."

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Source: The Register

Microsoft turns Windows Blue into a subscription based service pack?

Subject: General Tech | May 14, 2013 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: microsoft. windows blue, win8, oops

Windows Blue is now officially Win8.1, coming sometime before Christmas and free to anyone currently running Win8 according to the links at Slashdot.  We've talked about Microsoft's upcoming OS refresh many times at PC Per, from their plan to replicate the subscription model of Office365 to the inclusion of their Cloud services like SkyDrive.  This will not be a new OS, merely tweaks added to the existing kernel focusing on the GUI and especially the new Start Screen.  It isn't a reversal of the new look, nor does it lessen the emphasis on touch screens but it could make some compromises for those who prefer a mouse, keyboard and desktop.

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"Several readers sent word that Microsoft has officially dubbed the upcoming revision to its flagship operating system "Windows 8.1," retiring the code-name "Windows Blue." They also said the update would be freely available to anybody with Windows 8. It will be available through the Windows Store. "Reller declined to provide an exact release date for Windows 8.1, but said that Microsoft is 'very sensitive to the timing of the holidays.' Ideally, Microsoft will be able to provide devices with Windows 8.1 pre-loaded in time for the holiday 2013 season, Reller said, but those who purchase a Windows 8 device later this year will be able to easily upgrade to 8.1."

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Source: Slashdot

Lenovo's new IdeaCentre was designed for Win8

Subject: Systems | May 6, 2013 - 04:06 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, IdeaCentre B540, win8, all in one

Lenovo's IdeaCentre B540 is an all in one PC, built into a 23" 1080p touchscreen that should make using Win8 a little more user friendly.  The specs are not up to gaming, the Core i3-3220 @ 3.3GHz only has Intel HD2500 graphics but with 6GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD it should serve well as a light workstation or home PC.  TechReviewSource does mention a higher end model containing a Core i5 CPU and a discrete Nvidia GPU but with the heat constraints of this type of form factor you are still going to have troubles playing the newest FPSes.  Check out their preview here.

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"The stylish design of the Lenovo IdeaCentre B540 is one that catches our eye in tandem with its budget price tag. The 23-inch 1080p touch screen works well with Windows 8 and looks great for multimedia viewing. Performance is good, especially for the price, but it does make a slight compromise with a Core i3 CPU."

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Can 3,000,000 Surface buyers be wrong?

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 02:43 PM |
Tagged: winRT, win8, surface, microsoft, sales, Surface Pro

Believe it or not, according to The Inquirer's sources Microsoft managed to sell three million Surface and Surface Pro tablets, accounting for 7.5% of sales in the first quarter of 2013.  In comparison Apple accounts for a hair under 50% of branded tablet sales, with Android tablets making up the rest of the market.  For a company not generally associated with hardware, apart from the Zune, Microsoft has made a definite impact on tablet sales with their new OS and hybrid machines.  They do not define the split between Surface and Surface Pro, nor mention how many buyers did not realize the limitations of WinRT, regardless this is good news for Microsoft if not for some of their traditional partners such as ASUS and Acer.

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"TABLET UPSTART Microsoft managed to capture 7.5 percent of the global 'branded' tablet market in the first three months of the year."

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Source: The Inquirer

ASUS VivoBook comes close to the original spirit of the Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | March 19, 2013 - 03:21 PM |
Tagged: asus, VivoBook S500, ultrabook, win8

The ASUS VivoBook is under $1000, lightweight with a touchscreen for Win8 and it does have an SSD, a small 24GB cache SSD but enough to trim down on boot times and resume from sleep all of which come close to the original specs for an Ultrabook.  Legit Reviews tried out the 1366x768 Core i5-3317 powered Ultrabook, configured with 4GB RAM and a SanDisk cache drive.  It lasted a reasonable 2 hours and 21 minutes in Futuremark Powermark, simulating heavy usage but when it came to the storage subsystem it really lagged behind the competition.  Overall ASUS did make compromises to keept the price low, but if you are looking for an ultramobile touch device and don't need fast storage it is a decent choice.

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"Are you looking for an affordable Intel Ultrabook that features Windows 8 with Touch? The ASUS VivoBook S500 just launched this week and is an entry level 15.4" Intel Ultrabook that is loaded with features and costs under $700 shipped. Read on to see how the ASUS VivoBook S500 Ultrabook performs with an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 6GB DDR3 memory, 500GB 5400RPM hard drive and 24GB SSD for caching purposes."

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Not quite an ultrabook but more than a tablet, Samsung's ATIV Smart PC

Subject: Mobile | March 7, 2013 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T, win8, digital audio converter, ultrabook

Samsung's ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T is a convertible tablet with aspirations to be an ultrabook, it is 1.97 lbs, with an 11.6" 1080p touchscreen powered by a Core i5-3317U with 4GB of DDR3-1600 in single channel configuration.  For connectivity you get a a MicroSD port, a single USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports on the dock, Micro HDMI and analog audio with Wi-Fi, WiDi and Bluetooth 4.0.  The Tech Report tested its battery life for both surfing and playing 720p video, seeing 6 hours in the first case and 5 hours in the second with very little difference when tested docked.  The final verdict was mixed, while it is almost an ultrabook and almost a convertible tablet in many ways it inherited the worst of both worlds; though if you find yourself needing both devices in your life this ATIV might be a good compromise for you.

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"This Windows 8 convertible has x86 ultrabook guts, an 11.6" 1080p display, and speedy solid-state storage. Attach it to the bundled keyboard dock, and it turns into a quasi-ultrabook. Is this the ultimate Windows 8 mobile machine, and is it worth the nearly $1,200 asking price?"

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