Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2012 - 02:20 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: consolitis, windows 8
Microsoft has announced that 40 Xbox Live games will ship for Windows 8 PC, laptops, and tablets on its October 26th launch date. Microsoft also continues to misunderstand why Games for Windows Live failed in the first place.
Xbox has all but become the quasi-official branding for Microsoft’s gaming initiatives.
Microsoft suffered a substantial black-eye from their Games for Windows Live initiative. While the service does not live up to its anti-hype it does illustrate how Microsoft lost their PC gaming audience: gamers who do not choose a console do not want a console. PC gamers might wish for a cheaper experience due to the lack of license fees; they might prefer the mouse and keyboard; or they might wish to play games for longer than a console lifecycle.
If they pass up your console platform – hand delivering it on a silver platter will still be a decline gesture.
This time it seems more like Microsoft has given up trying to appease PC gamers. Rather than trying to satisfy the needs of the PC gaming audience (Seriously! It’s not that hard.) Microsoft would prefer to hand the PC gaming market to the console crowd and hope that they find some value to the platform.
This move seems just as risky to me as simply keeping PC gamers satisfied. The console model is designed around squirreling away as many license fees as you can possibly hide to appear less costly than the PC alternative – without actually being cheaper of course since otherwise who would pay the extra middleman? There is a lot of risk in transitioning to a new platform and they are betting their PC stronghold in the intersection between Apple fans and people who lock themselves in against PC gaming.
Or maybe the platter is served by Gabe Newell… dressed with a Tux.
Subject: Mobile | August 31, 2012 - 04:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xps 12 ultrabook, xps 10 tablet, windows rt, windows 8, ultrabook, tablet, ifa, dell, convertible tablet, all-in-one
The IFA 2012 (Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin) electronics show is in full swing today and will be a week-long event where we should see several new product announcements similar in form to CES and Computex. That means photos, videos, and hands-on time with lots of new and shiny hardware. Earlier this week, ASUS announced two new tablets, and now Dell is jumping into the fray with three new XPS computers running Windows 8!
Dell is set up with displays at this years IFA 2012 conference where it is showing off several new systems running Windows 8 and Windows 8 RT. The company is preparing offerings on all fronts with a tablet, ultrabook, and all-in-one desktop running Microsoft's upcoming operating system: the XPS 10 tablet, XPS Duo 12 Ultrabook, and the XPS One 27 All-In-One (AIO) PC respectively.
The Dell XPS 10 is a new tablet that resembles the Asus Transformer due to its dock-able nature. The tablet will be powered by an ARM processor and will run the accompanying Windows RT version of Windows 8. The 10" tablet has rounded corners along with a glossy black front and silver-colored trim around the bezel. The only physical button on the face of the device is the Windows Start button. It can be docked with a keyboard and trackpad combo to turn the tablet into a portable laptop as well.
Alternatively, the XPS Duo 12 steps up the build quality and specifications and packs it into a convertible tablet. While it will need to be tested independently to determine how well it's built, the materials Dell is using are a step up from the XPS 10 as the Duo 12 is constructed using machined aluminum, carbon fiber, and the display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass. Not too shabby for an ultraportable! Unfortunately, there are no specifications on the internal hardware, but you can expect it to be running an AMD or Intel-based x86-64 CPU as this convertible tablet is running Windows 8. On the outside, Dell has stated that the display will have a resolution of 1920x1080.
The company has gone an interesting direction to make the Duo 12 a convertible laptop. Instead of turning the laptop lid around a vertical axis like the Dell Latitude XT (yes, I'm overdue for a laptop upgrade heh), the Duo 12 has a traditional laptop lid and horizontal hinge. Instead of swiveling the entire lid, the Duo 12 only flips around the display itself. It is not a completely new design, but it is relatively rare compared to the much more popular Transformer-style docks. Assuming it's solidly built, I think this design is actually superior than the company's other convertible offerings as the hinge should be much stronger and the display should be less wobbly when typing.
The XPS Duo 12 further features an integrated keyboard and trackpad along with at least two USB ports and an SD card reader. The keys do not look like they have much, if any, travel but otherwise it looks like a really neat machine (I'm also biased in favor of convertible tablets though... yeah I'm one of "those" geeks hehe). The biggest question in my mind about this tablet is pricing, however. If Dell prices it in like with the similarly spec'd Surface, I think it would sell fairly well. On the other hand, if they go the opposite route and price it at a couple thousand as a premium convertible tablet, I do not see it doing well against ultrabooks and Microsoft's upcoming Surface.
Finally, Dell showed off an updated version of its 27" All-In-One desktop PC that will come equipped with a touchscreen. As an update to the currently available XPS 27 AIO, the new model will add a touchscreen panel to the 2560x1440 IPS "Wide Quad HD" (whatever that is heh) panel. You can also expect the computer to be powered by third-generation "Ivy Bridge" Core i5 or Core i7 Intel processors, up to 8GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM, and up to 2TB of hard drive storage along with a 32GB solid state drive. The system will run the x64 version of Windows 8 and you can expect it to cost around (but a bit more than) the current XPS 27 AIO thanks to the addition of the touchscreen input device. For reference, current (non-touchscreen) XPS 27 models range from $1,399.99 to $1,899.99 USD.
I think that Dell is off to a good start with Windows 8 support. Nothing mind-blowing but they still look like interesting additions and updates to the company's product lineup. The biggest factor in me being personally interested in these machines is the price, and unfortunately Dell has not yet released that bit of information. Dell has stated that they will be available once Windows 8 launches, which is October 26th.
What do you think of Dell's Windows 8 PC offerings?
Dell has made the full press release available on its website, and you can see more photos of the new Windows 8 XPS computers after the break!
Subject: General Tech | August 22, 2012 - 12:51 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, Windows 7, upgrade, microsoft
If you are finding it difficult to delay the purchase of that shiny new computer until after Windows 8 comes out, Microsoft has a solution for you. Thanks to the Windows Upgrade Offer, you can buy a new PC now and be eligible to upgrade to Windows 8 for $14.99.
Starting June 2nd 2012, if you purchase a new PC with Windows 7 you are eligible for a discounted upgrade to Windows 8. This ensures that you are able to run the latest Microsoft operating system even if you buy a new PC before it is released. Eligible PCs include any OEM machine pre-installed with the following operating system SKUs using a valid product key:
- Windows 7 Home Basic
- Windows 7 Home Premium
- Windows 7 Professions
- Windows 7 Ultimate
This does include OEM machines with System Builder (COEM) versions of Windows 7, which means if you buy a system put together by a DIY builder, you are still eligible for the discounted pricing. One caveat is that computers with Windows 7 Starter are not eligible for the discounted Windows 8 pricing.
Further, there is a maximum of five upgrades per customer and one per machine, so at most you could get five upgrades to Windows 8 at the $14.99 price when you purchase five or more new PCs.
The $14.99 price gets you a downloadable upgrade version of Windows 8 Pro. This version can be used on any computer with a previous version of Windows installed to upgrade from. In that respect, it is just like any other upgrade version of Windows 8 and could be given to someone else if you wanted to stick with Windows 7 on your new PC. Microsoft is further willing to provide a physical copy of the upgrade, but it will cost you an additional fee (exact fee not stated).
The other limitation is that this upgrade version comes without the add-on pack that includes Windows Media Center. If you want that feature, you will have to pay for it at an undiscounted price.
The promotional period ends January 31, 2013 which is the same day that the $39.99 promotional upgrade price for everyone else ends. (No word yet on whether there will also be student promos like Windows 7 had, however.)
Microsoft’s registration page recently went live. If you are interested in getting the discounted pricing, you will need to register for the deal and provide purchase information and the product key for version of Windows that came pre-installed on your computer. Once Windows 8 is officially released on October 26, 2012 Microsoft will email you a download link and product key.
Windows 8 is somewhat controversial release but at least Microsoft is pricing it attractively.
Subject: General Tech | August 21, 2012 - 11:38 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, skydrive, microsoft, cloud storage
Earlier this month, Microsoft gave its webmail service an overhaul and rebranding from Hotmail to Outlook.com. In our preview of the service, I noted that while Outlook.com is integrated with SkyDrive, the company's cloud storage web interface was still using the same old UI. Fortunately, the company has taken the need for an updated interface for SkyDrive to heart and has given SkyDrive the same Modern-UI facelift as Outlook.com. Welcome to the new SkyDrive.
Skydrive is now broken up into two main panels with an action bar along the top. It looks very similar to Outlook.com in that respect. The left panel contains a search box as well as links to your Skydrive folders, shared items, groups, and connected computers (with the SkyDrive app installed). The right panel is where the folders and files are displayed.
The "Recent docs" link in the left panel does just what the name implies: opens a list of the most recently accessed documents. The "Shared" link displays a list of all the files and folders that are being shared with you. The "Groups" link opens a page in the right panel where you can create and manage sharing groups. You can create a group of people in your family with which you share out photos in certain folders, for example. Basically, it just makes it easier to share with multiple people.
Along the top is a bar with links. In the top-left corner is a Skydrive button that brings up the same Metro/Modern UI tiles that link to other Microsoft services.
Along that same blue action bar are links to create, upload, share, and manipulate your SkyDrive data. The "Create" link allows you create a new folder or document. Using Microsoft's web apps (in the future it may integrate with the remote-accessible versions of Office 2013 but for now it's the same old Office Web Apps), you can further create new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote documents.
You can further use the upload button to not only add files but multiple files at a time (finally!). Unfortunately, it is still not possible to select and upload folders but the ability to select multiple files for uploading is a step in the right direction. Technically, it has been possible to upload multiple files before now, but it required you to use Internet Explorer. In order to upload entire folders, you will need to use the SkyDrive application. The "Share" button is fairly self-explanatory and works the same as it always has. You can send files in an email, post to Facebook, or get a link that you can then send to anyone you want to have access to the file(s) or folder. Finally, the Folder Actions button provides a drop-down menu that provides the following options for the selected items: download, embed, order prints, delete, move, and view properties.
In all, the action buttons have been simplified and are large enough that they should be easy to see and hit on mobile devices with touchscreens. It is much easier to navigate around as well. When you log into the SkyDrive site, it defaults to the "Files" tab and presents you with a collection of thumbnails listing folders and files. If the file is a photo or if it is a folder that contains photos, the icon will be a "live tile" that displays an icon of the photo or the photos it contains respectively (it cycles through multiple photos in a mini-slideshow). On the other hand, if there are no photos inside the folder, the icon will simply be a solid color with the file/folder name in text in the bottom-left corner of the rectangular tile. To the right of the name is a number that represents the number of files or sub-folders inside.
In my SkyDrive folder list, the tiles appear to be a bit messy as not all folders are live tiles. And when they are not live–and just a large solid colored rectangle– it results in a lot of wasted space (and relatively small text). Alternatively, there is also a more traditional details list view that presents files similar to Windows Explorer (and the traditional SkyDrive interface).
You can view photos within the SkyDrive web interface and open documents with the Office Web Apps service, but for any other files you will have to download them in order to open and view them. Just like the Outlook.com interface, you can enable the messaging sidebar to talk with your friends on the various social networks. In the bottom-left corner, Microsoft shows the amount of storage space you have remaining in your SkyDrive. If you click on "Manage Storage" beneath the remaining storage number, you get a new Metro options menu. Here you can opt into the new office web apps, disable people tagging, upgrade storage, and set the default file format to either Microsoft Office Open XML or OpenDocument Format which is nice to see.
Overall, the new SkyDrive interface is a nice improvement offering a cleaner interface and simplified navigation. It now fits in nicely when transitioning between SkyDrive.com, Outlook.com, and the People and Calendar apps. When navigating around the SkyDrive site, it feels much more responsive than it used to, and the ability to add multiple files without needing to use Internet Explorer is a feature I've been waiting for (for a long time). Not being able to add folders is a bummer, and in that respect using the SkyDrive Windows app is still easier, but in general the new SkyDrive will make accessing my files from a remote computer using the website a more enjoyable experience!
Have you tried out the overhauled SkyDrive web interface yet?
Subject: Mobile | August 12, 2012 - 11:25 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows rt, Windows 8 Pro, windows 8, Thinkpad, tegra 3, tablet, slate, Lenovo
Earlier this year Microsoft unveils its plans for Windows 8 and its self-designed Surface tablets. Most machines will come with the full version of Windows 8, but some OEMs will be shipping ARM-powered mobile devices with the stripped-down Windows RT version. Microsoft is further delving into the hardware game by designing its own hardware with the Surface tablet and accessories. It will come in two versions, one with an ARM processor and Windows RT and another with an Intel Core i5 processor and Windows 8 Pro.
According to several leaks around the web throughout the week, Lenovo is taking the Surface to heart and planning its own two-pronged approach. The Lenovo ThinkPad 2 will be running Windows Pro with an x86-64 processor while the Windows RT version will be packing an NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC.
Unfortunately, there are essentially no other specifics to the rumor other than sources for the Wall Street Journal confirming its existence and that it will be of the convertible tablet form factor.
The Verge got hands-on with the ThinkPad 2 tablet. A keyboard, touchscreen, stylus, and pointing stick... input options abound!
On the other hand, there is a lot more meat to the ThinkPad 2 rumors, and it looks like a nice lightweight mobile workhorse. Allegedly the ThinkPad 2 is being developed as a “joint effort” with Intel and Microsoft. It weighs in at 1.3 pounds, is 9.8mm thick, and holds a 10.1-inch 1366x768 display. Running a full version of Windows 8, the ThinkPad 2 tablet is powered by an Intel Atom processor. Other features include an 8 megapixel and 2 megapixel camera on the back and front respectively as well as micro-HDMI port, fingerprint reader, and stylus. NFC and Wi-Fi are also very likely to be included, and a 3G/4G cellular radio will be an optional add-on. A separate keyboard accessory will allow users to dock the tablet and have access to a full keyboard with pointing stick. Alternatively, there is a dock attachment that adds an HDMI output, Ethernet jack, and three USB ports.
With the release of Windows 8 on October 26 official, it is likely that the two Lenovo ThinkPad tablets will be launched on–or shortly after–that date (the RT version might be delayed more so than the x86 tablet if I had to guess). No word yet on pricing, but here’s hoping that the prices are competitive with the Surface counterparts.
It is not promising to see Lenovo going with Atom of all things for the x86-64 version, but that may just mean it will be one of the lower-cost tablets able to run the full version of Windows 8. As a fan of ThinkPads and styluses (styli?), I shall try to remain open minded until reviews come out with some benchmarks showing off the performance–or lack thereof (but remember, trying to stay positive here heh).
You can find more photos of the Intel Atom-powered ThinkPad 2 tablet over at The Verge.
Subject: General Tech | August 9, 2012 - 04:56 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: video, windows 8 rtm, windows 8, podcast, nvidia, llano, Intel, haswell, amd, a75, 660ti
PC Perspective Podcast #213 - 08/09/2012
Join us this week as we talk about Windows 8 RTM, A75 Motherboards, GTX 660Ti rumors and more!
The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!
- iTunes - Subscribe to the podcast directly through the Store
- RSS - Subscribe through your regular RSS reader
- MP3 - Direct download link to the MP3 file
Hosts: Ryan Shrout Josh Walrath, Allyn Malvantano and Steve Grever
Program length: 1:00:35
Week in Reviews:
- 0:02:19 PCPer Hardware Workshop Overview
- 0:07:00 Quakecon Coverage:
- 0:08:30 What MB is good for all those free APUs we gave out?
- 0:12:30 Windows 8 goes RTM
News items of interest:
- 0:19:13 AMD FirePro APU is Launched
- 0:23:25 Seagate acquires LaCie
- 0:25:20 GTX 660 Ti Prices?
- 0:27:24 Steam Selling non-game Software starting Sep. 5th - Windows Store competition
- 0:31:00 Ivy Bridge-E will come after Haswell
- 0:34:00 Plextor M5 Pro SSD - Marvell finally has some speed
- 0:35:30 EVGA GTX 460 2Win WAS $169
- 0:39:05 ARMAII with DayZ as retail title
- 0:41:00 Curiosity landed successfully on Mars (landed with a friggin' rocket powered skycrane!)
- 1-888-38-PCPER or email@example.com
- http://twitter.com/ryanshrout and http://twitter.com/pcper and http://twitter.com/joshdwalrath
Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 04:06 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, valve, steam, software, mac os x
Valve’s popular Steam digital game download service has been slowly expanding its software offerings. It has offered a Mac OS X client as well as a planned Linux client. Further, the service has started to offer software beyond games including game map editors, digital magazines, and videos.
According to a recent announcement by Valve, the company is going to even further expand its non-game software offerings starting September 5th. Whether this is in response to the Windows Store or if it has been planned for some time and the Windows Store is why Gabe Newell is irked by Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system is unknown.
While the company did not mention any specific pieces of software that will be available at launch, users can look forward to software in categories ranging from creativity to productivity. Even better, some of the new software titles will be able to take advantage of Valve’s Steamworks service to offer cloud syncing of files and automatic updating (et al).
The new programs will start showing up on September 5th, and developers can start submitting their applications to Steam using its Greenlight service.
Valve’s Mark Richardson stated that “The 40 million gamers frequenting Steam are interested in more than playing games. They have told us they would like to have more of their software on Steam, so this expansion is in response to those customer requests.”
The automatic updating in particular is exciting, and it could well give Microsoft’s Windows Store a run for its money. If Valve brings the non-game software to all platforms–Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows–it could easily rival Microsoft’s Windows 8-only offering. What do you think about this announcement, would you use Steam for software other than games?
Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2012 - 03:05 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, retail windows 8, microsoft, box art
Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system is well on its way to retail availability, and that means retail packaging. Unlike the simple green boxes of previous operating systems (ultimate edition excluded), Microsoft has decided to overhaul its box art for the new OS in Windows 8 UI style. The new boxes feature a large and colorful tile-based Windows logo set against either a white or black background color. Windows 8 will get a white background with Blue text and Windows 8 Pro versions will feature the black background and white text. It is not a bad design as far as Microsoft box art goes. The simple design is fairly pleasing to the eye, though some might argue that the OS inside the box is not as pretty as the box itself.
The Verge managed to get its hands on the image above of the two boxed Windows 8 versions. Reportedly, Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro will be the only two versions that are sold at retail. Further, the two boxes are for the retail (not upgrade) versions. While The Verge speculates that the upgrade versions of Windows 8 will look similar to the boxed versions of Windows 7, there is no way to know for sure until the box art leaks or Microsoft announces it officially.
What do you think of the new Windows 8 retail box art? Did Microsoft make a good move here?
You can find more of PC Perspective's Windows 8 coverage by following our Windows 8 tag.
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | August 7, 2012 - 02:07 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8 style ui, windows 8, windows, operating system, microsoft, Metro
The Windows 8 RTM leak has coincided with numerous articles around the Internet that detail the new features and the Windows 8 Style UI once known as Metro. It seems that a new setup process and the removal of Aero Glass were not the only big aesthetic changes. With the new build came several alleged tweaks by Microsoft that prevent several methods for automatically booting to the desktop. Group Policy tweaks and a autorun shortcut were two such methods–that worked on early beta builds but no longer work on the RTM–to skip past the Metro/Windows 8 Style UI Start Screen, according to Rafael Rivera of Windows 8 Secrets.
Previously, users could login and be automatically taken to the desktop. They would still see the Metro screen, but only for a split second. Now, users wanting to do this are back to square one, and will have to manually launch the desktop each time they login to their computers.
It is not all bad news, however (well, at least not as bad). If you drag the desktop
Metro Windows 8 Style UI tile to the top-left corner, as soon as you login, you can hit the Enter key to go to the desktop. It is a less automatic way than has been previously possible, but it is better than nothing.
Some speculation and opinion follows:
It seems that Microsoft is taking a very firm position on Windows 8’s new Start Screen interface and full screen applications. While it is likely that developers and enthusiasts are working on new tweaks to get to the desktop automatically again, I foresee this being a drawn out tit-for-tat battle between Microsoft and its users. Beyond the new interface, this stance of working against customization is something I have not seen before on this level, as previous operating system have had numerous tweaking utilities and Microsoft did not seem to have a problem with them. My only guess is that they believe by forcing users to use Windows 8 Style UI as much as it possibly can, it will get users used to, and accepting of, the interface faster (essentially trying to get users over the radical interface change as quickly as possible–ike ripping a bandaid off). And if I let the cynical side get the best of me, Microsoft does have a vested interest in keeping users on the Metro/Windows 8 Style interface as much as possible as they want users to buy Metro apps and not use traditional applications. They are selling the upgrades for $40 and likely want to “make up” the money (compared to selling prices of previous versions) by taking a cut of Windows Store app purchases. The company’s insistence on forcing usage is only going to hurt them, I fear, as people who are on the fence about Metro–but who are interested in the other improvements–likely want to come to the new interface on their own terms (if at all). Actively working against users trying to use and customize their operating systems may well cost them a few sales. It would seem to me that Microsoft should be welcoming anyone that wants to use Windows 8, even if they do not want to stay in (or use at all) the Metro interface but that's just my opinion and apparently Microsoft is of a different mind.
Whether you love, hate, or feel somewhere in-between on Windows 8 Style UI, options are not a bad thing. I do think that more people would be willing to give Microsoft’s new interface a chance if it was more optional than it is. What do you think?
Subject: General Tech | August 5, 2012 - 05:02 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, microsoft, metro ui
Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system has reached Release To Manufacturing (RTM) status, and it further has ditched the Metro UI name. Instead, the company has decided to use the term “Windows 8-style UI” to refer to the new interface and applications.
While the actual tile-based interface itself is still part of the OS, several factors seem to have caused Microsoft to rebrand it. A Microsoft representative was quoted by ZDNet in stating that Metro UI was simply an internal code name never intended to be used as the final brand name. Specifically:
“We have used Metro style as a code name during the product development cycle across many of our product lines. As we get closer to launch and transition from industry dialog to a broad consumer dialog we will use our commercial names.”
That’s all well and good–the company has used many codenames for in-development products in the past. However, it does seem to be a bit late in the game to announce that the Metro UI name is suddenly dead, especially considering the public development cycle with two public betas so far and numerous articles using the Metro name to refer to the new Windows 8 interface and apps.
Another possible reason for the change to “Windows 8-style UI” lies in alleged legal threats by German retailer Metro AG. According to The Verge, sources have indicated that Microsoft backed off from using the Metro name in order to avoid a legal dispute with the retailer. As far as trademarks go, Microsoft could have fought them in court with a chance of being allowed to continue using Metro as the companies and the products referred to by their “Metro” brand names are in different industries. Metro AG is a huge company, however. It would have the money and resources to give Microsoft a good court battle for the name.
In an interesting move, it seems that Microsoft and Metro AG have backed away from a court battle by agreeing to disagree. The Verge quotes an internal Microsoft memo as stating that due to talks with “an important European partner,” (possibly Metro AG) the company is discontinuing its usage of the Metro term/brand. Until a more permanent and official brand name is released, Microsoft has decided to go with “Windows 8-style UI,” and is instructing everyone else to as well.
Whatever the real reason for the change, the Metro UI is gone, at least in name. Will you miss the Metro term?
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