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.

Outlook 2013_ Main UI.jpg

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

Microsoft Releases Windows Server 2012 Pricing

Subject: General Tech | July 7, 2012 - 01:12 AM |
Tagged: windows server, windows pricing, windows, virtual machines, software, server, operating system, enterprise

Earlier this week we covered the pricing for Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 consumer-grade operating system. Now, the company has released pricing information for the enterprise side of things, mainly for its non-OEM SKUs of Windows Server 2012. With Server 2012, Microsoft has simplified its lineup with four versions – one of which is only for OEMs.

WinServer2012.jpg

Live Migration will allow virtualized storage to be moved in and out of server instances in real time without restarts.

The three versions that businesses can purchase and install themselves includes Datacenter, Standard, and Essentials. The lowest-tier version is called Foundation and will the version that comes pre-installed from OEMs. The Datacenter version has the most features and is the most lenient on the licensing by allowing businesses the full Windows Server 2012 functionality as well as unlimited virtual server instances. You’ll have to pay for those features, however as the Datacenter SKU is priced at $4,809. On the low end is Essentials which strips out licensed use of virtual instances of Server 2012 and also limites the number of user accounts that can access the server to 25. It will cost $425, which isn’t terribly expensive but is obviously aimed at small businesses. Interestingly, Microsoft states that Essentials has a simplified interface that is “pre-configured” for running cloud services. In the middle of those two extremes is Windows Server 2012 Standard which will run $882 USD and allows two virtualized instances as well as the full Windows Server functionality.

While Microsoft has not released pricing for its OEM-only Foundation version, they have announced that it will be limited to a max of 15 user accounts and no virtualization rights. The table below details the above information in a simplified table, courtesy Microsoft.

Edition Feature Comparison Licensing Model Pricing (USD)
Datacenter Unlimited virtual instances, full Windows functionality Processor + CAL $4,809
Standard Two virtual instances, full Windows functionality Processor + CAL $882
Essentials No virtualization rights, Simple interface pre-configured for cloud services Server (25 user account limit) $425
Foundation No virtualization rights, general purpose server functionality Server (15 user account limit) Not Listed

As Martin Brinkman explains, the top-two tiers are based on a processor licensing model which means that each version is allowed to run on up to two physical processors. The Datacenter version takes that a step further by allowing an unlimited number of virtual machines on those two physical processors while Standard allows two virtual machines on a system with up to two physical processors. To figure out how many licenses you will need to purchase, you can get by with half the number of physical processors. At around five Windows Server 2012 Standard licenses, it starts to become more economical to go with the Datacenter version if you will mostly be spinning up virtualized servers.

Interestingly, Windows Home Server is missing from the above list, and it looks like that is not a mistake. Microsoft has stated in its licensing FAQ (PDF) that it expects home and small business users to move to the Essentials ($425) version for their home server needs. Not exactly the answer that many users are going to want to hear. For those not wanting to spend that much, Microsoft is keeping Windows Home Server 2011 alive until the end of next year (12-31-13), and you will be able to buy Home Server 2011 in an OEM machine until 2025. Fortunately, a system builder version of Windows Home Server 2011 can be found for around $50 and it can support up to 10 users. On the other hand, it won’t have the neat Windows 8-based server features. It will be up to you to decide whether the $400+ price for Essentials is worth it for you home/small business needs.

Just as Microsoft has released a Consumer Preview version of Windows 8, you can download a Release Candidate of Windows Server 2012 to see what the new features are and if they are worth the money. More information on the pricing and various versions can be found here. What do you think of the new Windows Server SKUs?

Source: Microsoft

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

Futuremark Teases 3DMark DirectX 11 With Tech Demo Video

Subject: General Tech | June 21, 2012 - 10:43 AM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, Futuremark, directx 11, benchmarking, 3dmark

Popular benchmarking software developers Futuremark recently posted a video of latest 3DMark tech demo. Premiering in its Windows 8 benchmarking software, the tech demo uses complex volumetric lighting with real time scattering, tessellation, visible particles and clouds of smoke. It also uses fluid dynamics, audio by Pedro Macedo Camacho (who also created the 3DMark 11 soundtrack), ambient occlusion, and post processing. Whew, that’s a lot of shiny graphics!

We posted a few screenshots of the tech demo that showed up online a few weeks ago, and now it seems like the company is ready to show it off in video form. The embedded video below shows a mysterious figure walking through a small town nestled in a canyon with smoke, lava, and a flying robot to keep her company. The graphics are very detailed and the particle and fluid physics look really good. It should do a great job of stressing out your graphics cards when it comes out in the latest 3DMark.

Unfortunately, not much is known as far as specific release dates, or even if it will be called 3DMark 12 (or 3DMark for Windows 8). If you are into benchmarking software though, keep your eyes on Futuremark’s website as they release more details.

Source: Futuremark

Microsoft Releasing Windows 8 Release Preview May 31st

Subject: General Tech | May 30, 2012 - 11:37 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, windows, software, release preview, operating systems, microsoft

Update: The Windows 8 Release Preview is now official. You can download the ISO images here. If you are following our installation guide, you will need to use the following CD Key to complete the installation: TK8TP-9JN6P-7X7WW-RFFTV-B7QPF.

According to The Verge, Microsoft fans will be getting a nice surprise tomorrow when the company releases the Release Preview of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system. What was first set to debut in early June, sources are indicating that Microsoft will officially release it tomorrow–a week early.

Windows-8-Start-Screen.png

The Release Preview is Microsoft’s third official build for public consumption, following the Developer and Consumer previews respectively. This build is said to include hints at what the aero-less desktop will look like (though users won’t see the full UI changes until the final retail build) as well as built-in Adobe Flash in the Metro UI version of Internet Explorer. Although I can’t say I’m thrilled about the many changes in Windows 8, I’ll still be downloading the new Release Preview to give Microsoft another chance to make me like Windows 8 (hopefully they can). If you do download it, don’t forget about our Windows 8 Virtual Machine installation guide.

Will you be checking out the Release Preview?

In other Windows 8 news:

Source: The Verge

Microsoft Signature Will Clean Your Windows Install For $99

Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2012 - 06:31 PM |
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.

Microsoft_Signature.jpg

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?

Source: Ars Technica

Once again, ubiquitous computing spells the end of Wintel

Subject: General Tech | March 29, 2012 - 12:30 PM |
Tagged: arm, Intel, windows, Android, embedded systems

A story at The Register spells out the end of Windows, this time by 2016.  The growth of cellphones with enough processing power to be more than just glorified telephones is going to change the market, of that there can be no doubt.  On the other hand without some serious upgrades to the interface it seems very unlikely that a cellphone will be sitting on a desk with a mouse, keyboard and monitor connected to it.  In fact the very idea that ARM will one day outsell x86 processors is absurd, last year 2.2 billion ARM processors were sold, that number may be higher than all the processors AMD and Intel ever fabbed.  Keep that in mind when someone tells you that ARM may one day outsell CPUs intended for use in Windows machines.  

Android outselling Windows could be a reasonable prediction for the near future, but again it is hard to imagine Android replacing Windows Server or business oriented Linux distros, even if they are running on an ARM processor.  Then again, stranger things have happened.

skyisfalling.jpg

"Windows might be on the rise in the world of embedded systems, but if IDC's prognostications are right, then Windows is about to get its kernel handed to it with the rise of Android on what the market researcher dubs "smart connected devices."

By IDC's reckoning, makers of PCs, tablets, and smartphones shipped some 916 million units of machinery in 2012, raking in an astounding $489bn in moolah."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

Adobe Releases Free Photoshop CS6 Beta With New Features

Subject: General Tech | March 26, 2012 - 08:55 AM |
Tagged: windows, software, photoshop, mac, editing

Adobe, the company best known for its popular prosumer photo and video editing suites and Flash player recently released a free beta version of its upcoming Photoshop CS6 photo editing software. Available for both Macintosh and Windows, the downloads are now up for grabs and should be good until the final version of Photoshop CS6 is released (later this year). The company also released a video demonstration of Senior Creative Director Russel Brown showing off several of the new features in CS6. The big new features of CS6 include the new Content Aware Move (and Fill), improved crop, new blurs, RAW 7.0 support, and adaptive wide angle lens correction. The video below shows how the new features work to enhance photos.

PhotoshopCS6.PNG

The Photoshop CS6 Interface

I downloaded the 64-bit version for Windows and tried out the new features. The first thing I noticed is that the tool tips seem a big buggy and can take a few tries to get them to show up. Also, in the Video Mr. Brown clicks on the Content Aware Move tool on the left but in order to actually get to it, you need to right click on the move icon as the default left click action is not for the Content Aware option. After I figured that out -- and this may indeed be common knowledge for Photoshop users, but was not for someone used to GIMP and Paint.net -- I found that the new features were pretty cool and it ran fairly quickly on my system. I would like to see the icons be a bit larger but otherwise the interface was snappy and while I stumbled at some points I think it has more to do with being used to how my usual photo editors work rather than an inherent problem with Photoshop’s interface.

I have to say that the Content Aware tools are pretty neat, and in no time I had a fleet of Corgi puppies running around the yard!  And the Content Aware Move tool allowed me to move the corgis around without needing to go back and try to clone the grass back in (which I've never been too good at, heh).  Granted this is something that was do-able in the past but it required quite a bit more work!  It is not perfect, but it is pretty darn good for an automatic process.  I was not able to test out the improved RAW support, however. The video demo made the feature look cool and I’m sure people will find it very useful. The adaptive wide angle feature further will be very useful for correcting the fish eye effect and other distortions with minimal effort. The ability for it to pull lens profiles from metadata to assist in correcting the distortion is pretty neat.

The downloads weigh in at 1.7 GB for the Windows .zip and 984 MB for the Mac .dmg file respectively. The Windows download also includes both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Both downloads are available here.  The beta further includes both CS6 and CS6 Extended features, though the extra features will only be included in the Extended version when the retail version is released.

Russel Brown shows off new features in Adobe's Photoshop CS6.

Source: Adobe

Microsoft Allegedly Changing Windows Logo To Minimalist Green Tile Design

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2012 - 01:18 PM |
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.

Win8.jpg

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?

Source: CN Beta

WOA! We wanted Windows 8 on ARM details. We got them.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | February 9, 2012 - 09:36 PM |
Tagged: WOA, windows, arm

Microsoft has been ridiculously cagey about the discussion of Windows 8 on ARM. At last month’s CES trade show there was a disturbingly low amount of information. Available information about Windows on ARM was in abrupt demonstrations performed by Microsoft spokespeople or behind glass display cases.

Today Steven Sinofsky of Microsoft released quite a bit of information -- over 8500 words even if you exclude image captions and section titles -- about Windows on ARM (officially named “WOA”). Feel free to read for yourself at MSDN’s blog, or keep on reading for our brief summary.

WinARM.png

Actually most of the blog post is about building Windows 8 on ARM.

We reported that Windows on ARM has been classified as stable for approximately two weeks at this point.  Our questions about WOA availability were answered, and more: WOA is intended to be released simultaneously as Windows 8 for x86-64. WOA will also not be available standalone and you must purchase a device with it pre-installed.

From the chipset through the firmware and drivers, the work is optimized to be great for WOA. Partners are working hard on creative industrial designs and form factors that will include more than tablets. These are all under development today.

[…]

The PC will come with the OS preinstalled, and all drivers and supporting software. WOA will not be available as a software-only distribution, so you never have to worry about which DVD to install and if it will work on a particular PC.

Applications written for Windows on ARM can only be distributed through Windows Update or the Windows Store. Being an advocate of the open PC I find this quite unnerving as it quickly creates situations where art becomes at the mercy of the platform owner similar to what is seen on the consoles. That said, it also seems to suggest that Microsoft is not intending WOA to be fill all the roles of a typical PC.

Win8office.png

Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and OneNote will be available for WOA as Office 15. The typical file explorer and desktop will also be available for WOA. Mouse and keyboard support is also available for Windows on ARM. These will all be available within Office so the user can control there their files will be stored.

Windows 8 for x86-64 will be released as an open Beta at the end of the month. Microsoft will also release, by invite only, devices for developers. The intent of course is to give developers time to create applications for WOA. You should not expect those devices to be any more than development tools designed to prevent day-one apps from being developed in a single day.

Source: MSDN Blogs