Archive for the ‘Windows’ Category

7 places you’ll be surprised to learn are still using Windows XP

More than a year after Microsoft ended support for the aging OS, some high-profile organizations are still using Windows XP — and putting themselves at risk.

7 places you’ll be surprised to learn are still using Windows XP
Microsoft announced in April 2014 that it would no longer support the 13-year-old Windows XP operating system. However, now, more than a year later, Kaspersky Labs and Net Applications both report that between 16-17 percent of computer users still use XP. You may think that it’s mostly consumers, but the reality is that millions of business-critical systems are still running Windows XP, leaving them open to potential security issues. “When a company ends support, like Microsoft did, then vulnerabilities don’t get fixed. If these vulnerabilities get public, [they] will be all over the Internet and easy to exploit. The problem with XP is that it was such a good, robust system that is still has quite a large user base,” says Andrey Pozhogin, senior product marketing manager at Kaspersky Lab North America.

We were surprised to uncover some large organizations still relying on this retired technology. Here’s a look at seven places you wouldn’t expect to still be using Windows XP.

The U.S. Navy
According to a recently unclassified Navy document, Microsoft applications affect “critical command and control systems” on ships and land-based legacy systems, leaving them open to potential cybersecurity risks. But they aren’t standing idly by as they work to rid themselves of these legacy systems.

According to an IDG News Service report, the U.S. Navy just entered into a $9.1 million contract that would keep the XP security patches and updates coming until 2017. Over the entire length of the contract, the total will near $31 million.

“Without this continued support, vulnerabilities to these systems will be discovered, with no patches to protect the systems,” the Navy document says. “The resulting deterioration will make the U.S. Navy more susceptible to intrusion … and could lead to loss of data integrity, network performance and the inability to meet mission readiness of critical networks.”

The Navy is also paying for continued support for Microsoft’s Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Server 2003. The Navy has been transitioning away from the obsolete systems but at the time of this report it has more than 100,000 workstations running Windows XP and other aging systems.

The U.S. Army
The Navy isn’t the only branch of the military struggling with outdated technology. The Army purchased a Microsoft Custom Support Agreement (CSA) for Windows XP last year. Like the Navy, the Army doesn’t want to give specifics on which systems are affected but the document states the following: “This procurement will ensure the Army has continued extended support to avoid security vulnerabilities on the existing licenses. The security updates for vulnerabilities rated ‘critical’ will be provided at no additional charge, but per hotfix, fees apply for security hotfixes rated ‘important.’ Non-security hotfixes are not available.”

This would seem to indicate that, like the Navy, some of these systems are mission critical.

Crown Commercial Service
The Crown Commercial Service, Great Britain’s government agency in charge of the improvement of commercial ties and procurement activities, has paid for XP extended support until 2015, but in May decided to end the contract, leaving thousands of computers at risk to attack from “low-level hackers,” according to a recent article from The Guardian. Government officials said the departments in question had known for seven years that this day was coming and they would need to migrate away from Windows XP. “We expect most remaining government devices using Windows XP will be able to mitigate any risks, using the CESG guidance. Where this is not possible, they may need to review their own short term transition support,” says Britain’s Government Digital Service tech blog.

The National Health Service
Another quick stop in Great Britain brings us to their National Health Service, an organization responsible for a publicly funded healthcare system — an enormous government agency. Last October, it reported that, “35 percent of NHS Trusts are still running Windows XP seven months after it reached end of life.” In fact, 14 percent of those NHS Trusts were so reliant that they were unable to set a date for transition. With the recent high-profile hacking cases, the NHS seems like it could be a privacy disaster waiting to happen.

In 2008, the NHS had implemented a plan to update systems across the entire organization to address these issues but abandoned the endeavor after pouring 12 billion pounds into the plan.
Atms still using Windows XP

ATMs around the globe
Last October, a whopping 95 percent of ATMs were still using Windows XP and hackers where exploiting this to drain ATM machines. In 2014, Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team was hired as forensic investigators to find out how thieves were tapping ATM machines in Eastern Europe.

“During the course of this investigation, we discovered a piece of malware that allowed attackers to empty the ATM cash cassettes via direct manipulation. At the time of the investigation, the malware (Backdoor.MSIL.Tyupkin) was active on more than 50 ATMs at banking institutions in Eastern Europe. Based on submissions to VirusTotal, we believe that the malware has spread to several other countries, including the U.S., India and China,” the Kasperky’s team reported.

As recent as May, incidents continue to be reported in both Eastern and Western Europe. In the most recent one, thieves made away with 1.23 million pounds. The European ATM Security Team (EAST), the arm responsible for oversight of trends in ATM fraud said, “As a significant number of Europe’s ATMs continue to use the Windows XP operating system, there are concerns that many remain vulnerable to ATM malware if the necessary preventative measures are not taken.”

Water utility companies using XP
Last year, Forbes reported that an alarming 75 percent of life-sustaining water utility companies were still operating using Windows XP. Numbers like that make this area vulnerable to cyber attacks. According to Matt Wells, general manager for automation software at GE Intelligent platforms, the utilities industry is slow to adopt new technologies but with the ending of XP support, cloud computing will help these outfits transition to newer technology.

The U.S. electrical energy industry
In a recent Forbes article by Michael Assante, the former vice president and CSO for the North American Electric Reliability Corp. and former CSO for American Electric Power Company Inc, Windows XP is still being used on workstations in a majority of the electric and gas utilities in the U.S.

The energy industry reported last August that they were worried, too. In fact, cybersecurity has moved onto the list of the top five concerns for U.S. electric utilities, according to data from a recent U.S. News and World Report article, which revealed that “…if only nine of the country’s 55,000 electrical substations were to go down — whether from mechanical issues or malicious attack — the nation would be plunged into a coast-to-coast blackout.” Federal regulators have stepped in adding cybersecurity standards for the electric industry. Cybersecurity, according to the report, has “surged in the ranking of the Top 10 industry issues … leapfrogging two spots to number four.”

Just for laughs

While not an XP issue, this Gizmodo article reports that in 1985, the Grand Rapids School District put into service a Commodore Amiga, programmed by a local student, to control heating and cooling services throughout its 19 public schools. Well, 30 years later, the Amiga is still faithfully performing its duties, although not without its share of repairs and replacement parts over the years. The best part is that the same student who originally programmed the system still lives locally and makes himself available to administer and repair any hiccups along the way. “The kid who programmed the machine is the only one who knows how to fix them,” Gizmodo reports.
 

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Windows will be crucial to a PC market revival in 2015

Gartner projects Windows XP upgrades will stop the PC market bleeding next year

Microsoft’s Windows OS could play a crucial rule in returning worldwide PC shipments to modest growth next year after multiple years of decline, Gartner said on Monday.

PC shipments could reach around 317 million in 2015, increasing from 308 million units expected to ship this year, the research firm said in a study. Shipments this year are expected to decline by 2.9 percent compared to 2013, which is lower than previous yearly declines.

The “revival” of the PC market will be driven by upgrades of old business PCs with Windows XP, which are no longer supported by Microsoft, said Ranjit Atwal, research director at Gartner. He estimates that roughly 60 million PCs will be upgraded this year.

Businesses are largely upgrading to Windows 7 and avoiding Windows 8, which is viewed more as a tablet OS. Microsoft could release a new OS sometime next year, which could supplant Windows 7 as the OS of choice for businesses. However, it takes time for companies to test and deploy PC OSes, as happened with Windows 7, which took more than a year to find a foothold in businesses.

Counting PCs, tablets and smartphones, Gartner said overall shipments of computing devices are expected to reach 2.4 billion units this year, increasing by 4.2 percent compared to the previous year. Shipments will further increase to 2.6 billion units in 2015.

After the first iPad shipped in 2010, tablets were increasingly adopted as alternative computing devices to PCs. Gartner is projecting tablet shipments to increase to 256 million this year, up from 207 million last year. Tablet shipments will reach 321 million in 2015, overtaking PCs, Gartner said.

Tablets will get cheaper and more functional, Atwal said, adding that these trends will continue to drive adoption in the coming years.

Worldwide mobile phone shipments will be 1.86 billion units this year, rising by 3.1 percent compared to the previous year, Gartner said. The worldwide growth will continue in 2015, with shipments totaling 1.95 billion units.

Android will continue to be the dominant OS across devices, according to Gartner. The OS will be installed in 1.17 billion devices shipped this year, an increase of 30 percent. Apple’s iOS will receive a boost from the new iPhone due later this year, and the company’s iOS and Mac OSes will be in 271 million devices shipped this year, increasing by 15 percent compared to the previous year. Microsoft’s Windows desktop OS and Phone OS will be in 333 million devices shipped this year, rising slowly from 326 million the previous year.

But Windows will be in 373.7 million devices shipped in 2015, overtaking the combined shipments of Apple’s iOS and Mac OS, which will be in 301.4 million devices, Gartner said. Android will remain the dominant OS, installed in 1.37 billion devices shipped next year.

 


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The top 10 Windows 8 questions everyone asks

You’ve finally made the leap to Windows 8 (or, more probably, Windows 8.1), and a pretty big leap it was. Everything looks different. Everything acts differently. Even a simple task like shutting down your PC suddenly becomes a challenge.

We know. We’ve lived through Windows 8, too, and we’ve received many, many questions about it. Here are the 10 most common ones we hear about Microsoft’s latest operating system. With these answers under your belt, you can consider yourself well past the beginner stage.

1. What’s the differences between Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and the Windows 8.1 Update?
To start the confusion, there are three versions of Windows 8:
· The original Windows 8
· The much-improved Windows 8.1
· The even-better Windows 8.1 Update, though saddled with an idiotic name windows 8 top10 questions start button and none

The Start button is one subtle, but key, difference between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1

How do you tell which you have? Go to the Desktop environment and look in the lower-left corner. If there’s no Start button, you’ve got the original Windows 8.

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If there’s a Start button, click or tap it to go to the Start screen. Look in the upper-right corner. If there’s a magnifying-glass icon, you have Windows 8.1 Update.

If you have the Start button, but not the magnifying glass, you have Windows 8.1, without the Update. In that case, you need update KB2919355. Microsoft is patching Windows 8 and the Windows 8.1 Update, but not Windows 8.1 without the Update. Without patches, Windows becomes less secure.
windows 8 top10 questions magnifying glass

The magnifying-glass icon means you have Windows 8.1 Update.

Besides, the Windows 8.1 Update is by far the easiest and friendliest version of Windows 8 so far. Finally, the two user interfaces—Modern and Desktop—appear to be cooperating.

The good news: If you have a new computer, it’s almost certainly running Windows 8.1 with the Update.

2. What about the Start menu?
windows 8 top10 questions start menu classic start menu setup

Classic Shell brings back the Start menu that Windows 8 took away.

From the very birth of Windows 8, this was the biggest complaint: “Where’s the Start menu?”

Even with the improvements of 8.1 and the 8.1 Update, which brought back the Start button, there’s still no Start menu.
windows 8 top10 questions start menu separate programs and apps

There you go, a Windows Start menu, courtesy of Classic Shell.

One could argue that the Start screen—which is what you get when you click the 8.1 Start button—can do everything that the Start menu can. Except that it can’t. You can’t hover the mouse over a Modern tile and get a submenu of files recently opened in that application. And the Start screen just doesn’t feel right. When you’re working in a windowing environment like the Desktop, you don’t want to be thrown into a bad-imitation iPad just to launch a program.

Luckily, where Microsoft fails, others provide. You can find plenty of third-party Start menus for Windows 8, and many of them are free.

My favorite, Classic Shell, is one of the free ones. It’s capable of giving you, with no trouble at all, a close facsimile to the Windows 7 Start menu. But you can change that look with additional skins, add separate Programs and Apps menus in place of the traditional All Programs, and pick an image for the Start button. You can also control what happens when you left-click and shift-click the Start button.

3. What’s that screen with all the little tiles?

You may have stumbled upon it accidentally. You’re at the Start screen, you do something (you’re not sure what), and suddenly you have a screen filled with tiny tiles instead of big tiles.

That’s the Apps screen, which Microsoft added with Windows 8.1. It lists every program and app installed on your PC. Think of it as the equivalent of the Windows 7 Start Menu’s All Programs submenu. Or Android’s All Apps screen.
windows 8 top10 questions apps screen

This is the Windows 8 Apps screen. It looks busy, but it’s actually easy to sort.
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You get to it through the Start screen. If you’re using a touchscreen, swipe up. If you’re using a mouse, move that mouse, and a little arrow icon will appear near the lower left corner of the screen. Click it.

Unlike Windows 7’s All Programs, you can sort this list. The default is to sort by name, but you can also sort by date installed, most used (which makes it a bit like the Windows 7 Start menu’s left pane), and category. Note, however, that it lacks All Program’s ability to use submenus.

One other important point: If you sort by name or category, it lists apps first, and traditional desktop programs after them.

4. How do I do some of the simple tasks that should be obvious to anyone?
The Windows 8 learning curve isn’t just about the big stuff. Here are three minor issues that vex new users.
Right-click in a touch interface

Your index finger lacks left and right buttons, and the touchscreen doesn’t know one finger from another.

To bring up a context menu on a touchscreen, touch the object and keep your finger there until a square appears around the object. Then release, and the menu will pop up.
windows 8 top10 questions simple tasks search charm

Find anything in Windows using the Search charm.
Search

Windows 8’s equivalent to Windows 7’s “Search programs and files” field is the Search charm. There are a lot of ways to bring it up, so I’ll just give you the most convenient:

· On the desktop, press Winkey-S.

· On the home screen, just start typing.

Sleep or shut down Windows

windows 8 top10 questions simple tasks shut down desktop

Here’s the menu for shutting down Windows.

This is the one that puzzled a lot of people when Windows 8 first came out.

On the Home screen, swipe from the right edge inward, or move the mouse pointer to the right-top or right-bottom corner and then off the right edge of the screen. Select Settings>Power, and make the appropriate choice.

On the desktop, right-click or touch-and-hold the Start button. From the resulting menu, select Shut down or sign out and the appropriate option. This trick requires Windows 8.1.

5. What’s happened to Windows Explorer?

Windows’ built-in file manager got a facelift and a new name, and both are an improvement (I thought so even when I hated Windows 8).
windows 8 top10 questions windows explorer file explorer minimize ribbon

File Explorer has tabbed ribbons you can hide.

Windows Explorer is now called File Explorer. While I usually don’t approve of renaming common features in a popular OS, I’ll make an exception here: It actually describes what the program does.

It also now sports Office-like tabbed ribbons, which you can show and hide by clicking the little chevron icon just below the top-right corner. The main ribbons are self-explanatory: Home, Share, View, and Search.
windows 8 top10 questions windows explorer file explorer picture library

In the new File Explorer, the Pictures Library has new tabs and ribbons available.

Other ribbons pop up when appropriate. For instance, go to the Pictures library, and you’ll see additional Library and Picture tabs. You’ll also see the Pictures tab when you’ve selected a picture.
windows 8 top10 questions windows explorer copy two files

You can monitor two files as they copy.

You can configure the interface. Right-click any option on any ribbon and select Add to Quick Access Toolbar. That toolbar is always available, even when you’ve hidden the ribbon.

One more nice touch: Copy a big file to another drive. The familiar dialog box comes up to show you the progress. While it’s still going, start copying another big file. The existing dialog box will expand and show you progress on both files.
6. Where are my libraries?

Now that you’ve found File Explorer, you might notice something is missing. The left pane lists Favorites, This PC (the location formerly known as My Computer), and Network. But it apparently doesn’t have Libraries.

Libraries—configurable pointers to Documents, Music, Pictures, and Videos—help you organize your data files. They’re one of the best features added with Windows 7.
windows 8 top10 questions where are my libraries

The libraries aren’t gone! You can dig them out.

For instance, the Documents library by default contains both the My Documents and Shared Documents folder, and you can add or remove other folders as you wish. The folders aren’t actually in the library, but they appear to be.

The good news: Microsoft didn’t remove libraries; it just hid them. But why?

Probably because the company doesn’t really want you to store data locally. Microsoft would rather you stored everything in its cloud-based service, OneDrive, and pay for that privilege.

If that doesn’t sound like a good plan to you, restore those libraries. In File Explorer, go to the View tab and select Navigation pane>Show libraries.

7. What’s with the Task Manager?

Big improvements. That’s what’s with the Task Manager. Like File Explorer, it’s one of the few things about Windows 8 that Microsoft got right from the start.
windows 8 top10 questions task manager processes

The Task Manager shows computer processes in an easier-to-read format.

You launch it the same way as before: right-click the taskbar and select Task Manager. But when it opens, it looks rather minimalist. All you get is a list of running programs and apps, an End task button, and a More details option.

Now you’ve got most of the information you had in earlier versions, except that it’s well-spaced, clearer, and easier to read. If you explore the various tabs, you’ll find all the information from the Windows 7 version, plus more. For instance, the User column is now on the Details one.

One very useful new tab is Startup, which replaces the Startup tab that used to reside in MSCONFIG. This is the place to go to trim down the list of programs that load automatically when you boot.

The Task Manager is less cluttered and offers more information than before.

This version is far easier to read than the old MSCONFIG tab. And it gives more information, including Startup impact—how much each autoloading program slows down the boot.

On the other hand, it lacks checkboxes. To disable an autoloader, right-click Enabled and select Disable. That right-click, by the way, also offers useful options like Open file location and Search online.

8. Where do I find my product ID number?
Every legally-sold copy of Windows comes with a unique, 25-character code that acts as a proof of purchase. If you buy a copy of Windows, the code is printed inside the packaging. If you bought a PC with Windows pre-installed, it’s printed on a label on the computer.

Unless your computer came with Windows 8. With the new OS, Microsoft eliminated the requirement that pre-installed PCs come with their Product ID (PID) numbers visible on the case.
windows 8 top10 questions where is my product key

ProduKey makes it easier to find your Product ID for Windows.

In theory, you don’t need them anymore. A unique, Microsoft-approved PID is built into your computer’s hardware. If you have to reinstall Windows, the installation routine should not ask for your PID; it already has it.

Nevertheless, you may feel uncomfortable not having access to your PID. I know I do. And there is a solution.

NirSoft’s ProduKey will display your PID (and other ID numbers, as well). The program is free, and portable—meaning you don’t have to install it. Once the information is displayed, you can copy it to the clipboard and paste it into another program. Then you can save the file, back it up, or print it and tape the printout to the outside of your computer.

9. How do I switch users?
If you share a computer with someone else, or use separate Administrator and Regular User accounts, you know the routine of switching users.

At least you knew that routine before you took on the challenge of Windows 8. Now it’s entirely different.
windows 8 top10 questions how change accoounts

Switching users works differently in Windows 8.

Once again, Microsoft has changed the terminology. Remember your old options, either to log off or switch users? (Switching users was faster, but leaves the previous account running in the background. Logging off shuts down the previous account entirely.) Now you don’t log off, you sign out. And while you can still switch users, there’s no longer any name for that action.

You’ll find your name, and your picture if you’ve bothered to set one up, in the upper-right corner of the Start screen. Tap or click the name or the picture. To log off, tap or click Sign out. You’ll come to a logon page where you can select an account.

To switch users, simply tap the appropriate user name.

10. Do I have to log on with a Microsoft account?
Just as Microsoft really, truly wants you to use OneDrive, they also want you to use a Microsoft account. After all, without one, you can’t use OneDrive.

In fact, when you set up Windows 8 for first time, the preparation wizard won’t let you create a local account. You have to create one connected to Microsoft.
windows 8 top10 questions log on with microsoft account

You don’t need a Microsoft account to log on; a local-account option is also available.

But you don’t have to keep it that way. Windows 8 has something called a local account, which doesn’t have to be tied with anything on Microsoft’s cloud. You can convert your current account to a local one.

1. In the Search charm, type account and select Manage your account.

2. On the Accounts screen, select your account, then click Disconnect right below your name and email address.

3. Follow the wizard. You’ll have to enter your current password, then fill in a few fields, including Name and Password. You’ll have to use a new login name, but you can keep the old password.

When you’re done, you’ll see your old settings, programs, and files. But you’ll have a different logon and won’t be connected to Microsoft.


 

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New Kinect for Windows to improve human interaction with computers

Kinect for Windows hardware will be released next year; the SDK is due in late June

Human interaction with computers could improve with the new Kinect for Windows sensor, which will be better at recognizing gestures, motion and voice.

Developers will be able to write applications with the sensor, announced Thursday by Microsoft, that bring voice, gesture and other forms of natural interaction to computers. The sensor follows the announcement earlier this week of Kinect for Xbox One gaming console. That Kinect sensor and the console are both due out later this year, while the Kinect for Windows sensor will become available next year.

The Kinect sensors will “revolutionize computing experiences,” said Bob Heddle, director of Kinect for Windows, in a blog post Thursday.

Microsoft has already implemented touch in Windows 8 for PCs and tablets. More precise tracking and a wider field of view could help improve motion recognition, while a sophisticated microphone could boost voice interaction.

More Kinect for Windows details will be revealed at the Build conference in June. Developers will also get the SDK (software development kit), from which human-computer interaction programs can be written.

Kinect for Windows will have a high-definition camera and a noise-isolating microphone to recognize relevant sounds in rooms. Another new technology in the sensor is “Time-of-Flight” technology, which Heddle said “measures the time it takes individual photons to rebound off an object or person to create unprecedented accuracy and precision.”

A feature called “skeletal tracking” follows more points on a human body to better track movement of multiple users. The sensor will be able to create more accurate avatars all the way down to the wrinkles on a person’s body, Heddle said.

The gesture and image recognition will get a boost with the new “active IR” feature, which will help to recognize facial features. The feature will allow the sensor to work in multiple lighting conditions.

“The precision and intuitive responsiveness that the new platform provides will accelerate the development of voice and gesture experiences on computers,” Heddle wrote.

 


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Windows 8 Release Preview coming in June

So far Win 8 is more popular than Windows 7 was
The next prerelease version of Windows 8 will be available in about six weeks, inching closer to a final product that is still expected to launch this fall.

Microsoft’s Windows Chief Steven Sinofsky announced that the Windows 8 Release Preview version will be ready for download the first week of June, with no date specified, according to a tweet on the Building Windows 8 @BuildWindows8 account.

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A photo accompanying the tweet says he made the announcement at the Windows 8 Developers Day in Japan today.

The company says that so far the currently available Windows 8 Consumer Preview version of the software is twice as popular at this point than its predecessor Windows 7 was based on the number of downloads. The company didn’t say how many downloads that is, but claimed it is used by millions of people per day.

Sinovsky gave no details about what the difference will be between the Consumer Preview and the Release Preview will be. He also made no mention of when or if there will be a preview of Windows RT, the version of Windows 8 that will be sold only in combination with hardware that is based on ARM processors.

Noted for its radical new look and reliance on touch, Windows 8 is inviting a new round of application development to accommodate what the company calls Metro style. This is noted for its heavy use of touch navigation and commands as well as its graphics, which rely heavily on text and brightly colored rectangular icons to move around.

Other versions of Windows 8 are called Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro and Windows 8 Enterprise, each geared toward a different market.

 


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Windows RT users happy with the device, so far

Despite an unending stream of FUD being hurled at the Surface tablet, people who have bought it seem pretty enamored with their purchase, according to reviews piling up on BestBuy.com and Staples.

Microsoft launched the Surface tablet in its retail stores, all 65 of them, before expanding to Best Buy (1,900 stores total) and Staples (1,400 stores) earlier this month.

So far, sentiments for the device are fairly positive. On Best Buy’s website, the Windows RT tablet sports a 4.7 out of 5 rating, based on 28 customer reviews. Only one customer was unhappy with the device and rated it one out of five stars.

“No Outlook so not full MS Office, all other tablets have version of word, excel, and powerpoint, so very disappointing,” wrote customer gates77. He liked screen customization, but also noted “Battery life wasn’t to [sic] good and typecover isn’t as good as some logitech keyboards. Can’t load any of my windows 7 programs.”

The most popular feature about Surface RT seems to be Windows 8. “Windows 8 runs like a charm, the Windows Apps Store is growing by the day and I am able to use all my favorite apps such as iHeartRadio, NY Times, USA Today, Kayak, Netflix, Endgadget, eBay, ESPN…” wrote Cricketer from New York on Staples.com.

“The live tiles are a great innovation,” wrote Philipm785 of Atlanta. “They provide genuinely useful information without having to launch the apps and the multiple sizes and custom groupings that can be easily scrolled and zoomed are way easier to get around than the multiple screens of tiny uniform icons you get on iOS.”

The hardware is also receiving kudos. “It’s a perfect laptop replacement for those who don’t need lot of processing power. Don’t wait for the surface pro. The battery life is all day,” wrote desiboy of New York on BestBuy.com.

“I gave away my Android tablet after using this for a while,” wrote MZach of NC. “The keyboard and touchpad are unobtrusive but there when you need them and the keyboard has cursor keys!”

Even people giving 5-star reviews have complaints, include volume output, the “primitive” email app, lack of apps and x86 support, Flash support in IE10, and the price itself.

It’s encouraging to see, but I’m actually not totally surprised. Early adopters tend to be enthusiasts. As it moves beyond the early adopter stage and away from Microsoft enthusiasts into the mass market, that score will drop as more cons pile up. We’ll see what people say when the much more expensive x86 models arrive next year.

 


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Microsoft greases the skids for Windows 8 developers

Microsoft Build 2012 attendees receive free Microsoft tablets, phones, storage, SDKs to encourage Windows 8 apps

How badly does Microsoft need attractive applications for its Windows 8 operating system?

So badly that it’s giving everyone attending its Build 2012 developers conference a Surface tablet/PC, 100GB of free cloud storage via SkyDrive, a free Nokia Lumia 920 Windows 8 phone and a discounted developer’s registration to the Windows store.

The company also announced the availability of a software developer’s kit for Windows Phone 8.

The goal is to get developers to buy into the Microsoft mobility vision — that applications can readily be written to run on Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 machines, share resources via SkyDrive and make money for developers to boot.

During today’s kickoff keynote for the four-day conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (pictured) himself ran through a demonstration of key Windows 8 features on machines as diverse as an 84-inch touchscreen, the Microsoft Surface tablet/laptop (where the tablet meets the PC, Ballmer says) and Windows Phone 8 smartphones.

“This is our real step into the mobile world,” Ballmer told the gathering in a tent on the Microsoft campus.

The company announced that ESPN, SAP and Twitter all plan or have ready Windows 8 applications, demonstrating to developers the elite realm in which they might play, too.

Presentations also hammered home how developers can make money off their apps. If they sell through the Windows store, they reap $75% of the take for the app up to $25,000, then they make 80%. Also, the developers’ kit enables setting up a tile within the app that can host an advertisement that the developer can sell and change.

The apps can also support in sales within applications — like buying a level upgrade for a game while logged into the game.

Ballmer showed how changes made to a document in OneNote and stored in SkyDrive show up when accessed by other devices. Similarly, changing the photo on the lock screen and storing that to SkyDrive appear on the user’s other Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8 devices.

Ballmer says the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 this fall when considered as a single event represent one of the top three events in Microsoft history, the other two being the release of the IBM PC with a Microsoft operating system and the launch of Windows 95.

Getting developers to create a broad inventory of apps that showcase Windows 8 new features is key to Windows 8 success, so Ballmer walked the crowd through them:

= Live tiles that display updated information on colored rectangles on the start screen. Developers need to tap into this capability to show, for instance, current temperatures to go with weather apps or scores to go with sports apps.

= Embedding software services in applications. For example, interfacing applications with the system search feature enables searching with that app for a given term. The example he used was searching for references to Jessica Alba — who participated in the Windows Phone 8 launch this week — in Internet Explorer, Outlook emails, Xbox, Finance, etc.

= Enabling the Windows 8 snap feature in apps so users can display them in a quarter of the screen at either side, to keep them visible even while working in another app. It’s a way to track, say, the stock market while doing other work in Excel.

“They’re all springboards for your imagination,” Ballmer says.

Presenters at the keynote spent time explaining how with the new WinRT application architecture enables easy reuse of code for Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. The apps written for one can’t run in the same form on the other, but due to a common set of APIs for the two operating systems, entire blocks of code can be written for one and inserted in the other. This makes it much simpler to write apps for both platforms.

After giving attendees a free Surface tablet/laptop, Ballmer asked that they go out and create lots of apps for the Microsoft environment, promising that Microsoft would follow through with advertising that should boost the market for those apps.

“We will do more marketing for Windows 8 system, for Windows phones and for Surfaces,” he says. “You will see our best work, and you will not be able to go to a magazine, to the Internet or turn on the television set without seeing our ads frequently.”


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Microsoft: Expect 100,000 Win 8 apps by Feb. 1; 400M devices by July

Microsoft has set some ambitious goals for Windows 8 — 400 million devices in customer hands by next July and more than 100,000 applications stocked in the Windows Store by the end of January, according to a top Microsoft sales exec.

That’s according to a Beet.TV interview with Keith Lorizio, Microsoft’s vice president for U.S. sales and marketing, who calls the success of Windows 8 a guarantee.

ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?

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He cites the 400 million Windows 8 devices out of a potential 1 billion devices in the marketplace as massive distribution of the new operating system. These devices would include both new sales and upgraded Windows 7 machines.

The company hopes to draw customers with the unified look and feel of Windows 8 with its Xbox and Windows Phone 8 platforms that rely on touch and tiles as their navigation preferences, he says.

But having a wealth of Windows 8 applications on tap is essential to the success, he says. “We’re expecting to aggressively pursue 100,000-plus apps over the first three months.” That would be a significant jump over the current inventory, estimated at about 3,000.

These apps are apparently vital to the financial success of the operating system because they will be rife with paid ads that Lorizio claims won’t be a distraction.

“So all of the ads are going to be integrated, they’re not going to be disruptive for the user/consumer experience but beautiful, relevant and useful,” he says. Microsoft will split ad revenues with the apps’ developers under terms each will work out, he says. “It’s critical for us to get a critical mass of apps in order for the users to integrate in the … highest consumer-oriented experience.”

It’s a costly venture for Microsoft to generate the needed volume of applications. “[W]e’re putting millions of dollars against that effort and working with publishers in order to their apps live as quickly as possible,” he says.

The company is running developer seminars to advise on how to write compelling Windows 8 apps that conform with the common look, feel and navigation Microsoft promises across all the applications. It is also vetting all applications before they are put up for sale at the Windows Store.

“[I]n order for us to reach our goal which is a conservative estimate of 400 million units in the marketplace by July first,” Lorizio says, “we know that we have to have a very, very healthy ecosystem of applications.”

 

 

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New Windows RT tablets raise competition among ARM chip makers

IDG News Service – New Windows RT tablets announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin have intensified competition among ARM-based chip makers, which are adding unique capabilities to processors so tablets become more attractive to buyers based on performance and features.

Samsung and Dell announced Windows RT tablets with Qualcomm’s dual-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8060A processor, which is built on ARM architecture. These are the first Windows RT tablets using Qualcomm’s chips, while tablets announced earlier in the year, such as Microsoft’s Surface and Asustek’s Vivo Tab RT (previously called Asus Tablet 600), were based on Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 processor.

 

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Microsoft is working only with ARM-based chip makers Qualcomm, Nvidia and Texas Instruments for Windows RT on tablets and PCs. Toshiba previously showed a Windows RT tablet based on Texas Instruments’ OMAP processor, but the device was scrapped due to a component shortage. Microsoft has also announced Windows 8 for tablets and PCs based on Intel and Advanced Micro Devices chips. The Windows operating systems will become available Oct. 26, at which time devices like tablets and hybrid laptops are also expected to ship.

Much like Android, the Windows RT ecosystem is fragmented with the OS divorced from the hardware, said Dean McCarron, principal analyst at Mercury Research. Hardware makers are offering unique features in Windows RT devices, and key differentiators could be connectivity, performance and form factors, McCarron said.

Windows RT devices on Qualcomm’s S4 chip may provide a better blend of performance and connectivity, while Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 3 chip may deliver faster overall performance and better graphics, McCarron said. ARM processors are power efficient and will bring long battery life to Windows RT devices, McCarron said.

Windows RT has the look and feel of Windows 8, but Microsoft says that RT has been re-engineered with mobile features like power consumption and instant connectivity in mind. Chips with ARM processors are used in most smartphones and tablets that ship today, and Qualcomm and Nvidia are pitching different features on their chips in order to capture a larger share of the future Windows RT device market.

Qualcomm wants to bring smartphone features to Windows RT tablets with its S4 chips, said Luis Pineda, senior vice president of product management at Qualcomm. The chip in the Samsung and Dell tablets will bring a wide range of cellular and Internet connectivity features, while also enabling long battery life on tablets, Pineda said.

The S4 chip being used in the tablets has an integrated 3G/4G radio, Pineda said. The S4 chips also have a powerful graphics core, and the integration of all key components helps enable thin and light devices with long battery life, Pineda said. Qualcomm has also announced a quad-core S4 chip for tablets, which will bring more performance to tablets.

Tegra will be the only quad-core processor for Windows RT devices this year, and great graphics performance will bring console-quality gaming to devices, said an Nvidia spokesman via email. The Tegra 3 processor is already being used in some high-performance gaming tablets. Nvidia in the future will offer chips with integrated radios, but for now is working with partners to offer a separate 3G/4G radio on chips.

While chip makers in the ARM camp are watching each other closely, the companies also have to contend with x86 processors from Intel and Advanced Micro Devices, on which the Windows OS has grown up. Beta testers have played with Windows 8 on x86 tablets and PCs for months now, giving it a leg up over Windows RT, which has been shown as a product in development via a few tightly monitored tablet demonstrations at trade shows.

The first choice buyers will make is whether they want Windows 8 or Windows RT, after which they will decide on the device, said Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst at Insight 64.

Both the operating systems have a similar touch user interface, but existing Windows applications will not work on Windows RT devices. Microsoft is trying to make RT attractive to new buyers by bundling desktop Office productivity applications.

Some longtime PC users may want Windows 8 on Intel chips for access to legacy x86 applications, which by default users have to leave behind when going to RT, Brookwood said.

Microsoft has kept Windows RT under tight wraps, which has frustrated device and chip makers, analysts said. But the success of Windows RT devices will ultimately depend on the price and the features buyers identify with.

“It’s hard to say with Windows RT because it has not yet happened,” McCarron said.

 

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Windows 8, OS X upgrades by the numbers

1 upgrade edition choice, 5 upgrades per person max, 99 days for discount

Computerworld – Like 2009, this year is one of dueling operating system upgrades, when the two biggest OS rivals face off with new editions.

We’ve covered both the Windows 8 and OS X Mountain Lion upgrades, and spelled out what’s known so far about their prices, release dates, delivery methods, upgrade paths and more.

Now it’s the turn of the numbers to tell their story.

0 The price of an upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion for buyers of new Macs who purchased their Lion-powered systems starting June 11. The program, called “Up-To-Date” by Apple, continues as long as either Apple or its authorized resellers sell Lion-equipped Macs. The free upgrade will be available from the Mac App Store after buyers fill out a form to be posted on this page of the Apple website.
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It’s also what a Windows user will pay for the Windows Media Center add-on after upgrading to Windows 8 Pro. The add-on, which will come with a price of some sort after Jan. 31, 2013, lets Windows 8 PCs play DVDs.

1/10th The amount a Mac owner spends to upgrade five machines compared to what a Windows user pays to do the same. Unlike Microsoft, Apple lets customers install Mountain Lion on all personally-owned machines.

1 The number of choices Windows and Mac users have for their upgrade editions.

Although Apple has long practiced one-size-fits-all, Microsoft followed suit for the first time this year when it offered only Windows 8 Pro in both the $14.99 and $40 deals. Previously, Microsoft has provided multiple upgrade versions so that, for instance, someone running Vista Home Premium upgraded to Windows 7 Home Premium, not to Windows 7 Professional.

2X How much more Windows users will pay for their upgrade to Windows 8 Pro than Mac owners will pay for theirs to OS X Mountain Lion.

3 Number of previous versions of Windows that can be upgraded to Windows 8 Pro: XP, Vista and Windows 7. That’s one more than either Vista or Windows 7 covered. Vista’s upgrade was available to Windows 2000 and XP machines, Windows 7 to XP and Vista PCs.

Also the amount of free space on a USB flash drive necessary to create bootable installation media for the Windows 8 Pro upgrade, useful as backup install media or to do a “clean” install by wiping the hard drive before upgrading.

5 The maximum number of Windows PCs that users can upgrade to Windows 8 Pro using the “Windows Upgrade Offer” for people who purchase new machines, or the $39.99 upgrade for owners of existing machines. The limit is meant to stymie businesses that might try to take advantage of the low prices rather than subscribe to expensive volume licensing contracts such as Software Assurance.

6 The version of IE — as in IE6 — that Microsoft says isn’t supported by the Windows Upgrade Offer website, where customers register for their $14.99 upgrade after buying a new Windows PC.

8 A number both companies’ upgrades share.

Windows 8 is, well, the eighth iteration of Windows, according to Microsoft, even though the code version is 6.2, indicating compatibility with the other 6.x editions, Windows Vista (6.0) and Windows 7 (6.1). Likewise, Mountain Lion is the eighth in the line of OS X operating systems, which is why it’s numbered 10.8.

14.99 Price, in U.S. currency, of the “Windows Upgrade Offer,” the program for customers who buy new Windows 7-equipped machines between June 2, 2012, and Jan. 31, 2013.

19.99 The price, in U.S. dollars, for the OS X Mountain Lion upgrade. That’s a 33% reduction from 2011’s OS X Lion.

39.99 The price, in U.S. currency, for the discounted Windows 8 Pro upgrade, making it just one-third as much as the list price for an upgrade to 2009’s Windows 7 Home Premium.

84.4 The combined share of Snow Leopard and Lion, and thus the percentage of all Macs able to upgrade to OS X Mountain Lion.

92.2 Windows’ usage share in June, according to Web metrics firm Net Applications. Of all the personal computers that went online last month, that’s the percentage powered by Windows. The closest competitor — and it’s not close at all — was OS X, with a usage share of just 6.7% worldwide. All other things being equal, Microsoft should outsell Apple on upgrades by almost 14-to-1.

99 The number of days that the $39.99 price for a Windows 8 Pro upgrade will last, assuming Microsoft officially launches its new desktop OS on Oct. 25.

131 Number of markets where Microsoft will sell the Windows 8 Pro upgrade at a discount through January 2013. The company previously published the list — which starts with Afghanistan and ends with the Virgin Islands — in this FAQ for the Windows Upgrade Offer.

1-5 million The number of downloaded upgrades that Apple or Microsoft — perhaps both — will likely tout in a press release within hours of their deals’ debuts.
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What to expect at TechEd North America 2012

As anyone who’s been to TechEd will attest, the event is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. With hundreds of technical sessions, workshops, labs and vendors, the annual Microsoft event doesn’t lack quantity. But what’s actually worth paying attention to?

Thanks to the timing of the event, the published agenda and the tarot cards found lying around the TechTarget office, we have a few informed guesses regarding what attendees can expect to hear a lot about, and where Microsoft wants the industry conversation to go. Here are the top topics we’ll be watching:

Windows Server 2012
With the recent name change from Windows Server 8, there’s a renewed anticipation for Microsoft’s upcoming server OS – and heightened expectations for all the things the company claims it can do. Server and Tools Business president Satya Nadella will be one of the featured keynote speakers at the show, and he’ll likely hammer on all of the many documented improvements within Server 2012, from enhancements to Hyper-V and PowerShell to the new Resilient File System. There are also 72 technical sessions in the Windows Server track, which should sate folks eager to play with the Release Candidate, available now.
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Windows 8
It’s no secret that Microsoft is betting big on Windows 8, its “reimagined,” “fast and fluid” new client operating system. With the next iteration – dubbed the Release Preview – now available, you can bet it’ll be a major point of emphasis for many speakers, if not for the IT pros who remain skeptical of how the touch-centric interface will translate to the enterprise. The agenda includes technical sessions on Windows 8 deployment, Metro-style app delivery, Windows To Go and more. Developers will have plenty to chew on as well: Visual Studio corporate vice president Jason Zander will be speaking during Monday’s keynote session, and Antoine LeBlond, corporate vice president for Windows Web Services (with a focus on the Windows Store) takes the stage on Tuesday.

Certifications
Sure, IT pros have been able to take certification exams at TechEd every year. But this year adds some intrigue, given the recent changes to Microsoft’s program, including the return of the MCSE and a focus on the cloud. Many are wondering what the changes mean for them, whether they should get recertified and what the value of these things are, anyway. If there is any place to get answers, it’s here.

Device (or user) management
It’s pretty difficult to avoid the topic of consumerization and BYOD programs at any conference these days, and for good reason: Any organization that isn’t dealing with it now will soon need to or risk being beaten over the head by iPad-wielding employees. One of the main ways that Microsoft is addressing the new reality is through improved device management. The revamped Windows Intune, which will purportedly give IT the ability to manage and deliver applications to iOS and Android devices in addition to Windows devices, will be featured in demos and discussions throughout the week (as will System Center Configuration Manager 2012). Expect to hear about Microsoft’s “user-centric” management model a lot, and get explanations as to why Windows RT tablets don’t need to join Active Directory domains.

Cloud
The word “cloud” at a Microsoft conference usually means Azure. The public cloud platform will definitely be a major coverage area at TechEd, given both the timing – there was a recent branding brouhaha, and the company is scheduled to make a significant Azure announcement on June 7 – and the speaker slate (which includes sessions from Azure executives Scott Guthrie and Mark Russinovich, and purportedly something on the new Windows Azure Active Directory). But don’t discount Microsoft’s private cloud push, which includes System Center 2012 and Hyper-V.

System Center 2012
Though Microsoft’s updated systems management suite got plenty of time in the spotlight during the Management Summit in April, IT pros are looking to learn more about how to better monitor and respond to increasingly complex environments. Many of the suite’s most significant products, including Virtual Machine Manager, Operations Manager and Orchestrator, will get dedicated technical sessions, and should be touted as ways to tie together many of the topics mentioned above.

Office
We’ve heard very little about how things are going with Office 365, Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps, and maybe that’s for a reason. But the roadmap should become a little clearer during TechEd, as there are several sessions scheduled that cover the cloud-based productivity suite in depth, including its tie-ins to the Sharepoint collaboration platform (and we may get more details on the new government-specific version). Though there’s nothing listed, we might also hear something about Office 15, which will reportedly be delivered to Windows devices before anything else.

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Windows 7 Upgrade: Isolated Problems, Not Disaster

Speed Up Windows XP With System Mechanic 10.8

System Mechanic 10.8 Put Through The Test

We’ve all seen those annoying television commercials that promise to speed up a slow computer, but do such solutions really work? The CRN Test Center put Iolo’s System Mechanic 10.8 through its paces and was impressed with the results.

Our test subject was an old Pentium III-era PC running Windows XP so slowly that the machine was completely unusable. Just opening the Start menu easily took 20 seconds, opening an app required about a minute, and we could fix a steak-and-egg breakfast in the time it took to reboot this dinosaur.

But it was perfect for our purposes. We installed System Mechanic 10.8 and, after running a scan, the tool reported that the overall system status was poor and health and security were at alarming levels.
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As expected, the floodgates were opened last week on Windows 7 upgrades. From some of the histrionics on the blogosphere, one would almost surmise that an upgrade to Windows 7 was nothing short of a painful, abysmal failure. Much of the spotlight focused on upgrade problems with the Windows 7 Student edition — one of the more understandable gripes about the upgrade process. Accusations about a host of glitches, such as endless loops of Windows 7 startup, abounded.

However, some of the outrages over Windows 7 upgrades are dubious, at best. As Channelweb.com’s Kevin McLaughlin reported, many users are complaining that that they cannot do clean installs with Windows 7 upgrade media.

Say what? When has Microsoft (NSDQ:MSFT) ever made it an option for a user to do a from-scratch install with an upgrade CD? Legitimately, that is, without any workarounds?

It became a bit hard, during the course of last week, to separate justifiable gripes about the Windows 7 upgrade process from the lone freak incidents and overall general biases against Microsoft. However, upon a deeper dig into a disparate sampling of users all over the Internet recording their Windows 7 upgrade experiences, our verdict is that most problems were more incidental with third-party hardware drivers, line-of-business applications, and just random quirkiness.

We conducted our own independent tests on the upgrade process. What we found were very specific, yet irritating incidents that don’t significantly undermine Microsoft’s promise that “if it works in Vista, it will work in Windows 7.” Furthermore, we did not find any issues in our testing that should render a business system inoperable. Note, all upgrades were done using 32-bit software.

In our initial test, we upgraded a Toshiba Portege 500 laptop from Vista SP2 to Windows 7 Ultimate. The full-blown version of Ultimate, and not an upgrade version, was used for the test. We first attempted to do a clean install over an upgrade, but Toshiba’s native hard disk drive software prevented a complete wipe-out of the system. So, we moved on, doing just a plain old upgrade. The upgrade process was successful. There were no issues with drivers or any other preinstalled software.

One nuisance we noticed after upgrading to Windows 7 and Internet Explorer 8 was a persistence of IE8 to open new IE sessions and tabs at 150 percent zoom. Somewhere during the upgrade process, the previous settings for IE were adjusted, but that is probably more of an issue with the upgrade from IE7 to version 8.

Next, we upgraded a year-old Dell (NSDQ:Dell) XPS laptop, again, with Vista SP2 to Windows 7. There also were no issues with the upgrade process, save for a broken link to a shortcut we had on the Vista OS desktop to wireless networking.

An upgrade of a Dell Vostro 220 mini-tower also gave no problems. All shortcuts and drivers transitioned over to Windows 7 without incident.

This should be of some comfort to home users. From our testing, all of the major OEMs seem to really have prepared for the final release of Windows 7. For business users and those in the channel, it appears that the biggest headaches will be caused by incompatibility issues with LOB software and any other proprietary software or unique hardware. Of course, a solid testing plan along with backing up of mission-critical data and system registries should alleviate any major issues with a Windows 7 upgrade.

Our expectation is that most businesses will opt for clean installs anyway, or replace dated machines with preinstalled Windows 7 ones. It would seem that so far, the Windows 7 upgrade process is a relatively painless one and does not merit the drama it has seemed to attract.

.

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Windows 8 Update: Steve Ballmer’s 80-inch Windows 8 tablet

Also, Office for iPads, Ballmer misquoted, Michael Dell predicts no corporate rush to Windows 8

While it lacks the mobility usually associated with this class of device, there’s an 80-inch tablet serving the head of Microsoft as a wallboard and as a substitute for other work-related gear.

“Steve Ballmer has an 80-inch Windows 8 tablet in his office. He’s got rid of his phone, he’s got rid of his note paper. It’s touch-enabled and it’s hung on his wall,” the company’s vice president Frank Shaw told wired.co.uk. “It’s his whiteboard, his email machine … and it’s a device we’re going to sell.”

MORE: Windows RT management could be a key to success for Windows 8 tablets

While there’s not a huge consumer market yet for such enormous tablets, that could change over time as customers become familiar with these devices and their demands change, Shaw says. “It’s not a consumer thing now, but we know historically that that’s how all things start,” Shaw told wired.co.uk. “The idea that there should be a screen that’s not a computer, we’ll laugh at that in two years.”

A Sharp 80-inch touchscreen running Windows was demonstrated at CES earlier this year, but Ballmer’s jumbo tablet is something different, made by a different manufacturer, Shaw says.

This screen size goes well beyond the 27-inch “family hub” device described in a Building Windows 8 blog earlier this year that details how to scale the operating system to different screen sizes, but that was not a comprehensive list. “Windows will support just about any screen dimension so long as the graphics driver and hardware combination provide the correct information to Windows,” the blog says.
Office for iOS?

The rumor has popped up again, this time from mobile news site bgr.com, that Microsoft plans to release a complete Office suite for iPads and Android tablets. This rumor comes from “a reliable source,” the site says.

Contributing doubt to this rumor is that doing so would shoot Microsoft’s Windows RT efforts in the foot, something the company is certainly capable of and that in the big picture may be a good tradeoff.

Windows RT, as the ARM-based Windows 8 offering is known, is the closest thing Microsoft will have to an iPad, and like Apple does for the iPad, Microsoft is limiting what software customers can add to it. One of the features Windows RT comes with is a bundle of four out of seven Office applications. (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote included; Outlook, Publisher, Access left out.)

So that would be a worse package than the “complete Office suite” described in the rumor. Why would Microsoft introduce a tablet whose major differentiator is that comes with some Office and then make a better package of Office apps available for iPads? Doesn’t make sense.

Of course Microsoft wants to do a lot more than sell Windows RT. It may make more sense and more money to, say, make the very popular iPad more friendly to work environments with some Microsoft software that reaps licensing fees. The company could reap additional license revenues for software to manage the devices.
Microsoft: Ballmer misquoted on Windows 8 uptake estimate

Steve Ballmer predicts that 500 million devices will run Windows 8 by the end of next year, wire service Agence France-Press reported, but Microsoft says that’s not what he really said.
The startling estimate would represent an amazing adoption rate for a new operating system, particularly one so different from its predecessor. So startling, in fact, that it turns out not to be true, or at least that’s what Microsoft says in response to the unsurprising flood of skeptical commentary about the number.

So what did he say? According to Microsoft, Ballmer was regurgitating numbers the company floated last year when it said that if all the current Windows devices were upgraded to Windows 8 that number could be reached. Big difference and a big if.
Michael Dell on Windows 8
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Businesses won’t rush their Windows 8 upgrades, Dell founder Michael Dell predicts, according to a transcript of the company’s earnings call.

“We don’t see — corporations are still adopting Windows 7, so we don’t think there’ll be a massive adoption of Windows 8 by corporations early on,” Dell says.

That doesn’t mean Dell isn’t interested in the new operating system and its potential for consumer devices. “[C]learly, there’s Windows 8 dynamic, but that’s much more of a consumer business impact relatively late in the year but won’t necessarily impact our overall commercial business,” Dell says.

In fact, he says, Windows 8 has compelling new capabilities that Dell plans to support with its hardware. “But certainly, the addition of capacitive touch capability into Windows 8, we think, will be a welcome addition and will have a full complement of products at time of launch,” he says.
Flash for Metro version of Internet Explorer 10

Windows 8 supports two versions of Internet Explorer 10: “the new Internet Explorer in the Windows Metro style UI experience that is optimized for touch devices, and the familiar browsing experience of Internet Explorer for the desktop,” says Microsoft.

And, the company says in a March 13 article, “only supports plug-ins in Internet Explorer for the desktop.” Many thought that meant IE10 for Metro wouldn’t support Adobe Flash, but would instead rely on HTML5 to support rich Web features.

Now rumor has it that Flash will be integrated into IE10 by Microsoft itself, and employing a version that suits Microsoft after it combed through the actual source code and tweaked it to its liking, according to Within Windows.

“Microsoft does work closely with Adobe, closely enough that Adobe actually provided Microsoft with source code access to Flash, allowing them to seamlessly integrate the technology into IE10,” the site says. “Thus, Microsoft did not need to make an exception to its no-add-on policy for Internet Explorer Metro.”

If true, that means users of IE 10 Metro will have a better experience at more sites

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Microsoft reprises free Xbox back-to-school PC promo

Expands deal to Canada, adds more retail partners for program that gives Xbox with purchase of Windows 7 PC

Computerworld – Microsoft will repeat last year’s back-to-school promotion, kicking off the deal Sunday with an offer of a free Xbox 360 game console to eligible U.S. students who buy a new Windows 7 PC.
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Canadian students also qualify for this year’s program, which launches there today.

U.S. high school or college students with proof of status — a student ID card or an email address that ends in .edu — will receive a 4GB Xbox 360 when they purchase a Windows PC for $699 or more. In Canada, the benchmark PC price is $599.

Microsoft will be giving students the $199 Xbox 360, its lowest-priced console, and one that does not come with the Kinect controller.

Unlike last year, when Microsoft’s only retail partner was Best Buy, this year the company has expanded the list of participating retailers to Best Buy and Fry’s Electronics in the U.S., and Best Buy, Future Shop, Staples and The Source in Canada. Online sellers include Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Newegg in the U.S., and Dell in Canada.

Microsoft will also honor the deal at its own retail stores — there are 21, all in the U.S., either open or expected to open this summer — and at its U.S. Microsoft Store website.

The company has apparently left more in the hands of its partners than last year, when Microsoft specified the end date — Sept. 3, 2011 — and the deal’s terms and conditions.

Those details are now up to the participating retailers and e-tailers, Microsoft said in a blog post today. For example, Dell Canada said that its offer expires June 29.

This was the second year running that Microsoft beat Apple to the back-to-school punch. Apple, which has a longer history of offering deals to students, launched its promotion June 16, 2011, nearly a month after Microsoft’s.

Apple’s 2011 program was also the first in years that did not feature a free iPod Touch with the purchase of a new Mac. Instead, the Cupertino, Calif. company handed out $100 iTunes gift cards to students, parents, teachers and staff members.

The cards could be used for purchases at Apple’s digital content markets, including the Mac App Store, the iOS App Store, iBookstore and the iTunes music store.

Depending on when students purchase a Windows PC to get an Xbox, they may be eligible for a free upgrade to Windows 8 Pro when the new operating system launches later this year.

Microsoft has not unveiled a Windows 8 upgrade program, but recent rumors have pegged an announcement to the first week of June, when the company also will debut Windows 8 Release Preview, the OS’s final public milestone.

Earlier this week, Windows blogger Paul Thurrott, citing unnamed sources, claimed that Microsoft would charge users $14.99 for the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro if they purchased a Windows 7 PC between the launch of the program and January 2013.

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Windows 8 is both more and less popular than Windows 7

It all depends on what numbers you look at

Last week Microsoft put out an encouraging statistic about the popularity of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system: it’s been downloaded twice as many times as Windows 7 had been at this point in its development.

Happy news for proponents of the new touch-friendly platform, given the rousing reception Windows 7 received in the wake of Vista.

BACKGROUND: Windows 8 preview popularity kicking Windows 7’s butt
But a different stat crops up today from a Computerworld colleague, Greg Kaiser, who compares the number of Windows 8 machines actually accessing the Internet to the number of Windows 7 computers accessing the Internet at the same point in its development. His result: only half the number of Windows 8 users accessed the Internet vs. Windows 7 users, based on numbers from Net Applications, a Web analytics company.
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That puts a different spin on things. Downloads don’t necessarily mean that the downloaded software is being used.

It’s even more complicated than that. If the download numbers are a good indication of general interest in Windows 8, those numbers are healthy. If just a quarter of those downloads were used in the past week to access the Internet it could be people don’t like it and have tossed it aside.

Or maybe the downloads are being used offline for testing, so don’t show up as accessing the Internet.

Or perhaps the performance of Windows 8 on machines designed for Windows 7 isn’t up to expectations so people waiting for better machines.

So perhaps the outlook isn’t that dismal for Windows 8.

On the flip side, what if both sets of numbers are accurate? Then there’s twice as many downloads of Windows 8 Consumer Preview out there as there were downloads of Windows 7 Beta, according to the Microsoft numbers. Yet Windows 8 is in use by just half as many machines as Windows 7 was, according to the Net Applications number. It’s hard not to interpret that as damning for Windows 8.

Something is stopping potential customers from bridging between download and extended use, and whatever it is has to be worrying Microsoft. Windows 8 takes a bold new direction for the company, embracing touchscreens, a new user interface style, and a new programming platform. The stakes are high. The numbers indicate something has gone wrong or at least not terribly right so far.

It’s not time to despair and Microsoft won’t – yet. The only meaningful numbers about Windows 8’s popularity will be how quickly and how widely it is adopted once it’s released in its final form.

This situation will boost the importance of Windows 8 Release Preview when it becomes available the first week in June because it will be one of the last chances Microsoft has to tweak the platform and boost its popularity before the final version is released.

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