Seventh in a series. There was no round-up of iOS apps last week, not because there weren’t any worthy releases -- this is iOS, there are always great apps to cover -- but because I was away. I’m back now though, and so normal service is resumed.
This week there were some great new apps and games released, including a stunning adventure set inside a pop-up book, a 3D tour through some of nature's wonders, and a game that aims to improve your listening skills (something my wife says I need to do -- or at least I think that's what she says).
I purchased four Nest Protect wired smoke detectors direct from Nest at the end of January. I live in the UK, they were shipped from Holland, and so took five days to arrive. No big deal. I got an electrician friend round to fit them, and he made an interesting discovery -- the power cables connected to my existing smoke detectors were dead (the devices still worked as they were running off batteries, and past false alarms showed they were linked together, so there was no safety risk). The only way to connect my new Nest devices was to do a massive rewiring job. I decided to speak to Nest and swap my wired models for wireless battery ones.
You’d imagine this would be a simple and painless task. But Nest, which was recently purchased by Google for $3.2 billion and produces intelligent hardware, has possibly the least intelligent returns policy in place. Four phone calls later, and I still have my wired Nest devices because the company has what has to be a contender for the worst support ever.
Following a legal battle with satellite broadcaster BskyB, Microsoft was forced to change the name of its popular cloud storage service SkyDrive, opting to go with OneDrive. The name change was unveiled three weeks ago, but today the update begins rolling out across all compatible devices.
Microsoft hasn’t simply just changed the name and logo of its product, and switched the web address to onedrive.com, it’s added some additional features too, and to celebrate the launch is giving away a grand total of 10 petabytes of free storage.
Time sure goes fast. It’s hard to believe but it’s been a year since Outlook.com came out of preview. To celebrate the one year anniversary, Microsoft has created a video showing the new features and changes it has made to its popular webmail service.
"One year ago today, Outlook.com came out of preview and rolled out to people worldwide. It’s been a great year. We’ve learned a lot, heard great feedback from customers and continue to work every day to deliver the most personal and productive email service. We believe more than ever that Outlook.com is the best email choice for people around the world", Microsoft says.
In its new "honestly" commercial, Microsoft shows us a man who has just purchased a Surface 2. "This deal was way too good to believe", says the happy purchaser, with a bag tucked under his arm. "Instead of paying too much for an iPad, I got this Surface 2", he adds, before telling the camera it comes with Office (a Surface commercial that mentions that? Amazing!) and Outlook, free Skype calls to over 60 countries, and 200 GB of cloud storage ("others charge for that").
He’s clearly happy with his purchase, so I don’t want to burst his bubble, but I’m going to anyway.
Yesterday I wrote about the forthcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 and called it a "Frankenstein product stitched together with compromises". My view was based on my experiences with a leaked build of the OS. I didn’t realize, at the time of writing, that others were saying the same things, or that the update was being so roundly criticized online (I try to form my own opinions based on experience rather than get them second-hand).
Since then I’ve read numerous articles on the subject, and ploughed through hundreds of comments, and the general consensus of opinion is that Windows 8.1 Update 1 is, at best pointless, and at worst, a disaster. That seems a little unfair, seeing as the finished version isn’t even out yet, but that’s been the story of the tiled OS since the very beginning -- people haven’t been willing to give it a chance.
Microsoft’s tiled operating system has always divided the Windows community. There are those who love or at least like it, and those who tolerate, or outright hate it. I tried really hard to like Windows 8, but never did. Windows 8.1 is much more usable for me, and I’m a fan of it now (even though I probably wouldn’t have switched in the first place if my job didn't require me to be running it). But let’s be honest here. "New Windows" was a massive gamble for Microsoft, and it’s one that simply hasn’t paid off.
The devices and services giant bet big on touch screen devices and Windows tablets flying off the shelves, and they haven’t. The PC market has imploded, users haven’t really taken to expensive touch enabled computers, and Windows tablets are nowhere near as popular as iPads or the numerous Android powered alternatives. Users are sticking firmly to older versions of Microsoft’s OS -- Windows 7 and even XP are showing more growth than Windows 8.x. With the forthcoming Windows 8.1 Update 1 Microsoft has rolled over and admitted defeat. Keyboard and mouse users are here to stay, and finally the tiled OS has something to offer them.
Sixth in a series. I'm a massive fan of the Broken Sword series of games, so this week was a great one for me as I finally got to download and start playing the brand new Broken Sword adventure on iOS. I'm pleased to report it doesn't disappoint. Thanks to mobile devices (and Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns) classic adventure series are getting a whole new lease of life, which is fantastic. Fans of classic games will be thrilled to know there's a "new" Final Fantasy game out this week too.
With the Winter Olympics upon us, Apple has gathered together a collection of official Sochi 2014 apps, including the Athletes’ Hub which is well worth a download.
Unbelievably it’s been a year since Microsoft launched modern.IE, a collection of free tools designed to help reduce the amount of time web developers spend on testing their creations. modern.IE offers over 90 virtual machines, a code scanner, three months of BrowserStack, tech teardowns of Microsoft’s Rethink experiences (including NORAD Tracks Santa, Hover, Contre Jour) and more.
To coincide with its first anniversary, Microsoft announces that it has saved developers over a million hours. In case you’re wondering how the tech giant arrived at this rather massive figure, Jason McConnell, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft, explains:
Next up, he’s going to be appearing in a live webcast, addressing Microsoft’s many customers and partners for the first time in his new role.
It’s a massive day for Microsoft, as long time CEO Steve Ballmer finally steps down to be replaced by Satya Nadella, and Bill Gates switches roles. Both former CEOs will remain on the board, and still have a degree of influence over the company. Quite what the changes will mean for Microsoft long term we’ll have to wait and see.
As is customary with major changes like this, both the incoming and outgoing CEOs have sent company-wide emails to employees. Nadella’s outlines his vision for the future, and includes a quote from Oscar Wilde -- "we need to believe in the impossible and remove the improbable". Here's what he had to say in full:
Windows XP gained a little market share in January -- making for a nice, fun headline -- but the real point of that story is how poorly Windows 8.x appears to be doing. Despite being backed by an incredible advertising and marketing push its adoption rate really is pretty awful.
Two months ago Statista compared the global market share of both Windows 7 and Windows 8.x following their respective launches, plotting the results on a graph, and as I said at the time the difference was stark. Windows 7 showed a steep upwards trend, while Windows 8.x appeared to be heading for a plateau. Statista has since updated its chart, and the difference in fortunes between the two operating systems is now even more pronounced.
I have to admit I look forward to seeing NetMarketShare’s monthly breakdown of desktop OS market share. The figures always provide a great talking point. You can pretty much guarantee that Windows 8’s share will decline, Windows 8.1’s share will increase, and combined the tiled OS’s growth will be outpaced by one of the older versions of Windows.
Usually it’s Windows 7 that’s showing the top growth. Sometimes besting Windows 8.x by a tiny amount, other times absolutely trouncing its newer sibling. But this time around, there’s a brand new leader in the growth stakes, and it’s a 13 year old OS that’s set to reach its end of life in April.
There have been lots of rumors about what to expect from Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows 8.1 update, including that it will allow users to pin Windows Store apps to the taskbar -- a time saving tweak for anyone who avoids the Modern UI but still likes to use apps from time to time. So is it true, and what other tweaks has Microsoft made to its tiled OS?
Well, a version of Windows 8.1 with Update 1 in place has leaked on to the internet, revealing (nearly) all. The 64-bit build is not the final release -- it’s three weeks old -- but it gives us a good look at what to expect from Update 1 which is set to be released next month.
Fifth in a series. A big week for Apple as the company delivered record fiscal first quarter results -- $57.6 billion revenue and $13.1 billion net profit. The tech giant revealed it had shipped 51 million iPhones, an all-time quarterly record, compared to 47.8 million a year-ago, and 26 million iPads, up from 22.9 million in the same period a year ago. Wall Street wasn’t impressed, but that’s to be expected.
Of course a big part of Apple’s success is the number and quality of apps available for its hardware. As the owner of both iOS and Android devices, I find the apps for the iPhone and iPad to be vastly superior (although there are always exceptions). There’s less garbage, and far fewer ad-riddled apps. Part of that reason is Apple’s strict approval process, and the amount of money it pays to developers -- $2 billion in its fiscal first quarter -- helps too.