If you live in the UK and are thinking of purchasing Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet, now is the time. Pick up one through the Microsoft Store or a participating retailer (which in terms of brick and mortar sellers means John Lewis) and you’ll get a Touch or Type Cover thrown in for free.
It’s a very good deal, as you’d be looking to pay around £100 if you were to buy a cover separately. You can pick up the 32GB tablet-only version of Surface for £399 at the moment.
Microsoft’s decision to drop the Start menu in Windows 8 has caused plenty of controversy, but fortunately it’s made little difference to the end user. Developers quickly realized that many people really don’t like the new interface at all, and they’ve produced a host of free tools to help make Windows 8 look and feel as much like Windows 7 as possible.
Start Menu Reviver, though, has a different aim. Instead of ignoring Microsoft’s Modern UI, it adapts it, with configurable tiles rather than text links. There’s good integration with Windows 8, including the ability to launch Start Screen apps from your desktop. But at the same time, it’s not tied to Windows 8 systems: if you like the look, you can install and run the program on Windows 7, too.
On Wednesday, US manufacturer HP unveiled a new Windows 8-based hybrid dubbed the Split x2. The company touts the device as being able to deliver the best of both worlds -- works as a tablet and doubles as an ultraportable with the keyboard dock.
The Split x2 packs a 13.3-inch HD display and is powered by a third generation Intel Core processor (known under the "Ivy Bridge" codename). The device comes with 128 GB of internal storage. Users can also choose to add a 500 GB HDD inside the keyboard dock, which brings the tally up to 628 GB.
BBC iPlayer has long been the go-to service for catching up on TV and radio shows. The web-based version has been available for years, and iOS and Android users have their own mobile versions to use on phones and tablets. Having been promised back in March BBC iPlayer is now available for Windows Phone 8.
In terms of functionality, there’s little to differentiate this from its Apple and Google counterparts. The app has been a long time coming, but in reality the BBC iPlayer app is little more than a wrapper for the mobile iPlayer website.
Security products that work across all of your digital devices from PCs to smartphones are nothing new -- Norton One has been around for over a year -- but now McAfee has joined the fray. LiveSafe includes virus protection, a password manager and encrypted cloud storage in a single package.
The most interesting feature is the secure online Personal Locker that gives users 1GB of storage to hold their sensitive documents, financial records, IDs and so on. This is secured using biometric authentication with voice, face and device recognition. It works using Intel Identity Protection Technology. This is a hardware authentication mechanism that’s built into the latest Intel processors. To access a file you need to enter a PIN, take a photo for facial recognition and read two messages to confirm your voice.
Converting videos from one format to another can be a complicated business, so it’s no surprise that most conversion tools focus on ease of use above all else. But this can also mean the programs lose a great deal of functionality. Encoders such as FFmpeg -- the engine behind many free converters -- are absolutely packed with features, but the need for simplicity means most of these aren’t accessible to the end user.
There are some projects which take a different view, though, and TEncoder is a good example. This is a converter which isn’t afraid to expose options and settings, and at first glance this makes for a cluttered and intimidating interface. But look past that and you’ll find a tool which manages to be both powerful, and (once you know where everything is) generally very easy to use.
On April 8th, Roku rolled out its latest set-top box, known as the Roku 3. The little device made a splash with its new user interface and unique remote control that allows customers to plug in headphones for private listening, while still sitting back on the couch or moving around the home.
Now Roku's Tom Markworth announces that the popular new UI will start becoming available on older devices. "We’ve begun rolling out the new interface to supported Roku players as a free upgrade, and we know many of you have been waiting impatiently" Markworth states.
Google has added numerous languages to its Google Translate for Android app. A week ago it added 16 more choices, but sadly Klingon wasn't among them. In fact one of our readers, blindwanderer, even observed: "You won't ever see Klingon, Klingon as a language is more tightly controlled by its creators than De Beers controls diamonds". Which is particularly interesting given what language Bing can now speak.
The Microsoft service announces that it has partnered with Marc Okrand and Paramount Pictures to bring Klingon to the translation table. "Now in a few simple clicks you can translate text from English to Klingon (and vice versa!) Available via the web here and also as an update to Bing Translator for Windows Phone 8, regardless of whether you’re new to the Star Trek universe or fresh from a convention, we’ve got you covered," the search team promises.
BlackBerry had a pretty busy day at its Live conference in Orlando. The Canadian manufacturer announced the new Q5 smartphone, introduced the updated BlackBerry 10.1 operating system, released Enterprise Service 10 version 10.1 and detailed plans to bring BBM to Android and iOS.
My colleague Larry Seltzer, who was at the BlackBerry Live conference, briefly went through a couple of the announcements, but let's take a more in-depth look at what the new products bring to the table.
A year ago, at his first BlackBerry Live, according to BlackBerry President and CEO Thorsten Heins, many people told him that it would be his -- and the company's -- last. As Heins went on to say, they were wrong.
Here at BlackBerry Live 2013 in Orlando the company had an upbeat story and lots of news.
Microsoft has been busy with its Skype toy recently, and today announces that it's bringing the popular communication service to yet another mobile platform -- BlackBerry's new Z10 handset.
Microsoft released a preview version of the app for the Q10 back in April, but now with Blackberry 10.1 rolling out to Z10, owners of this device can begin using that Preview version as well. Microsoft's Linda Summers announces the company is "working closely with BlackBerry to give users the best possible Skype experience on the Z10, just as we have for the Q10".
On Monday I said Windows 8’s ‘failure’ is still a win for Microsoft and talked about the upcoming update -- codenamed Windows Blue -- speculating that it would be priced cheaply like a Mac OS-style upgrade, rather than be given away for free.
Turns out I was wrong. Today Tami Reller, Windows division CFO announced at the JP Morgan Technology, Media & Telecom Conference in Boston that the update will be called Windows 8.1 and be entirely free for existing Windows 8 users, as a download through the Windows Store.
Microsoft is on the verge of announcing the next Xbox, with an event scheduled for May 21. But that has not stopped the company from continuing to update the existing model. Granted, the new console will not be released that day and, even when it does hit the retail market, many customers will continue to use the older model, so it makes sense for support to continue.
The latest addition is a new Twitch app. In a brief statement, Xbox Live chief Larry Hryb, AKA Major Nelson, alerts us that "today, we’re launching one of the most asked for apps on Xbox LIVE". Hryb goes on to explain what to expect -- "Gold subscribers in the U.S. will have access to 300 of the most popular streams from the service. Users can view top channels by popularity or individual game and the dashboard features curated channels, tournaments and shows happening now".
Ouch! The latest report from market research company Gartner crushes Microsoft's dreams of Windows Phone breaking away from the smartphone operating system bottom pack. In Q1 2013, with a low market share of just 2.9 percent, Windows Phone battled with BlackBerry for the consolation spot of third most popular platform (and lost), far away from either Android or iOS. The green droid is still the dominant leader, followed from afar by Apple's OS.
"There are two clear leaders in the OS market and Android’s dominance in the OS market is unshakable", says Gartner's Anshul Gupta. "With new OSs coming to market such as Tizen, Firefox and Jolla we expect some market share to be eroded but not enough to question Android’s volume leadership". What he doesn't says is that the future is bleak for both Windows Phone and BlackBerry, which have to showcase their strength to survive the future string of contenders. Let's take a look at the numbers.
After nearly two months of using Microsoft’s services almost exclusively, I made the painful decision to switch back to Google for most of my web needs. I say "most" because I’m still using, and enjoying, Outlook.com.
My decision to stick with Microsoft’s webmail service seems well founded, as the company is adding more features all the time. It introduced Skype support two weeks ago, and from today is rolling out the ability to directly message your Gmail-using contacts. Or "friends stuck on Gmail" as Microsoft amusingly phrases it.