Unlike my colleague Brian Fagioli, and many other disillusioned users, I think Microsoft made a serious mistake when the Start menu and button were removed from Windows 8. The company practically admitted as much when Windows 8.1 saw the reintroduction of the Start button. But this was simply not enough. Windows is all about the Start menu, and for many people the Start button and Start menu are so inextricably linked that to have either without the other just makes no sense.
Sure, we have the Start screen in Windows 8.1 and from it you can achieve pretty much what you were able to do with the Start menu. But it is not the same. Windows 95 was all about the Start button and the Start menu that it conjured up. Yes, we may be the thick end of 20 years down the line, but this is at least partly the point. We have had almost two decades to get used to a particular way of working. It would be strange if there wasn’t a backlash against something we have become so used to.
It being the week of Thanksgiving, anyone looking for a bargain will have been eagerly anticipating Black Friday. The big names did not disappoint including Microsoft who had special prices on Surfaces. If you were undecided between buying a Surface or an iPad, Microsoft compared the two devices so you don’t have to -- and there are no prizes for guessing which comes out on top! If you give or receive giftcards as presents this year, they can now be used to pay for things through PayPal checkout.
Microsoft's Scroogled campaign may not be in the spirit of the season, but it continues apace. In one advert, the services of Pawn Stars were called upon to take a pop at Google's Chromebook -- Alan was less than impressed. Brian, however was pleased to be the recipient of a surprise, unadvertised mug having placed an order via the Scroogled store, and Joe is a big fan of the campaign. Speaking of Chromebooks, Acer announced an ultra-cheap touchscreen device in the form of the C720P.
We're all used to getting touchy-feely with our phones and tablets, but it's only in the past few months that touchscreen laptops have really gained any ground. A report by NPD DisplaySearch states that by the end of 2013, touchscreen devices will account for 11 percent of all notebook shipments -- that's around 19.8 million notebooks with touchscreens -- and there has been a steady increase in market share since the beginning of the year.
Richard Shim, senior analyst at NPD DisplaySearch explains that "Premium pricing and a lack of compelling uses for touch screens on notebooks continue to hinder adoption", but goes on to say that "as touch interfaces become increasingly common across all mobile devices, it is just a matter of time before the technology also becomes more prevalent in notebooks".
Sony PlayStation 4 hit the stores and Brian not only took a look at the brand new console, but also cracked open the case and slipped a larger hard drive inside. Brian wasn't alone in his love of the PS4, more than a million people also bought a console on the day of launch. But not everyone was happy as many units were found to suffer from a Blue Light of Death problem that rendered them unusable. Raspberry Pi was also celebrating its sales figures as more than two million were shifted since its launch last year.
In a rare show of unity, Microsoft and Google joined forces to help tackle the problem of online child pornography. At the same time, Microsoft took its Scroogled campaign to a new level by releasing merchandise (although Joe was impressed). Elsewhere online, Twitter introduced Twitter alerts to the UK and Ireland to help provide people with critical information in an emergency.
When I embarked on my Microsoft-only journey, I was scared. After all, my professional life and career depends on my use of technology. By limiting myself to only one company and its products, there could be room for more harm rather than good. However, I was also excited to try something new and share it with you.
In reality, people will not purposely restrict their choice in computing; they will choose the devices they want, regardless of brand. Quite frankly, many people mix and match brands and operating systems -- Windows laptop with an iPhone, iMac with an Android smartphone, etc. While I was using a Surface 2 with a Windows Phone in my experiment, that is not necessarily a common combination.
It may be hard to believe, but OneNote was released in November 2003. To many mature users of Microsoft's Office suite, it still feels like a "new" addition. Sadly, many people do not use the note-taking, collaboration solution, likely from a lack of education on the software. I am only a few years removed from college and never observed a single student leveraging OneNote in the classroom; they all used Word. This is unfortunate as it is a great cross-platform solution -- Windows, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone are now all supported.
To celebrate the 10 year anniversary, Microsoft is launching the One Notable Decade campaign. This should hopefully raise awareness of the powerful software. Today, Microsoft shares some examples of how OneNote helps people be successful in their lives.
Apple took center stage this week. At a special event the new iPad Air, iPad mini, Mac Pro and a raft of free software were all revealed, and we liveblogged through the whole thing. Not to be outdone by Microsoft, Apple decided to give Mavericks away free of charge along with iWork and iLife. But it was the iPad Air and mini that stole the show, sharing the same innards as the recently announced iPhone 5s, but boasting a redesigned exterior -- at least in the case of the Air.
Of course, no tablet launch would be complete without matching cases. There was also the interestingly designed Mac Pro which looks delightful and is a serious powerhouse, but has a price tag to match. After the big launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple showed off the latest addition to the iPhone range in a TV commercial.
When I attended the Surface event in September, I was very impressed with the hardware -- the tablets and accessories. While I was most enamored with the Blade concept, I was also interested in the Surface Pro Docking Station. I had some hands-on experience with the accessory and found it to be well-built and fun to use. It felt very futuristic and simplistic -- you press the sides of the dock into the tablet. It felt like playing with Lego blocks.
While the Surface Pro 2 was released on October 22, the docking station was scheduled for next year, in 2014. This was a huge blow to business users especially, as it enables the device to act as both a tablet and a desktop (perfect for an on-the-go executive). However, out of the blue, the docking station becomes available today. Pull out that credit card.
This past Tuesday, I announced my Microsoft-only experiment. My goal is to only use Microsoft devices for a week -- not easy for a Linux user -- and I have since followed through on that commitment. Armed with only a Surface 2 (Windows RT 8.1), Nokia Lumia 928 and a Windows 8.1 desktop, I managed to make the transition, although it was not all sunshine. More on that later.
As someone who writes a lot, a good keyboard is a must. Believe it or not, the Surface's on screen keyboard is simply brilliant. I can type better on it than the iPad or any Android keyboard. It is very responsive and the auto-correct feature works well. I even find the audio feedback to be oddly pleasing. On Android, I turn off the volume, as I find the clicking sound to be annoying, not here; it actually adds to the experience.
In early August, Surface Pro received a $100 price cut in an attempt to lure prospective buyers, following the less than stellar revenues generated by Microsoft's tablet lineup. The base model would run for a more accessible $799, with the flagship costing $899. Now, the software giant is at it again, slashing the price of its Surface Pro one more time.
The latest Surface Pro price-cut comes in response to the arrival of the new Surface Pro 2, that touts significantly better battery life and performance improvements and a price that kicks off at $899 for the base model. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft wants to give Surface Pro a real fighting chance at raking in more sales before pulling the plug.
When I got my first computer, a Packard Bell, it was running Windows 95. At the time, I was just happy that I could talk to girls on AOL. The political and religious nature of the operating system never entered my mind. This was because, at the time, Microsoft monopolized computing in America's households. Microsoft was computers to me and I was fine with that.
Fast forward to 2013 and we see a far different landscape in home computers. Heck, the idea of owning a desktop is foreign to many consumers as they instead opt for tablets. Shockingly, Microsoft is almost nowhere to be found in the tablet revolution. Yes, it was selling convertible, tablet-edition Windows devices years ago, but consumers weren't buying them. I should know, I sold them at the time -- well, didn't sell them, I should say.
The traditional telephone and email setup at many businesses is dying. This old-school approach is no longer efficient. As crazy as it is to call email "old school", that is exactly what it is. Many business users want the ability to reach out in real-time, with the option to escalate the interaction to voice or screen-sharing. Lync is the dynamic software solution which is trailblazing the corporate world.
If you aren't familiar, Lync is a business-focused instant messaging client for Windows. However, it is so much more than that -- it is a communication service that brings colleagues together. It provides VOIP, instant messaging, video chat and screen-sharing. The magic of the software is the integration with Outlook -- your status can be automatically updated to reflect your meetings and appointments. Today, Microsoft announces that adoption of the software is booming.
Just about everyone with a desktop, laptop or even a Surface Pro running Windows 8 has been busy updating to Windows 8.1 over the past couple of days.
But things aren’t so rosy for anyone with a Surface RT. After a number of users took to Microsoft forums to complain about problems updating their tablet/laptop hybrids to the latest version of Windows, the update was pulled from the Windows Store.
This was another week in which Microsoft managed to steal the show, this time with the public release of Windows 8.1. Here at BetaNews we were fully prepared for the upgrade and showed off what's new. While we're generally impressed with the update, there's still a little room for improvement. Of course the Start menu (or lack thereof) is still a sticking point, but you can get this back. The operating system update was preceded by a raft of updates to Window's built in apps.
Windows 8.1 may be where it's at right now, but there are still plenty of people running Windows XP. Google announced that Chrome users on XP would be supported for a year after the OS is retired.
We all know the original Surface RT failed badly, and there are multiple reasons for its lack of success, including overpricing, poor distribution, commercials that revealed nothing about the product, and of course Windows RT -- the operating system that was a total mystery to consumers. No one knew anything about it. It came out of nowhere, hidden in the shadows of Windows 8.
What does RT mean? To anyone? (It’s just another in a long line of ambiguous Windows acronyms, joining the likes of XP, NT and CE). It looks like Windows 8, but it isn’t. It can’t run (most) desktop applications, despite having a desktop, and has other less than obvious limitations too.