It's been a busy week for Microsoft -- and not necessarily for the reasons the company might have expected. For anyone unwilling to wait until April to receive Windows 8.1 Update, a few methods emerged that made it possible to grab a copy of the eagerly awaited update ahead of the official launch. While some of these options appear to have been stopped in their tracks, where there's a will there's a way, and numerous users -- my good self included -- jumped on the downloads as soon as possible. Some were impressed while others -- yep, me again! -- we not. Perhaps it is little wonder that Windows XP usage continues to grow faster than that of Windows 8.x. This lead to analysts suggesting that the decline of the PC will be slowed rather than avoided by the continued popularity of XP.
Windows 8.1 Update wasn't that only Microsoft download that was on the agenda this week. Brian had details of how Windows RT users can update their copies of Office 2013 to SP1. At the top of Microsoft, a quick reshuffle saw a change of faces in a number of key positions as well as the departure of some well-known characters. Skype.com rolled out around the world and gained HD video calling as well. It is normally Microsoft that is to be found on the giving-end of a smeary advertising campaigns (hello, Scroogled), but after the Oscars it was Nokia poking fun at Ellen DeGeneres' blurry selfie that was taken on a Samsung device.
Windows 8.1 Update. Windows 8.1 Update 1. Windows Feature Pack. Windows 8.1 Service Pack 1. Call it what you will, the big update to Windows 8.1 is just around the corner and it promises much. Or at least it did. It was revealed yesterday that it was possible to get hold of the update ahead of schedule with a quick and simple registry edit -- or by downloading the necessary files from the numerous mirrors that quickly sprang up -- and it appears that this is final code; the RTM version that will hit Windows Update for the masses very soon. Was it worth the wait?
This update was Microsoft's chance to put things right, to win back people who hated Windows 8 and have failed to be won over by 8.1. I make no secret about having a love-hate relationship with Windows 8.x. There have been parts of Windows 8 -- particularly the Metro/modern side of things -- which I disliked from day one, but for the most part I have been able to just avoid using them. Microsoft has even acknowledged that people want to avoid the Start screen whenever possible, and has provided tips on how to do so.
The standard fare of tech industry pundits just don't get it when it comes to Windows RT. They lambasted it when it came out in 2012 (in some ways, rightfully so). They doubted Microsoft would release a Surface 2 variant, and Redmond did just that. And they continue to beat the anti-RT drum loud and clear, using RT device sales figures as their proof of a pending death notice.
Perusing Google, you can come across a wild variety of articles that purport to explain why Microsoft needs to ditch RT altogether. Chris Neiger penned one such piece, and even John Martellaro of MacObserver.com did his best to argue how foolish Microsoft was for even considering RT a serious contender.
Reports about Windows are often doom and gloom lately. However, let's be honest, when an OS update is released for Microsoft's operating system, the world takes notice. Well, the world certainly took notice of Windows 8 -- in a generally bad light. While some argue that people are simply scared of change, I disagree. It is a schizophrenic experience, as it causes the user to work between two user interfaces.
It is because of the disdain for Windows 8, that everyone was clamoring for the 8.1 version. The technology world prayed that the point-one increase would solve most of the complaints. While it did make using the OS slightly more palpable, it was not the change that users wanted. And so, the world once again is resting its prayers on Windows 8.1 Update 1 -- the next iteration of the operating system. Well, get excited because it can be yours right now!
Microsoft is readying an update for its tiled operating system that is expected to be released next month. Thanks to various leaked builds we have a good idea of what to expect from it -- plenty of tweaks to make it more keyboard and mouse friendly mostly -- and we thought we knew what it would be called too -- Windows 8.1 Update 1. However, it turns out that might not be the case.
Help files for the Windows Assessment and Deployment Kit (ADK) for Windows 8.1 (leaked by WZor.Net) refer to the forthcoming pack as simply Windows 8.1 Update (so apparently not "Spring Update" or "Feature Pack" as some have suggested). They also reveal more about the mysterious "with Bing" edition of the OS.
According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker, global PC shipments fell by 9.8 percent in 2013, the most severe contraction on record, but the future looks slightly brighter going forward. And by "slightly brighter" I mean things thankfully shouldn’t be anywhere near as bad as they were last year.
IDC had been anticipating a decline of 10.1 percent by the end of 2013, so the actual results were slightly more positive than had been expected in mature markets (which includes the US, Western Europe, Japan, and Canada). Part of the reason for this is, IDC believes, down to short-term factors like the rise in people purchasing XP replacements, but it doesn’t expect this bump to last for very long. XP still accounts for a third of the desktop OS market share, and there’s currently no signs of a trickle of users migrating to Windows 8.1, let alone the flood of users Microsoft would like to see.
After being forced to drop the SkyDrive name following a legal dispute with UK broadband provider Sky, Microsoft relaunched its cloud storage service, last month, under a new, yet somewhat familiar moniker, OneDrive. Rebranded apps quickly hit Android, iOS, OS X and Windows Phone, adding new features in the process.
With the OneDrive roll-out almost complete, BlackBerry (yes, that is right) just introduced the cloud storage service on its own platform, BlackBerry 10. The move effectively gives Microsoft access to more potential customers, and allows OneDrive to better rival the availability of other market competitors, like Box.
This is a personal account of the way I have noticed the technology markets changing over the years. It is not gospel, and you are welcome (encouraged, if you like) to disagree… It's not all that long ago that brand loyalty was a given; it was almost the default setting for many people. If you got into computing -- and it was something you "got into" rather than just having as part of your life -- you stuck loyally to whatever brand you chose at the start. We could go back to the 70s and look at the birth of personal computing, but as this is my personal account, we'll have to start in the 80s.
I did just manage to sneak into the 70s -- being born in 1979 puts me in the difficult-to-comprehend position of being 34 years old but having seen five decades -- but an interest in computing didn't emerge until some time in the late 80s. I remember there being several computing camps: BBC, Amstrad, Spectrum, Vic and Commodore to name a few. My decision was made for me at an early age when my dad decided to invest in a Commodore 16 Plus 4 (the Plus 4 referring to the fact that the OS featured four built-in applications including a spreadsheet tool, the absurd simplicity of which was not lost on me even at a young age).
Ten months ago, Microsoft announced it would be rolling out a preview version of Skype for Outlook.com in the United Kingdom that would allow users to make audio and video calls directly from their inboxes.
Three months later, the devices and services giant expanded the preview’s availability to five additional countries -- United States, Canada, Germany, France and Brazil -- and stated it would be rolling out the feature to the rest of the world "in the coming weeks". A mere seven months later and finally, today, Microsoft makes good on that promise, announcing that Skype for Outlook.com is now available to all. The service also gains support for HD video calls.
The leadership at Microsoft, which has moved from Steve Ballmer to Satya Nadella, has had a chance to sink in. Now it is time to see what the new CEO has up his sleeve. Rumors of an executive musical chairs surfaced over the weekend, but nothing was confirmed until an official announcement posted today.
Indeed the widespread news is true, and both Tami Reller and Tony Bates will be leaving the company, while other executives make moves to new positions.
It's a new month and so once again NetMarketShare reports desktop share for all of the major operating systems. What's interesting this month is all versions of Windows showed fairly minor changes. Whether dropping or gaining, the differences in share were minimal.
However, one inescapable truth is clear from the figures. While Windows 8.x might finally have shifted 200 million licenses, use of the OS has pretty much plateaued. In February, Windows 8's share declined from 6.62 percent to 6.38 percent, a drop of -0.24. Windows 8.1 increased shared from 3.94 percent to 4.30 percent, rising by 0.36. Combined, Windows 8.1 grew by just 0.12 percent.
Webcam porn! Spying! Cell phones! Bitcoin controversy! Just another normal week in the world of tech news! Bitcoin exchange Mt Gox disappeared offline amid concern about missing millions and then filed for bankruptcy. After panic spread through Mac users following the discovery of a serious SSL bug in Mavericks, Apple released an update that plugged the hole -- but it was also discovered that iOS 7 has a keylogging vulnerability. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for Office 2013, but anyone using Office 365 will need to force the installation of newer updates in order to reap the benefits.
Security updates are all well and good for operating systems and applications, but it will do little to protect you against the wandering eyes of government agencies. As if everything we have already learned about the activities of the NSA et al, this week's revelations about what the UK's GCHQ has been getting up to is sure to raise ire. Not content with logging emails and web searches, the UK intelligence agency apparently spent a number of years tapping into the webcam chats of millions of Yahoo users. There may be little good news in this revelation, but it was at least slightly amusing to find that the surveillers were rather taken aback by the amount of pornographic content they encountered. It makes ya proud!
Rumors run rampant on the internet. A new one has surfaced recently that has a couple of trusted sources behind it, as both Tom Warren and Paul Thurrott point to the possibility of a version of Windows 8.1 with Bing -- a Bing OS if you will. It would be geared towards competing against Chrome OS, which has become an increasing concern for Microsoft.
Warren reports that "sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company is building 'Windows 8.1 with Bing', a version that will bundle key Microsoft apps and services". Yes, "sources familiar" is not the first words in reliability of a report, but Thurrott also concurred, stating "Microsoft is testing whether it makes sense to provide a free version of Windows down the road. And while recent leaks have revealed the existence of something called Windows 8.1 with Bing, it's unclear what this bundling would mean to users", a somewhat less sure, and perhaps more realistic approach. As Paul points out though, a leaked version is already out, so the possibility is very real that this could see the light of day.
In late-October 2012 Microsoft released Windows Phone 8. Today, it is still the latest available iteration, more than a year after its arrival. Some would say its feature set was outdated when it launched, more so now as both rivals, Android and iOS, have been improved multiple times since, pushing them further ahead of Microsoft's own competitor.
Windows Phone 8.1 is Microsoft's chance to finally catch up to Android and iOS in the feature department, and, for the first time, give its offering a tangible advantage over its more popular adversaries. Windows Phone 8.1 appears to be long overdue when we consider that Android and iOS see one or two major updates each year, and their feature sets are really cutting edge. We know Microsoft revealed that its new smartphone operating system will launch this spring, so let us take a look at what it is known to bring to the table.
Service Pack 1 has just started to roll out to Office 2013 users, but Office 365 users have been left out in the cold. You might think that as a subscriber your software is kept constantly updated -- and this is true to a point. But talking to Paul Thurrott, Microsoft reveals that a "handful of updates are totally new in SP1" and these have not all made their way to Office 365 yet. Unless you follow the little trick that Paul has shared, that is.
Unlike many applications Office 365 does not have a built-in means of forcing an update check -- so we have to force a forced update! The steps are very quick and simple to follow, and you can grab yourself a copy of SP1 in next to no time.