The "Microsoft's dead" meme is one of the most popular among tech bloggers and arm-chair pundit commenters. Posts are everywhere the last 30 days or so, fed this month by reports of record-weak PC shipments. After market close yesterday, with fiscal Q3 results, Microsoft proved critics wrong and showed just how much strength remains in the Windows franchise. More significantly, a dramatic change is underway, regarding which buyers generate more revenues.
IDC says that PC shipments fell 13.9 percent during calendar first quarter (Microsoft's fiscal third), and there was reasonable expectation Windows license sales would see similar fall off. Instead, when removing a one-time $1.085 billion deferral, Windows & Windows Live division revenue was flat ($4.62 billion) year over year. Given the sorry state of the PC market, flat isn't just good but great.
For the most part Microsoft's Windows updates, known as Patch Tuesday, aim to fix problems as opposed to causing them. That is not always the case, and the most recent update, which took place this week, is a shining example of what happens when good intentions go bad.
On April 9th Microsoft released two "critical" security updates and seven others rated as "important" for both Windows and Internet Explorer as part of its latest round of updates, collectively covering 14 issues. However one of those fixes, labeled KB2823324 and aimed at the Windows 7 file system kernel-mode driver, went badly for some customers. The result was reports of blue screens of death (BSOD) and also infinite reboots.
For those people who haven't moved on to Windows 8, don't worry -- you will still get something new. Microsoft has announced that Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 will automatically push through the Windows Update tomorrow.
This is not entirely new, though. In fact, Service Pack 1 released way back on Feb. 9, 2011, but has remained optional. Users could previously install SP1 from Windows Update, but the task required manually adding it to the installation list. The difference now is that Microsoft will no longer give users a choice in this matter. That is not a bad thing, because SP1 rolls together a number of security updates for your computer.
With release of OS X 10.8.3, the latest update for Mountain Lion, Apple upgraded the Boot Camp utility, which allows users to dual-boot Windows and OS X on a supported Mac, to version 5. Boot Camp 5 allows users to install either 64-bit editions of Windows 7 or 8 alongside their copy of OS X -- by downloading Boot Camp Support Software 5, you’ll have all the drivers you need to run Windows on your Mac.
One consequence of upgrading to Boot Camp 5 is that support for 32-bit versions of Windows – including XP and Vista as well as 32-bit iterations of Windows 7 and 8 – is no longer supported.
Getting easier access to a Windows 7 shortcut is extremely easy: right-click, select "Pin to taskbar", and an icon will pop up on your taskbar, ready for immediate use.
Right-click a file, though -- or a folder, a drive, a Control Panel applet or just about anything else -- and you’ll find no "Pin" option. There are various manual workarounds you can apply, but your life will be much simpler if you grab a copy of Taskbar Pinner, which allows you to fill the taskbar with just about anything you like.
Microsoft has released the first stable version of Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7 (32-bit) and Internet Explorer 10 for Windows 7 (64-bit). The latest version of the browser -- which comes pre-installed in Windows 8 -- promises improved performance, better privacy and supports the latest web standards, plus adds integrated spell-checking and auto-correct tools.
Internet Explorer 10 in itself isn’t new -- it was bundled with Windows 8 on its release on October 26. However, it’s only now that Windows 7 users have been able to install a stable version of the software, although a Release Preview has been available since mid-November. Just as Internet Explorer 9 dropped support for Windows XP, so IE10 drops support for Windows Vista.
Security Essentials fails 'AV-Test Certified' stamp of approval and Microsoft says it does not matter
Three days ago, the AV-TEST Institute published its latest results for consumer security product testing, which was conducted on Windows 7 during a two month period, through November and December 2012. From the 25 security solutions analyzed in the roundup, only three products failed to receive the recognized AV-TEST certificate, one of which was Microsoft's own Security Essentials.
The software giant was prompt to respond to the latest test results, by emphasizing that "a rigorous review" is conducted in-house "whenever test results warrant it". Obviously, Microsoft does not shoot itself in the foot, as you may assume, and provides a number of internal test results in order to reassure users that Security Essentials is not as bad as the AV-TEST Institute may suggest. Question is: Why put itself on the spot in the first place?
There is friendly disagreement here at BetaNews. My friend and colleague, Mihaita Bamburic, uses Windows 8, but laments that he wants to return to the last era by downgrading to version 7. While I feel for him, and he certainly has that option, I would say the same thing I did to my family when I upgraded our household computers -- yes it is different, but I doubt Microsoft is going back now.
That is a harsh statement, although I certainly put it as gently as possible to my wife and kids. However, aside from my assertion that things will not revert, there are several other reasons I feel no loss in this move.
Life as an early adopter is sprinkled with moments of joy and regret after first trying out a product up until another shiny toy takes its place. The burning desire to pursue something new often backfires in my endeavors, with personal expectations rarely fulfilled by cutting-edge software or hardware. My experience running Windows 8 is no different, as Microsoft's latest entry into consumer operating systems seldom ticks all the right boxes. But I plow through, even though what I really want is to go back to Windows 7. (Oh my, my colleague Alan Buckingham disagrees.)
I started using Windows 8 in mid-August and throughout all my time with it not once did I ever feel comfortable enough to say: "This is a keeper". Fact is what I love about Windows 8 I almost never use, and what I loathe I do have to deal with every single time -- it's a self-destructive relationship I simply do not want to be in anymore. On the other hand, at the opposite end lies Windows 7, which fits me like a tailored suit -- no extra "in your face" functionality that I rarely take advantage of. Simply put -- less is more.
If there's one word that best describes my personal tech use for 2012, change is definitely it. For the most part of the year I "cheated" one platform with another, with no particular personal favorite to get me through (almost) 365 days. Each piece of software and hardware is used for a particular scenario, something that I find rather soothing for my personal early adopter endeavors as well as my sanity. I just can't stand tinkering with the same bit of tech for longer periods of time, although there still is a dear old friend in my life...
My colleagues Alan Buckingham and Wayne Williams already wrote about their personal tech choices in 2012, and now it's my turn. Without further ado here is what I used most throughout the year, starting with my trusty dear old friend.
Twenty-six days ago I asked "Will you buy Microsoft Surface Pro?" after pricing released and pundits gripe it is too high. They compared to iPad, which I argued then (and still maintain) isn't right: Microsoft smartly prices Surface Pro against MacBook Air and Ultrabooks. But do you agree? Based on responses to the poll, yes.
Quick recap: Microsoft plans to release the second Surface tablet, running Windows 8 Pro, next month. The model available since October 26 runs Windows RT and is priced against iPad. Surface RT starts at $499. Pro is either $899 or $999 for 64GB or 128GB storage, respectively. Users can't install legacy apps on RT but they can on Surface Pro, which Microsoft positions more for business users and anyone needing access to the more traditional Windows desktop. The company also expects Pro buyers to pay up for Office 2013; the Home version ships free on Surface RT.