If you are running Windows 8.1 and have a collection of videos in the MKV format, then you are most likely using desktop software like VLC, or a third-party Store app to watch them. You are forced to, because Xbox Video, the Modern UI video player that Microsoft bundles with the operating system, doesn't support MKVs. Well, that just changed.
Microsoft has updated Xbox Video for Windows 8.1 to introduce support for MKV video playback. The latest version of the app -- 2.6.0432.0 -- also packs a couple of fixes that improve the functionality of certain features.
It still has plenty of haters, but Windows 8.1 is finally finding an audience. It may not be anywhere near as sizable as the audience Windows 7 commands, but after losing usage share earlier in the year, the tiled OS is finally headed in the right direction, and at speed.
Earlier today I reported on NetMarketShare’s figures which show Windows 8.1 as having 12.10 percent of the desktop OS market, but now StatCounter has released its own figures which show Windows 8.1 as having just hit a pretty special milestone -- overtaking Windows XP for the first time.
Last month Windows 8.x's usage share did something very surprising -- it went up. Massively, according to figures from web analytics firm NetMarketShare. The tiled OS had been losing share for months, but in October it suddenly took off like a rocket, packing on 4.54 percentage points share in a single month, mostly at the expense of Windows XP.
It wouldn’t have been a total surprise to see Windows 8.x's growth stop, or go back into reverse gear in November, but actually, both Windows 8 and 8.1 showed positive gains once again.
For some strange reason, when Microsoft released Windows 8.1 it forced Windows 8 users to update through the Windows Store. If you wanted to download an ISO file for installing how and when you liked, you either had to be an MSDN subscriber or use a couple of clever workarounds (as detailed here and here).
Thankfully, better late than never, Microsoft has finally come up with an official tool which will let you create your own Windows 8.1 installation DVD or USB flash drive. If you need to install Windows 8.1 from scratch, no longer do you need to install Windows 8 first, and then update through the store.
The Windows tablet market isn't a danger to Android or iPad, but it isn't doing horribly either. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 seems to be a hit and others are on the market as well, with makers like Dell and Toshiba jumping on board. But in case you haven't yet taken the bait, Microsoft wishes to add a bit more enticement with a sale on one of them.
Between now and November 21st the company is offering the Toshiba Encore Mini WT7-C16MS Signature Edition for a steal of a price. The tablet is a seven inch model and it comes with an Intel Atom Z3735G processor, one GB of memory, 16 GB of storage, front and rear cameras and promises up to seven hours of battery life.
Hands up if you saw that coming? We’ve been so used to Windows 8 and 8.1 losing usage share month on month, that any kind of move in the right direction -- i.e. growth -- seems almost an anomaly. And when Windows 8.x does gain usage share, it’s usually pretty minimal.
Not in October. According to the latest usage share figures from web analytics firm NetMarketShare, Windows 8 use grew in that month, and Windows 8.1 (finally) took off like a rocket. In fact, Windows 8.1’s growth in that month is so impressive you’ve got to imagine the number crunchers at NetMarketShare spent a long time checking and re-checking their findings to make sure there wasn’t a mistake at their end.
With Windows 10, Microsoft will finally restore the missing Start menu to its tiled operating system. That’s great news for anyone who isn’t a fan of the Start screen and Modern UI. But Windows 10 is still a good six months away (probably longer), so until it arrives, the only options for users of Windows 8.x is to either accept the Start screen, or install a third party Start button and menu.
The good news is there are plenty of excellent free options available. Here are our top 12 recommendations.
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is one of the greatest tablets for content creators. It can run full-blown software like AutoCAD, Lightroom, Office and Photoshop because Windows 8.1 runs the show, it rivals ultrabooks in the speed department, can double as a laptop with a Type Cover attached, offers good battery life thanks to efficient processors and, on top of all this, ships with a neat stylus as well, out-of-the-box, which Microsoft calls Surface Pen.
Surface Pen is a precise input tool, which comes in handy when users want to draw, sketch or take notes, for instance. Still, for those who would like to make the stylus even more precise in operation can turn to Microsoft's new app, Surface Hub, to adjust pressure sensitivity, among other things.
Windows 10 really can’t come soon enough for Microsoft as its predecessor is continuing to tank. In August the tiled OS actually gained usage share -- according to web analytics firm NetMarketShare -- which was unusual as 8.x had lost users in the previous two months. But any suggestions of a recovery are swiftly crushed looking at September’s figures. Both Windows 8 and 8.x lost a load of usage share last month, while Windows 7 reached an all-time high. It’s Windows 7 users Microsoft really needs to be aiming for with Windows 10 (and if it can tempt XP users too, so much the better). In August, Windows 8 managed a 6.28 percent share of the desktop operating system market, but lost 0.69 percent in September. Windows 8.1, an OS which really should be growing, went from an all-time high of 7.09 percent to 6.67 percent, a drop of 0.42 percent. In total, Windows 8.x lost 1.11 percent share. Windows 7 on the other hand went from 51.21 percent in August to 52.71 percent in September, a gain of 1.5 percent. That’s its highest point ever. Windows XP, which should be losing share, dropped just 0.02 percent, going from 23.89 percent to 23.87 percent. So September was another dreadful month for Windows 8.x. It’s no wonder Microsoft decided to skip ahead to Windows 10 in an attempt to really distance its future OS from the current one.
This week we should finally be able to get our hands on Windows 9 code direct from Microsoft. There are only a couple of days to go until the Technical Preview is officially unveiled at an event in San Francisco, and excitement has been mounting. Slightly ahead of schedule, a page has appeared on the Microsoft website that includes a download link to the 32- and 64-bit versions of the Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise. Intriguingly, the page refers to a version of Windows named Windows TH, but it's not clear that this is actually the name that will be used.
Before you get too excited about grabbing the latest Windows bits, it seems that the page is just a placeholder for now. The download button currently links to a non-updated version of the TechNet Evaluation Center, but a link to the download page that will be used was live briefly. It revealed that the US version of the Technical Preview weighs in at 3.16 GB and 4.10 GB. We've already got a pretty good idea of what to expect from the preview as there have been numerous build and screenshot leaks over recent weeks.
Free's good, right? Who doesn’t like something gratis? Microsoft has -- sort of -- cottoned onto this idea and dropped the annual fee associated with the Windows Dev Center. The 'sort of' caveat remains because signing up for a Dev Center account is not completely free; there's still a registration fee of $19 to pay, but this is for a lifetime account -- no more annual charges. Announcing the move on the Windows blog, Todd Brix explains that "each of our 600,000+ registered developers will no longer need to pay any additional fees to maintain their account. It’s also a very good time for developers new to the platform to get a Dev Center account and start submitting apps".
Having paid the fee, developers are then free to submit apps to both the Windows Phone Store and the Windows Store. But this is not the only change that's coming to the Dev Center. In what is becoming something of a trend, Microsoft clearly pinned back its ears and made it easier to promote apps and provide offers to users. Improvements to in-app advertising means that campaigns can be more easily run on a global scale and pay outs are made faster.
The tablet market is saturated with cheap Android devices, but there's also a growing number of Windows-powered slates pushing down the average price. The Toshiba Encore Mini is a 7-inch device unveiled at IFA 2014 today and it comes with a price tag of just $119.99.
While this is already a low price, it's possible that retailers will drop the price even further when it ships around September 17. Don’t let the price point fool you -- this is not a Windows RT device; you get fully fledged Windows 8.1. But, of course, compromises have been made.
It's the first day of IFA2014 in Berlin, and Lenovo is getting all touchy feely. Rather than waiting until later in the consumer trade show, Lenovo has opted to display all of its wares right from that start by taking the wraps off three new devices, two of which feature touchscreens. As one of the devices is an Android powered tablet, this one is a given, but there's also a touchscreen laptop, and high-powered gaming rig to splash your hard-earned cash on. Priced at just $199, you may well be tempted to throw your money at the 8-inch TAB S8 with its sleek good looks and pretty impressive specs.
The display is a 1920 x 1200 affair boasting an ultra-thin bezel, and the whole unit weighs in at 299g. By way of illustrating the tablet's svelte dimensions, Lenovo has chosen to liken its thinness to that of a "standard pencil". Powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3745 processor running at up to 1.86GHz, the tablet also packs 2GB RAM, and 16GB of storage -- sadly not complemented with a microSD slot. The 4290mAh offers a claimed run time of up to seven hours and there are 1.6MP and 8MP cameras to take care of photos and videos. KitKat 4.4 comes pre-installed and there's an LTE option.
Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.
While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?
New data which was just posted by web analytics company NetMarketShare shows us that, in August, Windows 8.x managed to gain precious usage share in the desktop operating system market. This happened mainly at the expense of the 13 year-old Windows XP, which is seeing its usage share slowly decrease as new devices, toting newer OSs, are brought into the fold.
The good news, however, comes from the rise in usage share of Windows 8.1, which is now at 7.09 percent, up from the 6.56 percent from July. Windows 8 also grew, to 6.28 percent from 5.92 percent, but this is of a lesser importance, as its successor's fate is far more important. Meanwhile, Windows XP decreased to 23.89 percent from 24.82 percent. Still, it is obvious that the oldest of the three still has a terribly long way to go before it reaches similar usage share levels (we're looking at a couple of years, at least) as Windows 8.1 touts now.