The tech world seems to be slowling down slightly in the run up to Christmas, but there have still been a lot of stories over the past seven days. There are sure to be a whole new raft of sales to look forward to both before and after Christmas, but if the Thanksgiving sales are anything to go by they may not offer as good a deal as first appearances would have you believe. Whether you bag a bargain or not, it looks as though tech presents are going to be as popular as ever this year -- and if you buy a Windows device, you'll get a free gift card.
After Microsoft tried comparing the Surface to the iPad Air, Amazon decided to follow suit -- guess which was more popular! Microsoft kept its fire trained on Google, taking a swipe at the Chromebook. Tablet makers may be pushing their product in the run up to Christmas, but PC shipments have suffered the largest decline ever. New computers will have an updated USB connection in the near future. USB type C brings to an end a problem that has plagued anyone who has ever plugged in a USB cable -- this generation can be plugged in either way up!
Microsoft took a huge gamble with Windows 8, reinventing its operating system for tablets and touch screen PCs. Unfortunately, when it was first released there really weren’t many touch devices for it to run on, and the majority of desktop users (myself included) hated the bolted on full screen Modern UI that replaced the traditional Start menu.
With Windows 8.1, a lot of the complaints aimed at the tiled OS have been addressed. Desktop users can pretty much avoid the Modern UI altogether, and overall 8.1 is a much more polished affair. Despite the improvements and near ubiquity on new hardware, Windows 8/8.1 is still struggling to find an audience. Last month, Windows 7’s growth was four times that of the newer OS. So where does Microsoft go from here? Mary Jo Foley of the All About Microsoft blog reports the answer is "Threshold".
The official holiday shopping season kicked off last week and reached full speed today with Cyber Monday. Like every year, Microsoft hopes to see a Windows product on everyone's wish list. This year the company is even planning to throw in a little something extra to sweeten the deal.
The software and services company is announcing that starting now, and running through December 28th, anyone who purchases a new touch PC or tablet is eligible for a shiny new gift card to go along with it. The card can be used to purchase any app or game in the Windows Store.
In an interview with Poynter back at the beginning of November, BuzzFeed book editor Isaac Fitzgerald said that the site will not include negative reviews. "Why waste breath talking smack about something? You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all". Is this the right attitude to adopt? I won't even pretend that this is a rhetorical question. It is absolutely the wrong attitude, and any publication that adopts it does both itself and its readers a disservice.
Of course, Fitzgerald was talking specifically about book reviews, but the danger is that other publications follow suit. His justification for this line of thinking is that people understand that authors "have worked incredibly hard, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place". But this is hardly a reason to avoid negative reviews. The fact that someone has worked hard on something in no way means that it is automatically worthy of praise.
November was not a good month for Microsoft’s tiled operating system. While Windows 8.1’s market share grew, Windows 8’s share dropped (to be expected as users upgrade). But the real kicker for Microsoft was Windows 7’s growth which saw the older OS easily besting Windows 8.x’s gains.
I really like Windows 8.1 and when people ask me if they should upgrade to the new operating system I say yes, and reel off a list of reasons. But I feel deep down like I’m championing a presidential candidate who no one is ever going to vote for.
There’s been a lot of talk in the press over the past few days that Microsoft is planning to kill off RT, its ARM version of Windows. Speculation about the future of the tablet OS has been rife for ages. Five months ago I declared, "Stick a fork in it, Windows RT is done" and although the OS is still with us -- thanks mostly to its inclusion in Surface and Surface 2 -- its days look to remain numbered.
The cause of this latest round of death knells for RT is something Julie Larson-Green, executive vice-president of Devices and Studios at Microsoft, said at a UBS seminar in Sausalito, California, last week. When asked about RT, and whether there was a future for it, Larson-Green replied:
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".
Another busy week with more news than you could shake a stick at. Following the release of KitKat, Google was riding high as figures revealed that Jelly Bean is now installed on more than half of Android devices. It’s a similar story for Microsoft. Its previous operating system, Windows 7, is still the most popular while growth for Windows 8 and 8.1 remains slow. It was better news for Windows Phone which is making serious inroads into Android and iOS's share of the mobile market in Europe, and even managed to overtake Apple in Italy.
It seems that more people want to be able to use the latest and greatest version of Android, and following the announcement that the Galaxy Nexus would not receive a KitKat update, a petition was quickly launched to try to change Google's mind. Showing that the march of progress will always leave casualties, Google announced that Internet Explorer 9 will no longer be supported by Google Apps, and Windows 7 users gained Internet Explorer 11. To push the launch, Microsoft unveiled a new Anime ad campaign focusing on the browser's improved security.
Next week’s Patch Tuesday will see a number of security patches for Windows 8.1 including three that get the top Critical rating. According to Microsoft’s advanced notification on TechNet the three critical updates address remote code execution issues in Windows and Internet Explorer.
There are also five more updates flagged as Important, three for Windows and two for Office. The three Critical bulletins also apply to Windows XP and will be among the last for the 12-year-old operating system before support ends in April next year.
In keeping up with tradition, Microsoft has launched Windows 8.1 in both digital and physical form. Users can install the new operating system by using either a downloaded ISO file or the provided DVD. But what happens when neither option is right for you? You can use a USB drive.
There are a number of major benefits to using a USB drive for this process. It's compatible with virtually every device that is meant to run Windows, forgoes the need to have a spare DVD and the burner around and is much easier to store and carry with you wherever you may go. A USB drive can also be faster than any DVD, shortening the time needed for the install, and, chances are, you probably already have one lying around. Also, compared to ISO files which can only be leveraged from Windows, USB drives can be used with no software installed on the device.
Most people should know by now that Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP in April 2014. However, according to NetMarketShare's latest report, 31.24 percent of the PC market is still running the venerable OS.
For enterprises this raises serious security and compatibility issues not to mention the time and effort involved in migrating large numbers of systems. Solutions provider Adaptiva is offering an answer in the form of its OneSite Rapid OSD product to aid operating system deployment and cut the time and cost involved in moving to Windows 7 or 8.
NetMarketShare's monthly operating system statistics always make for interesting reading and analysis. For example, a month ago they showed Windows 7's growth was outpacing that of Windows 8. That was, naturally, just a blip, but in October -- the month that Windows 8.1 launched -- Windows 7 managed to make further market share gains.
There are other interesting things about last month's share statistics. Windows 8.1 -- which NetMarketShare has included since the Preview version launched -- is up, as you'd expect, while Windows 8 drops. Combined, the two operating systems see an overall rise, but the growth is slight.
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.
Windows 8.1 is great. But at the same time it -- and its predecessor -- is based on a slightly flawed concept. It's built on the idea of a one-size-fits-all operating system, but in order to get it to work across tablets, desktop PCs, laptops and hybrids, Microsoft has had to make various compromises. A bit like trying to make one suit fit four people with different body shapes.
Windows 8.1 (like Windows 8) fits best on tablets, but tweaks had to be made to ensure it runs on smaller screen sizes. Windows 8.1 works well on standard PCs, but you can almost feel Microsoft's disapproval when you're controlling the OS with a mouse and keyboard -- "But that's not how it's meant to be used!" As a desktop user there are various elements of the new OS which annoy me, but none more so than the Calculator app.
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.