Like Windows Phone, Windows 8.x does not get anywhere near the same level of attention as its more popular rivals, Android and iOS, receive from top developers. Still, the app selection has slowly gotten better, thanks in no small part to third-party offerings, reaching the point where it ticks all the right boxes for casual users.
But, Windows Store is also seeing improvements in its selection geared towards professionals. The latest major Modern UI offering to greet Windows 8.x is Autodesk's AutoCAD 360, which arrives as a free preview. This is a huge win for the platform.
I’ll be honest, although Windows 8.x losing market share is a shocking state of affairs -- and a new low for an operating system which has struggled since launch -- it’s something that’s been coming for a while. Windows 8 has been dropping share since Windows 8.1 arrived, and Windows 8.1 has been growing at such a glacial pace it was only a matter of time before the losses outweighed the gains, and that’s exactly what happened in June according to NetMarketShare.
In a month where Windows 7 and Windows XP -- the OS that refuses to die -- both gained market share, "new Windows" shifted into reverse gear and began shedding users.
"Abandonware". It’s the scourge of the industry. Every time a vendor abandons a software product, a puppy dies. Or an orphan. Or a Java developer.
Regardless, nobody likes to see their favorite app/game/platform get left behind. It’s the worst kind of techie betrayal. You spend days, weeks or even months mastering a product only to have the virtual rug pulled out from under you.
Nowadays, if you buy a brand new laptop, it is hard to buy an absolute lemon. Unless you scrape the bottom of the barrel at Best Buy and get some god-awful $200 underpowered computer, you should be fine. Hell, even that inexpensive computer may meet some people's needs. However, some of us spend many hours of each day on a computer, so it makes sense to invest in something great. If you are reading BetaNews, I'm sure you fall into that category. If you ask me which computer to buy, I would recommend many (depending on budget), but two stand out among the rest.
The Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and Apple MacBook Air are great balances between portability, power and cost. Yes, there are more powerful computers, but they are often very heavy and have terrible battery life. Portability cannot be underestimated when it comes to a laptop's value and both of these machines are super thin and light. Last month, my colleague Mihaita pondered the question of which was better based on specs alone. However, as someone who has used both, hands-on, for long periods of time, I am ready to definitively tell you that the Surface Pro 3 is better. Do you agree?
As someone blessed with the opportunity to try the Surface Pro 3 early, I can say it is truly a game changer. It is very light, has great battery life and a big beautiful display. The tablet/laptop hybrid is far beyond offerings by competitors, including Apple. If you even consider buying a Macbook Air over this, you are arguably making a huge mistake.
With that said, the Surface Pro 3 will begin hitting stores this Friday, June 20th. While the computer is great out of the box, it is not complete until you install useful apps and programs. But wait, aren't apps and programs the same thing? Yes and no. They are both pieces of software, but apps run in the Modern UI, and programs run in the classic UI. While Windows RT variants of Surface cannot install extra programs, the Pro 3 can, since it has an x86_64 Haswell processor. Below is a list of my suggested programs, apps, games and hardware accessories.
Eyes were focused on Microsoft as the company held an Xbox One press conference at E3 2014, with the focus being very much on games. Not to be outdone, Sony also held a press conference at the event. Consoles from Sony and Microsoft are still largely reliant on traditional controllers -- dull! But the SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker is something to, almost literally, keep an eye on as it allows for controlling games with your peepers. PS4 users have the arrival of YouTube to look forward to, and Chromecast owners will soon be able to stream files from VLC.
In security news, AVG publicized details of yet another OpenSSL flaw. While less serious than other vulnerabilities that have been discovered recently, it's still something of a cause for concern. We're still feeling the fallout of the Zeus botnet, and F-Secure set up an online testing tool that can be used by anyone to check for the infection. One tactic used to attack websites is bombarding them with comment spam, and new research shows that 80 percent of such spam is generated by less than a third of site attackers.
Whatever your reasons for switching to Windows 8.1 -- be it finally upgrading from XP, or the arrival of a new PC at home or work -- you’ll find "New Windows" a slightly alien place at first. You can action various changes to make it more like the OS you’re used to (boot to desktop -- soon to be the default -- and switching to the All Apps view are great first moves), but if you want a proper Start button and menu, you’ll need third-party help. Fortunately there are plenty of great choices available, including some excellent free programs like Classic Shell and IObit StartMenu 8.
Seasoned Windows 8.x users might sneer at you for "going back to the old ways", but there’s no question that if you use a keyboard and mouse and have limited interest in the Modern UI, a "real" Start button and menu can do wonders for your productivity. Here are our top 14 recommendations -- free and paid.
Around 50 percent of PC users are on Windows 7, while just 12 percent are running Windows 8.x, yet Microsoft is leaving the more popular OS vulnerable to zero day attacks by choosing to only patch the newest Windows version. That’s the findings of two security researchers who built a tool to compare 900 libraries in Windows 8 with their Windows 7 counterparts.
"If Microsoft added a safe function in Windows 8, why does it not exist in Windows 7? The answer is simple, it’s money -- Microsoft does not want to waste development time on older operating systems. They want people to move to higher operating systems," security researcher Moti Joseph claimed in a presentation at the Troopers14 conference in Heidelberg, Germany.
Since his appointment as CEO in February of this year, Satya Nadella has made it clear that Microsoft needs to be more than a one-platform developer. Still, it may come as some surprise that the Android version of the latest touch-optimized Office suite will be released months before the Windows 8 variant.
Office's user base across PCs remains high, but in order to target mobile users, the majority of whom are on Android or iOS, the company is making a clear statement that it won't neglect these consumers.
It’s fair to say China isn’t a fan of Windows 8. A few weeks ago, the tiled OS was banned from Chinese government computers, as part of a notice on the use of energy-saving products (if this sounds a bit vague, that’s because the reason given is).
Then, if that wasn’t bad enough news for Microsoft, a state-backed news report broadcast on China's CCTV has really put the boot in, branding the operating system a threat to China's cybersecurity, and suggesting it is being used to spy on Chinese citizens.
Today, during a keynote address at Computex in Taipei, Tony Prophet, corporate vice president of Windows Marketing, discussed recent Windows developments including Windows with Bing, relaxed certification requirements, Windows 8.1 Update, Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows universal apps.
He also talked about the value of Microsoft cloud services across devices, and revealed some hugely impressive numbers relating to everything from Office 365, One Drive and Skype to Xbox Live and Bing.
Windows XP users might be able to (sort of) cheat the aging operating system’s end of life, but ultimately the only real way to stay safe is, as Microsoft says, by upgrading to a newer, more modern version of Windows. NetMarketShare’s monthly snapshot of the desktop OS share trend shows users are continuing to slowly migrate away from XP. The OS’s share dropped 1.02 percent from 26.29 percent in April to 25.27 percent in May.
So the question is, where are XP users moving to? I think you probably know the answer to that by now.
I have no problems with touchscreens in general, no problem at all. I can't imagine using a non-touchscreen phone any more, and I have tablets of all shapes and sizes coming out of my ears. Touchscreens make sense, they are intuitive, they are fun to use. In the right situation, at least. I bang on about being a very happy Surface Pro owner (not as yet a Surface Pro 3), but how often do I take advantage of the fact that it has a touchscreen? Very rarely. I might jab the screen every now and then to switch apps, I may even mess about with handwriting recognition from time to time, but despite my love of the device, a keyboard/trackpad/mouse combo is my preferred choice.
I use my Surface Pro as a laptop, and perhaps this is where my issues stem from. To me it makes little sense to reach over the keyboard to interact with the screen when a far more energy and time efficient trackpad flick does the job just as well. Used as a tablet, it would be a different story, but to me the Surface Pro range is not about amalgamating the best of laptops and tablets, it's about having a fancy laptop. But I digress. My point is that I have yet to be convinced of the value of touchscreen laptops (when used as laptops), and the idea of touchscreen monitors for desktop computers just seems like a step too far.
Microsoft may have been granted permission to launch its Xbox One console in China in September, but a decision by the Chinese government could impact severely on sales of Windows 8. China's official state news agency, Xinhua reports that the latest version of Microsoft's operating system will be banned from governmental computers, although there are to be no restrictions placed on home computers. The reason for the ban on Windows 8? Well it's not quite clear, but it's put down to something to do with energy-saving -- although this seems unlikely.
The website of China's Central Government Procurement Center posted an 'Important Notice' entitled, catchily, "Agreement to supply information about the class of energy-saving products complement the mandatory tender notice". A list of criteria then follows including, at number 5 "all computer products are not allowed to install Windows 8 operating system". This is slightly at odds with the news agency's suggestion -- the official news agency, remember -- that Windows 8 is being banned from new government PCs in "a move to ensure computer security after the shutdown of Windows XP".
It’s not immediately obvious why we need yet another Start Menu alternative, then. But Spencer (yes, that really is its name) does have one or two differences which help it stand out from the crowd.