If you can cast your mind back far enough to the dim and distant days when Windows 95 was taking the world by storm, you may well remember Hover. Taking more than a little inspiration from Doom, this fun driving/maze game was buried on the installation CD of Windows 95. It was responsible for the loss of many hours that could have been spent doing something far more worthwhile -- but probably less entertaining -- and it's back! Hover is back!
The game has been revived to show off the capabilities of Internet Explorer 11, and you can try your hand at it -- for the first time or to relive your youth -- by heading over to Hover.ie. But more than this, the game feature touchscreen control so it's also a great way for Microsoft to highlight the causal gaming capabilities of the recently announced Surface 2.
I have to admit to being somewhat spoiled by the amazing battery life on my 13.3-inch Apple MacBook Air (mid-2013). It has completely transformed my usage habits and my perspective on mobility and laptops. Using it for 10 hours straight without any charging time is a common scenario, without being exactly light on the throttle. But even the mighty MacBook Air cannot compete with HP's latest ultrabook, the EliteBook 840 G1.
HP says that the EliteBook 840 G1, which is part of the manufacturer's new business ultrabook lineup, can deliver a whopping 33 hours of battery life. As you can tell from the headline, there is a "but" somewhere.
There’s not long to go now until Microsoft unleashes Windows 8.1 upon the world. In my view the operating system refresh is Windows 8 done properly, but whether it does enough to win over the masses remains to be seen.
Certainly Microsoft will be hoping for a change in fortunes because the tiled operating system's market share is currently pretty poor -- at least when you factor in how much of a push the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant has put behind it.
If you are a Windows Phone and/or Windows 8/RT user who loves RSS feed reader apps then I am sure the name Nextgen Reader rings a bell. It is one of the best-rated and most popular pieces of software currently available on Microsoft's latest consumer operating systems, and probably one of the best built mobile apps that smartphone and tablet users can get today.
To learn more about Nextgen Reader and Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT development, I chatted with the person responsible for all the code behind the app, Gaurav Kalra. The man, alongside his brother Sorabh, is the co-founder of Next Matters, the company that develops Nextgen Reader.
We asked and Microsoft delivered. The removal of the Start button from Windows 8 was seen by many as a huge mistake on Microsoft's part. We've known for some time that this familiar component of the operating system is to make a comeback, and now Microsoft is showing it off in a new commercial. The latest ads also highlight the ease of switching between desktop and Modern UI modes and the unified experience Microsoft is looking to create across devices.
More than the absence of the Start button perhaps, being thrown in to Modern UI (or Metro as it was at the time) was something that put a lot of people off Windows 8. In the "Windows 8.1 Everywhere" ad, Microsoft tries to get across the idea of choice. Now rather than being a portal to your apps, the Start button is described as the means by which users switch between modes.
Facebook wants to show you more relevant ads. Advertisements are the price we pay for free online content and services, and there are no signs of it vanishing any time soon. Even though this is something internet users have accepted for some time, there are often complaints about the unsuitability of ads. Far fewer people have a problem with seeing adverts for products and services they might genuinely be interested in than those that have no relevance to their lives.
In a blog post Engineering Manager for News Feed Ads, Hong Ge explains that Facebook would like to ensure that the ads that make it into your timeline are more relevant. If you're anything like me, you've probably built up something of a mental filter for "pointless" ads, and maybe even those that might be of interest, but Facebook is keen that you see more ads and that you respond to them positively.
Microsoft held an event in NYC to launch the Surface 2 and Brian was live-blogging. The full video of the launch is available to view online as are advertisements that show off the tablets' versatility. Microsoft is pinning a lot on the updated product after the first generation suffered from poor sales. There were no great new features, but there is a redesigned kickstand, a healthy speed boost, new dock and updated covers -- Brian was particularly impressed by the Blades.
Anyone buying a Surface 2 or Surface Pro 2 earns themselves a SkyDrive upgrade. Purchase a new device and your online storage gets upgraded to 200GB, but the same amount of space is available for $100 per year. Moving away from Surface-related news, Microsoft turned its guns on Google Docs, highlighting user complaints to demonstrate the superiority of Office 365.
Microsoft announces that it is dramatically increasing the number of devices users are able to install apps on. At the moment there is a limit of five devices, enabling customers to install the apps they have bought on multiple devices with the same user account. While you might think that five devices is enough for most people, some developers and customers wanted more. Microsoft listened and has increased the app roaming limit. Massively.
Five devices just not enough? How does 81 sound? Yep… 81 devices. Microsoft says it is responding to the demands made of it -- "since we launched Windows 8, we heard growing feedback from many developers and from our most enthusiastic customers that the limit of 5 was not enough for their needs. Developers asked for more flexibility in implementing their business models, and customers wanted to run those apps on the variety of tablets, laptops and desktops they owned".
Microsoft continues the push to make its latest platforms more appealing to a rather skeptical audience, this time teaming with Crackle, the streaming video service launched by Sony. Exclusive shows are fast becoming a hallmark of these video services, with Amazon and Netflix already in on the act, and now Crackle is taking its first shot.
Cleaners, the service's new exclusive show, will premiere on October 3rd, but customers with Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360 can all get a sneak peek. "Starting today and running through to October 2nd in advance of the world premiere on October 3rd – you can watch all 6 episodes of Crackle’s new series 'Cleaners' on Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, and Xbox 360", says Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc.
There are only three weeks to go until the release of Windows 8.1 and Microsoft is laying the groundwork by highlighting some of the new features and apps that are to be found in the update. The latest app to be picked out is Reading List -- Microsoft's answer to the list of Pocket and ReadItLater. The app has been designed to make it easier to save online articles to read at a later time without the need to bookmark it.
Reading List differs from RSS readers such as Feedly in that articles are stored on an individual basis. And while it is well suited to "bookmarking" articles you find on websites that you would like to return to, it can also be used to bookmark content from other apps. Just like other "read it later" tools, the real advantage comes from the fact that content is synchronized between devices.
Every once in a while the BetaNews writers have differing opinions when it comes to certain topics. Case in point: my colleague Joe Wilcox just wrote a story which may lead you to believe that touch is an essential feature for Windows laptops. That could not be further from the truth. As a long-time Windows (and Windows 8 user) there wasn't a single moment when I felt the need to poke the screen. And I'm sure that many fellow users would agree.
Joe cites NPD's Stephen Baker in saying that "Touch appears to be coming into its own as a core feature in the Windows ecosystem". That's a bit like saying "Stickers appear to be coming into their own as a core feature on laptops' palm rests". Touch doesn't have to be included (nor do the stickers), and here is why.
Windows 8 started out on shaky legs, but Microsoft's flagship platform found firmer footing during the lucrative back-to-school buying season, foreshadowing Santa could deliver gifts, rather than coal, this holiday season.
"Touch appears to be coming into its own as a core feature in the Windows ecosystem", Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, tells me today. The analyst firm released new U.S. retail data showing two bright spots among otherwise tepid sales. "Chromebooks and Windows touch helped offset what could have been much steeper declines this back-to-school season", he says.
At an event in New York, Microsoft reveals the successor to the Surface RT and Surface Pro -- the predictably named Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 (interesting to note that the "RT" is gone from the former's name) -- and Brian Fagioli was live-blogging from the event. So what do we have to look forward to from the product refresh?
Chief among these is support for running Firefox in the Modern UI. This marks the first appearance of Mozilla’s Windows 8 touch-optimized app in an alpha build, it having previously only been available as a standalone pre-alpha release.
Apple stole the limelight from just about everyone else this week. The big news was, of course, the release of the iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s. Just about as soon as online orders opened up, delays in shipping started to lengthen; Joe was somewhat skeptical about the limited supplies.
Before the new hardware hit the stores, iOS 7 was released to mixed reviews -- I hated it, Wayne loved it. A couple of security holes were found in the operating system including one that allowed for Siri to be used to post messages and access phone details even on locked handsets. There was also a new iOS 7 inspired look for iCloud and the addition of a bookmark syncing option.