Another week, another spate of security related news. In the latest of a recent run of high-profile hacks, Kickstarter announced that it had been hacked, and it was discovered that ASUS routers could be sharing files with more people than users intended. Google is looking to bolster online security with its latest acquisition -- audio-based authentication outfit SlickLogin, while Microsoft's latest partnership with DocuSign looks set to make digital signatures in Office simpler and more secure. If you were under the impression that app security was generally increasing, think again; a new study shows that an almost unbelievable 96 percent of applications have security issues.
Brian got his hands on the Lenovo Miix 2 and was reasonably impressed by what he saw. He also unboxed the much touted Nokia Lumia Icon and found it to be not dissimilar to the 928 -- no bad thing. Anyone looking for an entry-level 4G smartphone now has the Android-based Samsung Galaxy Core LTE to look forward to, complete with "Jelly Bean Plus".
To say Windows 8.x is a controversial operating system is an understatement. Heck, it is downright polarizing, causing a schism between users that love it and others that hate it. It has arguably set Microsoft back and potentially damaged both the Microsoft and Windows brands. This is both disappointing and sad as Microsoft is a story-booked American darling that has enjoyed years of success and domination.
I'll admit, while I loved Windows 8.1 at first, I soured on it once I noticed an impact in my productivity. Performing a balancing act between the classic UI and Modern one, is maddening. It was so distressing to me, that I actually turned my desktop into a Hackintosh. While Linux distributions are my go-to choice, I still have a need for some other software, such as Office, and OS X meets that need. But Windows 8.1 isn't all bad, it truly shines in one place -- tablets.
It is usually Bill Gates who is heralded for his philanthropy, but according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, it is Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg who is currently the most generous. In another change from the norm, malware threats to OS X, Linux and Android have increased, showing it is not just Windows that is prone to attack. As if to prove this, Mac malware has been discovered that has been designed to steal Bitcoins from victims. Factor in all of Apple's devices and the company managed to sell more units than Windows PCs are sold, although this revelation caused quite some debate.
Twitter found itself in the headlines after the James Dean estate tried to gain control of a fan's James Dean-related account. Twitter has already spoken out about the shackles binding companies from being open about government data requests -- companies are practically falling over themselves to add their names to the list -- and Dropbox is in agreement. The European Commission has expressed a desire to wrestle some control of the internet from US hands voicing fears that too much influence was being exerted,
Plex, if you aren't familiar with it, comes in two parts. There's a server that you install on a, preferably, always-on computer. Then there are the end-user apps, which are available for multiple mobile devices and set-top boxes. The server is free, but the apps will set you back $5 (OK, $4.99 if you want to be technical).
However, now through tomorrow, Valentine's Day, the service is offering a discount to its potential customers. "Until Valentine’s Day, we’re offering all our mobile apps for 50% off: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and Windows 8. Not enough sale for you? We’re also offering 3 bonus months on a yearly Plex Pass bought with PayPal (that’s 15 months for the price of 12)", the company announces.
Very little has been said about sales figures for Windows 8 of late, but today Tami Reller, Microsoft's executive vice president of Marketing outed the most recent number of sales during a webcast. Reller revealed that 200 million Windows 8 licenses have now been sold. This is an impressive increase from the last sales figures of 100 million back in May 2013, but sales of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system remain slower than its predecessors.
The 200 million licenses do not include volume license sales, but the number does include sales to the public as well as those to OEMs. A doubling of sales in under a year is not to be sniffed at, but it will probably do little to calm the vocal groups keen to bash Windows 8's success. Ultimately the speed of sales is still a little slow. While more than 40 million licenses were sold in the month after Windows 8's release, this was not sustained.
Chromebooks may be increasing in popularity, particularly in business, but they still have a long way to go before they catch up with Windows-based laptops. One of the factors holding back Chromebook is, both obviously and ironically, Chrome OS. It is a perfectly capable operating system for anyone locked into the Google ecosystem, but it has one failing -- for many people, at least -- it will not run Windows applications. But all this is set to change thanks to a new venture between Google and VMware.
VWmare is a name long-associated with bringing one platform's apps to another using virtualization, and now it is pushing its DaaS platform (or VMware Horizon Desktop as a Service Platform for Service Providers to give it its full, unabridged title) as a way to bring Windows applications to Chromebook users. As this is something that will be available on a subscription basis, it is likely to appeal to businesses rather than individuals, but it does break down another obstacle for anyone with two minds about Chromebook.
On Sunday, Paul Thurrott asked (geez does this guy ever sleep) the question: "What the Heck is Happening to Windows?" The answer is hugely pertinent to the BetaNews reader community. Thurrott refers specially to Windows 8.1 development, and colleague Wayne Williams gives great overview of what to expect in Update 1, today.
The problem: What Windows is becoming, as Microsoft tries to satisfy its legacy customers while embracing future devices, particularly those using so-called NUIs, or new user interfaces, like touch and voice. Wayne smartly observes: "Maybe I’m just being overly negative here but with all the changes Microsoft has made along the way, Windows 8.x feels like it’s becoming a Frankenstein product stitched together with compromises".
The biggest news of the week has to be the appointment of Satya Nadella as CEO at Microsoft, which brought to an end weeks of speculation and rumor. Bill Gates also stepped down as chairman. A leaked version of Windows 8.1 Update 1 appeared online giving us all a sneak peek of what we can expect to see in the upcoming release -- including context menus on the Start screen, a new enterprise mode in Internet Explorer, and different ways of working with modern apps. Ahead of this big release, it was Windows XP that was showing growth rather than Microsoft's latest operating system.
In other Microsoft news, Xbox One's first big update was revealed to be coming up on 11 February. Sony announced that it was selling its VAIO business to enable it to focus its attention on mobile devices. Business and individuals who rely on 37signals' products found that the company was not only changing its name, but also dropping all of its services apart from Basecamp. There was another blow for Bitcoin as the online currency was effectively banned in Russia.
Sony is pulling out of the PC business and is selling the VAIO brand to Japanese investment fund Japan Industrial Partners (JIP). The announcement came after industry speculation about what might be happening in Sony's future after the company responded to rumors that it was in talks with Lenovo about a possible sale by saying that it was looking to "address various options for the PC business". No details about the fees involved have yet been revealed, but it is hoped that an agreement will be reached by the end of March.
Citing "drastic changes in the global PC industry", Sony's announcement came as the company revealed its financial results for Q3 2013. Analysis of the results showed that the "target of returning the TV and PC businesses to profitability will not be achieved within the fiscal year ending March 31, 2014", hence the need for reform. This means that Sony will now concentrate "its mobile product lineup on smartphones and tablets". An estimated 5,000 jobs will be lost.
I have to admit I look forward to seeing NetMarketShare’s monthly breakdown of desktop OS market share. The figures always provide a great talking point. You can pretty much guarantee that Windows 8’s share will decline, Windows 8.1’s share will increase, and combined the tiled OS’s growth will be outpaced by one of the older versions of Windows.
Usually it’s Windows 7 that’s showing the top growth. Sometimes besting Windows 8.x by a tiny amount, other times absolutely trouncing its newer sibling. But this time around, there’s a brand new leader in the growth stakes, and it’s a 13 year old OS that’s set to reach its end of life in April.
It has been suggested that the people who are still hanging onto Windows XP after all of these years are going to continue to do so once support officially ends in April. Microsoft is obviously keen to herd people towards Windows 8.1, but there is a good deal of resistance. Some have proposed Linux as a viable alternative; to me, this seems like a completely nonsensical "upgrade" path. Brian managed to cause quite some excitement yesterday when he wrote that Windows XP refugees should migrate towards Linux rather than considering the latest version of Windows. Without wanting to fall out with Brian, I think he's plain wrong.
One of the reasons many people cite for not wanting to upgrade to Windows 8 or 8.1 is that they don’t want to have to deal with the Start screen. They have become used to things working in a certain way and, while not perhaps entirely resistant to change, need a little encouragement into seeing the value of things. Brian suggests that one of the reasons to switch to Linux is that "you get to learn something new." If this is supposed to be an attractive element of Linux, then users may as well spend the time getting used to Windows 8.1.
Today on the Windows Experience Blog, Microsoft has done something a little odd -- admitted that the Start screen "can take some time to get used to". But more than this, the blog post by Kirsten Ballweg outlines five tweaks that can be used to "make Windows 8.1 feel more familiar". Given that the first line of the post is "Windows 8.1 looks a whole lot different than Windows 7 or Windows XP", it appears that Microsoft is conceding that Windows 8.1 just isn't everyone's cup of tea.
The solution? A series of tips to help make the latest version of Microsoft's operating system feel more like a version that is several years old! The first tip is interesting. Rather than suggesting the ways in which the Start screen could aid productivity, rather than pointing out all of its cool features, users are advised to simply bypass it. Microsoft has given up trying to sell the new features of Windows to users, opting instead to show how they can be avoided -- after all "the desktop we all know and love is still there".
To close an app in Windows 8 all you need to do is drag it to the bottom of the screen. In Windows 8.1, Microsoft made a small change. While you can still close the app in this way, removing it from view, this method doesn’t stop all of the processes associated with the app (Windows will, however, close the app properly, eventually, if you don’t use it after a while).
So in other words, if an app is misbehaving, dragging it down to the bottom of the screen and then relaunching it probably won’t fix the problems you’re experiencing. You could reboot, or use Task Manager to close it that way, but there’s an easier method.
Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer got a vote of confidence from customers today, if Surface's sales surge is any indication. In October 2012, he refocused the company on "devices and services", something reflected in the Windows 8.1 tablet and also Xbox One, which launched during fiscal second quarter 2014.
After the closing bell today, Microsoft released long-anticipated Surface sales with its quarterly earnings report. Wall Street analysts and investors also eagerly wondered about Windows 8.1, which revenues looked to be brutally beaten back by historic declines in PC shipments. Surface revenue reached $893 million, up from $400 million during fiscal first quarter. Meanwhile, Windows OEM license sales declined by 3 percent, year over year.
What's that? Another music streaming service? Another one?! You could be forgiven for having this reaction to the news that Dr Dre's Beats Music is now available for iOS and Android; this is a market that is already rather saturated, and music lovers are not exactly short of options when it comes to picking a service to satiate their audio needs. So any new service vying for attention has to have something rather unique to offer if it is going to stand out from the competition.
Beats Music does have a unique selling point. It is a service that is about more than just streaming music, it aims to deliver the right music according to the time of day, what you are doing and where you are. Is this sort of stream tailoring enough to win over music fans? Only time will tell, but Beats Music certainly has a fight on its hands if it is to wrestle users away from the existing services that have been established for some time.