Rumors that Microsoft was planning to cut the price of Surface RT have been swirling for a couple of days, and yesterday they came true. Staples in the US is currently advertising the 32 GB base model of the device for $349.99, a drop of $150. Although the price reduction hasn’t been seen elsewhere yet, it should start appearing at other retailers next week. No word on whether the reduction will be offered in other territories.
The price cut is interesting as it’s yet another example of Microsoft offering aggressive discounts on Surface RT. The 32 GB version was made available to schools and universities for $199, and attendees at the Worldwide Partner Conference and TechEd gatherings were offered Surface RT 64 GB with touch cover for $99 (although admittedly they had to pay a fortune for a ticket in the first place).
Microsoft just released a new Windows tablet video ad, which pits Dell's XPS 10 against Apple's popular iPad. This time around the action takes place at a baseball field, with the software giant emphasizing the multitasking benefits available to the users of its tiled operating system.
The video ad shows two agents trying to sign a new baseball player, with one using the iPad and the other the XPS 10 to video chat with the boss and obtain relevant stats. Needless to say, the Apple slate user struggles to multitask, having to switch between apps to communicate and find the needed information, while his rival takes advantage of Windows RT's built-in snap feature to run two pieces of software at the same time.
Evernote Corporation has released Evernote Touch 2.0, a major update of its touch-friendly Windows 8 app. The latest version's main new feature is a hub page providing a summary of the user’s account, while it also promises improved editing tools and support for Business accounts.
The major new highlight is undoubtedly the hub page, which is the first thing users will see when logging into the app. All of its core navigation items as well as an overview of the various parts of the user's account, including notes, notebooks, tags and shortcuts, can now be found here.
I've been struggling for a good year now with Microsoft's decision to push users as hard as it is pushing them to use the new, modern user interface, what was once code-named Metro. Even in Windows 8.1 (formerly known as Windows Blue), it is the primary UI. Why is Microsoft forcing us to use it?
"Forcing" is perhaps too strong of a word I suppose (although it's a good one for a headline). You can continue to run conventional Windows programs -- hell, even text-mode console software -- and keep using a traditional computer with a keyboard and mouse, but they're all legacy now, at least for Modern UI apps.
Every Friday, my colleague Martin Brinkmann details the best Windows 8 apps that surface in Store during the week. I have closely followed the series mostly to check new arrivals (since I use Windows 8) but also to get a feel of the quality and value that developers bring to the new ecosystem.
As some of you have mentioned in the comments, the highlighted apps are not exactly up to par with offerings available on Apple App Store or Google Play. The most noteworthy ones are few and far between, something that is immediately noticeable after browsing through the available selection on Windows Store. The most resounding apps come, for instance, from Microsoft, Nokia, Shazam, Twitter and a couple other major players. There is more to it, of course, but the quality and value are still inadequate these days.
In an effort to boost the adoption and sales of its two Windows slates, on Monday, Microsoft introduced a new channel program (simply called Microsoft Devices Program), which allows authorized resellers to commercialize Surface Pro and RT devices.
"Today, we’re announcing the first phase of our expansion into the business channel that allows customers to purchase Surface and commercial services through authorized resellers", says Microsoft. "In addition to offering Microsoft's extended warranty and accidental damage, resellers bring a variety of additional value-added services to the Surface family, such as asset tagging, custom imaging, kitting, onsite service and support, device recycling and data protection".
Microsoft just released the second major iteration of its Blink Windows Phone 8 app which now introduces GIF (the pronunciation is still open for debate) support, new features and improved functionality.
The app, which is built by Microsoft Research (the software giant's research arm), allows users to take advantage of its burst shot feature to combine multiple pictures (the number is user-selectable) into a GIF image. The GIF can be viewed directly after creating it and can be shared via email and three social networks -- Facebook, Microsoft's Socl and Twitter. (It's time to test this with the help of your pet and post the results, for posterity's sake of course.)
Yesterday, despite "credible" rumors suggesting a full-on iOS approach, Microsoft released Office for iPhone but left iPad users stranded. The company also planted a little trojan horse -- the app is free but it is not free to use, requiring an Office 365 subscription, which runs for $99.99 per year, to take advantage of Excel, PowerPoint and Word.
But, based on my own experience with Office on Windows Phone, the suite is not really in its own element on a small display. iPhone users are most likely to run the app just to perform quick edits and (in the most-optimistic scenario) create very short and basic documents, presentations or spreadsheets. Office would really shine on bigger screens, however Microsoft doesn't want iPad users to actually use it. I've asked the software giant to explain the iPhone-only design and here is the company's response.
I can't remember the last time I printed a photo. Can you? The versatility of cloud services and the increasingly accommodating on-device storage changed the way folks enjoy and look at pictures, turning printing from a once-popular activity into a dying art. Today, more than ever, digital replaces physical.
But prints are not dead (yet), as cloud services like Kicksend look to modernize the way people get their memories onto paper. Kicksend, available first on iOS, Android and the web, just turned its eyes towards Windows 8 and Windows RT, also allowing users of the tiled operating system to share photos and order prints straight from its app.
It's not often that I wish to find out what "Qorwagh" or "ghaH*" mean, but when curiosity strikes I can always power up Bing Translator on my Windows Phone. Sadly, Microsoft does not provide a similar app on Windows 8, leaving folks to look up the meaning of those Klingon words using a web browser. Until today, that is.
On Thursday, the software giant released its excellent Bing Translator on Windows 8 and, yes, I can assure you that Klingon is among the supported languages. The app is similar to its Windows Phone 8 counterpart in terms of functionality and includes options like camera translation and more mundane ones like text-to-speech.
On Wednesday, Microsoft revealed that Outlook 2013 finally arrives on Windows RT later this year, alongside the free Windows 8.1 upgrade. The application, known for offering advanced contacts, calendar and email functionality, joins Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote, part of Office Home and Student 2013, on the tablet operating system.
"Windows on ARM is a core part of our strategy today and moving forward, and the addition of Outlook further enriches this world of new on-the-go opportunities for partners and customers", says Microsoft's Tami Reller. According to the software giant, Outlook is one of the most sought-after applications on Windows RT, being a "popular request from consumers and businesses alike".
There is a lot of hype about Windows 8.1, but we haven’t heard all that much about Windows RT as of late. The operating system is derived from Windows 8 and designed for mobile devices that utilize the ARM architecture.
Today at Computex 2013, Qualcomm announces that its high end processor, the Snapdragon 800, will power at least some of the next generation of Windows RT 8.1 devices.
Desktop themes are so often catered for by third party tools that it’s easy to forget that Windows has built in support for theme packs. If you’re short of inspiration, don’t trust your own photography skill, or just can’t be bothered to browse Flickr for a new image, a new batch of themes direct from Microsoft could be what you need to breathe new life into your desktop.
There are five new themes in total, four of which have a travel connection. The Alaskan Landscape theme features photography from Kyle Waters -- a total of fifteen images. There is more of a seasonal feel to two New Zealand Landscapes themes.
Not content with free versions of its cut-down photo editing software for iOS and Android, Adobe has released Photoshop Express for Windows 8 and RT. As this is available free of charge, it should come as little surprise that the app does not afford users access to an unfettered range of professional level image editing tools, but for quick and dirty tweaks and fixes, there are plenty of options.
Taken a wonky photo? Getting things straightened up takes just a couple of taps and swipes. There are also tools for removing red eye, adjusting color levels and tweaking shadows and highlights. If you don’t feel like doing the hard work yourself, you can always turn to the auto-fix option to help take care of common issues in an instant.
This is how you sell a tablet. Tuesday evening of May 14, Microsoft debuted a new commercial for the Surface RT that finally explained the benefits of the tablet. No dancers. No super cool music. Just Microsoft talking about why the Surface RT is the next device you should own. The company emphasized the included USB port, kickstand, keyboard, and the single biggest sell of Surface RT, the included Office 2013 install. It sold the Surface as the power of a computer in the package of a tablet.
Is this not precisely what I called on Microsoft to do in my previous article about those odd (but awesome) Windows 8 ads? In that article I told the story about a guy who was working in a coffee shop on his Surface when someone walked up to him and said, “Is that the tablet that clicks?” He recognized the product from the commercials, but seemed to be unaware of anything other than its clicking. I wrote,