Latest Technology News

On Steve Ballmer's big day, a look back 11 years

Today is a big day for Microsoft, with the Windows 8 and tablet launches, and potentially a very big day, too, for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. It had better be, because some pundits think Win8 is Ballmer’s last hurrah, that he’ll be forced to step down if the new operating system isn’t a big success. That might be true, though I have a hard time imagining who would replace Ballmer at this point and how the company would change as a result. I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement -- heck, I’m among those who have called for Ballmer to go -- I’m just not sure what would be any better. More on that in a future column.

Today, rather than look to the future or even to Windows 8, I’d like to write more about Ballmer, putting his reign at Microsoft into some context.

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Apple Q4 by the numbers: $36B revenue, $8.67 EPS misses Wall Street consensus

Late this afternoon, Apple announced another blow-out quarter and closed fiscal 2012, ending Tim Cook's first full four quarters as CEO. The challenge ahead is to maintain or to even extend momentum as cofounder Steve Jobs' influence over strategy and product development grows more distant. He died a year ago last month.

On Wednesday, financial analysts got an unexpected October surprise, and not iPad mini. Cook revealed that Apple sold its 100 millionth iPad about two weeks earlier. Problem: By that reckoning most analysts had over-estimated the tablet's quarter. Philip Elmer-DeWitt sums up the impact: "As a group, these analysts lowered their iPad estimates an average of 2.67 million units. Most also lowered their revenue and earnings estimates, an average of $1.26 billion and $0.31, respectively". If you're an investor wondering why Apple shares declined most of the day ahead of earnings, there's a reason.

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Microsoft, stand up to Apple!

For a moment there I got really excited -- that Microsoft had pulled a brilliant marketing maneuver -- only to be disappointed. Within the hour I received email from the company's PR agency with subject line: "Microsoft announces Windows 8 global availability". Holy cow pies! A day early! Stop the presses. Sure enough the official press release proclaims: "Windows 8 arrives". Except it hasn't. You still have to wait until Midnight tonight. Bummer.

I knew there was trouble when rushing to Microsoft Store online that Surface RT tablets and Windows 8 are still pre-order. When going back to actually read the fine print, sure enough the press release qualifies "beginning Friday". Excuse me for nit-picking semantics, but doesn't "arrives" mean now? (Granted, it's Friday somewhere in the world and has been for more than six hours. But the announcement and New York prelaunch don't coincide with anything like Midnight anywhere in the world.)

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New Chromebook is Amazon top-seller

Apple should learn something from Google and Samsung. In a poll which results I'll post today, the majority of respondents tell us that iPad mini costs too much; prices start at $329. Meanwhile, the 11.6-inch Chromebook is priced just right. The WiFi model is Amazon's laptop top-seller, while the $329.99 3G model is No. 4 (and declining). Both models are sold out, like Google Play. Get one, if you can!

Many of you want new Chromebook, which swaps x86 for ARM architecture. So far, 1,770 people have responded to buying poll "Why you buy $249 Chromebook?". More than 35 percent plan to get one within 3 months, while 15.37 already placed orders. How funny if Google's Chrome OS portable turned out to be autumn's ARM sleeper sales success, and not iPad mini or Microsoft Surface.

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Samsung Galaxy Note II available for pre-order with Verizon logo on home button

The Samsung Galaxy Note II launched barely two months ago at IFA and local US carriers such as Sprint and T-Mobile already make it available for purchase. Verizon is now in the same boat and is accepting pre-orders for the 5.5-inch "phablet."

The Samsung Galaxy Note II will arrive at the big red sporting 4G LTE connectivity and similar specs to the international model. That means the same 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display with a 1280 by 720 resolution, 1.6GHz quad-core Exynos processor with 2GB of RAM, 16GB of expandable internal storage and Android 4.1 Jelly Bean with TouchWiz running on top of it. On a two-year contract it will cost $299.99 at Verizon Wireless, and is currently available for pre-order in both Marble White and Titanium Gray.

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Use Clover to add tabs to Windows Explorer

The introduction of tabs to web browsers is arguably one of the most useful innovations that have been made. Advances in security and performance are all great, but tabs make a real difference to the usability of browsers, making multi-tasking a great deal easier. Clover is a free Windows add-ons that enables you to take advantage of this very same feature in Explorer so you can navigate between your folders in tabs rather than having to have multiple windows open.

The addition of tabs to Explorer may seem like a fairly minor change, but it is amazing just how much of a difference it can make. If you’re a fan of the way tabs work in Firefox, Chrome, et al, you’ll love the similar way in which Clover works. All of the shortcuts you have become used to can be used here -- Ctrl+T to open a new tab, Ctrl+W to close it, Ctrl+Tab to move the next tab etc.

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Raspberry Pi SoC drivers open sourced

It’s something that programmers of the popular credit card-sized ARM GNU/Linux box have been asking after for a while now, and finally that wish has come true. Broadcom has agreed to make its mobile GPU drivers open source, releasing them under a 3-Clause BSD license.

What that means for developers, is it will now be much easier to implement Wayland EGL client and server support, and allow anyone attempting to port a different OS to Raspberry Pi to take full advantage of the graphics core.

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What does Bill Gates think about Windows 8?

Windows XP turns 11 today, as Microsoft begins launch preparations for the big 8, starting at Midnight tonight. My colleague Tim Conneally is in New York for today's big media event. Way to go, Microsoft. Why have one Windows 8 launch day, when you can stretch it out to two? The software giant needs the extra marketing push, what with Apple rudely preempting the big day with Wednesday's last-minute iPad mini introduction and Google doing something similar on Monday with an Android event that coincides with Windows Phone 8's debut.

Windows XP and 8 represent watershed launches for Microsoft. XP brought the NT kernel, and all its stability and security advantages, to the consumer market. The operating system marked a major architectural change for developers, particularly software accessing hardware and the kernal -- that was suddenly taboo. As such, Windows XP broke many applications, mainly games, and was criticized for it. Windows 8 is in similar state of breaking the mold. For anyone forecasting the operating systems' doom, take a look back at stories about XP and analyst predictions about failure. I wrote some of them. Yet only this summer did Windows 7 finally upset XP as most widely used version. Don't count Windows 8 as dead before it comes to life, people.

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New Samsung ads claim Galaxy S III makes you cool

Rather than beat a dead horse by continuing "The Next Best Thing is Already Here" campaign Samsung is playing the cool card in three new commercials for the Galaxy S III smartphone.

If the idea is to deliver memorable video ads, Samsung probably is on the right track by highlighting various functionality in different contexts that actual customers can relate to (or at least wish they do). Let's take the working dad that is about to leave on a "Work Trip". The family walks him to the car, but just before leaving the kids say they made a video for him to watch on the airplane, which is shared afterwards using S Beam. Then the wife steps in and tells her husband that she also made a video that he "probably shouldn't watch on the plane," then yet again uses S Beam. Pretty cool without overdoing it.

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ITC judge says Samsung infringes Apple patents

Another day, another patent story. After a spot of bad news for Apple, comes something good for the Cupertino, Calif.-based corporation. A United States International Trade Commission judge has decided in a preliminary ruling that Samsung infringed four of Apple's intellectual property patents.

The ruling will be considered by the full commission, with a result expected in February, but it’s an important, albeit early, victory for Apple as the ITC has the ability to block the import of infringing products into the US.

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Live from Windows 8 and Surface launch in New York City

Windows 8, RT, and Surface launch at midnight. A scant fourteen hours before the new generation of operating systems becomes available to the general public, Microsoft is hosting a celebration at New York City's historic Pier 57. Your faithful skeptic Tim Conneally will be present at the event, liveblogging and keeping an eye out for any heretofore unseen news.

The event begins at 10am EST and lasts until 3pm EST. Check back here throughout the day for updates on Windows 8!

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H-1B visa abuse limits wages and steals US jobs

The H-1B visa program was created in 1990 to allow companies to bring skilled technical workers into the USA. It’s a non-immigrant visa and so has nothing at all to do with staying in the country, becoming a citizen, or starting a business. Big tech employers are constantly lobbying for increases in H-1B quotas citing their inability to find qualified US job applicants. Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and other leaders from the IT industry have testified about this before Congress. Both major political parties embrace the H-1B program with varying levels of enthusiasm.

But Bill Gates is wrong. What he said to Congress may have been right for Microsoft but was wrong for America and can only lead to lower wages, lower employment, and a lower standard of living. This is a bigger deal than people understand: it’s the rebirth of industrial labor relations circa 1920. Our ignorance about the H-1B visa program is being used to unfairly limit wages and steal -- yes, steal -- jobs from US citizens.

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Laplink PCmover Professional 8 review

Migrating to a new PC is often a complex, time-consuming business. There will be applications to reinstall, CDs and registration keys to find. And then endless hours of reconfiguration as you try to get everything working just the way it did before. Fortunately this is an area where Laplink have always presented a number of effective alternatives, though. And their latest offering, Laplink PCmover Professional 8, aims to migrate all your data, applications and settings from one system to another, while you (for the most part) just sit back and watch.

The program has its limitations, of course. This new version is capable of moving your installed applications to a Windows 8 PC, for instance, but if some of them aren’t compatible with the new system then that won’t help you very much. If you’re moving to Windows 8, though, and you’ve lots of compatible applications you need to migrate, then the program could still be worth the money. But, does it work? It was time to find out.

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