Jun 6 2010

Microsoft Introduces Windows Embedded Compact 7 for Tablet Devices

The title pretty much says it all.  Under pressure from iPad and Android tablet competition, Microsoft has recently launched a new version of the Windows 7 operating system software specifically for slate and tablet devices.  We know that the new OS will be called Windows Embedded Compact 7, but other than that, there are not many other details that are known.  It’ll essentially be a compartmentalized version of the Windows 7 OS that can be embedded at the hardware level.

There were several prototype devices running on Microsoft’s new tablet OS at Computex 2010, so its potential developments into a full-fledged tablet OS should be pretty interesting.  We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any developments we hear about.

Via JKOnTheRun.

Jun 1 2010

Google Tries to Phase out Windows

According to sources within Google, the search giant is currently trying to phase out the Microsoft Windows operating system on company computers in order to reduce security problems. Google and Microsoft have been rivals for some time now and the two companies have become increasingly hostile in recent months.

Google experienced attacks in China that resulted from a flaw in Microsoft’s browser, Internet Explorer. Coupled with the fact that Google has a web browser (Chrome) and is planning an operating system (Chrome OS), the move makes sense. Why should Google give Microsoft, a competitor, any more money by buying a competing operating system?

Some security analysts have said the move is not as logical as it seems. According to them, although Windows is often the target of hackers, because of this it has excellent security features that are allegedly not found in other operating systems, such as Mac OS X. By switching, Google will actually open itself up to more attacks.

I know there are not many attempted attacks on Mac OS X because not nearly as many people use it as Windows and I hope Google’s move does not increase the number of attacks on Mac. Maybe it’s time to start learning Linux…

Via PC World, image via Google.

May 26 2010

Apple Overtakes Microsoft

As of Wednesday afternoon, Apple has overtaken Microsoft as most valuable technology company. At the close of trading, Apple was valued at nearly $223 billion compared with Microsoft’s $219 billion.

The rankings could of course change, but for now, Apple is ahead, which is not surprising due to the company’s recent success due to the iPhone and the iPad. Apple’s share price has risen dramatically over the past year to $244. Microsoft’s has also risen, but not as dramatically: a year ago, its shares closed at $20, today they closed at $25.

Microsoft and Apple have had a rivalry for years. Microsoft was the dominant company for a long time but it appears now that the tables have turned. The iPod and iPhone have helped facilitate Apple’s rise as a true technology giant that has become a lot more successful than Microsoft. As Apple has grown, it has faced problems and criticism for its policies.

Via The Wall Street Journal.

May 24 2010

Google To Steal Apple’s ‘Cult’ Status?

At Google’s developer event last week, something strange happened: the high energy present made it more like an Apple event than a Google event. Could Google be ascending in popularity and eventually achieve the cult status that Apple has held for so long?

Many people are showing support for Android, and some have suggested that this means Apple is now trying to catch up to Google. At the event, Google introduced Froyo, the updated version of Android, which got people talking. Apple needs to do something new and exciting at WWDC or it will be left behind.

The funny thing is, in this whole Apple vs. Google battle, Microsoft is left out. Apple is cool, Google is on the way to becoming cool, and Microsoft is so uncool that it’s forgotten. But if Google wants to continue being in the ascendant, it needs to deal with some major issues, such as how Android and Chrome OS will work together.

Via CNET, image via Google.

May 19 2010

Google’s Android Beats Microsoft, Challenges Apple

Google’s Android operating system was the fourth most popular during the first quarter, according to the research firm Gartner. Android was in ten percent of smartphones sold, which put it behind Nokia’s Symbian, Research in Motion, and Apple. Gartner said that Android will beat Apple as soon as there are more handset makers using it.

Even though Apple’s App Store boasts over 200,000 apps to Google’s 38,000, Android’s openness has made it become more popular with developers. Many developers are choosing to write apps for Android, not Apple. Developers typically choose a limited number of mobile platforms to write software for.

Microsoft’s mobile OS has become less and less popular on smartphones. Microsoft is trying to compete with the iPhone by having high standards for handsets that use its software. But more and more handset makers are turning to Android, which is free—Microsoft charges a licensing fee to those using its software (it is the only major company to do so).

Via Reuters, image via Reuters.

May 19 2010

Microsoft Revamps Hotmail

Hotmail was one of the first email services that I used and I eventually stopped using it when Google introduced its fabulous Gmail. Hotmail just got so outdated because Microsoft did not give it the massive makeover it needed.

Microsoft has recently revamped Hotmail, bringing it up to speed with other online email services like Gmail or Yahoo. It stopped trying to rebrand Hotmail as Live—the page still says Windows Live, but the Hotmail logo is there as well.

Microsoft also introduced many new features to Hotmail, including Sweep. Sweep allows users to select a message or group of messages and apply an action to them, such as moving them to a folder. The most interesting aspect of Sweep is that it can apply an action to messages that arrive in the future. Sweep works very quickly and efficiently, allowing users to tidy up their inboxes more effectively.

Via PC Magazine, image via Microsoft.

May 12 2010

Microsoft and Google Feud Over Office

Microsoft has apparently taken offense to Google’s recent suggestion that users not upgrade to Microsoft Office 2010. Google’s logic was that Google Docs makes Office 2003 and 2007 better because users can share documents in their original formats in a cloud. Google is also planning to add real-time collaboration in a few months.

Microsoft has said that Office 2003 and 2007 cannot work properly together because Google Docs converts documents to different formats, which strips out certain page elements. Microsoft Office 2010 allegedly makes documents appear almost identically when they are viewed through a web browser.

Using Google Docs is certainly a cheaper option for businesses: $50 per year vs. $499 plus other costs for the professional version of Office. Though Microsoft Office is a trusted product for businesses, Google Docs would save companies a huge amount of money, which is always a concern for companies.

Via CRN.

May 4 2010

Internet Explorer Usage Drops

This news makes me extremely happy because I absolutely cannot stand Internet Explorer. I hope that people are realizing that there are so many great alternative browsers out there to use. According to statistics published by Net Applications, Internet Explorer use is down to about 60 percent, which is quite a change from the 80 percent it had two and a half years ago. Firefox has nearly 25 percent of the usage, Chrome has 6.7 percent, and Opera 2.3 percent.

Alternative browsers use different rendering engines from Internet Explorer’s Trident and offer a vastly improved performance. Trident does not meet the latest web standards and has very slow rendering speeds compared to Gecko, Presto, and WebKit, the rendering engines of Firefox, Opera, and Chrome/Safari, respectively.

I would highly recommend switching from Internet Explorer if you are still using it. Firefox is a great alternative (it has lots of pretty themes that you can use to customize it), as is Safari (it’s really, really fast). I have heard great things about Chrome, though I have not used it myself. And if you’re a Mac user, Camino is a great choice as well—it’s based on Gecko and integrates really well with the Mac OS. I have tried Opera in the past and I found it a bit difficult to adjust to, but it is also a good alternative to Internet Explorer.

Via AppleInsider.

May 2 2010

Microsoft Kills Courier Tablet

Another potential tablet bites the dust. Microsoft has just recently canceled plans for its Courier tablet. The tablet was first reported about last fall and apparently is not going to become a reality, at least not anytime soon.

The Courier was received positively by the public because it appeared to be rather innovative. But it may be because of this innovation that Microsoft decided to scrap the tablet: Microsoft does not currently have a way of powering this innovative device. Using a phone OS would not work very well for Microsoft because Windows Mobile 6 is just bad and Mobile 7 has not shipped yet. But using a desktop OS would present problems as well: the Courier interface probably would be quite different from that of Windows 7.

Microsoft may be ready for the Courier someday, but not now. For now, it will have to sit back and watch Apple’s iPad get all the attention.

Via InformationWeek, image via Microsoft.

Apr 22 2010

Apple and Microsoft Still Rivals

The Apple vs. Microsoft rivalry is perhaps one of the most well-known in the world of technology—even people who do not follow tech stuff closely know about it. Despite all the analysis and talk recently about an Apple vs. Google rivalry and a Google vs. Microsoft rivalry, the old Apple vs. Microsoft rivalry still remains.

A report on Thursday by Standard & Poor said that Apple has replaced Microsoft as the number 2 company on its ranking of companies in terms of market cap. Microsoft took issue with this, informing the media that it still has the greater market cap. Microsoft had a 35% increase in earnings in the fiscal third quarter due to its new Windows operating system.

Investors have already made their decision, though. Apple has better products and has created new markets that did not exist ten years ago. Microsoft is still tied to its Windows operating system and Office suite. It is simply not an innovative company.

Via MarketWatch, image via Apple.

Apr 16 2010

Microsoft Advises Some XP Users to stay Unpatched

Microsoft has released an update to the Windows operating system today but has advised some Windows XP users not to install the update just yet. Systems infected with a rootkit virus, a form of malware that buries itself deep in the operating system, should not receive the update until the virus is cleaned.

The rootkit infects an area that the update attempts to fix. If users install the update on an infected system, the system could be rendered unusable. This happened earlier this year, in February. Users installed an update, which caused some systems to stop working. Microsoft wants to avoid a repeat of that incident, and it also does not want to make users wary about installing updates.

Microsoft urged users to make sure they are not infected with the rootkit and if they are to remove it, either with the Microsoft malware removal tool or tools from security companies.

Via BBC News, image via BBC News.

Mar 22 2010

IE Takes Hits Across The EU Following Addition of Browser Choice Screen

The European Union won a very decisive victory in the anti-trust case against Microsoft and its integration of Internet Explorer into the Windows operating system.  The greatest spoil of war was of course the Browser Choice Screen.  This gives Windows users in the EU an initial choice of web browser, rather than dropping IE on them without formal consent. Opera has already announced that it has had impressive gains in downloads across Europe.  However, this trend isn’t exclusive to Opera.

Mozilla has also posted steady gains, and anticipates even more when the screen is used on new computers. 200 million computers have already used the system. And Microsoft is feeling the burn: France has seen a 2.5% drop of IE users, Britain had a 1% drop, and Italy had 1.3% drop.  Still, IE holds a massive 62%  market share and it will likely need some time before it is equalized out.

Via Engadget

Mar 20 2010

Opera Making Major Grounds in the EU Due To Browser Selection Screen

We all remember or at least know of the famous Microsoft anti-trust trials of the late 90s and early 2000s, and of course its result was the creation of the mandatory browser selection screen in the European Union.  At first, there were questions on whether or not it would be truly a useful addition in spreading knowledge about alternatives to Internet Explorer. Common opinion held that people who hadn’t gone through the effort of finding a different browser on their own would simply pick IE and not worry about it.

Opera, however, seems to be reporting results to the contrary.  According to them, a “dramatic uptake on downloads” has occurred, and they have the numbers to back it.  They have experienced a 328% download increase from Poland due to the choice screen, meaning that 77% of the downloads of that country are due to the choice screen.  Across the EU, 53% of their downloads come from the choice screen.  It’s a shame that the US doesn’t have a similar policy.

Via Gizmodo

Mar 18 2010

Nail in XP’s Coffin #4: Microsoft Previews Internet Explorer 9

It is every anti-XP’s fan favorite time of the week: when yet another interesting news tidbit marks the end of Windows XP.  This week it is doubled by the fact that this tidbit it is a hope (and fear) of every anti-IE user of the world.

Microsoft released the test platform for Internet Explorer 9 at MIX 10 yesterday.  Normally, the internet just does a big yawn whenever a new IE is released, as it is just a rehashing of the same old flawed and vanilla browser known as Internet Explorer 6.  Microsoft has known for years that, even amongst non-geeks and home users, it was losing a significant market share, and kept mocking our intelligence with the marginally improved releases of IE7 and 8.  However, a new dawn has risen over Redmond, and for once Microsoft seems to care about being relevant in the browser wars.

Internet Explorer 9 plays a major game of catch-up, implementing many overdue features.  The most notable of these of course is HTML 5.  HTML 5, the supposed godsend for the Internet destined to end the tyranny of plug-ins like Flash everywhere, has been sitting on Firefox, Chrome, and Safari for some time now.  Still, it is good to see Microsoft joining the fray, and it is holding back no punches in updating support for the new web under HTML 5.  It has weighed in on the HTML video wars, showing off H.264 support on YouTube.

Furthermore, they are adding CSS3 support and a brand new JavaScript engine. All of this means Internet Explorer finally is getting a somewhat comparable engine to the other browsers.  It managed to score a relatively impressive 55/100 on the ACID3 test, but that’s a far cry from the 100 of the Webkit browsers and the 97 of Firefox.

Still, IE9 has one ace up its sleeve: Direct2D Acceleration.  That’s right, Microsoft has drastically improved the render graphics quality and performance for IE by using hardware acceleration.  The result is much smoother HTML 5 video viewing and and SVG rendering than the norm of HTML 5 browsers.  There is really no comparison between IE9 and the others for rendering.  However, the cost for this is using drivers that only came into play after Windows Vista. You guessed it: there’s no Windows XP support.  XP has no future in Microsoft’s world, and it probably shouldn’t in yours either.

If you want to play around with the IE9 platform, feel free to go on its website. IE9 isn’t even in the alpha stages yet, and the platform just renders webpages so far and not much else. You have a pop-up box to input URLs and no forward and back buttons.  Still, if you are into web development, it might be worth a look.

Via Gizmodo

Mar 16 2010

Many Microsoft Employees Use iPhones

Microsoft's entertaining CEO Steve Ballmer

Leave it to Microsoft: their products are so bad that many of their employees use the iPhone, which is of course made by Apple, Microsoft’s mortal enemy. There are more than ten thousand iPhone users at Microsoft, judging by statistics of those who accessed the Microsoft employee email system, which is ten percent of the global Microsoft workforce. And apparently if you visit Microsoft’s headquarters in Seattle, you can see tons of Microsoft employees happily using their iPhones.

iPhone use may be a sort of open secret at Microsoft, but employees usually know better than to let Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, know. An employee said in an interview, “Maybe once a year I’m in a meeting with Steve Ballmer. It doesn’t matter who’s calling — I’m not answering my phone.”

Those foolish enough to be seen with a phone in Ballmer’s presence encounter a dramatic but not unsurprising reaction, considering what Steve Ballmer has done in the past. At a recent company meeting, Ballmer grabbed an iPhone from an employee, put it on the ground, and pretended to stomp on it. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment on the story.

Via NYDailyNews, image via NYDailyNews.

Mar 15 2010

Google Employee Says He Hates the iPhone

In the latest move in the escalating war between Apple and Google, Google’s latest hire has said that he hates Apple’s iPhone.

Tim Bray, a developer advocate for Android who has been recently hired at Google, said, “The iPhone vision of the mobile Internet’s future omits controversy, sex, and freedom, but includes strict limits on who can know what and who can say what.” This harsh characterization of Apple and its iPhone was expressed in a blog post.

Bray’s comment is the latest move in an escalating competition between Apple and Google—a competition so intense that it may be driving Apple and Microsoft to possibly collaborate against Google in the future.

To be fair, Bray does reserve some criticism for Google as well, saying that Google is “now too big to be purely good or in fact purely anything.” He also mentioned the fact that iPhones are selling at a rate of 90,000 units per day and Android devices are selling at a rate of 60,000 units per day, supporting the fact that the competition between the two companies is getting intense.

Via InformationWeek, image via Apple.

Mar 14 2010

Apple’s iPad Forces Rivals to Improve Products

Apple’s iPad looks set to be a huge success, and this has competing companies worried. If competing companies do not improve their products that are meant to compete with the iPad, these products simply won’t sell and will be overshadowed by the iPad. Obviously they do not want this to happen, so companies such as Amazon, HP, and Microsoft are hard at work creating products that will be able to compete with the iPad.

Amazon wants to hire a software developer to improve its Kindle by adding web browsing capabilities to it. HP has been heavily promoting its Slate tablet, especially the fact that it will support Adobe Flash (Apple’s mobile devices famously do not support Flash). Even Microsoft has said it intends to make a tablet called the Courier.

This has all happened before the iPad has even been released. After April 3, once we know definitely what the iPad is really like, more companies will offer iPad competitors.

Via ZDNet, image via Apple.

Mar 10 2010

FileMaker Pro 11 is Released for Windows and Mac

FileMaker Pro 11 left beta testing and was released to the general public last Tuesday. It is the only software of its type that runs on both Windows and Mac. As noted by Ryan Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and services for FileMaker, Inc., FileMaker Pro is number one on Mac and number two on Windows after Microsoft Access.

The software is aimed at workers at mid- to large-sized businesses, though FileMaker, Inc. hopes to expand its consumer base to less advanced database users.

Some key new features in FileMaker 11 include an easier way to make charts and graphs; Quick Find, a search engine for database information; and a Quick Start Screen for making new databases and managing files.

There are actually four versions of FileMaker to choose from: FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Pro Advanced, FileMaker Server, and FileMaker Server Advanced.

Via Betanews, image via FileMaker.

Mar 10 2010

Steve Ballmer Says Nice Things About Apple

Good old Steve

I really never thought I’d see the day that Steve Ballmer said nice things about Apple. After all, Ballmer is the CEO of Microsoft, and aren’t Apple and Microsoft supposed to be mortal enemies? We must recall that Ballmer completely dismissed the threat the iPhone would have to the smartphone market and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system. Three years later, Ballmer has been proved wrong, as proved by the runaway success of the iPhone and the App Store.

Ballmer knows he was wrong. At a recent speaking engagement, he actually praised the App Store, saying, “Apple’s done a very nice job that allows people to monetize and commercialize their intellectual property.” The comment may appear to be insignificant at first glance, but when we consider the history between Microsoft and Apple, as well as the possibility that Apple may be replacing Google as the default search engine with Microsoft’s Bing, Ballmer’s words take on a new meaning.

Could Apple be prepared to team up with Microsoft to defeat a common rival, Google? I’m not sure how I feel about this idea: I’m an avid Mac user and I’m also rather fond of Google products (I have an interest bordering on obsession with Gmail), but I don’t like Microsoft at all. I’d rather see Apple and Google teaming up against Microsoft.

Of course, it may be too early to make any predictions. After all, Microsoft is still planing to compete with Apple by releasing a new mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7.

Via DailyTech, image via DailyTech.

Mar 8 2010

Ballmer Gets A Pair Of Wings, Flies Into The Cloud

It has oft been said that Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, is the antithesis of Steve Jobs.  While Jobs is viewed commonly as the artistic designer and creative genius of the computing world, Ballmer is the brick and mortar business man, known for constantly playing catch-up on new ideas.  However, it appears Ballmer wants to dispel the belief that Microsoft can’t be creative.

To prove it, Ballmer explained Microsoft’s deep interest in the cloud to a crowd at University of Washington. Stevie is planning to get heavily invested in what he is valuing as a $3.3 trillion industry. That’s absolutely massive, and there is no wonder why he and the rest of Redmond are taking it seriously.  He broke up his talk into five major points:

  1. “The Cloud Creates Opportunities and Responsibilities”
  2. “The Cloud Learns and Helps You Learn, Decide and Take Action”
  3. “Cloud Enhances Social and Professional Interactions”
  4. “The Cloud Wants Smarter Devices”
  5. “The Cloud Drives Servers Advances  That Drive the Cloud”

One surprising aspect of Ballmer’s approach was his emphasis on the quality of consumer devices and hardware.  Much of cloud theory has been based on the idea processing should happen server-side and minimize the amount of work the client needs to do.  In layman’s terms: complicated stuff happens in the cloud, and you just get the product.  Ballmer appears to be arguing instead that if processing on the client end delivers better content at a lower cost than bandwidth enhancement, then we should be making better products to work with the cloud.  His example of choice was the Windows Phone 7 Series.

Still, the most important things to take away from this are twofold.  Firstly, the cloud is here to stay.  Learn to love it.  Secondly, all members of the computing triumvirate have now tossed their hats into the next great war of the information age: Apple with the iPhone/iPad App Store and MobileMe, Google with Google Apps, and Microsoft with Windows/Xbox Live.  Let’s see who has what it will take to become this decade’s premier content provider.

Via Gizmodo.

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