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Microsoft gameplans for 2013 holiday season

Posted by Alan at 3:22 PM on November 1, 2013

surface-pro-2

The holiday shopping season approaches quickly, with Black Friday now showing on the current calendar page. Retailers and manufacturers alike are prepping offerings for eager shoppers and Microsoft is a big part of this. With revamped Windows, Xbox and Surface tablets, the company has big plans for your wallet in 2013, and those plans have been laid out for all to see.

After last year’s public perception problem caused by Windows 8, and poor Surface sales, the company has reinvented both products, and getting touch into your daily computing life is now on the collective Microsoft brain. The software giant aims to sell 16 million tablets this season and make touch a feature of new desktop and laptop computers found under trees in 2013.

To accomplish this lofty aspiration, a rather large perception problem must be overcome. Windows 8 suffers from an image breakdown, after a vocal group of critics attacked the operating system for perceived shortcomings and YouTube videos depicted inept users attempting to find the Start button and app location. Surface was greeted by a group of fans, but not enough of them to overcome the sales number problems.

Microsoft insider Paul Thurrott explains part of the plan — “A big part of Microsoft’s plans, of course, is to turn the PC aisle hell holes you see today in physical stores into clean, uncluttered and welcoming Windows centers. To this end, Microsoft has created store-within-a-store locations in Best Buy other premium retailers, and has provided other retailers with updated retail kits”.

It will certainly take a Herculean effort from the software giant to get this ship righted, but there is an ace in the hole. The Xbox 360 has remained an incredibly popular product throughout its lifecycle, and the upcoming release of the brand new Xbox One hopes to light up the shopping season with anxious parents scouring store in search of the console. It may be Microsoft’s best bet.

Windows 8.1 Ready for Windows 8 Upgrade

Posted by J Powers at 1:41 PM on October 18, 2013
Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1

With the biggest enticement of upgrading from Windows 8 to 8.1 being the return of the ill-fated start button, Microsoft has released the upgrade version of software. Navigating to the Windows page will get you to the download link. The only way you will get the download link (at this time) is if you are on a machine with Windows 8 installed. Otherwise it will direct you to a page to upgrade.

Upgrades for Windows 8 are free. If you have Windows 7 or earlier you will have to pay $119.99 for the update. If you want to switch from Home editions to Professional ediction, that will cost $199.99

Of course, 8.1 will also have ability to connect with XBox 360 (and XBox One when released), Skype, file access from anywhere and many more features.

Windows 8.1 also drops us deeper in the rabbit’s hole to a unified OS and forcing us to use the Metro screen more. My biggest gripe on this is programs like Skype, which lost a lot of functionality when the Metro screen upgrade came out.

Windows also took out media center. While I was promised a free upgrade back in Windows 8 (and never got it), the service is now separate from Microsoft and will cost you $99.99 to get it.

Sad.

 

Microsoft retreats: tells customers to get third-party AV software

Posted by Alan at 4:40 PM on October 7, 2013

When Microsoft released its Security Essentials software the company claimed it was all the end-user really needed and, for a time, that was mostly right. But the software suite has not entirely been kept up, and is not compatible with Windows 8, though in that OS, it was still present in the background under the name Windows Defender.

Now the Redmond company has officially given up it seems, as in a recent interview it referred to Defender as “baseline software” and claimed that it would “always be on the bottom” of comparison tests — this after failing multiple ones.

Microsoft Windows 8

Now Microsoft claims to be using Defender, which still comes as part of the OS in Windows 8.1, as more of a research tool. “The company is just sharing its virus tracking findings with the security industry so they can develop better anti-virus programs”.

This is not to say that WD will not continue to be updated every patch Tuesday — it will be. However, the software maker is now recommending users supplement the program with a third-part app.

Several good ones are available, both free and paid, but for the average user,  it’s back to square one, as many do not know that they need such a thing, forget to update it even if they have it or just don’t know enough to stay out of trouble. For the tech-savvy, this is likely not a big deal, as many never used AV before anyway.

Delta Airlines selects Microsoft Surface 2 for electronic charts in cockpit

Posted by Mike Dell at 9:46 AM on October 7, 2013

deltalogoDelta Airlines has decided on the Surface 2, From Microsoft as the tablet of choice for it’s 11,000+ pilots. The new devices will replace the 38 lb flight bag that pilots have lugged around for years. The tablets will contain all the charts, checklists and manuals needed to operate the airliners once the FAA signs off on the idea. (Expected early next year)
surface_logo2
The lighter devices are expected to save the airline $13 million a year in fuel usage and other costs over the heavy flight bags and paper charts. Pilots will be able to access flight and weather information through apps such as FliteDeck Pro and the Weather app. The company also says it may come up with it’s own apps.

microsoft-surface-2

“Delta’s electronic flight bag running on Surface 2 continues the technological strides Delta has been making to give our crews the best tools to keep them flying safely and efficiently,” said Capt. Steve Dickson, Delta’s senior vice president – Flight Operations. “This intuitive device puts key information at their fingertips right when they need it. By eliminating paper, we’ll reduce clutter and minimize time spent looking for flight information allowing our pilots the opportunity for greater situational awareness in the air and on the ground.”

American and United, have bought Apple’s iPad for that purpose. One reason for going with the Surface 2 (according to Capt. Dickson) is “It’s easier to give the pilots separate areas for company and personal use.”

In August, Delta said its flight attendants will get Windows phones to process in-flight sales of food, better seats, and other items.

Here is a link to the press release: Delta to equip 11,000 pilots with Microsoft Surface 2 electronic flight bags

5 things to expect in Windows 8.1

Posted by Alan at 8:34 AM on October 5, 2013

With Microsoft’s latest operating system release drawing closer, many customers are growing excited about what to expect in this update. Windows 8.1 isn’t really a new OS, but its a lot more than just a service pack. The company has attempted to fix many of the issues that have drawn complaints from customers, while also enhancing other features.

Changes are too numerous to detail here, but this is a good time to take a quick glance at five of the more noticeable changes that users can expect to see on October 18.

The Start Button

This is the big one, but beware that I said Button and not Menu. The Button, when clicked, merely takes you to the Start screen. However, there is a bit more functionality hidden within it. Right-click on it and you get a context menu with a number of options. It may not be what people had in mind, but it is better than nothing.

start context menu

Search

The search option is still accessed from the Charms Menu, but unlike before, it no longer takes over your screen. Instead, it simply occupies the space of the Charms menu, and results appear below the search box. It’s a much nicer way of working.

windows 8.1 search

SkyDrive

SkyDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, was a part of Windows 8, as it is part of Office 2013. Now in version 8.1, the service receives a place in the PC Setting menu, allowing for easier control over how it works.

windows-8-1-skydrive

Start Page Images

Windows 8 still allowed users to customize their desktops with virtually any image they wished, but limited the Start screen options to thosen chosen by MicroSoft. Now you can opt to have the image on your desktop carry over to the Start page. If you have images rotating in a theme, don’t worry — Start will keep up with the changes.

windows-8-1-start

Boot to Desktop

With the exception of the Start button, this is probably the most requested feature. Customers can now opt to have their PC go right to the desktop upon bootup. A simple check-mark in a box is all that is required.

boot to desktop

As I said, there is much more to be found in this new operating system, but these are perhaps the biggest and most notable of the changes Microsoft has made.

Ford’s Alan Mullaly Top Contender for Microsoft CEO

Posted by J Powers at 9:59 AM on October 2, 2013

Alan-Mulally-Ford

Microsoft has been looking hard at Alan Mullaly, CEO of Ford to take over Steve Ballmer’s role at Microsoft. Other candidates include Stephen Elop (Nokia), Tony Bates and Paul Maritz (Microsoft execs).

While the search is still in its infancy, a CEO like Mulally could definitely change up Microsoft’s vision. He would most likely bring in a lot of the values that has made Ford successful in the 21st century. But is running a car company similar to running a software company?

Microsoft is the 5th top global brand (behind Apple, Google, Coca-Cola and IBM)  - as opposed to Ford, which is 42 in the top 100 (Interbrand). Ford is the 4th top Global brand for automobiles and 2nd in US auto sales.

If Mulally is offered a spot at Microsoft, expect Ford to make a generous counter-offer. Either way, this is a great spot for Alan to be in…

You can now pre-order Windows 8.1

Posted by Alan at 6:57 AM on October 2, 2013

The next generation of Microsoft’s operating system is now less than a month away — Windows 8.1 will be officially released on October 18th, though some customers can get it now thanks to TechNet and MSDN. While most people will have wait for release day, you can at least prepare now.

Today Microsoft has opened up pre-orders for the perceived fix to Windows 8. The new OS, which returns the Start button (well, sort of), will retail for $119.99, while the Pro version will set customers back $199.99.

windows-8-1-start

Those with an existing Windows 8 license will receive a free upgrade upon release. The upgrade adds a Start button (though not a menu), new search and sharing features, Skype for Metro and tighter SkyDrive integration. Other changes are less noticeable – for instance in Explorer you will find that “Computer” is now “This PC”.

If you can’t wait to get your copy then head over to the Microsft Store a place your order now and you should receive the product on day of release.

Surface 2, Surface Pro 2 up for pre-order

Posted by Alan at 2:36 PM on September 24, 2013

surface 2 show

Microsoft held its big New York City event yesterday, unveiling the Surface 2, which will ship later next month, just days after Windows 8.1 makes its official debut. Today, the Redmond-based company begins taking pre-orders for the new tablets, which begin at $499 and range upwards from there.

“This morning we began taking pre-orders via www.MicrosoftStore.com, Microsoft Stores, and through select retailers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Learn more about the new devices and accessories as well as how to pre-order in your market at www.Surface.com/pre-order“.

Prices have risen back upwards from the original Surface, which has been discounted to $349, and customers must still purchase a keyboard (touch or type) separately to make proper use of the tablet, that is more laptop than anything else.

The stage is set for the release, but customers have sometime to wait for the new hardware, which features the return of the Start button, that went on hiatus in Windows 8. Will you be buying one?

New Dell Windows 8 Tablets Outed

Posted by Andrew at 8:53 AM on September 24, 2013

Dell LogoDell showed off a new 8″ Windows 8-based tablet at the recent IDF conference earlier in September, promising further announcements on the resurrected “Venue” line at a press event on 2 October in New York City. Geek News Central has obtained advance information that Dell will be presenting three tablets; the already seen 8″ plus two 10.8″ tablets.

The three devices and specs are:

1) 8″ 1280 x 800 screen, Intel Bay Trail CPU, 8 hours battery life, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD. Office Home and Student 2013 will be bundled. This is the one that was seen at IDF in San Francisco.

Dell Venue 8"

 

2) 10.8″ 1920 x 1080 screen, ARM Qualcomm CPU, 10 hours battery life, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB SSD. Office Home and Student 2013 will be bundled.

Dell 10" Pro

 

3) 10.8″ 1920 x 1080 screen, Intel Bay Trail CPU, 10 hours battery life, 2 GB RAM, 64 GB SSD, 4G / LTE built-in.

Dell 10" RT

 

The documentation seen by GNC suggests that the devices will be running Windows 8.1 out of the box but it’s not totally clear. There’s also no information on pricing or availability so we’ll just have to wait until next week for the press conference to learn more.

Microsoft pulls Outlook 2013 patch

Posted by Alan at 3:36 AM on September 12, 2013

Microsoft logoThis week was the monthly Patch Tuesday, a time when Microsoft sees fit to push out updates to various software, most notably Windows and Office. Its a tense time, thanks to past problems that have resulted in unbootable computers for some customers. This month did not cause anything quite so drastic, but it also did not pass without notice.

The company pushed a patch for Outlook 2013, but quickly had to pull that particular update from the set due to reports of customers having issues with KB2817630, which was a non-security update.

The problem arose from a version incompatibility between outlook.exe and mso.dll, a mismatched reference to a data structure causes the “minimize” button in the navigation pane to render incorrectly, typically by appearing extremely large to the point that the navigation pane is “invisible” to the user. The issue only appears when incompatible versions of outlook.exe and mso.dll exist on the system.

Not all versions of the latest Outlook for Office were affected:

Affected

  • Office 2013 Standard
  • Office 2013 Professional Plus

Not Affected

  • Office 2013 Home & Student
  • Office 2013 Home & Business
  • Office 2013 Professional
  • Office 365 Home Premium
  • Office 365 Professional Plus
  • Office 365 University
  • Office 365 Small Business Premium
  • Office 365 ProPlus
  • Office 365 Enterprise

Microsoft promises that it is “working on re-publishing the September Public Update with the correct versions of both mso.dll and outlook.exe to ensure users with automatic updates enabled will receive the correct fix. We will update this blog with further information as our schedule develops”.