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All posts tagged "microsoft"

Monday, June 18, 2012

Microsoft Surface: A Well-kept Secret Emerges

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Other Slates & Tablets" @ 08:30 PM

"We saw plenty of crazy transforming tablets at Computex Taipei a couple of weeks back, even some that ran Windows 8, but nothing that could have prepared us for what Microsoft itself is building. The company unveiled a pair of 10.6-inch tablets dubbed "Surface" today, and they sound pretty sweet, with built-in stands, covers with embedded keyboards, and cases molded out of vapor-deposited magnesium ("VaporMg") with neatly beveled edges for a (hopefully) comfortable grip."

Who says that technology companies can't keep secrets? Microsoft's announcement of their new Surface tablets and accessories seemed to take the blogosphere by surprise.

Microsoft demoed only the magnesium-encased Surface for Windows RT version, with an NVidia Tegra (ARM) processor, 32/64GB SSD, weighing in at about 1.5-pounds, 9.3mm thick, with a 10.6-inch screen and a 16:9 aspect ration - labeled as "HD." The back contains a workable kickstand, and several 3mm cover keyboards were shown, that magnetically attach to the tablet. The battery will be 31.5Wh. This version will run Windows with desktop and MS Office, but will NOT run legacy applications. This is the "consumer" version of Surface.

The second tablet, Surface for Windows 8 Pro, will sport an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, and be somewhat larger, 13.5mm thick and about 2-pounds. With a higher resolution display, labeled "Full HD," a larger 42Wh battery, larger SSD offerings, and higher-speed ports (USB3 vs USB2), this tablet will run legacy Windows applications, MS Office, and of course new Windows 8 Metro apps. This is the "professional" or "prosumer" version of Surface.

With these announcements, the Windows 8 tablet race has quickly ratcheted-up, and other vendors are quickly releasing specs on their competitive products, many already touting themselves as being better than the new MS tablets. Now we wait for further news on price and availability. Anyone ready to buy a Surface?

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Road To Windows 8 Tablets Is Uphill

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 03:00 PM

"Windows-based tablets haven’t been treated kindly by the test of time. Those released in the Windows XP era relied on wonky, stylus-based data entry, and even modern, touch-based tablets running Windows 7 are poor performers. Indeed, Microsoft has a troubled tablet history that the public isn’t soon to forget. This November, Forrester released a study that showed consumer interest in a Windows-based tablet dropped significantly this year. At the start of 2011, 46 percent of potential tablet owners wanted a Windows device. By Q3, that number slipped to 25 percent."

Windows has been losing a lot of ground lately. As technology advances, the need for a desktop computer, or even a laptop has become less and less so for your average consumer. While Microsoft fights in the smartphone market with Windows Phone 7, it hopes to see success in the tablet market with Windows 8. While Windows 7 tablets do exist, they have not been flying off the shelves like iPads. With iOS and Android currently dominating the market, can Microsoft become relevant? If they are willing to stay in it for the long run, I believe so. This is not the first time Microsoft has tried to make a market a three-party system. The original X-box was a gamble, and cost Microsoft a considerable amount of money, but now in its second iteration (and maybe soon to be third), the company has carved itself a sizable chunk of the console market. It might just be able to repeat that success with tablets.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Introducing Windows 8 Ultratablets

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 12:00 AM

"This week we have warring conferences as Microsoft and Intel scheduled their developer events on top of each other. This means there are a massive number of us trying to be in two places at once, mostly unsuccessfully."

Intel and Microsoft are trying to hasten the evolution of the transportable computer by melding an ultralight laptop and a touchscreen tablet. Windows 8 aims to kick-start things on x86-based Ultratablets by running both the new Metro UI (touchy-feely) for tablet-style apps, and a traditional desktop for legacy Windows apps. ARM computers (tablets) will be limited to Metro UI style apps (no legacy Windows) at least until legacy apps are ported. In the Apple world, this is analagous to Mac OS X gaining the ability to run iOS apps, along with OS X, while iOS devices can run only iOS (not legacy OS X) apps.

Assuming that the big brains can get this all right, we'll see Ultratablets with a great touch interface (but also a keyboard), long battery life, under $1000, with the power to run any (type of) apps. So no more laptops that are great content creators but lousy content providers/consumers, or tablets that are lousy content creators but great content consumers. One device that meets all these needs, the Ultratablet - isn't this what we're all hoping for?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Xbox Live Coming to Windows 8

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 04:56 PM

The above image is from someone's Flickr account, so I'm not sure if it's real, but Engadget is reporting that Xbox Live is coming to Windows 8. This is impressive - between the Xbox hooked up to a TV, a Windows Phone, and Windows 8 on a PC or tablet, Microsoft has a three-screens entertainment strategy that can actually compete with Apple's iTunes ecosystem. Not bad Microsoft, not bad at all. Note that there's no word "Zune" anywhere in that screen shot, or on the Engadget one. That reinforces to me that the Zune brand is on the way out...but I wonder what they'll re-brand the awesome desktop software to? Xbox doesn't make sense as a media player brand - well, not to me at least.

Windows 8: This is the Future of Windows

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 09:48 AM

"Microsoft is welcoming around 5,000 developers to its BUILD conference today to unveil the most significant change in the PC space since Windows 95. "It's a launch," explains Windows chief Steven Sinofsky. "It's a launch of an opportunity for developers. That's a lot, it's a big deal to do today and tomorrow," he says during an opening address to media and analysts in Anaheim California. You sense the sense of excitement in the room and the realisation that Windows 8 is a really big deal for Microsoft, a deal that cannot go wrong."

It's taken years, but Microsoft has finally delivered a truly workable touch-based interface. Check out the video above; the performance is stunning. Everything is smooth and impressively fluid. Yes, this is a developer's build so it's not finished, but seeing performance like this early on is a great indicator of what's to come. Windows 8 is also significantly lighter on resources than Windows 7; Engadget's post says that Windows 7 SP1 required 404 MB of RAM and had 32 processes running. Compare that to Windows 8 using only 281 MB of RAM and having 28 processes - that's big, big improvement.

Are you excited? I'm excited! More coverage here on Business Insider and Engadget.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Windows 8: "Always On, Always Connected" or Standard Windows

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 11:30 PM

"Part of Microsoft's Windows 8 presentation involved showing the money - that it could run on ARM hardware so they demoed the upcoming finger-touch friendly OS on a couple of tablets and a standard laptop. The tablets sported either a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8660 (1.2GHz, dual-core), Nvidia Tegra 3 (quad-core) or TI OMAP4430 (1GHz, dual-core, as on the BlackBerry Playbook) processors while the laptop ran Tegra 3."

We're seeing some exciting new technologies for Windows emerging - Windows tablets based on ARM processors, and traditional notebook form factor systems, also ARM powered. All are dual-mode, with what Microsoft is calling ", always on, always connected" and a more traditional Windows desktop with features from Windows Phone. Easy toggling between modes. These are really impressive feature videos, especially so early in the Windows 8 development cycle.

Here we have a clamshell system, non-touchscreen, running with an ARM processor, Kal-El Quad Core, running a real version of Microsoft Word. Power, small size, a long battery life, and runs the apps that I need on the job. I'm impressed!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Windows 8 Sneak Peek: Well This is Different!

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 07:00 AM

"On Wednesday, Microsoft offered the first glimpse of Windows 8, a sneak peek that reveals much about both the influences and the strategic goals of the major overhaul of Microsoft's 25-year-old operating system. The fundamental goal with the new operating system, which is being shown for the first time at D9, is to create something that is equally well at home on an 8-inch tablet as it is on a powerful desktop attached to a huge monitor."

Microsoft is serious about the Metro UI being part of their product line-up, and we can see that in action in the screen shot above (check out the source article for a high-res image). This looks like what you'd expect it Microsoft transformed Windows Phone 7 into a tablet UI: Live Tiles more appropriate for a device with a big screen, a panoramic pivot view, and some extremely funky colours. I still have severe reservations around the performance and battery life of a tablet running full-blown Windows (even based on ARM), but I'm excited to see Microsoft going after this hard by betting on a radically different UI overlay.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Windows 8: Still Carrying the Baggage of Legacy Windows

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 10:30 PM

"The new Windows 8 touch-based UI, revealed earlier today at the D9 Conference, looks good. It’s clearly drawn from the same inspiration as Windows Phone 7, and shows some seriously innovative UI thinking. The idea of tiles rather than icons is rich, and strikes me as even better-suited to bigger screens than phones. The snapping concept is an interesting way to make use of a bigger screen to show two apps at once. Displaying side-by-side content isn’t possible on iOS, and no one’s yet solved that problem in the post-windows (note lowercase “w”) UI landscape."

Interesting that the D9 conference actually had some hands-on time with an early version of the Windows 8 Touch UI, heavily influenced by Windows Phone 7's UI. These demos show just how heavily Apple has influenced industry UI development over the last few years. The author's main point is that Microsoft is trying to add these new (touch) features to coexist alongside existing Windows code, and he doesn't think that it'll work. Imagine the complexity of a real enterprise Excel spreadsheet (huge!) on a touch-screen tablet. Mind boggling. Obviously it's early in the Windows 8 development cycle, so things may change drastically between now and when it gets into consumers' hands. Will we see "more of the same," or will Microsoft truly innovate this time around? Predictions?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Want an Xbox? Buy a Notebook!

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 12:00 PM

"The deal is designed to combat the Apple promotion which offers a free iPod Nano with MacBook purchase during the same time period. In a pure dollars and cents view, the Microsoft deal is better because the starting price is much lower and the price of an Xbox 360 4GB is $50 more."

Being a student is hard and Microsoft hears your pain. That is probably why they have decided on being generous in their promotion to let students get their game on with a free Xbox! No, this is not some chain email where you have to forward to 50 friends, and you do not have to become a fan of some random group on Facebook. All you have to do is buy from a select group of Windows 7 notebooks. Maybe this is a drive to keep notebook sales up as tablet sales continue to sky rocket. Maybe they figure that there are a lot of students who have turned in their PS3s and need a new gaming console. Whatever the reason, it looks like a fair deal for anyone looking for a new computer and does not mind some fun on the side!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Microsoft & Skype: Fantasy History

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Talk" @ 11:06 AM

Microsoft's purchase yesterday of Skype (barring any barriers that is) reminded me of a piece of Microsoft technology that I was keeping in storage - so I thought I'd do a quick photo-hack job and play a little "what if" game. Are there any readers of this site that owned this particular product? It was quite amazing for its time - I remember being upset when no drivers were created for Windows 2000, thus ending my use of the product (before Windows XP came out, Windows 2000 was *it* baby!). It had insanely cool functionality for the time - including voice command dialling, caller ID announcement, and it would link up with your contacts program on the desktop computer. Frankly, when I look at how "dumb" my landline phone is, I'd love to see something like this, updated with newest technology - like, say, Skype!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Microsoft Buys Skype: This is Good for Windows Phone 7 and Windows Tablets

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Windows Phone News" @ 09:13 AM

"Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: "MSFT") and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype...With 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010, Skype has been a pioneer in creating rich, meaningful connections among friends, families and business colleagues globally...Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms."

I was initially a bit skeptical of the Skype purchase - and boy, I'm impressed that Microsoft and Skype were able to keep this a secret until just before the announcement - but upon further reflection (and reading the thoughts of others) I think this is a good move. Windows Live Messenger already has voice and video capabilities, but it never attained the mindshare and usage patterns of Skype. Skype has become a verb, and owning a verb in our world is a powerful thing. The biggest news for Windows Phone users is that you can bet powerful and deep integration into Windows Phone is now on the map. Skype's huge user base is nothing to scoff at, and if Windows Phone becomes the premiere Skype platform - especially as VOIP usage continues to soar - that can only mean good things for Windows Phone, and for the future tablet-optimized version of Windows 8.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Windows 8 to Support "Portable Workspace" on USB Flash Drives

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 09:42 AM

"An early copy of Windows 8 leaked to the Internet this week and enthusiasts have been digging their way through the various new bits in Microsoft's next-generation operating system. Windows 8 build 7850.0.winmain_win8m1.100922-1508 contains a number of references to a brand new feature in Windows: Portable Workspaces. Microsoft will allow Enterprise customers to create USB storage driven copies of Windows. "Portable Workspace is a Windows feature that allows you to run Windows from a USB storage device," notes Microsoft in its description of the feature inside Windows 8. Users at mydigitallife unveiled the features inside 7850 and discovered that the feature requires at least 16GB of space."

I've been wondering what sorts of new features would be a part of Windows 8, and it looks like we have something truly unique: the ability to create a bootable, portable version of Windows 8 that you can put on a 16 GB or bigger flash drive and do everything from. Lots of questions remain: what sort of functionality will you actually get given when you connect to a different PC you'll be using generic drivers for video, networking, etc.? Still, it's a neat idea with some interesting potential.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Peeking Into The Features Of Windows 8

Posted by Hooch Tan in "Digital Home News" @ 02:30 PM

"Rafael Rivera posted a number of screenshots on Monday that reveal Microsoft’s “Immersive” browser in Windows 8. Rivera speculates that the application is designed to run full screen only and that he is witnessing limitations trying to enable it on a pre-beta version of Windows 8. “One clue to the Immersive UI, however, exists in a new Immersive version of Internet Explorer, which looks and works much like Windows Phone’s IE Mobile, but uses the desktop IE 9 renderer,” writes Rivera."

With the release of Windows 8 slowly approaching, it looks as if the Microsoft PR engine is starting up and we're getting a better look at what Windows 8 will have to offer. The influence from the smartphone and tablet market is obvious; the most obvious is the Windows applicaiton store. Though I would argue that services like X-box live arcade, Steam and even going back in a more basic form, linux distro repositories are all ancestors of the what we now think of as an app store.

The quasi-unification of the user interface between smartphones, tablets and desktops is also interesting, but I worry that we might lose something in the translation. They are separate form factors, and what is most efficent for one is not for another. Must we have the same thing for everything? A supreme jack of all trades UI?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PC Makers Get First Hands-On With Windows 8

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home Software" @ 03:30 PM

"Microsoft has shipped the first test version of Windows 8 to PC makers, according to posts on online forums, which means it's on track for a late 2012 release. Windows 8 is a big deal for Microsoft because it will have special features for tablets -- it will be the first version of the full Windows desktop OS to run on the low-powered ARM processors used in most tablets, and will have a design that works better on touch screens."

Am I crazy, or does Windows 7 still feel "new"? I guess after the massive, painful gap between Windows XP and Windows Vista, anything faster than that is going to feel a bit different - though Windows 7 couldn't come fast enough after Vista. I didn't hate Vista like some people did, but I knew Windows 7 was going to fix a lot of the rough edges around Vista, so I was keenly looking forward to it. Windows 8 coming in late 2012 or 2013 makes sense; Windows 7 came out in October of 2009, so late 2012 would make it three years. Windows 7 is an excellent operating system; I wonder what improvements Windows 8 will bring to the table beyond the tablet improvements? I'm still extremely reluctant to believe that Microsoft can implement a touch-based UI that doesn't feel tacked on. Guess we'll see!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why Microsoft Can't Build a Tablet and Apple Can't Build a Server

Posted by Michael Knutson in "Laptop Thoughts Talk" @ 11:00 PM

"Last week I was going over a rather impressive list of products that Microsoft (News - Alert) brought to market last decade that failed and while Apple's (News - Alert) list is shorter the failure of its Xserve server product after a decade of trying is just as telling. In looking at the two companies; both have largely been unable, at least for the last 10 years, to do well in areas dominated by the other."

Interesting thoughts on why companies with expertise in specific market segments are having trouble gaining a foothold in other market segments. Not only Microsoft and Apple, but companies like IBM and Cisco are having trouble in the consumer space, while Sony has failed at getting their business products accepted. Companies are committing resources, but not necessarily the right resources. Microsoft designing a product (Zune) that "looked like a square turd" is a good example of perhaps the right product being designed by the wrong people. And Apple's XServe is another example of a failed attempt. So, how can companies be successful in new market segments? First rule: Know your target market. Second rule: Get the right people for the job. Don't just assign someone based on seniority or past glory in other market segments. Third rule: Don't underestimate the amount of work and capital that it will take to successfully bring a product to market. Last rule: Understand your goal. If you don't understand what it is, or how to get there, you lose.

Friday, December 31, 2010

What The Geeky Got for Gifts

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Digital Home News" @ 05:30 PM

"If you got an iPad as a gift during the holidays, you certainly weren't alone. In a recent poll of holiday gift recipients, iPads accounted for a full 22.7% of all gadget or hardware gifts, making iPads the single largest category in our gift poll, outstripping the nearest runner-up by nearly 14% of votes. That runner-up was Amazon's Kindle - not surprising considering that the Kindle is the best-selling product in Amazon's history."

It's a relatively small sampling size - less than 2400 votes, and only from people who read Mashable - but among the geek-set, there are a couple of stand-out points: the iPad was the #1 gift, more people got Macs (60%) than Windows machines (40%), Android phones let the way in the smartphone category with a hefty 50.3% figure (iPhones were 30%), but Windows Phone 7 devices at 10.3% just eeked out Blackberry devices (9.4%). Not bad for a brand new platform that most people still haven't heard about! Lastly, the Xbox/Kinect one-two punch clobbered the PS3 with a 54.3% figure versus only 11.9% for the PS3. The Kinect really is driving the Xbox 360 to new heights of popularity!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Microsoft Misses the Boat

Posted by Chris Gohlke in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 04:00 PM

"A new poll suggests that one in five Americans plan to buy a tablet computer within the next three years. That's great news for Apple, RIM, HP Palm, and the hardware companies like Motorola who are building Android-based tablets. It's horrible news for Microsoft, which stands poised to miss the tablet surge just like it missed the first three years of the consumer smartphone explosion."

Quite the shame too. I've had two Windows based laptops that convert to tablet mode and found the software totally lacking. Had Microsoft put some effort into the software interface, they could have been first out the door via their laptop division and then followed on with other more modern tablet devices.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Microsoft: The Tablet Bridesmaid, Never the Bride?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Laptop Thoughts News" @ 04:30 PM

"A decade ago Bill Gates, founder and former chief executive of Microsoft, presented a new class of computing to the world: a tablet PC that offered a fully functional computer with the "intuitive aspects of pencil and paper." Since then, Microsoft has struggled to gain traction with a slate-like device, yet each year the company announces new products, software or operating systems that try to promote a world of Windows-based slate computers."

Above: Bert Keely, a Microsoft software architect, shows a prototype of the first ‘Tablet PC' in 2000. Photo courtesy of the New York Times.

I'm trying not to unfairly jump to any conclusions yet, but here's what I predict I'll see at CES 2011: tablet/slate computers running Windows 7 that are heavier, slower, more expensive, and have significantly worse battery life than comparable iOS and Android slates. And that doesn't even factor in the user interface issues. Windows 7 is quite usable on a touch input basis...on a 20+ inch screen. On a 7 to 10 inch screen? Not so much. I'd love to be wrong, but I'll go out on a limb and say that Microsoft hasn't yet admitted to themselves that Windows is not the most appropriate operating system for lightweight slate devices.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Deep Dive on the Concept of Chrome OS

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Laptop Thoughts Software" @ 05:39 PM

"Microsoft needed to provide a lightweight OS optimized for the netbook experience a couple of years ago. It didn't. So Google is. The selling point behind a netbook is that it's small, cheap and fast enough for browsing the web. The problem is a netbook isn't fast enough for running the OS that you need to run in order to get access to the web. Microsoft refused to revamp the OS, so Google decided to put forth an OS based around a web browser. It's called the Chrome OS and it's built off of Intel's Moblin distribution of Linux. There's no conventional desktop, you turn on your Chrome notebook and meet a login window followed by an instance of the Chrome web browser."

If you're living your computing life in the cloud, then a device like this may be exactly what you've been waiting for. The speed, security, and stability may be the ticket for blissful computing - but only if you can put up with the limitations of course. What do you say Laptop Thoughts readers: is a Chrome notebook in your future? Personally, I'd be more interested in a Chrome tablet...

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why Did HP Buy Palm?

Posted by Jason Dunn in "Laptop Thoughts Articles & Resources" @ 04:00 PM

"HP knows that although they're the number one PC maker in the world, being number one in an industry that has stopped growing and will be flat at best for the foreseeable future is not the way to stay a $100 billion company. They've figured out that mobile is the future of computing, and that despite some early successes in that space (mainly after purchasing Compaq and its iPAQ line of handhelds) HP's efforts to date have been anemic. Let's put it another way: you see plenty of people using HP netbooks, but when's the last time you saw anyone one of their smartphones? Exactly. Right now HP isn't a significant player in mobile and that needs to change."

Peter Rojas from gdgt has a useful perspective on the consumer electronics industry having been at the helm of Engadget for several years, and I'm sure he's right on the money here - in fact, this dovetails nicely with the post I wrote up earlier today in a depressing sort of way; if Microsoft really had something in the pipeline that was nearing completion, HP wouldn't have bought Palm. Microsoft literally must have had no answer to the question of "What Microsoft OS can we use on HP hardware to combat the iPad?". HP entering the operating system space isn't something that they'd choose to do lightly, that's for sure...they must have felt like they had no choice.

Tags: microsoft, apple, hp, palm, ipad, ios

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