MWSF: Microsoft Announces Office for Mac 2011

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Date: Thursday, February 11th, 2010, 09:10
Category: Macworld Expo, News

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With Macworld Expo underway, representatives from Microsoft announced Microsoft Office for Mac 2011, which should arrive in time for the 2010 holiday season.

Per Macworld, the new version focuses on better compatibility across platforms, improved collaboration tools, and a more refined user interface. Also, as Microsoft announced last August, the suite will include Outlook for Mac, which replaces Entourage as Office’s e-mail client. The new version of Office will also offer renewed support for Visual Basic, which was dropped in the 2008 version of the productivity suite.

“Nowadays, compatibility means more than just file formats,” said Microsoft’s Kurt Schmucker. “It’s also workflow, collaboration, and user interface.”

To that end, the new version of Office will incorporate document-collaboration features that take advantage of Microsoft’s online storage features. With Office for Mac 2011, Mac users will be able to share files and collaborate on documents with other Mac and Windows users via Microsoft’s SharePoint, SkyDrive, and Office Web Apps.

Those online tools will allow users to collaborate on documents with other Windows and Mac Office users in real time, similar to the features found in Google Docs. For example, users could create a document in Word on your laptop, save it to SkyDrive, then share it with others. A pop-up in Word will display who’s working on the document; click on that list, and you’ll be able to send them a message (as long as everyone is using Outlook or Microsoft’s Messenger IM application). The paragraphs your collaborators are working on will be locked out until they’re done. Users will also be able to edit those same documents from any computer, using Office’s Web apps. Mac users will have the same experience in the their versions of Safari and Firefox as Windows users get with their browsers, Schmucker said.

Microsoft also says it’s learned from user feedback about Office 2008 and has tweaked the user interface accordingly in Office 2011.

A new Ribbon at the top of each document window replaces Office 2008’s controversial Elements Gallery, which took some fire from Mac users for its size and inflexibility. This new Ribbon is designed to give users quick access to each program’s most commonly used tools. Unlike the Elements Gallery, the ribbon is customizable and, if you want more screen space, completely collapsible.

The new suite will also feel more Mac-like than Office 2008. For example, the Ribbon is built entirely using Apple’s Cocoa development framework, and takes takes advantage of Apple’s Core Animation system. (As a result, Ribbon tabs will slide smoothly when you rearrange them.) Click on Ribbon tools and they’ll expand smoothly into popovers that don’t obscure the document you’re working on.

Summarizing the interface changes, Microsoft’s Han-Yi Shaw likened Office 2008 to a teenager—“a little quirky”—but said the new edition is Office matured. “This is the version that everyone wanted,” he said.

Shaw added that the Mac team at Microsoft worked hard to adopt Apple technologies while also making sure their product was recognizably Microsoft Office. “We’re at a cross-section of Mac and PC, and because we’re die-hard Mac users, we look at the [Office] technology and try to translate it,” he said. “Following the Apple design philosophy really takes you in the right direction.”

The new Outlook will support PST imports (allowing you to move an Outlook installation, including all your old e-mails, from a Windows PC to a Mac) and will also support Microsoft’s Information Rights Management (IRM), which allows senders to specify what recipients can do with messages (print, forward, and so on). Previously-Windows only, IRM is required in some corporate settings. IRM support in Office 2001 is aimed at Mac users in cross-platform environments, Schmucker said: “It’s been a blocker for some companies because the Mac support was not there.”

The company has also re-engineered the Outlook message database system to be a series of small files, so it’s more easily backed up with Time Machine and searched in Spotlight. “Outlook’s new database is more reliable, faster, and fully supports Time Machine and Spotlight,” Schmucker said.

Finally, power users will be be able to make use of the Visual Basic macro language. Visual Basic was dropped from Office 2008 in part because it was to technically difficult to port it to the Mac’s then-new Intel CPUs. Microsoft says it began work on that port as far back as 2008, before the last Mac Office shipped. That work is now complete and the Mac suite will be using the most up-to-date version of Visual Basic.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple Releases 2009 Aluminum Keyboard Firmware 1.0 Update

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Date: Thursday, February 11th, 2010, 04:16
Category: News, Software

On Wednesday, Apple released its 2009 Aluminum Keyboard Firmware 1.0 update for the 2009 Apple Wireless Keyboard. The update, a 1.1 megabyte download, improves battery performance of the device when used in combination with other Bluetooth devices. The keyboard must be connected or paired to perform this update. The update package will install an updater application into the Applications/Utilities folder and will launch it automatically.

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As always, the update can also be located and snagged via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature.

The updater requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later running on an Intel-based Mac to function.

Some Users Cite Erratic Battery Life, Syncing Issues Following iPhone OS 3.1.3 Update

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Date: Wednesday, February 10th, 2010, 08:40
Category: iPhone, News

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Despite Apple’s best intentions, the iPhone OS 3.1.3 firmware update may not have gone as well as the company would have liked.

Per iPodNN, a number of users over on the Apple Discussion Board have reported that issues such as erratic battery life have emerged.

In certain cases, the unit’s battery meter may potentially swing wildly, for instance going from 25 to 7 to 10 percent, then jumping back up to 24%.

Worst-case scenarios may see phones losing hours of power, and even running unusually hot. The v3.1.3 firmware was in part meant to correct battery meter trouble on the iPhone 3GS.

Another major problem involves iTunes playlists, which in some cases are failing to sync properly with the iPod touch. While files will copy over properly, playlists may be empty or simply absent. The glitch is believed to affect only smart playlists, and potentially only those with multiple criteria. Temporary workarounds may include reducing criteria to a single field, and/or deleting and remaking previous playlists.

Apple has yet to formally address or fix either of the cited errors.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Apple Releases Second Beta of iPhone SDK 3.2, Adds iPad Features

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Date: Wednesday, February 10th, 2010, 08:39
Category: News

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The iPad is coming, so developers might as well be ready for it.

On Tuesday, Apple released the second beta version of its iPhone SDK 3.2 for the iPad. Per iLounge, the new version contains functions specifically designed for the iPad, including support for the unit’s 1024 x 768 resolution, other iPad-specific interface functions, and includes an iPad simulator application so developers can pre-test their apps in an environment similar to that of the final device.

It is currently unclear if any major changes were made in the updated version.

The new beta is now available for iPhone developers via the iPhone Dev Center.

Microsoft Releases Findings on Windows 7 Battery Issue

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Date: Tuesday, February 9th, 2010, 04:12
Category: MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, News

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Because a combination of Windows 7 and virtualization makes life interesting.

Per Engadget, a Microsoft statement from last week claiming that the company would look into reports of Windows 7 causing premature battery degradation on notebook computers has led to Microsoft stating that Windows 7 isn’t to blame.

According to the company’s testing, the new tool, which reports when a battery is down to 40% of its designed capacity and suggests replacement, hasn’t reported a single false positive. Additionally, the tool uses read-only data from the battery, and is in fact incapable of tweaking the battery’s life span or internal data, as it merely reports the data it receives, and stacks the theoretical design capacity up against the current full charge capacity.

Microsoft has attributed negative reports to the mere fact that many people might not have noticed the degradation already taking place in their batteries, as most batteries start to degrade noticeably within a year. The company has also stated that it will continue to look into the issue, but for now this sounds like a bit of a non-issue.

Whether or not Windows 7 lives up to one of its featured claims about helping to use a notebook’s battery life more conservatively remains to be seen, both on conventional PC notebook hardware and on Apple’s MacBook, MacBook Pro and MacBook Air hardware.

If you’ve tried Windows 7 on your notebook hardware and have either positive or negative feedback regarding its effects on the battery life, let us know.

Initial Benchmarks Appear for Unreleased Core i7-Powered MacBook Pro

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Date: Monday, February 8th, 2010, 07:23
Category: MacBook, MacBook Pro, News, Processors

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There’s a new wave of MacBook notebooks en route.

And it may arrive sooner rather than later.

Per Canadian web site, Geekbench, a recent set of test appears to have show an unreleased Arrandale MacBook Pro notebook running at 2.66 GHz according to MacRumors.

The processor shown is listed as an Intel Core i7 M 620 running at 2.66GHz with a Turbo frequency up to 3.33 GHz. The Intel Core i7 M 620 functions as a high end dual core processor with Turbo Boost and Hyperthreading features.

The MacBook Pro model designation is listed as “6,1″ and has a non-shipping build of Mac OS X 10.6.2 (Build 10C3067).

The original article reports that supplies of MacBooks have been constrained according to international resellers, adding to the belief new Apple laptops are forthcoming.

Intel officially unveiled the Core i3, i5 and i7 processors at last month’s CES trade show in Las Vegas.

The new chips fall under the brands of Core i3 for low-end systems, Core i5 for midrange systems and Core i7 for the fastest systems.

The new processors include dual-core laptop chips under the three brands running between 1.06GHz and 2.66GHz, and desktop chips running between 2.93GHz and 3.46GHz.

According to Intel, the Intel Core i5 processor features: “4-way multi-task processing that allows each core of your processor to work on two tasks at the same time, delivering the performance you need for smart multitasking.”

Last month, Intel pulled an internal ad showing a MacBook running with the Core i5 processor. The MacBook was being offered as a prize as part of the Intel Retail Edge Program, and was sent out in promotional emails. The ad was later replaced with one offering an HP Envy laptop as a replacement.

Apple Denies iPhone Developers From Creating Location-Specific Ads

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Date: Friday, February 5th, 2010, 07:59
Category: News

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In a recent update to its “News and Announcements for iPhone Developers” RSS feed, Apple both informed developers that they can use an upcoming framework in the iPhone OS SDK to determine the location of users, but cannot use this framework to craft location-aware ads to users of App Store software.

“If your app uses location-based information primarily to enable mobile advertisers to deliver targeted ads based on a user’s location, your app will be returned to you by the App Store Review Team for modification before it can be posted to the App Store,” the update reads.

Per AppleInsider, Apple sought out mobile advertising firm AdMob, which was later purchased by rival Google. Apple later purchased mobile advertising firm Quattro Wireless, and intends to allow developers to easily integrate its own advertising solutions into App Store software.

Apple’s newly publicized policy on GPS data usage has led to some speculation that the company could retain location-aware advertising for its own, giving the iPhone maker a significant advantage over competitors like AdMob and Google. However, Apple has yet to formally roll out its own integrated advertising solutions, so whether location-based targeted ads would be a part of the network is unknown.

Apple has shown interest in expanding location-based services on the iPhone. One recent patent application described a dynamic home screen that would display specific applications automatically populated based on factors like the current location of the phone. For example, when traveling in San Francisco, a specific “San Francisco” icon could appear on the screen, and give users easy access to local weather, time, maps and contacts.

In addition, this week a new Apple patent application described a system for easily sharing a user’s current location with a contact in-call. Such a system would use the GPS data from an iPhone to allow two parties to efficiently meet one another.

If you have any thoughts on this, please let us know in the comments.

Adobe CTO Argues Jobs’ Criticisms in Recent Blog Post

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Date: Friday, February 5th, 2010, 07:59
Category: News

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There’s give and take with Steve Jobs. He gives a great presentation, then hunkers down in a town hall meeting with employees and assigns blame where he feels it should be placed. Following the most recent incident when Jobs cited a lack of Flash on the iPhone or iPad due to Flash’s buggy nature and Adobe’s “laziness”, Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch responded with a blog post claiming Flash is “ready” for the iPhone and iPad.

In the post, Lynch dissected the arguments made against Flash, including one that claimed Flash had closed users off to a significant amount of content on the web:

“Some have been surprised at the lack of inclusion of Flash Player on a recent magical device. Flash has been incredibly successful in its adoption, with over 85% of the top web sites containing Flash content and Flash running on over 98% of computers on the Web… It is used for the majority of casual games, video, and animation on the Web and familiar brands like Nike, Hulu, BBC, Major League Baseball, and more rely on Flash to deliver the most compelling experiences to over a billion people.”

Lynch then went on to work to debunk the idea that Flash wasn’t ready for the iPhone or other mobile platforms:

“The Flash engineering team has taken this on with a major overhaul of the mainstream Flash Player for a variety of devices. We are now on the verge of delivering Flash Player 10.1 for smartphones with all but one of the top manufacturers. This includes Google’s Android, RIM’s Blackberry, Nokia, Palm Pre and many others across form factors including not only smartphones but also tablets, netbooks, and internet-connected TVs.”

Finally, Lynch stated that Adobe is “ready to enable Flash in the browser on [Apple’s] devices if and when Apple chooses to allow that for its users, but to date we have not had the required cooperation from Apple to make this happen.”

Apple Apparently Offering 15% Refund to Owners of 27″ Flickering iMacs

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Date: Friday, February 5th, 2010, 06:55
Category: News

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The saga continues.

Following up on reports of flickering 27″ iMac screens, recently released firmware fixes and the like, a number of users who have been plagued by screen flickering issues with the new 27″ iMac have reportedly been given a 15% refund on their purchase price.

Per Gizmodo, customers in the U.S. and U.K. are reporting that Apple is paying out cash to some who have been frustrated by a defective big-screen iMac. For a US$2,000 machine, the refund would amount to US$300.

“From the handful of reader anecdotes we’ve received thus far, it sounds like you need to be a repeat iMac returner who’s dealt with multiple 27″ iMacs that have been busted in some way (but they may accommodate first time buyers as well, we don’t know),” the report said. “One reader had multiple yellow screens, then received another new model with broken Bluetooth. He took the 15% and just returned it.”

On Monday evening, the Mac maker released a second potential software fix for the flickering issues that have affected some owners of the newly redesigned late 2009 model iMac. The update, entitled “27-inch iMac Display Firmware Update 1.0,” was preceded by first intended fix in December, entitled “27-inch iMac Graphics Firmware Update 1.0.”

Starting in late January, new iMac purchases were hit with a three-week wait time. This week, however, the shipment times improved to two weeks.

Apple Discussing iPad Data Plans with U.K. Carrier O2

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Date: Thursday, February 4th, 2010, 09:19
Category: iPad, News

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The iPad is en route, never forget that.

Per the mighty City AM, wireless carrier O2 is apparently negotiating with Apple for a U.K. 3G wireless data deal for the device. The 3G-compatible version of the iPad will ship as an unlocked device so users can pick their favorite carrier, although Apple is working with vendors to set up incentives and special deals.

Apple’s deal with AT&T offers tiers in which users receive 250MB of 3G data access per month for US$14.99, or unlimited 3G wireless data for US$29.99 a month. Both plans include unlimited Wi-Fi access at AT&T hotspots, and users can sign up for and cancel the service on a monthly basis without incurring extra fees.

Apple plans to start shipping the Wi-Fi version of the iPad in March, and the Wi-Fi plus 3G models should begin shipping about 30 days later.