Rumor: Microsoft may ship Windows 8 public beta in late February

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Date: Friday, December 2nd, 2011, 05:27
Category: Rumor, Software

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Windows 8: It’s on its way, though it might take a little while to get here.

Per TNW, Microsoft’s Windows 8 public beta might have been moved further into the year. A rumor from “sources close to Microsoft” has the release tentatively slated for late February, more than a month after the CES expo intro hinted earlier. It’s not known if this was a delay or always part of the schedule.

The developer preview version released in September was in a rough state, missing e-mail and otherwise being in a state only really suitable for third-party app testing. A beta is defined as feature-complete, however, and it’s likely that any delays might be to polish the release for regular users.

A public beta so late would rule out an April release to manufacturing. Microsoft always produces at least one release candidate build and rarely turns so quickly. Talk of a June or later completion date and a second-half 2012 release are more likely.

If true, the timing could create problems for Windows 8 and Microsoft’s attempts to reclaim the tablet space. The first truly touch-native Windows tablets may not be on the market until 2.5 years after the iPad, and possibly months after the iPad 3 appears.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft developing Office update for Lion, Office apps for iOS

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Date: Wednesday, November 30th, 2011, 05:19
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone, iPod, News, Software

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Give Microsoft time and it’ll eventually get its products to new platforms.

Per The Daily, Microsoft is preparing a new edition of its Office suite for Apple’s iPad, as well as an updated Office for Mac OS X Lion users.

According to the report, Microsoft is “actively working on adapting its popular software suite for Apple’s tablet,” in recognition of the fact that iPad now accounts for the vast majority of tablets sold, and now represents a market nearly as large as Mac OS X itself.

The report also notes Microsoft is working to complete Office 2012 for Windows, already in beta, for release next year. An updated edition for Lion would presumably be made available through the Mac App Store. The existing Office 2011 only supports Snow Leopard officially.

By adding support for Lion document features such as Auto Save and Versions, Microsoft could bring its Mac Office into parity with Apple’s iWork suite, which has been updated for Lion but hasn’t been significantly revised since the release of “iWork 09″ nearly three years ago.

On iOS, Apple has enjoyed an uncontested run at providing its iWork productivity software for the iPad, as well as the smaller screen of the iPhone and iPod touch. Apple’s Pages, Keynote and Numbers apps for iOS have remained at the top of the App Store’s highest grossing iPad apps.

While failing to predict the popularity of Apple’s iOS as a mobile platform, Microsoft has made some efforts to bring its apps and services to the App Store.

The company has delivered an iPad version of its Bing search app as well as MSN Onit and OnPoint apps, and has released a Tag barcode scanner, OneNote and Windows Live Messenger clients for iPhone.

Microsoft also just announced a deal to license its enterprise protocols involved with Remote Desktop Services, Windows Azure, Active Directory and SharePoint, to third party developer Agreeya Mobility, which plans to build apps for Apple’s iOS as well as Android and other mobile operating systems.

While Microsoft has largely ignored Apple’s iOS as it worked to improve Windows Mobile 6, then build Windows Phone 7 as a viable competitor, its own mobile platforms have failed to gain traction.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Additional Black Friday sales announced, Microsoft and Adobe put forth wares

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Date: Friday, November 25th, 2011, 05:46
Category: News, retail, Software

It’s Black Friday and there shall be savings.

Per AppleInsider, the shopping holiday has brought an assortment of discounts on essential Mac software, including up to 50% off Adobe’s products, Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 for US$69.99, and VMWare Fusion for US$29.99.

Microsoft Office for Mac 2011:
The best deals for Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac come from Amazon, MacMall and Buy.com. Amazon is selling Home & Student One Packs and Family Packs for US$50 off retail, US$69.99 and US$99.99, respectively. The site also has the Home & Business One Pack for the low price of US$151.99. Buy.com is selling the Home & Business Multi Pack for US$180.94.

Mac Virtualization Software:
For Mac Virtualization software that lets Macs run the Windows operating system alongside Mac OS, Amazon has the best deal on Parallels Desktop 7 at US$44.99. MacMall has the lowest price for VMWare Fusion 4, selling the software for US$29.99.

Adobe Products:
Adobe is offering as much as 50 percent off on instant downloads of its software through Nov. 29, though individual products may need to be added to the shopping cart for the discounts in the chart below to appear. Creative Suite 5.5 is available to commercial customers with savings of 30 percent on upgrades and 10 percent on full purchases.

The software maker is also providing a discount of US$250 on the full version of Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended and US$150 off the full version of Photoshop CS 5, while those upgrading from an earlier version will save 30 percent. Commercial customers can get 50 percent off the entry-level Elements versions of the Photoshop and Premiere applications, as well as US$100 off Lightroom.

Meanwhile, qualifying education customers can save up to US$1800 on Student and Teacher Editions of Creative Suite from Adobe’s retail partners.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft looking towards digital delivery system for Windows 8 upgrades/installs

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011, 14:11
Category: News, Software

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You may not be in love with Windows, but it does become handy from time to time.

Per the MSDN blog, Microsoft looks to be gearing up to release its next-generation Windows 8 operating system via digital release. In a post to the company’s official blog this week, Steven Sinofsky, president of Microsoft’s Windows Division, detailed the setup experience users will see with Windows 8.

Sinofsky explained that Microsoft aims to satisfy two distinct types of customers in the install process: those who want to install with minimum hassle, and those who want to do a clean install with more options, control and customization. Microsoft’s simpler solution will allow users to simply launch a file that can be delivered via the Web, not unlike Apple’s Lion, which is available for purchase and install through the Mac App Store.

“In the past, if you wanted to buy an upgrade for Windows, it involved purchasing a boxed product from a retail outlet, taking it home, (sometimes being infuriated while trying to open the box,) and inserting a DVD,” Sinofsky explained. “However, buying boxed software is quickly becoming the exception rather than the rule, with more and more software being purchased online as broadband penetration increases and large-size media downloads become more common.

“While we will continue to offer boxed DVDs, we are also making it easier than ever to purchase and install online. This includes starting the setup experience online as well, and having one continuous integrated experience from beginning to end.”

Microsoft’s Web setup will allow the company to “pre-key” the setup image that is downloaded to a unique user. This means users won’t need to enter the 25-digit product key that is currently necessary to install existing versions of Windows.

Sinofsky stopped short of saying that the Web install method will be the preferred way for users to install Windows 8, though the simplified process will likely make it ideal for most users. Through one application, Microsoft will scan a user’s system for compatibility, download Windows 8, and then install the operating system.

Apple has made it clear that the Mac App Store is the preferred way for users to upgrade to Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, though the company has made Lion also available on a USB thumb drive. But while Lion costs US$29.99 on the Mac App Store, its US$69 price tag when bought on a USB drive is more than double the price of the digital download.

Of course, Microsoft’s digital delivery method for Windows 8 is very different from Apple’s approach, in that Microsoft does not have a centralized software storefront akin to Apple’s Mac App Store. Users will have to load the dedicated Windows 8 Setup application to make the upgrade on their system, while the Mac App Store is available on all up-to-date systems running Apple’s previous-generation operating system, Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

Beyond digital delivery, Microsoft has made a number of other changes to help simplify and speed up the Windows 8 install process. Through a number of modifications to the upgrade engine, Microsoft says it has reduced a clean install time from 32 minutes for Windows 7 to 21 minutes with Windows 8.

The greatest improvement will be seen for power users who complete a “super upgrade,” which, in Microsoft’s tests, includes 1.44 million files and 120 installed applications. While a Windows 7 upgrade under that scenario would have taken 513 minutes, Windows 8′s advertised upgrade time is just 52 minutes.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Microsoft completes Skype acquisition, deal still under review in some European countries

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Date: Friday, October 14th, 2011, 11:36
Category: News, Software

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It had to happen sometime.

Per Macworld, Microsoft announced on Friday that it has closed its US$8.5 billion acquisition of Skype, the Internet telephony provider in Luxembourg, and the company will function as a new business division within Microsoft.

Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the new Skype Division immediately, reporting directly to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The acquisition is however still under review in a few countries, and will be completed in those countries when such reviews are closed, Microsoft said without naming the countries. The deal was cleared by the Department of Justice in the U.S. in June and antitrust regulators in the European Union this month.

Microsoft announced in May that it had agreed to acquire Skype, and said at the time that it would be integrated with Microsoft’s products, without affecting availability of the popular Internet telephony application on platforms from competitors.

The Skype division will continue to offer its current products to millions of users globally, Microsoft said on Friday. In the long term, Skype will also be integrated across an array of Microsoft products to broaden Skype’s reach and accelerate its growth as a fundamental way for people to communicate online, it added.

Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International, CPP Investment Board, Joltid in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors, and Andreessen Horowitz, Microsoft said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available and let us know what you make of the deal in the comments.

Microsoft Office 2008 updated to 12.3.1, adds Word, Entourage changes

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Date: Wednesday, September 14th, 2011, 12:45
Category: News, Software

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Microsoft has posted an update to version 12.3.1 for Office 2008 for Mac. The update, a 333 megabyte download, offers the following fixes and changes:

Improvements for Microsoft Word 2008 for Mac:
Help works in all languages – This update resolves an issue that causes online Word Help not to display in some languages.

Improvements for Microsoft Entourage 2008 for Mac:
Time zone information is updated – This update provides updated time zone information.

Microsoft Office 2008 12.3.1 requires Mac OS X 10.4.9 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the update and have anything to report back, let us know.

Microsoft Office 2011 updated to 14.1.3

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Date: Tuesday, September 13th, 2011, 17:01
Category: News, Software

It may not be the sexiest update in the world, but here’s hoping it helps.

On Tuesday, Microsoft released its Microsoft Office 2011 14.1.3 update. The update, a 112 megabyte download, adds the following fixes and features:

- Office documents open in all browsers – This update resolves an issue that causes Office documents not to open in certain browsers.

Improvements for Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011:
- Stability is improved in PowerPoint – This update fixes an issue that causes PowerPoint to close unexpectedly. This issue occurs when you press the Command and Tab keys to open another application when you are in Presenter view.

Improvements for Microsoft Excel for Mac 2011:
- Stability is improved in Excel – This update fixes an issue that causes Excel to close unexpectedly in the following situations:
When you move worksheets to a new worksheet or workbook.
When you save some files.

Improvements for Microsoft Word for Mac 2011:
- Citation options in Dutch appear correctly. This update fixes an issue that causes the Dutch version of Word to change the citation options to English after you install Office for Mac 2011 14.1 Service Pack 1.

- PivotTable field setting enabled.This update enables the PivotTable field setting Show Items with no data.

Improvements for Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011:
- Contact images display in the Contacts Search boxThis update fixes an issue that causes Outlook not to display contact images in the Contacts Search box.

- Import from Apple Mail is disabled in Outlook on Mac OS X 10.7 LionThis update disables the option to import from Apple Mail in Outlook because it does not work as expected in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion.

- The “Remove from View” option is enabled for shared calendarsThis update fixes an issue that occurs when the user adds shared calendars and opens the contextual menu for the shared calendar. The Remove from View option is disabled from the contextual menu.

- Free/busy information for Exchange 2003-based mailboxes displays correctlyThis update fixes an issues that causes the display of free/busy information for Exchange 2003-based mailboxes to be off by one hour when scheduling a meeting.

- Time zone information is updated. This update provides updated time zone information.

Microsoft Office 2011 requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new version and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Microsoft VP highlights Windows 8 interface changes, emphasizes upcoming Ribbon features

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Date: Tuesday, August 30th, 2011, 04:18
Category: iOS, News, Software

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If Mac OS X 10.7 (“Lion”) was starting to look like Windows 7 (or vice versa), this might be reassuring.

Per a blog entry by Steven Sinofsky, Microsoft’s president of its Windows Division, indicates that one key element of Windows 8 will take the new release in a very different direction than Apple’s outline for Mac OS X.

Sinofsky detailed his thinking behind changes planned for Windows Explorer, which is roughly analogous to Mac OS X’s Finder.

The Windows file system manager originally appeared as “MS DOS Executive,” which exposed DOS commands in a graphical environment with little similarity to the icon-centric Mac desktop.

As Windows began to grow in popularity, Microsoft created an embellished graphical representation of the file system with File Manager. Then, as web browsing became popular, Microsoft brought a browser-like interface to the file system, renaming File Manager as Windows Explorer, complete with a URL-like address bar and prominent back button.

Microsoft has incrementally incorporated Mac-like interface elements in Windows Explorer, with icon-centric file browsing that links documents to their preferred application. Particularly since the release of Mac OS X, Microsoft has incorporated a similar user environment focus that presents the user’s documents, pictures, music and videos rather than just a raw window into the root file system.

Microsoft’s biggest changes in Windows 8 will be an Office-like Ribbon that presents all the major functions in a tall, window-wide control bar. This marks a radical change in thinking compared to Apple’s increasingly minimalistic interface in the Finder, which limits the default buttons to a grouping of view options, a new sorting feature in Mac OS X Lion, a Quick View button, an Action button, and a search field.



Microsoft’s Windows 8 Explorer presents 19 visible buttons in five categories, and that’s just the Home tab. The Ribbon also supplies four other tabs, which function similar to the Mac’s main Menu Bar. Sinofsky explains, “The Home tab is the heart of our new, much more streamlined Explorer experience. The commands that make up 84% of what customers do in Explorer are now all available on this one tab.”

Outside of the graphical interface, Microsoft’s design goals for Windows 8 also mark a new era of computing centered around mobile devices such as tablets. Existing Windows 7 apps won’t run on future ARM-based tablets, but a new secondary environment of web-based apps will, something Microsoft hopes will enable Windows to remain relevant even as the conventional PC market has plateaued and begun to shrink globally.

Apple’s design direction for Mac OS X has opted to incorporate a variety of design elements originally created for iPad, including a simplified, window-less Full Screen mode for apps; limited and simplified control buttons in toolbars; an increasing use of touchpad gestures; and a new security model that encapsulates apps and their documents in a private sandbox.

Apple’s iOS originally appeared on the iPhone without any “file browser,” and even the latest version works hard to avoid any exposure of the underlying file system, despite supporting document-centric apps like iWork. Apps on iOS simply can not present a global view of the underlying filesystem, because all they can see is their own sandbox.

Apple’s iCloud similarly reduces the exposure of file system, replacing MobileMe’s iDisk with a new Documents and Data feature that secures an app’s files and data from access by malware while making the user’s files (and any changes) easier to manage across various devices.

Future versions of Mac OS X will likely continue along the same path, focusing upon self contained apps that create files, rather than a wide open file system (and the security issues related with having any piece of user-level software capable of accessing or wiping out any files in the local user folder).

Yes, the Ribbon shall rule the day after you boot up your Windows partiion either via Boot Camp or your virtualization app of choice.

All hail the Ribbon!!!

Apple releases Boot Camp 3.3 update

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Date: Thursday, August 25th, 2011, 03:12
Category: News, Software

Late Wednesday, Apple released Boot Camp Software Update 3.3, an update which offered revised Windows support for Macs running Boot Camp 3.x, included as part of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. Apple only notes that update supplies “critical bug fixes and hardware support.”

This update is targeted at users running Windows 7 in either the 32 or 64-bit version via Boot Camp 3.2 on Snow Leopard.

Macs running 10.7 Lion do not need the update, as that version (Boot Camp 4) can upgrade itself. Users running Boot Camp 3.2 can download the new package through Software Update or from Apple’s download page.

The update also offers specific support for the ATI-Radeon HD 5870 graphics card, Apple USB Ethernet Adapter, MacBook Air SuperDrive, and addresses critical bug fixes.

That update addressed users of Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7 running BootCamp 3.1 on Snow Leopard.

If you’ve installed the update and noticed any changes, please let us know in the comments.

Skype to purchase GroupMe, looks to add group texting, added conference call support to application

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Date: Monday, August 22nd, 2011, 08:59
Category: News, Software

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When in doubt, try to have your software become more functional.

Per Macworld, Internet calling company Skype said Sunday that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire GroupMe, a startup that offers a free group text messaging and conference call service on mobile phones.

Skype did not disclose how much it is paying for GroupMe.

Set up in 2010, GroupMe offers its application on Apple’s iOS, Research In Motion’s BlackBerry, and phones running the Android operating system. In July the company launched a version of its application for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7. A short message service (SMS) version for users without smartphones is also available in the U.S.

GroupMe also introduced earlier this month a new version of its application that supports direct messaging to a person in the group, and “questions” that can be directed to a few people, members of a group, or all known users, or broadcast over Twitter and Facebook. GroupMe 3.0 also allows users to manage groups, send messages, share photos, and ask questions from a website, without downloading the application.

As part of the deal with Skype, GroupMe will remain in New York, with its team intact and working on its standalone application, GroupMe said in a blog post.

GroupMe will continue to be a separate application, a Skype spokeswoman said in an email on Monday. Skype and GroupMe will work together on integration areas, she added, but did not provide details.

For Skype, which already offers voice and video services, the acquisition of GroupMe will add the ability to offer text messaging for groups as well. Through the acquisition, Skype continues its drive to provide global multi-modal and multi-platform communications, the company said.

Microsoft said in May that it has agreed to buy Skype for US$8.5 billion. Once the merger is complete, Microsoft plans to add Skype support to its Xbox and Kinect gaming devices and Windows Phone mobile operating system, and connect Skype users with its own Lync, Outlook and Xbox Live communications services.

The deal is subject to customary closing conditions and potential regulatory approvals, and will likely be closed by the end of this month, the spokeswoman said. GroupMe will continue as a separate and independent company until the transaction is closed, she added.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.