Microsoft launches Xbox Music streaming service for iOS, Android devices

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Date: Monday, September 9th, 2013, 09:05
Category: iOS, News, Software

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If you’re hankering for additional streaming music on your iOS device, Microsoft has its own offerings prior to Apple’s release of its iTunes Radio streaming service.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Microsoft has released Xbox Music app for iPhone. Xbox Music was first unveiled last October and allows users to listen to ad-supported or ad-free music (depending on whether they have a paying subscription or not) on their Microsoft devices, such as Windows Phone, Xbox 360 and Windows PCs.

With today’s launch on iOS and Android devices, Microsoft appears to acknowledge that it thinks Apple’s iTunes Radio could become a big player on the streaming-music front — something it hopes to stave off with the expansion of Xbox Music.

Today’s release of the app offers users the following:
- Stream ad-free music from a catalog of tens of millions of songs.

- Add songs, albums and playlists to your Xbox Music collection and access them from other devices.

- Create playlists that sync across your phone, Xbox 360, PC, tablet and the web.

- Listen to music while using your iPhone.

- Listen to artist-based radio stations.

- Enjoy a rich visual experience for searching, viewing and playing back music.

- The company also says it will be releasing an update soon that will allow users to download music for offline listening.

Though Xbox Music is a free download, mobile users will be required to have an Xbox Music Pass to listen to the service on their iPhone. Xbox Music Passes are available for a free 30-day trial, but retail for US$9.99 a month after that.

Xbox Music requires iOS 6.0 or later to install and run.

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

VMWare Fusion 6 released, offers Mavericks, Windows 8.1 support

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Date: Wednesday, September 4th, 2013, 07:24
Category: News, Software

You can’t knock the new version of a pretty useful virtualization application.

Per 9to5Mac, VMware has just released the immediate availability of VMware Fusion 6 and VMware Fusion 6 Professional. The new version of the virtualization software boasts over 50 new features and is prepared for the new operating systems coming from both Apple (Mavericks) and Microsoft (Windows 8.1).


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The new version offers the following fixes and changes:
- Supports Mavericks multi-display features and even AirPlay displays.

- Enhanced dictation support.

- Run Mavericks as a guest operating system – can be installed using the recovery partition in just a couple of clicks.

- Ready for Windows 8.1.

- Built-in optimizations for the Haswell processors.

- Up to 16 virtual CPUs, 64GB of RAM, and 8TB of disk space – ready for the new Mac Pro coming soon.

- VMware Fusion 6 is available exclusively on the VMware Online Store for US$59.99 or US$49.99 for VMware Fusion 4 or 5 upgraders. A 30 day trial is available as well.

The announcement comes just days after Parallels announced the release of Parallels Desktop 9, which is currently available as an upgrade. The full version will be available tomorrow. We’ll have a full review of both apps shortly.

Generally Parallels is geared toward single users and has better performance whereas VMware is geared toward larger enterprise and folks who also work on PCs.

VMWare 6 requires any 64-bit capable Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo processor or better, 2 GM of RAM, 750MB free disk space and OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run.

Microsoft purchases Nokia’s Devices and Services division, moves to rearrange executive lineups

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Date: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013, 06:53
Category: News, wireless

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Because it’s fun to buy multi-billion dollar companies.

Per The Mac Observer, Microsoft is buying Nokia’s cell phone business for about US$5 billion and tossing in another US$2.2 billion to license the company’s patents. The deal throws together two big time companies that are struggling to compete with the likes of Apple and Samsung, brings Nokia CEO Stephen Elop — a former Microsoft executive — back into the fold, and shows Microsoft is serious about playing in the smartphone game. All this as current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has announced he will step down within 12 months, although now it’s looking like that may come much sooner than he thought.

As part of the €5.44 billion (about US$7.2 billion) deal, Mr. Elop will step down as Nokia’s CEO and take on the roll of Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of Devices and Services. Other Nokia executives joining Microsoft include Chris Weber, Jo Harlow, Timo Toikkanen, and Juha Putkiranta.

Microsoft has had limited success in the smartphone market taking on Apple’s iPhone and Google Android-based devices from Samsung and other companies. Nokia threw its weight behind Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform about two years ago, and has since been able to climb above BlackBerry’s marketshare to become a very distant third to iOS and Android-based smartphones.

With Nokia’s Windows-based Lumia smartphone now in Microsoft’s hands, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see a strong push to boost sales. Exactly how Microsoft can go about convincing consumers to start buying the smartphone, however, maybe something of a trick since shoppers haven’t been flocking to the device in droves. So far, consumers are still far more interested in buying iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones.

Whether or not Microsoft can really be successful at its slow-and-steady game this time isn’t, however, a sure thing. Apple and Android smartphone makers hold nearly all of the market share today and aren’t showing any signs of loosening their grips.

Apple is expected to unveil new iPhone models on September 10, and Samsung, HTC and Motorola are churning out new Android-based smartphones as fast as they can. Microsoft has maybe a year ahead of it during during which it will integrate Nokia into its business, plus it’s on the hunt for a new CEO who will need time to settle into the job.

Mr. Ballmer said he plans to step down within 12 months, implying that it may be that long before his replacement is found. Finding a new CEO could take that long, although Microsoft is already on the hunt, and it’s very possible the company just bought their new boss and picked up their own smartphone business as a side bonus.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

WebKit adds support for Retina-quality images, changes to be made to HTML5

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Date: Thursday, August 15th, 2013, 06:36
Category: iPad, iPhone, MacBook Pro, News, Software

The images on the Web are about to get snazzier looking.

Per webkit.org, WebKit, the Apple-supported open source project behind Safari, is the first browser layout engine to support a new Web standard that makes it easier for developers to take advantage of high-resolution displays, like the Retina panels found in the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro.

The new standard, an addition to the HTML5 specification called “srcset,” provides developers with an easy way to serve users different image versions based on the resolution of their device. For example, a website may serve larger, higher quality images to visitors browsing on a Retina MacBook Pro while sending smaller, lower quality images to visitors on a MacBook Air.

Websites and Web-based applications have been slow to provide support for Retina displays since the screens first appeared on the iPhone 4 in 2010. Current methods for implementation are suboptimal – they can be cumbersome for developers, degrade the user experience, or lack cross-browser support.

Using srcset, developers can specify multiple variations of an image with a single declaration, and it is designed for compatibility with older systems. Browsers that do not support srcset will simply ignore it without any adverse affect on the user.

The syntax is similar to Apple’s iOS conventions for Retina-ready graphics: developers simply provide an alternate filename and a resolution multiplier, e.g. 1x, 2x, or 4x. The “resolution multiplier” is a measure of how many physical pixels make up one display pixel; for example, the iPhone 5 has a physical resolution of 1,136-by-640 pixels, but a display resolution of 568-by-320 pixels. This means there are 4 physical pixels for each display pixel, or a 4x multiplier.

The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, the international organization that defines and administers the open standards that underpin the Web, added srcset to the HTML5 specification in May 2012.

A similar feature, called “-webkit-image-set,” was added to WebKit and shipped with Safari 6 and Google’s Chrome 21 in October of the same year. The asset never achieved widespread adoption, however, as it was not implemented in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox, which together commanded more than 50% of the international browser market at the time.

WebKit is the first browser engine to announce support for srcset, and the feature is likely to ship in Safari 7 with OS X Mavericks.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

CrossOver updated to 12.5

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Date: Tuesday, August 13th, 2013, 10:44
Category: News, Software

You can’t knock an appreciable update.

CrossOver, the popular virtualization program from CodeWeavers, has been updated to version 12.5. The new version, an 84.9 megabyte download, is available as a demo, offers the following fix:

WHAT’S NEW:
- Drag and Drop.

- System Tray Icons in the Mac Menu Bar.

- Shaped windows and transparency.

- Better mouse handling for many games.

- Support for command-tab switching in full-screen mode.

- Better integration with the OS X Dock, and features such as Expose and Spaces.

- Better international keyboard support.

- Improved clipboard (cut and paste) support.

- Support for mice with more than three buttons.

- Fixes for many window ordering problems.

- Force-feedback joysticks are supported.

- Improved input method support for non-Latin characters.

Application Support:
Microsoft Outlook:
- Microsoft Outlook will now maintain its connection when the computer sleeps or the network configuration changes.

- Improved auto-discovery for Exchange account setup.

- Outlook will no longer crash if the Exchange server is unavailable.

- Fixed a crash when editing contacts.

- Right-click to format will now work.

- Improved NTLM authentication – you can now change your password if you have ‘smbpasswd’ installed.

- Improved sharepoint list display in profile.

- Characters can now be inserted from the character palette.

- Fixed printing of calendar items.

- Attachment preview will now work.

- Outlook Today can now be customized.

- Phone numbers now accept a ‘+’ character for international notation.

Microsoft Excel:
- Fixed a crash when copying a worksheet.

- Improved macro support.

- Fixed a problem opening read-only files.

- Fixed garbage when opening xlsx documents.

Quicken:
- Fixed display of help topics in Quicken 2012.

- Fixed a bug in the ‘Change Assumptions’ function of Quicken 2013.

Internet Explorer 7:
- More web sites will now work.

- Fixed a bug which sometimes caused failure during installation.

- Fixed a crash in the print dialog.

World of Tanks:
- Fixed a crash connecting to the server on certain Macs.

- Fixed a crash when zooming in on targets.

Microsoft Office:
- Fixed problems in which drop-down menus could not be dismissed.

- Microsoft Office 2010 Simplified Chinese Edition will now install.

- Fixed a bug which caused Microsoft Office 2007 to fail to install on some machines.

- Fixed an installation conflict between .Net 4.0 and DirectX 9.

- Fixed an installation problem with Microsoft Money 2001.

- Fixed an issue where Microsoft Visio 2010 would not open .vxd files.

- Fixed installation problems with .Net 3.5.

- Fixed graphical glitches in Wizard101.

- Fixed problems with the patcher in Pirate101.

- Fixed a crash on login in Starcraft II.

- Fixed crashes on install of Rift’s Storm Legion expansion.

- Fixed Rift graphics bugs on Nvidia hardware.

- Fixed various errors in ChemSketch 12.

- Fixed a crash in Baseball Mogul 2013 and 2014.

Other Improvements:
- CrossOver 12.5.0 is based on the new stable Wine 1.6 release. This includes innumerable fixes for various Windows applications.

- CrossOver can be configured for compatibility with Windows 7.

CrossOver 12.5 retails for US$59.95 and requires Mac OS X 10.6 and or later and an Intel-based Mac to install and run.

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

Netflix to add multi-user profiles to subscriber accounts

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Date: Thursday, August 1st, 2013, 06:40
Category: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Software

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This may cut down on some potential arguments in the future.

Per AppleInsider, Netflix on Thursday rolled out a long-awaited feature to its iOS and Apple TV apps, allowing subscribers to maintain separate profiles for individual users sharing one account.

Subscribers will be able to add up to five profiles for each account they own. Profiles will receive unique personalized suggestions based on viewing habits and ratings.

More importantly, those individual accounts will each have their own Instant Queue and Recently Watched lists. For example, parents will no longer have to share a queue with their children, or even spouses with each other, if they so choose.

Each personal profile can also be attached to a different Facebook account, allowing for personalized suggestions from that individual’s friends on the social networking site.

Netflix has promised that the new user profiles will roll out to iPad, iPhone and Apple TV “over the next few days.” Other devices set to receive support in the immediate future are Sony’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and newer Smart TV and Blu-ray players. Support for Nintendo Wii and Android has been promised to arrive “soon.”

User profiles first began appearing on the Apple TV set-top box earlier this week as part of a test run. That roll-out coincidentally happened after the launch of a new Apple TV software beta, leading some to incorrectly assume the two were related. Current Apple TV owners will receive the feature without needing to run a pre-release beta.

Competition in the mobile streaming space is heating up, with Google’s newly released US$35 Chromecast dongle offering users the ability to stream content from an iPhone or Android device directly to their TV. While less fully featured than the Apple TV, the device is available at about a third of the price.

The price of a refurbished Apple TV direct from Apple also hit a new low this week, and is now available for just US$75, knocking 25 percent off the cost of a new model. A new Apple TV software update, expected to arrive this fall, will also give users the ability to purchase music directly from the device.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you try this new Netflix account feature and have any feedback to offer, please let us know about your experience in the comments.

Microsoft releases Office 2011 14.3.6 update

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Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 12:30
Category: News, security, Software

An update’s an update.

Microsoft on Wednesday released version 14.3.6 of its Microsoft Office 2011 suite for the Mac. The update, a 113 megabyte download, features the following changes:
- This update fixes an issue in which Outlook repeatedly tried to send messages that exceeded certain server-side size limits from the Outbox. Now, messages that exceed these size limits are put in the local Drafts folder after three unsuccessful attempts to send the messages.

- This update fixes an issue in which syncing a folder from which many messages were deleted on another client frequently caused Microsoft Outlook for Mac to freeze.

- This update fixes an issue that causes Word to be unable to save files to an SMB share.

- Full release notes can be found here.

The update can also be located and installed via the Microsoft AutoUpdate feature.

Microsoft Office 2011 14.3.6 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, let us know in the comments.

Microsoft releases native Outlook Web Application for iOS

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Date: Wednesday, July 17th, 2013, 08:04
Category: iOS, News, Software

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You may not love it, but your workplace does and Microsoft finally released a native version for iOS.

Per The Unofficial Apple Weblog, Microsoft has released two different native versions of its Outlook Web Application for iOS, one for iPhone and one for iPad. OWA for iOS connects to the email, calendar, and contacts of Office 365 of business subscribers giving them complete access to their Outlook on the go. Beyond those basic tools the app features push notifications and a powerful voice search that can access your contacts or bring up your calendar.

iOS for iPhone and iPad requires iOS 6.0 or later to install and run.

Rumor: Apple considering purchase of Israeli-based PrimeSense, creators of the Xbox Kinect

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Date: Tuesday, July 16th, 2013, 07:19
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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It’s speculation, but it could lead to something interesting.

A series of reports from Israeli publication Calcalist.co.il and 9to5Mac claims PrimeSense, the company behind the original Microsoft Kinect’s technology, is in acquisition talks with Apple, somewhere near a valuation in the US$280-US$300M range. According to the report, a delegation of PrimeSense senior executives visited Apple’s engineering offices in recent days. The purchase would bolster Apple’s living room TV interface offerings and allow Apple to add controls with body movements and hand gestures to its products.

Apple purchased Israeli Flash chip optimization company Anobit in late 2011 for US$400M+, also originally reported by Calcalist. The company now functions as one of Apple’s R&D centers in that country.

It’s been rumored that Apple is working on such 3D gesture interface and may have already been licensing IP from the Israeli firm and/or its competitors. At US$280M, Apple may believe it’s better to own this IP and technology rather than let others have access to it in the future.

Microsoft used the sensor technology that PrimeSense developed for its original Kinect, previously known as Project Natal, but has since replaced the technology with its own in-house technology for 3D body mapping and movement.

PrimeSense was founded in 2005 and is a founding member of OpenNI, an industry-led non-profit organization formed to certify and promote the compatibility and interoperability of Natural Interaction (NI) devices, applications and middleware.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple, Time Warner close in on Apple TV content deal

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Date: Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013, 10:32
Category: Apple TV, News

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It never fails to have good content available for your customers.

Per Bloomberg, Apple and U.S. cable company Time Warner are closing in on a deal that will give subscribers access to cable channels via Apple TV, which also claims the Cupertino company has taken on Hulu media marketing chief Pete Distad to help secure content, according to one report.

Citing sources close to the story, Bloomberg reported Tuesday that Apple and Time Warner plan to announce the agreement in the coming months once a deal has been solidified. It is unknown what channels will be offered if and when a deal is finally struck, but access will likely be for existing cable subscribers only.

While a Time Warner Cable spokesperson said the company has “no agreement with [Apple],” it has similar content deals in place for Roku’s set-top box, as well as Microsoft’s Xbox game console. The company already allows subscribers to watch certain channels on iOS devices with its TWC TV app, which is also available for Android.

In addition to the Time Warner arrangement, the publication claims Apple has hired Hulu’s now former vice president of marketing and distribution Pete Distad to help executives with upcoming negotiations with media and cable companies.

No further details were divulged regarding the executive’s hire, but Distad’s bio on Hulu’s website says he is in charge of “subscriber acquisition and retention, paid, on-channel, and brand marketing, distribution and promotional partnerships, and content marketing.”

Apple has become more aggressive in acquiring content for its Apple TV “hobby,” most recently adding channels HBO GO, WatchESPN, and more to the small streaming device.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.