Microsoft

It’s Official. Apple will host a press event on October 23rd in San Jose, California.

After multiple sessions of rumour roulette, Apple e-mailed invitations on Tues, Oct. 16th asking if the press knew the way to San Jose. Will it be the debut of the worst kept technology secret in many a moon or will it be some new add-on for iPhones? Most everyone is betting on the former. Read the full story on CNN.com.

Keeping in mind the fact that Microsoft’s Surface tablet debuts on Oct. 25, it is the conventional wisdom that the success and acceptance of both new tablet offering will depend on pricing. Read about their race to find the sweet-spot on TechRepublic.

Dr. Data is an interested bystander in all of this but he does not plan to buy one or the other anytime soon. Dr. Data has no money. That can, of course, be remedied by one of the folks who keep browsing his resume actually making him an offer.

Here’s what we have for today:

  • Apple’s iOS maps get better – Apple has been quietly improving  the data returned by the iOS 6 Maps application. Good news for those using the latest version of the OS, but shouldn’t this have been done BEFORE  both iPhone 5 & iOS 6 launched? Dr. Data depends on maps from his iPhone and wonky data is the last thing he needs. Was it because Apple wanted to get its latest phone out there in time for holiday shopping or did someone drop the ball in QC? Read the full story from Tech Republic.
  • Apple in a post-Jobs world – It’s been a year since Steve Jobs ascended in to passed away and there have been ups and downs for the company. There are two articles that are worth reading if you follow the goings-on in Cupertino. The first is from ZDNet and the second is from PC Magazine.
  • Win 8 Kill Switch: Threat or Menace? – If you’re contemplating moving up to Windows 8 anytime soon, this may give you reason to think again. Windows 8 includes a “kill switch” which allows the remote editing of applications and the deletion of  software and possibly data. Is this Nirvana for hackers? Read what John C. Dvorak in PC Magazine has to say.
  • Windows 8 is available before its time – HSN.com – the online arm of the Home Shopping Network began offering PC’s with Windows 8 installed and ready to go. Before you decide to jump the gun, you should note that the machines are loaded with Crap-ware. These are applications that come pre-installed on a new machine and usually include a lot of things that you may not want as well as “trial versions” of software. Read the full story on ZDNet.
  • Samsung’s Apple “attack ad” – If the political season wasn’t bad enough, Samsung is airing an attack ad that touts the technological superiority of its latest   smartphone over the iPhone 5. Geek.com does a bit of fact-checking for you.

Microsoft has an uphill battle on its hands. Apple’s iPad owns 80% of the market. The other 20 % belongs to Samsung’s Galaxy offerings, Google’s Nexus 7, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, etc. and etc.  The market floor is littered with also-rans and products that got off the launch-pad – like HP’s TouchPad – but were aborted in mid-flight.

With the advent of the touch-centric Windows 8 operating system and the Surface tablet range, Microsoft is going to have to come out swinging if they want to have a decent chance of making a significant dent in the market, let alone Apple’s iPad behemoth. Of course, there are Microsoft loyalists who face Redmond twice a day in prayer just as there are Apple Loyalists who face Cupertino and threaten jihad against anyone who suggests that even a few i-Products may be behind the technological curve. To be sure, those hard-core loyalists will help to boost sale of the Surface tables when the first one makes its debut a month from now but what about the long-term? Geek.com suggests that one of Microsoft’s secret weapons could be the ubiquitous MS Office.

Redmond has already announced that they will release a version of Office 13 that will run on the Surface RT which is based on the ARM processor platform. This is a good thing because at the moment, RT-compatible apps are few and far between. The RT version of Office 13 will be a tablet-optomised version of the Home & Student edition that contains Word, Excel, Power Point and OneNote, the greatest little application that you’ve probably never even heard of.  To the continuing chagrin of all who purchase Home & Student, this version does not include the indispensable Outlook application and that tradition will continue with Office RT. Whether there will be a RT compatible version of Outlook available as a separate purchase remains to be seen.

Office RT will come bundled with the Surface RT tablet and will not be available as a stand-alone product. As to whether or not this is a good thing, only time will tell. However, a tablet that already comes with most of the features from the world’s most popular office suite could well give Microsoft a competitive edge amongst new tablet purchasers as well as those who have been sitting on the fence waiting for a truly viable iPad alternative to come along. We’ll see in a little over a month.

Suggested Reading:

The article from Geek.com about the RT-Office combination

Microsoft’s Office blog which talks about Office-RT

Microsoft announced yesterday that Windows 8 will be released on October 26th. The software giant’s forthcoming Surface tablet will probably be released on or before that date. Waiting too long after October 26 to release Surface will jeopardise potential holiday sales as the annual shopping season begins in early November and goes full tilt the day after Thanksgiving.

PC users who currently run Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7 will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99. This will be in the form of a download-able ISO file that can be burned on to a DVD or USB drive and then used to boot from and install the upgrade on your PC. It would be advisable for users to learn how to adjust their BIOS setting so that the PC will first search for a boot source on either CD/DVD  or USB before going to the internal hard drive. The upgrade price is only good between October 26, 2012 and January 13, 2013.

Last month, Microsoft announced not one but two versions of its new Surface tablet:

  1.  An ARM-based, Windows RT-reliant version to be released in October of this year
  2. An Intel Core i5-based, full Windows 8 version to be released in January of 2013
So, what’s the difference between these two? Well, for starters, they are using two different processors and thus two different operating systems. Windows RT is to Windows as iOS is to OS X on the Mac side of things. The ARM-based RT tablet is aimed strictly at the consumer market as Microsoft tries to go mano-a-mano  against Apple’s iPad and runs an instance of Windows that is restricted to Metro only. The downside to this RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computing) tablet is that there are precious few apps available for this version. Here we have a classic Catch-22; Developers won’t write apps for this platform unless it’s going to sell & sell very well, indeed. The device won’t sell unless it has a significant number of apps available to run on Windows RT. And so it goes. The tablet will probably sell to Microsoft loyalists who would not be caught dead with an iPad in their hands. Anything after that is anybody’s guess.
The Surface Pro version uses an Intel i5 processor that will not be as miserly with battery usage as the ARM-based machine BUT  – and it’s a big one – it will be running an instance of Windows 8 Professional and will have access to the classic Windows Desktop that most Windows users know and love. The App Store will be no more with this machine as it will run pretty much anything that Windows 7 can run. Caveat emptor – These apps are not optimised for a touch environment and won’t be as “pretty” as they could be. Nonetheless, having the Microsoft Office suite on your tablet will be a big plus in my book. Outlook addicts, rejoice!!

It appears that the Surface Pro may be a real game-changer vis a vis’ the Apple iPad. The Pro version will answer a lot of questions and concerns that CIOs have about Apple in the enterprise environment. This device has generated a lot of buzz in the corporate world and CIOs are (usually) more likely to give serious thought about the platform and its compatibility with the existing infrastructure than the consumer who decides to buy an iPad simply because it’s an Apple product.

There are Pros & Cons to any new device in a fluid market like this. The most compelling Con is that there is no Wireless option available (Yet). While it would be really great to use the Surface Pro for Internet connectivity anywhere, the user will be restricted to Wi-Fi hot spots. A second Con is that storage options are limited to 64 GB for the Windows RT version and 128 GB for the Surface Pro. Will this be enough space to hold all the software that will allow a user to be both productive and mobile?

The success of the Windows RT Surface tablet may well depend on the success of the Metro interface. Samsung is rumoured to have a 7-inch tablet in the works that will run Windows RT and other manufacturers appear ready to follow suit. Fujitsu is already offering tablets optimised for Windows 8. To judge the potential impact and success of  the Surface tablets  for yourself, take a look at the suggested articles below.

For Further Reading:

Microsoft Surface: this time it’s business – Tech Republic

All about Windows RT: the OS behind a Microsoft Tablet – Computer World

Surface a real game-changer – Tech Republic

Five Pros and Cons of the Microsoft Surface Tablet – IT Solution Journal

 

On Monday, Microsoft officially announced that Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing during the first week in August. Since that event is just about three weeks away, Windows 8 should be considered “Done” at this point and any tweaks or adjustments going on are more like finishing touches than anything serious.

The first PC’s running Windows 8 will go on sale in late October; just in time for the pre-holiday selling season. It must be assumed that upgrade and OEM copies of the Operating System will become available around that time as well. When either one of these events takes place, the free re-release version will be disabled. That means that if you already have this version installed on your PC as the primary OS, your machine will only function as a doorstop until you buy a licensed copy.

October is shaping up to be a busy month for Redmond, WA as Microsoft will also be releasing its own hardware, the Microsoft Surface
tablet. More details will be revealed in a later post but it is worth noting that Samsung appears to be planning a Win 8 tablet of its own and Fujitsu is already offering tablets optomised for Windows 8. Fears that large OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) would give Windows 8 Tablets a miss because of direct competition with Microsoft seem to be somewhat unfounded at the moment.

At the end of the day, we won’t know the full impact of Windows 8 and Microsoft’s surface tablet until late October gets here. Stay tuned!

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