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MICROSOFT GOES TOUCH

With Friday’s release of the touch-centric Windows 8 software, Microsoft continues more than three decades of making operating systems for personal computers.

Microsoft Corp. got its start on PCs in 1981 through a partnership with IBM Corp. Microsoft made the software that ran IBM’s hardware, and later machines made by other manufacturers. That first operating system was called MS-DOS — for Microsoft Disk Operating System. It required people to type instructions to complete tasks such as running programs and deleting files.

It wasn’t until 1985 that Microsoft released its first graphical user interface, which allowed people to perform tasks by moving a mouse and clicking on icons on the screen. Microsoft called the operating system Windows.

Windows 1.0 came out in November 1985, nearly two years after Apple began selling its first Macintosh computer, which also used a graphical operating system. Apple sued Microsoft in 1988 for copyright infringement, claiming that Microsoft copied the “look and feel” of its operating system. Apple lost.

Microsoft followed it with Windows 2.0 in December 1987, 3.0 in May 1990 and 3.1 in April 1992.

In July 1993, Microsoft released Windows NT, a more robust operating system built from scratch. It was meant as a complement to Windows 3.1 and allowed higher-end machines to perform more complex tasks, particularly for engineering and scientific programs that dealt with large numbers.

Microsoft had its first big Windows launch with the release of Windows 95 in August 1995. The company placed special sections in newspapers, ran television ads with the Rolling Stones song “Start Me Up” and paid to have the Empire State Building lit up in Windows colors.

Comedian Jay Leno joined co-founder Bill Gates on stage at a launch event at the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash.

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“Windows 95 is so easy, even a talk-show host can figure it out,” Gates joked.

The hype worked: Computer users lined up to be the first to buy it. Microsoft sold millions of copies within the first few weeks. Windows 95 brought built-in Internet support and “plug and play” tools to make it easier to install software and attach hardware. Windows 95 was far better — and more successful — than its predecessor and narrowed the ease-of-use gap between Windows and Mac computers.

At around the same time, Microsoft released the first version of its Internet Explorer browser. It went on to tie IE and Windows functions so tightly that many people simply used the browser over the once-dominant Netscape Navigator. The U.S. Justice Department and several states ultimately sued Microsoft, accusing it of using its monopoly control over Windows to shut out competitors in other markets. The company fought the charges for years before settling in 2002.

The June 1998 release of Windows 98 was more low-key than the Windows 95 launch, though Microsoft denied it had anything to do with the antitrust case.

Windows 98 had the distinction of being the last with roots to the original operating system, MS-DOS. Each operating system is made up of millions of lines of instructions, or code, written in sections by programmers. Each time there’s an update, portions get dropped or rewritten, and new sections get added for new features. Eventually, there’s nothing left from the original.

Microsoft came out with Windows Me a few years later, the last to use the code from Windows 95. Starting with Windows 2000, Microsoft worked off the code built for NT, the 1993 system built from scratch.

The biggest release since Windows 95 came in October 2001, when Microsoft launched Windows XP at a hotel in New York’s Times Square. Windows XP had better Internet tools, including built-in wireless networking support. It had improvements in media software for listening to and recording music, playing videos and editing and organizing digital photographs.

Microsoft’s next major release didn’t come until Vista in November 2006. Businesses got it first, followed by a broader launch to consumers in January 2007. Coming after years of virus attacks targeting Windows machines and spread over the Internet, the long-delayed Vista operating system offered stronger security and protection. It also had built-in parental-controls settings.

But many people found Vista slow and incompatible with existing programs and devices. Microsoft launched Windows 7 in October 2009 with fixes to many of Vista’s flaws.

Windows 7 also disrupted users less often by displaying fewer pop-up boxes, notifications and warnings — allowing those that do appear to stand out. Instead, many of those messages get stashed in a single place for people to address when it’s convenient.

In a sign of what’s to come, Windows 7 was able to sense when someone is using more than one finger on a touchpad or touch screen, so people can spread their fingers to zoom into a picture, for instance, just as they can on the iPhone.

Apple released its first iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. Devices running Google’s Android system for mobile devices also caught on. As a result, sales of Windows computers slowed down. Consumers were delaying upgrades and spending their money on new smartphones and tablet computers instead.

Windows 8 and its sibling, Windows RT, represent Microsoft’s attempt to address that. The new software is designed to make desktop and laptop computers work more like tablets.

Windows 8 ditches the familiar start menu on the lower left corner and forces people to swipe the edges of the screen to access various settings. It sports a new screen filled with a colorful array of tiles, each leading to a different application, task or collection of files. Windows 8 is designed especially for touch screens, though it will work with the mouse and keyboard shortcuts, too.

 

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Microsoft and PC makers alike have been looking to Windows 8 to resurrect sales. The campaign to promote it is of the caliber given for Windows 95 and XP.

But Apple is releasing two new iPads, Amazon.com Inc. is shipping full-sized Kindle Fire tablets and Barnes & Noble Inc. is refreshing its Nook tablet line next month. Microsoft and its allies will face competition that is far more intense than in the heyday of Windows 95 and XP.

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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Apple launches new iPad mini

APPLE have launched their eagerly awaited iPad Mini, which will be available next month.

The tablet, which can be held in one hand, is 7.2mm thick and weighs 0.68lbs. Its arrival was announced at an event in California.

In the US, it will cost $329 (£206) for the wifi-only 16GB model and will be available on November 2.

The iPad Mini will compete directly with similar sized tablets from Google and Amazon.

In 2010, late founder Steve Jobs described such tablets as being “too small”.

But pressure from competitors appears to have forced a change of heart. Amazon’s new 7in Kindle Fire HD costs $199 (£159 in the UK). And Google’s Nexus 7 has a price tag of $250 (£159).

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Posted by on October 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Samsung complaints “Apple’s new iPhone 5 violates its patents”

Newest Apple smartphone will be drawn into legal battle in California courts

Apple’s new iPhone 5 has been drawn into the patent battle under way between the company and Samsung in US courts.

 

Samsung Electronics announced on Sept. 20 that it submitted a document to the San Jose Divisional Office of the California Northern District Court the previous day stating that it considers the new model to violate its own patents and plans to add it to its previously filed suit.

As a next step, it plans to present a document detailing the specific patent infringements after examining the detailed product specifications and services.

The previous suit the company referred to was filed in April over the iPhone 4S, iPhone 4, the third generation iPad, and the iPad2. Samsung Electronics is claiming that Apple products and services violated two standard patents and six commercial patents that it owns. But since the iPhone 5 has yet to have an official release, it is still unknown just which of the eight patents Samsung believes the product violated. What is known is that it does not include Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, which was the focus of particular industry attention among the eight patents at issue in the suit.

An official with the company called the decision “inevitable.”

 

“We prefer market competition based on innovation to lawsuits, but we made the decision that we had to respond in some way to protect continued innovations and intellectual property rights at a time when Apple is limiting market competition with lawsuits,” the official said.

 

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Windows Redesign A Problem For Microsoft Users

As Microsoft Corp prepares to show the world what its new Windows 8 can do on the next generation of high-powered tablets, initial reviews of the new operating system on existing hardware underscore the challenges the company faces with the radical redesign of its flagship product.

The world’s largest software company says millions of people are already using a downloaded pre-release version of Windows 8 on PCs, laptops and touch-devices ahead of its full introduction this autumn. At a media event in Los Angeles on Monday, the company is expected to discuss its plans to take on Apple Inc’s all-conquering iPad this holiday shopping season.

So far, most reviewers have praised the look and feel of the touch-friendly “Metro” style of Windows 8, which is based on colorful squares, or “tiles,” that depict applications such as email, and update in real time. But they have also stressed how difficult it will be for users to move away from what they know and trust.

“It’s a bit of a struggle for people who are deliberately oriented on a PC, that are used to a mouse feel,” said former Microsoft strategist Al Hilwa.

Now an analyst at tech research firm IDC, Hilwa has been trying out the latest demo release for two weeks. “Without a touchscreen, I struggled with a mouse to do certain things,” he said.

The new Metro interface only runs programs written for it, so users have to switch back to the traditional desktop to do certain tasks, like listening to music on Apple’s iTunes.

“The thing that really infuriates me is that it seems like Metro apps, and apps running in the normal desktop don’t have any knowledge of each other, ” said Forrester Research analyst David Johnson. “There’s no easy way to navigate between them, and I’m not quite sure why that is.”

The latest test version is not yet finished software. And outside of a few industry testers, no one has tried out Windows 8 on a tablet powered by ultra-efficient ARM Holdings chips, which is the closest Microsoft will come to challenging the iPad.

Microsoft is expected to say more about that on Monday, and there is talk that it might introduce a tablet under its own brand name. The company declined to comment on the reaction to the new system and its plans for the Monday event.

Nevertheless, Microsoft has not persuaded some of its most loyal users just yet.

“Right now, I’m not sold,” said analyst Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft, an independent research firm that focuses on the tech giant.

Cherry said he had persevered with Windows 8 for a few days, but had problems setting up email on his test machine. “I can’t rely on it as a production tool,” he said. “I can’t switch over yet. At this point, I should be able to leave Windows 7 behind.”

A former Microsoft program manager, Cherry worries that the initial complexity of the new system will prevent it from being an instant hit, like its predecessor, Windows 7.

“If a guy who has used Windows since Windows 1.0 can’t figure it out, then I’m going to guess there are other people out there who aren’t going to figure it out,” he said. “We won’t see line-ups at Best Buy at midnight. I’d love to see that, but it’s just not there.”

Mainstream tech reviewers like the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg or the New York Times’ David Pogue have not yet weighed in on the third and latest “preview” of Windows 8, which became publicly available online on May 31.

The smattering of reviews on tech-centric blogs have generally praised the new look of Windows 8, but almost every one has stressed how difficult users will find the switch.

“I’ve felt almost totally at sea – confused, paralyzed, angry, and ultimately resigned to the pain of having to alter the way I do most of my work,” wrote Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist at online journal Slate, even as he acknowledged that there is a lot to love about Windows 8.

GeekWire — Microsoft’s hometown technology news website in Seattle — was no kinder, featuring a video of one reader’s father, completely stumped by how to get back to the Start menu. ( http://www.geekwire.com/2012/real-user-windows-8-they-drive-mac/ )

“Bottom line, I’ve spent the past day feeling lost, and a little grumpy,” wrote GeekWire’s Todd Bishop, who has followed the software company as a reporter for more than a decade.

“Microsoft likes to use the words ‘fast and fluid’ to describe Windows 8, but two other words keep popping to my mind: ‘New Coke,'” wrote Bishop, referring to Coca-Cola Co’s short-lived attempt to reinvent its core product in the 1980s.

Gizmodo reviewer Mat Honan praised Windows 8’s “subtle elegance” and said the Metro apps were better and easier to navigate than the last test version, but added there was nothing that “bowls you over.”

ZDNet reviewer Ed Bott, a previous skeptic of Windows 8, liked the “rich and polished collection of Metro-style apps,” and was the only high-profile reviewer with a wholly positive reaction.

To be sure, any great change to a system used by more than 1 billion people every day is bound to meet with resistance.

Microsoft’s Vista operating system got off to a terrible start in early 2007 due to its heavy memory demands and finicky security settings, but recovered somewhat in later updates. Almost three years later, its successor, Windows 7, became the company’s fastest-selling system to date, and has now racked up more than 500 million sales.

But Apple’s intuitive iOS mobile system has raised expectations, both for aesthetics and ease of use.

“I would not be able to give my mother – who is 76 – Windows 8 and expect her to be productive with it,” said Forrester’s Johnson. “But I’m also not sure that somebody in their 30s, or even 20s, wouldn’t be confused initially by the Metro interface either.”

Individual consumers and potential iPad buyers, rather than corporate customers, are the primary target for the Windows 8. Many big companies are still in the process of spending millions of dollars upgrading to Windows 7.

The success of the software will depend in part on the quality and price of machines running Windows 8, which is in the hands of PC makers such as Hewlett-Packard Co, Samsung Electronics, Lenovo Group and Acer Inc .

But even if the machines are slick, Microsoft’s online Windows Store is still no match for Apple’s App Store, and will probably take several years to build momentum, which in turn removes incentives to buy tablets running the new Windows.

“I really want to use Windows 8,” said Cherry of Directions on Microsoft. “But I’m not sure they’ve gotten to nirvana. It’s a stake in the road that shows us where they want to get to – I’m not sure they are able to get there in one release.”

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Adobe no more supports mobile Flash

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Did Apple kill Adobe’s mobile Flash? That is the question many asked this week after Adobe announced that it would end development of Flash for mobile devices.
Many observers were not surprised by the announcement, which came a day after the company announced it would cut 750 jobs.

Don Reisinger of eWeek compiled a list of reasons why Adobe lost the mobile Flash battle, which identified the resistance from Apple and the success of iPhones and iPads as the main reasons.

The Guardian said that with the news, it was Steve Jobs who had had “the last laugh”.

Elsewhere, Jason Perlow of ZDNet’s Tech Broiler blog argued that without a focus on the rising mobile market, Adobe Flash is “irrelevant”.

PCWorld’s Daniel Ionescu asked if “anybody will miss Flash on their mobiles?” and pointed out that “iOS users have been living Flash-free for more than three years”.

Still, some saw Adobe’s move as a step in the right direction. Matt Peckham of Time’s Techland wrote that it takes “guts to do the right thing”.

“Adobe deserves our plaudits, for doing something I’d wager Steve Jobs never would have (whatever his claims about the web), had Cupertino been the proprietor of Flash and not the folks from San Jose,” Peckham added.

But for Bill Ray of the Register, the announcement shows where Adobe plans to head with its future developments of HTML5 tools.

He wrote: “This announcement has much more to do with Adobe seeing that there’s no future in selling tools for streaming video, but there is a decent future in selling tools to create, and control, digital content.”

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Mac vs PC, desktops vs laptops

The humble desktop or laptop computer hasn’t yet sunk to the status of commodity product, but it’s getting close. On one hand, processing power, memory and storage keep getting cheaper and more plentiful; on the other, competing manufacturers have been settling on the same set of features.

They do, however, remain resolutely divided on one issue: Mac or PC? So are many of you.

I think Apple’s Mac OS X is safer and simpler than Microsoft’s Windows 7. It requires less setup work and ongoing maintenance, and most PCs lack the smart, stylish design of Macs. Apple’s stores can be horribly crowded, but their Genius Bars (with an appointment) offer first-person tech support that’s unparalleled among most PC vendors.

But I also know that PCs cost a lot less than Macs. And while Windows 7 retains such traditional annoyances as prolonged program installations, upgrades and uninstallations, its Home Premium edition represents a significant advance over the widely loathed Windows Vista and especially Vista’s cut-rate Home Basic release.

You’d think that in a down economy, customers would opt for the cheaper option, but Apple’s market share keeps going up.

Whatever operating system you pick, you’ll have to choose between a laptop and a desktop. Most people get laptops and with good reason: The traditional cost gap between portable and stationary machines has largely vanished, leaving a desktop’s bigger screen and more comfortable keyboard as its major real-world advantages.

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If you plan on taking a laptop places, however, don’t buy one that weighs more than five pounds or has a battery that isn’t at least advertised as running three hours. (Those qualifications rule out many budget-priced Windows laptops.)

If you’re buying a laptop as a second or third machine, a Windows or Linux netbook that would otherwise offer insufficient storage could make sense. But watch out for awkward keyboard layouts, as evidenced by a too-small right-hand Shift key. And – just this one time – pay attention to processor speeds, as the Intel Atom chips in most netbooks run on the slow side.

What about an option that didn’t exist last year, tablet computers like Apple’s iPad?

To me, they only make sense as a secondary device. The iPad requires a separate Mac or PC for setup and software updates and, without the webcam that’s become standard on home laptops, it can’t do video calling. A newer, Android-based tablet, Samsung’s Galaxy Tab, suffers from high pricing compared to the iPad and even many netbooks, as well as some awkward moments in its software. (Look for a full review of that next week.)

Will this piece ever get to the traditional questions of computer shopping – what specifications to look for? Yes.

Ignore the processor entirely (outside of notebooks, as outlined above) unless you’ll be editing video often and intensively. Three or four gigabytes of memory should suffice; two GB, seen on some entry-level Macs and cheaper PCs, can get cramped if you keep multiple applications open at once. (A year ago, buying a PC with less than 4 GB of RAM would have allowed you to get the 32-bit edition of Windows 7, but that more compatible option has essentially been banished from retail by 64-bit versions that don’t offer a meaningful benefit to most home users.)

As for storage, 250 gigabytes of hard disk space should also be plenty unless you have an enormous video collection. You can get away with less on a second computer or if you don’t have a large digital-media archive. Anything but a netbook (or Apple’s high-priced answer to that category, the MacBook Air) will have a CD-burner drive that can probably burn DVDs, too. But you’re unlikely to use an optical drive’s write capability to do more than burn a backup CD or DVD. Spending extra for a Blu-ray drive makes no sense to me.

Expansion is yet another issue where you no longer have much to choose from. All you need are a few USB ports to plug in a mouse, a printer or other peripheral devices and an SD Card slot for your camera or phone’s memory card. Apple’s cheapest models fall short on those requirements but just about every other computer meets them. The FireWire ports on most Macs and the eSATA ports on some PCs can accommodate external hard drives but don’t do much else; I can’t call either essential.

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Every machine has WiFi wireless these days as well, leaving only Bluetooth as an option to consider if you have a wireless mouse or your phone can transfer files with this under-used wireless technology.

With all the above criteria in mind, picking a Mac should be a relatively straightforward process (the basic iMac or the 13-in. MacBook should each do fine as a general-purpose home machine). But how to pick one PC out of so many similar competitors? I’d like to say you should choose the one with the cleanest software bundle, but vendors seem to have sunk to a common level of mediocrity.

Unless you custom-order a stripped-down bundle online, you’re likely to get the same set of third-party software: Microsoft’s Windows Live bundle of Internet and multimedia software, an expiring trial copy of Internet-security software, a trial copy of Microsoft Office, and DVD software that duplicates what comes built into Windows 7.

Maybe one PC vendor will try to set themselves apart in this department in time for next year’s computer-shopping column. We can only hope.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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