Windows 8 Public Beta Slated for Early 2012: Will We See a CES Demo?

  • Sources close to Microsoft have told The Next Web that the company’s Windows 8 beta will be released in late February.
  • However, WinRumors says the release may be ready one month earlier, and is expected to make its debut at January’s CES.
  • “Recently leaked screenshots indicate that Microsoft will allow users to change the Start Screen color and the Start Screen background image in beta copies of Windows 8,” reports WinRumors. “Users will be able to create, name and rearrange Start Screen groups as well as navigate with the Windows 8 Apps screen in a better way. Microsoft is planning to group applications to make it easier for users to identify them in Windows 8 beta. Windows Media Center will also return to Windows 8 beta alongside the typical Windows games, DVD creator and .NET 3.5.”
  • In a related post by The Verge, a preview of MS Office 15 is also expected for CES: “The update is supposed to have a redesigned touch-friendly interface and a Metro Style hub for navigating to documents — we’d expect to find cues from the Metro style UI throughout the software to make it more usable with Windows 8 on a tablet.”
  • The rumor mill is also dropping hints of new Windows 8 devices. Nokia already announced it would have a Windows 8 tablet ready by June.

Video Chat Gets Software Update that Adds Skype-to-Facebook Calls

  • Skype has released new versions for Mac and Windows that features the ability to connect to social networker Facebook.
  • “After installing Skype 5.4 Beta for Mac or Skype 5.7 Beta for Windows, users can click the Facebook icon on the left side of the screen and authorize Skype to access Facebook data through the Facebook Connect button,” reports Digital Trends.
  • Facebook Connect includes text and video chat functionality. “When a call is placed through the Skype software, the user on Facebook can accept the call and a video chat window pops-up on the Facebook screen,” explains the post. “Ideally, this will eventually allow Facebook users to place calls to anyone running an active version of Skype rather than being logged into Facebook at the time.”
  • Microsoft, which recently acquired Skype for $8.5 billion, is expected to integrate the Windows Phone platform with Skype and possibly include Skype in its upcoming social network called “Soci.”
  • Soci is expected to include a video chatting “party” feature for friends.

New iOS 5 Requires that Users Upgrade to iTunes 10.5

  • Apple’s much anticipated iOS 5 launches this week and will require an upgrade to iTunes 10.5 in order to download.
  • According to TechCrunch, the new version of iTunes includes integration with iTunes Match: “For $25 a year, iTunes Match will give you legal digital access to any songs you own (be it through legal means or not). Match won’t actually launch until late October, but support is built into 10.5.”
  • The updated iTunes also “patches a number of Windows-specific security issues,” offers “Wi-Fi syncing support (when paired with iOS 5)” and provides “purchase history (for books, apps, etc.) through iCloud.”
  • For those planning to install the new version, visit the iTunes download page.

Flash Player 11 and AIR 3: For HD Video and 3D Gaming on Multiple Platforms

  • Adobe announced this week Adobe Flash Player 11 and Adobe AIR 3 software to enable “console quality” 2D and 3D games and scientific visualizations for multiple platforms including Android, Apple iOS (via AIR), BlackBerry Tablet OS, Mac OS, Windows, connected TVs and others.
  • Adobe touts 1,000 times faster rendering performance over Flash 10 and AIR 2 enabling 60 frames per second rendering and console-quality games on Mac OS, Windows and connected TVs. A production release for mobile is coming.
  • Content protection is available using Adobe Flash Access 3 on supported platforms — “including support for mobile platforms,” explains the press release — with support for rental and subscription options “to more than 80 percent of the U.S. pay TV subscribers.”
  • HD full frame video quality can be displayed on iOS devices using H.264 hardware decoding to deliver 7.1 channel surround sound.

Video: Metro-Inspired Dashboard for Xbox Live Running in Windows 8

  • Digital Trends is among the sites currently featuring a 10-minute video shot from the audience (courtesy of Joystiq) during Microsoft’s recent Build developer’s conference.
  • The video shows what the upcoming Metro-inspired dashboard for Xbox 360 running in Windows 8 will look like.
  • “Microsoft confirmed last week that the upcoming Metro-styled update for the Xbox 360 dashboard will appear in Windows 8 as the user interface you’ll use to access Xbox Live from your PC,” reports Digital Trends.
  • From an earlier article on the same site: “Based on the ‘Metro’ design of WP7, ‘Immersive’ will be the name of a secondary User Interface (UI) you’ll be able to select when you boot up Windows 8.”
  • This video was first brought to our attention via Engadget, submitted by ETCentric staffer Dennis Kuba who commented: “The focus at Build 2011 was on the social and gaming aspects. They also mentioned that they will be talking in the future about content services such as video and music.”
  • “We get the feeling that Microsoft’s thinking this one through; rather than just shoehorning a gaming element in, things like ‘cloud saves’ and dedicated Music/Video panes will be around to enjoy,” reports Engadget. “Moreover, participation in the Xbox Live development program will purportedly be free, and if [Microsoft’s Avi] Ben-Menahem has his way, this will bring ‘everything you know and love on Xbox 360 and Xbox Live to Windows.'”

The Real Motivation Behind the Motorola Mobility Acquisition

  • An intellectual property analyst makes the case that the reason Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last month was not to provide patent protection for Android as most believe. It was to prevent Motorola Mobility from making one or more key moves that would have weakened Android’s patent situation even more.
  • For example, Motorola Mobility could have taken a patent license from Microsoft signaling a surrender that would have affected every other Android licensee.
  • It could have started work on a Windows Phone as a way to help it deal with a Microsoft infringement case, suggests the FOSS Patents blog. It also could have attacked other Android licensees to collect royalties.
  • And finally, it could have sold off its patent portfolio to one of Google’s competitors.

Windows 8: Viable Solution for the New Post-PC Era?

  • For the first time in many years, Microsoft is facing a serious challenge to its Windows desktop monopoly — not in the form of any operating system, but in the new computing concept of “post-PC.”
  • “The worry is that upstart tablets threaten to drive the computer out of the home, taking the Windows operating system with it,” reports Ars Technica.
  • Microsoft has been in the tablet business longer than anyone, but it has always been an add-on to Windows. Windows 8 will give the company another opportunity to create something new — a full featured PC that not only works on the desktop but on a post-PC device as well.
  • Windows 8 will work with touch devices and not require a stylus. It will support real multitasking. It will run on power-efficient ARM processors. It will still have a huge legacy of software, including Office. It will support a myriad of hardware and accessories.
  • In short, it will be able to do everything the tablet can and much more. Ars Technica concludes: “Still, this tablet-as-a-PC model hasn’t worked well despite 20 years of trying. Microsoft’s decision to stick with it might look like a mistake — why would this approach start working now when it hasn’t before? — but signs suggest it might be more successful this time around.”

Muse: Adobe Promises Creative Code-Free Web Site Design (Again)

  • Adobe has released a preview of Adobe Edge, which uses HTML5 technologies to bring “Flash-like animation and interactive development tools to the Web.”
  • The company also unveiled a beta version this week of its new Web publishing tool (code-named “Muse”) that is intended to enable users to design and publish Web sites without the need to write HTML code.
  • According to Digital Trends, the Muse tools will be familiar to those familiar with Adobe InDesign and will be implemented via the Adobe Air desktop application framework.
  • For those interested in additional information, the article outlines Muse by its four steps of production: Plan, Design, Preview, and Publish.
  • Adobe Muse is currently available in beta for Windows XP or newer and Mac OS X 10.6 or newer (Adobe Air 2.7 framework must be installed). Pricing has yet to be announced for the 1.0 release expected in early 2012.

Mac OS Surpasses Linux in Popularity Amongst Developers

  • Apple’s Mac operating system has reportedly edged past Linux in popularity amongst developers in North America.
  • Windows OS remains the clear frontrunner for development with 80 percent of developers. However, while 5.6 percent of developers said they prefer Linux, Mac OS has taken second place with 7.9 percent.
  • “Apple has made tremendous strides in the last few years with innovative products and technologies. [As such], it’s quite reasonable to see developers adopting the Mac and its OS as a development environment,” explains Evans Data CEO Janel Garvin. “Linux has lost some of its luster after years of only single digit adoption.”
  • Mac OS X is based on the Unix operating system. The latest iteration — Mac OS X Lion version 10.7 — features a redesigned UI to help bridge Apple’s iOS for mobile devices and Mac OS for desktop computers.

Review: Apple Lion Operating System by Walt Mossberg

  • Walt Mossberg offers his take on the new Lion OS, what he coins as Apple’s “most radical new Macintosh operating system version in years.”
  • The $30 operating system, released this week, allows installation on as many Macs as an individual owns.
  • Mossberg describes the OS as “a giant step in the merger of the personal computer and post-PC devices like tablets and smartphones,” while retaining traditional computer features.
  • The thorough review provides details related to upgrading, migrating, new features and more.
  • Although he questions the changes made to scrolling (which work the opposite of previous versions by pushing the page up), Mossberg provides a positive bottom line: “The past two major computer operating system releases, Windows 7 and Snow Leopard, were incremental. Lion is very different. It’s a big leap, and gives the Mac a much more modern look and feel for a world of tablets and smartphones. If you are willing to adjust, it’s the best computer operating system out there.”

Lenovo to Launch Three New Tablet Devices

  • Chinese manufacturer Lenovo is entering the tablet fray with three new devices set for release in the coming months.
  • The 10.1-inch devices will be priced comparably to the popular iPad and will target specific users (the IdeaPad Tablet K1 for general consumers, ThinkPad Tablet for business users, and IdeaPad Tablet P1 for home and office use).
  • The IdeaPad K1 and ThinkPad (available in August) will run Android 3.1, while the IdeaPad P1 will run Windows 7.
  • All three devices will initially be Wi-Fi only, with 3G versions expected at a later date.
  • The Digital Trends post includes images and technical specs on all three models.

Android OS Could Prove Big Business for Microsoft

  • Android is the global leader in smartphone platforms with over 500,000 daily activations, serving as an obvious advantage for Google.
  • However, Android’s success is also becoming a boon for Microsoft, which has negotiated agreements with several Android licensees to settle patent infringement claims, providing $5-10 for each device shipped.
  • With the potential of 500,000 activations per day, this could amount to $1 billion in value to Microsoft.
  • This amount would exceed the value of their Windows 7 and Bing businesses currently.

HP CEO Leo Apotheker Discusses New Online Strategy

In his first public appearance since joining Hewlett-Packard in November, CEO Leo Apotheker delivered a speech in San Francisco that outlined the company’s new online strategy that he explained will target both consumers and businesses. Apotheker emphasized cloud computing and an online app store as part of his vision to bring HP to the forefront as “the platform for the cloud and connectivity.” He suggested that the app store would include programs from HP as well as from other companies.

Apotheker dismissed speculation that HP would be acquiring software maker SAP AG or any other provider of transactional business programs. The Wall Street Journal reports that his goal is to address the “increasing amount of unstructured data — information that isn’t easily categorized”; HP will “focus on products and services that will help businesses better make sense of them.”

Apotheker explained that the company’s webOS operating system (newly acquired along with Palm last year) is designed for smartphones and tablets, but will also ship on HP PCs, providing the company with a greater scale. HP plans to produce laptops and desktops with webOS working alongside Windows, enabling computers to interact with HP’s smartphones and tablets.

The Battle Heats Up over Alpha Android

The battle for control of Google’s phone/tablet OS continues to heat up. In this Bloomberg Businessweek article, developers complain about Google’s increasing demands for control over how its supposedly “open source” Android platform is deployed. One protester says he just cut a deal with Microsoft because he feels Windows Phone 7 offers more opportunity to innovate (he is, at this point, in the minority, as well as a former MS employee, but it pays to keep an eye on the outliers).

Bloomberg reports that Google has recently reached out to carriers and manufacturers that want to implement its mobile operating system with a message: “There will be no more willy-nilly tweaks to the software. No more partnerships formed outside of Google’s purview. From now on, companies hoping to receive early access to Google’s most up-to-date software will need approval of their plans. And they will seek that approval from Andy Rubin, the head of Google’s Android group.”

Perhaps the most telling bit of information in this story is that Android’s share of the smartphone market grew, “from 9 percent in 2009 to an industry-leading 31 percent worldwide.”

“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like Android in terms of gaining share,” explained Bill Gurley, general partner at venture capital firm Benchmark Capital.

Although there are grumblings from various tech companies, and rumors of complaints to the Justice Department, Bloomberg explains that the Android OS is still open — “it’s just getting more heavily policed.”

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