Microsoft packs Windows 8.1 with welcome upgrades in features and functionality

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on June 15th, 2013

On June 26, eight months after its general release, Microsoft is updating Windows 8 to Windows 8.1. The free new update brings lots of new features and functionality to the modernized version of Microsoft’s operating system.

The updated Start screen allows users to resize their apps with new larger and smaller options; users can swipe up from the bottom of the screen to reveal an app drawer and access all apps installed and organize them by name, date installed, most used, and category; installed apps are no longer downloaded to the Start screen–they are placed inside the app drawer and you must manually pin it to the Start screen if you want it there; and you can match your desktop background with your Start screen background to “create a greater sense of unity and familiarity” between them. Also, the Start button returns to the traditional desktop but it won’t open a portal to folders and files like it did in previous Windows iterations; it simply brings you back to the Start screen and all your apps. Also, multitasking just got better: depending on your screen size and resolution, you can now snap more than two windows next to each other and you can further customize the size of each window (you are no longer shackled to the 80/20 split).

Elsewhere, the lock screen has been updated to become a picture frame that can now play a slideshow of your pictures stored locally on your device or from images stored in the cloud in SkyDrive. Users can also take pictures directly from the lock screen without having to log into their Windows 8.1 powered device.

System-wide search has been enhanced here, too. Type a query in the Search charm and you’ll be provided with actual files and documents you may be looking for. To date users are forced to tap headers like Files and Apps to dig for their searches; in Win 8.1 time will be saved since the OS will now show you relavant Word documents and Xbox games at first glance. Something new called Search Heroes are also being introduced here; search “Brad Pitt” and the OS will provide an aggregated view of many content sources to help you learn more about your query.

To read more about the new features and functions inside Windows 8.1, head over to this Windows blog post that details it all. For a quick look at 8.1 in action, watch the clip embedded above. Some screenshots hang in the gallery below.

In exposing the design origins of Windows 8, Jensen Harris gives a course in modernity

Posted in Design,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on November 30th, 2012

Even if you aren’t a Windows aficionado, you should take an hour out of your day to watch this. Jensen Harris, Director of Program Management for the Windows User Experience Team, took the stage at UX Week 2012, a user experience design conference. His presentation is called “The Story of Windows 8,” it details how Microsoft reimagined Windows for the next wave of PCs. He travels back in time to 1992, the year the Start Menu, Taskbar, and many of the other familiar facets of Windows were born. “They were designed to help people do things with computers that they did in 1992, not necessarily with what people do today with PCs, tablets, [and] phones today,” admits Harris. And this is what compelled the company to radically re-engineer the OS. Many things have been updated and refreshed over the years from Windows 95 to Windows 7, but “the basic elements of the user interface have remained the same,” he explains. Instead of waiting to be engulfed by the modern, his team decided to reimagine Windows by defining what is modern.

Over the course of the presentation, Harris gives a grand tour of Windows 8, interweaving and fully detailing the OS’ design principles (namely do more with less, authentically digital, pride in craftsmanship, fast and fluid, win as one).

He makes it a point to highlight the progression of Windows and what makes the latest release stand out from all the others. But what’s most fascinating about this intellectual and informative presentation is its overall theme which Harris calls “familiar usurped by modern.” Before diving into the OS, he spans the video game, smartphone, and automobile industries to compare and contrast “familiar” products and ideas to “modern” ones. It’s a course in shifting the status quo, being bold by leading by example, what it means to think and be modern. For design enthusiasts it’s a captivating watch, and along the way you might just learn all about the painstaking, detail-oriented effort that went into the making of Microsoft’s new OS.

Windows 8 is out today

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 26th, 2012

Three years after Microsoft’s last major OS release the next one is out of the bag. As of 12:01AM on October 26 the next version of Windows was let loose into the wild. Windows 8 is an entirely new OS, built from the ground up supporting touch input and a new Start screen that borrows its Live Tile look from Microsoft’s foray into the mobile smartphone space. Though the new OS begs to be touched, it has been proven to work just as well with the typical mice and keyboard setup. PC manufacturers like Dell, HP, Acer, and Lenovo are already selling devices running Windows 8 from desktops to laptops to tablets and convertibles.

This release marks the first time Microsoft is selling hardware of their own to promote it. Surface for Windows RT is out now, and Surface for Windows 8 Pro is coming soon. In case you don’t know the difference, Windows RT runs off ARM processors and does not support legacy applications made for Windows 7, Vista, XP, and so on. RT will only run apps downloaded from the Windows Store, open today. If your needs require such older apps, you’ll have to opt for the Pro version which does support x86 processors and apps designed with that chipset in mind. In a nutshell, Windows RT devices pack small ARM processors that allow for more compact, lighter PC designs and extended battery life; legacy apps won’t run. Windows Pro devices use x86 processors and these PC designs are typically thicker and heavier; legacy apps will run.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer shared his excitement for the latest software release in a press statement: ”We have reimagined Windows and the result is a stunning lineup of new PCs. Windows 8 brings together the best of the PC and the tablet. It works perfect for work and play and it is alive with your world. Every one of our customers will find a PC that they will absolutely love.”

To get Windows 8 today you have a couple options: you can either download it from Windows.com for $39.99 or purchase a physical copy for $69.99. Click here for more. There’s also a Windows Upgrade Offer available if you purchase a Windows 7 PC. Check that out here. Order a Surface here.

In addition to the PR, you’ll also find a couple videos after the break. Bill Gates talks Windows 8 and Surface in the first, and if you’re excited about this release as I am you’ll allot about an hour to watch the Windows 8 launch event hosted by Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky with an appearence by Steve Ballmer.

Happy Windows 8 Day! (Click here for more…)

Microsoft reveals Windows 8 packaging, preorder today

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on October 14th, 2012

The next version of Windows is almost here. October 26 is under two weeks away, so what better time to reveal what the physical packaging looks like and flip the switch for preordering. Microsoft describes the packaging as “tak[ing] a fresh approach, in the reimagining of Windows.” It is made up of paper based materials which makes the box greener than in the past. Interestingly the company will ship Windows 8 in a variety of packages, each featuring a different “vibrant illustration” on the front. Check out the five options in the gallery below.

In addition to showing off the product’s package, Microsoft also announced that the Metro-fied OS is up for preorder. Consumers can reserve a packaged DVD of the upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $69.99. However, if you can live without the snazzy new physical package, on launch day you’ll be able to upgrade online via the Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant (at Windows.com) for $39.99. The upgrade promotion runs until January 31, 2013. To be eligible for an upgrade at these prices you must already by running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista, or Windows 7. Note that you can upgrade for even cheaper–$14.99–if you purchase a Windows 7 PC anytime between June 2, 2012 and January 31, 2013. If you’re interested in viewing all the Windows 8 SKUs up for preorder, head over to NewEgg to see the lineup.

[Via Microsoft]

Apple’s OS X Mountain Lion is out now

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 29th, 2012

Mountain Lion, the successor to Snow Leopard and the ninth major release of Apple’s OS X, is now available. OS X 10.8 comes complete with over 200 new features including Messages, Notification Center, Share Sheets, Twitter integration, Notes, Reminders, and Game Center, AirPlay Mirroring, dictation, and iCloud enhancements. Mountain Lion requires you running OS X v10.6.8 or later, 2GB of memory, and 8GB of available space. You won’t find it in stores on-disc; you must download it from the Mac App Store. It costs a low $19.99. Upgrade today. (Note: If you purchased a qualifying Mac on or after June 11, you can receive the new OS for free. Plus all Macs shipping out now will come with Mountain Lion preloaded.)

Update: In typical Apple fashion, the hardware/software company announced that after just a mere four days after putting Mountain Lion on the market, three million copies of the new OS were sold, “making it the most successful OS X release in Apple’s history.” Added emphasis. For more self-congratulatory quotes, jump after the break for the official PR.

[Via Apple 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

Microsoft announces Windows 8 release date, details Office 2013

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 22nd, 2012

Mark your calendars. Microsoft’s Steven Sinofsky has announced that the company’s next operating system–Windows 8–will release October 26, 2012. On this day consumers will be able to get their hands on the final version of the OS whether they are upgrading their current PC or wanting to purchase a new one. When it ships three distinct versions of Windows 8 will be floating around: Windows 8, Windows 8 Pro, and Windows RT. For a chart that helps visualize the differences, click here. Note that RT will not sell in stores and will only come preinstalled on devices such as the Microsoft Surface.

Recently Microsoft also took the covers off the next version of their productivity suite. Office 2013 focuses on the cloud for saving and accessing content across multiple devices, social and new visual scenarios, and touch input for tablet accessibility. You can read all about the new Office right here, and you can even download a free customer preview of the software that includes Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote, and Outlook and give it a test drive. Microsoft has not specified price and release date info, but it was made known that Office 2013 Home and Student edition will come preloaded on all Windows RT devices. Stay tuned.

[Via Microsoft 1, 2]

Google I/O 2012: Nexus 7 tablet, Nexus Q media streamer, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google+ & Project Glass

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on July 4th, 2012

Google announced a slew of new hardware and software at this year’s I/O event for developers. From tablets to a funky-looking media streamer, to the next version of Android and even the futuristic Project Glass, the boys of Mountain View covered it all so let’s dive right in.

Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 serves the same purpose as the Nexus smartphone lineup: it provides a pure Android experience, but on a tablet. The 7-inch slate was made in collaboration with hardware manufacturer Asus, and it packs a 1280×800 back-lit IPS display with scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass. It measures 198.5 x 120 x 10.45mm and weighs an impressively light 340 grams. A quad-core Tegra 3 processor from NVIDIA and 1GB of RAM power the tablet, and a 4325 mAh battery 9 hours of HD video playback and 300 hours of standby time. As far as sensors go, there’s an accelerometer, GPS, a magnetometer, and a gyroscope. WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth, and NFC are also on board. Ports include Micro USB and a 3.5mm headphone jack, both located on the bottom of the device. There’s rear-facing camera, but you’ll find a 1.2MP front-facing camera for video chatting. 8GB and 16GB storage capacities are available to pre-order today through the Google Play storefront at $199 and $149, respectively. The tablet ships later this month and comes with a $25 credit for the Play store plus a copy of Transformers: Dark of the Moon and other media-related extras. It runs the latest version of Android (that is 4.1 Jelly Bean, more on this later) and Google says it was “made for Google Play.” On the homescreen you’ll have quick access to games, your music, movie, and TV show libraries, and your book and magazine collections. In related news, the Google Play store has been updated and now sells magazines, TV shows, and movies can be rented and purchased.

(Click here for more…)

Windows 8 Release Preview out now

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on June 3rd, 2012

The next operating system from Microsoft is almost here. After posting the Developer and Consumer previews, on May 28 the company let loose the Windows 8 Release Preview. In addition to packing bug fixes to make for a more stable and consistent user experience, the Release Preview includes improvements to existing apps like Mail, Photos, and People and introduces new Bing-powered apps Travel, News, and Sports. Also included is Zune Pass integration, Flash support in Internet Explorer 10, and of course a broader selection of apps in the Windows Store as developers start to hop aboard the Metro bandwagon.

The Windows 8 Release Preview is available for download today in 14 languages today; click here to access the free download. The final version of the touch-friendly OS is out later this year. PR after the break.

[Via Engadget] (Click here for more…)

Windows 8 Consumer Preview is now available for download

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on March 3rd, 2012

Microsoft unveiled their next major operating system release in June 2010. Then at the BUILD 2011 developer’s conference the company provided further details about the totally revamped, Metro-style OS. And now, this past Wednesday at Mobile World Congress in Spain, Microsoft has made available to the general public the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. According to a press release, this free preview “offers a more robust experience for testing the world’s most popular operating system and is available to the widest range of people yet following the initial release of the Windows 8 Developer Preview late last year.” In other words, it will provide a more stable Windows 8 experience for developers and consumers alike to check out before Microsoft officially releases the final version of the OS before the end of the year.

Ready to give Windows 8 a spin? Head over to Microsoft’s official download portal and click Get It Nowto, well, get it now. Can your computer handle it? The company released these recommendations: 1 GHz or faster processor; 1 GB RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit); 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit); DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver.

[Via Microsoft 1, 2]

Microsoft outs the Windows 8 logo

Posted in Image cache,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on February 20th, 2012

Here it is, the official logo for Microsoft’s upcoming operating system upgrade Windows 8. Design agency Pentagram was tasked to come up with the logo and during their brainstorming sessions they posed the question, “your name is Windows. Why are you a flag?” Take a look below…

…and you’ll see that the Windows logo originally started as an actual window and evolved into a flying or waving flag. In a blog post Microsoft describes its intent to bring the logo “back to its roots” with Windows 8.

“Windows” really is a beautiful metaphor for computing and with the new logo we wanted to celebrate the idea of a window, in perspective. Microsoft and Windows are all about putting technology in people’s hands to empower them to find their own perspectives. And that is what the new logo was meant to be. We did less of a re-design and more to return it to its original meaning and bringing Windows back to its roots – reimagining the Windows logo as just that – a window.

What should strike you most, however, is the Metro influence that makes itself instantly apparent in the logo. The Metro style design philosophy was born in Windows Phone, it was recently brought to Xbox, and soon it will take over the PC with Windows 8. The blocky and modern Metro look is one element that ties together all of Microsoft’s consumer offerings, and so it makes sense that it would be prominent in the logo for the company’s next OS.

[Via Windows Blog]

Google & Samsung reveal Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on October 18th, 2011

There was the Nexus One and Nexus S. Today in a joint event based in Hong Kong Google and Samsung announced the next Android flagship device: the Galaxy Nexus. Both the hardware and software that make up this smartphone will bring you to your knees. First, check out these hardware specifications. The Galaxy Nexus sports a giant 4.65″ (1280X720) HD Super AMOLED display and is powered by a 1.2GHz dual core processor and 1GB of RAM. There’s a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash, zero shutter lag, and 1080p HD video recording at 30fps around back and a 1.3 megapixel camera on the front for video calls. Built-in sensors include an accelerometer, compass, gyro, light, proximity, and a freakin’ barometer. Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 3.0 technologies are onboard, as is NFC. The sleek devices measures at 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94mm and weighs 135g. A Li-on 1,750 mAh battery comes attached. Ports include USB 2.0 and a 3.5mm headphone jack. Customers will have the option of 16GB and 32GB storage capacities. will HSPA+ and 4G LTE models will be produced with all signs pointing to AT&T and Verizon Wireless as official carriers, though this information along with pricing has yet to be announced.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the next Nexus phone will come loaded with the next generation Android OS dubbed Ice Cream Sandwich. Previously introduced and detailed at Google I/O earlier this year, ICS (now labeled Android 4.0) will merge Android’s smartphone OS Gingerbread (v2.3) and tablet OS Honeycomb (v3.0) to form “one OS everywhere” and bring the best of both worlds to smartphone devices. At the Hong Kong event Google further detailed ICS and shed light on some super cool functionality that’s baked into it. With Android 4.0, Google says “the lock screen, home screen, phone app, and everything in between has been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful, and useful.” The revamped OS brings with it many enhancements and new features, but there are four major ones that were discussed at today’s event. (1) Face Unlock uses facial recognition to unlock your phone. In Settings, Android will snap a picture of your face and remember it each time you go to unlock your phone. If lighting is poor, you can unlock your phone with a conventional swipe. (2) Android Beam uses NFC technology to wirelessly share content between two devices. Users can physically touch two phones together and tap a “beam” button to share web pages, apps, maps, YouTube videos, and more. Does this remind you of WebOS’ “tap-to-share” functionality? It should. (3) The enhanced Camera app brings with it a panorama mode, 1080p video capture, zero-shutter lag, and fun effects like silly faces and background replacement. Photos can be edited right on the device. (4) A new People app helps users organize their contacts with social network integration (Google+, “other social networks”) including the ability to view status updates and high-res photos. Other software updates coming with ICS include virtual on-screen buttons that take the place of physical capacitive ones, a new modern “Roboto” font, a customizable launcher, offline search in Gmail, accessing apps from the lock screen, enhanced voice recognition, tabbed browsing, and the ability to exit apps running in the background. If you want to learn more about what’s packed inside Ice Cream Sandwich, head over to the Android Developers website.

The Galaxy Nexus will be the very first device to run Android 4.0. Google says that “theoretically [Ice Cream Sandwich] should work for any [Android] 2.3 device.” Though there are no plans to rollout ICS to legacy Android devices just yet, you can expect Google and hardware manufacturers like Samsung and HTC to speak up about software updates for specific devices in the near future. The Galaxy Nexus with ICS goes on sale in the U.S., Europe, and Asia this November. Again, pricing and carriers are TBD. Check out the super sleek phone and OS in the gallery below, then find official PR after the break.


[Via GoogleBlog; AndroidDevelopers; GoogleNexus Engadget 1, 2] (Click here for more…)

Microsoft details Windows 8 at BUILD 2011 conference

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on September 15th, 2011

This week at its developer-focused BUILD conference in Los Angeles, Microsoft previewed Windows 8 in all its Metro glory and offered up new juicy details surrounding the upcoming sleek OS. Methinks they can be best presented in easily digestible bullet point format.

  • Windows 8 doesn’t require the latest and greatest and most powerful computer guts to run well. At the conference Microsoft’s President of Windows Steven Sinofsky (above) showed off a Lenevo S10 running Win8 without hiccup. The S10 is an ancient netbook released in 2008 with a single core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor and 1GB of RAM, mind you.
  • Sinofsky also showed off not-yet-released ultra thin-and-light notebooks running Win8 smoothly. These “ultrabooks” of the future will have no problem powering the OS.
  • Win8 will come baked with NFC support. Microsoft demoed a tap-to-share feature whereby users can physically tap a tablet running Win8 to another compatible device and share information between the two devices. Just like HP’s “touch-t0-share” functionality between the TouchPad and other WebOS devices.
  • Xbox Live is coming to Windows. The company promises that this new service will bring the console’s games, music, movies, and TV shows to Win8 devices. (Click here to watch a demo)
  • The Windows Store (Microsoft’s version of Apple’s Mac App Store) will sell both Metro-style and conventional Windows apps.
  • Metro apps can communicate with one another so long as the developer builds that functionality in. Microsoft offers this example: “You can easily select and email photos from different places, such as Facebook, Flickr or on your hard drive.”
  • Windows SkyDrive support allows users to access content in the cloud across various Win8 devices with a Microsoft account.
  • The company has given a name to the pane that houses Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings. A swipe from the right brings up those aforementioned “Charms.”
  • The new OS will offer three different ways of logging into your account: password, PIN, or picture password. That last one is definitely the most innovative; you can select a picture from your collection and you will be asked to setup three touch points. When you go to login simply touch the predetermined points and you’re in!
  • Expect much, much faster bootup times. Depending on the type of hardware, going from completely off to the login screen could take as short as 3-5 seconds.
  • The ability to refresh and reset the OS from scratch is a new feature. If for any reason your system becomes corrupted due to, say, a virus you can wipe it out but keep all your settings in tact with a feature called Refresh. If things get really bad or you’re just looking to start anew again, Reset makes it easy to restore your OS to its original factory settings.
  • Last but certainly not least I want to talk about the core of Windows 8. Microsoft continues to reiterate that the new Metro UI and its Live Tile apps is not a skin on top of the classic Windows 7-esque desktop. At the conference the company demoed how users will easily be able to switch back and forth between the new UI and what Windows enthusiasts are used to. Think of it like this. The traditional Windows desktop with Start menu and Quick Launch bar lives next to (not underneath or above) the new UI. To access it users will tap or click the “Desktop” square that lives among the apps that make up the Metro UI. Want to download and engage with new HTML5-based apps? Stay inside Metro. Need to pull up a spreadsheet in Excel? You’re probably going to want to switch into the classic Windows mode. Let’s hope that Microsoft eventually ports their Office suite to Metro like Apple built an iOS version of iWork. Once that happens, your eagerness to return to the dark ages will quickly begin to dwindle. Microsoft is firm in its belief that Metro is the future for their PCs and smartphones; don’t be surprised if one day they completely phase out the Windows interface of yesteryear.
  • Update: Microsoft has announced that the Internet Explorer 10 running in Metro will not support any plug-ins. And that includes Flash. But why? Because they claim it “improves battery life as well as security, reliability, and privacy for consumers.” Don’t fret, though; IE10 running in the classic Windows app will support plug-ins as usual. Though Flash maker Adobe says they are ready and willing to “drive innovation in HTML5,” they will also be working hard to enable Flash-based apps in Metro via Adobe AIR.

Windows 8 is expected to release in 2012. But what if I told you there’s a way to get your hands on Windows 8 right now? The Windows Developer Preview is out now! So for all you app-makers out there excited to start building apps for the Metro interface, don’t wait another minute and click that link. And for those of you who are interested in learning more about Microsoft’s next big thing, check out the Windows unveiled article posted back in June. Microsoft’s plan to integrate Windows 8 across all kinds of devices (desktops, laptops, ultrabooks, and tablets running x86 and efficient ARM processors) is discussed in more detail there and after the break in PR form.

[Via Engadget 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] (Click here for more…)

Fusion Garage tries again with Grid tablet, smartphone & OS

Posted in Images,News,Technology by Scott Meisner on August 16th, 2011

Chandra Rathakrishnan, CEO of Fusion Garage, hosted an intimate event yesterday afternoon to introduce a new tablet experience unto the world. The creator of the failed JooJoo tablet (2009) is back and hopes to regain consumer faith with his second attempt at creating a new kind of post-PC device. Rathakrishnan ran a lengthy and expensive viral marketing campaign leading up to yesterday’s unveiling; he invented the faux company TabCo (short for Tablet Company) and posted viral videos at the site WhoIsTabCo.com. The campaign had the public at large buzzing about who might be behind TabCo. Now that we know it’s Fusion Garage, journey downward to learn more about the forthcoming products and decide if the hype was worth it. (Click here for more…)

Mac OS X Lion releases tomorrow [Update: out now]

Posted in News,Technology by Scott Meisner on July 19th, 2011

Today Apple announced that their latest and greatest desktop OS will become available tomorrow, July 20. Mac OS X Lion (v10.7) will strictly be available for purchase in the Mac App Store; to reiterate, you will not be able to pick up a physical install disc in stores. The 4GB download costs $29.99. What a steal!

Read all about the new features baked into Lion HERE & HERE.

Update: Lion is out now. Offical PR is after the break. Some bits you should know: Lion requires an Intel-based Mac with a Core 2 Duo, i3, i5, i7 or Xeon processor and 2GB of RAM; Users who do not have broadband access can download Lion at Apple retail stores; and later this August, Lion will be made available on a USB thumb drive through the online Apple Store for $69. Also, Mac OS X Lion Server is now available for $69 through the Mac App Store. (Click here for more…)

Apple WWDC 2011: Lion, iOS 5, iCloud — all the details

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on June 6th, 2011

Today Apple brought the house down in San Fransisco’s Moscone Center where they previewed the latest versions of Mac OS X, iOS, and a new service called iCloud. Quote of the day comes from Apple CEO Steve Jobs who introduced the developer event with this: “If the hardware is the brain and the sinew of our products, the software in them is the soul.” The next-gen iPhone was nowhere to be found; today was all about the magical software that keeps Apple’s momentum chugging along at great pace. And now without further ado, let’s dive right in! It’s all after the break. (Click here for more…)

Windows 8 unveiled

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on June 1st, 2011

Today Microsoft unveiled the next version of Windows; internally it’s being appropriately referred to as Windows 8. Microsoft’s goal with this iterative update is to bring one unified Windows experience to all kinds of platforms, including desktops, laptops, ultraportables, netbooks, and tablets. Note that this approach is fundamentally different from Apple’s; that camp separates Mac OS X and iOS as two different experiences and user interfaces–one is built around keyboard and mouse implementation, while the other is tailor-made for touch input. Microsoft says that the next version of Windows is being built with both methods of input in mind.

Take a look at the new Start screen pictured above. The Metro theme from Windows Phone 7 and hints of Windows Media Center should instantly be recognized here. The new Start screen replaces the classic Windows Start menu and is populated with live tiles. The tiles work in a similar manner to what you’d find on a WP7 device; they are in fact live and with an Internet connection provided they will always show up-to-date information such as notifications for email and weather reports. The Start screen is where apps will live, including Internet Explorer 10 which will feature fully touch-optimized browsing. Microsoft is going to provide developers with tools and APIs to create apps that can properly live inside this new touch-based environment. Standard web technologies such as HTML5 and Javascript will be the primary tools to make the magic happen.

During the demonstration Microsoft did not dive all that deep into the flashy new UI but here are a few things to know. When you power up a Windows 8 device you’ll see a lock screen that provides the date and time and some notifications; the lock screen background can be customized. Swipe up and you’ll be brought to the Start screen we’ve been discussing. Microsoft describes this customizable space as a “personal mosaic of tiles.” Every app you install to your device will exist as a tile. Click Weather and the app opens full screen. Multitasking is seamless. When multiple apps are open at once, simply swipe from the left to push background apps into the foreground. Switching from the browser to videos to pictures is extremely fluid and fast. Apps can also run alongside each other. For example, if you’re watching a video and want to check on your Twitter feed, a subtle swipe from the left will snap your Twitter feed to the left pane so you can check it out and continue watching your video simultaneously. If you’re on a tablet or slate device a virtual keyboard will reveal itself when it’s needed. A standard keyboard can be replaced by a “thumbs layout” that splits the keyboard in two and makes it more ergonomically friendly for tablet users whose hands are grasping the device from the sides. Also, no matter where you are a swipe from the right will show a pane consisting of Search, Share, Start, Connect, and Settings.

Ready for an unfortunate surprise? The new interface discussed here is, at its core, an OS skin of sorts. The regular Windows desktop and file system you’re used to exists behind the flashy overhaul. During the demonstration Microsoft Excel was initiated from the tile experience and was instantly opened inside the traditional Windows experience–desktop, Start menu, taskbar and all. Since Windows 8 will be a hybrid experience consisting of the new touch-based UI and the traditional Windows interface there will be a divide when it comes to app development; devs will have the option to make an app for the new space, the old space, or both. What’s neat, however, is that “flashy” apps can run alongside “traditional” apps. For example, you can have a Word document open and swipe in from the left a Twitter or RSS feed at any time. Also demoed was the ability to explore app content from multiple locations within the OS. For example, pictures can be viewed from the local file system, connected networks, and other apps on the system. The thought of running two distinct UIs at the same time is a bit scary, but at least Microsoft is doing its best to tie them together effectively.

And now let’s bring things full circle. As stated earlier, Windows 8 is meant to bridge the gap between desktop and mobile device, to create one seamless and connected experience across multiple platforms. Whether you’re using a keyboard and mouse or your fingers the next Windows will work. Apps will be designed from the ground up to be touch-capable (as is the OS), but Microsoft reassures that traditional keyboard and mouse input will work just fine. The upcoming OS will work with both x86 and ARM processors; Microsoft has teamed with NVIDIA, TI, and Qualcomm so far on that front. The company promises that hundreds of millions of developers will already know how to develop for it by the time it releases. Speaking of which, don’t expect to see Windows 8 running on your machine anytime soon. First Microsoft has to teach developers how to make apps for the new UI; this will happen at their upcoming developer event BUILD this September in California. At that time more details surrounding the upcoming OS will likely come out. Obviously a solid release window has not been announced yet, let alone a final name for the product. Microsoft let on that consumers and businesses should not anticipate a fall release.

That about does it for now. Essentially today’s unveil was just that–Microsoft lifted the curtains to reveal the flashy aesthetic of its new OS and showed how brilliantly it performs on tiny ARM processors. Hang tight, September is just three months away! Go on and jump after the break to watch a brief demonstration of Windows 8.

[Via Microsoft] (Click here for more…)

Windows Phone Mango update to bring over 500 new features this fall

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on May 24th, 2011

Today Microsoft previewed the next major release of Windows Phone. Codenamed Mango, the update will bring more than 500 new features to the growing platform. It aims to make the mobile operating system “smarter and easier” by injecting new life into the communications, apps and Internet experiences. In order, shall we?

Communications: (1) Deeper social network integration: In addition to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now integrated into contact cards. (2) Threads: Now you can easily switch between SMS, Facebook chat and Windows Live Messenger within the same conversation. In other words, conversations can be had across various messaging platforms. For example, if you begin a conversation with friend at home over Facebook chat you can continue this conversation when you’re on the go via SMS and the back-and-forth banter will be streamlined in the same conversation window. (3) Groups: You can group contacts into personalized Live Tiles to see your friends’ latest status updates from the home screen and quickly send a text, email or IM to a whole group. For example, you can create a “family” group and store your parents and siblings inside a Live Tile. From there you can easily converse with them under one roof or check their social status updates. (4) Linked inbox: Now you can see multiple email accounts in one linked inbox. Also, email now supports threading and calendar Facebook events. (5) Hands-free messaging: Built-in voice-to-text and text-to-voice support enables hands-free texting or chatting. If you’re listening to music and receive a text the phone will read the incoming message aloud to you. Then you can speak a reply and the phone will convert your speech into text and send it off.

Apps: (1) Multitasking: It’s been a long time coming–with Mango you can quickly switch between apps in use and allow apps to run in the background. (2) Improved Live Tiles: Live Tiles pinned to the home screen can hold more information and allow you to get real-time information from apps without having to open them. For example, if there’s an HDTV you’ve been saving up for you pin a Best Buy product page to your home screen and it will live there as a dynamic Live Tile. Instead of just sitting there as a simple bookmark, the Live Tile will animate and inform you when the TV is in stock and how far away it is for pickup. (3) App Connect: Apps can be tied tightly together to search results and Hubs to make for a smarter and more intuitive experience. For example with Bing Vision (more on this below) you can scan a book, see information about it, and with a single tap jump into the Amazon Kindle Store and purchase the book there and start reading.

Internet: (1) Internet Explorer 9: The updated browser supports HTML5 and full hardware acceleration. Unfortunately Flash and Silverlight support still isn’t here yet. (2) Local Scout: This new integrated service provides “hyperlocal search results” and recommends nearby restaurants, shopping and activities in an easy-to-use guide. When you enter Bing search, you can click the new Scout icon, the phone will automatically determine your location, and then it will provide you with information directly related to where you are instantly. Data is separated into the following categories: eat+drink, see+do, shop, favorites, and highlights. (3) Bing Vision: Also in Bing search you will find the icon for Bing Vision, another new integrated experience that allows you to capture a tangible product and get more information about it. It’s like Google Goggles, but it’s limited to barcodes, QR codes, book, DVD, and music covers. What’s neat is that the decoding process is nearly instant. Once you’re inside Bing Vision, the phone’s camera is turned on and all you have to do is point it at a product and results are revealed (pricing, availability, and relevant apps to learn more about the product at hand). (4) Quick Cards: When searching for a product, movie, event or place in the browser, you will see a quick summary of relevant information, including related apps, presented to you. For example, if you search “Pirates of the Caribbean” you will be presented with movie times at local theatres, plot synopsis, a means to purchase tickets, etc.

With Mango Microsoft plans to expand the Windows Phone ecosystem through new partnerships with Acer, Fujitsu, and ZTE and support for additional languages. The following handset manufacturers are confirmed to deploy Mango devices: in addition to the aforementioned new partnerships, Samsung, LG, HTC, and Nokia. That’s right, the first batch of Nokia phones following Microsoft’s strategic alliance with the Finnish company will run the Mango update. Developers will soon be able to get their inventive hands on the free Windows Phone Developer tools featuring Mango (within the next 24 hours, Microsoft promises). And when can consumers expect to see the update hit their Windows Phones? It pains me to say that Microsoft plans to unleash Mango as an over-the-air update this fall. Why the dreadful wait? Beats me. At least fragmentation is being avoided. Microsoft says that all existing Windows Phone 7 devices will receive the update in due time, and all future handsets will come loaded with the latest version on board.

Jump after the break to watch Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore demonstrate a bunch of the new features described here. As exciting and forward-looking as they may be, the wait until autumn is a wrench in the system. By the time Mango is released who knows what kind of magical dust will be spewing from Apple’s latest creation that will be iOS5.

Update: A curious commenter asked about copy and paste functionality. This long-awaited feature was added to Windows Phone 7 back in late March under the update codenamed NoDo. It goes without saying that it will carry over to all devices that receive the Mango upgrade.

[Via Microsoft] (Click here for more…)

Google I/O 2011: Music Beta, Android Ice Cream Sandwich, Android@Home, Chrome OS, Chrome Web Store

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on May 11th, 2011

Yesterday and today Google hosted its renowned developer’s conference dubbed Google I/O 2011. Literally thousands of developers flocked to San Fransisco’s Moscone Center to find out what Google’s been cooking up on their end. This year’s event proved to be leaps and bounds more exciting than last year’s conference. Google introduced their new cloud-based music service called Music Beta; they unveiled Ice Cream Sandwich, the next version of Android that promises to bridge the gap between Gingerbread and Honeycomb; Android is going into the home automation business with Google’s impressive initiative Android@Home; Chrome OS is finally ready for the big leagues–Samsung and Acer are prepping Chromebooks for mass consumption; and Angry Birds has landed in the browser!

So much to discuss–it’s all a hop, skip and a jump after the break. (Click here for more…)

HP introduces three new WebOS devices: Veer, Pre3, and TouchPad

Posted in Images,News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on February 11th, 2011

This week HP introduced three brand new WebOS-enabled devices: two smartphones and a tablet. After gobbling Palm last March, HP has worked very closely with WebOS engineer Job Rubinstein to create innovative new products powered by the mobile and ubiquitously-connected operating system. At HP’s “Think Beyond” event they formally introduced the tiny yet powerful Veer, the next generation Pre3, and the very first tablet to run WebOS, the TouchPad.

HP Veer: The Veer is an extremely small smartphone. At just 54.5mm x 84.0mm x 15.1mm and only 103 grams, it’s about the size of a credit card and slimmer than a deck of cards. Rubinstein described the Veer like this: “The power of a large phone in a compact size.” So let’s see what this tiny beast packs inside. It features a 2.57-inch (320×400) glass touch display, an 800MHz Snapdragon processor, 5 megapixel camera, full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, built-in GPS, WiFi 802.11b/g, and Bluetooth, 8GB of storage, accelerometer, proximity, and light sensors, Adobe Flash Player support, it can act as a mobile hotspot supporting up to 5 WiFi-capable devices, HSPA+, one USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. The Veer will be available in early spring. (It’s being reported that the Veer is too slim to feature actual microUSB and headphone ports, so users will be forced to attach bundled adapters to access those ports.)

(Click here for more…)

Google sheds light on Honeycomb, intros Android Market Web Store and teases in-app purchases

Posted in News,Technology,Video by Scott Meisner on February 5th, 2011

This week Google held a brief Android-themed event where they highlighted elements of the tablet-specific Honeycomb UI, introduced the Android Market Web Store, and previewed Android Market in-app purchasing. Hop after the break for all the details. (Click here for more…)