Microsoft has announced that it’s wrapped up Windows 8 and declared that the operating system has met the “release to manufacturing” (RTM) milestone.
RTM is a major mark in Microsoft’s development process. It signals that the completed code is ready to send to computer makers, other hardware partners who need to test their device drivers and software, and to outside developers working on compatible programs.
Developers and IT professionals who subscribe to MSDN (Microsoft Developers Network) will be able to download the new operating system starting Aug. 15. TechNet subscribers can download a trial of Windows 8 RTM that same day.
Firms with volume licensing deals but no Software Assurance can purchase the new OS beginning Sept. 1.
Others, including consumers who have installed the Windows 8 Release Preview, will have to wait. The preview expires Jan. 15, 2013
“At launch, the store needs at least 5000 very-high-quality Metro apps,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. “Otherwise, Microsoft will have an extremely hard time, if not an impossible time, selling a Windows 8- or Windows RT-based tablet.”
Moorhead said he was “concerned” that Microsoft would not meet his minimal benchmark, noting that in nearly a year — the company first unveiled Windows 8 and developer tools in September 2011 – the store has accumulated only a couple hundred apps. “If we map where they’re at against where Apple and Android were at at the same point, they were well ahead of where Microsoft is now,” Moorhead said.
new mice and keyboards are wireless and connect to devices using Bluetooth, cutting the dependence on USB ports.
Microsoft’s new mice and keyboard will be released around the time of the Windows 8 launch, Microsoft said in a statement.
The $79.95 Microsoft Wedge Mobile Keyboard is a full-size keyboard designed for tablet users,It uses Bluetooth to communicate and comes with a cover that when used turns off the keyboard to increase battery life. The cover can be used as a tablet stand, as well.
The $49.95 Microsoft Sculpt Mobile Keyboard, has a six-degree curve, much like Microsoft’s ergonomic keyboards offers 10 months of battery life on active usage.
The Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse, also priced at $49.95, has a four-way touch scroll strip, which makes it easier to navigate through the Windows 8 start screen. By swiping the finger on the panel, users can easily navigate through multiple panels on the Start screen. The mouse also enables easier navigation through documents. Similarly, the $79.95 Microsoft Touch Mouse incorporates finger swipes and movements to navigate screens, switch applications or zoom in and out.
The $69.95 Microsoft Wedge Touch Mouse can shut down when a tablet goes into sleep mode, extending the battery life of the mouse.
The new keyboards and mice are also compatible with Windows 7, Vista and Mac OS, though some advanced features may not work, according to Microsoft.
Microsoft Surface tablets will go on sale on Oct. 26, the same day that Windows 8 becomes available, the company disclosed in a 10-K reportfiled on July 26 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Pricing for the Surface tablets, which run Windows 8 or Windows RT, wasn’t disclossed.
Microsoft didn’t respond to a request for comment on the 10-K report or its tablet pricing plans on Monday.
In the 10-K filing, Microsoft also acknowledged that it risks alienating its computer manufacturing partners with the launch of its Surface devices.
The price of Microsoft’s Surface tablet has leaked online, with a Swedish retailer listing the cost on its website.
Microsoft’s 32GB Windows RT model will reportedly retail for around $A977 – a lower price point than the comparable laptop/tablet hybrid Asus Transformer Pad Infinity ($A999).
According to Swedish online retailer webhallen.com, the top end 128GB Windows 8 hybrid device will sell for around $A2097.
It is unclear whether the listed prices include the attachable keyboard.
Microsoft is yet to comment on the leaked price list.
More than 1 million people had registered with the new Outlook.com email service on opening day, Microsoft said yesterday.
The 1 million represents 0.3% of the 324 million who used Hotmail in June
Microsoft may have aimed Outlook.com at its rival Google, which has an estimated 277 active million users of its Gmail service, but the service is essentially a major refresh of Hotmail, which will be retired at some point.
Microsoft acquired Hotmail in 1997, a year after its debut, for a reported $400 million, but has been unable to shake its reputation as a spam-ridden, entry-level service.
Users will be able to pin a live tail to the home screen of the app, which is a functionality that exists on the Windows platform but doesn’t exist on others, NAB said
For example, using the exchange rates calculator, users can pin a currency conversion rate to their home screen and have it automatically update a couple times per hour.
NAB said customer requests was the main reason for its interest in developing a Windows Phone app.
IDC has projected that shipments of Windows Phone will displace Apple iOS to become the number two OS running smartphones in 2016, with Nokia, which is making Windows Phone-based devices, seen to be as strong in emerging markets.
National Australia Bank has registered 2.1 million transactions from mobile browsers and apps in July at a value of about $1.5 billion
Google has invited aspiring Australian cartographers to map their country on Google Maps. The popular search firm today opened Google Map Maker in Australia.
The tool lets users add places or roads to Google Maps and Google Earth, subject to approval. Users can also review contributions by other mappers can watch others map in real-time.
Samsung has unveiled a mobile music service, called Music Hub, that will initially run on its Galaxy S III smartphone. However, it is only available for some US carriers at the moment.
The Music Hub service is based on technology Samsung gained in its recent acquisition of mSpot.
Users can access the Music Hub service through the Samsung App Store or Google Play.
The Google+ Hangout feature, which allows users to video chat with up to nine people, replaces Gmail’s older peer-to-peer video chat feature.
“You’ll be able to chat with all the same people you did before and, in fact, with Hangouts you’ll now be able to reach them not only when they are using Gmail but also if they are on Google+ in the browser or on their Android or iOS devices,” Brewin added.
Google Monday began a gradual rollout of Hangouts for Gmail to users of the hosted email service, Brewin said.
The new service will also allow multiple Gmail users to view YouTube videos together, collaborate on Google documents and share their screen view, he added.
Optus has launched 4G business services to Sydney and Perth, with Melbourne to join the 4G network in August this year.
Small businesses, enterprises and government organisations will be able to access the company’s 4G network via Wi-Fi hotspots and USB mobile broadband on dual mode 4G/3G HSPA technology
Optus would not reveal exactly when it was releasing consumer plans on the 4G network, but said it would make an announcement soon
New apps from Telstra allow customers to manage their accounts on Facebook or an iPhone or Android device.
The Telstra 24×7 Facebook app lets customers monitor usage, track bills and access customer support, without logging on to Telstra.com. Telstra said its staff would respond to Facebook posts “within the hour.”
The Telstra 24×7 iPhone and Android apps provide customers access to usage, bills and support — including Live Chat, Twitter, Facebook and the customer forum CrowdSupport. The apps are free and available to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
The mobile apps display current and past bills, and allow users to pay bills through their mobile device and manage their email bill delivery settings. Users can view estimated usage for their mobile or “selected” BigPond broadband plans. The apps can also locate the nearest Telstra store and 24/7 online support.
Apple announced Monday that its OS X Mountain Lion software has topped 3 million downloads in just four days, the fastest sales start ever for one of its OS X releases.
Apple’s Asia-Pacific operation was the company’s second worst-performing business worldwide, coming in above last-place Europe in its third-quarter results.
Apple posted a 25 percent increase in net sales for its Asia-Pacific segment for its third quarter ending June 30, to $US7.9 billion compared to $US6.3 billion in third quarter 2011.
The result was the second lowest for Apple globally, ahead of Europe’s 16 percent growth to $8.2 billion.
Analysts have predicted Apple’s share price could rise to over $US1000 ($A962) per share in just two years.
Following the company’s third-quarter earnings release, which saw it reveal net profit of $A8.4 billion and an increased cash pile of $A112bn, various analysts have predicted Apple’s share price, currently sitting at $574, could double by 2014.
Apple’s shares fell 5 percent after releasing its figures. While the company’s net income was up $A1.4 billion on the year-ago quarter, the results fell short of analyst estimates.
Apple reported revenue of $A33 billion, lower than the expected $A35.8billion.
Google has sent its recently announced media-streaming device back to the drawing board following a series of critical reviews.
The firm unveiled the Nexus Q at its developers conference.
The $300 (£192) gadget was designed to be plugged into a stereo and television to play media files.
Tech websites had criticised its price and the fact it relied on a connection to at least one other Android-based devices to be of use.
The “made-in-US” gadget had only been offered to customers in that country.
Customers who had ordered a copy have been told they would receive one free of charge, while Google’s order page now states that the machine “is coming soon”.
was significantly more expensive than alternative products from Apple, Roku, Sonos and others.
Unlike its rivals products it also relied on another Android device to act as a remote control in order to access files via Google’s Play Music, Play Video and YouTube apps.
This was despite the fact the actual data was being streamed via the internet from Google’s servers rather than directly from the Android devices themselves.
A French t-shirt supplier company that has trademarked the logo and slogan of Anonymous “will not go unpunished”, the hacking collective has said.
Paris-based Early Flicker registered the distinctive image of a headless suited figure for use in France.
It also registered the phrase: “We are Anonymous, We do not forgive, We do not forget. Expect us.”
In a YouTube video, Anonymous said it “will take down any business they have going on the internet”.
“The name of Anonymous will not be the whore of the world.”
Websites geoblocking Australian shoppers ‘warrant scrutiny’
GLOBAL retail websites are blocking Australian consumers from cheaper overseas prices using out-of-date laws that should be reviewed, a peak tech industry body says.
The practice known as “geoblocking” works by detecting a customer’s geographical location through their web IP address and locking them into an Australian – or country specific – version of the site.
Australian Information Industry Association chief Suzanne Campbell, who represents brands that geoblock including Apple and Adobe, told a parliamentary inquiry into IT price discrimination yesterday that it “definitely warrants scrutiny”.
“These arrangements are legacies from other times when we were seeking to protect Australian content,” Ms Campbell said.
Consumer group Choice told the inquiry geoblocking was anti-competitive when it meant significant price differences for Australian consumers.
Choice pointed to Apple’s iTunes store and gaming retailer steampowered.com as examples of geoblocking that disadvantaged consumers.
Some games on steampowered.com’s Australian site are more than four times more expensive than the US version.
Australia sells Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 for $89.99, Shift 2 Unleashed for $79.99 and Lord of the Rings: War in the North for $73.99.
All these titles cost $US19.99 ($18.99) at the retailer’s US store.
IT retailers are not the only ones under scrutiny, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission investigating the practice of geoblocking in the clothing retail sector to determine if it is anti-competitive.
The watchdog launched the investigation after receiving complaints that some Australian fashion retailers were striking deals with overseas websites to charge Australians more or block them from buying certain brands.
iPhone 5 will launch on September 12 – report
THE iPhone 5 will be released not on August 7 but on September 12, according to the latest on the rumour mill.
Tech website iMore claims “sources that have proven accurate in the past” say that Apple will unveil both the next-generation iPhone and iPad mini on September 12.
iMore has a strong track record in successfully predicting Apple release dates. The website correctly reported the release date for the new iPad (March 7) and pre-order dates for the iPhone 4S.
Meanwhile Apple shares shot through the roof after the news of the unconfirmed iPhone release date made its way online.
So what will the new iPhone 5 look like? Last Saturday a Japanese website reported that it had assembled the phone using leaked parts. At a predicted four inches, the iPhone 5 is likely to be longer than the existing iPhone.
It is almost certainly not going to be called the iPhone 5. It also seems to be two tone in colour, with a smaller charging port than existing Apple products.
Microsoft’s new Hotmail: the best reason yet to ditch Gmail
Two years ago, Microsoft attempted to transform Hotmail, its ancient webmail service, into a program fit for modern times. The company put a great deal of thought into redesigning the site from top to bottom, and I loved the result — I thought the then-new Hotmail was as easy and pleasant to use as Google’s Gmail, which I’ve long regarded as the best email system on the planet.
Hotmail even had some features that Google’s venerable emailer lacked, like a preview pane to see your inbox and read messages on the same screen and a one-click filtering system called “Sweep”. Hotmail’s only problem was that it was chock full of animated graphical ads, which I found far more distracting than Gmail’s innocuous text-only ads. “If Hotmail switches to text ads, I’d seriously consider ditching Gmail,” I wrote.
I wish I could tell you that my rave review sparked renewed worldwide interest in Hotmail. It didn’t. By virtue of its age (it was launched in 1996), Hotmail still has hundreds of millions of users around the world, but it’s not growing nearly as fast as Gmail. This isn’t surprising. The problem with Hotmail isn’t how it works, it’s the service’s digital standing. A hotmail.com email address long ago became a mark of naiveté, an address for grandmas and other schemers. Telling people to contact you at Hotmail was an invitation for ridicule — the internet equivalent of wearing a Kick Me sign.
That’s why Microsoft is making a clean break with Hotmail. Today it is launching a new web email service that carries a new design, and — Microsoft hopes — a new grown-up, not-so-embarrassing brand image. The new service does have an old name, but one that
Microsoft believes elicits far better associations than Hotmail: it’s called Outlook, matching Microsoft’s widely used corporate desktop email and calendar program. But the new Outlook web service looks nothing like Outlook on the desktop, and while Microsoft says the two work well together, you don’t need to use the paid software to use the website.
Starting this week, anyone can sign up for an outlook.com email address. If you’ve got a Hotmail address, nothing will change for you right now, but at some point in the future, Hotmail users will be moved over to the new Outlook interface. (They will be able to keep their old Hotmail addresses, though.)
“We want to signal the right thing — that this is fundamentally new,” says Brian Hall, who runs Microsoft’s webmail services. “If we’d called it Hotmail Version 2, does that signal that? No. Not to mention, Hotmail doesn’t mean ‘Mail from Microsoft’. Outlook does. So we thought, let’s not maintain this schism between professional-quality stuff and stuff we give away online for free. We figured we’ve got one great brand that means ‘Mail from Microsoft’, and that’s Outlook.”
It’s debatable whether people will immediately take to the new name — Outlook has its own checkered history of email annoyances. (My Slate colleagues use Outlook, and they’re constantly complaining about the difficulty of accessing their email on the go; the IT people say that the company will be upgraded to the new Outlook webmail service later this year.) But after using it for a week, I think the new Outlook online service can make a name for itself as a worthy rival to Gmail.
In fact, other than Gmail power users, most people will likely find Outlook easier to use — and more enjoyable — than Google’s now aging email service. There are a couple reasons for this. First, Outlook is gorgeous — it’s the best-designed web email service I’ve ever seen. Second, Microsoft has finally done away with graphical ads, and the text ads that remain are less intrusive than Gmail’s.
Let’s talk about looks. When Gmail launched in 2004, it had a simple, minimalist aesthetic, but it has grown increasingly cluttered and confusing. Like a lot of other users, I hated Google’s latest redesign, which — depending on the settings you choose — either fills up the page with too much whitespace, leaving little room for your messages, or scrunches up your messages so closely that they become hard to read. Gmail’s biggest design problem is that it wastes the top few inches of your page.
That area is devoted to marketing Google’s other products (especially Google+); has a dedicated line for ads; and then, next to the search box, includes miles and miles of empty space. On small displays, all that waste is tragic. The top band takes up so much room that could otherwise be devoted to your mail, which means you’ve got to keep scrolling and scrolling to get stuff done.
The new Outlook is refreshingly frugal with your screen real estate. In describing it, Hall kept using the word “clean”, and I think that’s right — Outlook looks like what you’d end up with if you started with Gmail and scrubbed it of all unnecessary elements. It has a single bar on the top of the page for navigational buttons. The left rail has a search box and links to your mail folders. The right rail is devoted to advertising. The rest of the space is for your messages — and you’ll see a lot more messages than you do on Gmail.
Outlook’s approach to advertising is also refreshing. As with Gmail, the ads here are small, text-based, and never distracting. Outlook displays more of these ads on its front page than Gmail does (though since they’re on the right rail, the space they take up isn’t valuable) — but when you click on an email to read it, Outlook is more deliberate about where it displays ads and where it doesn’t. The system will show you “relevant” ads alongside newsletters and other mail from companies, but when you click on messages from real people — your mum, your colleague, your boss — Outlook will not display any advertising. (Outlook does seem to have a problem separating real people from companies; on some messages from strangers, the system did display ads).
Microsoft says the lack of ads on personal mail is a big privacy advantage over Gmail, which uses algorithms to scan your mail and shows you related ads alongside every message.
In most ways, whether you prefer Outlook or Gmail will come down to a matter of taste and what you’re comfortable with. Objectively, they’re both very good emailers. If you appreciate good design and you’re weary of Google’s privacy policies, the new Outlook might be just up your alley.
Farhad Manjoo is Slate’s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society.
Apple seeks sanctions against Samsung
The technology giant is seeking emergency sanctions against rival smartphone maker Samsung after the latter released documents to the press following an exclusion from court.
A letter addressed to judge Lucy Koh, who is overseeing the high-profile case, explains why Samsung chose to leak the excluded documents to specific media outlets. Filed by John B. Quinn of Samsung’s law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan yesterday, Apple’s legal team found its explanation to be unsatisfactory.
In response, Lee wrote:
“Mr. Quinn’s declaration does not adress two of the Court’s questions: who drafted the statement and who released it. Samsung’s multiple references to the jury in its statement make plain its intent that the jurors in our case learn of arguments the Court has excluded through the press.”
“This deliberate attempt to influence the trial with inadmissible evidence is both improper and unethical.”
That, naturally, is not the end of the matter. Apple is planning to file “emergency motion for sanctions” as well as “other relief that may be appropriate.” In other words, the technology giant doesn’t plan to let Samsung get away with it.
The evidence in question? In addition to internal emails that suggested Apple’s iPhone designs were based on ideas gleaned from Sony products, the South Korean company wanted to submit data on its F700 smartphone design, which predates the iPhone. In a statement released to CNET, Samsung stated that “excluded evidence would have established beyond doubt that Samsung did not copy the iPhone design.”
After being excluded, the company took the issue into its own hands, releasing the evidence with an accompanying statement to the press.
Now the jury has been chosen and evidence has been debated and on occasion excluded, the trial will resume on Friday with the continued testimony of Apple SVP Phil Schiller. The patent infringement battle between the companies is based on both accusing the other of violating design and technology patents.
Apple is seeking $2.5 billion in financial damages.
Hackers Use Stolen Passwords to Jimmy Into Dropbox
By Richard Adhikari
The habit of using the same username and password combination for multiple sites has come around to bite Dropbox and its users. Network intruders who came into the possession of name/password combos from other sites, tried them out on Dropbox and were able to break into many users’ accounts — including the account of a Dropbox employee, which led to a deluge of spam.
Dropbox says reused passwords are to blame for a wave of spam that’s hitting subscribers to the service.
The company found that usernames and passwords recently stolen from other websites were used to sign in to some Dropbox accounts. One of these accounts belonged to a Dropbox employee, and it contained a project document with some users’ email addresses.
This improper access led to the spamming of many users, Dropbox said.
The company has taken various steps to improve security, including the coming introduction of two-factor authentication.
“The downside of not having more rigorous access controls in place around sensitive data is that they can be compromised,” Todd Thiemann, senior director of product marketing at Vormetric, told TechNewsWorld. “Dropbox appears to have learned that the hard way.”
Bless My Soul, What’s Wrong With Me?
Some Dropbox customers began complaining about being spammed back in mid-July.
The company called in external investigators to look into the matter, and on Tuesday it said the situation was most likely attributable to usernames and passwords employed by its subscribers across multiple sites.
It has contacted customers whose accounts had been hijacked and helped them protect their accounts.
“Given [Dropbox’s] poor track record when it comes to security, I was floored” by the company’s statement about contacting users whose accounts had been hijacked, said Rob Sobers, technical marketing manager at Varonis.
“They are assuming they know exactly which accounts were compromised,” Sobers told TechNewsWorld. “What about the accounts whose passwords might have been stolen but haven’t been breached yet?”
iTunes vs. Amazon: What’s the best video service on the iPad?
With the launch of Amazon’s Instant Video iPad app, Amazon Instant Video could be on the precipice of an even bigger coming-out party. Could it be ready to overtake iTunes? Let’s take a look.
The future of TV, movies and home entertainment feels like it’s changing by the day, thanks to the impact of the digital revolution. Netflix is the top dog thanks to its $8 subscription streaming service, but your viewing choices are severely limited. For a la carte, pay-as-you-go services, Apple’s iTunes has been the default choice for many when it comes to buying, renting, and viewing videos. Splitting the difference was Amazon’s Instant Video: it offers a diverse library of pay-per-view TV shows and movies, plus a subset of “free” content for subscribers to the company’s $79 per year Amazon Prime service. But until recently, its lack of availability on most mobile platforms has been a drawback.
Now, however, Amazon Instant Video is available on the iPad. That’s in addition to its presence on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Roku, and many other home video and TV products. Now that Amazon Instant is on the world’s most popular tablet, is it a more effective rival to iTunes? There are a number of differences and advantages to each service, but Amazon has definitely closed the gap more than ever before.
It’s hard to keep count of how much content lives on various video stores, but Amazon’s Instant Video store has all the major studios and networks just like Apple does. Even so, availability of content is a mixed and mysterious bag, as it is with most online video stores these days. Certain titles appear on iTunes but not on Amazon, and vice versa.
I searched for the films of David Cronenberg and David Lynch (always a test I like to run because their catalogs are hard to come by), and found 9 Cronenberg movies on Amazon Video, and 10 on iTunes. (all were the same except for “Existenz,” which was iTunes-only). I found 5 films directed by David Lynch on both services, but, oddly, one movie was exclusive to each: “Eraserhead” was on iTunes, and “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” was on Amazon.
This is hardly a scientific test, but it’s a small window of how the search for most online video these days, even purchased or rented content, is hit-or-miss at best for back-catalog entertainment.
Meanwhile, TV content on Amazon and iTunes has normalized, for the most part. Most TV shows are available on both services.
Bottom line: Too close to call. Both services offer plenty of movies and shows, but have holes in their back catalogs: check through both yourself to see what’s available and missing.
iTunes: Movies are available to rent or buy, while TV shows can only be purchased. Apple charges up for HD versions: up to $4.99 per rental for movies, and anywhere from $14.99 to $19.99 for HD movie purchases (with occasional sales at $9.99). Selecting the cheaper “SD” (standard definition) version requires an extra click, and isn’t clear or intuitive to the average person. TV episodes work out at about $1.99 an episode for SD and $2.99 for HD, and full-season purchases are offered at a slight discount.
Amazon: So far as we know, TV and movie studios set the prices on their content, so most Apple and Amazon pricing should be identical. But Amazon seems to offer lower prices on many titles, presumably eating the difference as an inducement to get more business. Amazon also only offers movies in HD, so there’s a one-size-fits-all price for rentals or sales. Rentals range from 99 cents to $3.99, and movie purchases tend to range from $9.99 to $14.99, but you’ll occasionally see discounts down to as low as $4.99. Most TV episodes cost the same as they do on iTunes. There’s also, of course, Amazon Prime, a Netflix-like subscription that offers up a package of free streaming movie and TV content for customers of Amazon’s $79-a-year Prime service (which also entitles you to 2-day delivery of goods with free shipping). The amount of “free” Prime content isn’t as large as what you’ll find on Netflix, but there’s more content than you think. And while most of the Prime content is a subset of Netflix’s offering, Amazon has ramped up some exclusives, including many Paramount movies and (for the next few weeks, at least) shows like “Fringe” and “The West Wing.”
Bottom line: Amazon tends to offer less expensive movie rentals and purchases, and it’s hard to beat Amazon Prime’s offerings unless you have Netflix.