All posts by Manan Kakkar

Manan is a technology enthusiast keenly following the consumer products from Microsoft, Google & Apple.

Apple Wants 8 Samsung Devices Banned In The US

The biggest news coming out last week was Apple’s landslide win against Samsung in their patent trial. As jurors speak out and people go through the ruling, doubts have started cropping up. For one, the jury seems to have discarded any prior art claims from Samsung which was a major part of Samsung’s defense. The jurors also fined Samsung for Galaxy Tab which they found not to be violating any patents. Prima facie, it appears the jury was dependent on the “patent applicant” juror; poor call. No other court has given Apple a similar victory which only points to the Jobs Reality Field.

Anyhow.

Following the victory, Apple lawyers are taking their next step according to Bloomberg. In a developing story, Apple wants a ban on 8 Samsung devices:

  1. Samsung S 4G
  2. Samsung S2 (on AT&T, T-Mobile)
  3. Samsung Skyrocket
  4. Droid Charge
  5. Galazy Prevail
  6. Galaxy S Showcase
  7. Samsung S2 Epic 4G

More details as we get them.

Update: According to Bloomberg, Judge Koh is expected to follow up on this injunction around September 20th.

Microsoft’s Modern Logo

Those following Microsoft know 2012 is probably Microsoft’s biggest year with the company updating pretty much their entire product range. In addition to new features, Microsoft is giving the products a cohesive face lift. Previously known as Metro, the UI has spread like a virus within the company and is now part of all the products.

One of the major changes with Windows 8 was the product’s new logo. The 4 colors that have become popular due to Windows have been replaced with a single Blue color. Similarly, Office has a new logo too. (Personally, I find the Office logo way cooler than the Windows 8 logo.) Today, Microsoft has unveiled their new brand identity. After 25 years, Microsoft has a new logo:

A few thoughts on the logo:

  • It’s Metro
  • This is the first time Microsoft has the iconic Windows flag as part of the logo (previously it was always just the word Microsoft)
  • As Abhishek Baxi points out, Microsoft gets the 4 colors while Windows is a single color
  • Oddly, the Microsoft logo is a square facing front, Xbox is a circle facing front while Windows and Office are squares facing left
  • The 4 colors seem to have been dulled down, they just don’t seem that bright

The logo is simple and the 4 colors that have been synonymous with Microsoft, given that it makes a lot of sense for Microsoft to adopt it. And giving it the Metro Modern treatment signifies the new look of all Microsoft products.

Janet Tu at Seattle Times broke the story.

The $199 Surface and Windows 8 RT OEMs

Microsoft’s entry into computer hardware has changed the game. The move has seen reactions across the spectrum, from excitement to about time to are they insane. The decision is very interesting for the simple reason that Microsoft will be competing with the strength of the Windows ecosystem—the OEM partners.

While Microsoft has been rather quite about the Surface and Windows 8 RT, the company’s VP for Ecosystem and Planning team penned down an article detailing the progress made by Microsoft and its hardware partners. Most of the article is information we already know rolled into one, however, the highlights are:

  • Dell, Lenovo, Samsung & Asus will be introducing Windows 8 RT tablets
  • Windows 8 RT battery life:
    • HD Video Playback—8 hours to 13 hours
    • Connected Standby—320 hours to 409 hours
    • Weight—520g to 1200g (iPad is 662g)

Toshiba’s omission from the list of WIndows RT OEM partners caught the attention of several Microsoft reporters and as it turns out, the company blames delays in obtaining parts.

Adding to the Windows 8 RT news, Engadget cited an anonymous source and claimed Microsoft’s Surface tablet’s starting price will be as low as $199. The rumor got several thinking about how this could be possible. One theory doing rounds is Microsoft will offer the Surface at a subsidy with subscriptions to Xbox Music, Office 365 as a way to lock the user into Microsoft’s ecosystem and make up for the drastically low Surface price.

The Surface will be available only through the Microsoft Store and the company already has this subscription-based low-cost model implemented for the Xbox 360—another Microsoft Store exclusive.

Given the Nexus 7’s $199 price-tag and Apple’s inevitable iPad Mini or iPad Air, offering Surface at this insane price of $199 might help Microsoft move these tablets into the market while the OEM partners do their best.

Windows 8 Now Available for MSDN/Technet Subscribers

Earlier this month when Microsoft made Windows 8 available to hardware partners they announced 15th August would be when some end users can get their hands on the final version of Microsoft’s latest & greatest. MSDN and TechNet are two subscriptions offered by Microsoft with TechNet focused towards the IT crowd and MSDN targeted at developers. The subscriptions give enthusiasts and people vested in the Microsoft ecosystem early access to Microsoft at huge discounts.

Over the years TechNet & MSDN have become economical means of getting legal copies of Windows, (at one point subscribers had 10 keys with 5 activations). Unfortunately, Microsoft wasn’t too pleased since these keys could be resold. The ToS for MSDN/TechNet say the builds/keys can’t be used in a production environment legally and they have drastically reduced the number of keys available for a user. Anyhow, for enthusiasts, TechNet/MSDN are still the best bet to get early access to Microsoft products, legally.

Starting today, MSDN/TechNet subscribers can download Windows 8 and Windows 8 Enterprise:

We will share a first look in the coming days.

Better Open Office Support and Skydrive Android App Shown

Yesterday Microsoft pushed a major UI upgrade for SkyDrive. Among some improvements and a Metro modern interface, the SkyDrive team showed screenshots of the SkyDrive Android app. The app isn’t available just yet but the cross-platform support for SkyDrive makes the service a stronger competitor to popular Dropbox, and Google Drive.

The screenshots shared by the SkyDrive team show that Microsoft has brought Metro modern SkyDrive interface while conforming to Android’s design elements, like they did with iOS. Here are the screenshots shared by Microsoft:

According to Gartner, Android makes up for 64% of the smartphone market with Samsung being the most popular vendor. Given the scale of iOS and Android, SkyDrive being available on both platforms is probably one of Microsoft’s smarter decision for SkyDrive’s future.

In addition to the Android app, the modern SkyDrive has an option that should make several open source enthusiasts happy. Under SkyDrive settings, Microsoft allows users to toggle the default Office file format. The options available are:

  • Microsoft Office’s .docx, .pptx, .xlsx
  • Open Document’s .odt, .odp, .ods

When looked along with cross-platform support, making this option prominent is a bold step for Microsoft. Not only does this expose users to an alternative, it also lets a lot of users escape Microsoft’s ecosystem. The Office suite has helped Microsoft’s bottom line and giving users the option to switch is a dicy situation. Nonetheless, the option makes SkyDrive a very interesting option for all users given the new & improved Office Web Apps.

Modern SkyDrive Available, Complements Modern Outlook, and it’s Awesome

The SkyDrive has been very busy lately. The company recently announced new features and unveiled a new logo. Yesterday morning, the SkyDrive team discussed at length changes and improvements coming in the Metro Modern SkyDrive; hours later, it has gone live. The new SkyDrive blurs the line between a Metro Modern Windows 8 app and a Metro Modern UI website. The behavior and functionality available in the Metro Modern SkyDrive is the next step in personal cloud storage. The service is no longer a dump of files from various desktops that syncs and is available on the web but the service is based on file types.

Three major improvements in the Metro Modern SkyDrive:

  • Synced desktop browsing

We first saw synced desktop browsing back in October; during BUILD, Microsoft showed what then seemed like a huge feature for SkyDrive. Last night, it went live for everyone. You can now browse a Windows machine that has SkyDrive installed and synced in your browser. This isn’t a Citrix/Team Viewer like control but the Windows file structure can be browsed as it is on the machine, this means your drives and folders as shown in My Computer on that machine.

Unfortunately, you cannot stream music files from your machine within the browser just yet. And neither do the Office files open in Office Web Apps—they have to be downloaded.

  • Contextual menus & file drag

This is a feature that makes SkyDrive feel more like an app. The menus within SkyDrive will now change based on whether you’re performing a function on a folder or a file.

The Modern SkyDrive will behave much like a desktop app with multi-file selection and drag to arrange. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal when you read but as we are now programmed to drag files around on the desktop, this implementation on the web will only feel natural.

  • The Modern UI

Big tiles for touch and mouse, clean interface designed based on the Metro Modern principles, SkyDrive now feels like an extension of the new Outlook’s web interface. It departs from the Windows XP/Vista/7 interface that SkyDrive sported and shows why the Metro Modern interface is beautiful.

Here’s a video from the SkyDrive team introducing the Modern SkyDrive:

1 Million Outlook Users In 6 Hours

For those following me on Twitter know that I’ve not been having a good time with this Outlook release, and that’s primarily Tom Warren’s my fault. Having said that, Microsoft’s newly launched email service—@outlook.com—is in one word, gorgeous. The Windows 8 Mail and Office 15 experience, fluid and clean Metro experience is a refreshing change for a regular Hotmail user.

Microsoft’s internal infrastructure allows current Hotmail users to rename their Microsoft Account IDs to get a shiny new @outlook.com email address. If my timeline is right, Microsoft announced Outlook at 9 AM PST or 12 PM EST today. That’s 7 hours from the time of writing this post. And as it turns out, in the first 6 hours, Outlook got a million users:

The graph shared by the team shows quite the rise within hours of announcement and it’s a long time away from a plateau-ing:

There are two ways of getting the new @Outlook.com email address:

  • For existing Hotmail users, they should rename their accounts
  • Sign up for a new account

In case of renaming the accounts, if you have a Windows Phone 7 device, you will have to reset your phone and install your apps. A small price for getting a nicer email address.

Hotmail has undergone several brand changes and this is the final one. Along with Windows Live, Hotmail—the brand—is on its way out.

Mountain Lion: The Underwhelming Incremental Windows Rip-Off

Back in 2011, I was looking for a light weight powerful laptop and the MacBook Air fit the bill. I could run Windows, live in the delusional Apple world, and not break my back. It came with Lion and the OS was smooth. I liked what I saw but it made feel less productive compared to Windows—somehow I am quicker on Windows. I spent hours in computer labs using PCs that ran on Windows while using the MacBook Air as  a media player.

Anyhow.

When Apple released Mountain Lion, everyone seemed to be hav ing nerdgasms at the fact of getting a new OS at just $20. Unfortunately, the delusional world of Apple, a couple of apps rolled into the OS becomes a full OS. Let’s take a look at what Apple says is new:

  • Gatekeeper
  • Notes
  • Reminder
  • iMessages
  • iCloud
  • Notification Center
  • Power Nap
  • Dictation
  • Facebook/Twitter integration
  • Game Center
  • Social Sharing

So here’s the thing… Notes and Reminder are apps, not only that, these apps are useless if you don’t own an iOS device. The rest:

Gatekeeper:

When Windows Vista came out, it had a feature called UAC. The Windows users didn’t mind it, the hipster Silicon Valley bloggers who don’t use Windows had a fun time making fun of it. Guess what happened in Mountain Lion?! Apple introduced UAC like protection in Mountain Lion. And it’s half-assed.

UAC did not allow random apps to start running unless the user explicitly gave them permission or the administration disabled UAC. Gatekeeper can be bypassed by simply right clicking and running the app.

iCloud:

It’s like SkyDrive. But for OS X. Without Office Web Apps.

Notification Center:

So far the only usefulness of Notification Center is the ability to tweet without going into the Twitter client.

Power Nap:

The hipster Valley bloggers and Apple advocates love to mock Windows Vista, but, Apple seems to be inspired by it. Power Nap is a combination of SideShow and Connected Standby in Windows.

Game Center:

Oh hi Xbox LIVE! And goodbye Windows Game Center.

Social Sharing:

Clearly Windows doesn’t have anything like that! Oh, wait. Windows 8 Share Charm!

My point is, Mountain Lion is not a full OS. It’s a refinement to a less refined Lion. You know how Microsoft refines their OS? By introducing Service Packs. And these are free. I don’t mind the $20 because Mountain Lion does add features and makes OS X snappy, but let’s not be irrational and say Apple is giving us a full OS at $20. Because Mountain Lion is not.

The truth is Mountain Lion is an underwhelming upgrade. For $20, OS X Lion users should upgrade since this incremental update makes Lion usable.

PS: Please don’t call Windows 7 a Service Pack because that will only make you look like someone who doesn’t know Windows Vista vs Windows 7.

Office Web Apps Get A Metro Facelift

Last week Steve Ballmer unveiled the next version of Microsoft’s Office suite and as it turns out that wasn’t all the Office news for the week. With 50 Million users and negligible press love, we can now try out the Metro Office Web Apps version. The team has announced a preview for the upcoming changes introducing new features and the cleaner Metro UI.

The update makes Office Web Apps look like an extension of Office 15 and a part of Windows 8. The metro interface for Office Web Apps looks gorgeous; some of the new features introduced across Office Web Apps are:

  • Different UIs that are focused on mouse and touch
  • Co-authoring
  • Mobile optimized UI
  • Discussions through comments
  • Various performance enhancements
  • Picture and drawing tools

Here’s a quick look at the new Metro Office Web Apps:

OneNote

OneNote has remained the same with search being the new addition.

Word

New features include the ability to manipulate paragraphs and pages that will reduce the reliance on Office desktop. Some of these features are changing page size, indentations, Word count, and orientation.

PowerPoint

New features include adding animations, transitions and viewing embedded videos.

Excel

Excel is one of those tools that organizations cannot live without. New features have improved working with data considerably. According to Microsoft’s blog post some of the key feature additions are:

  • New slicers
  • PivotTable editing (this is awesome)
  • Better charts
  • Excel Surveys

You can try the new version by heading to SkyDrive.com and accepting the invitation or by heading here.