Category Archives: Microsoft

Microsoft Releases Considerable Windows 8 Update Before General Availability

With roughly two weeks to go until Windows 8 is generally available, Microsoft has pushed out a cumulative update set to make improvements to various aspects of the operating system.

As announced by Steven Sinofsky on Tuesday in a surprisingly brief blog post, the updates address performance, power management and battery efficiency, media playback, and compatibility and are now available on Windows Update for those of you who are already running the RTM bits. The update is rather sizable; Robert McLaws, an enthusiast who downloaded the update pointed out on Twitter that it is roughly 170MB in size.

That’s pretty impressive. In Sinofsky’s post, he talks a bit about how 8-12 weeks usually passes from when Microsoft ships the finalized Windows code to manufacturers, to when the operating system is generally available. This time is usually used by OEMs to ensure that everything works well; drivers are compatible, companion software (i.e bloatware) works fine, etc., but there are times when “changes and improvements” need to be made to the fundamental aspects of Windows.

He also touches on how major “bundles” of updates are traditionally delivered on Windows through service packs. Various changes are made by Microsoft for each OEM and their new PCs, and said changes are deployed during manufacturing and therefore remain unnoticed by consumers. These changes may apply to a wider range of PCs, but there’s no time to properly test and certify these updates. Therefore, they may only be pushed out on a broader scale with the first service pack of Windows.

However, the update process has been improved with Windows 8, as Sinofsky notes:

During the final months of Windows 8 we challenged ourselves to create the tools and processes to be able to deliver these “post-RTM” updates sooner than a service pack. By developing better test automation and test coverage tools we are happy to say that Windows 8 will be totally up to date for all customers starting at General Availability. If you are an MSDN or enterprise customer, these updates will be available for your Windows 8 PCs via Windows Update as of today (October 9), following our standard cadence for Windows Updates on the second Tuesday of each month at about 10:00am.

Good stuff. I wonder if Microsoft will continue this update pace beyond the interim period of RTM and GA, frequently pushing out significant updates without waiting to bundle them within a service pack.

For more on the update (KB 2756872), check out the Microsoft Support article.

Sinofsky, Ballmer Executive Pay Diminished Over Browser Ballot Issue

On Tuesday, the latest Proxy statement filed by Microsoft to the Securities and Exchange Commission for the fiscal year 2012 was released, providing us with a glimpse at how the company’s “named executive officers” were compensated and graded by the board of directors.

For one, out of the entire lineup of executives, CEO Steve Ballmer was the least compensated, receiving an “incentive plan award” of $620,000 for fiscal 2012; 91% of his eligible target award. When added to his base salary each year of $685,000 and all other compensation, he received a total of $1,318,128. By choice, Ballmer received no equity.

Steven Sinofsky, President of the Windows and Windows Live Division, received an incentive award of $7.65 million, which is 90% of his possible incentive award. Sinofsky’s total compensation is $8,583,732. Sinofsky and Ballmer were praised by the board of directors for the completion of Windows 8, Windows 7 enterprise adoption, the Surface, and IE market share growth, but were reprimanded over the European browser ballot issue.

The highest paid executive was Kevin Turner, the company’s Chief Executive Officer, who received a total of $10,683,671 in compensation. Kurt DelBene, President of the Office Division received a total of $7,906,725, and Peter Klein, Chief Financial Officer, received $5,108,836 in total compensation.

Microsoft Holiday Pop-Up Stores Set To Open For Business On October 26

Back in September, Microsoft confirmed that, sometime this fall, it will be opening up 32 pop-up brick-and-mortar stores to better show off its products — namely the much-anticipated Surface — in places where a more permanent Microsoft store is yet to exist. At the time, Microsoft declined to officially comment on speculation that the stores will open on October 26, which is when Windows 8 and Surface RT are set to launch.

Mary-Jo Foley reports that a Twitter user spotted a mention of the New York store opening on the 26th on the official Microsoft Store website. Various other stores are showing a promotional image with the October 26th release date on the website as well.

This is definitely a good move on Microsoft’s part to better showcase Windows 8 and the Surface RT — which will only be officially distributed through Microsoft Stores — but I still think that they should do more bring their retail experience to more locations without opening brick-and-mortar stores. The best way to do this in my opinion is to follow Apple’s strategy; work with big-box retailers like Best Buy, Fry’s, and CompUSA to bring a mini Microsoft Store of sorts within select stores. That way, they can broaden their reach while continuing to build brick-and-mortar stores.

Microsoft will have 44 brick-and-mortar retail stores open by mid-2013.

Here’s a list of the planned U.S. and Canada pop-up stores (no word yet on whether the company has any plans to open up these pop-up stores in other countries):

  • Aventura Mall (Aventura, FL)
  • Beachwood Place (Beachwood, OH)
  • Cherry Creek Shopping Center (Denver, CO)
  • Dadeland Mall (Miami, FL)
  • Eaton Centre (Toronto, Ontario)
  • Fashion Mall at Keystone (Indianapolis, IN)
  • Fashion Show Mall (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Glendale Galleria (Glendale, CA)
  • Mall at Green Hills (Nashville, TN)
  • Mall in Columbia (Columbia, MD)
  • Metropolis at Metrotown (Burnaby, BC)
  • Montgomery Mall (Bethesda, MD)
  • Natick Collection (Natick, MA)
  • North Star Mall (San Antonio, TX)
  • Oakridge Centre (Vancouver, BC)
  • Penn Square Mall (Oklahoma City, OK)
  • Perimeter Mall (Atlanta, GA)
  • Roosevelt Field Mall (Garden, City, NY)
  • Ross Park Mall (Pittsburgh, PA)
  • Saint Louis Galleria (St. Louis, MO)
  • San Francisco Centre (San Francisco, CA)
  • South Shore Plaza (Braintree, MA)
  • Southpark Mall (Charlotte, NC)
  • Stonebriar Centre Mall (Frisco, TX)
  • Streets at Southpoint (Durham, NC
  • Time Warner Center: The Shops at Columbus Circle (New York, NY)
  • Washington Square (Portland, OR)
  • West Edmonton Mall (Edmonton, Alberta)
  • Westfarms Mall (West Hartford, CT)
  • Westfield Garden State Plaza (Paramus, NJ)
  • Woodland Hills Mall (Tulsa, OK)
  • Woodlands Mall (Woodlands, TX)

Machine Gun Kelly Performs at Microsoft Store, Gets Escorted Out By Police

Microsoft Stores are often associated with performances by artists as the company usually gives away tickets to such events to accompany new store launches. However, when a Microsoft Store in Atlanta served as an event hosted by The Source which featured Machine Gun Kelly — an upcoming rapper — things got a bit crazy.

After shouting profanities like “fuck these computers…” and flicking off the audience, he refused to stop performing when Microsoft Store employees urged him to stop performing. He then proceeded to stomp on at least five computers, at which point the staff cut off his mic and the music. He told the staff that he refuses to get down, and demanded that they “play that shit.” The Microsoft Store employees then called the police, who escorted him to a private area at the back of the store.

He tweeted about what happened after the fact, proudly touting an Instagram photo captioned “Who gon’ stop me? You gon’ stop me?” While initially, there was speculation that Microsoft was the one behind the event, they issued a comment earlier today to The Verge revealing that they were simply offering their store as a venue to use, calling the behavior inappropriate for a store environment:

Microsoft tells us that The Source held a private event at the Microsoft Lenox Square Store. “We offer our stores as a venue for the community to use, and this event was not sponsored by Microsoft,” says a spokesperson. “While the artist’s behavior was appropriate for a concert, some of it was not appropriate in a store environment.”

Here’s a video of part of the performance:

Microsoft Answers Rebranded as Microsoft Community

Microsoft Answers has got a new look and feel as well as a new name starting today. If you head to answers.microsoft.com, you would notice the clean white design, quite a change from the prominently green design before this, and a new name – Microsoft Community – integrating the new Microsoft logo.

Microsoft Answers is now Microsoft Community!

We’ve got a new name and a new look, but the Microsoft Community will continue to provide the same great questions and answers that you rely on to get the most out of your technology.

Microsoft Community are community-supported forums where Microsoft users and customer support agents from around the world connect to share ideas and solve problems. The site allows users to find answers, ask questions, and share their expertise. Users can submit their questions, and other users and agents post helpful replies and step-by-step instructions or add on to the common issues. The support agents moderate the discussions and mark useful replies as answers.

The community is structured in to eight categories based on products and technology: Hotmail, Messenger & SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, Office, Office for Mac. Virus and Malware, Windows, Windows Phone, and Zune.

While the design is neat and visually appealing, this looks like a quick rebranding exercise only. The URL is still answers.microsoft.com. At the moment, community.microsoft.com directs to Microsoft homepage and Microsoft may want to leverage the same. The categories are simply migrated and there has been no effort to refresh the same. For example, ‘Hotmail’ is not replaced by ‘Outlook’ and the URL of this category says ‘windowslive’. Ouch!

Microsoft Announces 10 Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure Startup Finalists

Microsoft’s Scott Guthrie has announced the finalists of the Microsoft Accelerator for Windows Azure program for startups, where they will become a part of a three-month program in which they build new products and businesses that utilize the Azure platform.

Here’s a list of the ten announced finalists:

  • Advertory – Berlin, Germany. Advertory helps local businesses increase revenue and build customer loyalty.
  • Appetas  Seattle, WA. Appetas’ mission is to make restaurants look as beautiful online as they do on the plate!
  • BagsUp – Sydney, Australia. Find great places from people you trust.
  • Embarke – San Diego, CA. Embarke allows developers and companies the ability to integrate with any human communication channel (Facebook, Email, Text Message, Twitter) without having to learn the specifics, write code, or spend time on any of them.
  • Fanzo – Seattle, WA. Fanzo puts sports fans in the spotlight. Find other fans, show off your fanswagger and get rewarded for your passion.
  • MetricsHub – Bellevue, WA. A service providing cloud monitoring with incident detection and prebuilt workflows for remedying common problems.
  • Mobilligy – Bellevue, WA. Mobilligy revolutionizes how people pay their bills by bringing convenient, secure, and instant bill payment support to mobile devices.
  • Realty Mogul – Los Angeles, CA. Realty Mogul is a crowdfunding platform for real estate where accredited investors pool capital and invest in properties that are acquired, managed and eventually resold by professional private real estate companies and their management teams.
  • Staq – San Francisco, CA. Back-end as a service for APIs.
  • Socedo – Bellevue, WA. A simple and effective web application for lead generation and relationship management on Twitter.

Each startup will be seattle-based, and mentored by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and “leaders” from Azure and other Microsoft organizations. The first month in the program will be spend mulling over ideas and refining their business concepts with input from these experts and other Microsoft customers, and the final two months will be spent designing and developing their products.

All of their ideas will then be presented to investors and Microsoft partners at an event in mid-January.

This isn’t the only program for startups offered by the tech giant. Microsoft also has other programs to help budding companies get off the ground, such as the Bing Fund, BizSpark, and the Kinect Accelerator Program, among others.

Image Credit: Carlos Gutiérrez G. (Flickr)

Microsoft Announces an All New MSN for Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft has announced a radical refresh of MSN, one of the most popular media destinations on the Internet, with the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft’s flagship website gets about 480 million visitors per month worldwide and is one of the biggest portals on the Internet. The new version is built from the ground up to harness the capabilities that Windows 8 and IE10 offer and built for touch.

The new MSN is a full-screen experience and the user experience is clean and intuitive. Because Internet Explorer 10 was designed to take advantage of the system architecture of Windows 8, Microsoft promises blazing fast speed along with the consistent visual layout providing instant access to the information you want.

Microsoft also intends to establish itself as a small media operation creating its own content. While MSN would aggregate news from premier sources like Reuters and Associated Press, it has been building up a news team on its own. Microsoft sold its 50% stake in news website MSNBC.com in July to NBCUniversal, and hence would focus all the capabilities in content creation and aggregation here.

The updated site would be available from October 26, the official launch date of Windows 8. Here are a few expectations that I’d have from the rollout:

  • The design is rolled out to all MSN sites globally simultaneously. Several worldwide MSN sites are slow to adapt a design update.
  • The design is consistent across all sections and sub-sites. Even after the last design refresh, few sections of MSN continue to live with the older design.
  • While Reuters and Associated Press are as good as news sources can get, I’d like to see more content partnerships for lifestyle and other channels; something like MSN Health.

Microsoft Makes Strategic Investment in Klout, Announces Bing Integration

Microsoft announced today that it has made a strategic investment in Klout, the controversial service that aims to monitor one’s influence on social networks. And, as is the case with its strategic investment in Facebook, there will be a technical partnership between the two companies; Klout scores will crop up in Bing search results, and the amount of times that you’ve been searched for on Bing will be yet another factor in just how influential Klout thinks you are.

On Bing, Klout scores and topics will be displayed next to the experts in the “People Who Know” section of its social sidebar. There will also be a link to each person’s Klout profile in an attempt to provide more context into why these people are experts in their respective fields.

In an attempt to broaden Klout’s scope of data used to determine an individual’s influence, Bing search data will now be factored into how one’s influence is measured on the service. The “experts” who show up in Bing’s “People Who Know” sidebar will be recognized on Klout, and those with a Wikipedia account associated with their profile will be rated based on how often they are searched for on Bing.

 

Windows Store Surpasses 2,000 Apps As Windows 8 Launch Looms

With only a month to go until Windows 8 is generally available, the question is, how are developers taking to the platform? Given the importance of apps — especially with Windows 8’s tablet ambitions in mind — the quality and even quantity of apps in the Windows Store are important metrics to keep an eye on. Thankfully, Directions on Microsoft Vice President of Research Wes Miller is doing just this, regularly blogging about his findings on winappupdate.com.

On September 21st, Miller pointed out that the Windows Store broke the 2,000 app mark, with 2,079 apps available internationally. Out of this, 83% of those apps are free, compared to 89% back on the 9th of September.

Seeing that the pre-release versions of Windows 8 were downloaded by millions — something that Microsoft proudly and rightfully boasted about — and the fact that Windows 8 will definitely be shipped on millions, if not hundreds of millions of PCs and tablets worldwide, why is developer interest so low? Surely people would be wanting to get their apps in before the OS ships, right? The issue here isn’t that the Windows Store isn’t growing; according to the chart created by Miller, it is growing at a rate of roughly 100 apps per day. The problem is that it definitely isn’t growing fast enough.

This is pretty concerning, as Alex Wilhelm points out:

Thus, for Windows 8 to break the five-figure app threshold – in a world in which it’s six figures or bust – by launch, the operating system must undergo a massive burst of developer release before its debut.

However, looking at the above chart, the Windows Store is growing by under 100 apps per day. Thus, at its current rate, given the time until Windows 8 becomes generally available, we can expect around 5,000 apps to populate its virtual shelves. Remember, however, that not all will be available in all places. Thus, under 5,000 apps for everyone.

Given the pretty much guaranteed widespread adoption of Windows, and the insane effort of evangelists to get developers excited about the platform, what gives? It’s a rather peculiar issue, but for its own sake, more apps need to hit the Windows Store. And more quality developers who already create apps for iOS and Android need to get on board as well if Windows 8 wants to be successful in the tablet space.

Microsoft’s Developer Marathon in India Sets Guinness World Record

Microsoft’s Windows AppFest held at KTPO, Bangalore, has set the Guinness World Record for “Most Participants in a Software Development Marathon in One Location”. A little more than two and a half thousand (2567 to be precise) developers poured their heart and soul for eighteen hours to design, build, and test new Windows 8 apps.

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Microsoft has been holding developer events across the world in an attempt to energize the developer ecosystem for Windows 8 ahead of its launch. Windows 8 features an entirely new class of touch-screen friendly apps that leverage web technologies. While Windows 8 makes developing Windows apps easier than ever before, it also eschews backward compatibility. Old apps will still run on desktops, but only in the classic mode, and in ARM tablets, they won’t run at all. Microsoft is making a bold move by redefining what we mean by Windows Apps, and its success hinges on developer participation.

AppFest is an initiative to get developers familiarized and involved with Windows 8, as well as to raise awareness about the opportunities offered by Windows 8. The Bangalore event was filled with activities throughout the day and night including performances from DJRink, rock band Swarathma and morning yoga sessions. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India, remarked “The spectacle of thousands of developers toiling through the night has demonstrated great commitment to their work.”

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[ Photos courtesy of Abhishek Baxi and Microsoft ]

Microsoft Issues Fix It for Internet Explorer Zero Day Vulnerability

A few days ago, we reported a new vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer that could allow an attacker to execute code remotely on an affected PC. The vulnerability had been spreading fast and had been added to free attack tools used by hackers.

Microsoft has now issued an interim solution in the form of a Fix It tool which can be downloaded from here. In a blog post published today, Microsoft’s Yunsun Wee says that the tool is a one click solution that will protect users right away and that it will not hinder user’s web browsing in any way. You wont have to reboot your computer as well.

Microsoft will be releasing an out-of-band security update, MS12-063 this Friday to close the vulnerability. The update will be rated critical and will address the zero day vulnerability (Security Advisory 2757760) along with four other remote code execution issues. Users who downloaded the FixIt solution need not uninstall it before installing the update.

If you have automatic updates enabled, the update will be installed automatically and if you don’t, make sure that you install the update so that your computers are not vulnerable. Also, I highly recommend installing the FixIt solution right now to prevent any zero day attacks.

Microsoft Wants You To Subscribe To Office 2013

Microsoft’s plans to offer Office 2013 as part of Office 365 have been known for quite a while; how the products will be priced and offered was still unknown. Yesterday, Microsoft shared their strategy for getting Office 2013 to the users and Microsoft has prepared itself for a new connected and multi-PC environment. As mobile apps and web apps have started giving Office some competition and drastically change user habits, Microsoft had to come up with a new model to keep Office’s prices down for existing customers and attracting new ones.

Microsoft is probably among the first companies to offer a largely used product to a non-enterprise customer through the Software as a Service model. The subscription method brings with it a baggage of terms and conditions, what you can and cannot do; it’s complicated. Microsoft on their part has done a lot to un-complicate this part; here’s how:

(I’m using the chart by The Verge, since it’s one of the simplest I’ve come across.)

The thing about this chart as pointed out by veteran Ed Bott is, Microsoft has made it very uneconomical for users to buy the traditional boxed packages. Here’s why:

Traditional Box pack: (Home & Student–No Outlook)

1 license: $140 (3 years cost=$420)

Also, Microsoft no longer offers the buy 1 pack & use on 3 devices, which means for 3 years: 3×420=$1,260

Subscription: (There is no Home & Student, but Home & Student Premium)

1 subscription gives you 5 licenses with SkyDrive Premium, Outlook, Skype benefits at $99/year. So for 3 years, all this comes at $300 for 5 PCs.

Opting for the standalone boxes now makes no sense at all. Most of users get Office bundled with Windows on our new PCs, I believe OEMs will start offering 1 year free subscriptions with new PCs which might reduce licensing costs for OEMs and ensure customers stick to Office 2013.

Microsoft Advertising Introduces Bing Ads and Yahoo! Bing Network

Microsoft has announced rebranding of adCenter to Bing Ads and the launch of Yahoo! Bing Network, formerly known as Search Alliance.

Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance was born two years ago and reaches 151 million people today. The network includes the reach and benefits of Yahoo! Search and Bing partner publisher sites. Earlier this year, Microsoft brought all advertising marketing programs from Microsoft Advertising to the Bing umbrella. The latest announcement is a step in the same direction of streamlining a single digital advertising platform.

Bing Ads is a reimagined and improved way for managing campaigns on the Yahoo! Bing Network. Along with the rebranding, the platform has introduced a new Import Campaign feature which allows advertisers to import their search campaigns from Google Ad Words into Bing Ads. This will give their campaigns greater visibility and reach beyond just one search platform. Also, the new Editorial Exceptions feature will help advertisers resolve any editorial disapprovals during and after the ad submission process. With ongoing enhancements to the Bing Ads Editor tool, advertisers have an additional resource for tracking performance and identifying growth opportunities.

The Yahoo! Bing Network represents 70% of all searchers in the US, 20% of which are unique to the Yahoo! Bing Network. According to a comScore report quoted by Microsoft, searchers on Yahoo! Bing Network in the U.S. are likely to spend 24% more than the average searcher, and likely to spend 5% more than Google searchers.

A Brief Look At Microsoft’s Touch Mouse Lineup

From the very moment that Microsoft lifted the curtain and revealed Windows 8 at the D9 conference last year up to now, quite a lot of people have been arguing about just how easy the new Metro-infused user interface — one that is rather gesture-heavy and designed primarily with touch in mind — will be to use with a keyboard and mouse.

Whether you’re using peripherals or your fingers, there will always be a bit of a learning curve with Windows 8 due to its relatively gesture-heavy nature compared to the likes of iOS. There are things that you can do with pretty much every corner and side of the screen, and this isn’t a necessarily bad thing. After spending some time using the OS, I became rather well-acquainted with it.

However, as I’ve discovered with OS X Lion — an OS that, on a smaller scale, has also thrown a few touch paradigms into the mix — using a touch-enabled mouse and/or trackpad really enhances the experience. Simple things such as the ability to swipe to go back/forward on a website, tap with two fingers to access Mission Control and see all of your windows, switch spaces with the flick of two fingers, or scroll both vertically and horizontally save time and make using the OS more intuitive and fun.

That being said, I decided to request Microsoft’s entire lineup of touch-enabled mice for review: The Microsoft Touch Mouse, Explorer Touch Mouse, and Arc Touch Mouse to get a feel for their existing approach to touch peripherals.

Before I proceed, however, I need to clarify something. The only “touch” support that the latter two mice have to offer is with scrolling. Not a bad thing, though, as they’re still decent mice; the Arc Touch is awesome from a mobility standpoint, for one. But labeling them as touch mice is pretty misleading as most normal people associate touch with gesture support, and not just a better scrolling experience.

The Touch Mouse actually lives up to its name, however, and offers an assortment of gestures to help users better interact with Windows 8 on their PCs, where the keyboard and mouse still reign as the preferred input method.

Read on for thoughts on using the Touch Mouse in Windows 8, along with general thoughts on the other two mice.

Touch Mouse

 

So, here it is: Microsoft’s flagship touch mouse. With a sleek and ergonomic design that makes it comfortable to use — as with most Microsoft peripherals — the touch-sensitive zone is denoted by Xs and dots that also add a pleasant texture to the mouse. Taking a page from Apple’s playbook, the mouse is technically just one giant button, though you can still easily right-click. If you’re not accustomed to this from using Apple mice, you may find it a bit unusual at first.

Having just one button isn’t the issue at hand, however. The problem lies with the actual clicking experience, which feels stiff and unusual. In some cases, right clicks just didn’t seem to register. If, in the next iteration of the mouse, they address this issue, it’ll be much more enjoyable to use.

The mouse communicates with your PC through a USB nanotransceiver that’s easy to lose, so, for safekeeping, it is recommended that you store it in the slot at the bottom of the mouse. The Touch Mouse also utilizes Microsoft’s BlueTrack technology, allowing it to perform well on an array of different surfaces.

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the Touch Mouse’s non-touch functionality; the real reason behind this post are the touch gestures offered by this device, after all.

Back in July, Microsoft announced that some new gestures were made available on the Touch Mouse, designed specifically for Windows 8. To recap, here they are:

  • A one finger swipe will allow you to move side to side or up and down, shifting content on your screen.
  • Two finger movements manage apps, allowing users to display Windows 8 charms, switch through open apps and show app commands.
  • Three finger movements will let you zoom in and out.
  • Thumb gestures navigate backward and forward through apps.

As you can see, there’s certainly a cornucopia of gestures that make Windows 8 more intuitive to use when the keyboard and mouse are your primary forms of input. However, that’s useless if the gestures fail to work at all; the mouse often has trouble properly recognizing gestures. It may even misinterpret certain gestures — for example, I may try to gradually scroll down the page, but it would misinterpret it as a flick and sentence me to the very bottom of whatever I was reading — or miss them completely.

If they work out the kinks of this mouse with the clicking experience and gestures, I would definitely recommend it to add to the Windows 8 user experience. However, until then, I can’t say that I recommend purchasing this mouse.

Arc Touch Mouse

 

Next up, we have the aptly named Arc Touch Mouse, which is explicitly designed for portable, on the go use. When called upon for use, it springs into action and assumes a curved arc position which turns the mouse on, flattening and turning off once the user is finished. While the design, pictured above, may initially look peculiar, the mouse is actually surprisingly ergonomic and enjoyable to use. The area where your palm rests is comprised of a comfortable, soft material — which, unfortunately, is a magnet for dust — while the button area is a glossy plastic.

Now, in terms of touch functionality, what this mouse has to offer is the ability to use your finger to scroll. You may flick, glide, or tap to navigate and scroll through a page. The coolest bit about the scroll area on this mouse — which lies in between the two buttons — is that it gives back tactile feedback in response to your scrolling. Given that there is no actual scroll wheel in that area, this certainly simulates the feeling of one in a much more satisfying fashion.

This mouse doesn’t work with your PC using Bluetooth, though. Instead, a USB nano transceiver is offered, which you can magnetically store at the bottom of the mouse for safekeeping, as pictured above.

The Arc Touch Mouse is rather awesome, and if you’re someone who owns a laptop and frequently takes it with you everywhere you go, or if you travel frequently, I’d definitely recommend it. It’s both portable and usable.

Explorer Touch Mouse

 

Finally, we have the Explorer Touch Mouse. Like the Arc Touch Mouse, it’s compact and designed for portability, though it’s arguably less portable; while small in size, it cannot be flattened for storage when not in use. Nevertheless, it should still be sufficient for most travelers to carry around and pack. The mouse is also pretty lightweight, thanks to the plastic that it’s made out of. Unfortunately, due to this same reason, the mouse lacks a sense of build quality and sturdiness, but I suppose that the weight advantage outweighs this issue, given its objective to be a very portable mouse.

Like the former two mice, this one communicates with the PC through a USB nanotransceiver and uses BlueTrack tracking technology. And, like the Arc Touch Mouse, it lacks more complex gesture supports.

However, it does offer some pretty nifty scrolling functionality. The mouse supports four-way directional scrolling by using just your finger, and that delightful tactile feedback that we all know and love is given off as you scroll. I find it interesting how four-way scrolling isn’t present on the Arc Touch, which has a scrolling area that closely resembles that of the Explorer Touch Mouse.

If the unorthodox form factor of the Arc Touch mouse doesn’t satisfy the grasp of your palm, and you’re more interested in a regular — but relatively minuscule — portable mouse, than this is the one for you.

Conclusion

Given Windows 8 and the importance of using new gestures to navigate its UI, I was really hoping that the Touch Mouse would come through and be the one, but I’m unable to look past the stiff clicking and frequent misinterpretation of gestures to properly recommend it. However, I’m confident that Microsoft is aware of these issues and will fix them in the next revision of the mouse. Provided this does happen, I’d have no problem wholeheartedly recommending it as an excellent companion to Windows 8.

The real winner in this review has to be the Arc Touch mouse. It’s unique and surprisingly comfortable to use, given its anorexic form factor. You can “flatten” the mouse when you’re not using it, allowing for maximum portability while on the go. And, on top of being portable and pleasant to use, the tactile feedback you receive when scrolling is also a nice touch.

The Explorer Touch Mouse was okay, but nothing really stood out to me about it. But, for those of you who do like smaller mice like it and want a Microsoft hardware product with tactile four-way scrolling and Bluetrack, then you’ll like it a lot.

To learn more about each of these mice, check out the Microsoft Hardware website.

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.