Here’s How Microsoft Is Simplifying The Windows Brand

Microsoft has often been mocked for their naming convention. The company’s brands have a reputation for being confusing. While the jokes might have merit, Microsoft having multiple SKUs for their software make business sense. As the launch of Windows 8 nears, information of how Microsoft plans to simplify their products and have a better marketing campaign is surfacing.

The Windows Versions

Microsoft’s audience isn’t limited to those who crack the jokes, there’s a wider and more complex market to cater to, add to that different geographic locations and their laws–for Microsoft, it’s a complicated mess that requires a lot of thought.

Windows 7 and Windows Vista had 6 versions main SKUs:

  • Starter
  • Home Basic
  • Home Premium
  • Business (Vista) aka Professional (Windows 7)
  • Enterprise
  • Ultimate

If my information is correct, Windows Vista Starter was limited to emerging markets, while the rest were sold in the US. This was slightly changed for Windows 7; Starter was only available as pre-bundled on OEM machines whereas Home Basic was specifically for emerging markets.

According to documents accessed by Stephen Chapman at ZDNet, Microsoft will be simplifying the available Windows 8 SKUs. Chapman links to HP documentation where he only 3 Windows 8 SKUs were listed:

  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Professional
  • Windows 8 Enterprise

We know that Windows 8 will have an ARM version but that, like Windows 7 Starter, will be available pre-bundled on OEM tablet devices. Microsoft has no plans to sell Windows 8 ARM (WOA) as an off the shelf product. The three SKUs will be available in 32 and 64 bit versions.

The 3 versions make a lot of sense. Having just 1 version for the consumer and two for the enterprise is a solution Microsoft should’ve tried with Windows 7. For those who remember, there was an uproar on the Internet when Microsoft’s intended to restrict number of apps that can run at the same time on Windows 7 starter, was 3. This was however changed. There was no need of a Windows 7 Starter edition since there was little different compared to Windows 7 Home Basic.

For what it’s worth, it’s an excellent decision to completely remove any possible confusion for the end consumer by having a single SKU. That said, I won’t be surprised to see some variants to meet the legal requirements, like in Europe.

The Windows Live and Zune brand

One of Microsoft’s best and most subtle moves of late has been their slow and steady death of the Zune brand. Windows Phone 7 was called as the next Zune music player, the devices were slowly killed, and then company officials stopped using the name Zune. It was obvious, Zune’s on its way out. The problem however was that Zune is Microsoft’s music and entertainment brand as well as the sync client for Windows Phone 7. According to leaked information, Windows Phone 8 won’t require Zune for syncing. Tom Warren writing for The Verge reiterated that the Zune offering will be rolled into Xbox LIVE. According to Tom Warren, with Windows 8, Microsoft will be killing the Windows Live brand. Tom says the following products will take over:

  1. Microsoft Account (Windows Live ID)
  2. Mail (Windows Live Mail)
  3. Calendar (Windows Live Calendar)
  4. People (Windows Live Contacts)
  5. Photos (Windows Live Photo Gallery)
  6. Music (Zune Music Player)
  7. Video (Zune Video Player)
Except the first, the other six are the feature-names for Windows Phone 7. (Consistency, finally!)

CNET ran an exclusive story by Greg Sandoval that Microsoft is discussing a new Spotify-like subscription service with the labels. (As of now, Microsoft has Zune Pass.) Going by the adage that there’s no smoke without fire, Zune Pass is probably on its way out too. This is a good thing.

SkyDrive Isn’t Getting PC-to-PC Syncing

Now, this bit of news will be a bummer to you Live Mesh users out there who are taking advantage of device-to-device syncing: In the upcoming major SkyDrive update that we recently wrote about, Microsoft has no plans to implement this feature when SkyDrive swallows up Mesh. Here’s a comment from SkyDrive team member Mike Torres on the SkyDrive announcement post on Building Windows 8:

We won’t be offering a way to sync between PCs without using the cloud as we’ve found that it adds complexity. Both technical complexity as well as, more importantly, complexity in the overall user model. The SkyDrive model is really quite simple in that it’s “cloud-first” and not “cloud-optional” which means you no longer have to worry about the timing of various PCs being online to sync, or having files that are only available on PCs but not through SkyDrive.com or mobile devices. Conflicts are far less likely as well since the cloud is always “online”. The fetch feature addresses the need to “get back” to stuff that you haven’t put in SkyDrive yet. There are tradeoffs either way, we realize that, but we decided to focus on a simple model and really work to get that right.

It turns out that Mike Torres, Omar Shahine (the SkyDrive guys), and Steven Sinofsky have all been actively answering the questions of curious users on the original blog post. LiveSide has a list of some of the more important things revealed in the comment thread, including a comment where Mike addresses the difference between Microsoft’s intent with SkyDrive, and a cloud backup solution.

While this is an unfortunate feature omission, the SkyDrive update is still huge, and I look forward to using SkyDrive regularly following the release of the desktop clients.

SkyDrive To Offer Native Windows and OS X clients, Paid Storage Upgrades

Portugese blog GEMIND managed to snag some screenshots of an upcoming SkyDrive update that has both tiered, paid storage upgrades, as well as a blurb promoting proper SkyDrive clients for both Windows and OS X (in the same area where, visiting SkyDrive now will show a promotion for the new iPhone and Windows Phone clients.)

There are going to be three paid tiers of SkyDrive that each offer additional storage on top of the 25GB that is available for free. Here’s the list, along with USD pricing:

  • 20GB — $10 / year
  • 50GB — $25 / year
  • 100GB — $50 / year

With both desktop clients and storage upgrades in the SkyDrive oven, this surely means that the discontinuation of Live Mesh is imminent. There’s absolutely no reason for Microsoft to not succeed Mesh with SkyDrive; if they’re going all-out in the cloud, Mesh’s 5GB storage cap is far too low. Not only that, but it’s an unnecessary product; its discontinuation is a necessary simplification of Microsoft’s product line. If Microsoft implements an iCloud-esque backup solution in Windows Phone that backs up to SkyDrive, that — based on user preferences, of course — can sync photos, contacts, and documents to the web and to devices, Microsoft would have a 20GB advantage over iCloud.

On top of these upgrades, let’s hope that the Windows Live guys are working on a colossal redesign of the Windows Live services (for example, if SkyDrive’s photo sharing abilities was as beautiful as say, Droplr, I would definitely use it regularly for posting images to Twitter.)

[Screenshots] Microsoft Demos Office 15 & Windows Live Metro

Windows President, Steve Sinofsky’s article about Windows 8 on ARM, Microsoft shared a video demonstrating how the product looks as of now. During the demo, Microsoft showed what Office 15 will look like on a tablet and the Metro version of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite of applications. Here are the screenshots:

Microsoft Office 15 Word

Microsoft Office 15 Excel

Microsoft Office 15 PowerPoint

Microsoft Office 15 OneNote

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Metro Photos

Windows Live Metro Mail

Microsoft and Partners Launch New Ad Campaigns For Holiday Season

With the iPhone 4S set to shatter sales records the competition better have something up their sleeves to compete. For Microsoft the upcoming holiday season is going to be tricky. As Todd Bishop at GeekWire points out, the company has a new range of Windows Phone 7 Mango handsets coming out but besides that they don’t have any other new product for users.

Many enthusiasts have been wondering why Microsoft does not talk about the consumer ecosystem it has created. In the coming days, Microsoft will be changing that. The core premise is Windows enabling families stay connected and have a great time with technology. Microsoft shared two advertisements talking about the concept:

The second ad Dog.ppt is a pretty cool ad but I have my doubts about the first one. (I am not the only one.)

Microsoft is rumored to  be investing several Million Dollars for OEM partners for advertising their Windows Phone 7 handsets and it looks like HTC is making good use of it. Spotted by WinRumors’ Tom Warren, the HTC WP7 ad aired in the UK is nicely done. Wrapping features around what the phone enables you to do is always a better message than telling us specs and features. Here’s the ad:

Microsoft UK has another HTC WP7 ad that is eye catching. Both ads show promise and in fact as Tom Warren says, Microsoft should have more ads done by the creative agency behind the HTC WP7 ads.

Microsoft Australia had probably one of the coolest launch show for a developer software. Long Zheng wrote about Microsoft Australia putting up a light show using office lights of two building to launch LightSwitch for Visual Studio. Here’s the video of a very un-Microsoft launch:

How To Filter Emails/Create Message Rules in Windows Live Mail 2011

I have been using Windows Live Mail as my primary email client for quite sometime now and have configured it to download emails from several accounts. Though I have found Windows Live Mail to be a really good email client, I have several problems with it, including WLM freezing my system and with high CPU and RAM usage.

Windows Live Mail

However, after cleaning up my emails I found it to be working without issues. Now came the second problem of filtering messages so that I can sort them out in separate folders. Easy right? Well not that easy, or at-least Microsoft decided to put the option in the wrong place.

After searching for over an hour I was about to give up when I came across an option to do it. I believe many of you might be facing the same issue, so I decided to write up a quick tutorial on how to filter incoming  emails by creating message rules in Windows Live Mail 2011.

The below rules apply to Windows Live Mail 2011, so you might want to upgrade your installation first.

Windows Live Mail Message Rules

Step 1: Open Windows Live Mail and click on the Folders tab.

Step 2: Click on the "Message Rules" option available at the end of the ribbon.

Step 3: Click on the "New" button and follow the instructions to create your incoming email message rule.

That’s it, your incoming messages will now be filtered and stored in the appropriate directory,  deleted, forwarded or perform any other action based on what rules you have created.

[Screenshot] Microsoft Shows Remote Device Navigation Via SkyDrive

As of now SkyDrive offers remote connections into another device on your Mesh network. Unfortunately it is useless to me. I cannot install Mesh on my college computers and there is no Internet Explorer on OS X. In most cases it is a file that I need to access and not remote control (there’s Team Viewer for that).

With Windows 8 and the new Windows Live update, Microsoft will allow you browse through another device on SkyDrive. WIthin the browser, the Explorer interface is replicated in tiles that allows you to navigate your computer remotely. While not a lot of details were shared about the update, the Windows Live team did sneak this screenshot:

[Screenshots] Metro Version Of The Windows Live Suite

Earlier today Steven Sinofsky and team demonstrated what to expect from Windows 8. It wasn’t a peak at some of the features but a comprehensive look at the platform for the users and developers.

Microsoft showed how the dual UI strategy comes together and the traditional Windows complements the new touch-inspired Metro-based Windows 8. One of the criticism for Windows’ dual screen strategy was once one uses the Metro versions it’ll become difficult to use the traditional Windows Explorer—a perception problem of sorts. Those concerns were noted and the Windows Live team worked on Metro-inspired versions of the popular Windows Live suite.

At the BUILD conference a short demo of the Windows Live suite and how the cloud plays a critical part in offering a great user experience. Here are some screenshots:

Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Photo

Sharing photos through services:

Mail within the Photo app:

The thing about Windows Live Photos is that the app is currently only pulling in and aggregating photos, the editing capabilities of PhotoGallery weren’t part of the demo and hence I am not certain whether that will be a separate app or part of the Metro-fied Photos app.

Update:  Microsoft has shared a link about their SkyDrive integration in Windows 8.

How-To View and Edit RAW Photos in Windows Live Photo Gallery

Microsoft has released Microsoft Camera Codec Pack that enables the viewing of a variety of device-specific file formats. The codec pack allows you to import, organize, and edit RAW files without using third-party plugins or applications.

A RAW file is the uncompressed output from each of the original pixels on the camera’s image sensors. RAW files have higher image quality than JPEG files and have more image information. Microsoft Camera Codec Pack lets you view RAW files from over 120 digital SLR devices in Windows Live Photo Gallery as well as in Windows Explorer. The files can also be viewed in other applications that are based on Windows Imaging Codecs (WIC). This pack is available in both the x86 and x64 versions for Windows Vista Service Pack 2 and Windows 7.

Once the codec pack is installed, you can edit copies of your RAW images in Windows Live Photo Gallery. Within Photo Gallery, make a JPEG or JPEG-XR (or HD-photo) copy of the original photo, and then apply different editing effects available. You can even use the RAW files to stitch panoramas using Photo Gallery.

The Microsoft Camera Codec Pack provides support for the following device formats:

  • Canon: EOS 1000D (EOS Kiss F in Japan and the EOS Rebel XS in North America), EOS 10D, EOS 1D Mk2, EOS 1D Mk3, EOS 1D Mk4, EOS 1D Mk2 N, EOS 1Ds Mk2, EOS 1Ds Mk3, EOS 20D, EOS 300D (the Kiss Digital in Japan and the Digital Rebel in North America) , EOS 30D, EOS 350D (the Canon EOS Kiss Digital N in Japan and EOS Digital Rebel XT in North America), EOS 400D (the Kiss Digital X in Japan and the Digital Rebel XTi in North America), EOS 40D, EOS 450D (EOS Kiss X2 in Japan and the EOS Rebel XSi in North America), EOS 500D (EOS Kiss X3 in Japan and the EOS Rebel T1i in North America), EOS 550D (EOS Kiss X4 in Japan, and as the EOS Rebel T2i in North America), EOS 50D, EOS 5D, EOS 5D Mk2, EOS 7D, EOS D30, EOS D60, G2, G3, G5, G6, G9, G10, G11, Pro1, S90
  • Nikon: D100, D1H, D200, D2H, D2Hs, D2X, D2Xs, D3, D3s, D300, D3000, D300s, D3X, D40, D40x, D50, D5000, D60, D70, D700, D70s, D80, D90, P6000
  • Sony: A100, A200, A230, A300, A330, A350, A380, A700, A850, A900, DSC-R1
  • Olympus: C7070, C8080, E1, E10, E20, E3, E30, E300, E330, E400, E410, E420, E450, E500, E510, E520, E620, EP1
  • Pentax (PEF formats only): K100D, K100D Super, K10D, K110D, K200D, K20D, K7, K-x, *ist D, *ist DL, *ist DS
  • Leica: Digilux 3, D-LUX4, M8, M9
  • Minolta: DiMage A1, DiMage A2, Maxxum 7D (Dynax 7D in Europe, α-7 Digital in Japan)
  • Epson: RD1
  • Panasonic: G1, GH1, GF1, LX3

MAXX Mobiles Launches MQ601 And MX401 Phones With Noise Suppression Technology

MAXX Mobiles recently launched an innovative series of KHAMOSHHH… handsets with the unique Noise Suppression technology. The new range includes two handsets – the MAXX MQ601 QWERTY phone and the  MAXX MX401 candybar phone. Both the devices comes with the unique  SAM technology, which allows you to enjoy  crystal clear voice calls. The unique  SAM technology employs an innovative signal processing technique to suppress ambient noises and to eliminate echoes. These handsets also comes with a dedicated key to activate the Noise Suppression feature. You can easily adjust the level of noise suppression from the Call Settings menu.

Commenting on the launch of the series, Ajjay Agarwal, Chairman & Managing Director, MAXX Group said, A mobile device has become more than just a communication device, it has become a lifeline to most of us! Whether it is a conference call for a business pitch or catch-up call with old friends, a mobile phone has become indispensable. But our conversations are never without the hustle-bustle of everyday life. Crowded restaurants, busy offices, chaotic commutes make it difficult to have a quiet conversation. In India, where there is still a very high preference and dependence on voice calls, we believe feature-rich yet affordably priced Khamoshhh… series is the perfect device for an Indian audience.

maxx noice supression phones

MAXX MQ601 Specifications:

  • 2.3 inch TFT screen
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • 8 GB expandable memory
  • MP3/WAV/AAC music player
  • Wire-free FM Radio with FM scheduling
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Bluetooth
  • JAVA enabled
  • 3GPP/AVI/MP4 supporting video player
  • up to 4.5 hours of talk time
  • up to 350 hours of standby time
  • 1000mAh battery

MAXX MX401 Specifications:

  • 2.4 inch TFT screen
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • 8 GB expandable memory
  • MP3/WAV/AAC music player
  • FM Radio with FM scheduling
  • 3.5mm audio jack
  • Bluetooth
  • Big Speakers
  • 3GPP/AVI/MP4 supporting video player
  • Facebook & Twitter apps
  • Opera Mini Browser
  • up to 5.5 hours of talk time
  • up to 450 hours of standby time
  • 1500mAh battery

MAXX MQ601 QWERTY phone is available in two colours Black and Grey and it comes with a price-tag of Rs.2,970. On the other hand, the MAXX MX401 candybar phone is available in Yellow and Blue colors and it comes with a price-tag of Rs.2,833. You can get these handsets from more than 25,000 retailers across India as well as from modern retail outlets including Planet M, Tata Croma, Hyper City, Star Bazar, Mobile & Gadgets, Indian Naval Canteen, Kings Electronics, Hotspot, Reliance Web World and NEXT electronics.