Archive for the ‘Windows 8’ Category

Windows 8 Update: As Windows XP wanes, Windows 8 scoops up users

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 laptops get faster

Windows 8/8.1 has topped 10% market share for the first time, apparently picking up a few users from among those who are finally leaving Windows XP behind.

According to Web analytics firm NetMarkeshare, users of all versions of Windows 8 amounted to 10.49% of Internet users for the month of December, up from 9.25% in December. This as users of Windows XP have dipped from 31.22% to 28.98%.

+Also on Network World: 7 things on Microsoft’s 2014 to-do list | China prefers to stick with dying Windows XP rather than upgrade | 10 reasons to take a Chromebook on the road +

While the showing for Windows 8/8.1 is a milestone, it is also part of a gradual trend. Since last February, use of the operating system has risen 7.82 percentage points while XP has dropped 10.01. Windows 7 use has moved up 2.97 points over the same period, so it seems most of those abandoning XP have moved to Windows 7 or 8/8.1.

Over the same period, Windows Vista dipped 1.56 points.

NetMarketshare’s data is gathered from the browsers of visitors to its customers’ 40,000-plus Web sites worldwide. The firm breaks down the sites as 46% commercial, 18% corporate, 10% content and 29% other, including government, search engine marketers and .org groups. Seventy six percent participate in pay per click programs to drive traffic to their sites, the company says.

Surface Pro 2 upgrade
Surface Pro 2

While it’s not an official hardware overhaul, customers who buy Microsoft Surface Pro 2 laptops now will get faster machines than those who bought them last month.

That’s because the Windows 8 devices are being built with a better CPU than the earlier versions, according to a report by WinBeta. The newer Surface Pro 2s have Intel i5 4300U (1.9Ghz) CPUs vs the older versions that had i5 4200U (1.6Ghz) processors.

Here’s how Microsoft explained the changes to WinBeta: “Microsoft routinely makes small changes to internal components over the lifetime of a product, based on numerous factors including supply chain partnerships, availability, and value for our customers. With any change to hardware or software, we work to ensure that the product experience remains excellent.”

Chromebooks rule on Amazon.com

Amazon.com reports disheartening holiday sales from a Windows 8 perspective: Chromebooks are outselling the best-selling Windows 8 laptops.

According to the site’s Best Sellers, two Chromebooks – Acer C720 and Samsung Chromebook – are ranked No. 1 and 2 with two Windows 8 devices – Asus Transformer Book T100TA-C1-G and Asus X200CA-HCL1104G – coming in third and fourth.
Price seems to be a factor. The Chromebooks sell for $199 and $179, respectively, while the Windows devices go for $448 and $298.
Another blow to Windows 8: Toshiba’s Satellite C55-A5245 came in fifth – equipped with Windows 7.

Surface 2 BitLocker woes

Microsoft is promising a Jan. 14 solution to a Surface 2 software problem that has the device demanding the BitLocker recovery key when it boots up.

 


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Windows 8 Update: Microsoft urges Windows 8 upgrade for security’s sake

Microsoft: Windows XP machines are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8

Even those who don’t like Windows 8 should consider it for its superior security vs. older Microsoft operating systems, if nothing else the company says.

According to its latest Microsoft Security Intelligence Report, machines running Windows XP are six times more likely to become infected than machines running Windows 8, the report says. The raw numbers are that 9.1 Windows XP machines need to be cleaned per 1,000 vs. 1.6 Windows 8 machines.

The reason, Microsoft says, is that Windows XP’s data execution prevention (DEP) is old and doesn’t address modern threats as well as the defenses in Windows 8. “People figured out how to get around DEP as a mitigation,” says Holly Stewart, program manager for Micrsoft’s Malware Protection Center.

Microsoft stops supporting Windows XP next spring and has been urging customers to upgrade to a newer operating system.Worldwide Windows XP makes up 21% of the OS market, Microsoft says.

It’s not just Windows XP with an infection problem: Windows 7 machines are more than three times more likely (5.5 per 1,000) to become infected than Windows 8 machines.

In addition, Windows XP machines also encounter more malware than Windows 8 machines, with 16.3% of XP machines encountering it vs 12.4% of Windows 8 machines, the report says. Stewart says she doesn’t know why Windows 8 machines face fewer threats. Windows 7 computers have the highest encounter rate with 19.1%.

Microsoft gathers data on Windows computers through its Bing search, Outlook.com accounts and Windows users who agreed to share data about their activities with Microsoft, adding up to information on billions of Internet transactions.

Windows 8 users supplement security
One of the big selling points of Windows 8 is its security, part of which is supplied by Windows Defender anti-virus. OPSWAT security management specialists say that despite integration of Windows Defender in the new operating system most customers run third-party anti-virus software, too. That’s 65% of the Window 8 users from a sample of 840 monitored by OPSWAT. Lower percentages of Windows XP users (9%) and Windows 7 users (20%) also run third-party anti-virus, OPSWAT says.

Old Surface Pro is cheaper
With the Surface Pro 2 expected to ship in December, Microsoft is cutting the price of the original Surface Pro by $100, making the current prices $699 for a 64GB model; $799 for a 128GB model and $999 for a 256GB. The prices for Surface Pro 2 are $899, $999 and $1,299, respectively. Surface Pro 2 also comes in a 512GB model for $1,799.

Microsoft has been trying to unload its inventory of the original Surface Pro for months in the run-up to Surface Pro 2. It cut $100 off original Surface Pro prices back in August, so the latest offer makes it $200 cheaper than it was originally. The latest deal expires at the end of the year.

All hands on deck
Microsoft’s corporate Vice President of Surface Computing Panos Panay personally hawked the product recently at malls around the country. He addressed about 150 potential customers at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City in Arlington, Va., according to a story in the Washington Post, in advance of the official launch of the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets.

He also popped up at the Westfield Century City mall in Los Angeles, for a similar engagement, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

While he seems a bit overqualified for pitching computers directly to consumers, it’s hard to fault his enthusiasm.

Calling all cars

Windows 8 is making its way into police cars in the U.K., or at least into trials at the Hertfordshire Constabulary, according to a TabTimes report.

The tablet in question is a ruggedized 8.4-inch Panasonic that officers can carry with them to access police applications.

 


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Windows 8 Update: Microsoft sacks iPad in Windows 8 ad, join forces with NFL

About those lofty Windows Store app numbers…

A new ad from Microsoft mocks iPads by comparing them – unfavorably – to tablets running Windows 8, which receive live updates on their Start screens, run office apps, display two apps at a time and support Microsoft Office applications – things iPads don’t do.

The ad has the hapless iPad acknowledging a string of things it can’t do until it finally asks (in the voice of iPad’s Siri interface) “Should we just play ‘Chopsticks’?”

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The ad hearkens back to an earlier iPad Mini ad in which a “Chopsticks” duet is played on both an iPad and and IPad mini.

The ad wraps up with a display of the price of an iPad ($699) and the price of a 64G Asus Vivo Tab Smart ($449) the message being that for $250 less, you can get a machine that does more.

It’s interesting that the ad doesn’t use the comparable $899 Surface Pro tablet made by Microsoft as a reference.

Low usage of Windows Store apps

Microsoft says it has more than 65,000 apps in its Windows Store inventory that are designed specifically for use on Windows 8 machines. The catch is that they don’t get used that often, according to a report by Soluto, a Web-based PC-management service provider.

Based on data gathered from 10,848 Windows 8 devices, Soluto found that users were more likely to fire up Windows Store apps if they were working on a tablet or touchscreen laptop than if they were working on a desktop or non-touch laptop (see graphic).
Windows 8

How many times a day will a Windows 8 user launch a Metro App?

Soluto hasn’t crunched the data yet about how often non-Windows Store (Metro) apps are launched, but suspects it is significantly higher, says Roee Adler, chief product officer for Soluto.

What were those apps? The most used was Yahoo! Mail, which was launched on average 26.91 times per week, followed by Social Jogger (25.98), Social Networks (21.19) and Lync MX (9.98).

Most users of desktops, laptops and touchscreen laptops didn’t average launching a Windows Store app even once per day, and 44.38% of tablet users fell into the same category.

What does Soluto make of this? “There’s a consensus in the market that Windows 7 was a good, solid operating system, and it’s unclear why the change to Windows 8 was needed for those who are happy with Windows 7,” the report says. “If you’re pragmatic about using the Windows operating system with a keyboard and mouse – there’s no rush. Wait and see what “Windows Blue” has in store for us before you upgrade.”

Look for Surface tablets on NFL sidelines

Rather than stalking up and down the sidelines referring to laminated play charts NFL coaches may soon use Microsoft Surface tablets.
Microsoft has signed a five-year, contract to pay the NFL $400 million to improve interactive features between football viewing and its new Xbox device. After that, the deal is expected to place Surface tablets in the hands of coaches, according to a story by the Associated Press.

For Microsoft this will primarily serve as a TV showcase for its technology and serve as a kind of advertising for the devices. Microsoft has already engaged Surface product placement, most notably in an episode of the ABC siticom show “Suburgatory” in which the device was actually written into the script as a love interest for the main character.

Microsoft will also place its branding on referees’ instant-replay devices and other areas along the sidelines, the AP says.


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Windows 8 Update: Gates: Windows 8 is about the iPad

Also, a Windows 8 tablet for less than $400 is a natural for BYOD

Windows 8 is Microsoft’s best effort to catch up with Apple and grab tablet sales away from the iPad by including things iPads just don’t have, according to Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

These things include keyboards and Microsoft Office, Gates says in an interview with CNBC. “With Windows 8 Microsoft is trying to gain share in what has been dominated by the iPad-type device,” Gates says.

He says Windows 8 was designed to wrap PCs into a tablet form, as exemplified by Microsoft’s own Windows 8 hardware Surface PRO and Surface RT.

“So if you have Surface, Surface PRO you’ve got that portability of the tablet but richness — in terms of the keyboard, Microsoft Office — of a PC,” he says. “So as you say PCs are a big market. It’s going to be harder and harder to distinguish products whether they’re tablets or PCs.”

Microsoft sees customers are unsatisfied by limitations of pure tablets with touchscreens and no support for Office. “A lot of those users are frustrated,” Gates says. “They can’t type, they can’t create documents, they don’t have Office there so we’re providing something with the benefits they’ve seen that have made [tablets] a big category but without giving up what they expect in a PC.”
Small, cheap Acer tablet

A product listing for a rumored Acer mini tablet popped up briefly on Amazon.com last week for the surprisingly low price of $379.99 before the item was taken down.

But the specifications listed for the device indicate that it can support a full-blown PC version of Windows 8 on an 8.1-inch tablet.

The low price makes them attractive to consumers and increases the possibility that Windows 8 devices will become a factor in BYOD programs. At the same time these small tablets become more attractive to businesses because they can support all legacy applications that run on Windows 7 including the full version of Microsoft Office.

A separate version of Windows 8 — Windows RT — is designed for tablets that are based on ARM processors, but they only run Windows Store applications and a truncated version of Office. Windows RT devices also can’t join domains.

The Acer product in question is the W3-810-1600, pictured below in a photo that was posted two weeks ago by the French website minimachines.net but taken down at Acer’s request.

The screen resolution is 1280×800 pixels is the low end of minimum requirements for Windows 8 devices set by Microsoft, according to specifications posted by The Verge.

While it’s OK to build devices to that spec, it’s not without ramifications. The devices can’t support snap screens, which is a feature that displays two applications at once — one small and one large — and to reverse which one is bigger with a simple touchscreen swipe.


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Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier

Windows 8 Update: transition from Android to Windows Phone made easier
Also, iPad keyboard/cover to rival Surface, 8-inch Windows 8 tablet

UPDATE: Microsoft has delayed availability of its Switch to Windows Phone app until sometime next week.

Microsoft figures customers will be more likely to switch from Android smartphones to Windows 8 phones if it makes it easier to find the same or similar apps for their new phone as were on their old phones.

Microsoft is introducing Switch to Windows Phone, an application that finds identical or replacement applications for Windows Phone 8 in the Windows Store to replace their old Android apps.

The new application, which is being released today, is not available for iPhones.
Switch to Windows 8 inventories all the applications on the Android phone and sends that inventory to the Microsoft SkyDrive cloud. When customers log in to the same SkyDrive account from the Switch to Windows 8 app loaded on their Windows Phone 8, the app finds the same set of applications. If there are no exact replacements, the app recommends similar ones, according to Guru Gowrappan, executive vice president for products at application search firm Quixey.

Quixey supplies the apps-search engine within Switch to Windows 8. The engine uses descriptions of apps, reviews of apps, trouble reports about apps and other metadata it gathers from the Web to recommend substitute applications to users, Gowrappan says. The goal is to make them as close as possible to matching the app on the Android phone.

In the case of Switch to Windows 8, the Quixey search engine goes through the 135,000 Windows Phone 8 applications in the Windows Store seeking direct matches – such as the Windows Phone 8 Facebook app to replace the Android Facebook app – or to find applications that perform as close to the same function as possible, he says.

The search engine can also look for applications based on what customers want to do. So a customer could enter “cook Italian food” into the engine and would get a list of apps such as Tuscan Chef and Italian Video Recipes.

Sprint Zone and Sprint Digital Lounge use Quixey’s engine to find apps as does ask.com for searching Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Blackberry applications.

Keyboard for iPads mimics Surface
Logitech is selling a thin, fabric-covered keyboard/cover for iPads that give the Apple tablets similar functionality to Microsoft’s Windows 8 Surface tablet/laptops.

Called FabricSkin Keyboard Folio, the keyboards attach magnetically to iPads and flop down to convert from being a cover to being a keyboard. The device includes a prop to hold the screen at a slant for better viewing when typing. It can also fold over to allow use of the iPad as a tablet.

At $150, that puts iPads with keyboards on a price par with some models of Surface tablets with keyboards.

Some differences: Surface supports Office applications and a file system, something iPads lack. Surface draws power from the computer battery; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio has its own rechargeable battery. The Surface keyboard communicates with the tablet via direct electrical connection; FabricSkin Keyboard Folio uses Bluetooth.

8-inch Windows 8 tablet
Acer is coming out with an 8-inch tablet running Windows 8 if a leaked photo is to be believed.
Windows 8
The photo here was posted by the site minimachines.net but taken down at Acer’s request.


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Windows 8 Update: 50k apps now in Windows Store

Also: Windows RT gets dissed, iPads beware Windows 8

There are now more than 50,000 Windows 8-only applications available in the Windows Store, a big jump from when Windows 8 launched, but a far cry from what the company projected just before the launch.

According to the website MetroStore Scanner, the store has 50,341 apps on the shelves, finally reaching that number over the weekend after more or less growing steadily at 10% per month since last October. There was a spike in December perhaps as part of the Christmas rush.

ANALYSIS: What if Windows 8 flops?
But back in October Microsoft predicted it would have an inventory of more than 100,000 by the end of January, and now nearly two months later has just half that has materialized.

It’s bad news for Windows 8 and Microsoft because by the company’s own admission applications designed for the touch-friendly operating system are essential for attracting customers to it. Compelling apps mean more converts.

Getting apps has proven a challenge, with the latest enticement being an offer of $100 to developers for every Windows 8 app they get placed in the Windows Store up to 10. They can reap the bounty for an additional 10 Windows Phone 8 apps in the Windows Phone Store. “Offer good only to the first 10,000 qualified applications published in the Windows Store and/or Windows Phone Store, or until the end of the promotional period, whichever comes first,” Microsoft says.

That’s $1 million Microsoft is ponying up to stimulate apps development in this promotion alone. That doesn’t include the cost of developer trainings and a generous royalty agreement for the most popular applications.

While 50,000 apps is a benchmark, it’s coming too late for it to be considered a positive benchmark.

Jettison Windows RT?
Meanwhile, Microsoft is using the same Windows Store stats to defend Windows RT, the hardware/software platform based on ARM chips that runs a light version of Windows 8 and can handle only Windows Store Modern applications.

Windows RT came under fire recently from IDC, which suggested Microsoft dump the package. It is intended to compete with iPads, but hasn’t made strong inroads so far. Nevertheless, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of Windows planning told CNET that “as the number of apps grow in the store, that value promise only gets stronger.”

That value promise was based on a narrow set of circumstances. “Let’s say you drop that PC in a pool. Well, you get a new one and then you just redownload [the apps],” he told CNET. “That’s the kind of model people are used to with a phone or tablet today. I can maintain all the apps in the [Microsoft] store and reset with a single switch. So, on Windows RT, the user experience stays consistent over time.”

iPads beware
Despite the attack on Windows RT, the full Windows 8 software that supports any app that runs on Windows 7 is getting praised as an operating system for tablets.

Moor Insights and Strategy says in a whitepaper that Windows 8 tablets offer more than one advantage over Apple’s tablet. “Enterprise IT can and are deploying iPads but are doing so at an increased cost, time and complexity than PCs,” the paper says.

These tablets are PCs only without the keyboard, and so have a the manageability of a laptop with the touch centricity of Windows 8. The Intel Clover Trail processor gives the devices performance per watt that is comparable to that of the iPad, the paper says. “Through the combination of Intel Clover Trail and Windows 8, HP, Dell and Lenovo have created tablets that take the best the consumer elements of the iPad and adds to it enterprise features IT wants in their next generation tablets,” it says. “Enterprises should immediately evaluate the latest enterprise tablet offerings from HP, Dell and Lenovo and make their decisions on future deployments incorporating those additional options.”

Acer likes Windows 8
Acer President Jim Wong had some nice things to say about Windows 8 tablets recently during a financials conference call.

According to StreetInsider.com, Wong expects sales of tablets in general to pick up over the course of 2013.

According to the website, “More importantly, Wong said that momentum in Microsoft Windows 8 devices has been improving. Acer Chairman J.T. Wang echoed the sentiment during the company’s conference call, saying that Microsoft “has done some good things finally” to revitalize the Windows ecosystem.”


 

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IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales

IDC: Windows 8 a factor in lower 2012 PC sales
Better acceptance of Windows 8 could help a PC rebound later this year

The final numbers are in showing that PC makers shipped fewer machines last year than in 2011, and Windows 8 is among several factors being blamed by IDC for the decline, which is expected to continue this year.

Looking back IDC found that in 2012 total worldwide shipments of PCs was down 3.7%, including desktop and portable PCs.

The trend was worse in mature markets — the U.S., Canada, Western Europe and Japan — with a dip of 4%. Emerging markets — Asia/Pacific, Latin America the Middle East and Africa — were down 1.4%.

Limited interest in Windows 8 led last year to a dismal fourth quarter, IDC says in its latest Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Volume dropped 8.3% in Q4 2012 compared to Q4 2011, wiping out a potential bump during the normally robust holiday sales quarter, IDC says. That’s the largest drop ever recorded for a holiday season.

IDC described the reception of Windows 8, which launched in October, as “underwhelming.” Also contributing to the slow fourth quarter were tight IT budgets and a continuing poor world economy.

Hurting the potential lift that Windows 8 might have provided was the lack of components for touchscreen devices — the type of machine Windows 8 was designed to work best on. That makes the touchscreen devices that are available seem expensive compared to non-touch devices, IDC says.

Still, Windows 8 could help PC sales rebound somewhat late this year, says Rajani Singh, a research analyst at IDC. “IDC expects the second half of 2013 to regain some marginal momentum partly as a rubber band effect from 2012, and largely thanks to the outcome of industry restructuring, better channel involvement, and potentially greater acceptance of Windows 8,” he says. But it still won’t be enough to register growth; IDC projects worldwide PC sales in 2013 to drop another 1.3%.

The end of support for Windows XP should force more PC upgrades later this year as well, which could help bolster shipments later in 2013, Singh says.

The study doesn’t include tablets because they aren’t the functional equivalents of PCs, but their popularity among consumers helps siphon off dollars that otherwise might be spent on PCs, says Loren Loverde, vice president for Worldwide PC Trackers at IDC. “Growth in emerging regions has slowed considerably, and we continue to see constrained PC demand as buyers favor other devices for their mobility and convenience features,” Loverde says.

Long-term shipments of PCs shows better but still modest growth, the report says, projecting a 9% increase between 2012 and the end of 2017.


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Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries

Windows 8 Update: Supply-challenged Surface Pros to go on sale in 6 more countries
Also: Windows 8 upgrade rumored for summer, more Windows 8 ads queued, deals on Windows 8 machines

Microsoft has run out of Windows Surface Pro tablets twice in a month but is forging ahead with plans to make them available in six more countries.

According to today’s Surface blog the six countries are Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and Taiwan. The Surface Pro and Surface RT will be available there “in the coming months.”

With luck the supply of the machines will be better in these countries than it has been in the U.S. and Canada, where Microsoft has run out of Surface Pros twice. Microsoft hasn’t spelled out the reasons for the shortages.

“We are focused on meeting demand in current markets for Surface Pro and are working super hard to get new inventory into retail but recognize demand exists in other countries as well,” the blog post says. “We are committed to working with our retail partners to ensure we are delivering a great experience in the above mentioned countries for our customers.”

More promos
“Microsoft is about to embark on a second wave of Windows 8 client hardware promotions and user education,” according to a Computerworld article from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The story quotes Christopher Flores, director of communications for the Windows client division, who was interviewed at the show, where Microsoft is said to be keeping a low profile but meeting with partners off-site.

This new promotional wave might have something to do with the launch this week of Office 365, which has been redesigned for the touch capabilities that are such a key part of Windows 8. Demonstrating new Office features that Windows 8 supports better than Windows 7 might move some customers to accelerate their decisions to adopt the new operating system.

Windows Blue
Rumors have swirled for weeks that Microsoft is working on Windows Blue, the next iteration if its operating system. If the company follows past release patterns, this won’t be the major transformation that Windows 8 was. More likely it will represent what might be called a service pack in earlier Windows operating system releases.

There’s even a projected date for when Windows Blue (that’s just a code name) will reach the release-to-manufacturer stage: June 7, according to a post on a Chinese-language site that was discovered by Mary Jo Foley.

The site, Win8China, doesn’t attribute where it got its information, but seems to assert that Windows Blue will become the commercial version by the end of the summer. It’s hard to tell exactly from the translation of the site provided by Google Chrome.

Here’s how the translation reads, in part: “The development cycle time RTM version completed in the mid-term of 2013 (the beginning of the end of June -7), MSDN and other users will then use the priority, and then in August it will be open to all Win8 user upgrade download, as well as pre-installed into the new devices inside a PC, Tablet PC, laptop, ultra-extreme.”

Windows 8 tablet discount
Best Buy is knocking $100 off any Windows 8 touchscreen laptop, which in some cases represents an 18% discount.

Some people have linked the sale to the rumored availability of Windows Blue this summer, leading them to conclude that Best Buy is trying to unload current Windows 8 machines before the new version makes them obsolete.

Or the chain might have overstocked Windows 8 tablets and wants to clear its inventory. Or it might be getting ready to stock up on newer hardware due out later this year that blends features of tablets and laptops.

Windows 8 for dunking
Speaking of new hardware, Fujitsu is coming out with a Windows 8 tablet that can sit in a tub of water for half an hour and still work when it gets out.

It’s called Arrows Tab Q582/F and is on display at the Mobile World Congress. It costs about $1,350 to start.

Here’s how Fujitsu describes it: “With the terminal cap and slot cap tightly closed, IPX5 and IPX8 water resistance features protect the tablet from water damage. IPX5 designation indicates that the tablet can normally function after being sprayed with water from a nozzle with a diameter of 6.3 mm at a rate of 12.5 liters per minute from a distance of approximately 3 meters for a period of at least 3 minutes. The IPX8 designation indicates that the tablet will function normally after being immersed in room-temperature tap water to a depth of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes. When the terminal cap and slot caps are tightly closed IP5X dust resistance features protect the tablet from dust damage. IP5X indicates that the tablet can be left in an environment with dust particles with a diameter of 75 µm or less for 8 hours and still function and remain safe to use.”

Windows 8 Pro mobile phone
A company called i-mate says it is coming out with a mobile phone that runs the full Windows 8 Pro operating system. That’s Windows 8, not Windows Phone 8.

When it comes out later this year, it can be purchased with a docking kit that hooks the device into a desktop phone, monitor, keyboard and mouse. The kit includes a tablet driven wirelessly by the phone, which is called Intelegent.

As a standalone, Intelegent costs $750; with the kit, $1,500 and the company hopes to launch the products this summer.

All of this is according to a column in the Seattle Times.

A company spokesman says an i-mate team is at Mobile World Congress this week and couldn’t do an interview. “The i-mate Development Inc. team is busy at Mobile World Congress. We’ll reach out if they become available at a later date,” he spokesman says in an email.

The spokesman also says the Seattle Times column is accurate on details about the phone.

It will be interesting to see whether this device actually comes into being, what its battery life will be (driving an Intel Clover Trail processor) and whether the company can line up service providers that will support it.


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Microsoft hints at Surface Pro keyboard that powers Windows 8 computer

Microsoft hints at Surface Pro keyboard that powers Windows 8 computer
Mystery contact points could support an external battery, make Surface Pro an all-day mobile device

Microsoft may have a plan to address the poor battery life of its new Windows 8 Pro — a keyboard that includes an extra battery, something that could make the device more attractive to mobile workers.

During a public chat on Reddit, a spokesman for the company seemed to hint that engineers recognized the problem and designed in a contingency.

One participant posted this question: Does Microsoft have any plans for an external battery or for a thicker keyboard cover that has an extra battery?

The answer: “That would require extending the design of the accessory spine to include some way to transfer higher current between the peripheral and the main battery. Which we did …”

Sure enough, if you look at the edge of Surface Pro where the keyboard attaches via magnetic strips, there are two guide holes that align with two nubs on the keyboard and facilitate docking. But the holes also contain four copper contact points — which could be, as Microsoft wrote on Reddit, a way to transfer higher current between the peripheral and the main battery.

One of the worst features about Surface Pro is the battery life, which is somewhere between three and five hours, depending on what the machine is doing. That’s not really enough for a mobile worker who has no certainty of being able to plug the machine in during the work day.

Microsoft acknowledged this shortcoming during the chat and said that it was the result of an engineering compromise between enough battery power to drive the Intel Core i5 processor and keeping Surface Pro thin.

“While these tradeoffs are challenges as much as they are opportunities, we think given the performance and experience you will be getting, it is an exciting product,” says Panos Panay, Microsoft’s general manager of Surface.

The possibility of a battery-equipped keyboard could explain why Microsoft two weeks ago introduced the option of buying its other Surface model — the 64GB Surface RT tablet — without a keyboard. Until then a keyboard was always bundled in. With the possibility of more keyboard choices, the a la carte tablet makes sense.

Panay claimed that Surface Pro beats out Apple’s MacBook Air on at least one metric: minutes of use per battery pound. “If you compare it to say a MacBook Air, you will quickly see that pound for pound in battery size vs battery life, you will find optimizations that puts Surface best in its class.” Apple claims up to five hours battery life from its 7-inch MacBook Air and seven hours from its 13-inch model.

Panay also wrote about the relatively small amount of available disk space on the Surface Pro, which Microsoft says is 23GB on the 64GB model and 83GB on the 128GB model. He says the design considerations were providing enough space for installing a full version of Microsoft Office and a backup image of the system in addition to the Windows 8 operating system itself.

He suggests using a microSDXC card, a USB 3 drive or SkyDrive if customers want more storage, and promises that Surface Pro production units have squeezed out another 6GB to 7GB on the hard drive.


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Why I abandoned Windows Phone 8

I recently acquired a Nokia Lumia 920 to experiment with Windows Phone 8. But a few weeks in, I’m already back to my Android-based device.

A few months ago, I forced myself to switch to Windows 8 on my desktop system (and laptop) and ended up liking the operating system very much. Once I got used to the quirks and garish look of the new Start screen and learned many of the shortcuts built into Windows 8, I found myself enjoying the operating system and was more than pleased by its myriad of enhancements and performance improvements.

I initially made the switch to Windows 8 because I wanted to fully immerse myself into the OS before formulating any strong opinions. Considering how much I ended up liking Windows 8 on my desktop, I thought I would conduct a similar experiment with my smartphone. For the last few years, I have been deeply entrenched in the Android ecosystem and have experience with a multitude of devices. I enjoy installing custom ROMs on the devices and have experimented with countless apps and utilities. At this point my smartphone is an integral part of my day-to-day computing, and I’ve grown fond of a handful of apps and the convenience of always having my inboxes and access to the web in my pocket.
I picked up a [Windows Phone 8-based Nokia Lumia 920 and was initially impressed. The hardware itself is excellent. The Lumia 920’s camera is top notch. The device is obviously well-built. The screen looks great, and navigating through Windows Phone 8 was smooth as silk. At first, my Android-based device (currently a Samsung Galaxy Note II) remained my daily driver. I kept the Lumia 920 handy until I felt I was comfortable using its email client, browsing the web. But eventually I customized the Start screen to my liking and got a good feel for what Microsoft and Nokia were trying to accomplish with the phone. I installed only a couple of apps and got comfortable with them too.

After a couple of weeks and a good initial impression, I decided to dive in head-first and make the Lumia 920 my daily device. At first, I was happy with the decision. I dug the Live Tiles and the Lumia 920 never lost its luster; it’s a great phone.

But as I started to install more and more apps and dig deeper into the Windows Phone App Store, I was regularly disappointed. There seemed to be three kinds of apps available for Windows Phone 8:

Apps specifically designed for the OS that showed signs of greatness
Quick-and-dirty ports of apps obviously designed for other platforms
Kludges that were nothing more than wrappers for mobile websites

The apps designed with Windows Phone 8 in mind were mostly great. I especially liked the IMDB app, which blows away its counterparts on other mobile platforms. The Facebook app was also very fast and responsive, but it wastes a TON of screen real estate with larger-than-necessary fonts in the navigation menu and wasted white space in the feed. There were times when I could only see a single post in my news feed because of all the wasted screen real estate. I’m not sure what the app developers were thinking with that one.

Then there were the obvious ports that just didn’t look right on Windows Phone 8. One in particular, Words with Friends, comes to mind. I know it’s an older title and games aren’t a necessity, but I enjoy playing Words with Friends; it’s a nice break in the day. Anyway, fonts (like the one used to display the score) were nearly illegible and the game is just plain broken. As of a couple of weeks ago, you couldn’t use words with the letter “Z” and the main screen wouldn’t update when it was your turn. You’d think with the amount of complaints logged in the app store someone at Microsoft would fix the game, but no such luck.

And then there’s apps like YouTube, which seem to be little more than wrappers for the YouTube mobile site. Minimal effort was put into optimizing the app for Windows Phone 8, and it shows.

As you probably guessed by now, my little experience was a failure. I’m back to my Android device and don’t plan to give Windows Phone 8 another try for a few months. If Microsoft wants people to give Windows Phone 8 serious consideration, they’ve got to get serious about offering quality apps for the platform. It’s not just about the number of available apps, it’s about the quality, and at this point in time Windows Phone 8 trails in both departments.


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