According to major tech watchers, Microsoft is “mere weeks” from releasing the recently leaked Windows 8.1, Update 1. Preliminary builds of the software have found their way to the Internet. Although we can’t assume every feature now present in Update 1 will make it to the release version, there are enough changes, improvements, “do-over’s” to make for a fairly comprehensive (p)review. Since Windows users far outnumber any other kind, important changes to the OS are essential news.
Is Metro moniker a goner?
Much despair greeted Windows 8 when it “went cubist,” dumping the Start button and Desktop for its Modern interface. Update 1 will apparently detect the type of device it is running on, then boot to the Desktop for regular PCs like our computer rental, or the Modern-tiled interface for tablets, touch-enabled PCs and laptops. Or not. You can boot wherever you like by changing your PC Settings.
Microsoft’s SkyDrive is now OneDrive, and installs with the OS. In another move to educate users to address important issues up front, there is now a PC Settings tile on the Modern Start screen. Scrolling down from the Start screen to find PC Settings with all the other apps is not the way to encourage its use or get important things done quickly. Were you to use this coming OS with our LCD touchscreen monitor rental you would get a Start screen with easy-to-spot buttons for Search and Power Options (Shut Down, Restart, etc.). These are small but smart improvements.
Putting Windows back in Windows
Right-clicking on the Start and Apps screens now gets you what the rest of the world’s computer users get: a contextual menu. Bring your mouse to the top of the screen in a Modern app and a black bar with Close and/or Minimize buttons pops up (and appears momentarily at app startup). The Store icon is pinned to the Task Bar by default, and you can add other Modern apps that will run full-screen as usual. The Task Bar can now be displayed within Modern apps, too. Users asked, Microsoft answered.
Not sure which Windows software to use? CRE Rentals can help! We support a variety of industries, and work with all kinds of media pros, designers, post experts, and animators who know their way around render farms and the other high-tech gear behind every cartoon, cable series, and movie. Call us today at 877-266-7725.
Worldwide, console gaming is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Among console makers, there are a few dark horses in the race, like Nintendo and Steam, but the battle for video game console supremacy is clearly between Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. Naturally, both firms are grateful to the legions of gamers that supported them, from the 1990s weekend warriors wired to a tube TV to the 21st century pros who attach upscale displays like a LCD touchscreen monitor rental. It takes all kinds.
Yes, Content is Still King
Gamers built the foundation on which console makers will build future models, but that future will be a little different. (Okay, a lot.) Console makers are attempting to bring nongamers to the party by positioning their devices at “the center of the living room experience.” Consoles are now as powerful as a high-end computer rental and aren’t just for games. They’re another way to watch Netflix, surf the web, upload photos, send email and chat it up over Skype. Sony, Microsoft, and their various partners realize that they will generate more revenue from services, video and music than from gaming alone.
By the end of January 2014, the PS4 had amassed a solid sales lead, selling a total of 6+ million units to the Xbox’s 4+ million. This ratio is holding steady for later sales launches, such as in the UK and Europe. The content creators that work in animation and post-production with render farms and other high-tech tools are watching these figures, too. Moving forward, Sony and Microsoft want to lay claim to your main/central/family entertainment center, as strategized years ago when they said the Xbox would offer “games and everything else.” The future is here: The big bucks are in “everything else.”
Sony’s in a Great Position
With “the digital convergence” well underway, it is much easier to add general computing functionality to powerful game consoles than to add high-end gaming power to, say, an iMac. This puts Sony, a diversified media empire, in an enviable strategic position. With in-house content and expertise, plus longtime partnerships around the world, Sony can bring the goods in all departments, with games still part of the mix. And the mix should see all of your devices playing nice: You can even use an iPad rental as an “official” second screen controller and viewer with the PS4.
PS4 has had the edge since it debuted in North America on Nov. 15 and Europe on Nov. 29. (The Xbox One had a single global release into 13 markets on Nov. 22.) The PS4 is $100 less than the Xbox One, yet another variable in the competition. Sony is releasing the PS4 in Japan on February 22. The Xbox One? Sometime “in 2014,” says Microsoft. If Sony adds to its sales lead in its home market, and continues a sales ratio of 1.5-to-1 versus the Xbox One, the PS4 is going to start looking like the presumptive winner in The Battle for Your Living Room.
CRE Rentals isn’t ready to battle in your living room but we can provide all the technology tools you need to get your graphic-intense project done or help you make a statement at an upcoming event. If you know what you need, complete the online Quote form. Otherwise, give us a call at 877-266-7725.
Because iOS and OS X are small(er) markets for Microsoft, the firm does not hurry to get products fully ported to Apple’s devices. Lately the Redmond-based behemoth hinted, again, that it may tailor its productivity programs for iOS, create an Office version for our iPad rental, or do something else really nice for Apple folks.
Of course, there were none of the usual code words to indicate that any of these Office offerings would be “complete” ones rather than “lite” versions or dumbed-down web services. Because Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are so widespread (used worldwide by over 350,000,000 people), having access to them—preferably all the time, everywhere, on any device—is important. So free online Word, Excel, and PowerPoint? It’s a big deal.
One big deal deserves another
Therefore, CloudOn is a big deal, too. Although most longtime users have figured out Office workarounds, nothing but nothing can match the original. You get every installed feature without installing anything, perfect for when you have a computer rental or borrowed smartphone. CloudOn is available as an iOS and Android app, but also has a website, so you’ll be creating, editing, sharing, and presenting Office documents wherever you are.
The user interface is clean and uncluttered, as well as intuitive. Three icons at the top of the screen control the app’s main uses. The “Views” section, left, lets you choose workflow, icons, or lists to organize your work. The “Status” icon, center, opens your profile to edit it and/or change your password. The “Applications” section, right, gives you three ways to start a new file.
All changes are saved automatically to the cloud service where the file is stored so you will never lose your changes. Files can then be accessed, even downloaded, from any device—your desktop PC, a MacBook Pro rental—and from anywhere you can get online. Start a PowerPoint project in CloudOn on your iPhone then grab it from Dropbox when you get home, on your Windows PC.
Other popular cloud services are compatible with CloudOn, so when you set up your account you can connect to Google Drive, SkyDrive, and/or Box, too. Seeing all your files from all your accounts in a single location is very convenient. So is viewing any graphics file (PDF, JPG, GIF, PNG). This is Windows Office (without Windows) so Apple’s Pages, Keynote, and Numbers files are incompatible.
That nice, licensed look
Choose an appropriate Word doc, though, and it will open in a window that looks “right.” It has all the familiar settings, controls, paragraph alignments, and font adjustments, plus the same great menus and the entire range of editing options. The Excel and PowerPoint programs let you do pretty much everything that the full applications can, too, in working environments that mirror the programs. Whether you rent laptops for your road trips or take along your trusty tablet, you will now be creating, saving, sharing, and editing Office documents from anywhere, at any time, on just about any device. For free.
Even though you can’t rent a computer or laptop for free, CRE Rentals does offer competitive rates on the latest technology equipment in 21 locations nationwide. If you know what you need, just submit a Quick Quote online; otherwise call us at 877-266-7725 to speak to one of our experienced Account Executives.
Microsoft is an odd company, a strange admixture of genius and clumsiness, strategic vision and unscripted silliness. Steve Ballmer was no favorite of the punditocracy and left a while back with something less than a hero’s send-off. But around the same time, we wondered if Microsoft could be “The Comeback Kid,” noting how it has yo-yo’ed through the years. It is a unique story, this tech giant’s dramatic ups and downs, and often hard to fathom.
The “Relevance” Thing
In late 2012, Andreas Pouros, COO at marketing firm Greenlight, wrote in his Econsultancyblog that Microsoft would again be “relevant” in 2013. Despite a top-selling game console (seven years “mature”), a market capitalization approaching $230 billion, 90+ percent of the PC market, and an OS that you can even rent iMac computers to run, at the end of 2012 it was clear to Pouros and everyone else that Microsoft was not the world-changing juggernaut of its prime. Was it time for another Microsoft obituary?
Pouros had an emphatic response: No! In fact, he saw a turnaround coming, based on Microsoft’s “dominant position on the desktop” plus the company’s core strengths in gaming, OS, and two-way communication (Skype). Success in these areas would underwrite the development of products in what Pouros called “an exciting ecosystem that will make Microsoft a compelling choice for consumers.”
The “Devices and Services” Thing
However, the company’s major consumer device focus in 2013, the Surface line, did not explode on the scene and zoom anywhere near iPad rental in sales or market share. Pouros got this one wrong, but let’s just say Microsoft started a slow-growing fire in the segment, rather than a blaze. To finish off the company’s strategic plan, Pouros predicted Microsoft would buy Netflix to secure its new position as “a devices and services” company.
That didn’t happen (to be fair, it is still 2013) but how did the Pouros Prognostication fare, overall? Quite well, in fact: In its most recent earnings report (October 2013), Microsoft announced that quarterly profits increased 17% from the year prior, on sales that rose 16% to a bit over $18.5 billion. That was more than two-thirds of a billion dollars beyond Wall Street’s consensus estimate of $17.8 billion. Complete details of the report can be reviewed online, but for a quick overview here are lists of the “Strong” and “Weak” Microsoft operating units:
Business sales of Office and server software
Cloud computing for business
Cloud for consumers (SkyDrive)
Device and licensing revenue from Surface line
Device and licensing revenue from Windows and Windows Phone product lines
Surface and Surface Pro sales hit $400 million, aided greatly by the blowout pricing on the original RT model. Finally, the Nokia acquisition will play out over the coming year(s) in surprising ways that are, as we’ve said before, often hard to fathom. And that prediction brings us full circle on our latest ride on the Microsoft yo-yo!
As always, we’ll keep you posted on the latest technology news. Do you need to be relevant for an upcoming project or event? If so, we can help by supplying you with the latest technology rentals to help get the job done. Complete an Express Quote online or call us today at (877) 266-7725.
Microsoft has been in the news a lot—Steve Ballmer’s cheerless departure, the billion-dollar flop of the original Surface, Windows Phone inertia, and other miscues and missed opportunities haunt the firm. Yet Microsoft just posted better-than-forecast figures for Q1. The company reported that its “devices and services transformation is progressing” just as after-hours trading pushed shares up.
Microsoft is a fascinating study of a firm that has had several well-defined eras following its founding at the dawn of the microcomputer age—which is the problem at the moment. Long criticized for “going in one era and out the other” with tech strategies and marketing campaigns, Microsoft is looking for a solid new identity for its post-Ballmer era. We’ve written about Ballmer’s bad moves, but now let’s take a look at some positive incidents that just might reveal where this tech giant is headed.
Windows XP had a special edition that ran on tablet PC and before that, Microsoft had Windows for Pen Computing—for Windows 95! The company really does know tablets, from hardware and software to sales and support. Now that Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets are on sale, Microsoft went ahead and reduced the price of the original Surface Pro. In August Microsoft initially reduced the price when slow sales slowed even further. Since then, however, Surface models have contributed $400 million to the Q1 figures cited above.
More bang for Bing
In July, Microsoft announced that Bing was much more than a mere search engine. It’s a developer platform, too, offering coders the development kits, back-end services, and control modules for creating new tools and techniques. Microsoft is aiming for the type of ubiquity enjoyed by Google, where everything from the temp’s computer rental to the CEO’s gold iPhone is using Gmail, Gdrive, and Google+. Just last week, Microsoft brought a missing piece to the Bing developers’ construction kit: speech recognition. A new control enables developers to include speech recognition as an input in apps made for Windows 8, Windows 8.1, and Windows RT. Microsoft managers also announced that the Bing Translator Controls and Optical Character Recognition Control would be updated, too.
Breaking into the Glass market
Microsoft may become a top rival to Google Glass, as the firm is already testing prototypes for web-connected glasses with high-tech specs similar to the Glass product. The Wall Street Journal cited some unnamed people “familiar with the matter,” but offered no details about the project, saying only that it is part of Microsoft’s “grand strategy” to become a top player in the device market along with Google, Apple, and Samsung.
Finally, fast fixes!
Within two days of removing the Windows RT 8.1 operating system update from the Microsoft Store on October 19 (just two days after its launch), Microsoft released a new, fixed update. The initial Windows RT 8.1 update caused problems with one of every 1,000 Surface RT 8.1 installations. Following initial criticism, Microsoft was lauded for its quick and complete fix.
Need the best event production rentals, or the right laptops for your conference team? You always get first-rate advice from experienced CRE Account Executives. Call (877) 266-7725 or visit the Quick Rental Quote page. We’re ready to help—24/7/365!
With so many recent product announcements, upgrades, and rollouts, there is a lot of ground to cover. We’ll be discussing some of these things for weeks (or longer), so today’s post will be a “grand overview” of what Apple, Nokia, and Microsoft brought to market on Tuesday, October 22 aka the “Big Tech Day.”
A bushel of Apple stuff
At its October 22 event, Apple announced the iPad Air, a 9.7-inch device that’s 20% slimmer (at .3 inches) than previous iPads and weighs 1 pound. “The lightest tablet on the market,” according to Apple, it uses the same A7 chip in the new iPhone 5S. The iPad Mini finally got its Retina display, while the existing lower-res Mini becomes Apple’s entry point. The MacBook Pro line got a refresh rather than full upgrade, although weight and battery power are nicely optimized. Apple also announced pricing of its futuristic new Mac Pro which will be available “before the end of the year.”
Introducing a new software policy that makes the new version of Mac OS X Mavericks available free to anyone now using OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8. The productivity apps, iLife and iWork, will be bundled free on new iOS and OS X devices, with upgrades freely available, too.
Major takeaway: Free upgrades forever? Free software that’s actually good? Apple is right: This will throw the industry into a tizzy.
Nokia & Microsoft: Wedding bell blues?
Nokia, which Microsoft (MS) will finish absorbing in early 2014, showed two phablets - Lumia 1320 and 1520 with 6-inch screens, which could draw business users. CRE’s long experience with mobile devices—from original tablet PC to current iPad rental—illustrates the growth of mobile computing, and Nokia wants in. On the admin side, Nokia’s former chief, Stephen Elop, rejoins MS to lead the handsets division, which could be anchored by Nokia’s low-end Asha line for emerging markets and budget buyers. Since they use Nokia’s proprietary Series 40 OS, they could serve as stepping stones into higher-priced Windows Phone products.
Major takeaway: Nokia’s low-end lines may give budget buyers a path into the higher-cost MS models, but some analysts fear possible “sales cannibalization.”
Microsoft (MS) launched its new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets at midnight Tuesday, October 22. CNET reported that the event was “loud and colorful and full of enthusiasm” and that the “only thing … missing is people that want to buy its new device.” The Surface 2 runs RT and has 32GB and 64GB storage options. The Surface Pro 2 with Windows 8 has two models: one with 4GB RAM offering 64GB or 128GB of storage, the other with 8GB RAM plus 256GB or 512GB. One leading tech site ran a long, positive review but concluded that “recommending the Surface becomes harder when there are other Windows tablets that cost less and run full Windows.” In fact, most reviewers ended up asking what no manufacturer wants to hear: Who will buy these products?
Major takeaway: MS seems to be flailing about. The Nokia buy could be a good thing, but could just as easily go sour.
Whether you need the best trade show convention rentals for an upcoming conference, or the latest in high-powered post-production gear, we can help! Call us at (877) 266-7725 or visit the Quick Rental Quote page and tell us what you need.
When Microsoft (MS) first announced its next-generation Xbox One, many people were shocked by some of the new “console management features.” No more borrowing, renting, or selling used game titles—and MS will “ping” you daily to make sure you’re acting right. “This is the Brave New World of game console authoritarianism,” MS seemed to say, making its announcement with no thought whatsoever given to public reaction. As we learn more about MS boss Steve Ballmer’s sped-up retirement, the Xbox debacle might move higher up the list of reasons for his departure. It’s a doozy.
The Public Is Not Stupid
There was huge resistance to the Xbox move, and even MS’s damage control pros (who get a lot of practice) couldn’t silence Sony’s ads reminding consumers that the new PlayStation had none of those limitations. MS caved. After announcing something to the effect of “Oops!” the firm removed all offending “features.” In this particular case, at least, the consumers won. So how are consumers faring as another tech giant, Adobe, circles the wagons to manage its own PR fiasco? How goes the four-month-long-and-counting kerfuffle over the “cloudification” of its Creative Suite?
A brief recap: In May, the firm said that perpetual licensing for the software was kaput with CS6, and users would thenceforth subscribe to the firm’s Creative Cloud (CC). Today’s Adobe users—“presumptive subscribers” to Adobe’s way of thinking—include top pros using CRE render farms as well as everyday photo-tweakers, desktop publishers, and freelance graphic artists. They wasted no time dumping on the firm, even creating a Change.org petition that garnered over 39,000 signers. Complaints are not subsiding, as the rollout has not been smooth.
Costly Entry… and No Exit?
So how has Adobe reacted? Well, they haven’t changed much yet. Facebook postings by Greg Wilson, Adobe’s Director of Evangelism, claim the firm is “listening”—and perhaps so, but Wilson may have had his fill. Replying to one irate user, Wilson writes, “Keep the opinions coming [but] I just don’t want to hear the same opinion 20 times in a row.” There are various complaints, most dealing with the cost but plenty of others citing poor implementation—problems logging in when you rent laptops, password failures, renaming Library folders, etc. The CC complaint that Adobe and Wilson may hear 20 or 120 times in a row, though, concerns the lack of a fair “exit strategy.”
In various scenarios, users run the risk of “orphaned output.” If you create documents in Photoshop CS6, and you own it, you are “safe” until the next upgrade. At that point, you must subscribe to CC or Adobe will pass you by. If you subscribe long enough for new versions to appear, and then cancel, you will have documents that you cannot open. But where can users go? GIMP? Pixelmator? It’s hard enough to find full-strength replacements for a single Adobe program, but many pros are stuck in a multi-program workflow with InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, etc. Right now, there is no easy answer—so we’ll stay on the job and keep you posted.
The times they are a-changin’—since nothing is constant but change, right? Changes in the tech world don’t come any bigger than Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft. It’s a whirlwind for Microsoft right now—a new Xbox debuting soon, the purchase of Nokia’s wireless biz for about $7 billion, the meandering journey of Windows 8, ad nauseam. Yet it is certainly no secret that a solid, growing majority of pundits, tech analysts, industry observers, and ratings firms have signaled that Ballmer’s departure is probably a good thing.
Without a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today. Not only has he singlehandedly steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets (mobile music, handsets and tablets) but in the process he has sacrificed the growth and profits of not only his company but “ecosystem” companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and even Nokia. The reach of his bad leadership has extended far beyond Microsoft when it comes to destroying shareholder value—and jobs.
Hartung notes that Microsoft’s stock price reached its historic high of about $60 in 2000, the year Gates handed off control to Ballmer. Just two years later it was in the $20 range, and has yo-yo’d between that and the low-$30s ever since. It’s not any one thing, but a succession of miscues that affected every aspect of the business. The firm is still ubiquitous—most any computer rental will likely run Windows 7 or 8, unless you opt for a Mac or a Linux box—but is no longer the leader, innovator, or style-setter that once challenged Apple in those categories (it’s true, youngsters!). It’s hard to imagine any tech writer favorably comparing the troubled Surface tablets to our potent iPad rental. No one looks at Microsoft and thinks, “They’re so hip! They’re so stylish!”
Ballmer Bummers & Blunders
So, what has Ballmer’s decade-and-a-third accomplished for Microsoft? It’s not an exhaustive list—since making one would be exhausting—but here’s a sample of Ballmer Bummers & Blunders:
The Ballmer era has seen constant, continual delays on rollouts of new/upgraded hardware and software.
The lack of added value in upgrades encouraged user avoidance and piracy.
The future of Microsoft apparently rests on Windows 8.
Hartung characterizes that last one, betting on Windows 8, as an “insane bet for any CEO,” and it would not have happened had the Microsoft board of directors replaced Ballmer “with a CEO that…would have kept Microsoft current with market trends.” While Microsoft has by no means become a failure, Hartung says that no CEO should have been “allowed to take such incredible risks with investor money and employee jobs.” The Forbes contributor ends by advising Ballmer to go home and “enjoy his fortune” instead of making it impossible for employees and investors to make their own.
We will keep you posted on all things Microsoft in the coming weeks: the transition to a new CEO, the debut of the new Xbox, the marketing campaign for Windows 8, and all the rest! In the meantime, we’re here 24/7/365 to solve your problems. Call 877-266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page to take care of things in your own time. CRE’s got you covered!
Nintendo inaugurated the next generation of game consoles with the Nintendo Wii U, the company’s first high-def system with enough graphical horsepower to bear comparison to the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Arguably the Wii U’s unique selling point is the enormous “control tablet”—essentially a chubby, button-loaded iPad rental—that brings the Wii’s motion controls, the Xbox’s physical ones, and the Nintendo 3DS’s touch screen together. This fits into the recent trend toward experimentation we’ve noticed in the tech sector, such as the new computing paradigms being promoted in both the high-end (Mac Pro) and low-end (Chromebooks).
Game consoles are very big business. Competition is fierce in 2013, and will culminate this November in a game console smackdown that PCmag.com says is “shaping up to be the fight of the century.” That’s when both Sony and Microsoft start selling their own “new paradigm game consoles” to counter the Nintendo Wii that’s already on sale. The Nintendo flagship is a unique system, more potent than the average computer rental, but there are few titles for it so far. Its other major new feature, the TVii subsystem for live TV and digital media, is not quite fully baked. The high-definition video is a nice addition but the Wii U’s future depends on other developers turning the new paradigm into popular games and entertainment.
Sony PlayStation 4
The Sony PlayStation 4 will retail for $100 less than Microsoft’s Xbox One. Although the PlayStation 4 price won’t include its new PlayStation Eye camera while the Xbox One will come bundled with Microsoft Kinect, the $100 difference is enough to catch consumers’ attention. As with such Apple products as the iconic iMac, though, many consumers gladly pay more for good design, attention to detail, and superior craftsmanship. But, Sony has the better reputation for quality control.
Importantly, you can play games (virtually) forever on the PlayStation 4 while remaining offline, and use your games from previous PlayStation models. While Microsoft proposed and reversed several controversial policies concerning the Xbox One, Sony has whipped its fan base into a frenzy the way Apple did at WWDC 2013. Fanboyz and fangirlz are good for business. A strong selection of top titles are lined up behind the launch-day games to keep the fans happy.
Microsoft Xbox One
The Xbox One is Microsoft’s third-generation console and its definition of “living room tech” has expanded far beyond mere gaming. The basic system combines the next-generation Kinect 2.0 sensor—more sensitive with better recognition of small and/or quick gestures—with a 500GB hard drive, a single wireless controller, and its first Blu-ray drive. Connectivity is covered with HDMI in/out and USB 3.0 support. Frankly, you could connect everything from our plasma display rentals to external mass storage to this device, as it’s compatible with just about everything. Coincidence? Hardly. Microsoft is not even positioning the Xbox One as a game console. It’s meant to be the center of your life.
For spending leisure hours enjoying media and entertainment, the Xbox One has channel guides for live TV, on-demand, and subscription options; and you can split screens and jump among games, TV shows, movies, music, photos, Skype video calls, the camera at your front door, and anything else with a digital signal that you can connect to it. The proposed “security” measures initially proposed for the Xbox One (various disturbing restrictions on trading or even playing used games) were nixed in June. Exclusive Xbox One titles at or near launch day include a new Halo plus Forza Motorsports 5, Dead Rising 3, and Minecraft: Xbox One Edition.
One call to (877) 266-7725 or a quick message will result in the right answers to your unique challenges. If you already know what you need, the Quick Rental Quote page is the route to an even quicker solution. Whenever you’re ready, we’ll be here!
The Microsoft Build Developer Conference (subtitled “The Next Generation of Modern Apps”) took over a chunk of San Francisco last Wednesday through Friday (June 26-28, 2013). It’s a year-round ritual for Big Tech to roll out the revival meetings and fanfests (er, conferences and breakout sessions), and since Google had theirs and Apple just dominated the June news, it’s arguably Microsoft’s “turn.”
This year, there was a strange mix of anticipation and giddiness, as there are more positive developments coming out of Redmond now than have been seen in many moons. With the iMac, and desktops in general, sales continue to slide, but Microsoft’s in a good position with its own tablet hardware/software “ecosystem”–every bit as closed as Apple’s iOS walled garden, at least so far–and Windows 8.1 is looking to make good on the predictions of Windows 8′s success (and make up for the slow uptake that spelled failure for 8.0).
In three geeky days in The City by the Bay, the Build Conference delivered the goods to a grateful crowd, then the world. We took it all in, considered all the different views, then boiled it down to just the news you can use. And we’re off…!
Missing parts restored
From the first news last year that the Start button would be retired, a huge majority of users derided the move. When Windows 8 was released without it, the derision turned into barely contained rage. Though Windows 8.1 restores the apparently life-sustaining tool, rather than invoking a narrow menu it routes you right to the start screen tiles, now the kind of eye candy that looks downright edible on our LCD touchscreen monitor rental. The entire user interface (UI) has been “unbolted” a bit to allow for additional, unique user customizing—and better accessibility for keyboard & mouse users without touchscreens.
Windows 8.1 adds back something else that was inexplicably left out of the initial release: support for a range of screen resolutions and dimensions. On ultra-high-res displays–as on CRE’s MacBook Pro rental and the Chromebook Pixel–some Windows 8 buttons are so small they’re impossible to click. The 8.1 update fixes this. Microsoft knows that 18 months from now, if you rent laptops, you’re as likely as not to get ultra-high-res screens. The company sees the zillions of 7- and 8-inch tablets coming, too, so it’s tweaking Windows to look right wherever it’s used.
And some new things, too
Let’s not forget that next generation of apps line, as the near future may see touch-enabled Microsoft Office apps. This was the most buzzworthy of in-conference buzz. Several Microsoft speakers mused about swiping and poking their way through PowerPoint presentations. Presently, Office apps are usable only in “desktop mode” and not via start screen tiles (“Metro”), thus still run fine on any basic Windows computer rental you can find. But if PowerPoint, Word, and Excel do go touchy-feely, it could be huge for Microsoft.
Bing’s overhaul bolstered visual search aids and results, while Xbox Music and Mail underwent cosmetic surgery. One of Windows 8.1′s many under-publicized features lets you “snap” apps together, using them simultaneously for true multitasking. Finally, despite lukewarm sales of the Xbox One, Microsoft hinted that building apps for Windows 8.1 would be a “head start” on subsequent development for the slow-selling game console. Windows 8.1 has no official release date yet, but a preview is available for download.