Microsoft will probably release the public preview of Windows Blue, now officially dubbed “Windows 8.1″ in the Apple style of “point releases,” at its June developer conference, Build2013. The Redmond firm is abandoning its traditional operating system release cycle, where every three years or so it drops a Big & Different OS on an unsuspecting user base. Some Windows 8 and RT users might pay to upgrade, but if Microsoft uses the Apple style of pricing, too, folks will be happy: OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) is $19.99.
What it is, what it isn’t
Windows runs on the majority of the world’s computers, so all the people that use company PCs, rent laptops, or have both at home have a strong incentive for the latest iteration of the OS to be good, not just “good enough.” Windows 8.1 is bringing targeted feature improvements, cosmetic refinements, and operational changes to an OS that has exhibited more than its share of quirky behavior since its debut. Interestingly, whenever inaccurate speculations began to get traction on the Internet over the last 15 or 20 months of discussion about Windows 8, a curiously well-timed leak would set things straight.
A fairly recent build of 8.1 leaked online and showed among other things that Microsoft has refined Windows’ internal search function: rather than divided among the three default categories (apps, settings, files), results are displayed in a single, easily scanned screen. You only click if you need to filter them. The poor search function is one of the major annoyances with Windows 8, so this would be a welcome change.
Evolutionary, not revolutionary
Apple has its iCloud service available to all its products, from an iMac running OS X to the latest iPad mini with iOS, and the cloud is critically important for Microsoft, too. (“Three screens and a cloud,” remember?) Along with new Live Tiles in a range of sizes and formats, plus revisions and upgrades to the OS’s bundled applications, Windows 8.1 will also feature much deeper integration with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud services. (We will discuss this critically important move in an upcoming blog.)
Like all software (all science, one might as well say) Windows 8 is a work in progress. Following the first public showing of the Windows 8 concept, where Microsoft unveiled a partial build of the OS that was complete “in feature terms,” the company released a developer preview without e-mail, a consumer preview with time limits, and a release preview. After Windows 8 was officially released, its apps and communications programs were updated and extended. Windows 8.1 continues the process, and it looks like things are getting good.
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As Windows 8 neared its official release date, tech journalists kept the interest level up with leaks and rumors as computer makers busily prepped new models. Because Microsoft wants to draft mobile and touchscreen users into the Windows universe, this OS utilizes gestures and there are tons of touch-enabled devices coming soon, including more workstations.
Through 2011 and 2012, PC sales have sagged. For a while it almost felt like all the people in the world were holding their breath in order to release a single, synchronized, 6-billion-strong “wow!” on October 26th, Windows 8′s debut. Did you happen to hear anything?
Reports Start Coming In
Of course, there hasn’t been a unified reaction to Windows 8, but there will eventually be millions of individual ones. From gamers with water-cooled towers to secretaries with a basic desktop PC computer rentals, reports are coming in from every niche. Some users absolutely love the new navigation, while others have reported technical issues. Many may fear the learning curve of a new OS, are wary of upgrades after Vista, or are simply happy enough with Windows 7 to put off upgrading for now. If Windows 8 is going to succeed, it needs seriously deep and broad market penetration.
Overview and Impressions
Windows 8 brings a major performance boost. After noticing the snappier boot time, however, there appears the quite dramatic new Start screen.
The original Start menu, of course, was somewhat controversial when it debuted, but you now may feel pressured to buy apps and content if you tie your Windows account to an existing Microsoft account, all due to Microsoft’s “three screens and a cloud” strategy. You can avoid the hard sell by changing your default applications, or using a local account instead, but not tying Windows to your Microsoft account means you forgo much of what was hyped about Windows 8. The stripped-down RT version of the software would be particularly limited without a linked Microsoft account.
The Kids Are Right
At various times it was argued that age cohorts and media types would drive future OS adoption. Now it seems both are in play as the Windows 8 era has officially arrived, which for Microsoft means:
increased use of digital images, audio, and video; and
continuous, robust social media interaction.
The foregoing items are all associated with younger users, the same ones who use iPad rentals and watch YouTube. They may be more amenable to Windows 8 than other “old school” computer users, but only time will tell if Microsoft made the right move.
To Upgrade or Not Upgrade?
Windows 8 is not right for every PC user. Desktop power users who work with render farms and people who have nicely personalized systems have no compelling reasons to upgrade. But for mobile users who rely on the “Microsoft ecosystem,” and business pros who rent laptops to stay ahead of the curve, Windows 8 is a must. If you are somewhere between those two endpoints, it’s worth a close look. We’re keeping an eye on things and will let you know everything we find out about Windows 8 specifics in the coming weeks.
In August, the free Real-Time & Embedded Computing Conference (RTECC) took place in several SoCal locations. Embedded software manages all kinds of “helpful high tech” – like anti-lock brakes, digital cameras, and vending machines – and it’s surprising how little people know about it considering how far it has advanced. For some devices, it doesn’t matter if the operating system (OS) is Linux, BeOS, or proprietary, as there is no user interaction. Interactive devices, however, require an advanced embedded OS, so Microsoft is going after the market quite aggressively with at least 10 versions of Windows Embedded.
“Windows + Cloud”
Windows Embedded delivers “Windows plus the cloud” to various intelligent devices (it’s not just about the iPad rental, okay?). Microsoft began working with embedded technology some 15 years ago and intends to support everything from office building automation to tablet PCs. Microsoft is wagering that “rich” user experiences, ubiquitous cloud connectivity, and flexible ways of harnessing data will produce a new sort of “extended intelligence.”
A major advantage for Microsoft is its longtime presence in the enterprise (big biz) market. Despite its vulnerabilities, Microsoft’s ”trusted platform” keeps a single standard across an enterprise, simplifying operations for everything from smart phones to desktop computer rentals. The downside? In its zeal to offer maximum flexibility, Microsoft has developed 10 different versions (so far). The only reason this won’t confuse the public as much as the multiple flavors of (regular) Windows is that consumers don’t have to choose an embedded OS – device makers do.
Flexibility or more confusion?
We’ll likely cover more on these in the coming weeks, as device makers debut new tools and toys with one or another embedded Windows OS. Here are the (gulp) 10 versions we know about now:
Windows Embedded Compact 7 (formerly CE) – Low-cost, real-time OS for small footprint consumer and enterprise devices ranging from GPS devices to Digital Picture Frames, Health Monitoring Devices to Vending Kiosks.
Windows Embedded Standard 7 SP1 (formerly XPe) – A fully componentized version for advanced commercial and consumer devices including simple Point of Service Terminals, Gaming Devices, Digital Signage, and Multi-Function Printers.
Windows Embedded POSReady 7 (formerly WEPOS) - An OS specifically made for Point of Service devices; retailers will improve transaction processing and customer retention with its extended customer experience capabilities.
Windows Embedded Device Manager 2011 – Enterprises can deploy, measure, and update their Windows Embedded devices with this single solution.
Windows Embedded Enterprise – This offers application compatibility, a custom user interface, and fully functional versions of the desktop OS for devices such as computer kiosks, ATM systems, and complex industrial automation controllers and medical devices.
Tech giant Apple posted record-breaking numbers in Q1 2012, selling 15.4 million iPads, 15.4 million iPods, 37 million iPhones, and 5.2 million Macintosh computers for total sales of $46.33 billion. While scoring records for its other lines, the iPod number was down over 20% from Q1 2011. Through the next two quarters the Mac and iPhone figures dipped, too. In Q3 2012, sales were at 17 million iPads, 6.8 million iPods, 26 million iPhones, and 4 million Macs .
Apple now sells about four times as many iPads as Macs each quarter. In fact, with the proliferation of iPad rental units and booming sales worldwide, the Cupertino firm sold more iOS devices in 2011 than it has sold Macintosh models, ever. Clearly, iOS is now Apple’s “money” platform, and the company is working to adapt the Mac OS to the iOS look, feel, and “vision.”
This has prompted speculation that future Macs will operate on a “converged” OS. This is unlikely. Despite declining Mac sales, the computer will be with us for at least another decade, though some say not much longer. As long as there are iMacs, of course, CRE will have iMac rentals, as well as this blog to keep you in the know.
Mac to the future
If we imagine the kind of computer that people will be using 10 or 15 years from now, it would doubtless be more of an iPad than a Mac. A simple, low-cost, touch-based tablet seems a good guess, although it wouldn’t replace a notebook or desktop PC rental for everyone. Video pros, engineers, audio recordists, graphic artists, and others will always need as much power as possible, plus graphics accelerators, large monitors, special plug-in cards, and so forth.
The market for high-end, premium computers has always been a niche, and will remain one. Apple definitely wants to continue as the go-to brand for creatives and geeks, and it will. The Mac isn’t going anywhere. Will it last another 30 years? Who knows? All indications suggest that it should be around for at least another 10, and probably 20 years. Expect Apple to anchor both of its platforms with iCloud, so that people can use any Apple device, with either OS, in a more synchronized, unified, seamless manner.
We shall see…
And yet, as long as its notebook and desktop models rely on trackpads and mice, not touchscreens, with different considerations for battery life, processing power, and application support, Apple will maintain two significantly different operating systems. Going forward, the iOS calls for continued simplicity and ease, while the Mac OS, currently at version 10.8, Mountain Lion, calls for more sophistication and power.
For now, a formal combination of the two into a hybrid OS doesn’t appear to be Apple’s plan. Bridging them together? That’s the ticket. As always, we’ll keep you posted!
For over 30 years now, Microsoft has been at the center of Information Age activity, so when you want a sense of the current “state of the PC,” that’s where to look. On Thursday, August 23rd, the company debuted its new logo (“25 years in the making”) in preparation for the October 26th launch of Windows 8. Every Microsoft product and service – from Office and Windows 8 on your desktop PC rental, to Windows Phone 8 on your cell, to every single Xbox game – will share this common look and feel. A Microsoft blog post sounded positively Apple-like in touting the “familiar and seamless experience on PCs, phones, tablets and TVs” that is expected to result from the new OS.
We’ve blogged about the trends in hardware for 2012, so you likely know that the “next big thing” is actually the “next small thing” – the ultrabook. To achieve a svelte form factor, manufacturers are largely dispensing with optical drives, which are themselves starting to fade away as flash memory gets cheaper and broadband more widespread. Along with its near-monopoly as the pre-installed OS in PCs, Microsoft is positioning itself as the middleman between users and every type, size, and style of digital device, from phones to tablet PCs.
A white-hot niche
In mid-May we blogged about how the Asus Zenbook was heads and shoulders above most ultrabooks. In just the last few months, however, other manufacturers have jumped on the bandwagon with gusto. Ergonomics seem to be fairly well established – size, thickness, weight, etc. – but there is no uniformity whatsoever on what ports are supplied, whether they’re standard size or mini, how well the keyboard works, or the accuracy of the multi-gesture trackpads. Still, whether you want to buy or rent laptops, you can now give consideration to light, nimble and powerful units from Dell (XPS 13), Lenovo (IdeaPad U300S), Samsung (Series 9) and others, including the one that started it all in the non-PC world - the MacBook Air.
Remember, too, that graphics performance has been boosted on many of the higher-end models, giving these small form-factor devices enough oomph to output to plasma display rentals (and a few even have full-size VGA out, meaning no adapters to lose). In fact, it’s the visual dimension that Windows 8, with its “Metro” style and colorful icons, is using to communicate its new, improved wonderfulness to (hopefully) new throngs of Microsoft fans. The new ultrabooks are going to show off Microsoft’s new logo and now OS to great effect, even as the firm tries to hypnotize the world into forgetting the word “Metro.” Well, we’ll see soon enough if the public “gets it.”
Last week, Apple released its first computer operating system without “Mac” or “Macintosh” in the name: OS X 10.8, with the cute kitty code-name of Mountain Lion. It is available only by direct App Store download and only to users with either of the last two OS versions installed (10.6 or 10.7, Snow Leopard and Lion, respectively). Should you upgrade? Should you specify OS X 10.8 when you rent Macbook Pro laptops?
Let’s take a look at Mountain Lion…
When Apple introduced Lion in 2011, almost six of every 10 Mac owners passed on converting to Lion completely, including many a high-end user like those that rely on a CRE Mac Pro rental. Oddly, as Mountain Lion now appears to deliver on its predecessor’s promises, it’s not quite living up to its own pre-launch hype. Apple hasn’t made its intentions clear about the future of OS X, and the company’s reticence promotes FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), as well as occasional bad reviews. What gives?
New dividing line?
Apple has upset a number of its most loyal customers by dumbing down Final Cut Studio and letting the Mac Pro go stale over the last several years. High-end users feel abandoned (subject of an upcoming blog), and oppose the Mac’s “iOS-ification.” The sort of media pros that use AJA IO HD-level technology are not as concerned with look and feel as they are with brains and brawn.
For non-pro users, it’s all about “social networks,” despite Facebook integration being delayed until a fall update. When iOS 6 is released around the same time, a CRE iPad rental will integrate just as seamlessly with OS X devices as other “pads, pods ‘n’ phones.” In the meantime, other new Mountain Lion features push “Mac socialization” forward, like Messages, the Notifications service and system-wide iCloud support. This last feature is not as intuitive as it should be, and it is strange how hard Apple worked to make it invisible.
Mountain Lion features …lots to look at?
Apple claims “over 250″ new features, but this includes changing the typeface on some dialog boxes. Peruse that new features list carefully, as some features only work with select Macs, such as Power Nap that collects messages and updates while asleep. Right now it only works on two Air models and the Retina Display MacBook Pro. There’s a lot to go over, so we’re going to live with the new OS for a bit and report back to you with what we discover.
Here’s your first Mountain Lion heads-up: Coinciding with the release of OS X 10.8 was the launch of new Mac-specific malware. Go here to check it out and get the antidote (if you need it).
For everything from trade show convention rentals to high-end post-production technology, your solutions are a single call or e-mail away, right here at CRE. And if you know what you need, visit our Quick Rental Quote page and be done and gone in minutes.
For all our scientific progress, humans have a dismal record of predicting the future. There is not a scintilla of evidence for supernatural prognostication, despite people believing in so-called psychics like Sylvia Browne (a proven fraud). Of course, the scientists and skeptics that expose psychic charlatans are no better at making predictions than phony seers are – yet they continue trying.
When a bespectacled fellow in a lab coat speaks, many of us lower our intellectual guard. Scientists are intelligent – the moon landing! the paleo diet! the iMac! – so we may listen even when they hold forth on subjects beyond their expertise. There are no experts at predicting the future, which these five embarrassingly wrong tech predictions prove quite conclusively.
1. “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” Ken Olson founded Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), one of the first manufacturers of mainframe computers for government and industry. Asked about the home-use potential of the PC in 1977, when Apple and others already had minicomputers on the market, Olson may have shown a lack of imagination, but he had a lot of company.
2. “We will never make a 32-bit operating system.”Bill Gates said this in 1983 at the launch of MSX, a computing architecture that was going to take the world by storm. It didn’t. On the other hand, the latest three OS packages from Microsoft – Vista, Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 – have both 32- and 64-bit versions, which are installed on a wide range of PC desktop computer rental units.
3. “There is practically no chance [that] space satellites will be used to provide better [communications] inside the United States.” In 1961, the FCC Commissioner – appropriately named T. Craven – announced this conclusion of an in-depth government study. Today, whether people buy tablets or rent laptops, they can connect to the world wirelessly because commercial communications satellites began blasting into orbit in 1965.
4. “There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.”Albert Einstein gave this gloomy prediction about nuclear power in 1932. As part of the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb, Einstein worked with ENIAC, the first “real” computer, which was less powerful than a 1980s-vintage Casio DataBank watch. A MacBook Pro rental would have seemed like alien technology to ol’ Albert.
5. “Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.”Alex Lewyt, a vacuum cleaner manufacturer, was thus quoted in a New York Times article in 1955. The early years of the Atomic Age were exciting (and scary). Today, render farm rentals from CRE comprise technological components so powerful and advanced that Mr. Lewyt just might have thought them nuclear-powered.
On Monday, June 18th, Microsoft staged a media event almost as stylish and savvy as an Apple press party, with CEO Steve Ballmer announcing “a whole new family of computing devices from Microsoft.” Of course, Ballmer was speaking about his firm’s iPad competitor, the new Microsoft Surface tablet, so he meant “new to Microsoft” as opposed to “new to the world.” While the latter would have really been like an Apple announcement, Microsoft’s tablet is still a bold move for several reasons.
Microsoft Surface specs
Microsoft’s “new family” begins with two models, both under two pounds with 10.6-inch screens and similar magnesium cases (built-in stand, cameras front and back, keyboard and trackpad in the cover). Both models will run the new Windows 8 OS, with the 1.5-lb., 9mm-thick basic unit getting the “low-power” RT build with the “Metro” tile interface. The 2-lb., 13.5mm-thick Pro will compete with our iPad rental and other high-end tablets, pairing Metro with a full Windows desktop. Intel’s powerful Ivy Bridge chip lets users type on the Pro keyboard, use fingers on its touchscreen or write with a stylus.
The basic model comes with 32 or 64GB of memory, the Pro with 64 or 128. Some vital specs were not discussed, including screen resolution, battery, release date or price. (Windows 8 is set to debut “later this year” so it will obviously be after that.) The original ancestor of our iMac rental was a “Bondi Blue” piece of eye candy in a putty-colored PC world, and now the Surface tablet is breaking the mold, too (albeit 15 years later). The design is “über-modern,” stressing flat, black, thin and shiny for the hardware, perhaps to balance the “Disneyland look” of Metro tiles.
Sink or swim for Microsoft?
The Surface tablet is an uncharacteristically risky move by Microsoft, driven, some say, by a “loss of faith” in its corporate partners. The Xbox game console is one of the few hardware successes from the Redmond firm, as the Zune music player was discontinued and the KIN phones for teens lasted about a month. Microsoft dominates personal computing with its software (DOS, Windows, Office), and Windows 8 is the first “MS OS” designed for everything from desktops and tablet PC rentals to mobile touchscreen devices.
MS boss Ballmer said the company “took the time to get Windows 8 and Surface right,” and went on to call the new MS tablet “a tool to surface your passions and creativity.” Whenever the Surface debuts (autumn or ?) the tech world will be watching to see if the new device sinks or swims. We’ll keep you posted!
After Apple announced this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2012), its annual event in San Francisco, tickets sold out in just two hours. West Coasters have reason to be annoyed, too, since sales started at 8:30am Eastern time, meaning the sales door closed at just 7:30am Pacific time. So the five-day conference, being held June 11-15, is sold out, but Apple promises “full coverage” of WWDC 2012 at CBS’s Tech Talk site (and possibly other online venues). The company will post videos of all sessions “shortly after the conference” concludes.
Why attend Worldwide Developers Conference?
Thousands of developers flock to San Francisco every year for keynote speeches, seminars, product announcements and special events orchestrated and led by Apple executives, marketing managers and, most importantly, about a thousand engineers. This year’s conference will focus on iOS 5, the firm’s latest operating system (OS) for mobile devices like the iPad rental, as well as its latest one for computers, the soon-to-be-released OS X Mountain Lion (10.8).
Those 1,000 Apple engineers will conduct some 100 hands-on labs to help developers with techniques for strategizing, coding and developing applications. In addition to digging deep into the firmware of an existing MacBook or studying the specs of one on the drawing board, WWDC attendees will also benefit from an ideal networking environment – think “geeks gone wild” for a mental picture. Remember, too, that the WWDC has historically been one of the venues where Apple launches new products.
New Apple Announcements, anyone?
Some high-profile tech bloggers have speculated that the iPhone 5 will be announced at next month’s WWDC. Apple has typically launched iPhones in the summertime, and has done so at previous WWDCs (although the iPhone 4S announcement was delayed until October last year). The company has used its summer conference to announce software, Mac models, operating systems, the Xserve RAID and other non-Mac hardware. Any bets on what comes out of WWDC? Check back after June 15th and find out!
Going to WWDC? Need a dozen macbook pro rental, a rockin’ exhibit booth or complete breakout session setup with an Audience Response System (ARS)? Your one-stop shop is CRE. Every business faces different and unique challenges, so call or e-mail an experienced Account Executive and tell us about the obstacles you face – then we’ll brainstorm a solution for you (or two, or three). Already know what you need? Visit our Quick Rental Quote form and you’ll be on your way in just a few minutes!
Microsoft has gradually taken the wraps off Windows 8, the most recent version of its flagship operating system (OS). Windows 8 is the first “MS OS” to be developed from the ground up for multiple devices – your laptop, that PC desktop computer rental, various tablets, big-name smart phones and who knows what else down the line (your refrigerator?). You can get a preview version of the OS online and use it until the final product is released late this year.
Microsoft “spokesfolks” describe the current pre-release version of Windows 8 as “a work in progress [that] will change before the final release,” advising those who install the trial to expect “hiccups and bugs.” Companies that distribute “beta” and “consumer preview” releases count on getting a lot of feedback – via user forums, blog posts and telemetry – for refining the final product. There is a little feedback trickling in, and it is cautiously optimistic. Let’s check it out.
Windows 8 strikes some as a “crazy quilt combo” of the iPad, classic desktop Windows, Windows Phone and Microsoft’s Metro interface. The tile layout is meant to appeal to folks that have adopted and adapted to the uncluttered interface of the latest smart phones and iPad rental. The Redmond firm clearly wants this new, growing generation of multi-device users to see Windows 8 as a common interface.
That common interface comes in three versions. The newest member of the family is Windows RT, optimized for use on a tablet or all-in-one multitouch display PC with such “touch-optimized” software as OneNote, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. With a lean, clean interface and excellent battery-power management, Windows RT is what you’ll run on your new ARM-powered tablet.
Not your Daddy’s Windows OS
The standard package, Windows 8, is headed for most people’s laptops and desktops as the successor to Windows 7, with Internet Explorer 10, built-in access to the new Windows Store and all the flexibility most users need. Windows 8 Pro, for serious business users and geeks, ups the ante with virtualization, encryption, network management and domain connectivity. Finally, Windows Media Center – with expanded capabilities for controlling external devices like A/V (audio visual) equipment rentals – is a simple “media pack” add-on to Windows 8 Pro.
This isn’t your Daddy’s (or Mommy’s) Windows OS. Windows 8 was developed to combine standard desktop components with new-fangled elements from the parallel world of pads, tablet PC rentals and phones. Tiles, finger swipes, icons and apps, the touch-driven interface – these are among the new threads that tie everything together in Windows 8. Microsoft execs have not announced a precise release date for Windows 8, but they’re smart, so expect it in the fall, right on time for holiday shopping.