Tag: windows

Microsoft has a gutsful of Windows 8 bashing

Software giant Microsoft appears to have finally lost its rag over the large number of critics bashing its flagship Windows 8.

For those who came in late, Microsoft produced a version of its Windows operating system which had an interface designed for smartphones and was surprised that PC users found it inconvenient.

But it seems that the mood at Vole is changing from hurt and surprised to hacked off.

Writing in the company blog, Frank X Shaw, vice president of corporate communications at Microsoft said that he was fed up with extreme knockers.

He said that these days everyone is a publisher and there is a trend to the extreme. The only way to stand out is to opt for sensationalism and hyperbole over nuanced analysis.

“In this world where page views are currency, heat is often more valued than light. Stark black-and-white caricatures are sometimes more valued than shades-of-gray reality,” he poetically pointed out.

Normally selling 100 million copies of a product is a good thing and listening to feedback and improving a product is even better.

But for some reason all that goodness has been ignored in favour of “extreme” criticism. Even the Financial Times said the upcoming changes to Windows 8 mark one of the most prominent admissions of failure for a new mass-market consumer product since Coca-Cola’s New Coke fiasco nearly 30 years ago, moaned Shaw.

That other tabloid, the Economist, attacked Microsoft when it said “restoring the Start button will not restore Microsoft to its former glory.”

At the heart of all this negative criticism is that Microsoft took away the Start button or boot up into desktop mode.

Shaw insists that Windows 8 is a good product and is getting better every day.

“A computer operating system offers different experiences to different customers to meet different needs, while still moving the entire industry toward an exciting future of touch, mobility, and seamless, cross-device experiences,” he wrote. 

Apple's secret sauce boiled dry

More figures are proving to a shell shocked Apple loving press that the overly hyped iPhone is slowly dying and is set to fall behind Microsoft.

According to Canalys, the excessive growth which has characterised Apple sales in the smartphone sector has slowed and the outfit only had 19 percent of the market.

The Age put this market share figure in perspective when it pointed out that Apple is now one point ahead of the much maligned Microsoft.

The winner right now is Android, which continues to dominate the mobile market, making up nearly 60 percent of those shipments. It is worth pointing out here that since Microsoft has patent trolled Android to bits, it makes $8 out of each phone sold, so it is winning here too.

Samsung was the top manufacturer, growing its volume by 64 percent year-on-year. After Samsung and Apple, manufacturers Huawei, LG and ZTE rounded out the top five – but they all make up less than five percent of the market share.

A quick look at the fruity Apple zealots in the press shows a complete lack of understanding about how Cupertino, in the space of a year, not only dropped the ball, but gift wrapped it and gave it to its rivals.

While some claim that this would not be happening if Steve Jobs were alive, saner appeals suggest that Apple is just too terrified to modify Jobs’ vision. Pete Cunningham, Canalys’ principal analyst, said that Apple is not making better phones than HTC or Samsung.

He said that the iPhone user interface is now six years old and badly in need of a refresh. Apple has also ignored the trend for larger displays in premium smart phones.

Apple cannot say that the market is saturated either. Global shipments for notebooks, tablets and smartphones reached 308.7 million in the first quarter of 2013, up more than 37 percent in the same quarter from the year before.

Canalys figures show that tablets are the fastest growing among the three markets, climbing 106 percent year-over-year to 41.9 million units.

Apple is still the leader in the tablet market with a 46 percent share, but holds nowhere near the same level of dominance it once enjoyed.

Hackers get free access to Ubisoft

Russian hackers have worked out a way that they can gain free access to Ubisoft’s online game offerings.

According to Game Informer, the hack highlights the problems for games companies who put their products online. Rather than spending a lot of time hacking into game DRM, the hackers can focus on breaking into the defences of the online servers. They can then illegally sell access.

A Ubisoft spokesperson said that the company was aware of the problem and is working to resolve it quickly.

While no personal information was compromised, uPlay’s PC download service will be unavailable until the problem is fixed.

In this case the hack tricked uPlay into thinking users already own a particular game, making it available to download at no cost and with no DRM.

What will be embarrassing for Ubisoft is that its unannounced shooter Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is apparently lying on Ubisoft’s servers, available to download to those who have the exploit.

All was revealed when someone using the hack posted half an hour of Blood Dragon footage on YouTube.

While this was quickly pulled down by Ubisoft, it was really being shown as evidence that the exploit works and is being used to play the unreleased game. 

Dell sees the writing on the wall

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Might, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.  Ozymandias, Shelley

Dell issued an SEC filing late Friday that underscores the challenges it faces. And it also underscores the challenges Intel, Microsoft,  and other companies that made their pile in the X86 market face too.

In the lengthy filing, it appears that last September the special committee, set up to consider Dell going private, said: “…as a result of the Company’s second quarter fiscal year 2013 financial performance and macroeconomic changes affecting the Company’s PC business, including projection for decreased revenue relating to the introduction of the Windows 8 operating system, an unexpected slowdown in Windows 7 upgrades, the growth of tablets, which are sold by the Company in limited quantities, and the growth of smartphones, which the Company does not manufacture, as alternatives to the Company’s core inventory of desktop and laptop PCs.”

The lengthy filing must dismay Dell shareholders and, even worse, dismay the Dell corporate workforce.  Just how can you go pitch for a big win at a large enterprise, knowing that your customer is aware that the future of your company is on the line.

And the filing must also dismay other players in the PC market – all of which have been forced in recent months to closely examine their own navels and to wonder just how they are all going to dig themselves out of this almighty Microsoft-Intel hole.

The proxy filing is here

Nvidia moves into servers

Nvidia has taken the wraps off a server product that allows low-end computers to perform graphics-intensive tasks.

The move is being seen as a push into new markets as its traditional PC market loses steam.

Chief executive Jen-Hsun Huang said the product, called the GRID Virtual Computing Appliance, would give SMEs access to powered up graphics for tasks like image processing without the need for top-tier PCs.

Huang claims it is the same as giving all employees a virtual high-end PC under your desk.

The system is based on a server rack filled with Intel Xeons, memory chips and several of Nvidia’s high-end GPUs.

It will be priced starting at $24,900, plus $2,400 a year for a licence and it is not clear how many people that will serve.

Nvidia wants HP, IBM and Dell to sell the product to larger companies.

Nvidia also announced upcoming Tegra mobile processors, including one codenamed Logan expected to be launched in 2014. Another, codenamed Parker, will be 10 times as powerful as current chips when it is released in 2015.

According to Reuters , Huang admitted that Microsoft’s launch of its Windows RT operating system last year fell short of his expectations.

The Surface brand tablet, which runs Windows RT and uses Nvidia’s Tegra processors, has not captured customers’ imaginations, he said.

Windows RT was disappointing because Nvidia expected it to have sold more than it did.

Nvidia also plans in the second quarter to start shipping a hand-held gaming device with its upcoming Tegra 4 processor and a built-in screen. Dubbed Project Shield, the hand-held will run Android games currently found on smartphones and tablets and can also stream video games from PCs. 

Oracle rushes out yet another Java patch

Oracle has rushed out a patch to Java amid reports that yet another vulnerability is being exploited in the wild.

The latest version of Oracle’s software is now Java 7, Update 17 and Java 6, Update 43. This is only a week or so after Oracle released an additional updates to another critical patch at the end of February. This followed another which was released at the beginning of that month.

None of these fixed two recent vulnerabilities. These were given the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures identifiers CVE-2013-1493 and CVE-2013-0809, with the former known to be abused by attackers.

Oracle’s director of software security assurance Eric Maurice wrote on the company’s security bog that reports of active exploitation of vulnerability CVE-2013-1493 were recently received and it was too late to be included in the February 19 release of the Critical Patch Update for Java SE.

After Oracle received reports of CVE-2013-1493 being exploited in the wild, it decided to immediately release another emergency patch rather than wait for the original 16 April Critical Patch Update for Java SE.

The vulnerability means that users who visit a malicious web page could leave their computers open to exploitation without the need for a username or password. The vulnerability only exists in Java applets.

Oracle is in one of those “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” situations. If it does not release a patch quickly then the likes of Apple will claim that the operating system is insecure and should not be used. If it does release a patch it is seen as proof that the software is buggy and risky. 

ARM CEO has high hopes for Windows RT

ARM CEO Warren East still thinks Windows RT could be a success. During an interview at the sidelines of MWC in Barcelona, East said Microsoft will learn from its mistakes with RT and offer a better product. 

“I’m well aware there is a perceived wisdom that RT hasn’t been as successful as lots of people thought it was going be. Quite certainly I’m sanguine about it,” he told Infoworld.

Sales of Windows RT devices remain sluggish and vendors aren’t rushing to introduce new models. Acer announced that it will join the RT club this year, although it played it safe and did not introduce any products in 2012.

East argued that Microsoft doesn’t operate on the “wow” end of the market, but it still ships significant volumes. East hinted at a 64-bit version of Windows RT, which is in line with ARM’s strategic thinking.

Although ARM chips are still 32-bit, ARM’s new ARMv8 architecture should bring 64-bit chips to mainstream consumers. However, volume shipments of 64-bit ARM parts are not expected until 2015.

In any case, ARM is probably not too concerned, as its chips are used in practically all competing platforms, from Android and iOS, to Blackberry and Chrome OS. 

Hackers try to steal intelligence from Europe

Kaspersky Lab has discovered a hacking attempt which tried to sneak sensitive intelligence out of 20 European countries.

A statement from Kaspersky said that the attacks were a complex online assault rarely seen since the turn of the millennium.

Dubbed “MiniDuke” by researchers, malware has infected government computers in an attempt to steal geopolitical intelligence.

Governments targeted include those of Ireland, Romania, Portugal, Belgium and the Czech Republic. The malware compromised the computers of a prominent research foundation in Hungary, and two thinktanks.

Kaspersky told the Guardian the attackers had servers based in Panama and Turkey but looking at the code did not indicate where the attack had come from,

Victims’ computers were infected when they opened a disguised Adobe PDF attachment to an email.

Eugene Kaspersky, founder and chief executive of Kaspersky, said MiniDuke had the potential to be “extremely dangerous” because it was an “elite, old-school” attack that used some 21st century tricks.

He said that it was an unusual cyber-attack and similar to the malicious programming from the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s.

Kaspersky wondered if these types of malware writers, who have been in hibernation for more than a decade, have suddenly awoken and joined the sophisticated group of threat actors active in the cyber world. 

Intel has another look at Android

Intel appears to be making an underlying strategy shift involving the operating systems of tablets.

For a while now Intel’s cunning plan looked like it was based entirely on propping up its old chum Microsoft’s Windows 8, with only a token interest in Android for tablets. Meanwhile it had been looking at Android for mobile devices.

At Mobile World Congress, observers noticed a new device from Asustek which seems to suggest a move away from Microsoft.

It seems that Chipzilla’s message to the assorted throngs at MWC is that Intel is gearing up efforts to supply companies that want to use its Atom chips in tablets running Android as well as Windows powered devices.

The Wall Street Journal was told by an Intel spokesperson that it was accelerating its focus on Android.

The reason for this appears to be that hardware makers are waking up to the fact that Windows 8 does not seem to be driving any tablet demand at all.

Asustek has supported Windows 8 with products that include the VivoTab Smart, powered by an Intel Atom chip. But it has also developed Android-powered devices, including the Nexus 7, which runs on an Nvidia chip that uses ARM technology.

The company is now widely expected to introduce the Fonepad, a seven-inch combination tablet and phone that uses Android running on a new Intel Atom chip.

What observers are thinking is that if a Windows 8 champion, like Asustek, shifts to Android using an Intel chip, there must be a cunning plan from Chipzilla to shift to Android for tablets rather than Windows 8.

If this is true, then the move has probably been sparked by manufactures becoming cross with Microsoft for releasing its Surface tablet. While this tablet used Intel chips, it has not done very well and is not sustainable enough to interest Chipzilla. However, if it can convince the huge number of Android tablet makers that they would be better off with Intel inside they will be targeting a much larger market.

It is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. If that were to happen it would amount to Intel writing off Microsoft in the one market that its Windows 8 software was designed for, and in tablets it is fairly likely that Vole will eventually get some acceptance. 

Job ad confirms Microsoft's mysterious Windows Blue

In a job posting, Microsoft has confirmed the existence of its up and coming Windows Blue which will work on a yearly upgrade model – at a relatively low cost to anything Redmond has put out before.

The mysterious Windows Blue will roll out across Windows and Windows Phone to give customers more regular updates across its entire ecosystem.

The advert, spotted by the Verge, says that the OS will “build and improve upon” aspects of the OS including windowing, personalisation, application lifecycle, and the start screen.

There is another, separate posting for Windows Phone that mentions Windows Blue as well.

Although Windows 8 only just shipped in October 2012, Windows Blue is expected to appear mid-2013, in what is perhaps the most brazen rebranding of all time: the colour blue, up until now, has largely been associated with Microsoft’s dreaded Blue Screen of Death.

It’s early days, so just whether the model will be a success is anyone’s guess – but we expect all sorts of initiatives to win consumers over as Microsoft tries to make its mark on the ‘post-PC’ lot of shiny toys like smartphones, tablets, desktops and PCs. Once Redmond has a single standard operating system, it will probably be easier for the company to market its various products as part of a single, linked ecosystem. Like, er, Apple