Microsoft needs a new CEO and Blackberry is for sale…

So, is Apple happy-happy-joy-joy? Not sure yet, but they might now get a small leap forward…

Business Leaders Gather In Detroit For The National Business SummitBallmer’s closing speech was a bit emotional, exiting the stage on the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, Time of my life. That’s how he would describe it’s time spent as CEO at Microsoft. And of course, he added that this song best describes his experience there and the promising future of the company.

Well, about the future.  It’s a thing that I have to admit, made me curious. It’s well known that Microsoft, and Blackberry are fairly well behind Apple and Samsung, and that, I think might be caused by the need of humans to get mobile with most, or quite with all of their devices. What they have forgotten about, is human nature. The human nature is always oriented to follow the easy path and the eye-candy is just not enough sometimes. We will choose, at a moment, the things we can afford, and of course those things that will make our lives easier. That’s why most of us have in their pockets or in their bags a device that is replacing many, many old devices, into a single device.

I’m guessing that Microsoft thought that what they’ve build will last forever, because where there’s a computer, there must be a Windows. And that was so…once upon a time. Let’s face it, Windows 8 and the Surface tablets didn’t caught the public’s attention. First of all, may be the price, but also the new UI in Windows 8. So, there it goes.

About Blackberry, as you can read here, it’s for sale, and it seems that they already have a buyer. I really hope that they will change the strategy. Holding on an OS that is quite obsolete, doesn’t seem to be a good plan. I know, they were focused on the business department, but that department embraced for already a long time ago the iOS and Android platforms. Simply because the human nature wanted to have easier ways to complete the daily tasks….on the bus.

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In my opinion, the same happened with Nokia… They hold on very much on their Symbian OS, until it was almost too late.

I can’t wait to see who will be the next Microsoft’s CEO, and what company will invest their money to save Blackberry. And of course, we all can’t wait to spend our money on their new high-tech devices in the future.  And a good step, besides eye-candy design, cool features and hardware, it would be to develop many applications for their OS, no matter what OS they choose.  An OS without many applications and games is simply…boring. Let’s hope we’ll see all the Blackberry devices with Android, and Windows devices with a decent OS, where you can install anything you would have in your Windows Desktop PC, at a good price! Let us be…human.

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Meet the new security solution Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014

ashampoo_iconAshampoo the popular German software developer enters the battle for the security supremacy with their first anti-virus solution Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014. This is their first attempt to launch a full-featured antivirus on the market, a product that can face all the major security threats from the online domain. Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is the successor program of Ashampoo Anti-Malware, but unlike it ancestor, Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is a true anti-virus which combines the Bitdefender and Emsisoft engines to help keep you safe online.

Featuring a sophisticated real-time protection with a good balance between security and resources needs, Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is a light breeze in your computer. Just install it, start it and let it do its work without any external intervention.

scr_ashampoo_antivirus_2014_en_overview

In terms of user interface, this anti-virus is extremely easy to use. Large buttong are well placed so you can easily access the main processes: scanning your computer, or running the bonus tools like the startup programs manager, Winsock layers viewer, hosts file examiner, or the web tracks cleaner which will monitor all the main browsers installed on your computer. For the ones that are not used with the classical light theme, you can choose a second dark one which is the opposite in terms of look.

Being at version 1.0.0.0, the application is not at its peak form, so you should expect some glitches even while the Quick Scan is running, and the reports are not quite precise. But overall Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is a capable tool with enough power to secure you home PC. At $24.99 1 year license (offer available until October 8th) and 10 days trial which can be extended to 40 days if you give them you email address, Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014 is a powerful solution for your regular PC and can become a ferocious contender for the best anti-virus if the German developer will constantly improve it.

Highlights

  • – Real-time protection neutralizes attacks as they happen
  • – Behavior blocker monitors application behavior and also eliminates not yet classified threats such as zero-day exploits
  • – On-access guard effectively neutralizes infection attempts during file operations
  • – Multi-engine scanner with two scan engines for maximum accuracy
  • – Integrated self-protection to prevent program manipulation through malware
  • – Daily updates keep protection always up to date

download Ashampoo Anti-Virus 2014

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What Microsoft and Surface 2 Forgot to Address

Microsoft Surface 2 is a decent update to the tablet and ultrabook hardware platform, but doesn’t address all of the issues. Let’s take a quick look

 

Introduction

Microsoft’s first foray into the tablet space didn’t fare too well. Windows RT and Surface RT are largely misunderstood. Now, with the introduction of Surface 2 and Windows 8.1, Microsoft is hoping to come closer to giving the world what it really wants. I’ve given you an insight on what Microsoft has done with the introduction of Surface 2. However, no one really knows what need Windows RT is supposed to meet in its current form, largely because the ARM based OS is still Windows or at least Windows branded. Surface 2 should be a decent upgrade to Microsoft’s Windows showcase hardware. Let’s take a look at what they did and where it might still fall short

 

Cost

As I mentioned previously, Surface 2 will start at $449 for the 32GB version. Surface 2 Pro will Start at $899 for the 64GB version, with 128GB, 256GB and 512GB versions available. The latter will cost a cool $1799. Clearly, Microsoft did NOT get the message on tablet cost.

All of these costs are completely out of line for this type of device. I’ve got a bit more on this in the Hardware Confusion section, below. My guess is that the sweet spot (at least as far as storage is concerned) will be the 256GB model. I doubt that Microsoft will sell very many 512GB Surface 2 Pro devices. It’s just too expensive for a tablet.

In fact, the entire tablet line is about 2x-3x more expensive than it should be. Microsoft had a huge opportunity to change its position and stance on tablet pricing with the introduction of Surface 2, and it totally missed the boat. They’ve already taken a huge $1.0B charge for unsold Surface RT tablets.

Lowering the entry point for Windows tablets should have been a priority for Surface 2. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. Surface 2 should have been priced no higher than $249 for the entry level device. The entry level Surface 2 Pro device should have been priced at $349. Pricing for the 512GB version of Surface 2 Pro should have been $999. Period. Pricing at these levels would have made Surface 2 much more attractive than it currently is, and could have made some of its short comings more forgivable.

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Mobile Broadband

After I got my Surface Pro and saw that it didn’t have a SIM card slot, I wondered what Microsoft was thinking in making their top of the line, highly anticipated enterprise ready tablet Wi-Fi only. I decided to go to a local Microsoft Store and ask one of the associates for their take on the issue.

To make a long story short, their take was that Surface RT and Surface Pro were already late to the market. Redmond knew this, and instead of going through the additional 18-24 months of engineering and wireless certifications that would be required for a mobile broadband device, the decision for a Wi-Fi only device was justified. I give the kid top marks for a great fish story; but I’m not buyin’ what he’s sellin’.

Microsoft knows that both Apple and almost any Android tablet manufacturer produce both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband compatible tablets. If they could see far enough down the product pipeline to get their ducks in a row, then Microsoft should have found a way to get the job done.

The time is way over for lame excuses. You can’t tell me that with Microsoft’s connections, lobbying power and available cash they couldn’t find a way to fast track mobile broadband certification for LTE versions of both Surface RT and Surface Pro.

Microsoft is indicating that an LTE version of Surface 2 WILL be available; but won’t be around until Q1 2014 at the earliest. That’s way too late. What the heck has MS been doing since the introduction of Surface RT and Surface Pro? Why haven’t they been working on this since then with prototypes or samples in testing with all 4 major wireless carriers?

It’s easy to blame Ballmer for this, especially since he’s the lame duck CEO; but this is another HUGE ball that’s been dropped. It’s also going to add an additional $100-$150 to the cost of each storage sized version of Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro, which again, is wrong. The devices are already way over priced; and cellular radios are cheap now a days. What would be cool is if this turned out to be modular and something and end user could snap internally into the tablet; but that won’t happen either…

Next page

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Microsoft Introduces Surface 2 – What’s it All Mean?

Microsoft has introduced the successors to its Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. Let’s take a quick look…

surface-2-2I had an idea this was coming. I had heard a few weeks back that Microsoft was (really) planning on releasing an update to its Surface tablet(s). Of course, everything was rumor at the time… I had hopes for both lines. I only got half of what I wanted, and then really, only half of that, so… let’s take a quick look at what Microsoft actually released.
With Surface 2 Microsoft attempted to address many of the issues and concerns that were generated by both Surface RT and Surface Pro tablets. The biggest problems were price and battery life. Microsoft has tried to address both of these issues with the introduction of its Surface 2 line.
Surface 2, the successor to Surface RT will start at $449 for the 32GB version. Surface 2 Pro start at $899 will come in a few additional flavors than originally thought – 64GB, 128GB, 256GB and 512GB, with the latter costing $1799. All prices are in US dollars.
Surface 2 will also attempt to address battery life concerns cited by many Surface owners and users. The newer versions will have the latest Intel Haswell microprocessors and should double the original Surface’s battery life. Add the battery enabled Power Cover (think Type Cover, with a battery on the bottom) also due to hit the street before the end of Calendar 2013, and battery life for Surface 2 will be in a good spot.

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As far as color schemes are concerned, think silver. There won’t be a black version of either Surface 2 or Surface 2 Pro, according to my friend Mary Jo Foley. Its going to be very easy to distinguish Surface tablets from Surface 2 tablets.
Both Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro tablets, and most of their accessories are expected to be available for order on 2013-09-24 at 8am ET.

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Developing – Canadian Investment Firm Offers to Purchase Blackberry

The consortium has offered $4.7B dollars for the once dominant smartphone manufacturer

blackberry_logoTo be honest with everyone, this one took me by surprise. If you didn’t know Blackberry was looking for a buyer, you were likely living under a rock. I thought this might come eventually, but not as quickly as it did.

This story is developing, so you should watch Soft32 for updates to this over the next few days. I’ll try to have something on this as developments occur. In short, though, a consortium, led by Canada’s Fairfax Financial Holdings, has offered $4.7B in cash for the once dominant smartphone manufacturer. The deal is supported by Blackberry’s Board of Directors. (honestly, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t).

Fairfax is said to currently own 10% of Blackberry now. Their all cash offer would acquire the remaining 90% of outstanding shares at $9 per share. When the offer was announced, BBRY was trading at about 8.25. The company’s stock closed at 8.76, after peaking at 9.01.

The deal, outlined in a letter of intent, gives Fairfax and Blackberry until 2013-11-04 to complete Due Diligence. During this time, Blackberry can continue to shop the company for a better offer.

Blackberry has decided to abandon their pursuit of the consumer market and will instead concentrate on the enterprise. However, this won’t save the currently 4500 employees worldwide that are currently targeted in a downsizing. In foregoing the consumer market and concentrating on the enterprise, its thought that Blackberry can retain what value it currently has, despite its $1B charge against unsold Z10 smartphones and a drop to number 4, behind Windows Phone, in the smartphone market.

We’ll have to wait and see.

This story is currently developing and I’ll have more on this as the facts come to light. I’ll also have some personal insight after I have a chance to digest all of the facts. As it stands, there’s a lot going on here, and the entire tale has yet to be told.

Stay tuned to Soft32 for more.

I have a concern about this, as it seems like a little too late to make much of a difference…

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Create professional greeting cards with Ashampoo Photo Card

ytzwIf there’s one thing that I really don’t like buying, its greeting cards. They’re usually expensive, and don’t get much attention past the initial reading by the recipient. Its too bad, but an unfortunate reality. However, personalized cards, ones made from family photos I think have a better chance of meaning something to friends and loved ones. This is why I really like apps like Ashampoo’s Photo Card. It’s a cool app for Windows.

Ashampoo Photo Card is a fun way to turn your photos into professional looking greeting cards complete with borders and texts in a few clicks. Anyone can do it, really. All you have to do is choose an existing photo, select a theme, edit text on the card and send it.

If needed, you can fine tune and tweak the results. You can adjust the size and brightness of your photos, edit contrast and saturation settings or even mirror and flip your images. Ashampoo Photo Card’s built in tools allow you to do all this and more.

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One of the coolest of the app’s features is its webcam support. You can take live pictures and use them to make cards with. This is a great feature when you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for in your existing cache of photos.

Ashampoo Photo Card, like many of the apps from Ashampoo, is a cool application. Once you have your card created, the app gives you several options to share your work with friends and family. Photo Card supports sharing via Facebook and Picasa; or you can simply email them.

download Ashampoo Photo Card

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How Bright is Apple’s Future?

New iDevices and a new version of iOS hit the streets beginning 2013-09-18. What does this mean for Apple? I have a couple of thoughts…

I’ve been in the biz for a while. I started using computers when Compaq was still COMPAQ, giving IBM a very serious run for its money back in 1980-blah, blah, blah. The first real portable computer, in my mind was the Apple IIC, though, honestly, while it was smaller than Compaq’s 20lbs+ portable, it still required a heck of a lot to take with you. Its monitor was small and movable, but it was still a CRT that required special care…nothing like the notebooks and ultra-books of today.

Beginning 2013-09-18, Apple has new versions of its mobile device OS – iOS 7 – hitting the streets. The new mobile OS will begin hitting compatible devices soon. I’ve already had 1-2 people ping me, asking me where it is, and why it hasn’t hit their iPhone yet.

Patience my minions…patience. You’ll get it soon enough.

The iPhone 5C is also available for pre-order as of this writing and will ship beginning on 2013-09-20, with the iPhone 5S available for pre-order beginning 2013-09-20. The devices are in the hands of many reviewers now, and many of them like what they see… as far as the hardware is concerned. The devices are solid, well built, with both the polycarbonate backing and its varying colors being well received. Many reviewers are saying the 5C is a much better feeling device than other, newer, high end Android devices. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to put my hands on one yet.

Reviews of the iPhone 5S are equally positive. The most pleasing and, I think, surprising feature is its Touch-ID Home Button. Fingerprint readers have been around for a while. The Compaq iPAQ 51/5400 series devices had one back in the 2004 time frame that was OK, but required a swipe instead of a press, and half the time, the reader didn’t read the biometric data correctly. I’m not sure if it was a hardware issue, a software issue or both. In general, the technology stunk; and I think many were expecting that the same level of performance from Apple’s latest feature and flagship phone. To most everyone’s delight and surprise, that doesn’t appear to be the case. I think the New York Times put it the best:

The best part is that [the fingerprint reader] actually works — every single time… It’s nothing like the balky, infuriating fingerprint-reader efforts of earlier cellphones. It’s genuinely awesome; the haters can go jump off a pier.”

5s-5c

The biggest concern, I think, will come from iOS 7, and it will mostly come from iPhone 5, 4S, and iPhone 4 users who are used to iOS 6 and will upgrade. I’ve said this before. The glitz, polish and 3D look of iOS 6 and earlier is gone. The flat, stark white look of iOS 7 is prevalent throughout the new OS and provides a very different look and feel. Many users will upgrade and, in my opinion, immediately regret it.

To those users, I have one thing to say – Wait.

You’ll notice that iOS 7 is faster than previous versions of iOS 6 and iOS 5. Yes, they’ve changed things, added some new system functionality here and there, moved some options around, but give yourself a month or two before you throw your iPhone across the room. While you’re sure to get used it, you may find that you like it.

However, you may not.

A lot of the exclusivity of Apple’s iDevices used to come from the finish of iOS 6’s 3D enabled UI. With it gone, replaced by the flat look and feel of iOS 7, I think many people are going to be unhappy. It’s a radical change over the past 5 years; and I’m not sure it’s the type or kind of change that people were hoping for.

My daughter just got an upgrade notification on her iPhone 5 for iOS 7, and as you can see from the attached screenshot, not only is it going to be a large upgrade, it’s going to take quite a long time to download, and I have a very fast cable connection.

iOS 7 update

So does this dim Apple’s future? That’s a great question. I think the answer is mixed. Wall Street hasn’t been too pleased with Apple since the announcement of both the iPhone 5S and 5C. Apple’s stock price dipped quite a bit after the announcement. The Tech World’s reaction was also tepid, but has improved over the past week or so.

I’ll have more user feedback as I receive it, as well as the write-up I promised on some of the newer, final features of iOS 7 in the next few days. Please watch Soft32 for these articles.

 

In the meantime, why don’t you join us in the discussion, below, and let us know what you think of the iPhone 5C and 5S.

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iOS 7 and Consumer Reaction

iOS 7 removes a lot of the glossy eye candy from iOS 6 and earlier. I’ve talked to some people and have some interesting reaction.

ios7logoI’ve spoken to some users about the upgrade and let them take a look at the new mobile OS on my iPhone 5, and reactions to it have been pretty consistent – most everyone is either disappointed or reacts violently to the new look and feel. Flat…is not good.

The negative reaction so far has been pretty universal. The UI is NOT what consumers are used to, isn’t what they’ve come to expect from Apple, and quite honestly, they don’t like it. At all…

iOS 6 and earlier contains a LOT of eye candy and skewmorphic design elements. iOS 7 removes about 99% of the glitz and gloss that most everyone has equated with Apple’s spit, polish and device finish. They eye candy is part of what made Apple, well… Apple. The new industrial, flat and enterprise friendly version of iOS 7 will provide users with some much needed and long overdue feature enhancements – Control Center, the redesigned Notification Center and the new and enhanced security features that will help prevent stolen iDevices from being sold at pawn and other resale establishments – THAT stuff will be welcomed, if not considered a bit late to the party.

The rest, from a consumer point of view, is the look and feel of the OS, or the UI; and if developers are criticizing the look and feel, and some are, then the reaction from the masses is going to be much louder and much more critical.

Yes, it’s very much the whole Who Moved my Cheese thing, but it’s a bit more than that. Apple customers are used to a certain level of finish when it comes their Macs and iDevices. iOS 7 removed a lot of that finished layer and flattened the 3D look of the OS.

In short, I think iOS 7, while technically a much better version than iOS 6, isn’t going to do Apple any favors. I think it’s going to bring a great deal more negative press, as the flat design isn’t be received well by those that I’ve shared it with, the development community or with the technical community whom may have had early looks since its introduction. It’s unfortunate, too, as there are parts of the OS that I really like – the new security and Control Center features I mentioned – but the look and feel of the OS… yeah. Not so much…

A for effort here, and a nod to Jony Ive for giving iOS a revolutionary, instead of evolutionary, update, but the redesigned UI of iOS 7 – Yeah… Not a fan.

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