HP Applying OS Pressure

HP’s “Back by Popular Demand” Promotion confirms – Windows 8 really does suck.

Untitled

I heard this while listening to episode 926 of TNT, “Get Adam Curry on the Phone.” My initial response was that this was a huge problem for Microsoft. HP is not only offering a current PC i.e., not refurbished and not a clearance item with Windows 7 on it, but it’s doing so at a $150 discount.

HP is offering the HP Pavilion 15t-n200 Notebook PC with Windows 7. It has  a 4th generation Intel Core i5-4200U Processor and is priced $599.  This is huge for both consumers and the enterprise, as many users have really struggled with Windows 8. Many enterprises are still using Windows XP and their IT departments are more inclined to refresh those aging endpoints with Windows 7 rather than Windows 8.  The Windows 8 UI is totally different from Windows XP and the learning curve is steep.

Many organizations aren’t willing to take the productivity hit associated with the new desktop OS. That coupled with the fact that many critical, proprietary and other traditional enterprise apps have not been fully vetted or optimized for Windows 8 makes them an unlikely candidate for the touch-centric OS.  Add in the absence of a Start Button and a more traditional Start Menu and you begin to clearly see the hot mess that Windows 8.x has created for itself.

I think the biggest issue here is that Microsoft is having to compete against itself with much older products.  Windows 8 has less than a 10% market share of all Windows PC’s worldwide, and they’re under a great deal of pressure to:

1.Make Windows 8.x work – Microsoft has a long row to hoe, here. Their Windows 8.1 Update 1, or Windows 8.2,whatever they’re going to call it, has a large bill to pay. It needs to right more wrongs than Windows 8.1 did gain more confidence, more user satisfaction than it currently enjoys and it really doesn’t have a lot of time to do that with.

2.Distance themselves as quickly and as far as they can from Windows 8.x. Microsoft can’t make Windows 9 get here quick enough.  While its next OS, code named Threshold is currently scheduled for a Spring 2015 release, for Microsoft, this next year is going to crawl.

Microsoft’s PC market is losing a lot of ground to the tablet market, especially the Android tablet market. Not only are Android tablets cheap , many decent models can be had for between $250 to $450.  Microsoft’s tablet offerings, Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro are much more expensive, and Windows RT doesn’t have the ecosystem of apps and content that Android has, yet another area where Microsoft seems to be seriously struggling.

HP’s move to bypass Windows 8.x and instead offer the outdated Windows 7 is a slap in the face for Microsoft. It’s clearly a challenge.  Microsoft clearly needs to do better with Windows 8.1+ and Windows 9. It needs to make serious advances with its tablet offerings, and either change, enhance or open its mobile ecosystem to insure that it attracts users, or its going to have some serious relevance issues in the next 5-7 years. It can ill afford a third Vista, let alone two…

Related Posts:

Should Windows 9 be Free?

I’ve seen a couple opinions, and I’ve decided to weigh in…

Windows 9 new

Like its predecessor, Windows Blue, Windows Threshold is in the process of entering its full development cycle. As with Blue, many people are excited about Threshold and for a couple of key reasons.  Briefly, they are:

  1. Consumers don’t think much of Windows 8
    There are a lot of diehard Windows users that really are NOT happy with Windows 8.  Windows 8.1 is a step in the right direction with the ability to boot directly to the desktop and the return of the Start BUTTON.  However, many people will tell you that the improvements seen in Windows 8.1 are a start (no pun intended) and not a destination.  Microsoft still has a long way to go before they regain the public trust and earns their forgiveness.And they’ve earned this disdain, too. Microsoft mucked with, and moved everyone’s cheese and really brought productivity way low, and killed many IT upgrade plans. Windows 8.x really takes too long for office workers to figure out how to use. Its ModernUI (unofficially called MetroUI) confuses a lot of people, even on Microsoft’s own Surface line of ultrabooks. If Microsoft can’t sell the new interface on their OWN devices, relying on partner devices to do it, doesn’t look to be a winning strategy. This older business model is proving to be part of Microsoft’s downfall, and they seem to know it. Their July 2013 reorg definitely identifies the older management structure and mode of doing business as something that needs to change.In short, MS needs to get its revised vision on as many Windows 8.x devices as it can in order to help generate positive press so it can “turn that frown upside down,” and reverse what appears to be the start of a steep decline.
  2. Microsoft and Windows 8 have no place to go but up
    Windows 8.x adoption sucks.  Windows 7 adoption rates are on the rise. Microsoft desktop OS sales aren’t too horrible, but when it look at it in a Windows 7 vs. Windows 8.x perspective, it’s clear that the public doesn’t like the OS or the devices that it comes on.Prior to the Christmas Shopping Season, Microsoft was still feeling the effects of its $900M Surface RT write-off. Sales of Surface 2 and Surface 2 Pro weren’t strong at all.  However, something happened over the 2013 Holidays that directed many users to not only look long and hard at Surface 2/Pro, but had the devices moving off the shelves as well.Microsoft needs to do whatever it needs to do to continue this positive trend.  If they don’t, the company is going to have some serious work to do regarding not only Windows, but the rest of its product offerings.

Given that they have work to do, AND given that most Linux distributions have been free for years, and that Apple gave Mavericks away (and it runs on Macs that are at LEAST 5 years old); Microsoft needs to do the same thing with Windows Threshold.  They need to give it away, and it needs to run on any computer that can push Windows 7. This accomplishes a couple things:

  1. If it’s free, it’s for me – Low to no cost upgrade fees
    “If it’s free, it’s for me!” I knew a guy in college who had that printed on his checks; and it’s pretty much a way of life for many people.  If they can figure out an  easy way to get something for free, you can bet that they’ll bust their behinds to make that happen.Much of the computing public still sees a great deal of value in the Windows brand. If they can get that level of value on their existing PC, for free, with all future platform updates and upgrades also coming in at no cost, then the platform has a better chance of actually getting on legacy machines than not. I may be in the minority opinion, but I really think that if Microsoft wants to remain competitive, as well as make a successful transition to a devices and services organization, it’s going to need to give the platform that powers those devices and drives those services, away.
  2. Increase <Latest Version > Adoption Rates
    Recent Windows 7 adoption rates have surged past Windows 8.x adoption rates. This means that people who are actually buying Windows compatible PC’s aren’t buying them with Windows 8.x on them, they’re buying them with (or downgrading to) Windows 7.  Microsoft doesn’t want Windows 7 to turn into the 2010′s version of the 2000′s Windows XP.  The last thing that Microsoft wants to do with Windows 8.x is have it be the “next Vista” where everyone sticks with the older version.  They undid much of the damage to the Windows brand with the release of Windows 7, but shot themselves in the foot with Windows 8 (and have effectively gone backwards).The company has a new strategic direction. What better way to foster that, than to give the platform away to end users?
  3. Continues and fosters its new direction as a Devices and Services organization
    The old guard organization where both Office and Windows are cash cows that provide years, if not decades, of revenue is over. As I stated recently, the old Microsoft has died and most of the management team from that regime has been moved to other areas or has left the company.  Microsoft’s new organizational focus, its new product portfolio is the whole Windows experience and not Windows itself. That means that it has to sell the devices and it has to sell the services that make the Windows platform a value-add. That’s where MS will make its money going forward. The best way to insure that is to give the platform away, making adoption for many an autonomic option.

Microsoft is in full transition mode. They’ve reorged the company and most of the old management team is gone. They are getting a new CEO in early 2014. They are changing not only how the company does business, but they’re changing their product portfolio as well.  They need to embrace the change and “unlearn what they have learned” over the past 25+ years of computing success. If they don’t, Microsoft’s relevancy as well as profit margins will decline as PC adoption rates decline.  The best way Microsoft can move forward is to give away not only Windows, but Office as well.  They need to start doing that with Windows Threshold.  How they figure out the best way to do it with Office – if at all – is something they will have to figure out as the release date for the next version of Office starts to appear on the horizon.

What do you think? Do you think Microsoft should give the next version of Windows away?  Why don’t join us in the discussion area, below and tell us what YOU think?

 

Related Posts:

Change the sound of your voice with AV Voice Changer

AV-Voice-Changer-Software-Diamond-Edition.png 1384961237I like playing with audio. Changing, warping and morphing sounds, effects and voices can be pretty cool and can be a lot of fun, if you have the right app to push the activity. This is one of the reasons why applications like AV Voice Changer Software Diamond is pretty cool. It’s a cool audio app for Windows, and its really a lot of fun.

AV Voice Changer Software Diamond is an app that does voice changing and voice manipulation. You can make your voice sound more feminine, more masculine, more childish, younger or older, or even make yourself sound like a famous celebrity. AV Voice Changer Software Diamond is an all-in-one program for as voice-over and voice dubbing in audio or video clips, narrations, or presentations. You can change, mix or remove a voice in a song, in E-greeting cards, voice mails, or from any other file with audio in it, or that can use audio. You can imitate the voice of any person or even create non-human sounds.

AVVC-03

The app is pretty amazing. It will let you control timbre and pitch levels, as well as adjust other important qualities of the human voice, such as threshold, base pitch, format, etc. With ready-to-use nick-voices, you can mix and match effects and make yourself sound crazy. Its advanced, specialized, voice morphing settings help you produce the most natural sounding output. The app has a huge library of vivid sound and background effects for creating unique audio results.

Use a microphone to record a voice chat conversation, internet radio, or any sound you can hear. Capture online audio streams from various applications. Reduce, add echo or apply robotic effects, in real-time, to make your output voice sound completely different, instantly, even while chatting. Includes a vocal comparator.

AV Voice Changer Software Diamond is a pretty cool application. You can use it to change your voice or any audio file on your PC with added effects and filters. If you have an app like Skype or other VoIP client, you can use it to disguise your voice and prank your friends, or just to add a bit of fun and spice to your calls. With its 50 specialized nick-voices, you can combine them and a number of other settings to produce some unique, never heard before effects that will have you laughing for hours on end

Apps like this can be a lot of fun, but unless you’re a professional voice actor or someone doing some level of professional or semi-professional audio or video production, the novelty may wear off quickly.

download AV Voice Changer Software Diamond

Related Posts:

View documents with WinDJView

1345038259_1340602910_windjviewView documents with this fast and easy to use PDF alternative reader for Windows.

Taking documentation with you, or even distributing documentation can be a very important task. PDF’s may be the defacto default, but the solution can be expensive to create and thankfully, they aren’t the only game in town. This is one of the major reasons why apps like WinDJView. It’s a DJvu reader for Windows.

DjVu (pronounced “déjà vu”) is a digital document format similar to PDF with advanced compression technology and a high performance value. DjVu allows for the distribution via the Internet and on DVD of very high resolution images of scanned documents, digital documents, and photographs.

unnamed

WinDJView reads these portable documents and is a fast, compact and powerful viewer with a tabbed interface, continuous scrolling and advanced printing options. It also supports Windows XP to Windows 8.x. If you need to pull parts out, the app will let you first search to find the passages you need but then highlight and copy what you need out.

WinDJView is a solid piece of software and the DJvu format is a great alternative to Adobe’s PDF format. The software has everything that you would want in a reader app, and I found it very easy to install and use. If you want to convert documents to DJvu format, you can do so for free at DJvu.org.

download WinDJView

Related Posts:

Browse the web in speed and style with Opera

opera_retina_iconChange is constant. If there’s one thing that you can count on staying the same, it’s the fact that things change. Case in point, Soft32 reviewed Opera Browser just over a year ago. At the time, I found Opera to be a decent browser, but not quite on par with, say, Chrome or Firefox. A year can make a huge difference, and quite honestly it did with the platform independent browser, Opera.

The internet is a huge resource, and if you go poking about, you never know what you’re gonna find. Opera makes that easier than ever with its Discover feature. Discover gives you top-quality news and entertainment from all around the globe. You can enjoy new content from a variety of categories and read articles from your region, in your language with just a few clicks. Its quick and easy to get the content you want.

Speaking of search, finding things with Opera is really easy. The browser has one intuitive, powerful location for searching and navigating the web. You can search using multiple providers and view the site suggestions as you type. This type of behavior should be very familiar to most web users and is a welcomed addition to Opera Browser.

OB-01

If you’re on a slow network, or if you just want to make your browsing experience that much faster, again, Opera has you covered. Its Off-Road mode compresses pages for faster, all-conditions browsing. It helps you stay online when your connection slows down. If you’re concerned about dropping a connection, or things totally tanking, Off-Road will help your browsing experience.

One of the biggest problems I’ve got with all of my bookmarks and favorites is keeping them straight and of course, getting to the ones that I use the most. Opera’s enhanced Speed Dial, groups your most-visited sites directly on a custom start-up page. From there, you can quickly search and access your favorite content. Once you’ve found something you like, keeping it just got easier. Opera’s Stash feature can capture a page with one click and organizes captured pages into a simple, sophisticated list. You can quickly search what you’ve stashed in a resizable preview page; or search what you’ve saved, by keywords.

Opera has come a long way in just over a year. With improved search and navigation support and the ability to support off-line browsing; and the ability to make your browsing experience, faster, Opera has changed..and its changed for the better.

If you’re looking for an improved browser experience, then Opera may just be the breath of fresh air you’ve been looking for.

download Opera

Related Posts:

Consumer vs. Enterprise Windows

It’s a different kind of pane…

I’ve been involved in software for quite some time. Not to blow my horn or anything, but I’m a methodology and process engineering expert. I specialize in identifying process disconnects within the software development life cycle; and then help organizations identify the best ways to reconnect them.

I’ve seen a lot of talk over the past few days about Microsoft Threshold, or a unified approach to Windows that would bring everything together under one development cycle for Phone, Consumer and Enterprise Windows. Today, I got a refreshing look at the other side of the coin from one of my favorite People, Mary Jo Foley.

image2993

So…the first question on your mind has to be, “Well, that’s great, Chris.  How the heck are these two things connected?”  Good question…   Right now, except for Phone and RT – which is scheduled, to make an exit soon – all Windows development is connected.  Both consumer and enterprise versions of Windows have the same feature sets, underpinnings, back end hooks, etc.  With many hardware manufacturers concentrating more on the consumer market, keeping your enterprise product hooked to a consumer-focused, lean back device doesn’t make sense in a lean forward product line.

The needs of the [consumer]… are different than those of the enterprise. Consumers want to be current on everything, all the time, every day, out loud. The more current your security patches, virus updates and apps are, the more secure and virus free YOU are.  When it comes to keeping your personal, private data (like passwords and financials) personal and private, this is usually the best way to go.

IT professionals don’t always feel that way. While they have other security tools  available to them to insure that their networks are safe, they usually prefer static environments to rapid change.  With so much diversity in critical, operational apps from department to department, division to division, their focus is keeping the work progressing forward and not rapid OS changes. It’s easier to control the changes and insure that work gets done than to allow OS level changes into the enterprise that may conflict or create compatibility issues with business critical apps. They prefer policies and security restrictions so they may control when upgrades are applied.

From a use case perspective, this makes sense.  Consumers want all the latest and greatest features.  Professionals and people at work just want what they need to get the job done to work without having to wrestle with things.

This also makes a great deal of sense from a life cycle perspective.  Originally, both consumer and enterprise Windows were kept on the same development and feature life cycle so that people at work would be able to use the same version of Windows at home.  However, due to the implementation of Active Directory and Policy Manager, Windows at work and Windows at home have never quite felt EXACTLY the same.

Since PC use is declining in favor of a more slate-tablet form factor, and traditional computing is likely going to stick around at the office for quite some time (at least in the more conservative industries that I find myself working in – healthcare IT and State Government), splitting these user types into different Windows versions makes a lot of sense to me.  The only thing that I hope doesn’t happen is that they become so divergent that you can’t put the business form of Windows on your compatible, consumer tablet/device/PC.

According to Terry Myerson, the new head of the unified Windows team at Microsoft, the goal is to build one Windows platform that runs all compatible devices. However, that doesn’t mean “one OS to rule them all.” The UI’s may be different, the features may be different, but the underlying codebase – and more importantly, the cloud services – will be the same.

Strategically, this is very sound.  I’m going to have to reserve judgment until I see the tactical deliverable, however.  Post Windows 8.1, the picture gets fuzzy. However, between now and Spring of 2015, there should be two more Windows releases – in the Spring of 2014, there should be a Win8.1 Update 1 (or some such named animal) that will more appropriately align Windows and Windows Phone.  “Threshold,” or the next version of Windows, is the version slotted for Spring of 2015 and there’s very little that’s really known about it, its direction, etc.

At the end of the day, having this kind of desktop OS split from Microsoft isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s actually a return to a previous practice for them. Windows ME, back in 1990-blah, blah, blah was the last truly consumer version of Windows (Win95) before an updated version of Windows NT (Windows 2000, if you remember…) was released and became very popular with consumers, due in large part to is enterprise focused stability.

Do you think Microsoft returning/splitting its focus with Windows between consumers and the enterprise is a good or bad thing?  Can you support your argument?  I’d love to hear what you have to say.  Why not join me in the discussion below and tell me what you think of this interesting development.

Related Posts:

Apple to iWork Users – All Features will be Restored

I kinda figured this was the case. It’s good to know that Apple isn’t leaving users (totally) out in the cold.

iwork09090106-3

When Apple reworked iWork late last month and:

  • Made it 64bit
  • Leveled compatibility with iOS, iWork in iCloud and OS X
  • Made it free with the purchase of a new Mac

The update was huge; and it was the shot that restarted and won the Office Suite War  in a single volly; or so I thought. I later found out  that a number of features were missing, apparently removed, much to the chagrin of many iWork 9 users. The outcry had many pundits scratching their heads and users headed towards Office 365 or other alternatives.   Microsoft had fired back without even raising a finger.

Thankfully, Apple has heard the outcry of the masses and has responded.   The missing features were removed in order to insure file compatibility with iWork for iOS.   They will restore 18 of the missing features over the next 6 months.   According to Apple, “In rewriting these applications, some features from iWork ’09 were not available for the initial release.   We plan to reintroduce these features in the next few releases and will continue to add brand new features on an ongoing basis.”

Apple will restore 8 features to Pages, 6 to Numbers and 4 to Keynote, or 18 features in total.   This includes customizable toolbars, renewed Apple Script workflow automation support and thumbnail-based section management.   Unfortunately, once documents are converted in the new version of iWork, they can’t be opened in iWork ’09.

The biggest problem here is that the features will be restored over time and not in a single update after the 2013-10-22 initial release of the cross platform version of iWork.   Its nice that the features will be restored, but some are wondering why this message wasn’t delivered with the updated version of iWork in the first place.

The big question here is whether Apple intends to answer these questions or just gloss over them?   Will they accelerate their release schedule; or weather the storm and get them out there when they can? It wouldn’t mean the end of the world to a lot of people, as those that were dependent on the older features can still access the older software either after the update from an “archived” folder created during the installation routine of the newest version of iWork; or by not updating the software and continuing to use iWork ’09.

If you’re not an iWork user yet, but are interested in the new cross platform version, be aware that there are updates to be made. Existing users should watch for the updates and their missing features to be restored.

What do you think of the situation?   Did Apple stick it to its users, or is the situation something that will work itself out over time?   I’d love to hear your thoughts in the discussion area, below.

Related Posts:

Microsoft Windows 8.1 Delta Review

Introduction

Windows PC’s are some of the most affordable computers available today. Portable or not, they cost hundreds of dollars where Macs can cost thousands. If you want an affordable or budget PC, portable or not, its likely going to be a Windows machine. Unless there’s a Windows 7 offer, you can expect to have the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system on it.

Windows 8.1 has a few interesting changes in it. I’ve covered the Consumer Preview of Windows 8 for Soft32. There wasn’t a huge delta – or change – between the Consumer Preview and the version that hit the streets. There are some interesting changes between Windows 8 and Windows 8.1. Let’s check them out and see if Windows 8.1 is the version of Windows 8.x that we’ve been hoping for.

New Features

Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but please remember that Windows 8.1 is still very much Windows 8. There are some very, very good improvements to legacy usability that should make many users of non-touch enabled PC’s very happy; but Microsoft didn’t go quite as far as it could have – or should have – for a great many users. Windows 8.1 still has ModernUI throughout most of it.

However, that doesn’t mean that the improvements that were made weren’t valuable. They are. Windows 8.1 is a much better Windows 8 than Windows 8 was. Let’s take a look at what was done, and see how it all stacks up. Depending on the type of PC you have, you may find them more relevant than others.

Start Button – but no start Menu

The masses have not been happy with the lack of a Start Button and Start Menu in Windows 8. The Start Menu has been around since the early days of Windows XP, and as many will tell you, was optimized in Windows 7. Microsoft has heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth and has resolved the issue…sorta.

Win81-01 Start Button

The Start Button is back, but the Windows 8 Start Screen is still here. There’s no Start Menu any longer. So unless you replace the Live Tiles with the All Programs menu, you’re stuck with them. The functionality here is still very good, and Microsoft has included the new Search Everywhere option (which is the real value of the Start Menu) which includes searching SkyDrive as well as online, for the terms you’re looking for.

Those of us used to using Windows in the Enterprise will also notice that the consumer version of Windows 8.1 also includes a log off/Sign Out option, accessible via a right click or by pressing Win-X, allowing users to take the PC back to an on, but not logged on status. This makes sharing PCs at home a bit easier as you truly DON’T have to share a single account with a spouse or siblings. All the instances of each app can truly be customized for any user of any account and you don’t have to share unless you want to.

This particular point is still a huge issue for many people. They really don’t like the Live Tile-based Start Screen on non-touch enabled and/or legacy PC’s. For those that just can’t live with the Start Screen, you can always install Start8.

Boot to Desktop

One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is that it took you right to the Start Screen every time the PC finished the startup process. As part of the Windows 8.1 update, Microsoft introduced a Boot to Desktop option for users who simply weren’t going to use ModernUI or who preferred to see the standard Windows Desktop. It *IS* where most users will do most of their work.

Win81-03 Boot Desktop

Interestingly enough, the options for this are connected to the Task Bar and not to your desktop (Personalization) or Display options. To get to these, right click your Task Bar, click Properties and then choose the Navigation tab.

Here, you’ll see a great many Windows 8.1 options, including the option to replace the Start Screen with the All Apps view. Take note of this tab and this dialog box. You’re likely going to become very familiar with the options here as you try to figure out the best set of “navigation options” for you.

This is one of the biggest advantages of Windows 8.1 over Windows 8. If your PC doesn’t have a touch interface and you aren’t going to be using it as a lean-back device (a tablet-like, content consumption device) then you may want to give serious consideration to using Boot to Desktop. Using this, along with options like the All Apps View go a long way to hiding ModernUI elements from users who really won’t make use of them.

IE11 Updates

Windows 8.1 comes with IE11, so you won’t need to update the browser via Windows update or any other manual process. The ModernUI version of the Microsoft’s web browser includes Reading View, which allows you to view and read content off line. It has settings that allow you to customize its look and feel with different fonts and colors choices. You can also turn Tracking Protection on and off and prevent sites from tracking you or from installing 3rd party cookies.

Win81-04 IE11

Next page

Related Posts:

Stay in touch with Soft32

Soft32.com is a software free download website that provides:

121.218 programs and games that were downloaded 237.780.356 times by 402.775 members in our Soft32.com Community!

Get the latest software updates directly to your inbox

Find us on Facebook