Amazon Free Video Streaming Service?

Yeah… Not so much.  Amazon denies rumors of a free video streaming service.

The interwebs were abuzz the other day when rumors of a new, and free, streaming service from Amazon hit the wire.   The Wall Street Journal had reported that the Everything Store was planning to introduce an ad-supported video and music streaming service in the immediate future.   The service was rumored to feature original series and licensed content, similar to “Betas,” a TV show produced for Amazon’s Prime video service last year.

Amazon-streaming

The big sticking point in this rumor is exactly that – Amazon’s Prime Video service. Prime Video is a perk offered to Amazon Prime Members as part of their (now) $99 per year membership fee.   How this rumored free service would live alongside Amazon Prime Video was not immediately available.   However, the rumor surfaced ahead of a special Amazon media event where the purveyor of nearly everything available on the internet was expected to announce a set top box or streaming stick, capable of delivering web-based video content to your television set.

Amazon’s Sally Fouts, a spokesperson for the Everything Store, has since come out and denied the rumor. Says Fouts, “we’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming-media service.”

For me, a long-time Amazon Prime member, this is good news.   One of the best perks of Prime membership, one that I use much more often than Prime’s free 2-day shipping, was its video streaming service. If that could be gotten for free, I was giving serious consideration to cancelling my Prime membership.

When I moved to Omaha to take a new job, I decided not to get cable TV service and decided to be a cord cutter. I stream video via Amazon Prime multiple times a week.   If Amazon was going to offer a free streaming service, ad supported or not, it would have left a number of Prime members wondering what they were really getting for their membership fee.

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iDevice Restore Gotchas

Sometimes the best thing to do is to wipe it and start over. Unless…

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I’ve said this before, but I’ve been in mobile devices since 1996. In fact, I cut my journalistic teeth on WindowsCE devices, getting started with a Casio E10 back in 1996. It’s been an interesting journey that got me involved with many members of the Windows Mobile MVP community.  Along the way, I also helped get pocketnow.com and Gear Diary, both of them mobile device sites (though Gear Diary is more of a mobile computing than mobile DEVICE site now-a-days) off the ground.  During that time, I got involved in custom Windows Mobile device ROM’s for a number of different devices. I was even able to make (albeit very basic) mods to some ROM’s so that when I hard reset a Windows Mobile device or PocketPC Phone, custom software would automatically install as part of the process.  During my brief romp in the Android world, I got very good at rooting Android phones with and without rooting tools.

I got my first iPhone in 2008, with the iPhone 3G. At that point, the device was still an AT&T exclusive, which for me was ok. As a Chicago resident, that metro area provided enough dense coverage that I didn’t think I’d have any call coverage issues.  As many found out, that was an incorrect assumption.  3G was still new at the time, and the iPhone 3G was plagued with both battery and call quality/ dropping issues due to radios and radio ROMS that would desperately try – come hell or high water – to keep or find a 3G signal.  As such, batteries would drain faster than you could say, “Bob’s your uncle;” and call quality tanked.  The fledgling iDevice had tower switching issues; and tended to drop more calls than it connected.  I had my iPhone 3G for less than 3 months before I sold it due to too many dropped calls.  I can remember speaking with a writing partner, and during one critical 20 minute call at my desk, my iPhone dropped the call 11 times.  At the end of the day, I had to ask myself if I would tolerate that level of performance from any OTHER mobile device I was using or reviewing, and the answer was a very quick and resounding, “no.”  So, out it went.

So, fast forward to present day…

I’m currently using an iPhone 5, on AT&T again (I left AT&T for T-Mobile, then came back with the release of the iPhone 5).  When it comes to mobile devices, I’ve somewhat changed my point of view and philosophy – I’m a little tired of the cuts and bruises one receives when living on the ragged, hairy, bleeding edge, so I’m very happy to be back inside Apple’s Walled Garden.  No jail breaking for me… I did jail break my iPhone 5 at one point and ventured outside of the walled garden for all of, like, 27 and a half minutes, and quickly ran back home.  Cydia… Oy!!  What a hot mess THAT is! Never again.

Anyway, the point to all of this rambling..?  Very simple – well, perhaps not THAT simple.  But there are a couple things that I wanted to say to everyone about their phones in general, and then wanted to point out something that SHOULD work, but absolutely doesn’t.  I’ll get to that in a sec…

  1. Do NOT Fear the Hard Reset
    I said this in a lengthy column back when I was writing for pocketnow, I think.  If you have a smartphone (back then, they were called PDA’s (personal digital assistants), and they didn’t have cellular connectivity), you’re going to put apps on it, and not all of them work and play well together.  Some developers just don’t produce quality code and don’t test well.  As a software quality professional with 25 years of experience, you have no idea how much that very common behavior just makes my teeth itch…As such, you’re likely going to wind up with a device that gets really screwed up at one point or another. When that happens, your best course of action is not to pull your hair out trying to fix things.  Most of your information is either backed up in your Google account on your Android phone, in OneDrive on your Windows Phone or in iCloud on your iPhone.  Don’t worry about it. Just hard reset the thing and rebuild the device from scratch and be done with it.If you’ve installed a lot of apps and had a good, functional back up of the device prior to things going south, you could also do a simple restore (which may save you time when rebuilding or reestablishing your device’s setup).  Unfortunately, depending on how diligent you are in backing up your device, you may or may not have a good, device back up available. Yes, you can try to trouble shoot the problems, but the likelihood of you pinpointing what combination of apps and/or settings that sent your device south is very slim.  The best thing to do is admit defeat, put on your big boy undies and wipe the device and rebuild. You may find that you’ll not only resolve the problem, but may see a huge performance boost. Your smartphone likes it when it’s clean.
  2. Make Sure you have a Solid Internet Connection
    Back during the jailbreak hay day, one of the things that Apple did to make certain you couldn’t jailbreak your device and to keep it running the way they wanted it to was to insure that it phoned home during a restore or reset operation.  This is fine when you have a decent Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet connection…and this is where things can get ugly – not so much when you’re using your iPhone as a hotspot.  iTunes puts the device in recovery mode before it verifies the ROM – AND, get this – it does it every single time you want to restore the phone to factory fresh.Dear Apple… STOP IT!This is the one thing that I mentioned above that absolutely should work, but doesn’t.  With iOS 8, though, you probably won’t need to do that anymore.  Apple has made it increasingly harder and harder for jail breakers to find an exploit so that they can actually create a jailbreak of iOS 7.x.  They’ve plugged nearly all the holes. I still think it’s important to verify that the restore file I am using isn’t corrupted or tampered with, but there HAS to be a better way to do this than by phoning home each and EVERY time I want or need to restore the device.  There has to be a way to do that ONCE and ONLY once per mobile OS version. Once that verification is done, I shouldn’t have to worry about what KIND of internet connection I have – Wi-Fi, wired or hotspot via my iPhone. I just wanna restore the thing and get it working again.I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to stop myself from performing a restore because I was out and about and was using my iPhone as a hotspot. In one instance during a recent move to a new geographic area, I had problems with my iPhone, started the restore and then realized I no longer had an internet connection when iTunes tried to verify the restore file.  I had to pack up my MacBook Pro, my iPhone and jump in the car and try to find a MacDonald’s or Starbucks so I could have my cell phone – my only connection to the people who were helping me move – back from the dead.Restoring your phone shouldn’t be so complicated…I’m just sayin’.
  3. Don’t Connect your Smartphone to your PC through a USB Hub
    Yeah… I know this one can be hard, especially if you’re connecting through a laptop and don’t have a docking station (can you say every Mac EVER made) and you hate plugging and chugging a bunch of cords in and out of your computer; but don’t do this if you can help it.  I can’t tell you how many different times I’ve had iPhones get stuck in recovery mode because the signal from the PC burps because it’s connected through a USB hub.  Some people have better luck when the USB hub has its own power source and isn’t drawing juice from the laptop to split your USB port. This isn’t always the case. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter if the hub is powered or not.  I’ve had to retry iOS restores many different times on both iPhones and iPads due to weak or poor USB signals when I use USB hubs.  After the second or third failure, I usually just plug and chug USB cables out of USB ports and plug my iDevice directly into the PC. It usually works first try after that.If you’ve got an Android device, don’t try to root it while connected through a USB hub.  Some Android devices don’t recover well if the rooting or flashing process burps.  Don’t turn your cool smartphone into a brick or paper weight. Connect to your PC directly.

I started out making this totally about Apple products, but found out as I went through the process that the gotchas that I’ve pointed out can occur with just about any and all makes, models and mobile OS’.  The iDevice Phone Home thing is all Apple, though; and it really just needs to stop.

Do you have any mobile device horror stories that you’d like to share? If so, I’d love to hear them.  Why don’t you join me in the comments section, below and tell me what happened to you.

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Facebook Acquires VR firm Oculus for $2B

Facebook is on an acquisition binge. This one has me scratching my head…

Oculus

Facebook has been on an acquisition binge recently. Just the other day, it announced that it would buy VR developer Oculus VR for $2.0B. A few weeks ago, it announced it was acquiring the mobile messaging application WhatsApp for $19.0B. Apparently, it has cash to burn…

The Oculus deal includes $400M in cash, and $1.6B in stock. If all goes well for Oculus, post-acquisition, its employees could receive another $300M in incentive bonuses if specific, undisclosed targets are reached. Oculus was made famous due to its crowd-funded start on Kickstarter, where it received approximately $2.4M in funding.

While it has yet to release a product, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg indicated his company’s interest and commitment in the organization by saying that, “mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus’ technologies could “change the way we work, play and communicate.” Facebook is planning to use the acquired company and its virtual reality technology to expand its “communications, media, entertainment, education and other areas.”

While Facebook is happy with the development, the rest of the world – or at least part of it – clearly isn’t. Markus Persson, the creator of the popular block-building game, Minecraft, said he WAS in talks with Oculus to bring the two together, but has since killed the deal. According to Persson, “Facebook creeps me out.”

Other developers are taking similar actions. One developer said, “I am really upset by this. I had nothing but grief as a developer of Facebook titles, and the direction and actions of Facebook are not ones I can support.” It’s not all doom and gloom, however, some think that Facebook could help Oculus monetize the Rift and make it successful.

Personally, I have my doubts. Weird Facebook stuff aside, I am seriously wondering how a social networking company, even one as successful as Facebook, can marry its core competencies with software that requires VR hardware AND your computer or other computing device in order to create an integrated experience. To me, this just seems really clunky and doomed to failure.

Currently, the user integration paradigm – computing device (PC, smartphone or tablet), web browser or app and user – don’t provide for an elegant way to incorporate any other kind of hardware or interim device. From my perspective, the big time of Facebook games like Farm Town or Farmville are long gone. That was SO 7 years (2007) ago… Like the WhatsApp acquisition, I have no idea what Facebook intends to do, or what they think they’re going to gain, other than, perhaps to keep some other company from acquiring it.

With WhatsApp, its purchase was redundant. They already have Facebook Messenger; and have indicated that they don’t have any plans on bringing it and Facebook Messenger together, either now or in the future. In my mind, that acquisition was purposefully executed to keep Google (and its competing social network, Google+) from getting their hands on the intellectual property.

What do YOU think of this development? Is this something that works for you, or is it something creepy? I know I always ask you guys for your opinion, but this time I really would like you to chime in. What do you think? Good? Bad? Indifferent? Tell me what you think in the comments section below and let’s see if we can sort this one out.

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Codelobster PHP Edition

Create cool web sites and apps with this free portable IDE for Windows.

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There’s a huge movement from the White House to get the children of the country to learn to program. The thought and idea behind this is that if they start at a young age, they’ll get very good at it, and perhaps have jobs available to them to help them through paying for a college education and/or to continue to support them after they get out of college. The earlier they start, the better they will be.

Unfortunately, development tools can be expensive; and there are a lot of languages to pick from. Some of the easiest and most valuable languages are web-based; which is why I like things like Codelobster PHP Edition. It’s a free, easy to use PHP development environment for Windows and I think you’re going to like it.

Most IDE’s are expensive. You can pay up to $500 USD for a single seat license for some tools, and even more for others. Codelobster PHP Edition is free and it can auto highlight PHP, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, with autocomplete. It also has a powerful, built-in PHP debugger, a code validator, and a SQL manager. Help is also very near. If you get stuck, you can always tap F1 and get the help you need. The internal debugger also automatically senses your server settings and configures the files you need so you can use the debugger. This is totally awesome on a free tool.

Coding and integrated development environments that support a number of languages – HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP – are usually very expensive. Finding one that’s free, let alone with code and pair highlighting, autocomplete as well as context and dynamic help is pretty cool. Codelobster PHP Edition also supports code collapsing, allowing you to shrink up entire blocks of code so that you can find what you want or need to work in quickly and easily. This is really cool to have in a free tool, and the fact that Codelobster PHP Edition has it is pretty awesome.

Another big plus is that the app also supports a plug-in architecture, so if you want to include, JQuery, SQL or other snippets and objects in your code, you can. However, those plug-ins may not be free, so you need to be aware of that.

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Google Throws a Cloud Storage Gauntlet

… at the feet of Dropbox, Microsoft and everyone else offering online storage services

Clouds

A couple years ago, I did a huge article for InformationWeek on the top cloud based storage services available at the time. These services were cross platform – meaning they could be used on Windows, OS X, Linux and perhaps a mobile OS or two (most likely, Android and iOS). At the time, Dropbox was the king of the hill. They were the service that most everyone knew about, and its name had become synonymous with cloud storage.  You shoved things in your dropbox whether you had an account with them or another service.  They were so popular and easy to use, that BYTE, hosted via InformationWeek, and the now RE-defunct reincarnation of BYTE Magazine, asked that their editing staff use it for all of our articles.

Today, that’s no longer the case. Dropbox is still a VERY popular service; but there are other solutions out there that should be given very serious consideration.  Among them are Microsoft’s OneDrive, LiveDrive and of course, Google Drive.  There are a ton of others out there, but recently Google did something VERY cool and very strategic. They dramatically lowered the price of and restructured their storage plans.

The new plans… oh yeah. They’re crazy cheap.

→ 1TB – $10/ month
→ 10TB – $100/ month
→ 20TB – $200/ month
→ 30TB – $300/ month

Notice, please that these are measured in TERABYTES, and not gigabytes. You can store a file up to 1TB in size. If you use Google Apps as your office suite of choice, those files don’t use your storage space. They’re up in Google Drive for free. If you use Google Apps or Gmail for email, your mail shares storage space with Google Drive.  If you use Google+ to store and share photos, photos bigger than 2048×2048 pixels use your storage. Anything and everything smaller than that is free.  Please also note that the 1TB plan is the INTRODUCTORY or lowest tiered plan offered.  Skip going to Starbucks twice a month, and it’s paid for… the bottom three tiers are obviously meant for businesses.  Unless you’re a total shutterbug, it’s doubtful you’re going to come close to filling up or need 10TB – 30TB of storage.  Their prices are also consumer prohibitive.

Previously, I had a 400GB plan and I was paying $20/ month for it. Google migrated me off that legacy plan and gave me 2.5x the storage for half the price.  The change was instantaneous and completely transparent.  In the blink of an eye, I went to using 10% of my storage to less than 1%; and I’m only paying half of what I was previously paying for the past year or so.

I’ve got a Google+ account, but I don’t share any photos on it. Most of my friends and family are on Facebook, and that’s where I share any photos I take.  It’s unlikely that I will fill up my 1TB Google Drive cup any time soon. Honestly, I’ll be very lucky to get back to 10-12% usage again.  However, I like having all of my productivity data backed up via an off-site system.

In fact, I have quite an extensive backup strategy:
→ My productivity data backed up via Google Drive
→ All of my Mac’s user data is locally backed up via Time Machine
→ All of my iTunes data is stored in iCloud and is backed up locally via a home network NAS.  I also employ iTunes Match to backup music I didn’t purchase via iTunes.
→ All of my Mac’s user data is backed up via BackBlaze.

While this may seem a bit like overkill, if you have ANYTHING critical – family photos of friends and loved ones who may have passed, are old, or are simply irreplaceable; critical, encrypted personal files (like birth, marriage or death certificates or tax documents); sensitive work or project files, etc. – then having a backup strategy similar to this, where you have a few different ways of getting back something that may have accidentally been lost, can be very important to you.  There is NOTHING in this world like the relief you feel when you realize that you have the correct version of the file you need backed up locally when your internet connection is on the fritz and you have a work deadline to meet; or vice versa when you find that a local file and its backup copy are both corrupted and your online backup system (like Backblaze) allows you to retrieve a previous version of the file without missing a beat. It’s at that point that you look at your backup strategy and say, “yep.   I’m awesome. I set this up correctly and the $XX dollars I pay for this every month is more than worth it.”

It’s at that point that your family/accountant/business partner or boss crowns you, “king of anything,” and tells you how awesome they think you really are.  When you don’t have it, you better have some other kind of golden parachute – a comfy couch to sleep on, paper records, other accounts or a new job to go to – if you don’t have that kind of backup strategy in place.

With prices like this – $10 bucks a month for 1TB of cloud storage – I can’t think of any valid reason why you wouldn’t have something like this setup for your data.  I’m not saying that Google Drive is a must have for everyone. There are a number of reasons why some people may not feel comfortable with trusting Google, of all companies, with your personal and private data, family photos, etc.  I mean…they are GOOGLE after all…  However, after paying upwards of $50 bucks a month for about the same amount of space on another service, this seems like a total no brainer to me.

What do YOU think, though?  Do you have a Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive or other cloud based storage account?  Do you use the free version, or do you pay for additional space? Do you feel comfortable with Google being the steward of your photos, home movies and tax documentation? More importantly, is there a better deal out there?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this deal, this issue and on Google Drive (and other cloud based storage solutions) in general, in the comments section below.

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Office for iPad due this Month

The rumor mill has  2014-03-27  set as the day that Microsoft announces Office for iPad

Apple introduced the iPad in January of 2010. It was – and still is – the magical device that has changed the entire face of modern computing.   By 2011, the world was screaming for a version of Office for iPad; and they knew they weren’t going to get it; at least not then.   Now it seems they finally will.

microsoft-office-ipad-ios

New Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is said to be hosting an invitation only press event at  10am  Pacific/1pm Eastern where he will speak about the “intersection of The Cloud and Mobile Computing.” The event – scheduled for the same date and time that MacWorld/iWorld kicks off – should put the world’s yearning for Office on the iPad to rest.

Previously, Microsoft had tied Office and Windows at the hip. Each new version of Windows would undoubtedly signal the business world that a new version of Office (for Windows) was just around the corner.   The two were so tied together that even though the new version of Office would run on legacy versions of Windows, doing so always created “opportunities for technical support.” New Office on old Windows wasn’t necessarily a good idea. The two products have always worked best when their latest releases were paired up.   And so, Microsoft’s cash cows mooed and were milked, and all was right with Redmond’s world. That was the way of the One Windows strategy from Microsoft for many years.

And then, tablet computing kicked off and changed the computing landscape forever; and it upset the World of Windows.   The consumerization of IT (CoIT) and BYOD (bring your own device) movements started to take hold of the world in late 2010. Corporate America wanted to bring their self-owned IT toys to work and wanted access to corporate resources with them. I know many IT managers who had to recreate entire Windows Policy implementations in Active Directory just to insure that capability to satisfy key members of executive management. Even though most every organization has some CoIT/BYOD presence (with the exception of some state government agencies around the US who aren’t ready for that just yet…), it’s still a big challenge for IT departments to manage.

Thankfully, however, for iOS, and specifically iPad users, that’s about to get a bit easier. Microsoft seems like it’s finally ready to decouple its Office/ Windows Release machine and give Office for iPad to the people.   I, like a number of other industry journalists, think that Office for iOS has been ready to ship for a while now, even as early as Q1 2012.   There was some credible evidence published on the internet coupled with what appeared to be screenshots of (near) finished product that indicated that Office for iPad was ready back then. Unfortunately, the release didn’t make it to the public due to entrenched Windows management.   With the many changes made, and still in process, at Microsoft, this – the final availability of Office for iPad – seems like the message to be delivered to the public at the press event on the  March 27th.

It was anticipated – and users can likely still anticipate – the need for an active Office 365 subscription, or full Office license – in order to be able to use Office for iPad.   This reaffirms the Microsoft (notice, I didn’t say Windows) ecosystem, and indicates a clear shift in corporate thinking in Redmond.   They are truly embracing the devices and services corporate direction set by Steve Ballmer before he was recently replaced by Satya Nadella.

Interestingly enough, it was thought that Microsoft could be missing out on as much as $2.5B USD in revenue due to the lack of Office on iPad.   However, it’s not clear if that estimate is accurate or merely an estimate. I happen to think that number is overstated, at least at this point. Microsoft isn’t planning to charge for the app specifically, but will instead require a purchase of either Office 365 or Office 2011/2013. I’m fairly certain that Office for iPad won’t compel the purchase of new Office licenses, however, I’ve been proven wrong before.

At the end of the day, we’re just going to have to wait and see…  2014-03-27  is less than a week away as of this writing. It is also anticipated that Microsoft will provide additional information on the ModernUI/ MetroUI version of Microsoft Office that will embrace touch and also run on Surface RT/ Surface 2 tablets. It was previously thought that the lack of this product was holding up the completed version of Office for iPad from release.

What do you think of all of this? Is Satya Nadella going to announce Office for iPad on  2014-03-27?   Will he announce Office 2015 for Mac?   Or will Nadella announce something different entirely?   Will the new version of Office for iPad contain just Word, Excel, PowerPoint and [some version of] Outlook, or will it be more complete, pulling in an updated version of OneNote as well?   How important is Office for iPad to you?   Will it compel you to purchase an Office 365 subscription or a licensed version of Office 2011 for Mac or Office 2013 Professional Plus for Windows?   Is the fact that they are effectively 2-3 years late on delivering Office for the iPad going to hurt Microsoft?   I’d really appreciate you taking the time to give me your thoughts in the comments section below and telling me what you think.

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The New Mac Pro Doesn’t do Windows 7

If you’re looking at running Windows 7 via Boot Camp, you’re not going to do it with the new Mac Pro.

I’ve heard (generally) nothing but praise from those Mac Pro users who have finally been able to get their hands on one of these highly anticipated and highly coveted computers from Cupertino’s Apple. Once received and setup, the newly redesigned Mac Pro is said to deliver top computing performance in a very small and chic package.

nowin7

One of the best things about any Intel based Mac is that it natively runs just about any desktop operating system you throw at it. With the right tools, you can likely make it triple-boot OS X, Linux AND Windows…though, not Windows 7.  Apple has surprisingly ended Windows 7 support on their newest, flagship desktop computer.  If users want to install Windows on their Mac Pro, it’s going to have to be a version of Windows 8.x or later.  Boot Camp drivers for their newer hardware won’t be Windows 7 compatible.

The change was originally discovered by Mac developer Twocanoes and later confirmed by Apple. Users who will be moving to the Mac Pro will either need to upgrade to Windows 8, migrate their Windows 7 based Boot Camp partition to a VM package like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion, or will need to forego use of the Mac Pro and choose another Mac. Windows 8′s lack of popularity and low adoption rates have made Windows 7 a much more attractive choice in the enterprise where the touch based systems Windows 8 is really intended for, have generally not appeared.

Apple has chosen the Mac Pro as the first computer that will not support Windows 7. It’s logical to assume that future systems will also lack support for earlier versions of Windows.  Apple stopped supporting Windows XP and Windows Vista in 2011.

Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 Boot Camp support this early in the Windows 8 life cycle, at least in my mind, is a bit of a surprise. Windows 8 is vastly unpopular, even with traditional Microsoft supporters. I’m certain many consumer users will either stick with Windows 7 or wait until Windows 9 – currently codenamed Threshold – is released before making a decision to abandon Windows 7 for a more current version.  Enterprise OS lifecycles are usually, very elongated, and I don’t expect any IT department to leave Windows 7 behind – heck, many IT departments are just now migrating off Windows XP and on to Windows 7 – any time soon. The fact that Apple has discontinued support for Windows 7 and earlier just means they don’t want to deal with the OS mess that Microsoft let out of Redmond any longer than they absolutely have to.

Do you have a Mac that you run Windows on via Boot Camp? Does Apple’s discontinuation of Windows 7 support negatively impact you and the way you work with your Mac?  Can you move your Windows install to either Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion?  I’d love to know what you think of this interesting development. Why don’t you join me in the discussion, below and give me your thoughts?

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Microsoft Releases OneNote for Mac

Microsoft formally responds to cross platform notes app challengers like Evernote.

OneNoteI’ve used Evernote for years. It really became popular in 2008-2009 when it released desktop and mobile device versions for most of the popular platforms of the day. Evernote came to the Mac in 2011.  Since then, they’ve been traveling at warp speed at the front of the cross-platform note taking app race. The strategy with them has been to give users one common place to collaborate with teammates and to hold their information. You can access your information from just about any device, on any platform anywhere.

Until the last few years, Microsoft’s been a bit absent from the party. OneNote was pretty good on a PC, but until recently, getting access to the information you may have stored there has been challenging.  OneNote for iOS solved some of those issues. Up until now, Office for Mac has been missing some big pieces – Access, Project, Publisher, and Visio are among those in the office that are still among the most missed.  However, Microsoft today removed OneNote from that list and has released OneNote for Mac.

Microsoft is rumored to be planning a new release of Office for Mac later this year. OneNote for Mac looks a LOT like its Windows counterpart, bringing UI standardization (within the suite at least) to the Mac version. It clearly makes you wonder if the new version of Office for Mac will share the same look and feel as its Windows counterpart, or if it will still have the standard Mac UI elements.  With all of the Office development teams now part of the same group (something that didn’t exist before – Microsoft had previously, purposefully from what my MS sources have said – put them in different groups with different goals and objectives), it’s clear that a standardized, cross-platform look and feel may actually be possible with this next release. It will also be interesting to know whether Microsoft makes OneNote for Mac part of the standard Mac Office install, or if they will make you download and install it separately.  We should know in a few months when the new version of Office for Mac is rumored to be released, nearly four years from its last update in 2010.

OneNote for Mac makes extensive use of Microsoft OneDrive. All versions of OneNote will be able to store notebooks there and sync them across all platforms, including OneNote for iOS. Users can also share notebooks with friends and coworkers, with near real time editing. This way, users will be able to share and collaborate with other remote users. Notes and notebooks will maintain a standardized look and feel regardless of what platform they are opened or edited on.

Are you interested in OneNote for Mac? Do you use OneNote on other platforms, or on an iOS device? Do you think it will become part of the standard Office for Mac install, or will it always be a separate app to install? Will the other missing Office apps – Access, Project, Publisher and Visio – be included with future Office for Mac updates or will the two suites forever be separate?  Why don’t you chime in in the discussion area and let me know what you think? I’d love to get your opinion on this, as Office has always been a favorite app suite and topic for me.

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