The Biggest News at the Apple Event – Microsoft and Google cut to the Core

Guess what kids – iWork (Pages, Numbers, and KeyNote) is FREE and available in the App Store right now.

It was over a LONG time ago. Microsoft beat out both WordPerfect and Lotus SmartSuite back in 1990-blah-blah-blah to win the Office Suite wars. It was hard fought. It was a bitter victory, especially for me, as I used to be a WordPerfect 5.x for DOS and 6.x for Windows instructor. I made money teaching people how to use WP5.x 6.x for DOS and Windows. That is, until Microsoft’s Office 95 hit and changed the world forever.

What was the death blow? That’s simple – integration with other apps. You could write a report in Word and include “live” spreadsheet data or easily import graphics and the text would all just flow around everything… it was so beautiful, it made me cry. It was a paper-jockey’s dream; and the closest competitor, WordPerfect, had a release of WordPerfect for Windows that was SO bad, the CEO of the organization recalled the app (which was already over a year late to market) and made the development team start from scratch.

and Microsoft has dominated the Office Suite world ever since. Hands down. The end. Game over…

Today… at the theater at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, Apple not only restarted the war, but it ended it in a single move. They win. Hands down. The end. Game (now really) over.

iwork vs office

How did they do it? That’s simple.

The latest update of iWork, their office suite which contains a word processor (Pages), spreadsheet (Numbers), and presentation creator (Keynote) is available today, and it’s free.

iWork is cloud enabled. All of the documents that you create and edit can be saved to iCloud, Apple’s cloud sync service. It can be used on the desktop or in a browser. It can be used by Mac or PC users. Documents can be started on one platform and edited in another, at the same time.

Did I mention that it’s cross platform and it’s free?

Both Microsoft and Google charge subscription fees for their office suites. Microsoft’s Office 365 has a number of different subscription tiers and the monthly fees aren’t bad. However, you’re still paying a lot for a set of apps that Apple is now giving away for free.

Oh… and by the way, Apple is also giving away OS X 10.9 Mavericks – the latest full version of their desktop operating system – for free. This really makes life difficult for Microsoft whose main revenue streams have been not only Office but Windows as well.

Apple’s new iPad announcements don’t mean much in comparison. Don’t get me wrong the iPad Air looks compelling and the new iPad mini has a retina display. Both hardware updates may be enough to get those still outside the tablet world or waiting for a reason to upgrade from an iPad 1 or an iPad 2 a compelling reason TO upgrade; but the big story from San Francisco today – free software from Apple. If that’s not a reason to give a longer, harder more serious look to computing platforms and ecosystem, then I’m not certain what is.

The war is over, my friends. And whether you think so or not, Apple really cut both Microsoft and Google to the core. They’re now going to have to rethink a lot of their mobile strategy and price points in order to combat this latest development after Apple’s announcement today.

iwork

I’d love to hear what you have to say about all of this. Why not join us in the discussion, below and tell us what you think?

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Bricked WinRT Devices Causes Removal of 8.1 Update #1

Microsoft is just NOT having a good go of things…

surface_largeWindows 8.1 hit the streets a few days ago and there are a number of people who are having problems with both the Windows 8.1 RT and Windows 8.1 Pro updates not entirely working right. Things are so bad on the Windows RT side of the house that Microsoft has pulled the update from the Windows Store until further notice. The update has been reported to brick some windows RT devices.

The problem doesn’t occur with every Windows RT device, but there really isn’t a way to know if your device will brick or update correctly. The official statement from Microsoft attributed to a “Microsoft Spokesman” indicates,Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.”

The problem seems to be wrapped around a BSoD connected to the recovery image that gets created on the device. When the device tries to reboot, many users get the following error message: “Your PC needs to be repaired. The Boot Configuration Data file is missing some required information.”

Microsoft is still working on a permanent fix for the problem. They’ve posted a Surface RT recovery image to the Microsoft Download Center that is supposed to help users with this problem unbrick their device. However, there’s still no official word on when the final fix and the Windows RT 8.1 update will be made available in the Windows Store again.

read Update #2

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Apple OS X 10.9 Mavericks

The Year of the Cat is done. Surf’s up, Dude!

Mac-OS-X-10.9-Mavericks-System-Compatibility-ListIntroduction

There have been a lot of changes at Apple since Steve Jobs passed a couple years ago. While the iPhone 5/5S/5C may be the last iPhones that he actually had design influence over, there have been changes not only in the mobile space, but on the desktop as well. Apple is continuing is annual update cycle with OS X; and its anticipated they will release version 10.9 to the general public on or around 2013-10-22.

Code named Mavericks, after a favorite surfing spot in California, Apple has run out of cat names. While that may make many meme lovers a bit sad, OS X users shouldn’t be too upset. Mavericks sports a number of back-end updates that make it largely a maintenance release. However, there are a number of new, end user based features that many may find useful or more useful now that they’ve been improved.

Mavericks-03

As a long time Windows user and recent (within the last 5 years) Switcher, there are some really nice enhancements here that should make most Mac users want to upgrade. Let’s take a quick look at all of them and see where the ups and downs really are.

New Features

Maps

After starting Mavericks for the first time, this is the first change that I noticed to the OS, as the program icon for Maps is in the dock by default. It was new, and very obvious to what it was.

I’ve been writing about Apple Maps for quite some time. In fact, GPS apps are a bit of a specialty of mine. I love using them, partially because I’m so directionally challenged, its laughable.

There’s been a lot of “room for growth” in Apple Maps since its introduction. Apple’s done a decent job of fixing some of its bigger problems and in keeping it OUT of the lime light. However, with the introduction of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, Apple Maps has matured to a point where Apple is introducing the app to the desktop as a direct competitor to Google Maps’ desktop browser interface.

Maps-03

Introduced as an app rather than a website or web service, Apple Maps is an Apple exclusive tool. With your Thunderbolt, Retina or HD capable Mac display, the app can display images in 100% HD clarity. Because it makes use of your Mac’s graphics adapter, zooming is smooth and responsive and text and details are HD crisp. Maps’ hybrid and satellite displays via Flyover are photo perfect; and its 3D capabilities give you the feeling as though you’re seeing your chosen location first hand.

Apple Maps’ navigation is greatly improved; and the best part about Maps on your Mac is that you can now plan out your trip – including all of your side trips – on your desktop and then send all of your destinations directly to your cellular capable iDevice where Maps will provide turn-by-turn, voice guided navigation.

This is a HUGE improvement in Mavericks and iOS 7, as it makes the app that much more credible and reliable. What Apple needs to do now, is insure that that message is successfully delivered and appropriately socialized to current and potential users.

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What Comes After Windows 8.1? Windows 8.2? Windows 9?

Windows 8.1 arrives soon. I’ve seen a couple things on what comes next. Here’s my take on what Microsoft needs to do.

Let’s face it. Windows 8 was a mess. The user interface was/is so different from the Windows XP/Windows 7 paradigm that most users I know either won’t use Windows 8 or have switched to Mac or Linux. For Microsoft, this is a huge issue. Aside from Windows Phone, which by all accounts has a great interface, but a microscopic user base, Live Tiles don’t work well on a traditional PC, and THAT my friends, is where Microsoft makes their living.

So what’s Microsoft to do? I have a couple of ideas…

 

what windows next

 

Ditch the Tiles on the PC Side

Surface RT and Surface 2 are Microsoft’s tablet products, and honestly, the Live Tile thing works and does an OK job on a tablet, which is much like a phone. Live Tiles have been received very well on Windows Phone, so keeping the same UI on their tablet line makes a world of sense.

Surface Pro and Surface 2 Pro are really ultrabooks, not tablets. They’re really an – uh-hem – ultra version of a slate-based TabletPC. The only real difference there is that they’re much smaller, much thinner and much more portable. I have one. It’s a full blown PC and definitely not a tablet or lean-back device. It’s for serious work. The Start Screen simply does not work well here, even though I can take my hands off the keyboard, away from the touch pad on a Type or Touch Cover or even a mouse and manipulate the device with touch. It just doesn’t work well. It’s why touch-based CRT’s and LCD’s never really caught on in any other setting other than retail.

 

Merge the Tablet and Phone OS and Software Stores

You know, I really like Mary Jo Foley. She’s got some really good sources over at Microsoft, and some of them are really VERY accurate. According to MJF and her source, by Spring of 2015, Windows RT and Windows Phone will be a single, merged OS. In my mind, that’s a year too long. It needs to happen before June 2014.

I agree that’s a lot to get done in less than 9 months; but its overdue now as it is. Microsoft’s mobile strategy sucks, and has for well over a decade. Ballmer just didn’t get mobile devices OR mobile computing, and as such, they lost the position of power they had back in the 2000-2004 time frame.

Merging Windows Phone and Windows RT is the right thing to do, but they need to make that happen NOW and not later. That will likely mean bringing on a huge amount of contract labor and developing a very aggressive schedule. If they can get the mobile OS standardized and have all of the software for that single platform also exist in a single store, then like iOS and Android, they’ll have a unified platform they can then get behind and push with an aggressive marketing machine.

surface-2-2

More Frequent Updates

According to MJF and her source, there should be an update to Windows 8.x before June 2014. However, it’s not known if that’s going to be a formal release or simply a service pack or update of some kind. Microsoft is shooting for the April-May-June time frame to be their formal annual release time, but if that’s the case, then they need to hit this next release window with a formal Windows release and not a service pack. If they want to appear as though they are turning around major releases quickly in the Spring, then they need to do so in 2014. Waiting until 2015 to provide the next major update will make them appear to have reverted back to the service pack model they said they left behind with Windows 7.

 

Clear, Decisive Action from a New CEO, NOW

I know Microsoft is actively looking for a new CEO; but they need to get someone with a clear vision of where to take them at the helm quickly. Steve may be a great guy, but he blew it with Microsoft’s mobile strategy and that’s where the market is currently headed. They are very weak in this area and need to find a way to demonstrate a clear position of strength and direction quickly, or they may as well forget it.

Frankly, I don’t care who the new CEO is; but they need someone who is product oriented, with a clear mobile vision, and who isn’t afraid to think outside the box. The market isn’t going to wait on them. This isn’t 1990, and they clearly aren’t the only player any longer. Move. Move quickly and hit a home run. Microsoft can’t afford any additional misfires. If they have one, the world – and the mobile market – will move on without them.

I’m working on a Delta Review of Windows 8.1 and will have it ready shortly. Please continue to watch Soft32 for it. In the meantime, why don’t you join us in the discussion below and give us your take on what Microsoft needs to do after Windows 8.1.

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Communicate with all of your friends and contacts via IM or video with QQ International

QQ InternationalChina has long been one of the biggest, untapped internet markets on the planet. If you have friends or family in China, then you’re going to want to take a long hard look at QQ International. Its an IM app for Windows, and it is very popular there.

QQ international has been serving hundreds of millions of Chinese users since 1998. In China, QQ is THE go-to app for instant messaging, because of its predominant market share.

QQI-01QQ International is the missing link between China’s largest online network and the non-Chinese speakers who live in China or have an interest in the country.

In addition to connecting with people you already know, QQ International is a great place to meet and make contact with people who share a similar interests in China, from all over the world. Might it be for business, dating, lifestyle or travel, you will easily find active interest groups and start making new friends or exchanging ideas right away.

QQ International is the best way to communicate with friends and loved ones who either have an interest in China or who actually live there. The app comes with multiple language interfaces, including English, so you’ll be able to use the app no matter what language you speak. In the States, IM apps aren’t very big, but in China, they most certainly are, and QQ is one of the best.

If you’ve used ICQ, then you’ll find QQ very familiar and easy to use. Its very similar in look, feel and function.

download QQ International

 

 

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Apple Reveals 2013-10-22 as iPad 5 Day

apppppleApple will announce a bevy of new iPad and MacBook hardware in time for the 2013 Holiday Buying Season
Apple has recently announced that 2013-10-22 is the day they will unveil a boat load of new hardware for both their iPad and MacBook lines. For those keeping score, that’s twice in two months that Apple will be announcing new products, which is unusual for the organization that prides itself on secrecy and exclusivity. I mean… you don’t usually get this much Apple goodness shoved together. They usually take a while between announcements to allow us to lather ourselves up into a rumor frenzy.

While details of the event remain on the most part under wraps, the date of the event was uncovered more than a week ago.

ipad-mini-various-angles

Details on the specifics of the event are still a bit sketchy. However, it is anticipated that the iPad 5, iPad mini 2 and updates to the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines of Apple’s laptops will be announced. Apple should also announce the general availability of OS X 10.9 Mavericks as well. The event will be held at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and will start at 10 a.m. PT.

I’m still working on my Mavericks review, and I will have it completed before Apple’s alleged announcement on 2013-10-22. Please watch for it on Soft32 as there’s some really GREAT stuff built into the latest version of Apple’s desktop OS.

Additional rumor fodder has the iPad 5 sporting a 64bit processor. This could put additional pressure on the PC market as virtualization apps allow lean-back devices, like the iPad, to make better use of both network and stationary PC resources. It’s going to be a lot easier to connect your iPad to your work network and make use of the office PC through your iPad. With the right kind of keyboard and cover, your iPad 5 is going to give serious competition to ultrabooks and other tablet like PC’s like Microsoft Surface/Pro and Surface/ Pro 2.

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GoodSync

GoodSyncProtect your data with this important multiplatform app

Everyone – or at least nearly everyone – knows what cloud sync apps are today. Its quite possible that you’ve heard of at least one or two. Getting your data into the cloud isn’t easy without an app like GoodSync. It’s a data backup and cloud synchronization app for Windows.

GoodSync is an easy to use file synchronization application. It automatically analyzes, synchronizes, and backs up your data locally – between desktops, laptops, servers, external drives, and Windows Mobile devices – as well as remotely with FTP, SFTP, WebDAV and Amazon S3 servers. The best thing about GoodSync is GoodSync Connect, which helps you to connect computers easily, even through the internet.

GS-03

Cloud synchronization options abound on the internet today. GoodSync is just one of them. However, you really need to watch what you get when you sign up. Other services may provide better options. While GoodSync Connect offers a real advantage for the service, if you have non-Windows computers you want to sync with, you have other issues to deal with. Licensing costs on non-Windows computers is much higher. You also don’t get a discount for purchasing multiple PC licenses, so you may pay more using GoodSync than with other services where you pay for storage. You’ll need to price it out and shop around a bit to insure you get the best deal.

 

download GoodSync

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Play, organize and rip your audio collection with foobar2000

Play, organize and rip your audio collection with this must have Windows application.

Foobar-2000-iconIf you’re like me, music is a big part of your life. Finding the right tool to play it where you want, when you want without having a bunch of junk installed on your computer is important. This is one of the biggest reasons why I like foobar2000. It’s a music player for Windows, and it supports a portable mode.

Foobar2000 is an advanced freeware audio player for the Windows platform. Some of the basic features include full unicode support, ReplayGain support and native support for several popular audio formats including MP3, MP4, AAC, CD Audio, WMA, Vorbis, FLAC, WavPack, WAV, and AIFF.

FB2K-05

The app is easily customizable with a custom interface. It contains support for advanced music file tagging and supports gapless playback. The app will also rip audio CD’s and convert the files to your format of choice.

foobar2000 is a really nice music player. Its portable, meaning you can specify why it and all of its configuration file go. When installed in this mode, it can be moved to a USB stick and taken and used on another computer. This is especially helpful if you can’t or don’t want to install something on a shared PC.

The app is nice, but it doesn’t sync with any mobile device like an Android phone or Apple iDevice. Without this type of feature, the app is very outmoded and so very, very 1997. While its portable mode is nice, and some of its visualizations are cool, it seems very much a relic of the past. Nearly every PC sold today comes with some kind of music player. Both Windows Media Player and iTunes are free; and while foobar2000 is as well, they also sync’s with portable music players where foobar2000 does not.

download foobar2000

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