HP Applying OS Pressure

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


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…

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Repair and maintain your Windows PC with Windows Repair

icon1348083463If there’s one thing that I have learned over the years its that keeping your Windows PC running without issues can be complicated.  These machines can do a lot and its not always easy to fix the problems once they’ve occurred. Sometimes, its easier to just blow the box and start over.  Unfortunately, that’s not always possible. Sometimes the existence of important data, or specific peripheral drivers, other add-ons or reasons prevent you from taking that route. Its at this point that having comprehensive tools like Windows Repair, a fix-it and maintenance utility for Windows – can make the difference.

I’ve written well over 3000 individual tips for Windows covering Windows XP to Windows 7 over a 15 year period, and between us…Windows can be complicated. Fixing issues or problems with the OS, let along getting past a virus or other malware, can be challenging at times. In many cases, my recommendation is to save yourself some time, get your data off the machine, and then simply blow the machine and start from scratch. However, that isn’t always an option.

Reinstalling ANY operating system, whether you want to or not, regardless of experience level can take a long time; and it doesn’t always go smoothly. Sometimes, things don’t come back the way you think they will.  Tweaking.com’s Windows Repair is meant for situations like this, and I’m really glad its there. The application is an all in one repair tool that should help you fix many of the bigger Windows problems, including registry errors and file permission errors.


Windows Repair is a good app, with a good beginning. It can do a lot of things to help repair Windows, but it isn’t a universal cure.  The app is still very young and needs to mature. It needs to be able to determine what the problem is and then either fix it, or offer ways to resolve the issue.

Most of the big problems that afflict Windows, aside from malware attacks, are driver and registry issues.  While Windows Repair can fix some registry issues, the Registry is a complicated animal. Modifying it doesn’t always provide the results you think or hope it will.

Driver issues are another huge problem. While you hope that drivers for peripherals work as intended, the world of Windows drivers can be a huge mess.  Not all of them are created equally, and in many cases, they don’t work and play well with other drivers.  While Windows Repair may not be able to resolve these issues, it would be nice if it could ID the potential conflicts and then provide download links to the latest versions of all drivers involved. If that doesn’t resolve the issue(s), then informing users that the drivers are known to conflict, or indicating that it will inform others of the potential conflict could be a huge help.  It would also be nice if the app used your PC’s currently installed malware software to scan and remove malware, especially if your’re using MS Security Essentials on Windows 7 or MS Defender in Windows 8.x.

download Windows Repair

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Yahoo COO Dismissed

 Further problems for Yahoo and CEO Marissa Mayer make its comeback less likely.

I saw recently on Linkedin where Marissa Mayer gave COO Henrique de Castro his walking papers. It’s unfortunate, as it indicates a couple of things:

1. The organization is still struggling a year  and a half or so after Mayer came on board

2. Her current strategy isn’t working

de Castro was Mayer’s first major hire as president and CEO of Yahoo. He was previously Google’s VP of Partner Business Solutions, and his role at Yahoo was to increase advertising revenue. From what I’ve been able to see on this, Yahoo’s display advertising revenue fell by 7% in the last quarter of 2013. They now sit third behind both Google and Facebook, respectively. de Castro was given a $64.6M severance package as well as an uncharacteristically cold exit.  From what has been reported by Bloomberg the separation as well as ReCode the announcement from Mayer were both very sudden and cold.  Even though Mayer brought him over from Google to help her turn Yahoo around, it’s clear the she and de Castro didn’t see eye-to-eye on the operation vision and direction taken over the last 18 months.

Yahoo is in bigger trouble than most people thought.  More than I thought…  This is the one good thing about Google, though.  They have a very diverse mission and product portfolio.  Yahoo was all about search.  Back in the mid to late 1990’s they were the “Google” of their day, if you will, leading the search industry with MSN (now Bing), Lycos and Excite falling, literally, far behind them.  Their biggest issues have been, at least in my opinion, timing (they went public in 1996), lack of an appropriate product diversity, and weak management.

Timing has been an issue for Yahoo simply due to events near the time of its birth. They were created in 1994, went online in 1995, and then shortly after that, Internet bubble burst.  Yahoo’s product portfolio was largely in Internet properties, apps, portals, as well as search, and its revenues tanked. Unfortunately, strategies implemented by CEO’s Jerry Yang (1996 – 2009) and Carl Bartz (2009-2011) didn’t do much for the organization, and it has continually floundered. Marissa Mayer has been on board now for about 18 or so months.

Frankly, I think she is running out of time. She needs to get something together quickly – I’m thinking she might have 6-12 months left to produce some results – or she may also be out of a job, and Yahoo’s board may have some tough decisions to make.  Mayer has to get it together, show clear vision and direction, along with a personnel strategy to get the job done. While she did have that in place with de Castro, his failure to execute isn’t helping her; and she may have to go back to the drawing board (or at least she better before the Board does…)

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(Son of) The Operating System that Wouldn’t Die

Microsoft extends security update support for Windows XP for an additional 15 months.

securityI’m not surprised, but in a way, I kinda am. It’s like a “B” horror movie from the 1950’s. Windows XP is an operating system that Microsoft desperately wants to kill, but the darn thing just won’t stay dead.

Microsoft announced today that due to customer concerns, it will further extend security update support for Windows XP by an additional 15 months. The new, new end of support/ end of life date for Windows XP is now  2015-07-14.

Its currently estimated that even by THAT time, 10% of all PC’s in medium to large businesses will still be running Windows XP. Microsoft will continue to provide security updates for its anti-malware and security products – System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune running on Windows XP as well as for Microsoft Security Essentials.

Users will need to insure that their PC’s remain secure after the  2015-07-14  deadline. That may involve a platform change. That may involve a hardware change. It likely will involve both at this point, if PC’s that fall within this category are intended to remain on main network lines within the organization.

To further help protect these machines that will live in a perpetual Zero-Day threat status after support ends, Microsoft and analysis firm Gartner recommend that IT departments segregate their XP-based PC’s onto a private network. This additional insulation will limit external exposure and prevent XP machines from becoming infected on the wider, more accessible, corporate network.

For Microsoft, the challenge is not continuing support, but helping their channel and other partners move up to more current versions of Windows. Windows XP was never meant to last for 15 years.   Windows 7 – the likely landing spot for those still running XP at this time – will be 6 years old at that time, and likely two or more whole versions back from the current version of Windows (anticipated to be Windows 9). While IT departments do need to just get over it and spend the money required to update their infrastructures, middleware and end points, shareholders need to understand the costs involved and not freak out when their profit margins flatten out due to increased operational charges. It’s at this point that Microsoft’s newest organizational structure and focus could be of help.   If Windows 9 does end up being free, AND if it runs on legacy equipment, it may be a lot easier to afford the required upgrades.

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Microsoft CEO Search Rumors

Now that Alan Mulally is out of the running, where does Microsoft look for their new leader?

image2993A lot of wind was taken out of a great many sails in the past couple of weeks. Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Company and thought to be the front runner in Microsoft’s highly visible CEO search, recently took himself out of the running for the Redmond, WA company’s top spot. Now the whole world is wondering what Microsoft will do; and what direction they will head in.

Yes. Microsoft could promote Satya Nadella. That’s still a huge possibility.   Based on Mulally’s removal, I’m certain that many – if not most – people are expecting Microsoft to quickly march in that direction. However, that may not be the case.   Based on Mulally’s removal, if Nadella was the front runner, this would be a done deal by now.

I think many folks – including those that inhabit Wall Street – are wanting and expecting Microsoft to hire from the outside for this role.   I know many in the tech journalism field are a bit happier with those prospects than with the idea of promoting from within. It has nothing to do with Nadella – what he can or cannot do.   It has more to do with breaking away from the old guard and starting anew with someone who has a clear understanding of either how to rebuild troubled organizations (as Mulally did) or with someone who has a decent enterprise and mobile computing vision (as Ballmer never had).

Current word on the street is that Microsoft is  currently considering Hans Vestberg, CEO of Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson for software maker’s the top spot, at least all this, according to Bloomberg. The report, published  2014-01-16, indicated that Vestberg was a “media-savvy technology fanatic,” though many on Wall Street would find his candidacy a surprise.   However, with potential external candidates evaporating, I’m not surprised with anyone that Microsoft may give consideration to.

No matter how you slice it, Microsoft is expected to name a new CEO early in Q1 2014. The biggest hurdle that the new CEO will have, is not turning the company around, but likely that both Ballmer and Gates will retain their seats on the Board.   I can’t imagine any CEO wanting the company’s two previous CEO’s scrutinizing and critiquing their every move.   Ultimately, this may be why Mulally passed on the role.

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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?


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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.


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

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Windows Phone 8 Devices will get Windows Phone 8.1


Windows Phone 8 Devices will get Windows Phone 8.1

Windows 8.1

I know this made a lot of Windows Phone users happy…

Back in the day of the Palm Pilot and the Compaq iPAQ, getting a ROM upgrade for your device was pretty much a foregone conclusion.  They got update support for about 18 months after they were released. It was really a decent experience, as it made you feel as though you were getting a lot for your money.  Having a company support the devices they release is always a post-sales selling point. While devices were really nothing more than electronic phone and datebooks, the practice has all but ceased.

Today, except for Apple and the iPhone, updates for ANY smartphone are not a foregone conclusion.  Even Google’s Nexus line – the pure Android experience that’s supposed to get updates from Google for at LEAST a year – doesn’t always get them, or get them as long as you might think they should.This usually happens because device makers want you to buy the newest device, if you want the latest OS and/or software updates.  Providing an OS update to an already released device doesn’t provide any additional revenue. Apple does it for the iPhone.  Google does it for (at least the latest) Nexus device.  Every other device maker or provider usually doesn’t.  This includes Microsoft, but thankfully, Windows Phone 8 users just got some welcomed news.

Microsoft announced recently that Windows Phone 8 devices will run Windows Phone 8.1, the next, and Windows Blue version of their smartphone operating system. This wouldn’t be news or even of interest to tech news readers if not for two things:

  1. The trend of device (as well as service) providers to not provide updates in order to push sales of the next generation device, as I noted above.
  2. Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 device owners are still angry over being left out of the Windows Phone 8 upgrade cycle.  Windows Phone 8 was released soon enough after some newer Windows Phone 7 and Windows Phone 7.5 devices hit the market that many thought an upgrade to Windows Phone 8 was all but a done deal.  When that didn’t happen, not only did it cause a huge uproar with those owners of the newer devices, sales of those devices literally tanked overnight.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any official information on the upgrade itself at this time. Microsoft hasn’t released any yet.  There are a number of rumors floating around about what might be included in the update, including a much desired notification center and digital, virtual assistant code named, “Cortana.” However, Microsoft BUILD is coming up in April of 2014, and more information should be made public at that time.  Stay tuned to Soft32 for additional news and commentary on this as we get closer to BUILD.

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