Windows 8.1 (Blue) Features Revealed

Here’s a quick rundown of what Windows 8.1 will bring to the table, and what Microsoft hopes will result from it.

I’ve been looking at Windows tablets for the past year or so, a little harder than I originally thought I would. I have an iPad 1. My daughter has an iPad 2. My wife has a Kindle Fire, and my son-in-law and two boys has Android tablets. I also recently reviewed a Dell Latitude 10 ST2 for Soft32. You can see the review here.

The Dell is good, but its performance isn’t great. I’ve recently (finally) gotten my hands on a Microsoft Surface Pro tablet as well. The difference in performance is night and day above the Dell. I’ll have some thoughts on the differences between the two in another post.

The big question, though is how Windows 8 works with both; and more importantly, what Windows Blue, officially branded as Windows 8.1 bring to the table to improve the experience on both. Microsoft has officially announced the features of Windows 8.1. Here’s a quick rundown of what they are.

windows-blue

The Start Button Returns
In short, we get the button but not the menu. Simply getting the button back, isn’t EXACTLY what most Windows veterans, especially enterprise users, were looking for. The new Windows 8 Start Menu leaves a lot to be desired at the office. Kids, when we asked for the Button back, we really meant the Menu. The Windows 8 Start Menu and Tiles don’t translate well on the desktop, even on a PC with touch built in like Surface Pro or the Latitude 10 ST2.

Start Menu Filtering
Newly installed apps won’t just get tiled on your Windows 8 Start Menu. They’ll now appear under a “New” filter in All Apps View. You can pin them to the Start Screen if you want, from there.

Boot to Desktop
The one big thing that most Windows vets will appreciate is the ability to bypass the Windows 8 Start Menu and boot directly to the desktop. Current rumor also indicates that you can boot not only to the Start Menu or Desktop but other locations as well, including All Apps View.

Interface Enhancements
You’re going to be able to carry your desktop background over to ModernUI apps. You’ll also see new colors, and backgrounds, including animated elements. Your lock screen can also be configured to run a slide show.

Windowing Enhancements
Microsoft is updating how Snap Views work. You will be able to resize snapped apps to any ratio you like, and can snap up to three (3) apps side-by-side. You can also open more than one instance of the same app and snap it side-by-side.

Settings Update
Settings is getting a decent number of tweaks to help unify and streamline the Windows 8 interface. More settings will be coming over to the ModernUI side of the fence so you won’t swap back and forth between ModernUI and the Desktop as much.

As soon as Windows 8.1 hits the streets, I should be able to install it on the Surface Pro I have. I’ll have a full rundown on it vs. the original release of Windows 8 for Soft32 as soon as its available.

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Let’s Take a Look to the New Features of iPhone 5

Year by year, Apple hits us with a new, shiny iPhone. Let’s take a look at the brand new iPhone 5, which was just launched yesterday. First of all, it’s 18 percent thinner and 20 percent lighter than previous models and it has a new 4-inch Retina display. The screen is a little bit taller, but you can still tap, type and scroll the same way you always have.

The new iPhone is powered by a new A6 chip which improves performance and power efficiency to deliver better battery life. With up to twice the CPU and graphics performance, the new iPhone promises to be really fast when launching apps and loading web pages (2.1X faster than before) and now with the supports for wireless standards including LTE and DC-HSDPA, you can browse, download and stream content much faster. iPhone 5 also works on GPRS, EDGE, EV-DO, HSPA and HSPA+.

Anodized aluminum body with diamond cut chamfered edges and glass inlays

The 8 megapixel iSight camera has been improved and features new panorama feature which lets you capture panorama images of up to 28 megapixels by simply moving the camera across a scene in one smooth motion. The video is still 1080p, but it has improved stabilization, video face detection for up to 10 faces and the ability to take still photos as you record. The front facing camera has also been improved and it can now record 720p HD video.

iPhone 5 features a new connector that is smaller and more durable than the previous connector and features an adaptive interface that uses only the signals that each accessory requires, and it’s reversible so you can easily connect to your accessories. Sure there is also an adapter for 30-pin compatibility, no worries.

iPhone 5 also introduces new enhanced audio features including a new beam-forming, directional microphone system for higher quality sound, while background noise fades away with new noise canceling technology. iPhone 5 now includes support for cellular wideband audio and more natural sounding speech.

iPhone 5 comes with iOS 6 which was optimized for the larger Retina display and with over 200 new user features including: an all new Maps app with Apple-designed cartography, turn-by-turn navigation and Flyover view; Facebook integration for Contacts and Calendar, with the ability to post directly from Notification Center; Passbook, the simplest way to get all your passes in one place; new Siri features, including support for more languages, easy access to sports scores, restaurant recommendations and movie listings; Siri and Facebook-enabled apps like Photos, Safari and Maps; and Shared Photo Streams via iCloud.

iPhone 5 comes in either white & silver or black & slate, and will be available in the US for a suggested retail price of $199 (US) for the 16GB model and $299 (US) for the 32GB model and $399 (US) for the 64GB model.

For more info, please visit the official webpage of iPhone 5.

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iOS 6 Wish List

iOS5 is out and available to all supported iOS devices. With the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 rumored to be coming in 2012, let’s take a quick moment to speak to a couple desired features.

The release of the iPhone 4S also gave us iOS5. Battery life issues and improvements not-withstanding, any additional additions or life altering improvements will need to wait until iOS 6 is released. In light of that, I’d like to speak to a quick wish list for iOS6. The list is below, in no particular order.


Improved Battery Life

Let’s face it, the battery life issues in iOS 5 are real and legitimate. The iPhone’s battery needs to last at least 12 hours between charges. I don’t know if that’s a software fix, a hardware adjustment, or a better, bigger battery. I don’t care. At the end of the day, however, 12 legitimate, realistic hours is the magic number in my opinion.


Browsable File System (a File Manager)

We have about as good a chance at getting a real, browsable file system as we do of Samsung and Apple amicably settling their patent disputes. A browsable file system goes against the tenants that Apple laid down regarding iOS – the user doesn’t need to worry about such things. However, at times, I would like to be able to add, subtract and move files on my own without having to use a sync conduit (iTunes).


Widgets

This is the one Android thing I am really going to miss when I move back to iOS. Widgets on my home screen are an awesome way for me to check the time, the weather, etc. However, Apple hasn’t embraced the concept and really hasn’t changed their application launcher at all. The only thing they did to it, really since its introduction in the original iPhone in 2007, was to add folder support, and implement Spotlight searching. But I would really like to see a clock and weather widget on my main home screen. My eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be, and I’d like to do this without jail breaking the device.


Google (or other provider) Maps with Turn by Turn Navigation

I’ve said it many times, I am SEVERELY directionally challenged. I need turn-by-turn navigation on my phone. Without it, I’m going to get turned around and get lost when going to new places. Android and Windows Phone have this via either Google or other carrier sanctioned application. I’d rather not go the carrier sanctioned route. It would be nice to either have something Apple branded or from an Apple partner on the device when I buy it. The current version of Google Maps really just isn’t enough.


Customizable Shortcuts (to settings and other default applets)

I would really like to be able to place a shortcut on my device to Airplane mode, Sound/Vibrate toggle, Bluetooth on/off, Wi-Fi on/off, 3G/4G on/off, etc. or to at least have this built into some sort of Settings bar that could be enabled on one or more home screens. Constantly sifting through menus to get to this stuff is a pain, and is very inefficient.


Siri Improvements

I like the idea of AI on my smartphone. I like the idea of being able to have an intelligent conversation with my device and then it taking action based on that. Part of that is there now – Siri, what’s my day like? Siri, schedule a meeting on “xxx” with “xxx.” Siri, send an email to, “xxx…” I know I’m a getting a little ahead of the game, but something like I want isn’t too far away based on the building blocks that are already put in place. I think some of this is going to happen, but it’s going to take a lot of time, and won’t all come together in iOS6. It will take a number of years and a number of OS revisions. It’s also going to take time, working with Siri on YOUR iPhone, as it will need to learn your habits and then anticipate them. What I would like to see for iOS 6.x is a way for that learned behavior to be passed on from OS rev to OS rev, old iPhone to new iPhone.

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