Microsoft Rebrands SkyDrive

Microsoft OneDrive is coming to a PC near you, soon.

Microsoft recently announced in a blog post that it was rebranding its SkyDrive internet file access and storage product as Microsoft OneDrive.

one drive

The move comes after Microsoft lost a trademark case to European TV provider BSkyB.  In June 2011, BSkyB filed suit against Microsoft over SkyDrive indicating that the use of the name would confuse its customers, as it is a streaming and mobile pay-TV provider and also had an online storage service called “Sky Store & Share” that it offered  from 2008-2011.

Rather than appeal the judgment that was granted by the England and Wales High Court in June 2013, Microsoft and BSkyB announced a settlement in July 2013 where Microsoft would rebrand its cloud based storage service. Sometimes its easier to concede defeat than prove your point, and while I don’t agree with the action (because its really unlikely users of BSkyB’s service would be confused by the names Microsoft SkyDrive and BSkyB Sky Store and Share… I’m just sayin’…)

What we’re seeing now are the results of that settlement. Microsoft will rebrand SkyDrive as OneDrive. The product was previously known as Live Mesh, Windows Live Mesh, Windows Live Sync, and Windows Live FolderShare before being rebranded as Microsoft SkyDrive in February of 2012.  The product has had one heck of a history and has had issues finding its identity in a market dominated by Dropbox, Google Drive as well as competing with Apple’s iCloud.

Microsoft is spinning this rebranding as the “one” place where you can put all of your stuff. If you’ve used previous versions of SkyDrive or SkyDrive Pro, you don’t need to do anything.  The service will continue to work like it always has. It’s really nothing more than a name change and rebranding of the product.

As a quick aside, I really like the way SkyDrive, now Microsoft OneDrive, works. If I wasn’t already huge into Google services, it’s a service I would seriously consider buying online storage from. Unfortunately, its pricing plans aren’t as generous with either storage or pricing options (see additional information later in this article). However, 25GB for free is a really nice plan, and is likely enough for most people. If you qualify for the 25GB plan, and don’t have cloud storage for your documents, this could be a really great option for you. You might want to look into it…

Interestingly enough, this is one area where Microsoft really has outshined Apple.  iCloud is a huge mess. Its API’s are confusing and difficult to work with. Many developers who want to build iCloud support into their apps either don’t or can’t because it’s too difficult to work with or because the features they need aren’t built into the SDK/API.  Apple even has trouble getting iCloud to work with its own apps.

Microsoft on the other hand has (now called) OneDrive support built into all of its apps.  OneNote can natively save notebooks either directly to OneDrive’s application interface or physically to a synchronized folder in OneDrive. The choice is yours.  Apple could really do themselves a favor here and figure out how this works and then model iCloud after it. It might do them a great deal of good. I know Apple wants ALL of iCloud to work like OneNote works with OneDrive – where your data saves there automatically and just appears as available when you open the app, but that’s part of the problem that they’re having with the service. It doesn’t work right.

OneDrive, Google Drive and Dropbox all work the same way – they sync a folder and its subfolders to the cloud.  Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t want to do this. They’ve had ample opportunity to look at the model and try to use it.  For some reason, they don’t want the data on your drive if it doesn’t have to be. Instead, they want iCloud to be just another storage location – like any other folder that is physically ON your Mac – so you can save documents there and retrieve them when needed. The data doesn’t reside on your Mac. It’s out THERE somewhere. They just don’t have this figured out right yet. I don’t know why.  Both OneDrive and Google Drive can do that, and have desktop apps work with the data.

Interestingly enough, that was what Apple’s iDrive did about 6 or so years ago. Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on…at ALL.  Apple discontinued the service and I can’t find any information on it under Apple’s name at all. iDrive itself is still available as a Dropbox-like clone.  It at least looks like it’s a decent option, and its pricing options seem very competitive.  Their 1/2 terabyte option, priced at $75 a year, is one of the best deals I’ve seen. Its 69% cheaper than Google Drive’s 400GB option (at $240 a year), and you get 100GB more space, too.

Unfortunately, right now, you can’t sync folder contents to Apple’s iCloud. If you could, I’d use it instead of Google Drive.  However, it doesn’t, so I don’t.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple reconsiders that strategy so that more developers – and therefore, more applications – can use the service.

What do you think? Is the OneDrive rebrand a good move for Microsoft? Can Apple fix iCloud, or its always going to be a hot mess?  I’d love to hear what you have to say in the discussion, below.

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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…

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Oops. They did it… AGAIN

This may be just me; but I heard about this and just shook my head

UPDATEDwindows-71_sold

Over the past few years, there have been a couple different instances of Microsoft backtracking on decisions. While many will agree that rethinking the decisions that were made was probably a very good idea, the fact that Microsoft reversed its action really bothers me. I mean it REALLY bothers me. I’m not certain if I’m bothered more by the decision or the apparent fact that Microsoft can’t seem to make up its freakin’ mind.

I recently reported that Microsoft had ceased retail sales of Windows 7 as of 2013-10-30. While Microsoft has confirmed this date – you can’t buy a retail boxed version of Windows 7 as of this date – they had further announced that OEM’s would cease providing Windows 7 on new PC’s as of 2014-10-30. They’ve retracted that last statement.

According to an authorized Microsoft spokesperson, [Microsoft has]

“yet to determine the end of sales date for PCs with Windows 7 preinstalled. The October 30, 2014 date that posted to the Windows Lifecycle page globally last week was done so in error. We have since updated the website to note the correct information; however, some non-English language pages may take longer to revert to correctly reflect that the end of sales date is ‘to be determined.’ We apologize for any confusion this may have caused our customers. We’ll have more details to share about the Windows 7 lifecycle once they become available.”

I don’t know about you, but this wishy-washy, indecisive posture that Microsoft has assumed is really Ballmer’s fault. I also blame the Microsoft Board. With Ballmer on the way out as CEO, the need for leadership is clear. Microsoft’s Board needs to get its act together and name Ballmer’s successor sooner rather than later.

Microsoft has a roadmap for Windows. They are (desperately) trying to get all Windows users on the most current version of Windows – Windows 8.x – as quickly as they can. They made a decision that supports that strategy. They should stay the course and take firm, decisive action in support of it. It may not be the most popular of decisions; but this barometer reading and second guessing that Microsoft is doing has got to stop.

No, I didn’t like it when they removed the Windows 7 Start Menu from Windows. No, I didn’t like it when Microsoft changed the Windows UI. However, backtracking on these and other decisions that are currently in the Microsoft pipeline isn’t doing them any favors.

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Service Pack 1 for Windows 7 will be pushed through Windows Update

Windows_update_iconFor the ones that still use Windows 7 on their PC’s, Microsoft decided is time to update their version of operating system with Service Pack 1. You may already have noticed that this pack has been released back in 9 February 2011, but this time Microsoft wants to automatically push the update for all users of Windows 7 through the Windows Update platform. While in the past the update was optional and had to be downloaded manually, from now on the system will automatically download and install it.

As bad as it may sound, actually this decision from Microsoft is a good one. That’s because SP1 contains a collection of security updates for your computer. In case you haven’t installed it yet, now you have to, in order to make your PC much safer than before.

Starting today, the installation will be available for all users that have the Automatic Update enabled. The update will be released gradually over the coming weeks to all customers except the ones from IT services. Any PC managed by Systems Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) or WSUS Server will not receive the update automatically. It has to be rolled out manually.

This move started by Microsoft, is a predicted one, as from April 9, Windows 7 without SP1 will not be supported anymore. In conclusion this step forward is imminent for the home and business users. It is an effort to get everybody on the right path and create a much more secure environment.

download Windows 7 with SP1

download only SP1

 

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Office 365 – Is Office Online the Right Choice for You?

Office 2013 and the latest release of Office 365, Microsoft’s Online Office Suite, are available starting today. Are they right for you?

I’ve been using Microsoft Office 2013 since it became available for Microsoft TechNET subscribers in the Summer of 2012.  The suite is pretty decent, with updates to all of the major apps in the suite.  The big question though – is it worth the upgrade price?

The answer is actually simpler than you might think – That depends.  You have a couple different choices with the latest incarnations of Microsoft’s cash cow that give you some decent flexibility. I take a quick look at both of these from a very high level in this two part blog series.

Office 2013

3With office 2013, you get the traditional experience you’re used to with the MS Office suite, including the price points.  Office 2013 Home & Student is $139.99, Home & Business is $219.99, and Professional Plus is $499.99. While the most reliable options, in terms of access and use, they are the most expensive.  This has been, perhaps the single biggest problem with Microsoft Office – its cost; and Microsoft has been searching for pricing alternatives for quite some time.

All of the applications have received considerable updates from their 2010 counterparts.  The single, largest noticeable feature is that they are skinned for Windows 8.  Their flat 2D look clashes with the Aero powered desktop of Windows 7 and Windows Vista. However, all the apps seemed to have gotten huge performance boost with the 2013 edition, even on Windows 7.

Of all the aps, I use Outlook the most.  I think Outlook 2013 for Windows is perhaps the best version of Outlook I’ve ever used.  The app is clean, responsive, and stable.  It works like you’d expect Outlook to work, and doesn’t seem to have any strange or unusual bugs, though the Exchange Server I connect to doesn’t have all of the services (like booking meeting resources and rooms) active.

If you used the preview version of Office 2013 at all, then you’re going to see pretty much the same experience with the released version as in the Preview.  It was stable to begin with.  The released version really did nothing more than add fit and polish to an already stable code base.

Microsoft Office 2013 is available through a number of brick and mortar and online stores and is currently for PC only. The comparable Mac version won’t be available for at least another 12-18
months.

next page

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Google Drive – A Foggy Cloud Experience

I’m in the middle of a love-hate relationship with Google Drive…

Google-DriveI’ve been living in the cloud for quite some time. I’ve had my Outlook contacts syncing with Plaxo since 2003 or so. I’ve also had accounts on Microsoft SkyDrive, Drop Box, and LiveDrive.  In some way, I’ve found all of these services wanting. But make no mistake, I’m very comfortable with my data in The Cloud. If you think about it, its very much like the dumb terminal-mainframe/mini computer model that everyone started using back in the 1970’s or so.

Most recently, I’ve switched to Google Drive; and there are some specific reasons for that. First and foremost, it works at the office.  The company I work at allows Google services through the firewall, and Google Drive works through Google’s standard Google Account authentication. None of the other client solutions I’ve used work the way they’re supposed to at the office. They’re all blocked.  Secondly, its nice to be able to have important files accessible on any the hard drive of connected machine, where and when I use them.

The biggest plus I have with the service is also the biggest problem I have – the client app. It keeps on crashing at the office.

The office PC runs Windows XP SP3; and while that’s hugely antiquated – its 3 major OS revisions (not releases) behind (Windows 7, Windows 7 SP1, and Windows 8) – it is what the organization trusts and is supporting as a whole throughout the enterprise.  I think Google Drives WinXP support is a bid dodgy. When Google Drive does crap out – and it errors out at LEAST once a day, if not more – I either get an error from Google Drive saying that its encountered an error and needs to close or Explorer itself crashes.

The first error is easy to recover from. All I have to do is restart Google Drive.  The second isn’t.  I have to wait for Windows to recover and then I have to bounce the PC.  If I don’t, I can’t access all of the previously running programs or System Tray extensions. The PC also becomes rather unstable.  This usually comes about because I’ve tried to browse to a deep, nested folder on my hard drive.

One of the things that I’ve learned to do is to quit the Google Drive client app before I browse my PC for files.  There’s no other way to prevent the app from erroring out.  Since the Windows 7 PC I have, doesn’t experience the problem, the only thing I can assume is that is related to the OS.  My Mac also doesn’t have client issues.

I’m not sure if Google plans on doing anything about it, but my gut tells me no. Unfortunately, that leaves me with a very foggy Cloud based experience with my data.  I just hope that the errors I know I’m going to bump into don’t damage my data.

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Steven Sinofsky has left the building

The post-PC tide makes collateral victims and Steven Sinofsky is one of them. Almost three weeks after the launch of Windows 8 and RT on October 26, the man responsible for these products and president of Windows and Windows Live division, is gone. Preceded by a short announcement by Microsoft, his departure becomes even weirder.

We should take in consideration that Sinofsky is the architect behind Windows 7, a product that was meant to revive the Microsoft platform, after the unsuccessful launch of Vista. Not to mention his direct involvement in the developing process of Windows 8. Against all these facts, “he left the building” instantly without any transition period. It looks like he was fired during a crucial launch. The only official explanation about Sinofsky’s departure comes from Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer who explains that this move is necessary in order to: “continue to drive alignment across all Microsoft teams, and have more integrated and rapid development cycle for our offerings.”

Sinofsky’s departure comes short after the exit of iOS chief Scott Forstall from Apple, but unlike Sinofsky, Forstall departed during a transitional period.

As a result, Microsoft’s stock is down 3.2 percent, but this drop is modest considering that many imagined Sinofsky to be the CEO heir when Ballmer quits his job. An immediate side effect is that the management will change which will affect the cycle of development for the next Windows operating system.

Unfortunately there is only speculation about the reason of his departure, but the truth is out there, and it may surface in the end because Microsoft is a leaky environment.

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Windows 8 Release Preview Review

Microsoft has released the final peak at Windows 8, with its Release Preview. Let’s take a quick look at what’s been updated and see if Windows 8 is any better now than it was in the Consumer Preview.

Introduction
Microsoft released Windows 8 Release Preview on 31-May-12.  The sooner than expected release of the new software is supposed to add on to the stability, usability, etc., of the new operating system.  Based on my interaction with the software, I have a great deal of doubt that the new release of Windows 8 Release Preview, is in fact, a step forward.

From what I’ve seen so far since installing it over Windows 7 Ultimate on my Asus Eee PC T101MT convertible, touch netbook, the software has taken a huge step backwards in quality. After the initial install, which required not only the removal of Microsoft Security Essentials, most of the Asus T101MT bundled software and specific T101MT utilities that didn’t have Windows 8 upgrades yet, had to be removed in order to get the software to install.

Even after that, I still had to force the display to push 1024×768 resolution by default with the handy registry hack I mentioned last time. Without that hack, none of the Metro apps but Control Panel would run. Even after that; I bumped into a few interesting problems that are worth mentioning.

Installation
I’m going to mention this more than once, as it’s important to note – after installing Windows 8 Release Preview as an upgrade to Windows 7 Ultimate, I blew the machine and rebuilt it with a clean, vanilla install of Windows 8.  Here’s why…

Windows 8’s PIM Metro Apps, specifically, Mail, People and Calendar, wouldn’t run.  However, it seemed that their Live Tiles still updated themselves and cycled through data, which I found confusing.  It’s clear; however, that the services that Windows 8 makes use of to feed its Live Tiles is separate from the Metro App’s ability to run, regardless of the minimum screen resolution requirements.

What I found the most frustrating about this, and I’m sorry I didn’t capture screen shots of it, was that the Metro Apps failed without any real reason. The error message they generated did contain a More Info link that directed me  to Microsoft Answers (Microsoft’s Windows 8 support site); but once you sign in with your soon-to-be-rebranded Windows Live ID, you got an error message from Microsoft Answers indicating that you weren’t authorized to view the noted data.

Really?!?  I’m not authorized??  Thank you. That’s just too awesome…

I also found that the Camera Metro App also still generated the BSoD it had in the Consumer Preview.

I got fed up.  I decided to blow the machine back to factory fresh and then reinstall Windows 8 from scratch, replacing Windows 7 Starter Edition with a clean, vanilla install of Windows 8. This would effectively nuke the PC (leaving the Windows 7-based recovery image) and make my T101MT a native Windows 8 PC.

With the PC in an upgraded condition, it was clearly unusable. The PC had wouldn’t run  Mail, People and Calendar. It was impossible to trouble shoot due to my not-authorized status with Microsoft Answers, and the camera still would not work.

With a clean Windows 8 install, the PC is usable, but it feels very unfinished, especially when compared to Windows 8 Consumer Preview.  The upgrade experience with it was much better than with Windows 8 Release Preview.

Continue reading…

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