Windows users to be offered choice of browsers

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has begun offering users a choice of browsers when surfing the web, no longer limiting them to Explorer.

 Many internet users might not be so excited about some freedom of choice coming their way.

Microsoft’s Windows operating system has begun offering users a choice of browsers when surfing the web, no longer limiting them to Explorer. The freedom might excite some, but the less tech-savvy could find the choices overwhelming.

Browsers are essentially the web surfer’s board. They are the programmes that make viewing websites possible. Nonetheless, they are an unknown quantity for many people.

“A lot of people use them without really knowing what they are,” says Tim Bosenick, Manager at Sirvaluse, a German company that evaluates technical products.

Until now, Windows users were more or less forced to use Explorer.

It was automatically installed on most PCs and appeared automatically as a light blue letter e in the toolbar. Anyone who wanted to use a different browser had to make a conscious decision to install and use it. But now the European Union has more or less ordered Microsoft to expand the choices offered.

Users will notice a change when they update their Windows operating system.

“The window automatically pops up,” says Microsoft spokeswoman Irene Nadler. It will show the five most common browsers. Alongside Explorer there will be Version 8 of Firefox – the newest – as well as icons for Opera, Chrome and Safari. Since Microsoft is blocked from promoting Explorer, the solution seems fair, says Jo Bager of c’t, a German computer magazine.

Scrolling right will reveal yet more browser options. Under each symbol is a clickable area where people can go for more information about the browsers – and how to install them. Anyone who wants to think before acting can opt to be reminded about the choice later.

But those who act quickly and then have buyer’s remorse will not get the window again, meaning they will have to manually track down a different browser at its website.

“All four browsers offered in the window are sensible alternatives,” says Holger Maass of Fittkau & Maass, a German information technology marketing research company.

Firefox, for example, can be expanded easily thanks to add-ons, giving it a whole new range of functions. Google’s Chrome also offers add-ons.

“Chrome has developed unbelievably quickly in the meantime,” says Bager. One drawback for users who care about information security: each browser is linked to a personal number that allows the browser operator to track every user and his surfing behaviour. Google has promised to shut that function off in its newest version.

“Fast” is the word most people associate with Opera, offered by the Norwegian company of the same name. The new version 10.50 is particularly speedy. Computer users who don’t have especially fast internet connections can also benefit from a special Opera setting for such computers.

The advantage of Apple’s Safari is its wide array of functions.

“For example, you can page back with a mouse movement.” But those functions could also make users unfamiliar with them nervous.

Indeed, at the end of the day, a lot of computer users have grown used to Explorer, which could be good news for Microsoft.

Microsoft speeds up app development with free tools

The move to speed up application development follows a clear global trend, of growing mobile data consumption and flat revenues per phone user

Microsoft has opened up a suite of software tools for the international developers, free, for them to write applications and games for its Windows Phone 7 series of mobile devices that are scheduled to go on sale later this year. The move to speed up application development follows a clear global trend, of growing mobile data consumption and flat revenues per phone user.

As mobile data use becomes ubiquitous, the market for application software is expanding fast. Applications sales are estimated to be worth $17.5 billion by 2012, up from about $ five billion in 2009. Several phone and software companies are opening up their online marketplace to application developers, who now have the opportunity to write ‘apps’ that help users do anything from playing games to accessing social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to booking tickets, tracking flights and listening to music. This they can do for various platforms built by Apple, Google, the upcoming Microsoft Windows Phone 7 series, and others, on different commercial terms.

As it prepares for the coming festival season launch of Windows Phone 7 series mobiles, Microsoft recently announced free access to its main developer tools for phones — Visual Studio 2010, Expression Blend 4 and XNA Game Studio 4. The new phone series provides support for the Silverlight framework of Microsoft, which helps to build rich media applications for business and entertainment on computers, the web and on mobile devices.

Free access to tools were among the highlights at the MIX 10 conference for the developer community held in Las Vegas, the U.S., between March 15 and 17. The guided approach to application development complements Microsoft’s decision to define hardware standards for its Windows Phone 7 series devices to be made by leading vendors. By guaranteeing the specifications of a phone belonging to this series, the customer can be sure of performance levels, company executives say.

The minimum features of the devices include a sensitive capacitive touch interface, GPS, accelerometer, compass, five megapixel camera with flash, a camera button, 256 MB memory, eight GB flash storage, directx 9 acceleration, ARMv7 Cortex/Scorpion processor or better.

Joe Belfiore, corporate vice-president, Windows Phone, told MIX 10 that the new phone series, strongly woven around social networking behaviour, is designed for a user who is ‘38 years old, 76 per cent employed and 73 per cent in a partnered relationship.” That user profile stands in contrast to the trend of phones aimed primarily at youth. The design specifications are oriented towards users who are described by Microsoft as “life maximisers.”

Microsoft hopes that its foray into mobile phones will give it a significant share in the mobile data segment, which is estimated to grow at an annual compounded rate of 131 per cent and mobile voice at 112 per cent over the next three years. By comparison, data access from fixed lines is seen as growing only by 39 per cent CAGR, while fixed line voice use is actually expected to decline by 6 per cent CAGR.

Speaking to journalists in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress, Austen Mulinder, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president, worldwide communications sector, pointed out that the number of wireless Internet-connected devices is expected to go up to 10 billion by 2015, up from two billion today. Another metric of interest is the number of users of social networking sites, which currently stands at about 800 million.

The factor that will differentiate the smart-phones of the future is data integration — software and programs that connect the personal computer and the mobile phone — and not all providers possess all the pieces here. Music, gaming, search, maps, instant messaging and so on are part of this value set. Aaron Woodman, Microsoft’s director of mobile communications, argues that Apple does desktop to mobile integration in the area of music, Nokia offers the service suite Ovi, and Google has search and map services, but in terms of deep integration of all these services with a gaming platform, for example, Microsoft is unique in also possessing the X-Box Live. The mobile small screen is set to witness a lot of action in the coming months.

The computer helper: Windows 7 annoyances

Packages of Microsoft Windows 7 inside a company retain store

Sure, Windows 7 has garnered plenty of accolades since its release. But that doesn’t mean that people haven’t been annoyed at some of its new or unexpected behaviour. The good news is that most of what ails Windows 7 can be remedied with a little know-how or an add-on program here or there. Read on to find out more.

Where is Windows Movie Maker in Windows 7? I relied on this program in Windows Vista.

Movie Maker, Mail, and other applications that were easy to find in previous versions of Windows must now be downloaded and installed as part of Windows Live Essentials ( ). Live Essentials also includes Writer, Photo Gallery, Family Safety, and a Toolbar.

Be careful: if you don’t want to install all of those applications, uncheck the ones you’re not interested in when you run the Windows Live Setup application.

Also, once you do install the Movie Maker application for Windows 7, you’ll note that the interface is significantly different from the older version of Movie Maker. If you prefer the older version (2.6), you can download it from Microsoft ( ).

I moved to Windows 7 from Windows XP, and I miss XP’s Start menu. Can I get back the classic look and feel of the XP Start menu?

While many come to appreciate the changes in the Windows Vista/7 Start menu — including instant search — it’s true that the new Start menu does away entirely with some of the capabilities of the old XP Start menu, such as the ability to nest folders.

There’s no way within Windows 7 itself to reconfigure the Start menu to look and act exactly like XP’s Start menu. But you can download the freeware application CSMenu ( ), which transforms your Start menu into almost exactly what you’re used to seeing from the Start menu in XP.

Or you could try the open source Classic Shell ( ), which gives you both the classic Start menu and classic Explorer toolbar buttons (such as cut, copy, and paste) that Microsoft did away with in the Windows 7 Explorer.

Of course, with either of these options, gone will be the instant search feature in Windows 7’s Start menu. But you’ll have back the slimmer, folder-based functionality of the XP Start menu. It’s worth looking at if you have lots of time invested in productivity-enhancing habits with the old style Start menu.

The Windows Experience Index cannot be updated on my computer. Why is this? I’m running Windows 7 N.

Windows 7 N is the version of the operating system that has been stripped of Windows Media Centre. It is sold in Europe to comply with the European Commission’s 2004 requirement that Microsoft offer a version of Windows without Media Centre. Because the Windows Experience Index — which measures the performance of your computer, relies upon certain components of Windows Media Centre, the rating cannot be generated or updated without it.

The solution is to download and install the Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 from Microsoft ( ). This Feature Pack essentially gives the N version of Windows 7 the components that the non-N version has. You’ll need to validate your copy of Windows 7 before downloading.

I like Windows 7 but do not need or want most of the enhancements in the new Windows Explorer. Can I get the old Explorer back?

Not really. As with a move back to the classic Start menu in Windows 7, you’ll also have to turn to third party tools to get the look and feel of the old Windows Explorer as well. There are, as you might imagine, both freeware and commercial alternatives.

Among the most popular commercial Explorer replacements is Directory Opus ( ), a tab-enabled, highly configurable file manager that can be configured to look and act just about any way you wish. Keep in mind that with almost unlimited configuration options comes complexity of initial setup. But once you have it set up the way you like it, you should be happy.

A less complicated alternative is xplorer2 ( ), which is free for private or academic use. This tool actually has more features than the classic Windows Explorer — including tabs and the ability to view multiple folder listings side by side.

It’s not clear to me how I’m supposed to create a restore point in Windows 7.

As you know, restore points are essential if you install some software that causes your system to become unstable. Restore points are created automatically — if Windows 7 is set up to create them.

Unlike in previous versions, it’s not easy to figure out how to create a restore point manually, however.

To do so, first ensure that System Restore is turned on. Open the Start menu, and type “system.” Click the System entry under Control Panel. From within the System dialog box, click the System Protection link in the left-hand panel. Make sure that System Restore is turned on for your C drive. Highlight the C drive, and click the Configure button to turn it on.

While there, you can also determine how much of your disk space is devoted to storing System Restore data.

Once System Restore is turned on, you can create a manual restore point from within the System Properties dialog box. Simply click the Create button to do so.


Microsoft India unveils Windows Azure

Rajan Anandan, MD, Microsoft India gestures during the launch of Windows Azure in New Delhi

 Global software giant Microsoft on Monday unveiled a portfolio of services in India that will help companies share software and storage facilities, called cloud computing, that can bring down their total IT spend by as much as 50 per cent.

Windows Azure — the company’s latest offering in the area of cloud computing — is now available commercially in India, said Microsoft India group Director Vikas Arora. “Some 3,500 applications for Azure have been developed out of India alone,” Arora told IANS.

In cloud computing, companies share computer resources — such as servers, software and data storage —— through the Internet, instead of setting up such infrastructure at their own end.

This kind of computing has become a smart way of doing businesses and such offerings are estimated to have generated about $45 billion in revenues for service providers in 2008, and are projected to soar to $150 billion by 2013.

“We are today in India across all the three layers of cloud — infrastructure, platform or the set of services that are on offer,” Arora said, adding cost is one of the key benefits for a company that opts for such services.

Both individuals and companies are already using cloud computing with services such as webmail and sharing of software and other applications. The concept is evolving into a simple, pay-per-use way to get services on tap, just like electricity, for businesses.

The cloud is also a green way to do business. Organisations don’t need to set up server banks running lots of software — just pay for what you use. The provider services many users from one set of equipment, halving energy and equipment cost per user.

According to Microsoft, companies have reported anywhere between 16-49 per cent reduction in their total spend on information technology and related services over a three-year period after migrating to cloud computing.

The company has already launched several products and solutions in India in other layers of cloud computing as part of its overall strategy for enterprises, even as security of data by using such shared services continues to be a concern.

But Microsoft said it was aware of the issue and had strong data security protocol.

“Keeping the customers’ confidence would be the key to further cloud computing. We have actually gone threadbare on all the aspects of data security. We got all our facilities specifically audited to meet the security standards,” said Arora.

“A breach can happen anywhere in the pipeline. So, everybody involved needs to focus on best practices — for coding and securing applications.”

Turn your body into a touchscreen -Skinput

According to an article in the New Scientist, researchers at Carnegie Mellon University (Chris Harisson) along with Microsoft’s lab (Dan Morris and Desney Tan) claim to be able to turn your skin into a touch-screen. Innovatively called ‘Skinput’ (a combination of the words ‘skin’ and ‘input’), it uses a bio-acoustic sensing array in combination with a wrist-mounted pico-projector to turn your arm into a display and input device, without any implantation

How does it work? The pico-projector (which can be mounted in other places than just your wrist) will project images onto the skin of your arm (or on any part of your body in line of sight of the projector), and as you press these image buttons, particular vibrations/sounds will ripple through your skin, muscles and bones, which will be picked up and interpreted as signals by special software in the bio-acoustic sensing array. Specific locations/images/buttons can be mapped for specific functions.

What is interesting is that the projector itself is not critical to the process, only the sensing array and software is, enabling you to ‘tap’ the chosen area without any images on it, and still cause an effect. From an observer’s perspective though, this might look quite ridiculous, with a person touching himself for no apparent reason. It also gives new meaning to the term logging off, when a touch could trigger anything from a song to a search.

This application joins the ranks of real-world digital-interfaces, along with the Microsoft Surface, Project Natal, and Pranav Mistry’sSixthSense. Recent work on Microsoft’s Surface will also soon make the device a portable one, similar to SixthSense. Pranav Mistry, whose device certainly seems to have the most potential applications as well as portability, warns that the Skinput device will have to be very precisely placed each time, so that the images and sounds are nearly identical each time, thereby limiting the functionality of the device.

U an just checkout the video for more details


Other NEWS article regarding this:

*Sixth Sense technology is coming, Microsoft demos Surface-based NUI


Aiming to bring the world to a level of ubiquitous integrated mobile computing, the Microsoft Research team have demonstrated a shrunken Mobile Surface application where a projection of a motion-touch interface can be placed on almost any flat object turning it into a responsive active display screen.

The system uses a small webcam and digital projector to project a seamlessly integrated interface where the user can respond with gestures creating interactions with the system.   Similar to the concept used in the film Minority Report, shown by PrimeSense at CES this past January, this technology will be the next wave in computer manipulation.

Gesture-based interfaces have been imagined by many great minds, like the ‘Sixth Sense’ technology shown by Pranav Mistry.  The video demonstration on TED India shows his technology creating a mobile interface that will integrate into many parts of your life, giving you access to information for making optimal decisions throughout your day.

Microsoft’s demo uses similar technologies, just less exciting in respects to its actual presentation.  A video by TechFlash shows researchers playing a simulated drum set which is projected on a table, allowing the user to tap his fingers or drumsticks to initiate the drum sounds.

Plans to integrate this technology in future games for the Project Natal game control system for Xbox 360 have led to advancements in natural user interfaces (NUI) and is essentially the Wii of the future.

Checkout the video for more details…


Yahoo-Microsoft deal set, taking aim at Google

The deal is part of Microsoft’s strategy to challenge Google’s commanding position amongst Internet search engines

U.S. and European regulators have cleared the long-discussed Internet search partnership between Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc., enabling the rivals to form a tag team as they try to mount a more serious challenge to Google Inc.

The government approvals announced on Thursday anointed an alliance that Microsoft and Yahoo proposed nearly seven months ago after years of flirtation and often contentious negotiations.

Microsoft first approached Yahoo about working together in late 2006 and again in 2007. In 2008, Microsoft launched a hostile bid to buy Yahoo in its entirety, only to withdraw the $47.5 billion offer in exasperation.

Microsoft is counting on the 10-year deal with Yahoo to provide more muscle as it tries to counter Google’s domination of the lucrative Internet search market. The companies make money by charging advertisers to pay to have their links appear when people search for certain terms.

While gaining access to Yahoo’s Internet search audience and advertisers is bound to help, it could still prove to be too little, too late.

The U.S. Department of Justice and European Commission had no problems with Microsoft and Yahoo working together largely because Google is so far ahead of them in the lucrative Internet search market.

Microsoft has been making some minor strides in the United States since it overhauled its search engine and renamed it Bing last summer. But the progress has primarily come at Yahoo’s expense.

It’s going to take a while before all the pieces of the complex Microsoft-Yahoo deal will be in place. The companies hope Microsoft’s technology will be ready to start processing search requests that people enter on Yahoo’s U.S. site by the end of this year. But getting everything ready around the rest of the world is expected to take until 2012.

Yahoo figures to make more money from the deal because it allows the company to keep 88 per cent of the revenue from search ads on its website during the first five years, while Microsoft absorbs most of the expenses. Yahoo estimates the partnership eventually could boost its annual operating profit by $500 million. The financial gains aren’t expected to start flowing to Yahoo until next year.

To start, Yahoo will get $150 million from Microsoft to help offset its expenses for the transition to a new technology. The payments will be made in instalments, with the first checks due before April.

Microsoft will also take on about 400 of Yahoo’s 13,900 employees, with the first transfers expected to take place this year.

“Although we are just at the beginning of this process, we have reached an exciting milestone,” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said. “I believe that together, Microsoft and Yahoo will promote more choice, better value and greater innovation to our customers as well as to advertisers and publishers.”

Even though Microsoft’s technology will be steering things, Yahoo insists its search results and advertising won’t be identical to what’s served up on Bing. Yahoo can still shape the presentation of the results.

“This breakthrough search alliance means Yahoo can focus even more on our own innovative search experience,” said CEO Carol Bartz.

Microsoft announces Windows Phone 7, will ship by Christmas

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures during the Windows Phone 7 presentation at the Mobile World congress in Barcelona on Monday


Software giant Microsoft on Monday announced that its Windows phone 7 operating system for mobile phones will be available by Christmas season of 2010, as a whole new platform that incorporates social networking, music, video, photos and games to provide a rich, personalised user experience.

At the Mobile World Congress that opened here, Microsoft’s Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer unveiled the features that the Windows Phone 7 to be manufactured to specifications laid down by the company, will offer. The phones will support the capacitative touch interface now popular with users, and revolve around the concept of ‘hubs’ on-screen for people, pictures, office and mail applications, music and video.

Making the hubs the core of the navigation system, with dedicated keys for start, search and back — the most frequently used functions — and providing the ability to display configurable individual ‘tiles’ on the display screen for the people and applications that matter most to the individual user will differentiate, in Microsoft’s view, the Windows Phone 7 from the personal computer, and other phones.

Thus, a user can feature tiles for individuals, which would show connected activity for them on Facebook, Windows Live and so on. Full-featured synchronisation and integration capabilities with other Microsoft products such as Office, Outlook, the music player Zune and the gaming platform X-Box Live has been built into the new system. It is tightly knit with services such as Bing, the search engine for which the company is strengthening its database and map utility. The mobile browser for the phone is built on the desktop Internet Explorer code, aimed at making for a good web browsing experience with the vast majority of existing Websites.

A major area that Microsoft is focusing on is active collaboration with hardware manufacturers, to bring about consistency of performance. It has laid down minimum standards for the phones. At the same time, Mr. Ballmer said, it wants diversity and innovation in the form, feel and industrial design of the phones. In the case of developers, a rich kit is being provided to encourage development on the scale that was witnessed for operating systems for computers.

Highlighting the features of the Windows Phone 7, Joe Belfiore, Vice-President, Windows Phone Programme, said the phone was not a personal computer, was much more personal and lifestyle oriented, and the new platform had been designed with that fundamental philosophy in mind.

Microsoft hopes that the new platform will give it a solid footing in the fast-growing smartphone market, through a series of partnerships with hardware manufacturers including LG, Samsung, HTC, HP, Dell, Sony Ericsson and Toshiba, and technology companies such as Qualcomm. It has been working on similar collaborations with mobile operators for services. Andrew Lees, Senior Vice-President, Microsoft Mobile Communications Business, said over 1 billion phones were sold every year, and there was a massive shift to the smart phone segment.