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.

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Mozilla out with Firefox 3.6 Beta 2

Firefox is quite a popular web browser and those who have been using the beta version of Mozilla Firefox 3.6 can now download its upgraded version. Mozilla has let loose Firefox 3.6 Beta 2 which has been revamped with 190 new fixes.

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 According to the official Mozilla blogspot, the new tweaks benefit web developers, Add-on creators and ordinary users as well. The company has deployed updates for all Firefox 3.6 beta patrons. Beta of Firefox 3.6 a.k.a. Gecko 1.9.2 has been equipped with a new tool that impedes incompatible software programs from crashing Firefox.

 The integrated Persona support allows users to change the look of their browser in just one click. Full screen displays of open and native videos as also poster frames have been accommodated by the new development. Users will be notified regarding outdated plug-ins to secure their PCs.

 Firefox 3.6 Beta 2 proffers enhanced JavaScript performance to reduce browser response and startup time. Additionally, Mozilla’s latest revision lends support to WOFF font format and CSS, DOM, HTML5 web technologies too. The beta program will be upgraded regularly until it is ready to emerge out of it beta stage.

 However, not all Add-ons creators have updated their programs to be Firefox 3.6 Beta-capable. The Add-on Compatibility Reporter may be downloaded to test for compatibility with the newly released browser version. Windows, Linux and Mac users can get Firefox 3.6 Beta 2 from the official download page or visit links provided in the Mozilla blog.

Windows 7: looking good for the money?

Although no one waits in long lines for a new edition of Windows anymore, the debut Thursday of Microsoft’s latest software that runs PCs is part of why buying a computer is starting to feel fun for the first time in years.

Windows 7 is expected to work better than its predecessor, Vista. At the same time, Microsoft’s marketing has gotten savvier and PC makers have followed Apple Inc.’s lead by improving hardware design. Computers with the Windows operating system suddenly seem a lot less utilitarian.

‘‘If you line up the six or seven most interesting PC designs, people will say, `Wow. I didn’t know all of that could be done with a PC,’’’ Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said in an interview.

Windows 7 is designed to look cleaner than Vista, streamlining the ways people can get to work, with fewer clicks and fewer annoying notifications. Setting up home networking to share photos and music won’t require an advanced degree in information technology. Plugging in a new device won’t set off a mad hunt online for driver software, which tells the equipment how to work with an operating system.

Making a version of Windows that people like, rather than tolerate, is critical for Microsoft. Most people don’t choose Windows as much as they end up with it, because it’s familiar and affordable. But it’s conceivable Microsoft will have to work harder to win people over, thanks to a small but growing threat from Apple’s Macs and a forthcoming PC operating system from Web search nemesis Google Inc.

Vista fell flat because it didn’t work with many existing programs and hardware. Microsoft fixed many of Vista’s flaws but didn’t spread the word, instead allowing Apple to attack with ads that pit a dorky office stiff (PC) against a casual creative type (Mac) and paint Vista PCs as unjustifiably complex.

It took a while, but Microsoft finally fired back. It hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a hip advertising firm, and set aside $300 million to portray Windows as warm and human. The ‘‘I’m a PC’’ campaign that emerged isn’t universally well-liked, but the ads have arguably transformed the face of Windows from a pasty nerd to an adorable little girl named Kylie who e-mails pictures of her pet fish to her family without help from a grown-up.

Windows 7 also is arriving in the early days of a golden age for PC design.

For years, Apple has been making computers for people willing to pay a premium for design: sleek, metal-encased laptops with brilliant screens; swanlike iMacs that stash the workings of the computer behind an enormous flat monitor, perched atop a minimalist base; the MacBook Air notebook, thin enough to fit in a manila envelope. Meanwhile, the most notable shifts in PCs have been from beige plastic to black, or from chunky square notebooks to ones with slightly rounded edges.

Now, PC makers are starting to experiment with size, shape and colour at all price levels.

Windows 7 friendly to netbooks

Netbooks, the tiny, inexpensive, low-powered laptops that have been the PC industry’s saving grace through the recession, are no longer just shrunken corporate PCs. To entice people to slip them into a purse and carry them everywhere, netbooks are made in a rainbow of colours and array of textures. Microsoft stumbled by making Vista too lumbering to run on netbooks, but even premium versions of Windows 7 will work on the little devices.

Even mid-range notebooks, costing $500 to $800, now have enormous screens and custom covers. At the higher end, PC makers have adopted Apple’s thin-and-light concept and etched patterns into sleek metal cases.

Windows 7 feeds into this design craze in part by adding deeper support for touch-screen controls, leading such PC makers as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. to add ‘‘multi-touch’‘ screens that respond to finger gestures.

The plummeting cost of memory and computing power make this shift possible. Now any computer is good enough to surf the Web and do most daily tasks, because nearly all have fast processors and massive hard drives. So instead of racing to provide the most gigahertz or gigabytes, PC makers are zeroing in on aesthetics.

PC makers plan to unveil their latest in colourful and lightweight machines Thursday, an orchestration that was possible because Microsoft coordinated with PC makers earlier than usual. This is ‘‘a very different Microsoft,’’ said Alex Gruzen, an executive in Dell’s consumer PC division. Gruzen said his team worked closely with Microsoft to fix things people didn’t like about Vista – such as its slow boot-up time – rather than waiting, as in the past, for the software maker to ‘‘just throw the (operating system) over a fence’‘ for Dell to install on PCs.

Part of Apple’s success stems from having control over both hardware and software. By better aligning those components, Microsoft and computer makers could get some of the same benefits, and cooler PCs could squash Apple’s gains. Apple now has 11 per cent of the U.S. personal-computer market, up from 5 per cent when Vista debuted, according to analysts at IDC.

Xinhua adds: Hundreds of people attended events in New Zealand’s Wellington and Auckland on Thursday morning to mark the world’s first launch of Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system.

In Auckland’s Queen Elizabeth Square, throngs of people tried to win Hewlett-Packard computers loaded with the new operating system, given away every 10 minutes throughout the event by All Black rugby team captain Richie McCaw. In Wellington’s Civic Square, a similar exercise also took place.

.Microsoft CEO’s compensation down 6 p.c

 

MICROSOFT CEO

 

The value of the compensation package granted to Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer fell about 6 percent in fiscal 2009, a year in which weak computer sales cut into the software maker’s profits.

Ballmer received a pay package valued at $1.28 million for the year that ended in June, according to an Associated Press calculation of figures disclosed in a regulatory filing Tuesday. Ballmer’s salary, which is set at the beginning of the year, increased by 4 percent to $665,833. The CEO’s bonus was cut by 14 percent to $600,000 from $700,000 in 2008, according to the company’s annual proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the filing, the company’s compensation committee evaluates Ballmer’s performance in the fiscal year, looks at what other Microsoft executives will be paid and “exercises its judgment” in recommending his bonus. Ballmer could have received up to 200 percent of his base salary, or about $1.3 million.

The balance of Ballmer’s pay came in the form of $7,350 in company matches to his retirement savings account and $3,444 in imputed income from life insurance, disability insurance and athletic club membership, or payments in place of an athletic club membership. Ballmer did not receive stock or stock options in 2009. He currently holds 4.6 percent of Microsoft’s shares. Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and current board chairman, owns 8 percent of the company’s stock.

Microsoft’s fiscal year ended on a down note in June as the economic crisis continued to hammer technology sales. The Redmond, Washington-based company’s revenue fell 3 percent from 2008, the first such decline since Microsoft went public in 1986. Earnings sank to $14.6 billion from $17.7 billion in 2008.

Microsoft’s biggest businesses, Windows and Office, are tied to the health of the PC industry. Since the economic meltdown, consumers and businesses have both cut back on buying computers. The last three months of 2008 marked the PC industry’s worst holiday season in six years. For 2009, market research firms IDC and Gartner have both predicted a year-over-year decline in PC shipments, which would be the first such drop since 2001.

The company said that as a whole, executive officers’ incentive compensation was 29 percent lower than in 2008. The company said it would not give Ballmer or other executive officers merit-based salary increases in fiscal 2010.

Microsoft reported Ballmer’s higher salary, but not his bonus cut, in a draft filing with the SEC on Sept. 19.

The company had also previously announced that shareholders will have a chance to vote on a “say-on-pay” measure proposed by the board at its annual meeting on Nov. 19. The proposal would give shareholders a chance to weigh in, in a nonbinding fashion, every three years on executive compensation.

The board is also proposing changes to company bylaws that would give groups of shareholders representing 25 percent or more of outstanding shares the right to call special shareholder meetings — a right Microsoft said in the SEC filing is “increasingly considered an important aspect of good corporate governance.”

Shareholders also will have the opportunity to vote on two proposals from their peers. One, from the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund, asks Microsoft to adopt principles for health care that include support for universal, continuous, affordable coverage for individuals and families.

The second, from a shareholder in Ohio, suggests Microsoft list recipients of company charitable gifts over $5,000 on the company’s Web site. microsoft’s board is recommending votes against both proposals.