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Over the past several years, Microsoft has conditioned its audience to expect the company to debut its latest big thing at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas the first week of January.

For instance, during his keynote at CES 2010, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer showed off a Windows 7-based slate computer from HP that shipped to enterprise customers in late October.

Now rumors are circulating again that Ballmer will show a “slew” of Windows 7 slatesat CES 2011 in two weeks — granted that much of the delay has to do with a new line of power-saving chips, codenamed Oak Trail, coming from Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) early next year.

Microsoft did somewhat better in the smartphone arena. At Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona, Spain in February, Ballmer introduced Windows Phone 7, its challenger to the iPhone and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android.

Ballmer said then that Windows Phone 7 handsets would be available in time for the 2010 holiday sales season. The phones began shipping to U.S. customers on Nov. 8 and six weeks later on Dec. 21, Microsoft announced that 1.5 million handsetshad been “sold.” However, the company made clear that figure represents sales between phone manufacturers and wireless carriers, not actually sales to end users.

In fact, in June the company claimed to already have signed up 40 million paid users for its cloud-based subscription services. Many of those customers use Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS), which provides Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications, and Live Meeting hosted in Microsoft’s giant datacenters or via third-party hosting firms.

In a related move, Microsoft shipped Office 2010, the latest iteration of its cash cow business productivity suite, in May, which includes the Office Web Apps, a Web-based competitor to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Docs.

Then, in October, the same week that Ozzie announced his departure, Microsoft announced that next year it will combine the Office Web Apps and Office 2010 with the latest 2010-branded versions of the servers in BPOS to create a new subscription package it has named Office 365.

But no matter where Microsoft turns these days, it seems to run into Google.

In October, Google sued the U.S. Department of the Interiorfor not considering its Google Apps online e-mail, calendaring, and collaboration tools offering before awarding a contract to provide those services to as many as 88,000 government users via Microsoft’s BPOS.

The two have been increasingly colliding in those markets.

For example, Microsoft has won several important customers recently, but so has Google.

There is another area where Google has so far completely trounced Microsoft.

It’s the Google Android smartphone operating system, which has already been in the market for two years. Microsoft, in September, sued Motorola for patent violations in its Android-based phones. But the software giant’ emerging Windows Phone 7 devices have a tough haul to catch up in the burgeoning smartphone market.

Finally, in mid-December, Microsoft joined chúng tôi an organization opposed to letting Google purchase travel technology developer ITA Software— many travel sites, including Microsoft’s Bing Travel, use the acquisition target’s technologies.

One piece of good news: In October, after a year on sale, Microsoft announced it had sold 240 million Windows 7 licenses.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing writer at chúng tôi the news service of chúng tôi the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.

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Nexdock Wants To Turn Smartphones, Tablets Into Laptops

NexDock wants to turn smartphones, tablets into laptops

Smartphones and tablets these days, especially the high-end ones, are almost capable of doing anything our computers can, save for a few quirks of the OS and apps they run. But their real limitation isn’t exactly the software but the form they come in. Smartphones are great to use on one hand but are terrible with larger content and input. Tablets have a bigger screen space but keyboard input leaves a lot to be desired. Accessories that address these do exist, but in separate pieces. Enter NexDock, practically a portable display attached to a keyboard masquerading and acting as a laptop, with your smartphone or tablet as the brain.

Although not the first ones, Microsoft’s Continuum and Ubuntu’s Convergence have definitely sparked, or even reignited, the imagination of many. The idea of using your poweful smartphone as the heart and brains of a PC experience definitely has some appeal, but even the Continuum falls slightly short when it comes mobility. You will need a bigger display, keyboard, and mouse to make it happen, but those three might not always be at hand on the go, especially not separately.

NexDock combines all three into one, laptop-like setup. It is primarily an external 14-inch display with HDMI input slapped together with a laptop-sized keyboard and touchpad, powered by its own 10,000 mAh battery pack inside. It was primarily designed to be a portable setup for the Lumia 950 and 950 XL, taking Continuum wherever you go. However, it isn’t limited to that at all.

It can be an always on the go display for an HDMI PC stick like those from Intel or Lenovo. It can serve as the display for a Chromecast or Miracast, opening it up even to Android devices that don’t have video out capabilities. It can even become a second monitor for a laptop, though that one is a bit of a stretch. With its own large battery, it can power many of these devices (except the laptop). Whether it can serve as a phone or tablet charger as well isn’t explicitly stated.

While the idea has merit, the actual implementation might dismay some. That large 14.1-inch screen has a barely passable 1366×768 resolution and uses TN panel technology. It also weight about 1.49 kg and is 20 mm thick, making it just as thick and heavy as a laptop but without any of the benefits of an actual laptop. Given that this is pretty much a $99 to $149 working prototype of an idea, that might be forgivable on the first try, but not if NexDock is meant to be a commercial product.

The biggest hitch for those who are enamored by the idea is that it isn’t even a finished product at all. They are currently on Indeigogo looking for $300,000 in (fixed) funding. So far, they haven’t even reached a q uarter of that but they still have a month to go. In fact, the 250 early bird slots, each costing $79, are all gone already. Pre-order shipping is scheduled for June this year.

Continuum and Convergence might indeed be pointing at a bold new direction for personal computing, and NexDock might have stumbled on a bright idea on how to help push that forward and maybe even profit from it. But they always say that idea is cheap and NexDock’s execution will be what will set it apart from dreamers.

SOURCE: Indiegogo

Microsoft And Toyota Bringing The Cloud To Cars

Microsoft And Toyota Bringing The Cloud To Cars

Microsoft and Toyota jointly announced today their partnership to invest 1 billion yen (about $12 million) to bring telematics to your next-generation Toyota vehicle by harnessing the Windows Azure cloud platform. And in case you’re unfamiliar, telematics is the fusing of telecomunnications and information technologies in vehicles.

The joint telematics system will first appear in 2012 Toyota electric and plug-in hybrid cars and will provide energy management, GPS systems, and multimedia technologies. By 2024, when Microsoft’s global cloud platform is set to complete, these next-gen vehicles will be able to connect to servers from around the world.

This adds a whole new segment to mobile computing ecosystems. Thus far, a harmonious ecosystem has been focused on the fusing of smartphones, tablets, notebooks, and computers. But now, we can add vehicles to that environment. There could be an iPhone or Android app, or in this case a Windows Phone 7 app, to remotely start your Toyota or even help monitor the energy levels of your plug-in vehicle.

Press release:

Microsoft and Toyota Announce Strategic Partnership on Next-Generation Telematics

Microsoft and Toyota to participate in 1 billion yen investment in Toyota Media Service Co.

REDMOND, Wash., and TOYOTA CITY, Japan — April 6, 2011 — Microsoft Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. (TMC) today announced they have forged a strategic partnership and plan to build a global platform for TMC’s next-generation telematics services using the Windows Azure platform. Telematics is the fusing of telecommunications and information technologies in vehicles; it can encompass GPS systems, energy management and other multimedia technologies.

As part of its smart-grid activities, aimed at achieving a low-carbon society through efficient energy use, TMC is conducting trials in Japan of its Toyota Smart Center pilot program, which plans to link people, automobiles and homes for integrated control of energy consumption. TMC believes that, as electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles become more popular, such systems will rely more on telematics services for achieving efficient energy management.

Microsoft has a long history of delivering platforms and services to the automotive market, including in-car infotainment systems built on the Windows Embedded Automotive platform, in-car mapping services with Bing and the Microsoft Tellme voice application, and many other consumer solutions.

“Today’s announcement of our partnership with TMC is a great example of how we continue to invest in the automotive industry and of our commitment to power the services that are important to consumers,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “It further validates the power of the cloud, as the Windows Azure platform will provide the enterprise-grade, scalable platform that TMC needs to deliver telematics in its automobiles worldwide.”

Virtual Press Conference Information

About Toyota

Founded in 1937, TMC (NYSE “TM”) is a global automotive company with production in 27 countries and sales in more than 170 countries. Founded in 2000 as a wholly owned subsidiary of TMC, Toyota Media Service is a consumer IT service provider for Toyota automotive customers that actualizes the connected, in-car experience.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.

Why Microsoft Azure Cloud Skills Are All The Rage?

Azure is a platform for cloud computing and an online portal that we may use to access and administer Microsoft’s cloud resources and services. Depending on the needs, these services and resources may store and alter the data. The need is an active internet connection and the ability to log on to the Azure portal to access these resources and services.

It’s interesting to note that Azure services are used by 80% of Fortune 500 organizations for their cloud computing requirements. Java, Node JS, and C# are just a few of the programming languages supported by Azure. The largest data centers for any cloud platform, 42 Azure data centers, are dispersed worldwide.

Essential Microsoft Azure Cloud Skills for Developers Scaling applications

Users can quickly switch to a more capable server (scale up), increase the number of application instances (scale out), and vice versa, thanks to the cloud’s simplicity of scaling applications up, down, out, and in (scale down and in). Azure can be useful for problems like scaling internationally. Users can be sent to the most effective application instance based on where they are using a service provided by Azure called Azure Traffic Manager.

Scaling & sharding data

Azure assists with its Azure Cosmos DB service. Users may determine the required level of transactional consistency and easily replicate data to different regions thanks to this. If the data can’t be saved wherever the user wants it to be, then this might not be the best option for them. If so, the user might consider sharding the data such that some of it is located in one location and some in another. With Azure SQL Elastic Database Pools and the related Elastic Database Tools, assistance is available.

Resilient development

Resiliency is embedded into the cloud. This implies that it ensures the apps continue executing even during a server failure. Users must be aware of and consider certain methods the cloud uses to provide this resilience in the apps.

Managing a pipeline

Users will frequently find that they are operating various services that make up the system on the cloud. Users must set up a pipeline to keep an eye on the services and, if necessary, diagnose them. Fortunately, Azure will take care of the plumbing for the user. The Azure Monitor service will provide a user with a thorough picture of how things are doing on Azure. A richer logging system, such as Application Insights for applications and Log Analytics for infrastructure, may be instrumented for each service and piece of infrastructure. Additionally, the user may use the Snapshot Debugger to debug the apps in production.

Why are Microsoft Azure cloud skills so popular? Azure Aids in Improving IT Operations

Azure has established a reputation as a user-friendly cloud service. Developing and managing Azure is very simple out of the box for those with Windows admin knowledge. It is straightforward to combine cloud instances with on-premises Windows servers to build a hybrid environment. One independent evaluation found Azure integrates effectively with tools like SQL databases and Active Directory.

It’s Simple to Develop the Right Skillset

The most challenging positions for businesses to fill in their daily operations are those involving cloud and distributed computing. There is fortunately easy access to skills training online for teams who wish to learn cloud frameworks like Azure. Various certifications and training courses are easily accessible to study Azure cloud programming. Exams AZ-203 for Azure Developer Certified Associate, AZ-100 for MS Azure Infrastructure & Deployment, and AZ-101 for MS Azure Integration and Security For learning and skill development, the AZ-300: Azure Architect Technologies and AZ301: Azure Architect Design is crucial.

Microsoft has developed a Cloud-first Strategy

The firm consistently shows how essential Azure and cloud development are to the company and how they see them as the foundation of their business. Azure is a critical focus and priority for the organization. Microsoft has created a sizable worldwide cloud network of its own and incentivizes clients to follow a cloud-first strategy. Microsoft has already entered developing markets and is currently utilizing its enormous experience and resources to deliver a cloud platform that provides genuine value to clients over the long term.

There Will Be a Rise in Demand for Azure Cloud Skills

There is a sharp rise in demand for Azure cloud expertise. This is because most businesses and people want to shift their data and apps to the cloud. The cloud enables organizations to deploy new apps and services without worrying about infrastructure. The pay-as-you-go cloud computing approach can help businesses reduce their IT spending. Moving to the cloud does not come without difficulties, though. Security is among the major issues that companies must deal with. Controlling who gets access to data and apps is challenging due to the nature of the cloud. In the cloud, data is frequently dispersed over several real places.


Demand for Azure cloud skills will increase in future employment postings. Specialists with relevant industry expertise and Azure Cloud abilities are in demand from employers. Azure is the top supplier of cloud computing services for the same reason. Additionally, it outperforms its competitors in terms of market share.

Microsoft Changes Pave Way For Smaller Windows Tablets

If you’ve been holding out hope for a 7-inch tablet running Windows 8, you may soon get your wish. Recent Microsoft policy changes, leaked software builds, and supply chain rumors suggest it’s not a matter of if a small-fry Windows 8 tablet is headed your way, but when.

Microsoft recently made a change to its hardware certification program that lowers the minimum allowable screen resolution for Windows 8 tablets from 1366-by-768 to 1024-by-768. The change, first reported by ZDNet, is significant since it opens the door to officially sanctioned Windows 8 tablets with displays smaller than 10 inches.

“This doesn’t imply that we’re encouraging partners to regularly use a lower screen resolution,” Microsoft wrote in its Windows hardware certification newsletter announcing the change in mid-March. “[But] we understand that partners exploring designs for certain markets could find greater design flexibility helpful.”

The Google Nexus 7.

Those “certain markets” requiring “greater design flexibility” could be a nod to developing markets, where cheaper hardware with lower screen resolutions could sell well. But it also provides an opportunity for a Windows 8 tablet—let’s call it the Surface Mini—to take on devices like the Kindle Fire HD (1280-by-800), Nexus 7 (1280-by-800), and iPad Mini (1024-by-768).

When Windows 8 was still a work in progress, Microsoft was aiming for tablets sized at 10-inches and up, which were the only significant tablets around at the time. The first of the significant 7-inch devices, Amazon’s Kindle Fire, didn’t show up until late 2011, and smaller tablets weren’t truly a phenomenon until the Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini appeared in mid-2012. By that time, Windows 8 was practically finished and the first round of Windows 8 products were already in the works.

Snappy decision

Opening the door for resolutions lower than 1366-by-768 is only one issue Microsoft needs to address before 7-inch tablets become a reality, however.

Lower resolutions would also kill Snap, a Windows 8 dual-pane feature that lets you display two modern UI apps (or one modern UI app and the traditional desktop) side-by-side. Under the current builds of Windows 8, Snap only works with a minimum screen resolution of 1366-by-768. Although it’s just one feature, Snap is significant since it is the only way to view two full-screen, Modern UI apps simultaneously, and the ability to multitask effectively would be a key point of differentiation separating 7-inch Windows tablets from their Android- and Apple-powered competition.

Windows Blue’s split-screen snapping function in action.

But Microsoft may be solving this problem with Windows Blue, an update to Windows 8 expected later this year. A recently leaked build of Windows Blue, as revealed by a YouTube user on Monday, shows the snap feature working at a resolution of 1024-by-768.

While Microsoft may not want to encourage manufacturers to regularly make devices with lower resolutions, there are rumblings that the company is reducing some licensing costs to convince device makers to take a look at producing smaller Windows 8 devices.

Earlier in March, reports surfaced that Microsoft might be slashing licensing fees for OEMs to as little as $30 for Windows if the software is headed to touchscreen devices smaller than 10.8 inches. The cost for this software is usually around $75 to $120 per license, depending on whether or not Office is included.

Now, a report from Tech.Pinions adds a little spice to that rumor by saying Microsoft may offer the same pricing for builds of Windows Blue. But, analyst Tim Bajarin claims, Microsoft will only slash the license cost of Blue for tablets and laptops using Intel Atom or AMD low-voltage processors. (The report initially mentioned AMD Temash processors specifically, but that has since been redacted.) Both of these chip families are exactly what you would use in a tablet and could encourage more companies to take a look at using Blue on smaller devices.

But how does it feel?

Microsoft indeed appears to be making moves to open the door for smaller tablets running Windows 8, but recent reports don’t address the question of how well such a tablet would work.

The rumor mill claims that Windows RT is slated to receive the same Blue-tinged overhauls as Windows 8—an unsurprising revelation, as virtually all of Windows Blue’s improvements target the modern UI. Windows RT would be a better candidate for 7-inch Windows tablets given that the ARM-powered operating system can’t run traditional desktop programs, but the Windows Store needs to step up its game before Windows RT becomes a compelling mobile option.

No matter which operation system they’re powered by, the arrival of 7-inch Windows tablets would align the platform with modern-day mobile desires. Smaller tablets could also help Microsoft shrug off the indifference its slates have been met with—research firm IDC says just 4.7 percent of tablets shipped in 2012 were Windows 8 or RT tablets—but widespread consumer acceptance of pint-sized Windows tablets will only come if the price is right.

Microsoft Ends Support For Office 2010: What You Can Do

Your standalone office choice

Office 2023 Home & Business

Best Prices Today:

With a scant 30 days left, you do have some options. We’ll go over them below.

As you prepare to switch, the good news is, most of the options are reasonably priced. The bad news is, each new version gets closer and closer to subscription-based products. In fact, the latest standalone version, Office 2023, exists only because enough customers complained that Microsoft relented. The writing’s on the wall: Eventually, subscriptions will be the only Office option available.

What happens if I stay with Office 2010?

If you are dead-set on keeping Office 2010, you can do so—as long as you’re comfortable with the risks. Because Microsoft will no longer be supporting it with bugs and patches, you will need thorough and aggressive virus protection software.

Another roadblock you may face is incompatibility with some of the newer programs and file formats. However, keep in mind that almost all Windows products can be exported regardless of one-to-one compatibility.

Should I switch to Office on the web for free?

You have one free option from Microsoft: Office on the web. All it requires is a Microsoft account. This could be a good starting point for students and new users who want to “try before they buy” and experiment with the online versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Keep in mind, however, that Office on the web is a limited, scaled-down version and lacks many of the full version’s features. Unless your needs are very basic you probably wouldn’t want to run your business off these online applications. 

Should I upgrade to Office 2023?

Office 2023 comes in three different versions and prices:

Office 2023 comes with many caveats. Unlike Office 365, which is updated regularly with new features, Office 2023 is not. You get the features that came with the original version that was released in October of 2023, and no more. Office 2023 does not include OneNote, SharePoint Designer, or InfoPath. When the next desktop version is released, you must purchase it again if you want new features.

In addition, 2023 is not supported by Windows 7 or Windows 8.1. And, for those who run networks or install software on multiple drives, Office 2023 can only be installed on the system drive—that is, the C: drive (usually), and that location cannot be changed.

Here’s the real kicker: You must have Internet access to install and use this product, unlike 2010, which functions offline.

Should I upgrade to an Office 365 subscription?

Microsoft would love it if you upgraded to an Office 365 subscription. Obviously, instead of shelling out some money once for standalone Office, a subscription requires a monthly or yearly cash outlay.

Microsoft 365 comes in many versions, covering a wide variety of users. We’ll summarize the versions below.

If you’re a home or student user, you’ll likely want one of these versions:

Microsoft 365 Personal: $70 per year (or $6.99 per month)

Microsoft 365 Family: $100 per year (or $9.99 per month)

If you need Microsoft  365 for a business, you have a longer list of packages: 

Microsoft 365 Business Basic: $5.00 per user, per month

Microsoft 365 Apps: $8.25 per user, per month

Microsoft 365 Business Standard: $8.25 per user, per month

Microsoft 365 Business Premium: $12.50 per user, per month

Note: The Business Basic version provides the free Web and Mobile versions only, plus four special services: Exchange, OneDrive, SharePoint, and Teams. If you don’t need these four services, save your money and just go with the free, web-only Office 365 Online version.

In addition to the Business and Home versions, Microsoft also offers four Enterprise plans for corporations and small businesses: Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise, Office 365 E1, Office 365 E3, and Office 365 E5. All subscription-based, these plans provide a lot more “special services” that the other 365 plans lack. 

What are my alternatives to Office?

If the whole Microsoft thing is getting too complicated or too expensive for your pocketbook, we’ve reviewed the major alternative programs to Office, including Google’s online application, LibreOffice, FreeOffice and more. Because they’re all free, there’s little risk to trying them. 

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