Monthly Archives: July 2012
Every few years, Microsoft tries to persuade consumers and businesses to trade up not only for the freshest version of Windows but also the newest Office productivity suite. Windows and Office combined, of course, have long padded Microsoft’s treasure chest. But moving to a new Office suie doesn’t make sense for everybody—even in its present incarnation, the typical user only taps into a fraction of the available features.
As Microsoft gets us prepared for the Windows 8 era while simultaneously making a case for the new Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and the other programs that collectively make up Office, the world in which Microsoft and so many others compete is undergoing incredible transformations.
The “customer preview” of Office that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled at a San Francisco event on Monday reflects the changes. The new Office is touch-friendly and meant to play nice on Windows Phones, tablets, traditional PCs and Macs.
Now more than ever, Microsoft is encouraging us to exploit Office online. So while you can still buy desktop Office software as before, Microsoft is pushing a subscription-based business model tied to the company’s Office 365 cloud service. There’s an Office 365 Home Premium preview version that will let you install Office on up to five PCs and get an additional 20 gigabytes of online storage via Microsoft’s SkyDrive service. In addition to Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook, you get OneNote, Access and Publisher. Other Office 365 versions are targeted at small businesses or larger enterprises, adding user accounts and, in some instances, Microsoft-hosted high-definition videoconferencing. It’s worth noting that the final version of Office 365 will also give subscribers access to Office for the Mac.
Microsoft also says it’s recently announced Windows RT Surface tablets will come with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote as well.
Microsoft isn’t saying when the new Office will ship for real or what it will cost. It’s a good bet that it will be in the fall, probably soon after the official Windows 8 launch. While the latest Office is designed to take advantage of Windows 8, it will work with Windows 7 computers, too. But here’s a big change this time around – the new Office will not work on Windows XP, much less more-ancient versions of Windows.
You can download the Office preview at www.office.com/preview. Keep in mind that the preview doesn’t last forever: You’ll receive a 60-day expiration notice once Office becomes generally available. If you don’t convert at that point to the final service, you’ll be able to view your documents but not edit or create new ones.
Up to now, the new Office has been identified by the code name Office 15. But the individual programs in the suite go by Word 2013, Excel 2013 and so on. The Office preview is just that — so think “beta” rather than a final product.
When Microsoft brought out the last version, Office 2010, it released Office Web apps at the same time, freebie (if somewhat lighter) versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote. With this new version, Microsoft is encouraging consumers to store Office documents online on Microsoft’s SkyDrive and businesses on its SharePoint service. The idea is that when you sign in, Office will let you resume where you left off. Your settings and the ribbon-style interface follow you from machine to machine (though the ribbon is backstage in some circumstances). You can insert online photos and share and collaborate with family members and colleagues. And Microsoft can apply updates to keep Office fresh. The new Office also includes “connectors” to LinkedIn and Facebook (but not yet Twitter). If you have an Office 365 subscription, you can invite a family member or friend to edit a document you’ve posted on SkyDrive.
I’ll wait until I hear about pricing and actually test the final version of Office and Windows 8 before saying whether or not the upgrade makes sense. But in moving toward making its Office suite more touch and online-friendly, Microsoft appears to be taking Office in the right direction.
Microsoft announced late Monday that current Windows users will be able to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro for $39.99 when the new operating system ships later this year. And Microsoft will throw in Windows Media Center for free. This pricing is a departure from Microsoft’s past offerings and it’s priced very much like Apple does when they release a new operating system.
Microsoft intends to offer the $39.99 upgrade during a promotion set to run through Jan. 31, 2013. It’s a bid to boost fast adoption of Windows 8, and will supposedly tie in with the release of Microsoft’s new Surface tablet.
At the Worldwide Partner Conference yesterday, CEO Steve Balmer announced that Microsoft expects to sell “a few million PC’s” in the coming year. Prices for the Microsoft Surface tablet may have been prematurely released and rumors are rampant claiming the Surface tablet sporting Windows RT, and powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3 chip, will set you back $599 and the Intel powered Ivy Bridge version, which will run Windows 8 Pro, will apparently retail at $999
The $39.99 upgrade price, available to owners of PCs running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, applies to customers who download Windows 8 from Windows.com. A packaged DVD version of the upgrade will be available through retail channels for $69.99 during the promotion.
Many customers will like the new Windows 8 Upgrade Assistant that will lead them through the upgrade process. The Upgrade Assistant, for example, will check to make sure a customer’s PC is ready for Windows 8, check for application and device compatibility issues, and ask what customers want to carry over from their old Windows installation.
Windows 7 users will be able to carry over their Windows settings, personal files and applications. But Windows Vista users will be limited to bringing along Windows settings and personal files, and Windows XP users will be restricted to only personal files.
Microsoft believes that the upgrade experience in Windows 8 will be a breeze by offering a faster experience, a single upgrade path, and compatibility from prior versions of Windows. Once the Windows 8 upgrade process is complete customers will be able to download Windows Media Center for free through the “add features” option within Windows 8 Pro.
Although no ship date has been confirmed, I expect that both Windows 8 and the Microsoft Surface Tablet will be available in October, just in time for the holiday season!
Will you sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom?
In advance of Independence Day, a host of groups and individuals have launched the Declaration of Internet Freedom, fighting for a free and open Internet.
Do you believe the Internet needs protection against censorship and other threats? If so, then you may want to join in on the new Declaration of Internet Freedom.
Launched by a large coalition of privacy groups, Web sites, and individuals, the Declaration of Internet Freedom is the start of a process striving to keep the Internet free and open. The organizations and people who kicked off this process are looking for other Internet users to discuss the ideas, share their own thoughts, and sign the declaration.
“We’ve seen how the Internet has been under attack from various directions, and we recognize that it’s time to make that stop,” said TechDirt, one of the Web sites involved in the new movement. “The Internet is an incredible platform that we want to grow and to thrive, and thus, a very large coalition got together to produce the following document as a starting point, hoping to kick off a much larger discussion which we hope you’ll join in.”
At this point, the Declaration of Internet Freedom advocates five basic principles:
1. Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
2. Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
3. Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.
4. Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
5. Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
People who want to sign the petition or share their opinions can do so at any number of Web sites, including TechDirt, Freepress, Accessnow, and the declaration’s own site.
For now, the declaration and its principles are still in the discussion stage, inviting people to debate the issues and offer their own opinions.
But the groups behind this cause are clearly hoping the power of Internet users and Web sites can have an effect on Washington, especially in light of the defeat of the SOPA bill earlier this year.
PC Magazine posted one of the better descriptions of this project – take a look here: