Posts Tagged ‘Microsoft’

Google to launch operating system

Google is developing an operating system (OS) for personal computers, in a direct challenge to market leader Microsoft and its Windows system.

Google Chrome OS will be aimed initially at small, low-cost netbooks, but will eventually be used on PCs as well.

Google said netbooks with Chrome OS could be on sale by the middle of 2010.

“Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS,” the firm said in its official blog.

The operating system, which will run on an open source license, was a “natural extension” of its Chrome browser, the firm said.

For Microsoft the news comes just months before it launches the latest version of its operating system, called Windows 7.  “We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds,” said the blog post written by Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management, and Google’s engineering director Linus Upson.

Both men said that “the operating systems that browsers run on were designed in an era where there was no web” and that this OS is “our attempt to re-think what operating systems should be”.

To that end, the search giant said the new OS would go back to basics.

“We are completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates.

“It should just work,” said Google.

Google already has an operating system for mobile phones called Android which can also be used to run on netbooks. Google Chrome OS will be aimed not just at laptops but also at desktops for those who spend a lot of time on the web. 

The announcement could dramatically change the market for operating systems, especially for Microsoft, the biggest player with around 90% share.

“This announcement is huge,” said Rob Enderle, industry watcher and president of the Enderle Group.

“This is the first time we have had a truly competitive OS on the market in years. This is potentially disruptive and is the first real attempt by anyone to go after Microsoft.

“Google is coming at this fresh and, because it is based on a set of services that reside on the web, it is the first really post web operating system, designed from the ground up, and reconceived for a web world,” Mr Enderle told the BBC.

Last year Google launched the Chrome browser, which it said was designed for “people who live on the web – searching for information, checking email, catching up on the news, shopping or just staying in touch with friends.”

Stephen Shankland at CNET said the move had widespread implications.

“One is that it shows just how serious Google is about making the web into a foundation not just for static pages but for active applications, notably its own such as Google Docs and G-mail.

“Another: it opens new competition with Microsoft and, potentially, a new reason for anti-trust regulators to pay close attention to Google’s moves.”

Some commentators said Google’s motivation in all this was pretty clear.

“One of Google’s major goals is to take Microsoft out, to systematically destroy their hold on the market,” said Mr Enderle.

“Google wants to eliminate Microsoft and it’s a unique battle. The strategy is good. The big question is, will it work?”

At the popular blog, TechCrunch, MG Siegler said “Let’s be clear on what this really is. This is Google dropping the mother of all bombs on its rival, Microsoft.”

Microsoft releases Windows 7 later this year to replace Windows Vista and Windows XP which is eight years old.

The Redmond based company claims that 96% of netbooks run Windows to date. 

In a separate announcement Google also revealed that many of its most popular applications had finally moved out of trial, or beta, phase.

Gmail, for example, has worn the beta tag for five years.

“We realise this situation puzzles some people, particularly those who subscribe to the traditional definition of beta software as being not yet ready for prime time,” wrote Matthew Glotzbach, the director of product management in the official Google blog.

The decision to ditch the beta tag was taken because the apps had finally reached the “high bar” mark, he wrote.

More than 1.75 million companies use Google apps, according to the firm.

source: BBC


Streaming games service launched

A new online video game distribution network hopes to revolutionise the way people play games and re-write the economics of the industry.

OnLive, to be launched at the Game Developer Conference in San Francisco, aims to let players stream on-demand games at the highest quality level.

The service could provide competition for Playstation, Xbox, and the Wii.

“OnLive is the most powerful game system in the world,” said company founder Steve Perlman

“No high-end hardware, no upgrades, no endless downloads, no discs, no recalls, no obsolescence. With OnLive, your video game experience is always state-of-the-art,” he declared.

Mr Perlman said that the company has developed a data compression technology that allows games to be powered on remote servers rather than on game consoles.

Users download games instantly through the OnLive MicroConsole or straight onto a PC or Mac. The MicroConsole also connects to any TV. All that is required is a high speed connection.

Gamers will be able to select from an on-demand catalogue of video titles stored on these data servers. The Palo Alto based company promises that the service will provide instant access to the most advanced games in the world, solo and multiplayer.

To date nine publishers have signed up including familiar names like Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, THQ and Atari Interactive.

Initial reaction from the gaming press has been a mixture of the positive and the sceptical.

Sid Shuman of GamePro told PC World “When we finally got hands-on with OnLive, I gotta admit, I was impressed.”
OnLive screen shot
So far nine big game publishers have signed up to the service

Michael McWhertor of Kotaku.com admitted “We were a little suspicious of OnLive’s capability to deliver perceptually lag-free on-demand games. But then we played a hasty online game of Crysis Wars on the service and became a little less suspicious. It seemed to work.

“Will it work in the wild? It might,” concluded Mr McWhertor.

At VentureBeat, which is holding its own games conference called GamesBeat, Dean Takahasi said “OnLive’s technology could eventually sweep through all forms of entertainment and applications, providing the missing link in helping the internet take over our living rooms.”

“It remains to be seen if this is just vapourware,” said Cesar A. Beradini of TeamXbox.com.

“The real question is what would happen if this actually works as promised? Is it the end of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo as console manufacturers?” he asked.

From that standpoint Michael Pachter of Wedbush Morgan Securities told USA Today “OnLive shows the potential for a gaming world without consoles” if the pricing is right.

According to Mr Perlman a new era for gaming is here.

“We’ve cleared the last remaining hurdle for the video games industry: effective online distribution.

“By putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry. Delivering games instantly to the digital living room is the promise game fans have been waiting for,” he said.

source: BBC


Microsoft plans quick fix for IE

Microsoft is to due to issue a patch to fix a security flaw believed to have affected as many as 10,000 websites.

The emergency patch should be available from 1800 GMT on 17 December, Microsoft has said.

The flaw in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser could allow criminals to take control of people’s computers and steal passwords.

Internet Explorer is used by the vast majority of computer users and the flaw could affect all versions of it.

So far the vulnerability has affected only machines running Internet Explorer 7.

According to Rick Ferguson, a senior security adviser at security firm Trend Micro, the flaw has so far been used to steal gaming passwords but more sensitive data could be at risk until the security update is installed.

MICROSOFT SECURITY ADVICE

Change IE security settings to high (Look under Tools/Internet Options)
Switch to a Windows user account with limited rights to change a PC’s settings
With IE7 or 8 on Vista turn on Protected Mode
Ensure your PC is updated
Keep anti-virus and anti-spyware software up to date

“It is inevitable that it will be adapted by criminals. It’s just a question of modifying the payload the trojan installs,” he said.

It is relatively unusual for Microsoft to issue what it calls an “out-of-band” security bulletin and experts are reading the decision to rush out a patch as evidence of the potential danger of the flaw.

Some experts have suggested that users switch browsers until the flaw is fixed.

Firefox, Opera, Chrome and Apple’s Safari system are not vulnerable to this current flaw.

But Graham Cluley, senior consultant with security firm Sophos, said no browser is exempt from problems.

“Firefox has issued patches and Apple has too. Whichever browser you are using you have to keep it up to date,” he said.

“People have to be prepared and willing to install security updates. That nagging screen asking if you want to update should not be ignored,” he said.


Microsoft Office to debut online

The web versions of Microsoft software are due to debut in 2009

Microsoft is preparing web versions of some of its most popular programs.

In 2009 web versions of Word, Excel and other programs in the Microsoft Office suite plus Exchange and Sharepoint will go online.

Users will be able to get at the programs via a web browser rather than install them on a PC.

Some versions of the programs are expected to be free to use provided users are happy to view adverts alongside the software.

“We expect fully that the full range of Office utilities, from the most advanced to simpler lightweight versions, will be available with a range of options: ad-funded, subscriptions-based, traditional licensing fees, and so forth,” Stephen Elop, head of Microsoft’s business division told the Reuters newswire.

The decision by Microsoft marks a significant change by the software giant which, before now, has only dabbled in web-based versions of its programs.

It has offered an ad-supported version of its Works suite that is available pre-loaded on some new PCs.

By contrast many others, such as Google and Adobe, have been pushing web-based versions of word processors and other programs for some time.

The move to web-based versions is also seen as a belated move by Microsoft to bolster its credentials in the move to so-called “cloud computing” in which applications only live online.

Microsoft pledged that the web-based versions would also work with rival browsers, such as Firefox, and would not require users to install its Silverlight software.

So far no date has been given for when the web-based versions will be available – though they are expected to be put online in 2009.

Mr Elop said Microsoft had seen strong interest from many existing customers in the web versions. Using such software would free many from maintaining their own hardware and software to support locally-installed versions.

The economic downturn and need to cut costs could boost the attractiveness of web-based software, said Mr Elop.

“What we think is in five years, 50% of the use of Exchange and Sharepoint could be serviced from the cloud,” he said.

Source: BBC News


The end of an era – Windows 3.x

Windows 3.x has come to the closing moments of its long life.

On 1 November Microsoft stopped issuing licences for the software that made its debut in May 1990 in the US.

The various versions of Windows 3.x (including 3.11) released in the early 1990s, were the first of Microsoft’s graphical user interfaces to win huge worldwide success.

They helped Microsoft establish itself and set the trend for how it makes its revenues, and what drives the company until the present day.

For many computer users 3.x was the first Windows-based operating system they used, and the software established the iconography of Microsoft’s flagship product.

As it was updated the software started to make PCs a serious rival to Apple machines, as it could take advantage of much improved graphics, had a broader colour palette, and could use multimedia extras such as sound cards and CD Rom drives.

Microsoft maintained support for Windows 3.x until the end of 2001, and it has lived on as an embedded operating system until 1 November 2008.

Windows 3.x has found a role onboard some long-haul jet aircraft.

As an embedded system, it was used to power such things as cash tills in large stores and ticketing systems.

One of its more glamorous uses as an embedded operating system is to power the in-flight entertainment systems on some Virgin and Qantas long-haul jets.

Stefan Berka, who runs the GUI Documentation Project, said the important technical innovations in the software were its extended memory that could address more than 640KB and the improvements to hardware support.

The fact that it was 100% compatible with older MSDOS applications helped too.

Windows 3.x required an 8086/8088 processor or better that had a clock speed of up to 10MHz. It needed at least 640KB of RAM, seven megabytes of hard drive space, and a graphics card that supported CGA, EGA and VGA graphics.

By comparison, the Home Basic version of Windows Vista requires a 32-bit 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM, 20GB of hard drive space, and a graphics card with at least 32MB of memory.

“I haven’t received an e-mail about Windows 3.11 for a long time,” said Andy Rathbone, author of a Dummies guide to the software. “But I wouldn’t be surprised if some people still use it.”

Sales of the software still pop up on eBay, he said, but not at a price that would tempt him to part with his unopened copy of Windows 3.1.

Agent Quang from home IT support firm The Geek Squad, said he regularly encountered venerable operating systems in customer’s homes but it had been a long time since he saw Windows 3.x.

“The majority of machines we run see are running XP,” he said, “Vista is still a bit flaky here and there and people are not comfortable with it.”

But, he said, Windows 95 and 98 were still popular with some customers.

“We see them on laptops and people are unwilling to let them go,” he said. “It’s perhaps because in the early days laptops cost a lot more money they do now, and there’s much more perceived value there.”

Agent Quang’s personal favourite operating system was Windows 98 because, by the end of its life, the software was so solid.

He said anyone running an ageing operating system might face problems as they try to find a web browser that could run on it and display the latest online innovations.

“We had a case a while ago a customer with a Windows 98 machine trying to view her website and the pictures were just not coming up,” he said. “Eventually we had to install Netscape Navigator to get it working.”

Stefan Berka said he had recently re-installed Windows 3.11 on a computer and was surprised at the results.

“Personally, I had fun at my last Windows 3.11 test installation to make it a useful desktop operating system again,” he said.

“With patched SVGA driver for 1024×768 resolution, Internet Explorer 5, WinZIP, VfW and Video Player, it was still useful,” he said. “The desktop was ready after a few seconds loading time.”

Said Mr Rathbone: “Windows 3.11 would still work reasonably well today, provided it only ran software released around the same time.”

He cautioned against anyone considering returning to the olden days and using it as their mainstay operating system.

He said: “I wouldn’t connect it to the internet, though, as it’s not sophisticated enough to ward off attackers.”


Microsoft Open Up

Microsoft has promised to make sweeping changes to the way it designs and shares information about its products.
In a clear acknowledgment of the growing importance of open-source software Microsoft has promised to introduce a number of measures including:

* The publication of APIs for “all high-volume” products.

* Sharing 30,000 pages of documentation for Windows client and server protocols that were previously available only under a trade secret licence.

* Indicating which of its protocols are covered by patents, and promising not to sue open-source developers for development or non-commercial distribution of implementations of these protocols.

* The creation of new APIs for Word, Excel and PowerPoint to enable developers to plug-in additional document formats, and set these as their default format in Office 2007.

“These steps represent an important step and significant change in how we share information about our products and technologies,” cliams Microsoft chief executive officer Steve Ballmer in a pre-prepared statement.

“For the past 33 years, we have shared a lot of information with hundreds of thousands of partners around the world and helped build the industry, but today’s announcement represents a significant expansion toward even greater transparency.

“Our goal is to promote greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for customers and developers throughout the industry by making our products more open and by sharing even more information about our technologies.”

In a later conference call, Ballmer claimed Microsoft’s new philosophy is key to its survival. “Microsoft’s long-term success depends on delivering software that’s open, flexible and delivers choice,” he says.

However, Ballmer says the new approach won’t be a free-for-all. “We still have trade secrets we need to protect. In some ways you can say we’re opening up, in others we have valuable intellectual property assets that we need to protect.”

Microsoft’s general counsel, Brad Smith, admits the move is at least partially motivated by satisfying regulator concerns. “Microsoft is fully committed to making sure we’re in full compliance with EU law,” he says.

“We recognise people will assess us not by our words, but the actions we take to implement them. We’re not just issuing principles. At the same time the principles went up on the web, so did 30,000 pages of documentation. It’s a first step to implement these principles. Over the coming months we’ll be issuing many more thousands of pages of documentation.”

Source – PC Pro