As you will no doubt be aware, Internet Explorer 7 has been going through the beta stages for a while now, and with Release Candidate 1 fresh on the scene, Microsoft hopes that this will indeed be the last test release before the launch later this year.
CNet News has a great feature on the RC1 release, which will be available as a free download (legitimate copy of Windows required). With regards to what's new in IE7, the article states "Among the key enhancements are tabbed browsing, security enhancements and better compatibility with Web standards ... In part because of the security changes, Microsoft plans to push out IE7 as a "high-priority" update to Windows XP. The company is also releasing a tool that will allow businesses to block the upgrade if they wish"
Steve Clayton has located an excellent piece on eWeek, which shows images of the new security features in IE7. Steve also talks about the 'Safe Button' which provides an instant 'return to secure defaults' at the click of the mouse. Great news for all you tinkerers out there!
Partner in crime, Mr Senior also has a great post on IE7, but in this case, he talks about some of the CSS Fixes in IE7. If you are web developer, it would be well worth checking it out.
Go Do - Download the RC1 of Windows Internet Explorer!
Reports over at CNet suggest Microsoft is planning some sort of promotion to allow those who buy PCs this year to move easily and affordably to Vista when it ships next year. The end-of-year sales season is very important to the computer industry, yet Vista will not ship in time to be pre-installed on these machines, however, that doesn't mean computer makers won't be trying to sell the new operating system this holiday season.
Windows unit head Kevin Johnson told CNet in May that the company was looking into offering some sort of technology guarantee for holiday PC buyers. The article goes on to say that "some analysts expect Microsoft to offer coupons for free, or nearly free, updates to Vista. However, the upgrade may only be to the basic version. That would mean customers will have to pay more for the Home Premium version of Vista, which includes the new Aero graphical interface, Media Center software and other features".
Just hours after a posted a huge post summarising all things Zune, there has been a big announcement about the manufacturer of the device.
Over on the BBC's website, it states that "Microsoft has confirmed that Japanese firm Toshiba will make its portable media player - "Zune" - to be released before the end of the year. Toshiba's filing with the Federal Communications Commission showed the Zune will have a 30-gigabyte hard-disk drive and wireless connection", confirming what was stated in my previous post. Toshiba has used Microsoft's software in its products for a long time now, dating back to its first laptop in 1985. The company has also made portable media players and handheld computers using the slimmed-down Windows CE operating system.
There is even more information available over at CNet News, which states that "Microsoft's forthcoming Zune player is shooting to be the life of the party, allowing users to create mobile social networks and stream music to nearby friends or strangers, according to a government regulatory filing".
The articles goes on to say that Zune owners can act as their own DJ, sending streaming music content to up to four other devices and with the device's wireless networking abilities turned on, people can send and receive photos, as well as "promotional copies of songs, albums and playlists.
"As regards the DJ feature, people have the option of turning the feature on or off, as well as of choosing whether to stream to any nearby Zune user or only to people on their friends list. If the DJ setting is on, people don't need to do anything else to allow others to listen to their music. The music sent is the same as what the DJ is listening to; if they stop listening, the stream is interrupted"
The article also goes on to mention the draft user manual, which details that the device supports both the 802.11b and 802.11g wireless standards. and comes with a 30GB hard drive, a 3-inch screen and an FM tuner, along with a USB 2.0 connection to synchronize with a PC.
"Sync your music, movies and pictures," reads one page from the manual.
You can find even more information over at Engadget, which includes a number of pictures of the internals of the Zune device. Sweet!
Firstly, apologies for the incredibly weak link between a UK Quiz Show from the 1980's, and Microsoft's sparkly new music and entertainment project; Zune. It's still early on a Friday morning - it will get better, I promise!
I posted a couple of weeks ago, about how Microsoft is going to challenge the iPod (Part I and Part II), but since then, a whole host of information has been released, so I thought I'd take the chance to summarise it all here in one convenient place.
So, what do we know so far? Firstly, it's important to understand that Zune describes the brand, not the individual product, backed up by Chris Stephenson who, in this article on CNet News, stated "Under the Zune brand, we will deliver a family of hardware and software products, the first of which will be available this year". The article goes on to discuss some of the features of the devices that will come under the Zune brand, including Wi-Fi connectivity, Hard-Disk storage and also Video capabilities. With Zune, "we're looking to build a community for connecting with folks, all to discover new music and entertainment".
In this article, over at eWeek, analysts say that Microsoft's Zune "May not carry the day" yet they accept, that it is currently too early to tell for sure - only consumers will decide. I, as a consumer, believe that if Microsoft can integrate all the parts together, such as the music service, the hardware and other hardware such as the Xbox, it could pose a serious challenge to the iPod, however, by releasing the device, we will in fact be competing with some of the partners we have worked with on music devices, such as Creative. The article goes on to say that the first of the Zune devices should be available before Christmas this year.
As I mentioned, one of the features planned for the Zune devices, is Wi-Fi connectivity, and this article, over at CNet, goes some of the way to describe the importance of this feature. In an interview with Billboard magazine, Microsoft General Manager Chris Stephenson said "the company is still considering seven or eight "scenarios," including using the Wi-Fi connection for direct music downloads and sampling music from other nearby listeners". That would be an excellent feature - streaming other people's music to see if you like it, then logging onto the web, via Wi-Fi to purchase and download the music yourself!
Regardless of the Wi-Fi connection, Gartner analyst Michael McGuire believes "the key will be how easy or difficult the gadget is for consumers to use. For example, designing an interface that enables downloading music from a catalog without using a keyboard is tricky" This is an excellent point, but if you look at the new interface in Windows Media Player 11, and how much of an improvement it was from Windows Media Player 10, you can begin to see how much Microsoft are putting into the user interface, and how intuitive it really is.
If Microsoft could squeeze a Media Center, or Media Player 11 style interface into the Zune products, perhaps with some kind of touch screen or hand writing functionality into the device, I believe that it would be the most intuitive portable entertainment device on the market. Microsoft would not be the first company to produce a wireless music device; MusicGremlin recently hit the market with a player that can download subscription music content wirelessly. But, as with all Microsoft products, there is always some scepticism; "It's very easy to create a wireless device," he said. "It's very difficult to make it work and connect in the way that a lot of people envision".
Speaking of how much Microsoft is putting into the project, this article over at CNet, details that Robbie Bach, President of the Entertainment and Devices Division, thinks "of this in the hundreds of millions of dollars of investment over several years. It is something that is going to take time. This is not a six-month initiative". Bach goes on to say "Microsoft is not abandoning its partner-oriented PlaysForSure program, even as it looks to build its rival Zune approach. PlaysForSure continues as it is today. We're going to continue to support that".
As time grows closer to the end of the calendar year, and the launch of the first Zune device, more concrete details have been released. You can read about them in this Twice article. The article states that the device will arrive in 3 colours, and will be priced at $299 (hopefully this price will be around £160 in the UK / 234 EURO). "Retailers said the player would incorporate a 30GB hard drive. One said the unit’s display screen would be larger than Apple’s iPod models. The retailers were pleased with Microsoft’s feature-per-price package". It is important to note that Microsoft had not yet responded to confirm these details.
The most recent news, and an excellent feather in the Zune cap, is the announcement that EMI Group, the world's third-largest music company, said it had signed a deal to provide preloaded music videos on Microsoft's soon-to-launch Zune digital media player. The news dispels speculation in media reports this month that Microsoft would have to delay the introduction of Zune's video capability until after its launch, which is expected to be in time for Christmas.
So, to summarise:
What a long post! Hope you get this far!
A couple of days ago, an article was published over at TechWeb, stating that Vista will ship in late January. Now many of you may think, 'yeah, yeah, put a few months on that', but to that, I would say, just you wait and see. There has been a whole host of improvements since the Beta 2 was released a few months back - I, for instance, installed a brand new build on my Toshiba Tablet, just the other day, and I am incredibly happy with it. It's the most reliable and quick build I've had to date, and trust me, I've had a number of builds in the last few months, each getting successively better and more feature rich. Would I say it's ready for release tomorrow? No, but can I see it being ready for January? Definitely. And Timothy Chen, Chief Executive of Microsoft's Greater China region, agrees.
The article goes on to say: "Chen's use of the word "late" to note the release in January, however, is the first time Microsoft has been specific within the month about the timing of Vista's availability."
Chen also goes on to mention that we have been working closely with OEM hardware partners, but, as this article, also from TechWeb describes, we have been working with Microsoft Connect users, to eliminate bugs in Vista. By working with testers, this feedback-driven improvement brings us ever closer to the next Beta 2 release, namely Release Candidate 1 (RC1).
But you guys are not the only ones testing Vista. James, my partner in crime, has a great post talking about how we, as employees of Microsoft, have been actively involved in the testing process. At the last count, 24000 of us were running Vista, providing feedback at every step of the way using our internal tools.
As James says, RC1 will be a big step towards the final release, and I really do have every faith that all the people who test the product, will see how far it has come since Beta 2. Nick White, over at the Windows Vista Team Blog, has written a great post about the changes you can expect to see in RC1. I'm not going to describe them all here, as I've waffled on for long enough now, but I will share this quote from Nick:
"While some of these changes may seem small, when you realize that they will affect hundreds of millions of people -- and in some cases, those people will notice the benefit every time they use the operating system -- well, in all it’s really pretty awesome"
There have been updates to Windows Explorer, Networking, Media Center (One thing to check out: When using an Xbox 360 as a Media Center Extender, the remote experience is now full-fidelity. It looks and performs exactly like you’re using the PC), User Account Control and Security (Including BitLocker) to name but a few. Read the whole post here.
One last, final, (I promise!) point to mention, as Nick says, is, please keep sending us feedback. Your suggestions could end up affecting hundreds of millions of people!
A big thanks to a colleague of mine from the Morrocan sub, Ahmed Hakkoum, who informed me of this pair of beauties available for download, for no cost to yourself (you can purchase the paperback version of the first document), from the Microsoft download website:
Both documents are in PDF format, so you'll need the relevant reader software.
The first of the 2 documents is written by Katherine Murray, who herself is a blogger. You can read Katherine's Technology Blog over at BlogOffice. In the document, Katherine gives an introduction to the 2007 Office System, gives guidance on Preparing and Producing Professional Results and discusses Communicating and Collaborating. A very useful read indeed.
The second of the 2 documents is a Special 2006 TechEd Edition, published by Microsoft Press, which contains over 200 pages of sheer SharePoint Server and SharePoint Services joy! Highlights of the book include chapters on Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, Building Solutions with Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Creating Workflows: The Missing Piece of Office Productivity. If SharePoint is your thing - this is the book for you!
Steve Clayton, a.k.a The Gaffer, has found a really useful resource for IT Professionals who are interested in deploying or migrating to Windows Vista. According to the site:
These guides will also provide step-by-step information on how to control device installation using Device Management and Installation (DMI) and manage ADMX files. There are also step-by-step guides to help you protect data using BitLocker Drive Encryption, to administer the TPM Security Hardware in a computer using Trusted Platform Module (TPM) Services, and to help deploy better-managed desktops and mitigate the impact of malware using User Account Control (UAC).
They are all available to open/download as Word documents and you can get them from this Microsoft Website. However, because I'm such a kind fella, I've placed all the links to the individual documents here. I hope you find them useful.
God bless Wikipedia! A colleague of mine here at Microsoft recently opened my eyes to a cracking resource on Windows Vista, which can be found over at Wikipedia.
The Wiki contains a huge amount of information, covering the following main topics:
As you can see, quite an extensive list, and a great reference point should you require a central repository of information. There are also a number of recommended resources on the Wiki, so you can increase your Vista knowledge no end.
On my regular travels around the web, I stumbled upon a brilliant resource for information around Windows Vista; Tom Archers's blog.
One of his more recent posts, from June 2nd, gave a Q&A on a new feature in Windows Vista, namely ReadyBoost. Now, you may be thinking, what is ReadyBoost? Essentially, ReadyBoost is a Windows Vista feature that allows you to use a USB key, or, a number of popular memory cards, as virtual memory in order to enhance performance. It is important to mention, that currently, memory cards are only supported when used internal card readers.
Tom's post goes on to give an excellent FAQ, provided by Matt Ayres, all about ReadyBoost. Some of the ones that I found particularly interesting include:
Q: What's the smallest ReadyBoost cache that I can useA: The smallest cache is 256MB (well, 250 after formatting). Post beta2, we may drop it another 10 MB or so.
Q: Isn't this just putting the paging file onto a flash disk?A: Not really - the file is still backed on disk. This is a cache - if the data is not found in the ReadyBoost cache, we fall back to the HDD.
Q: What happens when you remove the drive? A: When a surprise remove event occurs and we can't find the drive, we fall back to disk. Again, all pages on the device are backed by a page on disk. No exceptions. This isn't a separate page file store, but rather a cache to speed up access to frequently used data.
Q: How much of a speed increase are we talking about?A: Well, that depends. On average, a RANDOM 4K read from flash is about 10x faster than from HDD. Now, how does that translate to end-user perf? Under memory pressure and heavy disk activity, the system is much more responsive; on a 4GB machine with few applications running, the ReadyBoost effect is much less noticable.
There is also an excellent resource over at the Microsoft website, on the Windows Vista Performance Enhancements page. It gives a great description of how to actually configure and use ReadyBoost.
Unfortunatly, I've only got a tiny USB stick (careful!) weighing in at 128Mb, so not quite up to the minimum size at present, so I haven't used this myself, but for anyone running Vista, who may have less RAM than is optimum, buying a cheap SD card or USB stick may be a great way to really 'ReadyBoost' your system :-)
One of my colleagues from Microsoft France has published a great post demonstrating the control of Windows Vista using speech!
Dailymotion blogged video
The video shows the power of speech recognition to demonstrate solitaire, paint, opening documents, pictures, administering your PC and more! It really is a great example of how we are moving forward in this space.
Great work from Benjamin Gauthey to find the video. The video appears courtesy of http://www.istartedsomething.com.