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April, 2014

Hello Cortana, it’s nice to meet you

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Cortana in action
Microsoft made great play of Cortana when it announced the Windows Phone 8.1 update at Build at the beginning of April. Cortana is Microsoft’s answer to Siri and Google Now — a voice-activated “personal digital assistant” for the Windows Phone operating system.

Predictably, great things are promised of this new technology. It’s based on Bing and the TellMe voice technology acquired by Microsoft in 2007, and according to Windows Phone vice-president Joe Belfiore it will be “the only digital assistant that gets to know you, builds a relationship that you can trust, and gets better over time by asking questions based on your behavior and checking in with you before she assumes you’re interested in something”.

Over the past couple of days we’ve been getting to know Cortana to find out if Microsoft’s boasts have any grounding in reality. (more…)

Windows 8.1 Update: an abject surrender

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Windows 8.1 Update

Microsoft has become the Manchester United of the technology industry. After dominating for much of the 1990s and 2000s, it’s now suffering a crisis of confidence, crippled with uncertainty when it steps out on to the pitch. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the Windows 8.1 Update, or Windows Compromise Edition – Wince for short.

In an effort to appease the Windows 8 haters, Microsoft is backpedalling furiously. You don’t like the Start screen? We’ll just hide that out of the way and pretend it never existed (on laptops and desktops, at least). You want the Start button back? You can have that next time. At this rate, we’re going to have rolling hills in the desktop background, IE6 set as the default browser, and a free trial of AOL waiting on the desktop of Windows 8.2.

(more…)

The insane economics of Sky Now TV

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Sky Now TV

A few months ago, after one price rise too many and a waning interest in top-flight football, I decided to cancel my subscription to Sky Sports.

I still get the urge to watch the odd game, and so this weekend – with my once-beloved West Ham giving title-chasing Liverpool a hoof for their money – I decided to investigate Sky Now TV, the broadcaster’s internet TV service. After ten minutes, I was left scratching my head at the sheer insanity of its pricing.

(more…)

No such thing as a free app… so pay up if you want quality

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Adobe Lightroom for iPadTwo weeks after Microsoft unveiled Office for iPad, Adobe has today launched Lightroom for iOS 7. While the two releases do quite different things, they follow the same “gotcha” business model: unless you subscribe to the companies’ premium services (Office 365 for Microsoft, Creative Cloud for Adobe), they’re limited to viewing rather than editing.

Indeed, Adobe goes one step further, explicitly saying that Lightroom for iPad is purely for subscribers to its services. (more…)

Time to outlaw crapware-laden installers

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Windows UI

Years ago, various regulators tore strips and billions of pounds from Microsoft for bundling applications with its operating system. Today, Windows software is plagued with a far more serious bundling problem that nobody seems to want to do anything about: bundling crapware.

Nowadays, it’s almost impossible to download any kind of free software without the installer trying to sneak some other piece of junk on to your system. Installers have become almost a puzzle game within themselves, in which the user tries to figure out the consequences of pressing a button.

(more…)

Windows Phone 8.1 video: hands-on

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

We’ve been given a video preview of many of the new features available in Windows Phone 8.1.

Among the features you’ll see in the video are:

  • The new six-column design of the Start screen
  • The option to change the Start screen background
  • Action Centre: a new drop-down screen for notifications and shortcuts to settings
  • Shape Writing: the new swipeable keyboard design that means you don’t have to type every letter
  • The new Battery Saver, Storage Sense and Wi-Fi Sense apps, the latter of which allows you to let friends use your home Wi-Fi without giving them your password
  • Synchronisation with other Windows devices

Click here for more details of Windows Phone 8.1’s new Siri-like assistant, Cortana, and other new features

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