Over the last year I've done several pieces looking at cloud options for business that don't assume you're going to give up all your servers, in Grey Matter's Hard Copy magazine. I didn't really see that as a theme in advance, but looking back over them, it strikes me that digging into the details of cloud services - both business services and consumer services used for business - has both changed my views and reinforced them.

I used not to want to keep things in the cloud in case I couldn't get to them, but having the notes on my phone in SkyDrive and syncing to all my systems in OneNote has been so useful I've transferred the big OneNote notebooks I use for writing and research up there, along with the spreadsheet in which I manage all my writing and invoicing. I haven't put all my accounts information and other personal details up there; I'm assessing how comfortable I am with that personally and in a business context. But what we did do was write our entire book in the cloud.

With our business Windows 8 bookhttp://www.sandm.co.uk/post/25093729976/windows-8-for-it-decision-makers we worked from the Windows Server and used offline files to get copies on notebooks to take out of the office (and urgh, VPN to sync on the road). With How To Do Everything in Windows 8, we knew we had to work with a technical editor in the US - and the official FTP server didn't work for him at first. So we quickly moved the chapters from our server to SkyDrive where we could all work at the same time, and that's been a great way to work with only a few hiccups when we started using Windows RT.

But I'm still not all in on the cloud in the sense that I think it's all anyone needs. I'm not switching from a Surface to a Chromebook. I want rich local software, like Office 2013. And if I had business systems more complex than spreadsheets and email and OneNote I'd want the option of running those in house as well as online, maybe splitting things so the the confidential information stays in the building. When I looked at business cloud applications, the really interesting ones weren't web apps you only use in the browser; they were cloud subscriptions that integrate storage, sync and services with those rich desktop programs like Excel and Photoshop that web apps can't rival more than a couple of features at a time.

This piece on Integrating with the cloud started out as just being about private clouds, where you treat your internal systems like a cloud - standardising and automating. But it quickly expanded to add the idea of hybrid clouds because there are things you want to keep in house. Like the SQL Server 2012 and Business Intelligence services I looked at a few months back - but even then, the data you're making sense of might come from whatever the Azure Data Market is called this week as well as from your own servers.

I'm more positive about cloud than I was when it was all hype and Salesforce, but I'm positive about it as another layer to add the other tools we have.

Funny you should ask ;-) My in-depth, full-length, yes-I-have-a-few-things-to-say review of Windows 8 RTM is up at TechRadar.

(Because of the structure of the site, it replaces the reviews of Developer Preview, Consumer Preview and Release Preview that I wrote, as well as some of the early news and rumour pieces; there are lots of other Windows 8 pieces I've written and I'll be putting a list of them up soon.)

Basically, I have been writing about Windows 8 since October 2009, looking at Windows 8 code since last September and using it as my main, full-time OS for the six months since CP came out. A back of the envelope calculation suggests I've spent at least 1,500 hours using it already...

What about this different interface then? How can you work without the Start menu?
I was fairly negative about the disruption I expected from having to context switch to a full screen interface instead of peering over at the Start menu. I mean I can get so distracted by Twitter that I forget why I switched to my browser in the first place. In practice? Not so much. Pressing the Start menu takes me back to where I was, pinned programs mean I can just work in the desktop nearly all of the time, the charm bar is so much faster as a way of getting to the control panel and other settings. yes, it's a different way of working in the Metro-style, WinRT apps, but no more different than an iPhone or an Android app and we all got used to those. Yes, that kind of app works much better with touch, but no, it all works perfectly well with a mouse and keyboard.

What do I miss?
Spider Solitaire; the deck in the desktop Spider was so much prettier than the XBox Live Spider I have in Windows 7. Love the animations when I win FreeCell though.

There are a couple of apps that need updating for 8 and I hope that happens quickly. The big thing I miss is a search result showing me emails and documents and results in OneNote all in the same search window.

Unified search in Vista and 7 was very useful. Now I have to do 2/3 searches in the desktop (I could quickly repeat a search in the Start screen but I can't search OneNote there and I don't get previews of document content). I called that a showstopper at once point, but there are so many other things about Windows 8 that I put up with losing it to have the advantages (faster boot, an extra hour of battery life being my two favourites; some lovely features in Explorer too).

Media Player doesn't see the Sonos as a Play To target any more, but I know that works for other people so I'm calling that an early issue. Media support is something that has to improve but that's device certification and polish in the apps rather than the fundamentals.

But won't businesses hate it? Because they'll have to train users and it's different?
I'm going to argue that if Windows RT is as big a success as the iPad, the training issue will solve itself. Businesses will love the improved security (the shift to managing by EAS/people & info centric security is certainly a jump but what we have now is so broken that it's pain either way), users will like the performance and battery improvements and the issue is then user acceptance around the interface. Great Windows RT devices and apps are what's needed most there.

Microsoft has indeed made a big bet, a bet-the-company bet here. Could it crash and burn horribly? yes, but I'll argue that if Microsoft hadn't done something this bold they've have gone out with a whimper instead of a bang anyway.

Why did you call it the Modern UI in your review; isn't that as un-final a name as Metro?
You have to call it something ;-) I did ask if I could put it in quotes but that doesn't look good in headlines, I think...

I'm sorry I pushed Danny Sullivan over the edge; despite having disagreed with him fairly publicly in the past, I'd hate to think there was any ill will between us. I hope didn't actually push past him at the Surface event at any point, when I was reaching across the tables and touching the screens on the Surface units we were being shown, or when I picked up the Touch Cover and Type Cover and tried typing on them, or when I was talking to folks from the Windows team after the formal demos and getting them to show me more things on the Surfaces they were carrying or when I went back to the first table with the various Surface units on them and asked the PR folks if I could pick them up and take pictures of the ports and compare the size to the hefty tablet PC I carry or when one of them offered to take a photo of me trying the Surface on my knee to see if I'm going to be able to use one perched on a chair in a press conference - we don't do much of our work at tables in this job - although that one wasn't turned on (you can see that in the second photo, which is the one that ran with the piece I wrote).

As they say on the Internet, pix or it didn't happen...

Yes, I can balance the Surface on my knees

I didn't recognise him in our group or I'd have said hello, but I was concentrating on the Surfaces and the Microsoft spokespeople so I couldn't tell you who else was doing what. I get a little single-minded at press events (and the queuing and the waiting and the sitting and the queuing and the milling around and squeezing in questions as presenters roll through their pre-prepared demos? that's how every press event works; try CES Unveiled for the worst example of this - this year I was hit on the head by the BBC's camera operator twice and in the back of the head by two other video cameras in the two hours of the event; at least this time we got to sit down and there was only one fluffy 8" mike between me and the tablets. And LA traffic? Try driving down the strip from LVCC to the Venetian for meetings in under half an hour - one year Simon proved you can walk it faster. But I tend to think all of this is like the butcher complaining about the lard getting under their fingernails when all you want to do is buy the finished sausage).



Did I get to take a Surface and play with it as much as I wanted to? No, and none of the journalists did. At the Surface sneak peak Microsoft took its caution about Windows RT to the point of caginess; perhaps they hadn't got out of the habits of secrecy they developed in the underground bunker. Or perhaps it's because this event was the first public reveal of the Windows RT 'bet the company' strategy. For all the talk of a plus PC world rather than a post PC one, even Microsoft can't deny the impact of the iPad. Microsoft's response to the iPad is partly Windows RT and partly Windows 8 tablets and both are too important to leave to the OEMs who've been screwing up PCs so badly for the last few years. 83 running processes of crapware and duplicate utilities when you turn on a PC? Please... Windows 8 is a bet the company strategy with classic PCs, tablets, Windows RT tablets, servers and Windows Phone all in the same hand of cards (along with Xbox). No wonder senior Microsoft folk looked reserved and scripted on stage, with Ballmer in an intense rather than an energetic mood. And no wonder Microsoft wants to keep control of every stage of the reveal. But this isn't an Apple-style 'here it is, buy it' approach; Microsoft believes in giving everyone notice. Look at the intense detail on the Building Windows blog. And look at this event as not just sending a message to the OEMs that the quality level needs to go up (I've referred to this as adding another gesture to Windows, one made with a single finger); this is notice to consumers that there will be another tablet on the market and to developers that yes, Microsoft really is serious about WinRT apps. But with a couple of hundred journalists and perhaps 20 or 30 tablets at the event, a free for all, take it and try to break it review session wasn't exactly practical.

That's why what I wrote up as my impressions of the tablet is labelled as a hands-on rather than an in-depth review; those go on for 8-10 pages, not 3. TechRadar has a very transparent policy* about 'hands-on' writeups, which is right there on the same page as my piece; the writer has to actually have had their hands on the device, even for a short time** (press events are crowded (see above) and I'm used to having the new product I'm holding taken out of my hands by other journalists, or having them take photographs of it while it's in my hands; I do draw the line at video journalists who film me while I'm asking questions about a product to use on their site or as background footage in their TV show - my usual retaliation is to start scratching my nose or to gaze directly at the camera, because I am not your B-roll). I've learned to be persistent and to grab my opportunities and after twenty years of covering hardware, I can usually gather my impressions of a new product fairly quickly, especially when I've been covering Windows 8 in depth since it was first mentioned at CES 2011 (I saw a Windows RT demo just last week at TechEd, I've been using a Windows 8 tablet daily since January this year and I've seen the technology behind the keyboard before, at CES 2010) and there's been a lengthy presentation covering the details, so I can concentrate on looking at how the product comes together. That's what I was trying to do in my write-up; give my impression and opinion of what Surface RT is like, given the information I have and the experience I've had of having my hands on the product.

I liked the feel of Surface in my hands; I like the balance of it, the way the 22-degree angles of the edges sit in your hand (the keyboard connector is too sharp unless it has the keyboard in, when it feels like an expensive, slim hardback volume - Folio Society, say). I like the way the keyboard snaps into place and locks securely; Simon got to try snapping it in place and out for longer than I did, but we both had a go. I love the sound of the hinge closing; I'm not sure if Danny was still standing next to me when one of the Surface team handed me a Surface and showed me the groove for popping the hinge open quickly and I'm sure I looked odd holding the Surface up to my ear with my head on one side and snapping it open and shut repeatedly. I spent quite some time stroking the soft-but-strong fabric backing of the keyboard to get a feel for whether it will snag as well as trying the action of the Type version and the key spacing on both at the end of the event when the news writers were tucked away in the corner writing their news stories. Because I do features, reviews and analysis more than news, I can take more time to look and touch and ask questions and gather the materials for drawing conclusions.

Would I write a piece that I called a hands on without touching the device I was covering? No. Am I a bit more persistent about getting my hands on things? Apparently so ;-) Do I tend to have a lot to say about things I'm interested in? That too ;-)




* TechRadar: What is a hands on review?
'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see
TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.

** Want to discuss the minimum bar for reviews, hands-on writeups and other coverage? Let's. I'm old school; unless it's an official statement or has three independent sources, it's a rumour. We're years past being able to say we don't review anything that's in beta, though, and the combination of ad-funded online content and the way people will click through to read the craziest rumours (cough Digitimes cough) is pushing tech journalism to produce more coverage from less hard information. I want to be writing longer analysis, in depth features and considered pieces. Often, I'll have plenty of background that I want to cover along with the hands on experience, that I believe explains why some of the features I talk about work the way they do.



EDIT Apologies to those who have left rational comments & questions; owing to the comments that I don't feel are suitable for publishing, I'm disabling comments on this post. That goes for engaging in discussions by email as well, or on other blogs because I have really nothing to add to all this.

The most common rational question was did I type on the keyboard? Yes, I have pressed keys and produced results on screen. I have not done a full-length live typing test, hence the lack of a detailed discussion of the action of the keyboard. The simulated typing was for the purpose of assessing balance, not because I think you can tell what a keyboard is like to type on when not connected to a running device, and my disclosure that the balance while typing evaluation was on a Surface that wasn't powered up was for complete transparency but mostly to reassure other journalists who thought I might be getting special treatment rather than being, you know, persistent.

How long did I spend with Surface? Didn't time it. We saw units in the audience while we were waiting for our 5.50 slot, then I was in the demo room seeing & touching Surface units, taking photographs and talking to the Surface team for at least 45 minutes (based on the times in the EXIF data of my photographs).

To answer perhaps the most paranoid of the suggestions so far, yes, the Touch Cover is a real, working keyboard, not some fake mockup. (There might have been prototypes in the demo area, but we saw working keyboard connected and working.) Here's a couple of pictures of people (not me, people from Microsoft) using Touch Covers - note the scroll bar that appears at the bottom of the Start screen in the first image because the trackpad is in use and the pressure bars generated by the keys in the second image; you can also see them in action yourself on the Surface launch video around the 28 minute mark. On the video you can see the fingers hitting keys and things happening on screen, just in case you don't believe a still image.

real keyboard
touch pressure
Maker Faire was a little bit more like work this year as we did more scheduled interviews than usual and concentrated a little more on companies we could write about, but there was plenty of just really cool stuff as well.

I wrote up a piece for Tom's Guide that I pitched as the quirky side of tech - robotics (robot plant waterers, robot camera tripods that follow you around filming), DIY hardware, 3d printing, tiny computers like Raspberry Pi, milk jugs that tell you when the milk goes off, conductive paint (so you can literally draw a circuit board), electroluminescent screens you can print like a T shirt and the future of the kind of hardware projects that will show up on Kickstarter. You can read about all that and more over at http://www.tomsguide.com/us/pictures-story/373-maker-faire-diy-projects.html

We interviewed Eben Upton of the Raspberry Pi foundation and reminisced happily about 8-bit computing and game writers who made so much money they bought Porsche's they were too young to drive; that's coming soon on TechRadar.

I took lots more photos than fitted in the feature, many of them of delightful flaming sculptures; we also got to watch the solar eclipse through a handheld safety viewer, a pinhole in a sheet of card, a stretched sheet of mylar, the shadows of the trees and a proper telescope with safety filters that let us see a sunspot.


More pictures on my SkyDrive

The weekend was great fun as usual, very tasty thanks to 4505 Meats whose 'pork; the noun not the verb' T shirt is in my future as a tribute to deep fried mac and cheese with bacon-studded frankfurter & sweet chili pork rinds, and exhausting. It was so nice to tumble into a hot tub afterwards. This whole trip has been fun, informative, tasty and exhausting and we're only halfway through. So far:
- we flew to LA (I met a charming raconteur on the plane who regaled me with stories about mass lobster dinners and the music business), tried a new breakfast place with maple bacon biscuits, drove to Vegas via Barstow and the usual excellent cheap Mexican restaurant
- walked about 4 miles a day and wrapped out heads fairly thoroughly around the possibilities for managing Windows 8 &amp; Windows RT as well as how System Center and Intune will manage iPhone and Android. Dinner at Shibuya, birthday lunch at Olives with a table on the patio to see the fountains, the ever-reliable BLT and lunch with spikeiowaspikeiowa</span> and Tom who were in town for Corflu, at Morel's Steakhouse at Palazzo which is outside on the strip, with a view of the Sirens, excellent Blood Orange margeritas and very nice food but slightly too small umbrellas on a bright bright day. The impressionist garden in the Bellagio and the impressive fountains outside were photographed.
- we headed back to Barstow and on to Paso Robles where we fitted in two new wineries (Looking Glass where they have a lovely garden to taste in and Sculpeterra where they have sculptures and pistachios) and dinner at Artisan (sweet potato bacon tater tots with ramps dressing and rabbit sausage) and then on to San Jose so we could get up far too early for
- the Creative Suite 6 announcement in the de Yonge museum accompanied by inflatable CS logos that were so inflated they nearly lifted the fountain they were tethered to into the sky, and drink-n-interview time on the top floor of the de Yonge tower where you can see out to Point Reyes up the coast and over the hill to the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge. Ritual Coffee and purchasing of my lovely insulated tea glass and then down to San Jose for a week sitting in Barefoot Coffee and writing furiously
- got up far too early to fly to Orlando and talk to RIM about BlackBerry 10; the new CEO has a convincing mien and talks well but didn't have time for the kind of one on one interview where we can really assess how he thinks, but we did have time to talk to Dan Dodge, the QNX founder who impresses us a lot (and laughed heartily when I said QNX reminds me of Plan 9). RIM is working like a startup, with late nights and pranks and more energy than it's had in years. Nice ideas we said to them; now you have to execute. Then our plane was delayed over three hours by potential fog which I hope isn't an omen for RIM. The Virgin America gate staff kept the passengers amused with quizzes (guess the cumulative age of the gate staff) and paper airplane contests and we took off late but in a good mood. Watched Tower Heist which was funnier and more poignant than I expected. Alan Alda continues to rock my world. Landed at 1am SF time, took an hour (an hour!) to get the luggage and the rental car and got to San Jose in hem-hem record time
- proceeded to sleep off the trip, sit in the hummingbird-visited sunny garden of friends writing furiously, enjoy hanging out and catching up, fit in a few meetings with security companies, visit the Facebook campus, visit Parc (a Xerox company), queue for the longest time for a crab/shrimp/crawfish boil that was very yummy, have lunch in the excellent Mayfield Bakery restaurant in the Town & Country (much more than a bakery - fantastic chicken and steak sandwiches and a refreshing pomegranate lime spritzer) and pop over to San Jose to pick up some rose at David Bruce (where we got to meet the winemaker and hear about the chardonnay from the Judgement of Paris he'd tried the previous week). And dinner at Dish Dash (yummy Mediterranean)
and dinner with friends and dinner at Caffe Ricci where the sculptures are screamingly funny - the washerwoman is a woman with a washer-drier on her head
- we decamped to downtown San Jose for the Nvidia GTC conference: virtualising GPUs, learning the reason for locust swarms (can't stop, locust behind me will eat me) which the daily newsletter reported in the style of a con newsletter, and pondering the amateur lunar rover that will launch on a Russian rocket next year. Ate at *all* the downtown San Jose restaurants; Original Joes, Il Fornaio, The Grill on the Alley AND McCormack & Schicks. Do you get points for restaurant bingo? The event party had roulette and blackjack (which I know how to lose at) and poker and craps (which I don't) but we watched the excellent jugglers instead. Nice patter, nice pattern juggling, and chainsaw juggling to the music and pace of The Blue Danube.
- thence a day of writing and errands and on to Maker Faire for the weekend, followed by a two-day drive to Santa Barbara (coffee, cherries, fried chicken and crab and lobster we hammered into submission at Arch Rock Fish) and on to Laguna Beach (scary LA traffic is crazy and scarey) for this week's conference, Future in Review. This is a treat, although a conference that starts at 8am and carries on through conversations and film showing and dinner lectures until at least midnight every night is exhausting as well as fascinating. It covers everything from cloud to the language of prairie dogs, melting glaciers to the uniquely US approach the FTC has to privacy (speedbump to innovation on the information superhighway to how technology could help human trafficking to interviews with Mark Hurd and George Dyson, plus David Brin and Kim Stanley Robinson bringing their towels on stage. Chatting to them afterwards turned into lunch talking SF and different cultures and then a walk on the beach picking up shells and testing the water temperature. Special mention to O Sushi in the mall across from the hotel, which has excellent sushi, sashimi and rolls, all made with real crab the way I like them, plus cripsy fried antenna. I feel like my antenna are crispy fried now (we've been writing this week as well) so bed calls.

ZDNet book review: Design for Hackers

That's hackers as in coders and people who take joy in understanding systems; this is the book if you want to take the same joy in understanding design. This is one of the books I've enjoyed reading for review the most and learned the most from, in technical terms. I've been learning about colour space models since 1991 when I first covered Photoshop and I still learned new things; I finally understand Hue and Lightness. I've had some fantastic designers and artists explain proportion and guiding the eye through a design over the years, but this book gives you systematic examples (and makes much more sense of the impressionists for me than many art critics). And I'm a very amateur font geek so it was great to get a potted theory of type structure and why it matters. I was a bit irritated by the emphasis on Mac as the only system designers use and the only example of good hardware design; the analysis of good design in the Mac world worked better than the moments of uncritical adulation. But all in all, an excellent read.


For a book so packed with fascinating and informative details, Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty starts much too slowly. The author is so keen to tell you what he's going to tell you, what difference he hopes it will make to you and why design literacy matters that the first 40 pages are essentially an extended introduction (even if reminding people to sketch out ideas is always a good thing).

Skip to the meat of the book where Kadavy dives in and takes something many people know instinctively — Comic Sans is not the right font for serious design — and analyses why, in a way that makes immediate sense. Instead of simply declaring that something is good or, in this case, bad design, he shows you why.
Read the rest of my review on ZDNet

HP Z1 workstation: power without the tower

If I used a desktop PC, I'd probably want it to be this one (I've been laptop only for a few years, but I'd love this on a VESA wall mount with a touch screen).

HP's Z1 is a workstation built into a 27" screen, in a way IT departments and users will love.

For a home PC, an all-in-one PC is an ideal solution; a screen that's big enough for movies, often a touch screen so you don't have to pull out a keyboard to look at photos or browse the Web, and only one cable to deal with. That would be just as useful at work, especially with desk space coming under pressure as companies try to save on rent by squeezing more people into smaller spaces (hot desking and being more flexible about starting new projects quickly are also less convenient with the multiple boxes and cables of traditional desktop PCs). But consumer all-in-ones don't have powerful processors and graphics cards, because they're designed for casual gaming and multimedia, and they're hard to service and support. If the screen fails, the whole PC usually needs replacing; if you want to add more memory or a larger hard drive, cracking open an all-in-one is far harder than opening a desktop case.

HP has paid attention to all of those issues and produced the Z1. Read the rest of my first look at the Z1 on ZDNet.

If I can clean spam out of my inbox automatically, why do I have to push a vacuum cleaner around by hand? If I can have a robot do the work of cleaning and scrubbing the floors, emptying the cat litter, clearing the cutters, cutting the grass, washing the windows, scooping the leaves out of the pool and grabbing the garbage, why would I ever do it by hand? To find out exactly how good the robots have become, I set up robot vacuums, floor mops and cat litter scoopers and left them to it. I also look at the range of other domestic robots on the market from the practical to the peculiar, and explain why the Japanese are so keen on humanoid robots.

Most of us are no Mike Rowe. If there's a dirty job, we'd prefer if someone else took care of it. So instead of paying for a landscaper or a maid, how about buying a robot? Cleaning the floor, dealing with the trash, scooping the cat litter. Can you turn over the nasty jobs to a machine now?

We’ve been waiting for a robot butler since Rosey appeared in The Jetsons, and while that’s still very much science fiction, there’s plenty of research into general purpose humanoid robots, some of which look disturbingly human. What you can buy today are robotic devices for the home that do one or two specific things, automatically or with minimal human interaction. Robot vacuum cleaners and lawnmowers, robot mops and cat litter robots. Are they really robots – and are they any good?
Read the rest at Tom's Guide


EDIT
And in all of this I should add that it's Simon who does the majority of the cleaning. The one thing he would most like a home robot to do is folding the laundry, which is what iRobot CEO Colin Angle most wants as well. There is a verrrry slow towel folding prototype in the piece...
I'm expecting a slew of 'if there's a desktop in Windows on ARM why can't I write apps for it?' posts. The answer is very clearly in the epic blog post Steven Sinofsky published today, but I'm going to excerpt it here (although if you can't read the blog post and understand it, I don't trust you to write desktop applications).

"If we enabled the broad porting of existing code we would fail to deliver on our commitment to longer battery life, predictable performance, and especially a reliable experience over time. The conventions used by today’s Windows apps do not necessarily provide this, whether it is background processes, polling loops, timers, system hooks, startup programs, registry changes, kernel mode code, admin rights, unsigned drivers, add-ins, or a host of other common techniques. By avoiding these constructs, WOA can deliver on a new level of customer satisfaction: your WOA PC will continue to perform well over time as apps are isolated from the system and each other, and you will remain in control of what additional software is running on your behalf, all while letting the capabilities of diverse hardware shine through."

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/b8/archive/2012/02/09/building-windows-for-the-arm-processor-architecture.aspx

If you find the 8,000+ words in the Building Windows blog a little long, my interview with Steven Sinofsky is a little more succinct, at only a quarter of the length ;)
http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/windows-8-on-arm-steven-sinofsky-speaks-1062176
For the second year in a row, I've done a set of Microsoft predictions for 2012 for TechRadar, rounding up what we know is coming for Windows 8, Windows Phone and Office, what we're predicting for Kinect and Andy Lees' mysterious new Windows/Windows Phone secret project and a few other nuggets. (Credit to Simon Bisson for letting me use his theory about what the Kinect TV rumours are really about in this piece.)

Maybe it's not so much thumbs up or thumbs down for Microsoft next year as whether it's everything to play for or everything to lose; 2011 has been an excellent year for Microsoft with good execution and few missteps - and too often it's missteps or not connecting the dots that do Microsoft in, rather than actively getting things wrong.

One area I think is important but that I just don't know enough about yet is the socially-oriented ideas coming out of the wonderfully named New England Research Division (NERD!) in Boston. I can feel some trip planning coming on...

Microsoft has had plenty of successes in 2011, from record-breaking sales for Kinect and Xbox to the positive reaction to Nokia's Windows Phone.

Windows 7 and Office are still selling well, Bing has managed some moderate increases in market share, especially in the US, and the departures of big names like Ray Ozzie and Robbie Bach haven't caused any ripples.

For the second year in a row, everyone is taking Microsoft seriously.

But when you do well, you have to do even better next time and 2012 could be a challenging year. Microsoft has to ship - and sell - Windows 8 (especially on tablets), Windows Phone has to compete with whatever Apple and Google can come up with next, IE10 has to keep up with Chrome and whatever ridiculous number Firefox gets up to and Microsoft still needs to impress users with its cloud services.

Xbox is still going strong and Kinect could revitalise the market for PCs that aren't all about being as thin and light as a MacBook Air but can Microsoft pull it all together?
Read the rest at TechRadar

An interview I did in the aftermath of the riots that turned out to reflect many of the issues of 2011 in general.

NASA consultant, scientist and writer David Brin has long concentrated on the effects technology can have on people. In 1998, he wrote The Transparent Society, an award-winning book investigating privacy, surveillance, people's rights and the state.

Famously, he considered the solution to too much surveillance by the state was even more surveillance — but by the people, guarding their rights by checking up on the activities of the watchers.

Now we have police turning to Flickr to identify rioters, Anonymous disclosing user data, Google+ pushing users to prove their names and even Swiss banks giving up some of their famous secrecy. Given this, I asked Brin: Are we living in the transparent society now?

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/security-threats/2011/09/19/david-brin-state-secrecy-and-science-fiction-40093955/

Over the last few months I've been writing a series of pieces for Recombu looking at the technology behind smartphone operating systems, looking at some key issues like security and tablet adoption in more depth. Here's a roundup of links:

Is your mobile data safe in the cloud?You expect to always be connected on your phone or your tablet, so services like Flickr, Google Docs and iCloud (when it launches) for storing your photos, music and files in the cloud makes sense. It’s easier to send your photos to Flickr and Facebook than to prise open your phone and swap to a bigger memory card. You can see your images from your PC, if you lose or break your phone your files are safe – cloud seems like the ideal partner for mobile, and most of the time it is.

But ‘in the cloud’ doesn’t always mean secure, let along private...
http://recombu.com/news/is-your-mobile-data-safe-in-the-cloud_M15026.html

What to expect from Windows 8 ARM tablets
http://recombu.com/news/windows-8-arm-tablets-what-can-we-expect_M15354.html

Does the mobile OS matter? What's technically different about the various smartphone platforms?
Just about every smartphone these days is based on an ARM chip of some kind. Many of them are built on the same combination of ARM chip, graphics chip and phone radio from Qualcomm, although Apple notoriously puts together its own custom combination of hardware. But what each phone operating system does with that hardware is very different, and that affects what apps can do on each kind of phone...
http://recombu.com/news/what-is-a-mobile-operating-system-ios-android-webos-windows-phone-and-blackberry_M15293.html

Smartphone security: How safe is your operating system?
Your smartphone isn’t just your phone; it's your address book, your personal diary, your online banking system and fairly soon it could be your wallet, your train ticket and your front door key (when NFC handsets are common). That makes it an even more tempting target for hackers than your PC. If someone takes control of your phone they could potentially make money by sending premium rate text messages and downloading expensive apps and in-app purchases, and they could get your online banking password and use your Facebook account to spam your friends with malware. How secure are you on different phones?
http://recombu.com/news/smartphone-security-how-safe-is-your-operating-system_M15489.html


How does BlackBerry Messenger work?
BBM keeps BlackBerry the best-selling phone for teenagers in the UK because of the free messaging, but is it really better than texts - or iMessage?
http://recombu.com/news/what-is-blackberry-messenger-and-how-does-it-work_M15688.html

7 cool possibilities from Adobe's labs

No more blurry photos, layers that interweave, image search that knows what you're looking for, video search that synchronises footage, the end to lipsync hell...

If Adobe can deliver the cool things it showed off this year, designers will keep shelling out big bucks for software next year. I'd pay a lot to never worry about blurry photos again (although the researchers are very honest about how much work they still have to do to make their results into a product)

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/7-cool-creations-from-adobes-secret-labs-1036299
Some practical book reviews on ZDNetUK

Tackling Tumblr

Tumblr might be the biggest social network you've never heard of. You might well have come across Tumblr in the wake of the London riots, as it was used for a popular blog showcasing images of rioters amusingly-photoshopped to show them clutching stuffed toys or wearing Justin Bieber T shirts. If you've seen an image like the cartoon org charts of different technology companies that suddenly seems to be everywhere, it's probably spreading on Tumblr.

Read my review of the book I used to rebuild our Web site in two hours
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/zdnet-uk-book-reviews-10015295/book-review-tackling-tumblr-10024224/

Getting Started with the Internet of Things

Never mind 20 million Google+ users. Since 2008 there have been more 'things' connected to the internet than there are people on the earth: by 2050 there will be 50 billion connected devices — from cattle with wireless sensors that report when a cow is sick or pregnant, to implanted defibrillators that upload diagnostic information and heart rate patterns, to bridges that record every time a boat sails underneath them.

There are ambitious ideas about monitoring the weather, detecting when buildings have been affected by earthquakes, predicting traffic jams and avoiding accidents by having cars tell each other where they are (something Ford and Toyota are working on together), spotting epidemics before they start — all by building up massive, real-time data sets to analyse and act on.

Want to do it yourself? Read the rest of my review of a book that shows you how
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/zdnet-uk-book-reviews-10015295/getting-started-with-the-internet-of-things-10024207/
I've been itching to write this piece since the MIX conference in the spring when I talked to Miguel de Icaza about the way Mono was developing and the headline sprung into my mind; I detoured into the chintzy little phone booths they have in the corridors in Vegas conference hotels to write it down before I could forget, Plus Miguel gives fantastic quote: "It's like when your girlfriend is in denial about her friends. Microsoft is in denial that the Mac OS exists and the iPad exists and the iPhone exists and Android exists and Chrome OS exists and all of those things." Interviews like that are a joy to write up.

And then Novell sold itself to Attachmate and the Mono team were gone and the product was in limbo and I was almost sorrier to lose my wonderful headline (I'll admit it; when we writers have a phrase that sings to us, we love it deeply) than to think that Mono was in trouble. I was delighted to have Xamarin set up and take over Mono: it plays to my native versus Web development prejudice, I'm a big fan of C# and I loathe JavaScript with a passion I once reserved only for Java itself, and while .NET is a lumpy beast, many of the lumps are powerful muscles rather than just excrescences... And I could catch up with Miguel, get the skinny on the future direction and finally get to write this piece up.

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/application-development/2011/08/11/mono-a-cure-for-microsoft-monotheism-40093649/
It's a couple of weeks to the BUILD conference, the Building Windows 8 blog is starting to set the scene and I'm looking back at all the coverage I've already done of an OS most people won't use until next year. I'm not keen on writing about rumours, but I do like detective work; looking at job posts and architectural information to deduce the foundation something will be built on (and the never-publicly-acknowledged presentations that someone at HP leaked were a fascinating view of a work in progress).

Plus, I'm never playing poker with Steven Sinofsky: when we spoke at the 2009 PDC in LA I asked him flat out about Windows on ARM and he produced the most perfect poker face to say what sounded like no (Steven Sinofsky; the future of Windows: http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/sinofsky-the-thinking-behind-windows-8-663088).

But a few months later I did get a hint that ARM might be on the cards from Charlie Kindel on the Windows Phone team (Will Windows 8 run on ARM? http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/will-windows-8-run-on-arm-processors-683227) and we now know it will. We just don't quite know how...

What started out as a rumours piece for TechRadar has evolved over the months, with updates as we've found out more, so this is a mix of detective work and confirmations as news as come out: http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/pc/8-things-you-need-to-know-about-windows-8-643699

I've also been writing about specific topics: Will IE 10 need Windows at all - or why Microsoft won't 'do a Chrome' (which should reassure the still-panicking .NET developers and might explain why Microsoft thinks they've said enough to reassure them already): http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/microsoft-s-sinofsky-html5-doesn-t-mean-you-don-t-need-windows-677438

This was a job advert I found and used to predict the importance of Web apps in Windows 8; I'm calling this a successful prediction ;-) Web apps to get Windows 8 love http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/microsoft-s-windows-8-web-app-vision-906713

What Windows 8 on SoC means - or, yes, Windows apps can run on ARM, sometimes: http://ces2011.techradar.com/2011/01/what-does-windows-on-soc-mean-for-windows-8/

Windows 8 wishlist: this was written to be deliberately provocative and certainly got the discussion going, flames and all - I'm giving opinions rather than making predictions so I'm not going to score them...
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/windows-8-features-wishlist,review-1637.html

What IE10 means for Microsoft and Windows 8: more detective work, joining the dots on the standards going into IE10 and the Windows 8 touch interface http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/what-ie10-tells-us-about-windows-8-942732
How Windows 8 touch relies on IE10 http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/how-windows-8-touch-relies-on-ie10-971637
Similarly, predicting from the multitouch Microsoft mouse: What the Touch Mouse tells us about Windows 8 gestures http://www.techradar.com/news/computing-components/peripherals/windows-8-gestures-what-the-touch-mouse-tells-us-991070

What Windows 8 needs to compete on tablets: Microsoft telling me they'd been working on Windows 8 touch since before the iPad came out: http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/microsoft-we-know-where-we-re-going-with-windows-8-tablets-966757

Microsoft hints at a release date for Windows 8: the VP didn't say any more than I'd already calculated, but it was the first semi-official discussion and I broke the news - the first time I was top of a new section on TechMeme! http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/microsoft-hints-at-windows-8-release-date-966233

What we know about the Windows 8 timeline: another definite hit - there was a rumour of a Windows 8 CTP for the Partner Conference and I was convinced it wouldn't happen (it didn't): http://www.techradar.com/news/software/is-a-windows-8-release-date-announcement-close--977481

Making money: patents and phones

Although these two articles ended up being some time apart, I planned them to work together to explore just what's going on with the money side of the smartphone world. The mobile carriers are hugely profitable: several years back I worked out that in the UK they contribute as much to GDP as the oil and gas industry (for the UK that includes BP so it's not small, depending on the side issue of tax regimes - which applies equally to Vodafone) and as an ex-Ofcom analyst mentioned to me recently, they expect that to keep the political discussions away from them. Hah.

The handset makers make money: at least some of the time - Motorola has been posting a loss for a while (digression: has anyone considered that Google could be buying debt the way RIM did with the Nortel patents?) - but Apple's profits dwarf everyone else. Google makes money - a billion a year from mobile ads. Qualcomm is practically minting money, with fees on every phone for CDMA chipsets; the GSMA is at least distributing those fees between a variety of companies.

And then there's the whole OS situation: Android is free (as in puppy, I always say), Windows Phone has a licence, Symbian can't give itself away, BlackBerry is proprietary, Bada is coming up on the inside straight. Microsoft has patents (but has only ever started seven patent lawsuits), Nokia has patents and sues freely, Apple has patents but is getting sued as well as suing - and the Google situation is like a catherine wheel of implications sparking off in all directions.

So I was delighted to get two articles to really get my teeth into the situation - and to be reminded that putting a figure on any of this is impossibly hard because it's nearly all commercially confidential and the fees vary depending on who has what in their hand.

Microsoft's Patent Masterplan http://www.techradar.com/news/computing/how-microsoft-makes-money-from-android-986672

Who makes money from mobile phones? http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/who-s-making-money-from-your-smartphone--992247

Office 15 will be here next year. And, what's more, it'll be getting the Windows 8 look. There will also possibly be a Windows 8 authoring tool as well as HTML add-ins too.

I take a look at everything we know or can deduce about the Office 15 release date, interface, beta and other details

Microsoft has gone back and forth between treating SPs as feature packs.

With Windows XP, service packs were significant upgrades; XP SP1 added tablet PC functionality, SP2 was practically a new version of Windows.which was fairly major; XP3 had .NET features brought in from Vista as well as various security features (admittedly for business in most cases) rather than simply rollups and hotfixes.

Even Vista SP1 was a major update, improving power management, network speed, search speed and adding hardware support like Blu-ray burning to bring it up to the same performance as XP SP2 (according to Microsoft - it arrived just as Windows 7 was in beta so it never had a chance: I installed it on the way to the airport the day it came out, tested it and went right back to the beta of 7).

But although it included significant updates for business users using remote connections to a work server, for most people Windows 7 Service Pack 1 was little more than a rollup of updates and hotfixes (although it actually adds significant features for businesses using certain kinds of virtualisation from Windows Server). That's what Microsoft has been aiming at for years; service packs that don't add new features and that you already have if you've been accepting automatic updates.

The general popularity of Windows 7 makes that easier to achieve. So what does that mean for Windows 7 SP2 and when will we see it?

I've been writing quite a bit on Office 365 since the launch, from this interview with the MD of Microsoft UK and the executive behind Lync about why it's different from free cloud tools, to this (lengthy) comparison to the Enterprise version of Google Apps for IT Pro.

Office 365 is compelling in several ways and it wins hands down in one specific situation; where you're not putting everything into the cloud and you already have Microsoft IT in your business. I've also been thinking about the implications of this hybrid approach.

Lead on cloud - or the business will work around you: my view on why Microsoft's view of the cloud is one of the more pragmatic approaches, written to accompany my interview with Kenon Owens about System Center 2012 where we decide "IT departments can't ignore the cloud. If they fail to deliver systems that are fast and easy to set up, business teams will just sidestep them and sign up for a cloud service — whatever the consequences for security or compliance".

Talking to Microsoft execs about that view of cloud, I got a nugget about the way Microsoft runs the business that I hadn't known before. Microsoft execs: paid by results

Windows finally gets camera RAW support

I don't use an SLR; I pack my nifty, tiny, powerful Casio Exilim and I replace it about once every 18 months to get a new feature like in-camera HDR. But I'm always envious of the great pictures Simon takes with his Nikon and he's started using RAW. He started doing that around about the time that Windows finally got support for RAW formats from over 100 cameras (and a commitment to keep the format support up to date).

So: what do you get and how well does it work and why it isn't a replacement for Aperture or Lightroom
I was hoping that the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550 might be it: I need more time with it to decide. This is a good size, with good battery life but how good is the new Atom and how good is the combined active pen and touch screen from N-Trig?

Hands on with the Fujitsu Stylistic Q550: http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/hands-on-fujitsu-stylistic-q550-review-980280
Ergonomic keyboards tend to be the pricier models — the 4000 model in the same Microsoft range as this one costs £50. However, the new Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard will cost just £20.

A little extra convenience, a little green power-saving and a very nice sleek keyboard make Logitech's K750 fairly environmentally friendly.

Of course what I'd really like would be a combination of the two; an ergonomic shape and a solar-powered wireless connection...
For the last month or so, Simon and I have been sporting an unusual array of gadgets; pedometers, sleep, activity, heart rate, stride and calorie monitors. I've been sleeping with a Zeo EEG headband on and hanging a DirectLife measure round my neck, Simon's been jogging with a heart rate monitor and weighing in on a tweet-your-weight scale, we've both been counting paces and checking our activity flowers...

What did we find out? You can't change what you don't measure and while just measuring things doesn't change anything, it can remind you that you wanted to make a change. Digitising information means you'll have a baseline in five years time when you're wondering why you have more/less energy/time/whatever. You can also obsess about measurements rather than what you're doing; moderation in all things (including moderation). And the privacy issues around this data are as big an issue as the opportunity to derive really useful information (and properly anonymised) about trends and broad health questions is tempting...

In a great deal more detail, the full piece is over at Tom's Guide.

Want to get fitter, sleep better, bring down your blood pressure, lose weight, meditate more often, remember take your medication on time or change anything else about your life? Forget will power; use technology to help you achieve your goals.

We’re getting keener about measuring ourselves: everything from how active we are to how happy we are. Whether you think of it as personalized health, health as a game or a life-size science experiment, self-tracking is hitting the headlines.

Here's what you can track yourself and what you need to start tracking...

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Fitbit-Adidas-Health-and-Fitness,review-1673.html

I also want to thank Larry Smarr, who has been tracking himself for several years, for weight loss, to understand his blood tests and to eventually diagnose himself with Crohn's disease, and to fulfill his job of 'living in the future' (you may know Larry from his previous job, running the NCSA where he supervised a graduate student named Marc Andreesson and evangelised this emerging Web thing to companies). I used his charts tracking several test results (complex reactive protein and lactoferrin), but the rest of his fascinating presentation is at http://lsmarr.calit2.net/presentations?slideshow=8115272


InTune is a cloud service for managing PCs remotely; in the first version it's all about managing Windows, which is all very well, but if a business has enough PCs to manage it has apps on them to manage as well. That's where Windows InTune 2 comes in.

Windows InTune 2 goes into beta: kew new features include licence management
http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/saas/1247/windows-intune-2-goes-beta

Does InTune 2 sound sweeter: what the new features mean http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/saas/1267/does-intune-2-sound-sweeter

Book review: Mining the social Web

What can someone find out about your tweets, and the people who retweet and respond to them? Rather a lot - including why they include extraneous characters that only get noticed when they're photographed behind Barack Obama (despite being limited to 140 characters, tweets include metadata like what kind of character encoding they use and a great deal more).

For details of what Twitter, Facebook and other social networks make public and how anyone using the APIs can work with that information, check out my review of Mining the social Web over at ZDNet UK

Hands on: Android 3.1

The Android 3.1 update for the Google IO Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is a good way to see what Google intends with Honeycomb. As this has neither the Google Experience nor a third-party skin, what you get is as close to stock Android as we're likely to see, which means that the updates aren't obscured by different interfaces on top. And what you get in the Honeycomb 3.1 update is more about stability than features...

read the rest at TechRadar

IE 10: it's gone a little quiet

The IE10 announcements have been a little understated, compared to IE9; I think that's partly because IE9 was a major step forward and IE10 is more incremental, IE9 had to make more of an impression - but I also think IE10 is powering so much of Windows 8 that until Microsoft is talking about Win8 it's hard to say much about IE10.

So I've not had so much to write about yet, but I am keen to see the beta...

What IE10 means for Microsoft and Windows 8 http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/what-ie10-tells-us-about-windows-8-942732
Hands on with IE10 platform preview 1 http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/hands-on-ie10-review-platform-preview--942710
IE10 platform preview 2 http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/what-s-new-in-internet-explorer-10-platform-preview-2-973065

Tablet artistry

I use a tablet PC every day, for handwritten notes and diagrams, or just using my finger to scroll or tap a button. But a pen isn't just for writing; it's for drawing and sketching and painting. There are some superb art apps for tablets on all the different platforms and it's surprising how much being able to experiment and undo unleashes your creativity. I've always thought I can't draw or paint, but I'm pretty sure I could learn to be a lot better at it than I am, especially using the right tools.

I spent a couple of weeks painting and sketching and wrote up the software side - and the opportunities, with a followup on the tools that make a difference, like the awesome Nomad Brush.
Tablet artistry - making art on screen http://www.tomsguide.com/us/tablet-artistic-paint-software,review-1669.html
Better than a finger - the right tablet tools http://www.tomsguide.com/us/tablet-artistry-stylus-brush,review-1676.html

And here's the kind of art I was making
sunset abruptly

Why the cloud is ideal for startups

I've been wanting to write about the secret of BizSpark for a while: why it makes complete sense for Microsoft to invest in giving software to startups, not because you can bribe anyone to use your technology but because startups are the future of your current customers. That turned into a piece for Cloud Pro on the way the cloud gives startups - well, a head start
http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/saas/1087/why-cloud-offers-head-start-new-businesses?page=0,0

What Windows 8 needs to compete on tablets - is Windows

Microsoft knows where it’s going with Windows 8 and that’s a very different direction from any other tablet maker. And it's been going there since before the iPad came along...

http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/tablets/microsoft-we-know-where-we-re-going-with-windows-8-tablets-966757


Microsoft hints at a release date for Windows 8
A senior ‘softie does the same calculation we’ve been doing for months and comes up with the same answer; more importantly, he reveals more about how Microsoft sees tablets, phones and PCs…

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/microsoft-hints-at-windows-8-release-date-966233

Simon and I have been writing a series on managing PCs the modern way recently over on The Register; here's a roundup of most of the pieces I wrote, from helpdesk tools to what's different about managing a notebook to whether you really can let users buy their own PCs (fascinating discussion between users and IT admins in the comments on that one).

The challenges of desktop configuration
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/28/desktop_configuration/
Productivity: IT pros to the rescue
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/03/25/business_productivity/
Windows support tools
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/14/windows_support_tools/
Managing the desktop when it's a notebook
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/12/desktop_management_frameworks/
Automated patch management (I will note this one was edited for length and ends up with an unusually staccato delivery compared to my excessively discursive original)
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/30/windows_patch_management/
Your PC our problem
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/05/19/consumerisation_of_it_what_can_users_buy/

Actually, the cloud gives the IT department to become strategic; get out of the server room and start making a business difference

http://www.cloudpro.co.uk/paas/cloud-deployment/1015/cloud-opportunity-it-department

first take: Xobni Gadgets

Xobni is this great tool for mining the information in your inbox that gives you structured information about your communications; now it can bring live Internet tools into your inbox as well, which is its best chance to compete against the Outlook social connector and Gmail's people pane. So what can it do?

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/blogs/zdnet-uk-first-take-10013312/xobni-gadgets-10022452/

Windows Phone 7 Mango in detail

What Mango means for business - Paul Bryan tells me how the Office hub grows up and gets useful...
http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-working/2011/05/24/will-windows-phone-blossom-with-mango-40092868/
A first look at the Google Music service and why it's more about teaching the Google Machine Learning System and less about giving you tunes
http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/web/first-look-music-by-google-954984

Android@Home: what you need to know about phone control and giant mazes
http://www.techradar.com/news/digital-home/android-home-what-you-need-to-know-955045
I'm fascinated by the reactions to Google's Chromebooks: lots of people who would scream blue murder if you put a thin client on their desk are delighted at the idea of an even thinner client as long as it looks like a laptop and lets them browse the Web (wait till their IT team locks down the sites they can browse with the usual firewall controls to see if they're still keen). I've already said that Chromebooks are a wakeup call to the Windows team to remove complexity, and my interview with Google's Rajen Sheth is up on ZDNet now and getting lots of comments. I've blogged some extra details on Chromebooks for business there too (like - can I cancel after six months?).

I'm not going to reprise my thoughts that the cheaper TCO Google claims also applies to Windows when you do the same desktop management or that adding another platform with no third-party integrated management tools doesn't necessarily reduce management costs overall (now you have users in both Chrome config and Active Directory to deal with separately). Instead I'll speculate wildly about why the Chromebooks are Atom and not ARM processors. Obviously Intel loves it - it emboldened Renee James to make some wildly inaccurate attacks on Windows 8 on ARM that Microsoft shot out of the sky - and I suspect you need the Intel processors to get Flash running at a decent speed along with the rest of Chrome. But mainly it means Samsung and Acer don't have to eat the cost of tooling to set up a new line to make boxes that may or not sell; they can just bang out a standard PC motherboard and laptop chassis and let Google worry about drivers and making a true netbook not look like a chocolate teapot when you don't have the bandwidth or battery to be online (on ARM tablets it's the screen that uses the majority of power, on a PC the Wi-Fi is a bigger consumer - I've yet to discover what uses most power on a Chromebook). Until every Web app I want to use works offline, Chromebooks won't be useful disconnected, so everyone should finally get offline Gmail.
I don't often get to write one of those stories that gets picked up everywhere because I don't often break news, but sometimes it happens and this is one of them: at Teched, Joe Marini of the IE on Windows Phone team told me IE9 for WP7 is code complete and I covered the details for TechRadar: It's faster and it's almost finished - but it still won't have Flash. I've been under the weather with a cold and back problems (I coughed so hard I put my back out; it's almost funny except it hurts) and Maker Faire meetings, so it was a surprise when @sbisson mentioned that my story was getting referenced on lots of sites. Scoop! ;-)

Several of them use it as evidence to speculate that whatever gets announced at the Mango press conference tomorrow, it won't be shipping finished code. I completely agree; not only did Marini tell me they're working on debug and performance. but in an interview I did with Paul Bryan about the business features in Mango that will be on ZDNet UK soon he mentioned that both the Lync features and the UI for conversation view were still under development last week. The Windows Phone team code fast - but not that fast. My opinion? Mango is feature locked and we'll get details of everything in it, dates for the rollout of updates to operators and a beta SDK for dvelopers with an emulator that gets updated once the code is more finished.

Stories from BlackBerry World

Hands on with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 - the nicest, thinnest Bold yet
http://www.itpro.co.uk/633181/blackberry-bold-9900-review-first-look/3

Why Bing and BlackBerry make sense together: it's not just that my enemy's enemy is my friend...
http://www.itpro.co.uk/633256/why-bing-and-blackberry-make-sense-together

How BlackBerry will bring mobile payments to the UK
http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/how-blackberry-will-bring-mobile-payments-to-the-uk-952530

How RIM is steering BlackBerry toward QNX. David Yach explains the BlackBerry appeal: communication, context, commitment http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-devices/2011/05/14/how-rim-is-steering-blackberry-toward-qnx-40092712/

10 best Windows 7 tablet apps

I like my Tablet PC; I couldn't get along without handwriting and digital ink and sketching and finger scrolling. But aside from OneNote and ArtRage, what apps really take advantage of Windows touch and pen? And the fact that there's so few is the problem Windows 8 really needs to solve...

http://www.techradar.com/news/mobile-computing/10-best-windows-7-tablet-apps-953677

Why Mobile Firefox hides the user interface: Mozilla design principles
http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/mozilla-talks-firefox-4-for-android-design-principles-939425

Hotmail makes your mail more active: new active views for comments and deal
http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/microsoft-brings-new-active-views-to-hotmail-939071

Google's view of shopping is personal and digital (and contactless and tracked and possibly now sub judice)

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/google-nfc-will-bridge-gap-between-online-and-offline-shopping-939661


What will you get in Windows 7 Service Pack 2? And will you need it?
http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/windows-7-service-pack-2-what-to-expect-941957


What IE10 means for Microsoft and Windows 8: Microsoft backs Web standards, especially the ones it plans to use for Windows tablets

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/what-ie10-tells-us-about-windows-8-942732


Hands on with IE10 platform preview: improvements don’t stop with IE9

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/applications/hands-on-ie10-review-platform-preview--942710


Microsoft’s stealth move on TV - Why Microsoft TV isn't making the same mistakes as Google… or Apple

(Note; I know that some of the folks on the Google TV team take a different view; we had a long discussion where I said ‘yes, but’.)

http://www.techradar.com/news/television/microsoft-s-stealth-move-onto-your-tv-943213

Windows Phone Mango: what you need to know and what you get

http://www.techradar.com/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/windows-phone-7-mango-what-you-need-to-know-943040

Interview with Microsoft’s Matt Bencke: what does Nokia mean for Mango? Cameras and international maps and mainstream users…

http://www.zdnet.co.uk/news/mobile-working/2011/04/22/how-microsoft-nokia-pact-ripens-in-mango-40092542/

Use Windows HPC Server 2008 R2 to speed up common applications - with your own cluster or bursting up to the cloud, with Excel, Mathematic and more. Supercomputers are for the office as well now
http://www.softwareknowhow.info/Buyers-Guide/Supercharged/302

Windows Intune: managing the small business or the distributed enterprise just got a lot easier, but Intune needs to add more features (and yes, they’re coming)
http://www.itpro.co.uk/632281/microsoft-windows-intune-review

Biometric authentication: you have a fingerprint reader inf your business laptops so why aren’t you using it to protect your business and cut your helpdesk costs? After all, most users have 10-plus work passwords and they only thing they memorise is the helpdesk number…

http://www.itpro.co.uk/632776/biometric-authentication-the-key-to-keeping-businesses-and-users-happy


First Look: Office 365 and why it’s not worth running your own Exchange server any more

http://www.itpro.co.uk/632899/office-365-review-first-look

Windows 8 wishlist

We only know some of what’s in Windows 8, but here are a few things we’d just like…
http://www.tomsguide.com/us/windows-8-features-wishlist,review-1637.html

Wireless power changes everything

This time around we might actually get wireless power that makes a difference – and it won’t just be near-field coupling: wireless optical power and long-distance options…

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Wireless-Power-Tesla-Fulton-eCoupled,review-1641.html

From increasing the DPI to tweaking the delete gesture to something proofreaders will recognise. I'm amazed OEMs don't do most of these as standard on touch tablets, although what Windows 7 really needs is a pen and touch combo screen. If you can't afford that, or you're using a touch only screen until the Asus Eee tablet turns up, check out my tips at Tom's Guide.

http://www.tomsguide.com/us/Microsoft-Windows-7-Tablets,review-1629.html

More IE 9 coverage

Hands on IE9 RC: feature complete with WebM and geolocation - and some by-demand interface tweaks http://techradar.com/927657

Interview: How IE9 uses app reputation to axe malware when half all downloads are brand new every day http://t.co/Abf6NnF
Are the extras in LibreOffice 3.3 enough to win users from Microsoft or just OpenOffice?
http://t.co/xhfbPFc
If we're drowning in email and past the point of keeping up with everyone we've reconnected with on Facebook, why are we flocking to Twitter? If we can't settle down to work because instant messages keep popping up on top of the document, why are we adding to the load by uploading videos to YouTube and answering questions on Quora?

Texture is a really interesting book that's full of facts and thoughts and ideas and references and I might still not be sure what I think of it. It's academic in approach (Baudrillard and Derrida by page 10, footnotes and references for every chapter), but very real world in what it says. It verges close to pseudery on occasion (click through to the full review on ZDNet for my favourite example as well as a lot more detail about what's in the book) but it lectures the scaremongers right back. I've not yet interviewed Richard Harper - I'd like to - but I have spoken twice to his research partner Abigail Sellen and I've been following their team's work for years, so I loved getting an inside view on projects like the Harry Potter clock (really that should be the Weasley clock). He's remarkably honest about whether some of the more ambitious MSR projects for dealing with information overload will ever come to fruition (including one I covered for the FT three years ago and and occasionally wonder about; it was delightful to sit in a meeting with Eric Horvitz and know that the only people who could interrupt us were his wife and Bill Gates, both of whom I'm happy to defer to). More than anything, Texture is thought provoking - and that's always a good thing in a book.
The disappointing thing about the OpenOffice.org suite (to give it its correct and non-trademark-infringing name) is how small its ambitions have been. Subsequent releases have done nothing but emulate Microsoft Office features and interfaces; there's been no vision to say 'what could an office suite be that Office doesn't deliver already?' - it's just been a very sincere form of flattery. Love the ribbon or hate it, at least Microsoft Office 2007 and 2010 have taken a radical new approach to presenting features (although, please for the love of Murphy, could we have Excel spreadsheets opening in their own windows again? please? pretty please, with sprinkles on?)

Now OpenOffice 3.3 is out (missing its planned release date of 2010 after 10 release candidates and being pipped at the post by the newly-formed LibreOffice); should you be using it? See my review on ZDNet UK for all the details, but if you want to skip to the punchline...

This is a welcome update, but it's definitely a point release: unless you're looking for an alternative to Microsoft Office on financial or philosophical grounds, 3.3 may not be the version to make you switch.

Google TV: not ready for primetime

I review the Logitech Revue Google TV for TechRadar and decide it's too much Google and not enough TV
http://techradar.com/922480

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