Microsoft refreshed their logo earlier this year. Probably to reflect the refresh the whole company now seems to undertake.
Coming Friday October 26 2012, Microsoft will officially release Windows 8 to the masses, the so-called General Availability (GA). The new operating system have been available to TechNet and MSDN subscribers (amongst others) since August 15 2012. Windows 8 will come in two flavors: Windows 8 and Windows 8 Pro. The first is sometimes referred to as Windows 8 “Core” to differentiate the two. Microsoft will sell an upgrade for 40USD directly from Windows.com as a download. If you have Windows XP, Vista or 7, you’re eligible for the upgrade. You can upgrade directly over your current installation, or burn a DVD or make an USB thumb drive to install to a different computer or harddrive/partition (for dual booting purposes). It seems Microsoft will be continually updating Windows 8 instead of issuing huge service packs. Already has a major improvement been made available via Windows Update. The included Microsoft apps (i.e. Mail, Calendar People, etc.) have already been updated with new functions. I hope Microsoft continues with this pace and that we don’t see update schedules as with Windows Live Essentials, which was roughly once a year.
Microsoft will also make the Surface tablet available on the same date. Only the version with Windows RT will be available for purchase. This is the Metro-only version, you can not install regular desktop programs on it. You’ll have to use apps which you get via the new Windows Store. Office 2013 RT will be included with the Windows RT tablets (consists of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote). The full fledged Windows 8 Pro version will be available later this year or early next year.
Windows Phone 8
On Monday October 29 2012, Microsoft will finally unveil Windows Phone 8. Devices will soon thereafter be available from Nokia, HTC and Samsung. Microsoft has been very secretive about its new mobile operating system. Only preferred developers have got the SDK. I really look forward to this release and I’m itching to try something fresh and new after several years with Android (and iPhone before it). I have my eye on the HTC 8S. I’ve been very happy with my two HTC Android handsets, the Desire HD and now the One X. Going from a flagship to a mid-end device might seem peculiar, but since I’ve never owned a Windows Phone before, I thought I start with a reasonable device. If I really enjoy Windows Phone 8, maybe I’ll buy that Surface phone being rumoured lately…
Microsoft wants you to forget Zune and will rebrand Zune Music and Video to Xbox. Xbox Music is a direct competitor to Spotify. It’s a streaming service available on Window 8 PCs and tablets, Windows Phone 8 and Xbox 360. Users on these platforms will get six months for free. The service will also be made available for earlier Windows Phone users, and next year for iOS and Android users. You can stream music for free if you tolerate ads. If you subscribe to the service for a monthly fee, you’ll have the possibility to download playlists for offline listening. Playlists of course syncs across your devices and you can also buy your favorite tracks through the store. Note that you have to have a Xbox Gold subscription for Xbox Music (and Netflix for that matter) to work.
SkyDrive started in its new path earlier this year. Not only a new and fresher (and in my opinion much better) look, but finally I could use it in the same way I’ve used Dropbox. By installing the desktop version of SkyDrive on either Windows or OS X, you get a SkyDrive folder. Everything in this folder gets automatically synced to the cloud (and down to your other PCs/Macs). SkyDrive is built into Windows Phone and Windows 8 (as a Metro-app). Apps for Android and iOS is also available.
Office Web Apps
Office Web Apps just got updated to the final version to match both Outlook.com (a great replacement for Hotmail) and SkyDrive (Microsofts online storage and sync service), and of course Office 2013. If you save your documents to SkyDrive (the default location in Office 2013), not only will your documents be available everywhere you have access to Internet (both via SkyDrive.com and dedicated apps on all the platforms) but you can also edit them direclty in your browser by opening them on SkyDrive.com. If you create an OneNote notebook on SkyDrive.com, you can sync it across your devices with the OneNote application included in Office (since Office 2007) and with the dedicated mobile apps. There will also be an OneNote app for Metro; Download OneNote MX from the Windows Store.