The Tech News Blog

March 17, 2014

4G LTE Surface 2 Arrives Tuesday

Microsoft Surface 2 AT&T 4G LTE

A 4G LTE version of Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet arrives on Tuesday via AT&T for $679.

The 64GB model will be available at Microsoft retail and online stores, as well as all Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile locations and

Microsoft's Surface 2 boasts increased speed and battery life over its predecessor, a dual-position kickstand, Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 RT and Outlook 2013 RT, a full HD screen, an upgraded front- and rear-facing cameras, and a full-size USB 3.0 port.

New customers will also receive 200GB of free OneDrive storage, good for two years.

"Every day, more and more people are using Surface," Panos Panay, corporate vice president of Surface, wrote in a blog post. "As the device becomes a part of people's everyday lives, I get excited about the possibilities that start to open with a fully connected device."

March 17, 2014

Microsoft OneNote Now Free, Available on Mac

OneNote for Mac

Microsoft today released OneNote for Mac and announced that all versions of its note-taking and sharing software are now free.

OneNote also now includes a cloud API, so any developer can integrate the program into their app or service.

"When we started OneNote we set out to revolutionize the way people capture, annotate, and recall all the ideas, thoughts, snippets and plans in their life," David Rasmussen, partner group program manager, wrote in a blog post. "OneNote is the ultimate extension for your brain, but it's not complete if it's not instantly available everywhere."

As a result, OneNote is now available on the Mac, joining versions for the PC, Windows tablets, Windows Phone, iPad, iPhone, Android, and the Web. Content syncs across all platforms and users get 7GB of free OneDrive cloud storage with no monthly upload limits.

March 16, 2014

Microsoft Unveils Cheaper Office 365 Personal

Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2013

If you're interested in using Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 for on-the-go document creation and editing, but have shied away due to the price, we have some potentially good news.

Redmond just announced a new option, dubbed Office 365 Personal, that might better fit your needs and budget. Launching this spring, the new offering is designed for individuals, and allows one PC or Mac and one tablet to be connected to the service for $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year.

The existing Office 365 Home Premium subscription, which lets you connect five computers, is $99.99 a year. Microsoft will still offer that option, but is dropping "Premium" from its name to make things a little less confusing, so now it will just be Office 365 Home.

The name change will go into effect when Office 365 Personal becomes available. Both plans come with 60 minutes of Skype calling per month and 20GB of additional OneDrive storage.

March 3, 2014

Microsoft Confirms Execs Bates, Reller Exiting Company

Satya Nadella

The rumors about a Microsoft senior leadership shakeup have been confirmed.

In an email to employees sent Monday, Microsoft's new CEO Satya Nadella, pictured at left, said that Tony Bates, executive vice president of business strategy and evangelism, and executive vice president of marketing Tami Reller are both leaving the company.

"We need to drive clarity, alignment, and intensity across all our work. With that as a backdrop, I want to share a set of changes to the leadership team," Nadella wrote in the message before detailing the departure of the two executives to "pursue other interests" outside of Redmond.

Rumors of the executive shuffle first cropped up in a Re/code article this Sunday.

Bates's exit isn't entirely surprising, given that the former Skype CEO was on the short list for the top job at Microsoft filled by Nadella. Bates joined Redmond back in 2011 when Microsoft acquired Skype. Bates will now go on to "look for his next opportunity," Nadella wrote.

February 28, 2014

Microsoft Reportedly Experimenting With Free Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1 with Bing

Microsoft is reportedly testing a free version of Windows 8.1, which will come bundled with its Bing search engine.

Creatively titled "Windows with Bing," the software appears to be similar to the standard Windows fare, with the additional built-in search capacity—perhaps best described as a sideways move, since Bing SmartSearch is already included with Windows 8.1, ZDNet pointed out.

Russian leaker Wzor this week posted screenshots of the new SKU, which ZDNet said is a monetization play by Redmond.

Citing unnamed sources, the tech site reported only minor differences between the current Windows 8.1 and this new, free license version, adding that "it may be a kind of placeholder for the future when consumer operating systems are, basically, free."

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the reports.

February 23, 2014

Microsoft Reveals Windows Phone 8.1 Details

Microsoft Reveals Windows Phone 8.1 DetailsBARCELONA—Microsoft today revealed some critical details about the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1, including more big-name manufacturers coming to the platform as well as the ability for any phone maker to load Windows Phone onto existing Qualcomm-based Android hardware.

The official Windows Phone 8.1 launch isn't coming until "this spring" (read: Microsoft's Build conference on April 2), but Microsoft's corporate vice president, Joe Belfiore, revealed a set of new capabilities that will let a wider group of companies build cheaper Windows Phones.

The new platform will support Qualcomm's Snapdragon 200, 400, and 400 LTE chips, and more notably it will let Windows Phone run on existing Android hardware, with soft buttons instead of hard buttons and no mandatory physical camera button. SD support will be expanded so you'll be able to store apps on SD cards, which is a big deal on low-memory phones. The platform will also support dual SIMs, and a range of new Chinese network standards, he said.

New enterprise features will include S/MIME support, enterprise VPNs, enterprise Wi-Fi, extended mobile device management, and certificate management.

Along with that, Microsoft announced a huge array of new hardware partners, including LG, Lenovo, and ZTE, as well as a bunch of Chinese and Indian vendors that are largely unknown in the U.S. like Gionee, Longcheer, and Xolo. Any company will be able to build a Windows Phone based on a new Qualcomm reference platform, the company said. (That Qualcomm reference phone is shown in the image above.)

February 20, 2014

Microsoft Reveals Xbox One Media Remote

Xbox One Media Remote

Having all kinds of different remotes lying around your house can truly be an eyesore, and get confusing. But Microsoft wants to help you simplify your clicker situation with a new gadget that will let you controlyour Xbox One  and your television.

Meet the Xbox One Media Remote, which will be available in early March for $24.99. Unveiled Thursday, the handy device lets you control video playback for Blu-ray movies and streaming video on the Xbox One. There's also a OneGuide button, which provides one-touch access to your favorite TV shows and movies through the Xbox program guide, Microsoft said.

Besides that, the Media Remote can control your TV power and volume through Kinect, which uses IR blasting to send signals to your TV and/or receiver.

"This simple, yet powerful remote is designed to help you listen, watch and switch among experiences instantly," Microsoft said in its announcement.

February 20, 2014

Microsoft Office Web Apps Rebranded as Office Online

Microsoft Office logo

One day after changing SkyDrive to OneDrive, Microsoft is also rebranding Office Web Apps as Office Online.

Redmond's online version of its Office suite also got a few updates that Microsoft said will make it easier to find, share, and collaborate with others.

"We heard from customers that the inclusion of Apps in our name was confusing," Amanda Lefebvre, product marketing manager for Office Online, said in a blog post. "Are they something I install? Do I go to an app store to get them? No, to use them all you need is a Web browser. Ah! You said. So it's like Office, online. Yes, exactly. Office Online."

More than just a name change, the update aims to recruit new users by introducing, a more easily discovered and shared site that allows quick access to Office Online.

Some folks already use Office Online via OneDrive or SharePoint—and that will continue to be the case. "But we're making it easier to find for the rest of you," Lefebvre wrote.

February 14, 2014

Struggling Windows 8 Tops 200M Licenses Sold

Windows 8 on a Touchscreen

Microsoft's Windows 8 has reached a milestone 200 million sales, but continues to lag behind its predecessor.

Tami Reller, Microsoft's executive vice president of marketing, made the announcement during Thursday's Goldman Sachs Technology & Internet Conference, the company's first mention of Windows 8 sales rates since May.

"We surpassed 200 million licenses now on Windows 8, which is pretty stunning," she said, adding that while the platform has received a lot of traction, there is still a lot more work to do.

Redmond launched Windows 8 in October 2012 and sold 40 million Windows 8 licensesin a month, outpacing the previous generation OS in terms of upgrades. In May, Reller announced more than 100 million licenses sold.

February 14, 2014

Xbox Live Gold Is Free This Weekend

Xbox Live

If your Valentine's Day plans include sitting at home, alone playing video games, we have some good news.

It might not be as enticing as an attractive mate, or even a box of fancy chocolates, but Microsoft is giving gamers a sweet treat of its own this weekend – free access to Xbox Live Gold from now until Sunday, Feb. 16. The deal, however, is only available to Xbox 360 gamers in the U.S. and Canada.

The free Gold weekend started at 12:01 a.m. PT today, and ends at 11:59 PT on Sunday. During the weekend, all Xbox Live entertainment apps and online multiplayer gaming will be available for free.

"All Xbox owners in these regions, regardless of their current Xbox Live subscription status, will have access to online multiplayer gaming, Video Kinect, and our entire catalog of entertainment apps," Microsoft's Larry Hryb wrote in a Thursday post on the Major Nelson blog. "Get your marathon entertainment and gaming fix now and let me know on Monday all the new things you tried."