The Tech News Blog

November 27, 2014

Report: Yahoo, Bing Vie to Replace Google on Safari

Safari Tips

The term "Google" has become synonymous with search, but Apple users may soon have to readjust and "Yahoo" or "Bing" a query.

While Google serves as the Safari browser's default search engine, the companies' agreement is reportedly set to expire next year, making way for Cupertino to choose a new partner.

And according to The Information (via Ars Technica), Microsoft (maker of Bing) and Yahoo are already in talks with Apple Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue.

Upstart engine DuckDuckGo is also reportedly on the short list.

Yahoo recently announced that it will replace Google as Mozilla's default search engine for Firefox. And CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear in the past that she wants to usurp Google as Apple's iOS search default.

Google declined to comment on the reports; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 14, 2014

Xbox One Shipments Near 10 Million

Xbox Chief Phil Spencer at E3 2014

Microsoft is quickly closing in on 10 million Xbox One consoles shipped, thanks to a series of new games and a recent price cut.

"The past few weeks have been incredibly exciting," chief marketing officer Yusuf Mehdi wrote in a blog post. "We are humbled by the positive response to our new offerings and grateful for the support from our fans."

This month's $50 holiday discount—which dropped the console price to $349—kicked off Redmond's holiday offerings, which continued on Tuesday with the launch of Halo: The Master Chief Collection.

Also relatively new to the Xbox One family: Assassin's Creed: Unity, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sunset Overdrive, Forza Horizon 2 , Ori and the Blind Forest, and Madden NFL 15, among others.

November 9, 2014

Microsoft Offering Prorated Refunds for Office 365 Subscriptions

Microsoft Office 365 and Office 2013 Free is great, right? There's no reason to not celebrate Microsoft's recent announcement that it would be allowing iOS Office users to create and edit documents for absolutely free—no Office 365 subscription required, as was previously the case.

However, there's one subset of users who likely weren't too thrilled with Microsoft's move. Specifically, those who had already paid for Office 365 subscriptions to unlock said functionality prior to Microsoft's announcement.

The most inexpensive iteration of Office 365 isn't all that cheap at $7 monthly (or $70 annually)—or, to phrase it another way, why spend the cash if you don't have to? We can definitely envision a few miffed users who were probably caught up in a bit of unfortunate timing.

Well, thankfully, Microsoft recognizes that some of its Office 365 purchasers might be regretting their decision days (or months) after the fact. The company is now offering refunds to anyone who might be affected. However, you'll have to jump through a few hoops.

For starters, you have to apply for said refund. It won't just appear automatically. Second, the refund offer only applies to those who purchased Home or Personal subscriptions to Office 365; business subscriptions are out of luck.

November 6, 2014

Editing, Creating Docs Now Free on Office for iPhone, iPad

Microsoft Office 365

Christmas is coming early for iOS Office users, who can now create and edit documents for free on their iPhone or iPad—without an Office 365 subscription.

Microsoft also announced an Office for Android tablet preview, and tipped touch-optimized Office apps for Windows 10.

"Starting today, people can create and edit Office content on iPhones, iPads, and soon, Android tablets using Office apps without an Office 365 subscription," the company said in a blog post.

Office for iPhone was previously available as one app (Office Mobile for Office 365 Subscribers), but separate iPhone apps for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are now available to download in the iTunes App Store, as is an updated version of Office for iPad, all of which require iOS 7.0 or later.

Microsoft also kicked off its Office for Android tablet preview, open now for signups, and expected for general availability early next year.

November 2, 2014

Net Applications: Windows 8 and 8.1 Finally Surpass 15% Market Share

8 Things You Need to Know About Windows 8.1 Update The figures are in, and Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system is finally getting a bit more traction among desktop and laptops. In fact, it's getting quite a bit of traction over the past month or so.

According to the latest stats from Net Applications, which collects its data from "the browsers of site visitors to our exclusive on-demand network of HitsLink Analytics and SharePost clients," Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 have finally pushed past a 15 percent market share.

That's combined, we should note. Windows 8.1 finally reached a double-digit market share in October (10.92%), whereas Windows 8 (point zero) sat at 5.88 percent.

Compared to the month prior, the combined market share for Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 is up to 16.8 percent—an increase of just around four percent or so from what Net Applications saw for September. Individually, Windows 8 only increased 0.29 percent, whereas the market share for Windows 8.1 jumped up 4.25 percent.

One would think that the growth of Windows 8.1 would have come at the expense of Windows 8, or even previous iterations of Windows. That's somewhat true. According to Net Applications' figures, Windows 7 managed to jump up around one-third of a percent to hit a market share of 53.05% in total. However, Windows Vista's market share dropped a fourth of a percent to 2.82%, and Windows XP's market share plummeted 6.69 percent to 17.18%.

The figures bring up a few question: Namely, are we starting to see the end of the road for Windows XP? And if so, is this the result of businesses converting up to more modern versions of Windows, or are the continued sales of Windows 8 devices—especially around the busy back-to-school season—finally tipping the scale in that operating system's favor?

Going forward, you can likely expect to see Windows 7's overall share start to drop. Microsoft officially stopped selling Windows 7 Home Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate licenses to all OEMs yesterday. OEMs can still stuff their systems with Windows 7 Professional, which has at last another year to go before Microsoft flips the switch. We suspect that won't be enough to keep Windows 7's market share afloat.

Windows' market share, in general, dropped a half a percent to 91.5% in October. OS X jumped up a bit more than half a percent and Linux fell just around one-fourth of a percent.

October 30, 2014

Microsoft Cuts 3,000 Jobs, Finishing Layoffs

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

The bad news: Microsoft cut another 3,000 employees today. The good news: this is pretty much the last of the layoffs announced by CEO Satya Nadella this summer.

In a statement to PCMag, a Microsoft spokesperson said the reductions are taking place across a variety of teams in many different countries, though there's no word as to which departments will be hit hardest.

"We've taken another step that will complete almost all the 18,000 reductions announced in July," the spokesperson said.

Today's cuts follow two previous rounds of layoffs. Microsoft kicked things off in July, axing 13,000 in the first wave before cutting another 2,100 workers in September.

GeekWire reported that about 638 of today's layoffs were in the Seattle area, for a total of 2,700 layoffs in Microsoft's home region, where the company employed some 42,500 people at the end of September. The report noted that many of the downsized positions were in support roles, including finance, human resources, sales, and marketing.

The reductions come as Microsoft works to integrate the Nokia handset business it acquired in April for $7.2 billion. Following the Nokia deal, Microsoft's employee headcount rose from about 99,000 last year to 127,000. About 12,500 of the 18,000 layoffs came from Nokia, including professional and factory workers.

In a July memo to employees, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, pictured, said the company would largely nix work on Android-based devices. "We plan to shift select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows," he wrote. "This builds on our success in the affordable smartphone space and aligns with our focus on Windows Universal Apps."

October 27, 2014

Microsoft Office 365 Users Get Unlimited OneDrive Storage

Microsoft OneDrive LogoScrew your cloud storage limits!

Microsoft just announced that all Office 365 subscribers will now get unlimited OneDrive cloud storage at no additional cost. Like, as much storage as you need. You'll never run out.

Redmond today started rolling out the unlimited storage limit to Office 365 Home, Personal, and University customers. The rollout will continue over the coming months; if you're eager to get more storage head over to the OneDrive website, where you can sign up for a spot at the front of the line.

Microsoft said this is a perfect opportunity to start taking advantage of the auto upload feature for your camera roll on your phone, so that all your snaps will be backed up in the cloud.

In a blog post Monday, Chris Jones, corporate vice president of OneDrive and SharePoint, said unlimited storage is just one part of Microsoft's broader promiser to deliver "a single experience across work and life that helps people store, sync, share, and collaborate on all the files that are important to them, all while meeting the security and compliance needs of even the most stringent organizations."

October 20, 2014

Report: Microsoft Finally Ready to Release Smartwatch

Microsoft smartwatch patentMicrosoft is reportedly prepping a wearable device for launch in the next few weeks.

The smartwatch, which tracks a wearer's heart rate and syncs with various mobile platforms, Forbes said, is expected to hit shelves in time for the holiday shopping season.

Notably, the device would sync across platforms to iPhones, Android devices, and Windows Phones, Forbes said.

Redmond's wrist-worn gadget has been rumored since May, when a 2012 patent for a "wearable personal information system" (pictured) was published. The product license tipped a wearable machine with a miniature computing device that can be locked into a wristband while in use, or removed and mounted on a dock to charge or sync data.

A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment on the report.

October 14, 2014

Windows 10 Preview Tops 1M Users

Windows 10

Almost two weeks after its release, Microsoft's Windows 10 preview has topped 1 million users.

"Over the weekend, we hit 1 million registrants for the Windows Insider Program," Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Operating Systems group, wrote in a blog post Monday. "That equates to a lot of people using the Windows 10 Technical Preview and sending us feedback."

Already, Redmond has received more than 200,000 pieces of feedback about Windows 10 from users. Most are running the forthcoming OS on an actual PC, rather than just trying it out for a few minutes on a virtual machine. Just 36 percent of Windows 10 preview installations are on VMs, while the remaining 64 percent are on actual PCs.

"This makes us confident that a lot of the feedback is based on 'medium-term' use and not just a few minutes of experimentation," Belfiore wrote.

October 12, 2014

Rumor: Microsoft Planning to End Surface Production?

Surface Pro 3Here's a rumor that has surely produced some eye rolls in Redmond— according to DigiTimes, Microsoft is planning to end production of its line of Surface tablets due to poor sales.

What's more, the tech site's unnamed sources claim that the "first- and second-generation Surface tablets are estimated to have created losses of about $1.7 billion" for the software giant.

Interestingly, DigiTimes itself has labeled its story a "rumor," which it rarely does when reporting information gleaned from its "upstream supply chain" sources in Asia. Microsoft declined to comment when contacted by PCMag.

However, a spokesperson for the company did point to a recent post on Microsoft's Surface blog as something that would "provide insight" into the company's commitment to its tablet line and especially to its business customers who rely on the Surface Pro 3.

In that post, Microsoft's Brian Hall lays out the case for businesses to purchase Surface tablets, which include pledges to maintain security and reliability with the platform, and to keep updating it with new software, including Windows 10 when it arrives.

Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy, questioned the likelihood of Microsoft pulling the plug on the Surface.