This weekend, Microsoft quietly rolled out a preview release of the Microsoft PC Advisor to select members of the Windows Feedback Program. (Members of the Windows Feedback Program agree to let Microsoft monitor their machines closely, and Microsoft uses that data to determine what types of problems real users experience.) The invitation to try out the PC Advisor made some intriguing promises—the app will monitor our PC for problems and give solutions in real time and it will monitor system settings for potential pitfalls. The survey that preceded our download was even more interesting, it hinted that Microsoft's ultimate goal for the new app is complete Apple domination. Hit the jump for our full report on Microsoft’s new PC Advisor, the Apple tie-in, a whole bunch of screenshots and the first-hands on report we've read so far.
We don't always agree with sister site MacLife.com's outlook (we recently had to slap the site silly when it went on the offensive towards PC users), but this is one time we find ourselves on the same side of the fence. Is anyone expecting great things out of Flash for the iPhone?
MacLife says no and points out several reasons why iPhone owners may rue getting what they wish for. Chief among the fears is a lack of usability in which the desktop experience for Flash heavy sites might become a convoluted mess when ported to the iPhone. Other concerns include irritating ads (you know they're coming), more frequent crashes back to the home screen, and a tug of war over standards.
A collective sigh of relief was let out Thursday, as a panel of federal judges who determine royalty rates for recordings ruled to renew the current royalty rate until 2012. The ruling by the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of three judges appointed by the Librarian of Congress, applied directly to mechanical royalties (which as we mentioned before, are the fees paid directly to songwriters and publishers of music, not the performers).
The currently royalty rate of 9.1 cents was lobbied to receive a 66 percent increase by music publishers, concerned about losing income as music sales decline. Labels and retailers pushed to judges to adopt a new model that would determine royalty payments as a percentage of wholesale revenue, however neither of these suggestions made the ruling.
One document in the hearing, submitted by an Apple executive, had threatened that a significant inflation in royalty rates could potentially force them to shut down the massively popular iTunes music store, which has sold over 5 billion songs to date. While Apple sees substantial sales, they operate with very thin margins.
There are still some in the music industry that have claimed that new rulings such as these might not be enough to satisfy the insatiable rise of illegal file sharing. “Whether these developments will be sufficient to return the music industry to health is not clear,” said Jonathan Feinstien, a music lawyer at the Krasilovsky & Gross firm in New York.
Apple has threatened to close its iTunes music store, if the Copyright Royalty Board approves a hike in the royalty rate on music sales. The board is to give its decision on Thursday. The National Music Publishers’ Association is pleading for a hike of 66% in royalty rates. On the other hand, digital store owners are demanding a cut in royalty rates.
"If the [iTunes store] was forced to absorb any increase in the ... royalty rate, the result would be to significantly increase the likelihood of the store operating at a financial loss -- which is no alternative at all,” Apple’s VP Eddy Cue warned the board in a filing.
Do you believe Apple can take such a drastic step?
By our own admission, MacBooks aren't half bad. In Maximum PC'sApple's Notebooks Take On the PC Competition, Apple's MacBook walked away as best-in-class in the professional segment, much to the dismay of the PC faithful. But that doesn't mean we're willing to squeeze our wallet dry to own one.
On average, you can expect to pay twice as much on an Apple PC versus a Vista computer. And people are doing just that. Windows PCs still dominate the lion's share of the market at 80 percent, but Apple continues to cling to a respectable 20 percent slice of the pie. Making its piece even more savory, Apple's making over 35 percent of the revenue share. Think about that. Despite claiming one-fifth of the market, Apple's cashing in on over a third of the revenue.
These numbers come courtesy of the latest NPD sales information, but some feel that Apple has done as well as it ever will at the current price point. Joe Wilcox from eWeek writes, "What's next? I predict that Apple's grab for dollars has gone about as far as it can, without price cuts. Apple's higher prices buck industry trends."
That may be the case, but can trendy hipsters be expected to buck the trend of overpaying?
While Crockford says we need a new war, I'd argue that we've already got a dandy one going on right now: IE is being challenged by Mozilla Firefox, while Google Chrome has just entered the ring to go head-to-head with Opera and Apple Safari to fight for third place.
To find out why I think Browser War II is already on, and why it might turn out a lot better than the first war of the browsers, join us after the jump.
If you play vidoegames, there's something wrong with you.
No, no, not in the "And your face is dumb and those pants do, indeed, have people mistaking you for a land-walrus" sense; I mean that you're genuinely dissatisfied with some aspect of your life. At the very basest level, you're bored. Life, at the clock tick during which you choose to plop down with a controller, just isn't giving you the pulse-pounding rush you desire. That's a problem, and gaming is your escape.
Thus, we walk right into the term "escapism." The moment you hit the power button and leave a game world's towering doors swinging wide in your wake, your mid-level job, your annoying roommate, and your walrus-pants are all left pounding their fists on the other side.
But that's where our paths diverge.
For instance, my mind wanders when its juices aren't crashing toward one coherent goal. To properly leave my world behind, I need another established world to focus on. I need a game that'll pour so many thoughts into my mind that all of my real world baggage gets crowded out.
However, you might be different. You might enjoy sitting back, relaxing, and turning off all but your basest inhibitory functions. You might be a Nintendo fan. After all, who really wants to think after a tough day in the office?
So, when you're bitter, sore and nursing a severe case of the Mondays, which games help you escape? Do you kick back with something simple and fluffy, or do you absorb yourself in more complex fare?
Well, either way, today's Roundup is nearly guaranteed to slump your tensely hunched shoulders. Unless you're emotionally invested in the well-being of Ensemble Studios, Fallout 3's global censorship, or your inability to ever play Portal 2 as a result of the world's untimely end, this Roundup is like slipping into a steamy bath.
After a few eyebrows were raised over Chrome’s highly libertarian end-user license agreement (EULA) – almost a proclamation of a man’s fundamental right to piracy, an amendment or an explanation was inevitable. Chrome’s EULA stated that users were at liberty to use anything posted online through the browser. But Google has amended the EULA. The web juggernaut also downplayed the entire episode as a mistake. Setting the EULA aside, a few chinks in Chrome’s armor have already been sighted. Avi Raff, a researcher, has discovered that Chrome is vulnerable to carpet-bombing a la Safari.
Microsoft is no stranger to digital distribution: its popular Xbox Live service was a first for game consoles. However, the company has no effective digital distribution channel to sell the myriad of third party apps for its Windows Mobile OS. But Microsoft seems to have finally taken a leaf out of Apple’s book with news of an application store for the Windows Mobile platform doing the rounds.
It remains to be seen whether the recent Mac clone phenomenon will turn out to be a legit business or a series of scams, but either way, things aren't looking good. You may recall reading about Psystar, a recent startup who purports to sell Open Computer setups running Max OS X Leopard. Despite confusion over where the company actually resides, the company appears to be in a legal battle with Apple over multiple counts of violating copyright, trademark, and breach-of-contract and unfair competition laws.
And what of Open Tech, the other Mac cloner who recently hit the headlines? In just three weeks after its official Mac-clone product launch, Open Tech vice president Elijah Samaroo sent an email to Wired.com announcing the sale of Open Tech's web store for a cool $50,000. Unlike Psystar, who sells pre-installed Mac-clones, Open Tech was offering to sell PCs with instructions detailing how to install any OS of choice, including Apple's, but is now prepared to let go of its "trade secrets" if it can find a buyer.
But wait, there's more! Adding more comic relief to the ridiculously high asking price for a shady startup, anyone interested in purchasing Open Tech can use the site's PayPal button to transfer the $50,000 and "as soon as the payment is received the Open Tech Papwork and Documents will be faxed or mailed to you."