We've heard of pay-as-you-go cell phones, but can the same concept be applied to PCs? Microsoft thinks it can, who filed a patent application in June 2007 detailing a new PC business model. U.S. patent application 20080319910, published on Christmas Day, outlines how end-users would be charged based on usage time and performance levels in exchange for a free or heavily subsidized PC, in addition to a "one-time charge."
While not a rent-to-own scenario, Microsoft concedes that this business model could result in end users paying more for their PC in the long-run than buying it outright. But that's okay, the Redmond company says, because the result would be a PC with an extended "useful life."
"A computer with scalable performance level components and selectable software and service options has a user interface that allows individual performance levels to be selected," the patent application reads. "The scalable performance level components may include a processor, memory, graphics controller, etc. Software and services may include word processing, email, browsing, database access, etc. To support a pay-per-use business model, each selectable item may have a cost associated with it, allowing a user to pay for the services actually selected and that presumably correspond to the task or tasks being performed."
Microsoft says its proposed business model would allow a more granular approach to both hardware and software sales, rather than forcing PC vendors to try and maximize profits on a one-time sale. To give an example, the company points out a scenario with three bundles of applications and performance, where the Office bundle would cost end users $1 per hour, a Gaming bundle $1.25 per hour, and a browsing bundle $0.80 per hour. Alternately, a specific bundle could incur a one-time charge instead of usage-based billing.
Is Microsoft on to something, or on something with its metered computing vision? Hit the jump and post your thoughts.
Windows Vista never did manage to win over an enthusiast following, leaving many eagerly awaiting the release of Windows 7. But while Microsoft's next OS is still a year (or less) from release, you can already get your paws on the beta 1 version (build 7000). Windows 7 beta 1 isn't supposed to make its way into the public sector for another couple of weeks, but leaked copies have already started appearing on BitTorrent, and initial reactions is that it's pretty good.
"This beta is of excellent quality," ZDNet wrote. "This is the kind of code that you could roll out and live with. Even the pre-betas were solid, but finally this beta feels like it’s “done.” This beta exceeds the quality of any other Microsoft OS beta that I’ve handled"
ZDNet noted "exceptional" performance while playing with the beta code, saying it feels faster and more responsive than is typical of beta builds. But what the site didn't find were any new features compared to earlier builds.
BlogsDNA lists several torrent links for the DVD ISO image, which should make installation a breeze for anyone wanting to chance pre-release software.
ZDNet's Hardware 2.0 maven, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, rose to the challenge and has put Windows 7 build 6956 up against Vista SP1, Vista RTM (the original and worst), and Windows XP SP3 in three benchmarks: boot time, Passmark Performance Test 6.1, and Cinebench R10.
Not surprisingly, Windows Vista SP1 blew the doors off its RTM ancestor, but was similarly run off the road by Windows 7, which also made Windows XP SP3 eat its dust in virtually every test. The only test in which Windows XP SP3 held off its two-generation newer rival was in the OpenGL version of the Cinebench R10 benchmark. If this performance level continues until Windows 7 sees the light of day sometime next year, Windows 7 users will be very happy, and Windows XP diehards who have resisted "Mojave" will finally upgrade.
Join us after the jump for your chance to chime in on how you rate Windows 7 versus its predecessors.
If you're of "a certain age," you might remember when "computer literacy" equaled "everyone will be a programmer." Unfortunately, the limitations of BASIC (line numbers leading to incomprehensible "spaghetti code," primitive graphics, and no syntax checking) made most would-be programmers dropouts.
I haven't written a computer program in over 20 years, but Microsoft has introduced a modern, easy-to-use language designed for the masses (and for dropouts like me): Small Basic.
Small Basic, available in pre-release version 0.2, runs on Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008, Windows Vista, Windows Vista 64-bit Editions Service Pack 1, Windows XP, Windows XP 64-bit. It relies on .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, which you will need to install if you don't have it already.
This Ain't Your Daddy's BASIC
Microsoft says that Small Basic "is a project that is aimed at making computer programming accessible to beginners. The project comprises a simple programming language that gathers inspiration from the original BASIC programming language; a modern and attractive programming environment; and rich, extensible libraries. Together they make programming fun for kids and adults alike."
So, what's special about Small Basic, and how can you learn more about it? Join us after the jump for all the details.
Microsoft recently announced to its system-building partners that they would extend the pull date on Windows XP past the originally announced January 31, 2009.
These system builders are going to be allowed orders of XP all the way up until January 31, and they can ship them until May 30. “This is a good solution to support the customers that are standardized still on XP,” stated Michael Schwab, the co-president of D&H Distributing. “In this case, people contemplated buying in larger quantities [of XP licenses] and holding on to them. But that would have caused a bubble [from] people buying five months of supply in January.”
This appears to be another sign of the market’s resistance to getting Windows Vista. Despite all the clever ads, it still seems that people prefer Windows XP to the pretty new OS.
What about you? Are you still set in your XP ways or have you moved on to Vista? Let us know in the comments.
The results are in, and this might not surprise you, but Google’s market share is on the rise. November’s results show a meager, but still notable bump of 0.4 percent giving Google a grand total of 63.5 percent of all searches being done in the US. Google’s gains came mostly on the back of Microsoft’s Live Search and Ask.com which both gave up 0.2 percent. In terms of overall search engine market demand, the number of total inquires slipped a surprising 3 percent over October’s numbers. All the major search players noticed a roughly proportional drop in activity.
Despite the fact that Google appears to be well on track for world search domination, it’s worth pointing out that it isn’t all smooth sailing. The last time we reported on market share results back in August, Google enjoyed a whopping 69.17 percent of the global search market. Some of the smaller players such as AOL and Ask continue to hobble along with 3 to 4 percent of the market, but even though these numbers sound paltry, each 1 percent of the search market is reportedly worth around a billion dollars. That’s probably why competitors keep popping up, and seem to be slow to disappear.
Earlier this year, Microsoft said it would add native support for the Open Document Format (ODF) due in part to increasing pressure from customers "and because we want to get involved in the maintenance of ODF." The decision might seem a curious one given the effort Microsoft spent on pushing its OOXML through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), but the company said the changes OOXML had gone through in the ratification process ended up making it more difficult to support than ODF.
Holding true to its word, Microsoft has published documentation detailing its implementation of ODF version 1.1 In Microsoft Office 2007 Service Pack 2 scheduled for release in 2009. Microsoft also said similar notes about its implementation of Open XML are forthcoming.
“By publishing notes on how we are implementing file format standards in Microsoft Office, we are providing detail that others can use as a reference point for their own applications,” said Doug Mahugh, senior project manager for Office interoperability. “We encourage other companies to take similar steps to help achieve greater interoperability across the industry.”
But before Microsoft and the Open Standards community gathers around the virtual campfire and sings Kumbaya, TGDaily warns that a small number of caveats leaves the door open for Microsoft to introduce Microsoft-specific variations to the ODF standard.
Once again, Internet Explorer (aka "Internet Exploder") has been attacked through a "zero-day" remote code execution vulnerability. That might not seem like MaximumPC.com-worthy news, except for two factors: the flaw is affecting thousands of websites, and this time, it isn't just Firefox fans who are saying "time to switch browsers, already!" - security experts at Trend Micro, the Spamhaus Project, and the UK's PC Pro magazine are all recommending making a switch, according to the BBC. And here's why:
The flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer could allow criminals to take control of people's computers and steal their passwords, internet experts say.
Switching Browsers? Choices Abound!
Attacks against IE7 have been verified, but all versions of IE (including IE 8 Beta 2) have the same underlying vulnerability; a vulnerability not present in IE's competitors (Firefox, Opera, Chrome, and Safari). Switching browsers makes sense for most web surfing, but, alas, some websites and (of course) Windows Update and Microsoft Update for Windows XP won't work with anything but IE.
Redmond Readies Security Update
Since the vulnerability was detected on December 10th, Microsoft code jockeys have been working hard to patch the flaw (Redmond doesn't want you to switch, naturally, and given the way that IE and Windows work together, a broken IE isn't good for anybody), and a patch will be available tomorrow (December 17th) for all versions of IE from 5.01 up, applying to all versions of Windows and Windows Server from Windows 2000 on up. It's rare for Microsoft to perform a security update between Patch Tuesdays, but when a "Critical" vulnerability (the most dangerous category of vulnerability) is discovered, there's no time to waste.
If you must use IE and you're looking for workarounds until you can get the update, join us after the jump for details.
In the Holiday 2008 issue of Maximum PC we published a list called “9 Things Microsoft Got Right.” It was a lovely list, of course, but thanks to the space limitations of the print magazine we weren’t able to go into much detail about each of the items on it. We decided that the topic was interesting enough that it deserved more than that, so we’ve rewritten it for the web, with more information and analysis.
It looks like some up at Redmond have been finding the iPhone to be a sexier development platform than their very own Windows Mobile.
Seadragon, Microsoft’s backbone for Photosynth, has recently been released onto the iPhone app store. The snazzy app allows users to quickly “deep zoom” pictures while online, as well as take a grouping of images and forge them together into a mock 3D enviroment.
According to Alex Daley, the group product manager for Micorsoft Live Labs, “The iPhone is the most widely distributed phone with a (graphics processing unit). Most phones out today don't have accelerated graphics in them. The iPhone does and so it enabled us to do something that has been previously difficult to do."