Anyone who may have thought the death of Netscape would signal the end of the browser wars, boy were they mistaken. In fact, it could be argued that it was at that point it all began. It didn't take long for Mozilla's Firefox to emerge from Netscape Navigator's ashes, and over time, Firefox would win over enthusiasts with a potent combination of speed, security, and an unprecedented level of customization.
But what started as a two-man battle is quickly growing into all-out warfare. Prepare to be overwhelmed by an onslaught of new browser releases in the coming months as Microsoft, Mozilla, Apple, Opera Software, and Google all vie to provide your vehicle for navigating the web. Each one brings something new to the table, whether it be blazing fast performance or a unique feature-set. Don't worry if you haven't been paying attention - we jump in the trenches with whole lot of them and get to know each one on a personal basis.
Hit the jump to find out everything there is to know about the browsers of today and tomorrow!
During his annual “strategic update” with Wall Street analysts, Steve Ballmer made it very clear that Office 14 will not launch in 2009. Normally outside of the business community, few would take notice of this. But with the high profile beta of Windows 7 igniting a passion in both raging Microsoft fans and Mac / Linux converts alike, a delay on the Office side should have everyone concerned. The reason for this is simple; Office releases usually follow operating system launches extremely closely. Windows XP & Office XP both shipped together in 2002, and Windows Vista & Office 12 shipped together in January 2007 as well. Even though some versions of Office have released in-between operating systems, if we simply rely on history as a guide we won’t be seeing Windows 7 until 2010.
Microsoft released an alpha version of its new office suite back in January, and rumors were swirling that Office 14 would indeed come in 2009, rumors Steve Ballmer has now put to rest. With an open beta not planned until sometime in the summer, it seems likely that the RC (release candidate) version would push well into the fourth quarter and see an early 2010 release.
Now that we know Windows 7 development is far ahead of Office, will Microsoft delay the launch in order to have a concurrent release? Or will it break with tradition in order to capitalize on the good will that has been building since the release of the beta. Hit the jump and let us know what you think.
Microsoft recently slapped TomTom with a patent infringement suit. The Redmond-based tech behemoth has claimed that TomTom’s devices are in direct violation of eight of its patents.
Some fear Microsoft’s suit against TomTom may be a straw in the wind, as three of the claims are related to the use of the Linux kernel. Microsoft’s lawyer Horacio Gutierrez tried to dispel such misgivings. He told Cnet that the claims pertaining to the implementation of “file management techniques used in the Linux kernel” are only specific to TomTom.
He insisted that Microsoft is not going to mount a massive legal assault against the open-source community. Jim Zemlin, the Linux Foundation’s executive director, also feels that it is unfair to jump to conclusions about the scope of this lawsuit. Gutierrez and Zemlin certainly don’t think that Microsoft’s suit against TomTom is an indicant of trouble for the open-source community. What do you think?
Microsoft made the Windows 7 Beta public, and many of you heeded the call of duty. With your bug testing hat on and feedback hands ready to type, you’ve made it possible for Microsoft to announce a whopping 36 updates to the release candidate.
“We’ve been quite busy for the past two months or so working through all the feedback we’ve received on Windows 7. It should be no surprise but the Release Candidate for Windows 7 will have quite a few changes, many under the hood so to speak but also many visible,” wrote Steven Sinofsky on Microsoft’s Engineering Windows 7 blog.
Among the laundry list of changes are edits so the desktop experience, networking upgrades, changes to the control panel, windows media player updates and performance upgrades. If you’re looking to check out the whole list of changes, be sure to check out the blog here.
Microsoft offers plenty of software, there’s no doubt about that. And, currently in their server division alone there are 45 different packages for potential buyers to choose from. Still, the big wigs up in Redmond feel that they’re missing out on one group entirely, and that’s the sub-$500 crowd.
Within the next couple months Microsoft plans to introduce a low-cost, low-price, low-functionality Windows Server SKU named Foundation Edition. He’s comparing this server software to the netbook phenomenon, which has allowed Intel to sell millions of processors to a newly created platform in a very short period of time.
The primary target for these servers will be emerging markets, but if the netbook is any indication as to what happens once smart people get their hands on cheap tech, saturated markets mighty take advantage of this as well.
If you've ever been subjected to a babel of echoing voices during a teleconference, Microsoft Research is working on a solution. As demonstrated (link requires Microsoft Silverlight) at this week's TechFest, MR's audio spatialization project enables a PC with stereo speakers to spatially separate different members of a teleconference. Audio spatialization's been used for years in 3D gaming, but Microsoft Research has added a new twist: to make it work for teleconferencing, it's also added echo cancellation. As researcher Zhengyou Zhang puts it:
Audio spatialization uses speakers to create the illusion that call attendees have different locations spatially. This allows you to use the audio sense you already have, that you normally use in conversation, to isolate who you’re talking to, and to associate a location in space with a particular individual... In a conference where there are multiple voices coming out of multiple speakers, it becomes important to eliminate the echoes that might naturally occur.
Microsoft has posted a video demonstrating its Situated Interaction project, which the company says "aims to enable a new generation of interactive systems that can reason about their surroundings and embed interaction deeply into the natural flow of everyday tasks, activities, and collaborations."
To show off the technology in a possible real-world application, researcher Dan Bohus introduces a virtual receptionist he says is capable of free-flowing conversation. In the video, a realistic looking woman appears on screen and immediately recognizes everyone within view of the camera and tracks their poses, such as whether an individual is facing the screen or looking around elsewhere. Combined with which direction the microphone picks up sounds, the clothes worn by the 'actors,' and other variables, the virtual receptionist is able to figure out which individuals are in a group together.
The demonstration is pretty impressive, marred only by the woman's voice. This undoubtedly will improve over time, but as far as the video goes, we're reminded of the old Dr. Sbaitso program for DOS, a virtual psychiatrist app that came with some Sound Blast soundcards in the early 1990s.
View the video here, then hit the jump and tell us what you think.
Microsoft Research's latest chance to shine is this week's TechFest 2009. Microsoft Research has a long list of innovations, including the Microsoft Surface touch-sensitive interface, the Unwrap Mosaic video editor, the Songsmith music composing utility, Image Composite Editor, and many more. TechFest serves two purposes: it makes sure that everyone at Microsoft can tap into what's being developed at Microsoft Research, and it acts as a sort of high-tech equivalent to an auto show, demonstrating the concepts that might (or might not) make their way into future products from Redmond.
This year's TechFest features projects as varied as combining multiple cell phone videos to create a high-res version; using digitized books on video DVD to create a high-capacity, low-cost library and school resource for developing countries, and ways to create Augmented Reality, which overlays digital data with real-world information, to name just a few.
So, how important are Microsoft Research projects to Microsoft's future? As Microsoft Research head Rick Rashid sees it, the investment Microsoft makes in research is "really about an investment in survival." What do you think is the coolest concept at this year's TechFest? Join us after the jump and tell us about your favorites.
Look what the mail truck dragged in! After first announcing the X8 in early September (where we got our first look and photos of the mouse), Microsoft has finally shipped the latest addition to the Sidewinder gaming mouse family. The X8 adopts Microsoft’s proprietary Bluetrack technology, which empowers it with 4000 DPI tracking resolution (scalable from 500) and the ability to work on almost any surface. We tested this claim on five different surfaces, from a rough wood desk to Styrofoam board and even coarse carpet. The mouse worked fine (though understandable not perfectly smooth) on all of our test surfaces, and only failed when we tried moving it over glass.
The shipping version doesn’t differ much from the pre-production model we fondled back in September, and retained the nice grip and smart button placement that we liked from our first hands-on. The included rechargable battery was a cinch to install, and tethering the mouse to the thin magnetic cord didn’t hinder our sweeping mouse movements. The wireless receiver is built into a clunky puck-like disc that sits on your desk, which ensures that you get better reception than if the receiver was hidden on a USB key behind your PC. The X8 still feels big for some hands, but our initial impression is that this is a winner. We’ll post our full review soon, but for now, enjoy these sexy unboxing and handling photos.
A major theme of this year’s TechFest—the conference for Microsoft’s researchers to show off all their coolest projects—has been human-computer communication. Of all the demos we’ve seen so far, we think the Commute UX in-car dialog system, seen in this video, is the most likely to actually impact our lives within the next, say, five years.
Commute UX is an advanced speech recognition system designed for use in cars. In the video, Principal Architect Ivan Tashev shows off how it can be used to quickly and smartly (based on incomplete information) select a song to play from an onboard MP3 player. It can also manage your cell phone, allowing you to dial a contact by voice (yawn), or even to dictate a reply to a text message (!). Finally, Tashev demonstrates how the car’s user manual can be integrated into the system, allowing you to ask questions about the operation of your vehicle, a feature that will be especially useful in rental cars.
We may have exaggerated a little in the title; Commute UX isn’t going to help you fight crime, or even keep you company on the long, lonely road. Still, it does look like it could be an incredibly practical technology for controlling the peripheral elements of your automobile. Stay tuned for coverage of other new technologies shown at TechFest!