Adobe began shipping its Creative Suite 4 (CS4) this week, and perhaps the most significant new feature from a typical Maximum PC reader's point of view is the support for GPU acceleration in Photoshop CS4 and other components, including Bridge CS4, After Effects CS4, Premiere Pro CS4, Acrobat 9, and Flash Player 10.
In the latest indication that Windows Vista's not one of Redmond's greatest hits, Windows XP (aka "The operating system that will not die") has won another reprieve. Friday, Microsoft confirmed rumors that OEMs bundling Windows Vista Ultimate or Vista Business can continue to order media for downgrades to Windows XP Professional until July 31, 2009 . Meaning, for those paying attention, that Harry Potter could get a Vista system downgraded to Windows XP for his birthday. Previously, the last day for downgrade media was going to be January 31, 2009. 1-31-2009 remains the deadline for system builders (aka "the corner computer store") to buy Windows XP licenses for their systems.
As an OEM product, Windows XP won't quite make it to Windows 7's anticipated release date of January 2010, but it will get closer than anyone could have guessed when it was released in October 2001.
So, what say you? Have you exercised your downgrade rights to send a Vista machine back to XP land? Any tips or tricks to consider? Hit the jump for your chance to sound off.
Thankfully, that very strange Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld TV ad isn't the only way that Microsoft is reaching out to a customer base that's still suspicious of Windows Vista. The San Jose Mercury News' SiliconValley.com website reports that Microsoft is planning to put 155 "Microsoft Gurus" into big-box electronics stores like Best Buy and Circuit City to help improve how Windows Vista and other parts of the Windows ecosystem are received by retail customers. It's part of a $300 million marketing campaign that also includes closer cooperation between Microsoft and major computer OEMs to make Windows faster and more reliable.
According to the official Microsoft news release, you can expect to see the gurus located in specially-branded 'store within a store' locations by year's end, using techniques being developed at Microsoft's Redmond-based Retail Experience Center (see photo at the start of this article).
Microsoft compares its new retail methodology to the personal shoppers employed by high-end stores such as as Nordstrom, while others suggest comparisons with the Apple "Genius Bars" located in Apple retailers. One difference: Microsoft Gurus are tasked with handling pre-sales questions only , while the Apple Genius Bar personnel can also provide technical support.
For anyone who's ever had to drive off a commission-based computer salesperson's desperate struggle to load you up with a lifetime's supply of ink or toner, a USB cable for each finger, or other high-margin goods, one question is, 'how will Microsoft Gurus be paid?' SiliconValley.com quotes Microsoft GM of Corporate Communications, Tom Pilla, as saying a major determining factor will be customer satisfaction and their "ability to translate the technology to a language consumers feel comfortable with."
So, how do you think the Microsoft Guru program will work out? For your chance to sound off, see us after the jump.
We sat down with Microsoft to hear the company’s side of the Vista story. What lessons have been learned following the worst Windows launch in the company’s history? Is Microsoft doing enough to regain PC users’ faith?
Way back in January 2007, after years of hype and anticipation, Microsoft unveiled Windows Vista to a decidedly lukewarm reception by the PC community, IT pros, and tech journalists alike. Instead of a revolutionary next-generation OS that was chock-full of new features, the Windows community got an underwhelming rehash with very little going for it. Oh, and Vista was plagued with performance and incompatibility problems to boot.
Since then, the PC community has taken the idea that Vista is underwhelming and turned it into a mantra. We’ve all heard about Vista’s poor network transfer speeds, low frame rates in games, and driver issues—shoot, we’ve experienced the problems ourselves. But over the last 18 months, Vista has undergone myriad changes, including the release of Service Pack 1, making the OS worth a second look. It’s time we determine once and for all whether we should stick with XP for the next 18 months while we wait for Windows 7. But before we answer that question, let’s review exactly what’s wrong with Windows Vista.
Vista almost seems to be an anathema, for about 3/4th of the enterprises are so unequivocal in their dislike for Vista that they don’t even intend to adopt the OS three years down the line. Around 28% envisage a move to the OS anywhere between late 2008 and 2010. Half of those surveyed are not fazed by the end of XP’s retail sales and OEM distribution.
Lesson for Microsoft: The Mojave Experiment hasn’t been able to fool incredulous enterprises and it's time that MS devoted more time to addressing Vista’s glaring performance issues. Address their grievances, the tide will surely turn.
It's a super-sized Patch Tuesday this month, and here's what to expect Windows Update to be sending you in the next day or so (if not already). Follow the links if you prefer to install the updates immediately.
Critical updates include:
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in Windows Image Color Management affects users running Windows XP, Windows Server 2003, and Windows 2000 SP4 (Windows Vista users can breathe easy on this one).
A fix for a sextet of vulnerabilities in Internet Explorer 5.01, 6, and 7 affects users of Windows 2000 SP4, Windows XP SP2 and SP3, Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows Server 2008.
A fix for a remote code execution vulnerability in the ActiveX control for Microsoft Access's snapshot viewer affects Office 2000 SP3, Office XP SP3, and Office 2003 SP2 and SP3 (Office 2007 users, you ducked this one).
As we told you last week, Microsoft rolled out two new security programs, Microsoft Active Protections Program and Microsoft Exploitability Index, during the Black Hat USA 2008 Conference. Unfortunately for Microsoft, the same conference saw a presentation by security experts Mark Dowd and Alexander Sotirov that renders these and other protections for Windows Vista, including its much-touted Address Space Layout Randomization (ASLR) and Data Execution Protection (DEP) features, effectively null and void.
How did they do it? The full presentation (available here in PDF format) is quite technical, but here's the short version. according to SC Magazine:
In explaining the problem, the researchers said that most memory protection mechanisms are based on two things: detecting corruption and stopping common exploit patterns, and attempts to reinforce these are integral to Vista. But in many cases, some of the built-in protection mechanisms in Vista are not enabled by default for compatibility reasons.
“At the desktop level, compromises had to be made because of compatibility issues. Exploiters have a lot more control over browsers,” Sotirov said.
And in many cases, third-party applications are not compiled to use the Vista memory protections. For example, Java and Flash are not compiled using the critical protection called ASLR.
What can be done? My take: Microsoft needs to rethink the balance of compatibility versus protection, do a better job of informing users of what's protected and what's not, and get third-party application vendors to take advantage of the protection features in Vista. What about ordinary users like us? Watch out for compromised legitimate websites, and, as always, as our own Will Smith says, think before you click.
What's your take on Vista and other browser security issues? See us after the jump for your chance to sound off.
The results of Microsoft's Project Mojave, in which Microsoft demoed Windows Vista under a code name for 120 Vista skeptics in the San Francisco area, are now avaiable online, the Windows Vista blog reported today, and also explained some test details:
The focus group took place over three days in San Francisco and was conducted earlier this month.
All participants were either Mac, Linux, or users of versions of Windows that came before Windows Vista.
Respondents were chosen from the focus group organizer's database, called at random, but then selected based on having a low perception of Vista (<5 rating on a scale of 1-10).
The participants were given a demo by a trained retail salesperson - geared towards the experiences they seemed most interested in following a series of interviews. While the retail salesperson drove the demo, it was geared by the interests and direction of the participant.
We did not use some geeked out or custom built PC. We used an HP Pavilion DV2500. It had 2GB of RAM and was running an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU T7500 @ 2.20GHz. The OS was a 32 bit version of Windows Vista Ultimate.
Of the 120 respondents* polled, on a scale of 1:10 where 10 was the highest rating, the average pre-rating for Windows Vista was 4.4. After they saw the demo, respondents rated Mojave an average of 8.5.
*84% of respondents use Windows XP; 22% use MacOS; 14% use versions of Windows before XP; 1% use Linux.
To see the interviews for yourself, head over to the Mojave Experiment website.
To learn more about the history of hidden-camera marketing campaigns, and to find out who might have suggested it first, see us after the jump.
CNet reports that the development of Windows 7 is going well. According to Windows unit head Bill Veghte:
The product is tracking very, very well. We are committed and looking good, relative to our commitment--[shipping Windows 7] three years from general availability of Windows Vista.
That wasn't the only good news for Windows fans in Veghte's talk, though. The Mojave Project, which provides Windows XP users a chance to "taste-test" Vista under the code name Mojave, is making inroads (read our take here). Veghte also cited recent internal figures showint that 89% of users are "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with Windows Vista, and 83% would recommend Vista to friends or family.
Veghte also states that Internet Explorer 8, which we told you about earlier this year, will be available in final form later this year.
What are your plans for Windows Vista or Windows 7? See us after the jump for a chance to talk back!