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Google's Chrome OS has been in development for quite a while now, and has since late-2010 had the same system interface, until now. The latest developer version of the operating system sports a major redesign in its UI, and it is not only looking great, it's looking more and more like Windows, which isn't a bad thing.
The first thing people are going to do with Chrome is think "is it Windows?" and once they realise its not, they're going to attempt to use it. If they've never used the Chrome browser before, it'll feel very alien, much like OS X does the first time you use it after using Windows for X amount of years. Chrome OS now looks like a traditional OS, with a full-blown desktop and window manager instead of just a browser and tabs.
Chrome's next-generation use interface framework, known as "Aura", makes its public debut with the new developer version of Chrome OS. This is a huge change, as previous iterations of Chrome OS were just an operating system, within a browser that very closely resembled Google's popular web browser. This is a great move, something that I applaud Google for doing. You can sometimes think outside of the square, but sometimes floating outside of that square makes you think you require a triangle to be 'better' or 'evolved', a simplistic UI will go a long way to ensure that Chrome OS is a serious contender for the OS wars to come.
Microsoft to drop Windows Vista, Office 2007 mainstream support, XP's head arrives on the chopping block in two years time
We all knew this day was coming, mainstream support for Windows Vista will end on April 10 with Office 2007 receiving the same fate today. Windows XP and Office 2003 will enjoy another two years before being cut.
Microsoft divides its support lifecycle in two stages: "Mainstream" and "Extended". Within Mainstream, software receives the full range of free security updates, stability improvements, bug fixes, and occasional new features. Within the Extended phase, only security updates are made available, though companies with paid support contracts can receive other fixes.
Currently, Windows XP and Office 2003 are in their "Extended" support phase, which ends in 2014. Once this hits, they'll cease receiving even security updates, leaving anyone still running that software open to whatever malware the Internet throws upon them. Windows Vista and Office 2007 will be in Extended support from now until April 2017.
Samsung's GALAXY Note may have kicked arse in ad campaigns, beating out Doritos and M&Ms, and its reward may just be Ice Cream Sandwich. No really, thanks to Samsung and RootzWiki, you can now enjoy ICS on your 5.3-inch GALAXY Note smartphone.
RootzWiki have intensely tested the ROM before releasing it, so that the user ends up with a great experience rather than a slightly beautiful paperweight. RootzWiki's internal build tester provided them with the following rundown of working features:
- Face Unlock is fully functional
- LTE connections are solid and up to speed
- Phone calls work great both ways
- Audio quality is up to par
- Stereo Bluetooth is fully functional
- MMS is fully functional
- GPS is fully functional
- Google Talk and Video Chat work
- Google Voice is fully functional
- Task Manager is smooth and transitions are quick
- Downloaded Flash video and in-browser video works flawlessly
- Chrome autosync is fully functional
- AT&T Hotspot functionality works, external devices connect fine
Google have posted up their latest Android version distribution numbers, for the 14-day period ending on April 2, 2012. The numbers are quite interesting for Android 4.x Ice Cream Sandwich, where we can see the adoption rate rise from March 5th's 1.6-percent to 2.9-percent, now.
ICS was at just 0.6-percent on January 4, and had only risen 0.4-percent by February, and only rose 1-percent in March. To compare against Apple, iOS has a 75-percent adoption rate, with the latest iOS 5.1 at 61-percent last week. Will this adoption rate continue over the coming months? Yes and no. Some handset makers are pushing updates over-the-air (OTA), and some are not. Most Android consumers probably aren't even fully aware of Ice Cream Sandwich, where people with Apple devices tend to get OTA updates or buy new Apple products every 1-2 years.
Google's Gingerbread OS is still powering through with its numbers, with a majority of Android-based devices sporting the OS with a very hefty 63.7-percent market share. You can see on the above picture Android 4.0.3 is peeking up toward the end, but still it doesn't even begin to compare with Android 2.3.3.
Over the weekend Sony detailed their Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update plans for their Xperia lineup of smartphones, where we should see the ICS updates rolling out to no less than 11 Xperia handsets by mid-June. The update will be pushed out to some phones in mid-April, with these phones being the Xperia Arc S, Xperia Neo V, and Xperia Ray.
The late-May, early-June should see ICS-based updates for Xperia Arc, Play, Neo, Mini, Mini Pro, Pro, Active, and the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman as well. There is a problem with these updates though, is that none of them will be over-the-air (OTA), and will require that owners of these handsets who want to upgrade have to tether their handsets.
This is because Sony wants users to make a "conscious and informed decision to upgrade". All this means is that while Sony are pushing out ICS updates for 11 handsets, those who don't know about ICS will have to wait until Sony push them OTA, if they even bother doing so. I would expect a notification from Sony saying "your phone is compatible for an update, if you would like to do so, visit this site", and that site explains what ICS is, and how you upgrade.
Sporting a HSPA+ Samsung GALAXY Nexus (i9250) or an UMTS/GSM Nexus S (i9020), well, you might want to check System Update for a brand new update that Google took to Google+ to announce: Android 4.0.4.
Android 4.0.4 is also rolling out to the Motorola Xoom Wi-Fi, which is a bonus. At the moment, the Android 4.0.4 update isn't going to arrive on the CDMA-based versions of the phones, not yet anyway. What about Verizon GALAXY Nexus' phones, or Sprint's Nexus S 4G? No word on that yet either.
If you've gone one of the above phones, we suggest you update. Ice Cream Sandwich is beautiful and if you have a smart device capable of being updated to it, you should do it.
According to people who are usually in know regarding things like this, Windows 8 will feature multiple SKUs. You can think of SKUs as versions; each SKU will feature a different version of the code that is Windows 8. Similarly to how we currently have Windows 7 Starter, Home Basic, Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate, we can expect to have all of the above in Windows 8.
Of course there will be a SKU for ARM as well. Windows 8 is pretty lightweight, so there really isn't a reason to feature more versions than just a Consumer and Professional version. It's clear that Microsoft doesn't particularly care about consumer confusion. Windows 8 is pretty revolutionary, but it would appear that Microsoft hasn't left some things in the past.
Microsoft is hoping to attract the eyes and brains of iOS developers with a new design guide. The Windows Dev Center example shows the common differences in layout between an iOS app and Windows' new Metro interface, including not just the look, but how certain commands would unfold and how either would respond to gestures.
The most important element of this is an explanation of "contracts", or agreements between applications and Windows 8 that gives them permission to share files, or search between each other, play out to other audio sources, or toggle settings. This isn't a step-by-step instruction guide, but it shows that Microsoft sees iPad developers as a big step in their Windows 8 tablet plans.
Microsoft played out similar actions when rolling out Windows Phone, where they tried to lure iPhone developers. Microsoft's guides eventually led to tools to more directly help port apps, and even pay for ports with guarantees whether or not an app sold well. Microsoft seem to be trying very hard. On top of this, the Redmond-based company is also trying to lure traditional PC developers, using Intel-based systems, as well as ARM-based tablets that are more suited to combat Apple's iPad.
We should be expecting Microsoft to release their next-generation Windows 8 OS in October, where we could see both the x86 and ARM-based versions dropping simultaneously. This would give Microsoft a head start for the holiday season, letting tablet, notebook and other device makers ample time to get products ready for holiday consumption.
Bloomberg is reporting that Microsoft want to claw back some of the lost sales they've experienced because of the iPad, and reinvigorate the sluggish PC market. Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Garter Inc. has said:
If they miss the September-October time frame, they're going to be stuck without being able to ship anything in 2012. The last thing Microsoft wants to have is a situation where there are no compelling Windows tablets at a time when the new iPad looks like it's going to be a good seller for the holidays.
According to Bloomberg, who cite sources with "knowledge of the schedule", we should expect an event hosted by Microsoft next month where the company will unveil their release strategy for Windows 8, where they'll provide more details on timing and marketing. The same sources have said that there will be less ARM-based devices in the rollout, because Microsoft have tightly controlled the number and set rigorous quality-control
Screenshot renderings have floated up to the surface of the Internet, which are said to have been created by a former Nokia designer suggesting that the company may have been (at some time) considering its own custom Windows Phone interface. The concept sports free-form bubbles versus Microsoft's Metro-style tiles, with an overall theme geared towards female users.
Pocketnow notes that the designer had worked as a senior member of Nokia's research and development team, but has since transitioned to work on Accenture projects last summer. At the moment it's unclear whether the renderings actually represent any form of a final product, or concept that Nokia was considering. Nokia's partnership with Microsoft is also said to provide flexibility for Nokia to mess around with the UI and diverge from the consistent experience that Microsoft demands from other Windows Phone makers.