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Microsoft Windows Live Messenger, previously known as MSN Messenger, will officially end later this year. The software giant is pulling the plug in October for Chinese users, ending 15 years of service to users. Microsoft's service will remain active until October 31, with Chinese users shifting to Skype later this year.
Microsoft purchased Skype and Windows Live was switched off to most of the world's users following the acquisition. Just five years ago Windows Live had more than 330 million users, but the user base fell as Skype became the go-to chat program - and had more than 300 million users in 2012.
MSN Messenger was launched in 1999 as a rival to ICQ and AOL's AIM chat services - with video calls, games, photo delivery, and other features added later. It didn't reach China until 2005, and faced challenges from QQ messenger and other rival domestic chat services.
There are reports a Chinese-made desktop operating system could be available as soon as this October, in an attempt to battle against Microsoft, Google and Apple, according to the Chinese media. If released as scheduled, it could help users upgrade desktop PCs within the next two years, with an effort to get more users on Chinese-made mobile software within the next five years.
Washington and Beijing have repeatedly accused one another of snooping, and government officials hope a Chinese-made OS would counter those security threats. The end of Microsoft Windows XP support earlier in the year has given rise to Chinese OS developers, but without a coordinated effort, it seems unrealistic that something for long-term use can be released.
Microsoft, Google and Apple have all had issues trying to promote their products in China - with Windows 8 banned from government PCs, Google controlling too much market share.
AMD has released the new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers, which no longer support Windows 8 - something that AMD hasn't supported since the Catalyst 14.6 Beta driver. AMD recommends that Windows 8 users upgrade to Windows 8.1 for free, so that they can take advantage of the new features found in the Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers.
The new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers offer "display interface enhancements to improve 4K monitor performance and reduce flickering" with the Radeon R9 290, R9 270 and HD 7800 Series all benefiting from this. The new drivers also offer some perofrmance improvements at 4K when gaming on Assassin's Creed IV, with up to 93% more performance with CrossFire.
You can download the new Catalyst 14.7 RC3 drivers here.
Companies should prepare sooner rather than later when it comes to upgrading from Windows 7, even though there are years left before support ends. Mainstream support for Windows 7 ends in January 2015, while end of extended support is scheduled for January 2020.
The end of extended support of Windows XP seemingly caught many businesses off guard, as they were reluctant to bother upgrading to Windows 7 or 8/8.1. Moving forward, Gartner recommends users deploy Windows 8/8.1 on new PCs, in an effort to phrase out Windows 7 slowly overtime. If companies are planning to phase out Windows 7 - but don't show interest in Windows 8 - then be prepared to upgrade to the latest-generation version of Windows.
"Organizations that have already deployed some Windows 8 PCs, or that decide that Windows 8.1 Update 1 provides an attractive platform, should not shy away from deploying new devices with the OS," according to Stephen Kleynhans, Gartner Research VP, in a blog post. "However, we expect that by the time an organization is ready for a broad rollout, Windows 8.1 Update 2 will have entered the market. Shifting deployment to Update 2 should be relatively straightforward for most organizations, and in that case, Windows 8.1 Update 1 should be seen as a pilot for that ultimate deployment."
There's not much reason to be excited over DirectX 12 just yet, but Intel was showing off the performance and power benefits of DirectX 12 at SIGGRAPH 2014. Microsoft used its Surface Pro 2 with Intel HD4400 graphics, showing off some impressive performance improvements, with heavily refuced CPU power consumption.
Intel had a demo that was rendering an asteroid field with 50,000 unique asteroids, each equating to 50,000 draws per frame. Each asteroid then had a unique combination of vertices, textures, and constants. Intel's demo was able to switch between DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 with a single key press, but it could also lock the frame rate in order to keep the workload on the GPU at a constant level.
The company was showing people the benefits of DX12, with massive power gains being unlocked from Microsoft's new API. Intel locked the frame rate of the demo, rendering it for a period of time on DirectX 11, and then switching over to DirectX 12. As you see in the graph above, the CPU power consumption was reduced by over 50% when DX12 was enabled, highlighting the fact that DX12-enabled games could offer some serious reductions in power consumption on our devices.
Valve is looking into 2015 with optimism, with its Steam Machines, Steam OS, Steam Controller, Steam Box and much more coming out next year. Between now and then, the Steam Database on Twitter (@SteamDB) has spotted the addition of a few interesting things in the latest beta of Steam.
SteamDB noticed films, TV series, video, plugin and music in the latest beta of Steam, with other users noticing Spotify mentioned in Steam code last year. This makes sense, as Valve is pushing Steam into the living room, with not only Big Picture Mode, but with all of its various services, hardware and even gaming systems coming out soon.
If Valve wants to compete against the likes of Sony, Microsoft and Apple, it's going to need to provide everything they do - movies, TV shows, music and much more. But with a kick-ass service like Steam behind it, could we finally see the living room become a proper, PC-based (but controllers on offer) gaming nirvana? I'm enthusiastic about it, with Valve having my total support for it - but this isn't Half-Life 3 confirmed just yet.
Microsoft has issued an update for the popular Office for iPad app that brings some new tricks for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The update brings several user requested features to the apps, with one of the big new features being the ability to export files as PDFs.
Each of the apps has also received new Picture Tools that allow users to the ability to crop to focus on the portion of the image that's important. All three of the apps also get support for third party fonts in the update.
Excel also gets improved support for external keyboards and support for "Flick to Select" so you can select data in a cell with a flick of your finger. The new features for Word include the Picture Tools, fonts, and PDF feature. PowerPoint received more improvements with a new Presenter View, new presenter tools for highlighting and drawing, and more.
Fans of Chrome for Windows have something new to check out on the beta channel for the software. The 64-bit version of Chrome for Windows is finally available to download and try. As a beta product, you can expect there to be issues with the software right now.
There are a couple caveats to the software as well; one of those caveats is that the 64-bit version only works with Windows 7 and Windows 8 or higher machines. You will also need a 64-bit version of those operating systems.
The 64-bit version of the software brings some improvements to the mix that provide better performance and fewer crashes. "To try it out, download the 64-bit installer from our Beta download pages. The new version replaces the existing version while preserving all your settings and bookmarks, so there's no need to uninstall a current installation of Chrome," Google wrote in a blog post.
NVIDIA launches its kick ass new Shield Tablet today, and alongside it the company has launched its new GeForce 340.52 WHQL drivers. The biggest feature of the new GeForce 340.52 WHQL drivers is Shield Tablet support, as the company needs to update its drivers to bake in support for GameStream for its Shield Tablet.
The latest drivers are GameReady, which will include support for the upcoming Metro: Redux which arrives on August 26, and the Chinese launch of Final Fantasy XIV. There's not much else included in this release, other than the usual bugfixes. We do have WHQL goodness here, instead of a beta release that most people were running prior to the launch of 340.52 WHQL. You can grab the new drivers right here, or if you're like me, GeForce Experience will download them for you.
Microsoft has been peddling its OneNote note taking application to consumers on Android and other platforms for a long time now. The software giant has announced that it has now expanded availability for OneNote to the Amazon Fire smartphone and the Kindle Fire tablet.
The app for both devices hit the Appstore on July 24. The app is the same one that has been offered for Android devices in the past, the difference is that it is now available on the Amazon Appstore giving users on Amazon devices access.
OneNote is the only part of the Office suite that is available now for the Android platform. Other Office apps are expected to land for Android before the end of the year.