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Gadget Nibble 2014: Statistics

In 2014 large amount of Tech news was reported, from new devices to hacking and security fails. Lets take a look at what got you reading.

Continue reading Gadget Nibble 2014: Statistics

Ballmer hopes reshuffle will save Microsoft

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Microsoft has had a bit of stick recently and hasn’t faired too well in the PC market. Windows 8 has sold less copies than expected and the general PC trend is down. Microsoft hasn’t been able to adapt well to changes in the market and it shows. Their recent Xbox One 180 deal cost them a lot of credit and the executives behind that undoubtedly got a speaking to. But now Ballmer has announced a complete reshuffle of the firms hierarchy in efforts to boost “speed, efficiency and capability”.

The move was announced to staff via email and published to the sites press page. In a lengthy note Ballmer empathises the the idea and the strategy to improve Microsoft’s innovation. In a bid to remove bureaucracy and tighten the links between managers and employees there will now be organised departments within the corporation, including: Engineering, Marketing, Business Development and Evangelism, Advanced Strategy and Research, Finance, HR, Legal and COO. The last including customer support, IT and operations.

“There will be four engineering areas: OS, Apps, Cloud, and Devices,” Ballmer said.

Microsoft is trying to build upon previous success in order to survive, a more streamline integration of all consumer and enterprise services looks to be on the horizon. Microsoft has consolidated major roles into one key job, this allowing for better focus. For example Julie Larson-Green will now lead Microsoft’s Device and Studios Engineering. She will be following up all hardware from the largest to the smallest. The once software firm now seems to be taking an exceeding interest in hardware and it is yet to be seen if their lack of experience in this area will disadvantage them.

Microsoft is trying to achieve a goal some would say sounds very familiar.

“One experience, one company…Microsoft has the clear opportunity to offer consumers a unified experience across all aspects of their life”

The fact that Microsoft is trying to join their products and  x bcc into one unified symbol is not new to the market. All I have to say is one word… Apple.

In other changes the President of Microsoft Office division, Kurt DelBene, will retire as part of the shakeup.

Microsoft and Steve Ballmer believe that they can revitalise the Microsoft brand and use the success of Xbox and Windows to progress.

“We continue to look for signs on how the company can leverage its success in the Xbox business to re-energize its current efforts in the tablet and smartphone markets,”

The poor performance of Microsoft’s stocks have led some to speculate that the firm would soon ditch Steve Ballmer as CEO who took over from Bill Gates. The latest reshuffle could be an attempt to quench the fuming shareholders as forces move against Ballmer. Like Apple and Google’s recent reorganisation and later market success. Microsoft has been at the back of the pack for some time now and has been left behind by the mobile revolution. Their Windows Phone is doing OK, but thats it. Microsoft is trying the reform their business model through the tighter integration of services as Ballmer said they hope to: “take advantage of the power of one”.

Microsofts shares rose $1.01 at the announcement and the firm has been at an all time high this year at $35.67. Microsoft is trying to change itself not previously done before. It comes as Apple and more so Google are becoming trendsetters and innovative icons in the industry. In a market were mobile dominance and the ease of use are is key Microsoft has failed to keep up the pace. The one Microsoft  agenda and culling of ‘flabby’ divisions is seemingly similar to Apple upon Steve Jobs return in the 90’s – the vision of ensuring all devices work seamlessly with each other for a better experience.

Microsoft-Surface

Despite Windows 8 not gathering much ground it looks as though the firm may hold steady on that idea. They are spending more and more time being concerned with hardware and the Windows OEM platform and we won’t see this change at the moment. As Microsoft and Steve Ballmer move through the reshuffle analysts will sit and watch – the firm has lost its ‘wow’ since its revolutionary launch of XP, the worlds most popular OS, and is now a smaller figure in the IT world. Since Bill Gates turned philanthropical and left the company many questioned Ballmer’s ability to lead and push the company forward. Nevertheless the move to make the reshuffle signals that Microsoft know’s whats wrong and are now making moves to address the issues.

Read the full press memo here

Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9 Overview

Mac OS X has become one of the most successful OS lineups in recent years, now PC sales are declining the share of Windows PC’s continue to fall. Despite this Mac OS X is predicted to rise, only slightly, in market share and user numbers. Apple unveiled Mac OS X as a replacement to Mac OS 9 in 2001 and have flourished since then. Similar to their iOS ecosystem the UI may have grown stale – but Apple has developed a stable OS that many businesses and organisations are adopting and now relying on. We have had the lot, since 2001  every version of Mac OS X has been rightly named after a ‘big cat’ – now the latest move signals a new direction for Cupertino and their design team. No more Kodiak, Cheetah, Panther, Tiger, Leopard or Lion – lets take a surf and name it ‘Mavericks’…

Mac OS X Mavericks 10.9 is the tenth major release of Mac OS X and was announced by Apple at WWDC 2013, following a rather colourful launch of iOS 7, Mavericks looks a little duller than its smaller sibling; that said it still got a few tweaks under the hood. There are a number of welcome upgrades that Apple added, these aren’t revolutionary, more evolutionary and have the mindset of bridging the gap between iOS and Mac OS.

Finder

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The Finder got a welcoming tweak, sadly it is the same old Finder under the skin but now it is a lot more colourful; this seems to be a theme amongst Apple designers this year. Finder has now received the welcome addition of ‘Tabs’ to allow easier navigation and the ability to consolidate into one central space. Ever had multiple Finder windows open? Now there is no need. Those waiting for a dramatic rehaul of the UI better come back next year, this is as about exciting as Apple made it – but that said we have a few other tricks to show off too. Tabs can be reorganised, rearranged and fiddled with to your hearts content – definitely an idea ported over from Safari.

Where you expecting a major overhaul? Well not to be seen here. Instead we have got a nice few tweaks here and there but these are welcome. Finder has now got a new update, you can add tags to documents, folders and other stuff to collect and organise via keywords. Tags are colour coded and are available across all applications. For example you may have several word documents, presentations and spreadsheets for a specific event that can be tagged to appear all together.  Tags can be added when documents are saved via the save menu and now the tags appear in the side bar so you can sort on the go via Finder.

Multiple Displays

It is that age old problem, you have more than one display and you are limited by the fact you only have one keyboard. Now with Mavericks you can work seamlessly with multiple monitors. It may not be the biggest consumer benefit, but at a developers conference it gets a lot of approval. Now Apple allows you to have full screen apps running on both displays and the ability to have individual Mission Controls is a bonus. The set – up is a plug and play scenario. It is as simple as that. No more stretched desktops and now users  can independently control their desktops and not have to look at a stretched image. The iconic menu bar is translucent on the unused desktop until hovered over and now the dock will pop up when moused over. Apple’s new desktop set up will allow users to have 2 full screen apps, but that means no more super stretched apps that can take up two monitors. That may be good or bad – but for most workflows it will be beneficial for the average users.

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Notifications

Notifications didn’t get the same redesign that we saw in Mountain Lion or Lion, and the reception would have been a little less warming than Apple would have liked at WWDC. Notifications are now more interactive, larger and more ‘in your face’ than previous versions. Quick Reply allows you to reply to a message as soon as it appears at the side of the screen. Apple realised that if you do a lot of chatting an gossiping then having to switch back and forward between apps may become a tad annoying and has now given you the divine right to be able to answer messages via quick reply, which adds a little reply box to the notification. This will work for any message be it, email or iMessage. As well as personal notifications getting a refresh so did the background notifications and actions. Now the Mac App store will automatically download updates for programs and the notifications for alerts can appear on the lock screen as well. For those wondering about third party notifications, don’t worry. They will be coming soon; Apple has said that CNN, eBay and Yahoo Sports will also be able to make themselves comfortable within OS X.

Apple Maps

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Now if you wanted anything new and drastic in Mac OS X Mavericks… Here it is. Apple has given us something we all asked for (well maybe not all of us) and a worthy addition to the Mac family. Apple Maps (I hear you sigh) is now available for use on Mac OS. Don’t worry the service has improved from the rather shoddy launch last year and now it isn’t that bad. Apple has brought 3D flyover to the Mac and also the ability to pre-plan a route and send it to an iPhone. Of course maps won’t make the same entrance as on a mobile device, who has their Macbook strapped to the dashboard of their car? But it is  still a time saver and a welcome addition. While physically asking for a location the maps tended to be a little less accurate and clumsy in comparison to the mobile version. You can view the map in hybrid, satellite or standard view and will show traffic and toggle 3D perspectives. Where there is the capability to use Flyover then it looks amazing, but images take a long time to load and Apple really didn’t consider the real life usage of such as feature. The most useful feature of maps is now the ability to make a search or plan a route and then send it to your iPhone for later travel. Cool!

iBooks

Apple’s catch phrase “Mac joins the book club” is quite suitable for their latest foray. Now iBooks will be available on the Mac it means Apple can exploit the large amount of users who currently may be reading books via the Kindle app or the internet. Currently iBooks is a rather expensive competitor to Amazon and needs to work its way down in pricing, but the addition of iBooks on the Mac is a good starter. It is simple, iBooks downloaded will also be downloaded to your Mac and will be available to read with bookmark syncing and the ability to change the theme and fonts. Researching via iBooks? Copying a line from a book into Pages creates a citation and references the book – novel. I see this update as more of bonus for those who are tied to Mac for education and expect students may find this very useful indeed.

Safari and Calendar

It wouldn’t be right for Mac OS X to get an update and leave Safari and Calendar in the dark. Likely two of the most used apps on any computer, now Apple has improved their performance further – gone is the skeumorpism and in with the ‘grey’. Safari has a new Nitro Javascript engine and also remodels the UI of Top Sites with a flatter, greyer look.  A new unified sidebar allows you to access all your content in one central location including; Reading List, bookmarks and history. The new theme for Safari is undoubtedly ‘grey’ – the UI is grey, text is grey and now the background is grey. As well as the new look Apple added an extra sidebar named Shared Links, these show the latest links you’ve shared or had shared via social networking no need to login to find out what your friends have been sharing. Talking about logging in now you don’t even need to remember your password. Keychain can now save passwords with better encryption and even generate new ones for you. All secure in the world of Apple, you no longer even need to be able to create your own passwords. Apple has allowed the user to become lazy. Shame, they’ve taken the fun out of entering 500 incorrect passwords of wrong length.

In a final bid to stab skeumorphism in the back Apple also repainted Calendars. The new calendar isn’t grey, it isn’t black – no it is all white. Apple has moved away from the faux leather and reassured developers that “no cows were harmed” in the design of the new calendar. Admittedly it is easier to read, flows better and is more vivid. The need to flip over the page is gone and now calendar features continuos scrolling. Scroll till your hearts content. Connected a Facebook account? Now your Facebook events will also appear right in Calendar and will alert you appropriately. For those odd occasions when you are creating an event Calendar now features a smart filer  for your event details. Entering that you will go and eat pizza, brings up local pizza restaurants and now if you enter a location you will get the local weather as well. Great forward thinking. You can add travel times and now you can work that little bit more seamlessly between every other app in Mac OS X.

What next?

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While Apple has taken a hint from iOS and has ported over several ‘novel’ ideas, so Mac OS X Mavericks isn’t an entire fail. Don’t worry, for those afraid that iOS and Mac OS may merge, there are still things an iPhone can do a Mac can’t and vice versa. Sadly it is upsetting to see that iOS is leading the way in new features and not the two ecosystems growing independently of each other. Mac OS OX will have to work hard especially as the latest analysts figures show a decline in all PC sales, Mac will need to show it is worthy of your hard earned cash. Apple will need to further develop Mac OS X and iOS simultaneously but ensure that they are both different in their own ways, or risk cannibalisation. Mavericks is an obvious upgrade for any Mac user, of you wanted more – that isn’t Apple. Most OS X updates are incremental and we didn’t expect any less. So when the release date arrives, you can be safe in the knowledge it won’t be a Vista style launch.