How to upgrade to Windows 8.1 Pro version from Windows 8.1 Preview

Microsoft finally has released the Windows 8.1 Pro version to public. This is an update to Windows 8, which in my opinion was a terrible UI for a laptop. The Windows 8.1 Pro update has some useful changes like showing the Home or Start button, allowing a single and uniform wallpaper background to both the desktop and the start screen and also allows readjusting the sizes of the app tiles on the start screen.

If you are someone like me, who is already running Windows 8.1 preview version, then these next steps will be very helpful.

Upgrading to Windows 8.1 from Preview version installed over Windows 8

If you have installed your Windows 8.1 Preview on top of PC running Windows 8, then you can easily update through the Windows Store app from your home screen.

Click on this direct link to Windows 8.1 Pro on the store and the Store App should start on your PC. The Store should show you the following screen.

Windows 8.1 Pro
Windows Store Screen for updating your PC to Windows 8.1 Pro version

The download is about 3.63 GB and will keep your PC settings and files but all your apps will need to be re-installed. Microsoft is releasing a lot of built-in apps with this update so there will a lot of new apps showing up on your Home screen.

If you did not update to Windows 8.1 Preview from Windows 8 but did so by booting from a ISO media, you still can download the Windows 8.1 Pro update but will need to purchase the Windows 8 licence. You can buy this licence here.

Upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 Pro

Now if you are running Windows 8 and not the 8.1 Preview version, then this link to the store should still work and take your to the Windows 8.1 Pro upgrade option.

Download and upgrade the version free. This will save all your setting, files and even apps from the previous version.

Useful links:

Microsoft Buys Nokia: Checkmates itself?

In the game of chess, a player makes a move thinking about the 5 moves ahead. A move can be defensive or offensive. It can also assure mutual destruction and keep things status quo. If Microsoft was playing a game of chess it just might have checkmated itself with its acquisition of Nokia.

Checkmate_Chess
Image Source

What Microsoft does not get from Nokia!

Microsoft has bought the only company committed to the Windows platform. This means this purchase will not add more devices running on Windows but just more integration.

Why will an OEM spend money and time investing in a platform when the company has its own manufacturing line up.

This is how Samsung will look at having Windows OS on its phones. It will look at every dollar it gives to Microsoft, as giving a dollar to its competition Nokia.

Microsoft just might have made the Windows platform incredibly unattractive to smartphone manufacturers.

Microsoft is not Google

Some online chatter compared Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia with Google buying Motorola. Motorola could be on one level compared to Nokia as a fallen giant of the mobile phone manufacturing industry, there is not way Microsoft compares well with Google.

When Google bought Motorola, it had a very successful OS in Android. Android was the most popular OS running on smartphones around the world.

Even though Samsung and HTC might feel threatened about Motorola being a Google entity now, it still will think ten times over before leaving a popular platform like Android. Leaving the Android eco-system for any OEM will have a price attached to it. Microsoft’s Windows eco-system is nowhere close to being like Android.

Microsoft itself has many issues to resolve internally. Their current CEO is quitting soon and a successor is still not selected. They are yet to figure out a way to get some sort of foothold in the tablet market (Nokia itself hardly figures in the tablet market).

At this stage it looks like Microsoft just might have become very desperate and bought Nokia. And a desperate move is seldom a very good chess move.

What are your views on Microsoft acquiring Nokia? Do drop in your comments.

Trivia: Pratiek Parekh made an educated guess about Microsoft wanting to buy Nokia 2 years ago on our blog. Hear more about it here.

Microsoft CEO Ballmer to Retire: A Forgettable Legacy

Steve Ballmer in an email to employees announced, that Microsoft will now decide on a new CEO over the next 12 months when he will retire. The transition will mark the end of an era. Steve Ballmer was one of the first few employees of the Microsoft and became a natural successor after Bill Gates stepped aside as CEO.

Steve Ballmer to retire

Ballmer’s Forgettable Legacy

Bill Gates though at times criticized for his style of management and for his strategic decisions, left a brilliant legacy. Microsoft under him had revolutionized the computer industry. Steve Ballmer unfortunately will remembered for a forgettable legacy as Microsoft boss.

Ballmer became the CEO in 2000 and presided over a decade of Microsoft disappointments. Microsoft under him, managed to not anticipate the rise products like the iPod and later under-estimated the mobile industry. It did not anticipate the rise of Google. Microsoft sat by watching the decline of Internet Explorer’s usage, the rise of the tablet with iPad, the rise of Android and the existentialist decay of Bing. Microsoft turned into a company of second best products.

It took the PC-era success for granted and lately its attempts with Windows 8 for PC, tablet and phone have not been upto the mark at all. There were some things that Microsoft did get right under Ballmer – like X-Box and maybe Windows 7. But quitting before it was too late might be the wisest thing Ballmer has done for his company.

Hopefully Microsoft will be able to salvage a sinking ship in time, under a new leader who is more attuned and comfortable with the realities of the post-PC era.

Link: Full Text of Steve Ballmer’s Email to employees

Microsoft forced to rename "SkyDrive" after losing court case

SkyDrive_renamedMicrosoft sure makes some great bloopers while choosing a new brand name. After aggressively pushing the “Sky Drive” brand name for its cloud storage service after it closed down Live Mesh, it was taken to court by BSkyB (British Sky Broadcasting).

The court case was about trademark infringement mainly over the usage of the word “Sky” in a brand name. Microsoft embarrassingly has lost the case and will now need to rename “SkyDrive” to something else. It basically means all efforts of Microsoft to promote SkyDrive as a brand have come down to zero.

Microsoft has chosen to not keep fighting the case and has settled with BSkyB and agreed to rename the service. The confidential agreement apparently also agree on a financial settlement.

BSkyB has given some time to Microsoft to go ahead and re-brand their cloud storage service.

Microsoft’s similar disaster with “Metro”

This is not exactly the first time Microsoft has named a service and ended up having to rename their service because of legal troubles. It branded its design style on Windows 8 as “Metro Style”. The last August, it decided to drop the the name “Metro” from any branding. Hence “Metro UI” finally ended up being called “Windows 8 style UI”.

What new name do you think Microsoft should call “SkyDrive”? Do drop in your comments.

(via The Verge)

Windows 8.1: Microsoft tries to fix major annoyances with an incremental update

This had to happen and many people have seen this coming. Microsoft is finally trying to address many of users’ common annoyances with a small update to its OS, Windows 8.

Windows 8 had got a lot of criticism that it’s much harder to use than the previous versions and that the change is too drastic. All that is indeed true. Apparently, it’s impossible for Microsoft to completely take a U-turn and get back to Windows 7. So, now they’re trying to appease users by making it a little less confusing.

Here’s the new stuff Microsoft’s releasing with Windows 8.1.

Start screen with Wallpaper in Windows 8.1

Bring that Start button back

Personally, I never really cared about the lack of Start button in Windows 8. Though, that’s not the case with most mainstream users. So with 8.1, MSFT is bringing the Start button back. Yes, for real. But only the button. Nothing more.

If you hit the button, you’ll be taken back to the Start screen. Something is better than nothing, right?

Also, for all you Start screen haters, Microsoft has added a nice new feature to 8.1 and that’s boot to desktop. It will be off by default, but I’m sure there’ll be many users who will search for it and switch it on.

Do more inside Metro

App snapping in Windows 8.1

How much ever Microsoft tries to push Metro apps over desktop apps, it’s not going to change the fact that Metro apps suck. All stock Metro apps in Windows 8 are going to get updated, that includes Maps, Photos, Mail and etc.

Also, you can do a lot more customisation using Settings app itself, instead of relying on Control Panel. Again, it’s just Microsoft pushing Metro apps.

App snapping has improved too. If you have a multi monitor setup, you can now snap 3 Metro apps. You can also snap windows of the same app. Think of viewing two websites loaded side by side in two Metro IE windows.

Apart from these, there are small improvements like you can now search Bing through the Search feature in Charms bar. Windows Store, the ghost town, is updated with a better UI and more information and charts related to apps.

It seems like the update will be free for existing Windows 8 users and will probably made available in the Windows Store itself. (think OS X Mountain Lion)

Can these improvements make Windows 8 less irritating for you? Put that in the comments.

Source: The Windows blog

Related: Showdown: Windows 8 Vs. OS X Mountain Lion

Microsoft to Retire Live Messenger & Migrate All Users to Skype on April 8

Microsoft has started the inevitable process of retiring Live Messenger software. Along with that they are pushing users to move over to Skype. Apparently Microsoft Live Messenger will in all probability be retired for good and it will require all of them to start using Skype.

Microsoft bought Skype back in mid-2011. Since then, there have been enough indications that Skype would be preferred as a messenger of choice by Microsoft instead of its Live Messenger. The option to integrate Skype account with Live ID has been around for a while.

I checked the Live Messenger page and it also prompts users to download Skype.

Messenger_Skype

It was not exactly clear when Microsoft would pull the plug on Live Messenger once and for all. But it seems that date will be April 8. Skype’s blog suggests that it will be the date when desktop upgrades from Live Messenger to Skype will take place. That basically means if you are using Live Messenger on your desktop, you will be asked to upgrade straight-away.

In other words, the number of regular Live Messenger users will suddenly go down to zero.

If you are not living in China (where Live Messenger will continue) you might find the link below helpful for migrating from Live ID to Skype.

Link: Migrate from Live ID to Skype

Download – Full Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 Setup

Microsoft has rolled out .NET Framework 4.5 recently. If you programming with C#, Visual Basic and F# or writing Windows apps, then chances are you require the latest version of .NET Framework.

At the Microsoft Download center, the default link is the online installer. This means you download the installer and it needs to be connected online to install .NET Framework on your computer. That sometimes is inconvenient especially if your are on a slow connection or want to use the installer on other computers. Also sometimes you might want to install .NET Framework 4.5 on a computer that is not connected to the internet.

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This is why it is a better idea to download the offline installer. The offline installer is 50MB and installs the full framework.

Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 Requirements

  • The OS supported are Windows Vista SP2, Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 (x64) and Windows Server 2008 SP2 (x86 and x64).
  • The minimum hardware requirements are 512 MB RAM, 850 MB available space for (X86) and 2 GB space for (X64) versions.

Download Link: Offline Installer Microsoft .NET Framework 4.5 (x86 and x64)

5 Tech Companies for Whom 2013 Could be a “Make or Break” Year

As I decided to jot down things that I might expect to happen in the technology world in 2013, I ended up writing mostly thinking about Apple, Samsung, Google and Facebook. But what about very popular companies that are struggling? I thought it would be interesting to write down about five tech related companies for whom 2013 could potentially be a “make or break” year.

#1. Research in Motion (BlackBerry)

RIM BlackBerryThe Canadian company has been struggling not just from competition by Apple’s iPhone but also Android based phones. Once a BlackBerry phone symbolized the words “smart phone”. It is still a very popular phone with office going executives but it has lost out in being relevant to younger buyers. RIM also has seen its tablet offering called Playbook finding very few takers.

RIM will launch BlackBerry 10 featuring the new BB10 OS on 30th January. The year ahead with new BlackBerry phones could possibly mark its big turn around or its fall into the abyss. Forget an about turn, I am not sure it will even manage to keep a status quo in the mobile market. It will face additional competition from new Windows 8 phones that will enter the market in bigger numbers in 2013.

#2. Nokia

Nokia WIndows PhonesNokia has a glorious past as cell-phone manufacturer just like RIM. The company actually failed to get enough app developers on its platform and saw itself underestimating the acceptability of touch-screen phones. While Samsung bet on Android to produce smart-phones, Nokia shook hands with Microsoft.

In the year ahead, Nokia has a well received Lumia 920 running Windows 8. The next iteration of Lumia 920 will be crucial. The real problem for Nokia is that at the moment its destiny is not its own hands. It is in the hands of Microsoft’s Windows 8 phone becoming popular. Nokia will not just be working hard in 2013 but also praying hard for success of Windows 8 phone.

#3. Facebook

Facebook App AndroidFacebook had a mixed year in 2012. It launched its IPO, bought Instagram and showed off a newly designed mobile app for iPhones and Android. But these were not exactly signs of great innovation by Facebook. These updates and acquisitions were mainly an exercise of catching up.

Facebook has not really been pushed too much by Google+ in 2012 but expect that to change in the year ahead. Facebook is still struggling to find a way to make money from mobile phone platforms. More people will end up using Facebook as an app from their phones or tablets than their browsers. This would mean the current revenue stream of getting clicks from ads will see a decline. Facebook Gifts is a novel idea which would make Facebook’s revenue model as e-commerce instead of advertising. It also has not exactly fixed its reputation on the privacy front.

If Facebook continues to struggle to make money from it’s mobile phone platform 2013, it would with some big questions marks on Facebook’s future. That said its 1 billion users will make sure it remains relevant despite the health of its revenues.

#4. Dropbox

Dropbox_logoPersonally I love using Dropbox. I have used it for over two years. I love its referral program and also use it as a default service to backup my photos.

But the threat to Dropbox is very real. It faces competition from some seriously big players with some seriously deep pockets. Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud services will challenge Dropbox.

The problem for Dropbox seems two-fold. It lacks the financial resources of Apple and Google. Additionally it also lacks having its own mobile phone platform like an iOS and Android or online services like Gmail or Google search. If Dropbox does not hold its own against Google and Apple, it might have to think of a dreaded word called “acquisition”.

#5. Microsoft

Windows8_packageI thought more than a few times before putting Microsoft in this list. But it makes sense that 2013 will be the year, Microsoft will make a incredible turn-around or end up further behind the likes of Google and Apple. Microsoft has faltered with its online business with Bing. It has also invested in So.cl which is a social network that not one has taken notice of as yet.

Windows 8 as an OS is great attempt by Microsoft. It is a real step forward design wise by Microsoft. The company’s big problem is that Windows 8 phone is not exactly getting people very excited. The Surface tablets also have not exactly caught people’s imagination and Microsoft has nothing in the 7-inch tablet form factor.

One major issue for Microsoft has been developing a great app eco-system for developers. At the moment is a bit of a ghost town. It is nowhere close to the likes of Apple’s app store or Google Play. If Microsoft does not fix these drawbacks with Windows 8 over the year, 2013 could end up being the year which would mark the beginning of the end in Microsoft’s history.

What are your expectations from the tech world for the year ahead? Do let us know in your comments. Also as this is the last post before the year 2012 ends, let me take this opportunity to wish all our readers a very “Happy New Year!”

Has Microsoft Turned into a Company of “Second Best” Products

History has shown that the greatest of empires can rule with seemingly no challenger for centuries, but end up collapsing rapidly in less than a decade. As I write this post on my Windows 8 laptop, I wonder if that is what is happening to Microsoft. Is Microsoft a doomed empire in decline?

For starters let me state that I actually did use Microsoft products a lot. I have used a Windows PC all my life. Almost ten years ago, I used Internet Explorer everyday, Windows Media player and Microsoft Office. My primary email account was on Hotmail, which was atleast since the time I created the account, a Microsoft product. I was not alone either, most friends in college, family members and colleagues used all things Microsoft.

Microsoft Windows Ballmer

Today, Microsoft is not the dominant factor in the personal technology we use everyday. I use Chrome instead of Internet Explorer, VLC player instead of Windows Media player and Google Docs instead of Office. I have not opened my Hotmail account for over a year now, I exclusively use Gmail.

I still use Windows 8 on my laptop but my second device (mobile phones) runs on Android. It is not just me, but almost everyone I know, is not using Microsoft products as their first choice products. I wonder if Microsoft has actually become a company full of ‘second place’ products.

Microsoft’s “second place” syndrome

Second place as a term is very relative. For me it boils down to number of users using a product as their most preferred one. Here MS products seem to be missing the mark increasingly. They are basically creating products which are making up the numbers. For instance Bing as a search engine, Windows Phone, Windows tablets, SkyDrive cloud sync service, email service with Hotmail and Outlook.com are all at the moment making up the competition and not dominating. Incredibly the once dominant Internet Explorer has  also slipped to second place over the past few months.

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It still dominates OS usage with its Windows OS. I can see it trying to do something different to stay relevant in the post-PC world with Windows 8, but it has honestly in my experience not got its act together. I use Windows 8 and the apps eco-system around it resembles a ghost town. Even on the mobile platform, app developers are not showing much enthusiasm.

Even on Windows platform, I am using Chrome 80% of the time. If I got myself a tablet, I might end up even lesser time on my laptop which is the sole Microsoft product I am using.

Even their internet products are not really making a big mark. It recently started So.cl, a social network launched earlier this month. It resembles a Facebook designed like Pinterest, but without the social interaction. It has massive failures on the internet business front, with one major disaster being the purchase of advertisement platform Aquantive. Microsoft finally had to write-off the purchase of Aquantive and ended up reporting a loss for the first time in its history.

It seems Microsoft has over the past five years, stopped being the champion to beat but has become the slightly competitive second place challenger.

Competing on too many fronts

One might argue that Microsoft being in multiple products is the same as Google. But Google dominates many businesses it has got into. It dominates the mobile OS market with Android, YouTube has hardly any competition, Google Search is as solidly in first place as ever, Gmail seems to be marching along ruthlessly and recently with Nexus 7 it might be tasting hardware success. Google Maps is as Apple found recently, a very difficult product to replicate let alone replace.

Google and Microsoft differ in their approach. Google backs data and ruthlessly retires products which are not working out. It hardly carries out negative marketing campaigns and simply keep working on their mistakes.

Microsoft is from a much older culture, where corporations simply refuse to own up to mistakes. They prefer the solid facade of indestructibility but it sometimes weakens the company from inside. Today, Microsoft is shrinking in terms of its revenues and relevance. It is spread too thin and is fighting on many fronts.

It needs a Steve Jobs, who at his second innings at Apple, famously and ruthlessly focused on lesser products to spark a revival over a decade ago. Unfortunately, Microsoft does not seem to have anyone pulling them back a bit to focus on lesser but better products. Or may be this is just the natural cycle of every company and Microsoft slow decline is just inevitable.

What are your views on Microsoft? Do drop in your comments.

Image Credit: PcAuthority

Microsoft Killing Off Live Mesh: Pitches for SkyDrive

Microsoft - SkyDriveThis year, Microsoft has started pushing SkyDrive aggressively. So it was apparent that its previous file sync service called Live Mesh, was nearing the end of its days.

Today in a blog post, Microsoft declared that Live Mesh would be officially retired on 13th February, 2013. That does give users two months to move to other cloud storage and sync options. Obviously Microsoft is pitching its own SkyDrive service for PC and mobiles phones.

SkyDrive cannot exactly have all the features of Live Mesh. Live Mesh supported remote desktop experience too, allowing users to access files and apps remotely. But the alternatives are built into Windows 8 Pro and Enterprise platform.

Is SkyDrive good enough?

According to Microsoft’ claim most Live Mesh users are on SkyDrive. Today only about 25000 active users are there on Live Mesh. That is a seriously small number but it claims that million did use it at some point of time.

I do have SkyDrive installed on my laptop running Windows 8 but I basically end up using Dropbox and Google Drive. For working online, I only use Google Drive and it makes sense with the integration of Google Documents and recently added features like annotations on images.

SkyDrive is a decent sync service but many people who own multiple devices and need their files synced are not using Windows platform. This does make SkyDrive not very useful to many. SkyDrive’s popularity on Android and iOS is probably negligible and that is its big challenge.