What if a new version of Windows didn't try to dazzle you?
Stories by Harry McCracken
It’s been a busy few days for the whole idea of networked hard drives that provide direct Internet connections so you can get to them from everywhere. Last week, Seagate introduced DockStar, a $99 add-on for its FreeAgent Go drives that provides browser-based access to their contents. And today Netgear launched Stora, an all-in-one network drive with Web access.
I’m still in the audience at the DEMOFall conference, and still taking in demonstrations of new products and services. One of the cooler ideas this morning is Symform, a small-business remote-backup service. Technically, it’s utterly unlike services such as Mozy and Carbonite: Those services store everything in massive server farms, but Symform is farm-free–it uses peer-to-peer technology to store backups on the PCs of other Symform users. If you wanna back up 10GB of data, for instance, you agree to devote 10GB of disk space to other folks’ backups–and to leave your computer on 80 percent of the time.
What if a new version of Windows didn't try to dazzle you? What if, instead, it tried to disappear except when you needed it? Such an operating system would dispense with glitzy effects in favor of low-key, useful new features. Rather than pelting you with alerts, warnings, and requests, it would try to stay out of your face. And if any bundled applications weren't essential, it would dump 'em.
A few months ago I reviewed Pogoplug, a gizmo that lets you connect USB drives directly to the Internet for access from anywhere. I said the best thing about it was the slick, simple service that let you get to your files from any browser. Seagate seems to like the Pogoplug service, too!
For most people who are considering moving to Windows 7, October 22 is D-Day. On that date Microsoft's newest operating system lands on store shelves, both as a shrinkwrapped upgrade and preinstalled on new PCs. For some folks, though, D-Day has already arrived. Microsoft has issued the final RTM (release to manufacturing) version of Windows 7 to large companies that buy Windows via volume licenses, as well as to IT pros who belong to its Technet service. The Windows Vista era is officially drawing to a close--although you could argue that it never really quite started--and the Windows 7 one is under way.
Does the world need another smartphone operating system? Apple's iPhone OS is still booming; Google's Android is increasingly promising; and three longtime contenders--Microsoft's Windows Mobile, RIM's BlackBerry OS, and Symbian's S60--are undergoing serious renovation to keep up with the times.
Let's just say it: For the vast majority of computer shoppers, buying a Windows PC doesn't quite qualify as a decision. Around nine out of ten computers run one version of Windows or another, making it the world's default option in operating systems. It's opting for something else, like a Mac, that always represents a conscious choice.
Steve Jobs is, among many other things, the great denier. Second mouse buttons, floppy drives, 56-kbps modems--for decades, he's been perfectly willing to release producrs that lack one or more features that are standard equipment on everyone else's computers if he thinks they're unnecessary or offend his design principles or aesthetic sense.
You could make a case that there's no such thing as a full-blown office suite that can't do presentations. And if that's true, Google Docs just became a full-blown office suite: As of Tuesday, it features the presentation features that CEO Eric Schmidt demoed back at Office 2.0 Expo in April. Google's going to formally unveil the new version today at TechCrunch40, but it's live now.
Microsoft's Alex Kochis has blogged an explanation of the glitch behind last weekend's Windows Genuine Advantage screwup that left users being told their copies of Windows were pirated, and Vista users having features like Aero and ReadyBoost disabled. In short, buggy preproduction code accidentally got rolled out to the production servers that verify whether a copy of Windows is legit or not. Oops!
It had to happen sooner or later, and it has: The identity of Fake Steve Jobs--the proprietor of the hottest, funniest blog in technology--is no longer a well-guarded secret. Fake Steve isn't Andy Ihnatko or Leander Kahney or Harry Shearer or any of the other people who previous muckrakers thought they'd identified as the blog's true author. The New York Times figured out that he's Daniel Lyons, a reporter for Forbes who has also blogged under his own name.
Dust-up in the blogosphere! A Microsoft <a href="http://www.peoplereadybusiness.federatedmedia.net/" target="_blank">microsite</a> created by blog ad network <a href="http://www.federatedmedia.net/" target="_blank">Federated Media</a> features a number of well-known bloggers musing about what the phrase "People Ready"--a Microsoft marketing slogan--means to them. The "conversational" marketing site, and ads linking to it, have existed for a couple of months--but Nick Denton's <a href="http://valleywag.com/tech/spokesbloggers/microsoft-pays-star-writers-to-recite-slogan-271485.php" target="_blank">blog post at Valleywag</a> questioning the whole idea has ignited a fiery debate on whether bloggers should participate in ad campaigns for money. (The money in question was the ad revenues the bloggers received for Microsoft ads on their sites that link back to the People Ready microsite.)
The Wall Street Journal's D: All Things Digital conference is winding down, and one of the last major components is Walt Mossberg's interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Yahoo has announced that it's beginning to roll out what looks like a useful update to the beta version of its Yahoo Mail Webmail client--one with integrated instant messaging via the company's Yahoo Messenger. I first blogged about this when it demoed the update back at the Web 2.0 conference in November.)