Windows 9 leak: New Start menu

The latest Windows 9 leaks, showing a Start-menu fusion of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1, beg the question: Microsoft, why are you scooping ice cream over a hot dog?

On the surface, there’s really no reason for the straightforward, icon-driven approach of the Windows-7-like lefthand menu bar to coexist with the Windows-8.1-like, brightly colored tiles arrayed to the right of it. And we hardly pay attention to Live Tiles anyway: A typical Windows 8.1 user bounces to the Start page for a split second to launch an app, and that’s it. There’s not enough time for the user’s eyes to track the information Microsoft could be showing you via its Live Tiles before you’re off in your new app.

More of the same…or not, But yes, there is a reason that Microsoft may be trying to combine the two: because the icons represented in the screenshots are true Live Tiles.

That’s not always the case. So many tiles on a typical Windows 8.1 Start page simply show a static application icon, such as launch buttons for OneNote, or PowerPoint, or Adobe Reader. Many users undoubtedly still wonder what the point of all those massive icons floating in space actually are, and many wondered how to get rid of them when they appeared in Windows 8.

But in the screenshot of the leaked menu, the righthand Tiles should actually dosomething. If a user establishes an account, it’s a sure bet that the Mail tile will flip up to reveal new email. Or the News tile will deliver the headlines. Or Calendar will highlight a user’s upcoming appointments. (Yes, a user could also use them as easily navigable shortcuts to favorite apps, but that’s kind of a waste of space, no?)

So it’s going to be up to both Microsoft and the user to manage those tiles effectively.

windows 81 update1 power button
How long does anyone actually spend on the Windows 8.1 Start page, anyway?

From a marketing perspective, however, we’re stuck in the same quandary as before: if Microsoft leaves the Live Tiles there, the same users who were turned off by Windows 8 may not return. And if they hide them entirely, then Microsoft tacitly acknowledges that the Windows 8 design schema was a mistake.

That’s the tough choice I’d make. I don’t advocate eliminating the Live Tiles of Windows 8 entirely, but I’d leave them as an option for power users. Then I’d either replace the Charms bar with one that exposes a row of these tiles, or else replace them with a series of small, popup notifications.

Microsoft undoubtedly has its own design goals in mind, but it’s not too late for a little feedback. How say you, users?



Simple Hack Gives Windows XP Users 5 More Years Of Support


Forget Wolverine, clearly there is nothing more difficult to kill than Windows XP . Having finally ditched support for the 12 year old operating system in April, Microsoft MSFT -0.24% performed an arguably foolish U-turn just three weeks later when a massive Internet Explorer flaw blew holes through every version of Windows. And now it seems users will be able to get five more years of Windows XP support .
No Microsoft hasn’t changed its mind yet again. Instead the life extension comes courtesy of a simple hack spotted by computer tech support. The workaround exploits Microsoft’s continued support of ‘Windows Embedded Industry’ (previously ‘Windows Embedded POSReady’) which will last until 2019. Embedded Industry is designed for use in industry devices across retail, manufacturing, healthcare and – you guessed it – the operating system is based on Windows XP Service Pack 3.

Consequently the security updates that continue to be released for Windows Embedded Industry are essentially the same as what Microsoft would have released for Windows XP, had support continued. Now with a simple hack you can trick Windows Update into thinking Windows XP is Windows Embedded Industry.

This is how you do it:

1. Create a text document, and call it XP.reg. Be sure that the ending is ‘.reg’ not ‘XP.reg.txt.’ (check this in Windows Explorer by going to Tools > Folder Options > View and check ‘Show hidden files and folders’)

2. Right click the file, select ‘Edit’ and type in:

3. Save it and double click the file twice with the left mouse button which will add it to the registry.

You’re done. Windows XP will now tell Microsoft Update it is Windows Embedded Industry and automatically download and install security updates as they are released. The snag is this hack only works for Windows XP 32bit because Windows XP 64bit is based on Windows Server 2003. There is a more complex workaround for that which can be found here.

Now come the caveats. Firstly the updates are designed for Windows Embedded Industry not Windows XP and while that should not matter, it is possible there may be some compatibility issues. Secondly – and most importantly – it is impossible to say whether these hacks will keep working until support ends for Windows Embedded Industry in 2019 or if Microsoft will close this loophole.

The optimistic viewpoint is Windows XP’s end of life status should mean it receives no future software updates so Microsoft would have to make another U-turn to close the loophole.

The cynical viewpoint is Microsoft would prefer users to move to a newer operating system so closing the loophole would be in its interest. This is a fair point given the age of Windows XP, but countered by the fact 1-in-4 PCs still use it. Microsoft also hasn’t helped its case after releasing misleading data earlier this month suggesting Windows XP is safer than Windows Vista and Windows 7.

Either way Microsoft is left in a tricky situation. Following the controversial ‘Update 1’ patch Windows 8.1 is actually a very good operating system, but its reputation is irreparably damaged.

Furthermore, while it is fair to stop providing a free warranty service for a 12 year old OS, Microsoft is offering military and government organisations a paid service to keep their Windows XP computers safe as part of a scheme dubbed ‘Clandestine Fox ’. Surely this should also be a paid option for users who wish to stay safe, but can’t afford new hardware or fear the leap to a free Linux alternative like Ubuntu.

Yes Windows XP has arguably been Microsoft’s greatest success, but its troubled legacy is fast becoming the company’s Achilles Heel .

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Oops! Microsoft accidentally teases Windows 9 ‘coming soon’ on social media


Microsoft’s internal censors seem to be sleeping on the job this year. In June, the Surface Pro 3 manual included several references to a small-screen Surface Mini despite the fact that a small-screen Surface Mini was never actually released. And now, as rumors of Windows 9 swirl, Microsoft China appears to have confirmed the impending reveal.

Posting to Weibo—a Chinese social media site—Microsoft China posed its followers a question: “Microsoft’s latest OS Windows 9 is coming soon, do you think the start menu at the left bottom will make a comeback?” 

Oops. And not just because Microsoft has already announced the return of the Start menu.

The post was accompanied by a screenshot of a Windows 9 logo mock-up by Shy Designs. Microsoft China appears to have quickly realized the error of its ways, as the Weibo message has since been removed, though not before Cnbeta noticed and first reported it.

Several reports from oft-reliable sources say Microsoft is prepared to announce Windows 9 in “technical preview” form at the end of September or early in October, just before Windows 7 PCs disappear from store shelves, though Microsoft itself has yet to confirm it. Leaks suggest Windows 9 will better let a PC be a PC and a tablet be a tablet, bringing several mouse-friendly changes to the desktop and possibly killing the desktop completely in tablets and phones powered by mobile ARM processors.

If Windows 9 is indeed incoming—and Microsoft China’s slip-up suggests it is—we have some suggestions for features we’d want to see. But one of the most crucial improvements Microsoft needs to make ASAP has nothing to do with the core operating system itself: The company needs to clean up the Windows Store pronto if it ever hopes to make Metro apps viable on the desktop. Fortunately, Microsoft’s already taking its first tentative steps towards fixing the mess.

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Parallels Desktop 10: A Smoother Way to Run Windows on Your Mac

But among techies, there was a gleeful realization: “Hey,” they said, “if a Mac has an Intel chip inside, we could hack it to run Windows!

And who would want to do that? Really, four categories of people:

1. Fans of programs like Quicken, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Office, which are far more polished and rich in their Windows versions.

2. People who use programs that don’t exist at all in Mac versions, like Internet Explorer, AutoCAD, SAP (corporate resource planning), Epic (medical records), and custom corporate apps.

3. People who write webpages and software, so they can test their work in several operating systems on a single laptop.

4. People switching from Windows to Mac who want a safety net — the ability to hop back into Windows when necessary.

So sure enough: For about a month, instructions for installing Windows onto a Mac circulated online like a secret recipe. Then Apple introduced Boot Camp: an authorized way to install Windows on a Mac. Unfortunately, Boot Camp lets you run either Windows or Mac OS X, not both at the same time — and you have to restart the computer to go back and forth.

There was soon yet another option: virtualization programs, like Parallels Desktop or VMWare Fusion. These programs let you run Windows in a window, floating there on your Mac screen. You can run both operating systems simultaneously, and even copy and paste between them. Insane!


Incidentally, these programs don’t just let you run Windows on your Mac. They create “virtual machines” (software versions of entire computers) — and all operating systems are welcome. So you can have Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Linux, Google Chrome OS, and even another copy of Mac OS X, all in separate windows — all on top of OS X Mavericks (or whatever your Mac usually uses).

Parallels windows for Windows and Chrome

Parallels 10
This week, Parallels Desktop 10 for Mac arrived ($80, or $50 to upgrade); it has come a long, long way. Not a long way since version 9 — the improvements, though welcome, aren’t brain-fryingly significant — but version 10 is infinitely easier to set up and use than the Parallels of old.

The biggest change is the look: Parallels has been remade to fit in well with OS X Yosemite, the Mac operating system version coming out this fall. Which itself looks like the latest iPhone operating system. Icons and graphics look “flat” and untextured.

Parallels Desktop Control Center

Bring your own
Parallels and Fusion don’t include a copy of Windows, Linux, or OS X; you have to supply that yourself. But Parallels 10 makes it easier to get started.

As before, you can connect to an actual Windows PC and slurp in its copy of Windows. But you can now double-click an .ISO file (a disk image) of Windows to create your simulated PC. You can also, from within the setup screen, download a 90-day free trial of Windows, which is handy.

Parallels Wizard screenshot

If your goal is to set up another Mac in a window, you can install OS X from the copy that’s nestled at this moment on every Mac’s secret recovery partition — a handy trick that spares you from having to download a 4-gigabyte file from Apple’s App Store.

Once you’re into your “Windows PC,” you discover that things like your time, date format, language, and other regional settings have been thoughtfully passed along to Windows.

If you’re using Parallels at all, then presumably you’re a Mac fan. On that premise, Parallels Inc. has designed version 10 to simulate and integrate with the Mac even more than ever.

Your various simulated computers, Mac, Windows, and others, show up as icons wherever fine Mac programs’ icons appear, like the Dock and the App Switcher — and so do the open apps in those virtual machines.

Windows 8 icon in Mac Dock

Windows apps show up in your Mac’s Launchpad, too.

The little red “unread mail” counter, usually seen only on Mac email programs’ icons, now appears on the icon of Outlook (for Windows).

And when you’re using a Windows program, you can even access the Mac’s Share menu, for easy sending of text or graphics by email, text message, AirDrop (wireless Mac-to-Mac sharing), and so on.

Online drives that you’ve signed up for using your Mac — Dropbox, Google Drive, and, soon, Apple’s own iCloud Drive — magically show up when you’re saving a file from within a Windows program, too.

If you upgrade your Mac to Yosemite this fall, you’ll find that Parallels has been waiting for the chance to participate. For example, you can right-click a phone number in Internet Explorer to place a call on your iPhone. And you’ll be able to add a Parallels panel to Yosemite’s new, expandable Notification panel.

Parallels Desktop in Notification panel

These are all just grace notes, of course — nips and tucks that, alone, might not merit the $50 upgrade from version 9. But there’s another category of improvement to consider: speed.

It’s always been astonishing that it’s faster to start up a Parallels PC than a real one. On my MacBook Air, I’m up and running in Windows six seconds after I double-click the Parallels icon.

In Parallels 10, you can specify what you’re using Windows for — Productivity apps, Games, Design, or Software Development — and the program automatically adjusts its settings for maximum speed.

The company says Microsoft Office documents open in half the time now, that Parallels hits your laptop battery 30 percent less, and that each of your simulated computers eats up 10 percent less memory. All of that is hard to measure, but overall Parallels certainly feels snappy, especially once it’s running. However, if it’s a 3D Windows game you want to play, you’ll get a few more miles per hour restarting your Mac into Boot Camp.

Virtual machines eat up a lot of memory and disk space. If you have a limited-space drive (like the solid-state drives on Mac laptops), that’s a painful sacrifice. At the moment, my Windows 8.1 “PC” eats up 23 gigabytes, and my Yosemite Public Beta “Mac” consumes 20.

In Parallels 10, at least, the program is always on the alert for ways to return unused disk space to your Mac; that space reclamation is automatic, rather than a manual operation you have to remember to do.

The balance sheet
With version 10, Parallels leaps past its archrival, VMWare Fusion 6, especially in Yosemite features.

But Fusion is less expensive ($60 instead of $80), especially if you intend to install it on multiple Macs. You’re allowed to install Fusion on multiple Macs for the same price — but you have to buy another copy of Parallels for each Mac, although additional copies are discounted. (Two copies cost $120, for example.)

There is also, by the way, an Enterprise version of Parallels, with bulk discounts and a million special features for system administrators.

The software design of Parallels is terrific, with only one exception: When you click the name of a virtual machine at this screen —

Parallels Desktop Control Center

— it should simply pop open. Instead, if you “suspended” (put to sleep) that operating system instead of shutting it down, you get an intermediary window that says “Click to resume.” Seems pretty clear that if you clicked the machine’s name, you intended to resume it.

Otherwise, though, Parallels 10 is smooth, solid, and surprisingly fast. If you can stomach the memory and disk space it eats up, you’ll be impressed at how well it works — and how liberating it can be to have a whole bunch of computers on your Mac.

Windows 9 news recap: Modern UI 2.0, Tech Preview to be updated frequently, and more


It’s been a busy week here at WinBeta with lots and lots of Windows Threshold news breaking ground. We learned about an updated Modern UI, a new rapid release cycle for the preview, when the preview will launch and what it will be called.

On Monday, WinBeta exclusively revealed new changes and features coming to the Modern UI-side of Windows Threshold. These new changes include brand new interactive live tiles, a notification center which is familiar to that on Windows Phone and live folders which are also similar to its Windows Phone counterpart. These new changes won’t be seen in the upcoming preview in September, however they’ll be available in a second preview coming later.

Speaking about the second preview, it was revealed this week that Windows Threshold would see an ARM specific preview launch in the beginning of 2015, which will include all the new updated Modern UI features and functionality. This preview will run on ARM devices like the Surface (RT) and Surface 2 (and Surface 3 if Microsoft release a new Surface in October). It will also run on phones, too.

This second preview won’t be months newer than the first preview, as it was revealed recently that Windows Threshold has a new built-in functionality which allows the operating system to upgrade builds without the need to reinstall the operating system. We revealed that Microsoft aims to update the Threshold Preview with new builds twice (or more) times a month, meaning by the time the second preview for ARM launches, any under the hood changes made in that second preview should be available as an update in the first preview too. Both previews should be up-to-date by the time the second preview is launched.

This week we also learned about the previews name, being “Windows Technical Preview for Enterprise”. This name obviously means the upcoming preview is to show businesses that Windows is still a viable option, with the new Start Menu and windowed-apps, along with virtual desktops and other desktop-focused features. The preview is said to be coming this September 30th, if not on that precise date, it’ll definitely launch sometime around then.

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Will Windows 9 go free to tempt us into an upgrade?


Windows 9 news is coming at a faster clip now that we’re drawing closer to its likely September 30 debut, and the latest concerns the new OS’s price.

According to Russian leaker  Microsoft is planning some nice incentives to get folks to upgrade to Windows 9.

For Windows 8.1 users who want to make the jump, Windows 9 will either come free or be available through a special offer. We’d put our money on it going the free route since Windows 8.1 arrived at no charge for Windows 8 users.

If you bought a retail or OEM flavor of the Windows 8, Microsoft will apparently throw you a Windows 9 upgrade for around $20 (about £12, AU$21).

Finally, since Windows XP holdouts are still numbering more than Microsoft would like, despite the company ending support earlier this year, the firm is said to be planning an “awesome” incentive to get XP users to cave in to Windows 9.

According to the Russian crew the enterprise version of Windows 9 will leave the Metro interface at the door. Microsoft won’t release a test version of Windows 9 Pro OEM, though there is a Windows 9 Enterprise technical preview out in the wild, apparently.

Despite many calling the death of Windows RT all but complete, Microsoft apparently isn’t ready to give up on its much-maligned OS. Instead, the firm is prepping Windows 9 RT and in fact already has a test build made. As you might expect, Windows 9 RT will arrive on the unannounced Surface 3.

There were also a few rumored Windows 9 features to be had as well. The system will support 3D-mode Ultra HD TVs and allow for cloud data back-up and restoration. Last but not least, Microsoft is said to be creating a feature for virtualizing physical system backups in the cloud. Sounds pretty nifty


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There’s a lot of speculation that Microsoft will change how Windows is sold and distributed, but a “Windows 365” approach is different than “Windows-as-a-Service.”

Examining Windows

With Windows 9 already on the immediate horizon, there’s increasing speculation that Microsoft may change up the licensing and business model for the flagship OS. Some suggest that Microsoft will just give the OS away, while others think that Microsoft will either offer Windows as a cloud-based service or in a subscription model á la Office 365.

All of those are possibilities. What concerns me is that there’s still so much confusion about Office 365, and that confusion will bleed over into a possible “Windows 365” scenario, creating chaos for users trying to decide what is best for them.

Article by Microsoft  was very confusing and misleading, because the headline made it clear it was related to Windows-as-a-Service — however, in the very first paragraph, the author stated that Windows might soon follow in the footsteps of Office 365. It then went on to claim that those rumors might be true because Microsoft listed a job posting that alluded to “Windows-as-a-Service.”

Make it stop!

That particular article demonstrated a complete lack of understanding about what Office 365 is and how it works. If that isn’t bad enough, it doubled down on that ignorance by linking the misguided understanding of Office 365 to both Windows 365 and Windows-as-a-Service, as if all of those are related or similar. It’s no wonder consumers on the street can’t make sense of Office 365 — the tech press doesn’t get it either and writes things that make it more confusing.

Let’s start by backing up and talking about Office 365 for a minute. Office 365 is NOT a cloud-based Office-as-a-Service offering. Office 365 is the exact same Office as the traditional Office Professional 2013 suite, but it’s sold as a subscription rather than as a one-time purchase. It includes additional cloud-based features and benefits that don’t come with the desktop suite, but the actual Office applications are installed on and run from your Windows or Mac PC literally the same way.

So, now let’s break down the difference between what “Windows 365” might look like as opposed to “Windows-as-a-Service.” If Microsoft chooses to offer Windows the same way it has packaged Office 365, all that means is that rather than charging a one-time fee of $100 or $200 for the OS, it would instead offer it as a subscription for say $25 or $50 per year.

Users would still have the exact same Windows 9 (or whatever they call it) as the users who pay $200 to buy Windows 9 outright, but they’d pay less up front, and they’d have perpetual rights to the latest version. That means, when Windows 10 comes along, the Windows 365 users will just keep paying their subscription fees and install it, while those who purchased Windows 9 outright will have to spend the $200 again if they want to upgrade.

A cloud-based Windows, or “Windows-as-a-Service,” is an entirely different concept. It would likely still include some sort of subscription, or ongoing fees, but with Windows-as-a-Service, Microsoft would install and maintain the Windows OS on its Azure servers in the cloud, and users would need to somehow connect to and login to the cloud-based Windows to run software in a virtualized, streaming fashion over the internet.

I’m not a fan of the idea of Windows-as-a-Service. It seems too much like trying to use a Chromebook — where your ability to use your computer or be productive is tied to your ability to find a reliable internet connection. Windows 365, on the other hand, sounds like an awesome approach that I really hope Microsoft does offer.

Both of these are potential options for Microsoft, and each has pros and cons. It’s important to understand that they are completely different models, though, and to not confuse users and muddy the waters by implying that Office 365 means you’re using some sort of cloud-based Office-as-a-Service.

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