Feedly plans to launch Windows 8, Windows Phone 8 apps

In the past couple of weeks, we have reported on Google’s plans to shut down its Google Reader RSS service on July 1. In light of the news, other RSS reader services have experienced a huge spike of new users. That includes Feedly, which claimed it added a whopping 500,000 new users in the first 48 hours after Google revealed it would be closing Google Reader.

At the moment, Feedly has RSS plug ins for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox web browsers, along with free iOS and Android apps. But what about Microsoft platforms? In an interview to be published later today, Neowin asked Feedly’s Cyril Moutran, the head of its product and strategy, if the company is going to release any apps for Windows 8/RT and Windows Phone 8, along with BlackBerry 10. Moutran confirmed to us, “All three have been requested by users, and are in our plans.”

While he didn’t offer a specific release date for those new apps, it’s clear that Feedly knows there will be an audience for their RSS feed service for Microsoft-based platforms, even as Google is shutting down its own service. We will post the full interview with Moutran, where he gives us more information about Feedly’s overall plans, later today.

Fewer than 10 per cent of enterprise users even considering Windows 8 migration

Fewer than 10 per cent of UK enterprise users are basing decisions to refresh their technology estates on a Windows 8 migration, a Computing survey has revealed.

Respondents were asked for the main drivers behind their decisions to refresh or upgrade kit, and while 67 per cent said old and unreliable equipment was the biggest motivator, only 9.6 per cent stated that Windows 8, which has now been on sale since October 2012, was providing the impetus.

While 12.3 per cent admitted that Windows XP’s 2014 “end of life” was a concern, this was not apparently matched by a pressing desire to upgrade to Windows 8.

One IT services firm told Computing “the jury is out” on the OS, while a major PC manufacturer commented that changing the user interface so significantly meant a migration to Windows 8 is often viewed as being too costly for many firms to consider.

With web analytics firm Net Applications reporting back in February that Windows 8 accounted for only 2.67 per cent of the desktop market – compared to over nine per cent in Windows 7’s first four months – the operating system may well be struggling in an overcrowded OS market that is proving slightly more complex than the Microsoft-dominated world of the platform’s predecessors.

And with rumours circulating that Windows 8’s follow-up, “Windows Blue”, is to rear its head in the next few months, many are now predicting a “fire sale” for Windows 8 and its hardware dependents.

SMBs remain lukewarm to Windows 8: survey

A survey of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) on their use of mobile devices conducted for business software vendor Sage North America shows that SMBs remain lukewarm when it comes to the adoption of Windows 8.

The survey was of U.S. SMB decision makers, but the figures should be largely comparable to the Canadian market, although adoption rates of new technology often lag in Canada, compared to the U.S.

According to the survey, when asked of their company’s approach to Windows 8, by device, just 20 per cent are either using Windows 8 today on their desktops, or plan to within the next six months. Another 19.8 per cent have rejected it, while 23.4 per cent are considering it and 36.7 per cent are undecided.

For laptops, the figures are similar, with 20 per cent using it or planning to use it shortly. Some 19.8 per cent have said no, while 25.3 per cent are considering Windows 8 and 34.7 per cent are undecided.

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the rejection numbers for Windows 8 are higher, at 30.2 per cent for each. Around 45 per cent are undecided on Windows 8 for each form factor, while around 16 per cent are considering it and less than 10 per cent are using it today, or plan to soon.

The survey wasn’t Windows 8-focused, however. Among its other findings, when SMB employees are working remotely, 81 per cent use their laptops, 80 per cent use their smartphones and 57 per cent are using tablets. And remote devices are viewed positively by decision makers, with 85 per cent saying it has had a positive impact on employee productivity.

The most common mobile applications used for business functions, contact organizers were the most popular, followed by scheduling tools and task management tools.

“For many businesses, the mobile device is an extension of the office,” said Joe Langner, executive vice-president of Sage North America, in a statement. “It affords workers the freedom to leave the office while maintaining the connectivity necessary to keep business objectives moving forward wherever they are. Mobility can support collaboration of internal teams by enabling seamless integration between the field and the office as well as eliminating potential bottlenecks between departments.”

It plays to the bring your own device (BYOD) trend, which has been gaining popularity, but also created security and device management issues for the IT team. The survey found that48 per cent of SMBs have a BYOD policy in place, while 31 per cent haven’t considered one and none per cent have decided against BYOD.

“Employees are looking to work beyond the ‘four walls.’ Take mobile salespeople, for example. They need as much data as possible to close a sale. They need to be able to access their catalog of items, create sales quotes, and even compare their sales number against their team’s performance and goals. With mobile business applications, they can do this anywhere; they’re no longer tethered to the office,” said Langner.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 updates with seamless Windows 8 support

With the announcement of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 back in July, Nuance has released a big update for the “world’s best-selling speech recognition software.” NaturallySpeaking 12 now features seamless integration with a few new Microsoft products, including Windows 8, as well as Office 2013 and Internet Explorer 10.

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Headlining the list of new features includes a 20% improvement to the accuracy of the voice recognition, as well as faster overall performance. NaturallySpeaking 12 includes some pretty neat features, like Smart Format Rules, that increases the accuracy of formatting sentences and structure based on the user’s input for punctuation and such.

Current users of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 will automatically get a free software update through a digital download notification, or can head to “Check for Updates” in the Help tab of the DragonBar. As for new customers, the update is ready for ordering, with more languages becoming available over the next couple of weeks.

Nuance’s products may not seems mainstream, but the company’s technology is used by Apple for theirSiri voice recognition system, as well as the voice dictation feature in OS X Mountain Lion. If you don’t have either, NaturallySpeaking 12 is a good choice for dictation. You can even hook up your Android phone to use as a microphone over your home WiFi.

Twitter App Now Officially Available For Windows 8

Microsoft has been ramping up its Windows Store slowly but surely, and on Thursday the company added Twitter to its selection of more than 40,000 apps. This is the first time Twitter’s official app has been made available on Microsoft’s newest OS, although the Windows Store has included Twitter clients such as MetroTwit in the past.

Twitter’s app for Windows 8 comes with features and tweaks catered specifically to the software. For example, Snap view allows users to open other apps alongside Twitter by “snapping” the window to the left or right of the screen. The Share charm feature enables tweeting from any app at any time by swiping in from the right edge of the screen. Naturally, Twitter’s app will appear as a Live Tile on the Windows 8 desktop and will send notifications no matter which app you’re currently running.

Twitter’s arrival in the Windows Store is one of few major updates for the social app this week. On Wednesday Twitter added the ability to insert line breaks in tweets, meaning users no longer have to limit their tweets to one or two lines.  The site is also reportedly preparing its own standalone music app, following its recent acquisition of music service We Are Hunted,CNET reports.

Last month Microsoft’s Windows Store surpassed the 40,000 app milestone after hitting the 100 million app download mark earlier this year. According to MetroStore Scanner, a site that unofficially tracks new additions to the Windows Store, Microsoft currently has 47,516 apps in its store.

“We feel good about where we are with Windows 8 — and of course there is still much more to do,” Tami Reller, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, wrote in a blog post last month.

Still, Apple’s iOS App Store boasts “hundreds of thousands” of mobile apps and its Mac App Store features thousands. Google’s Play store comes with 600,000 apps.

Microsoft should focus on Windows 8: IDC

Offering users two different tablet-ready operating systems is a misstep by Microsoft Corp., according to analyst firm International Data Corp.

Rather than divide its resources in promoting Windows RT and Windows 8, the company would be better off shining the light on the later OS for its tablet push to avoid user confusion, said Tom Mainelli, research director for tablets at IDC.

Additionally, he said, Microsoft has struggled explaining to users why they should favour Windows RT over Apple’s IOS or Google’s Android operating systems.

IDC forecasts that Widows RT tablets will only account for 1.9 per cent market share for the whole of 2013. That would be equivalent to the OS being installed in only 3.6 million devices out of the 190.4 million devices expected to enter the market. That, according to an article from Computerworld.com, is only slightly greater than the three million or so units Apple sold of the iPad mini when it was launched late last year.

Windows 8 tablets will account for 2.8 per cent of the market by the end of 2013, representing 5.3 million units. The OS will double that number to 7.4 per cent or 25.9 million units by 2017. By contrast, IDC said, RT will only capture 2.7 per cent of the market or 9.5 million units by 2017.

Ironically, in an earlier report, IDC identified Windows 8 as one of the key factors behind the slowdown in PC sales last year.

IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker said PC sales in 2012 shrunk 3.7 per cent largely due to the growing popularity of tablet devices, lack of interest in Windows 8 and dismal economic conditions which restricted IT expenditures.

That report described buyer reception to Windows 8 as “underwhelming.”

IDC latest report projects that 93.2 million Android-powered tablets and 87.8 million iOS-powered iPads will hit the shelves this year.

Windows 8 is compatible with software that PC users run but Windows RT ‘may look like Windows, but in fact it is not,” according to the IDC analyst.

Apple Updates Mac OS X to Include Windows 8 Support

Even if others can’t, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) has no problem backing Windows 8.

In an update released Thursday afternoon, the company added support for running Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) latest Windows operating system in Macs running the 10.8.3, or “Mountain Lion,” edition of the Macintosh OS.

Apple has long made it possible to “boot” or load Windows on a Mac via a native software program called Boot Camp. The company upgraded the app in 10.8.3. Other improvements include fixes to certain flaws found in earlier versions of the OS, plus the latest edition of the Safari browser.

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With Windows ‘Blue’ rumored, the Windows 8 fire sale begins

The mainstream media has picked up Mary Jo Foley’s report about a public preview of Windows “Blue” — the next version of Windows — arriving soon. Foley quotes the Chinese-languageWin8China site (which has consistently provided good insider information about Windows 8), saying RTM for Windows Blue is planned for June 7, with retail availability in August. She also quotes the site as saying the next Windows Blue milestone will include a public preview — “MP” for Milestone Preview — in the coming months.

There’s a synopsis of the Win8China posts on the Neowin forum. According to poster Windows4live, the Blue UI “hasn’t changed much.” It will have better performance, a downsized kernel, lower power consumption, better screen-size scaling, and improved windowing (with no explanation as to what that may entail). Win8China also claims Windows Blue will be a free upgrade to Windows 8.

Tom Warren at The Verge adds, “one of the biggest changes [in Blue] is an improvement to the search charm functionality.” I can think of a million ways Windows 8 needs to be improved, but somehow search charm functionality doesn’t appear near the top of my list.

You can take those rumors with a very large bag of salt if you like, but credible rumors about the imminent arrival of a new version of Windows (or Office, for that matter) are generally met with a rapid decrease in sales of the current version. Microsoft typically counters with a free upgrade offer, and the world waits for the next latest and greatest while manufacturers and retailers try to clear out their stock in anticipation.

This time, it’s a little different.

Every indication I’ve seen is that stores, particularly in the United States, are swollen with Windows 8 machines. There are outages of specific models — the Surface Pro remains a bit hard to find, although Amazon currently has the 128GB Surface Pro available for immediate delivery — but by and large, Windows 8 machines seem stocked to the rafters.

Take a look at Lenovo’s current best-selling laptops. The three best-sellers run Windows 8, and they’re discounted by 40 percent, 35 percent, and 30 percent, respectively. Numbers 4 and 5 are Windows 7 machines. (Lenovo’s list gets updated hourly; take a look and see how they’re selling now.)

On Amazon, the best-selling laptop runs Chrome OS. Among the top 10, only one — a Lenovo ThinkPad Twist — has a touchscreen. The best-selling Windows tablet, a Dell Inspiron, runs Windows 7. All of the Windows 8 tablets, except for the ThinkPad Twist, cost less than $430.

Over the weekend, Best Buy announced that for the next two weeks it was going to offer a $100 discount on touchscreen laptops and desktops running Win8. (Tablets, including the Surface tablets, are specifically excluded.) According to the Wall Street Journal, Best Buy “decided to launch the promotion after recent surveys the company conducted showed the consumers who bought touchscreen Windows 8 devices were significantly happier than those who bought PCs with a typical [non-touch-sensitive] … 74 percent of people who had bought a touchscreen device said they liked Windows 8 ‘somewhat’ or ‘very much.’ About 53 percent of respondents who bought a conventional Windows 8 PC said they liked the operating system.”

The fire sale, already well under way with touch-less Windows 8 laptops, has officially spread to touch-enabled laptops and desktops. For at least the next two weeks, the race to the bottom is being driven by the machines on the top.

Instead of rolling out much-needed improvements to the core Metro apps or bringing back the Start menu or giving us a Windows 7.8 or implementing any of a dozen or more small, high-impact changes in little increments, it looks like we’re going to get a new giant version of Windows this summer — less than a year after the disaster known as Windows 8. Imagine more of the same, only with performance improvements, a smaller kernel, longer battery life, and a better search charm. Golly.

Now that the mainstream press has wind of a “new version” coming down the pike, look for adoption of Windows 8 to shrink even further, while we all wait to see what’s coming next.

We can watch as Microsoft dismantles its own Windows monopoly, one harebrained step at a time.

What is the best high-end Windows 8 tablet?

At least several times each week, we get a reader inquiry via e-mail or Twitter asking which of the current crop of Windows 8 tablets is the best. The answer isn’t so simple when you consider that tablets running full Windows 8 (as opposed to Windows RT: don’t get us started) are split into two hardware classes: those with slower Atom processors, including the HP Envy x2, and those at the high end, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro.

What makes a high-end Windows 8 tablet? Generally, an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, giving it the performance of a full-fledged ultrabook-style laptop. The drawbacks tend to be a shorter battery life and a higher price tag. Many come with either a laptop-like docking station, or are compatible with a keyboard-cover accessory.

Those less-expensive Atom tablets are more plentiful, but the higher-end performance tablets are better at being your full-time work machine. There aren’t a ton of options out there, but here are the top candidates we’ve reviewed to date.


Acer Iconia W700
The closest competitors to the Surface Pro are other tablets and hybrids with Intel Core i5 processors — essentially full-featured ultrabooks squeezed down to tablet form. Acer’s Iconia W700 fits the bill, and includes a space-age-looking dock, but the nonadjustable stand limits viewing angles, and you’ll need an external mouse or touch pad for efficient Windows navigation. Read the full review of the Acer Iconia W700.


Microsoft Surface Pro
There’s a lot to like here — if not to love. While the Surface Pro isn’t the first Windows 8 tablet, it may well be the best one to date, at least in terms of design. The magic here is in the details: the ingenious detachable keyboard cover and the included pressure-sensitive stylus both go a long way toward setting the Surface Pro apart from the other laptops, tablets, and hybrids we’ve seen so far. Read the full review of the Microsoft Surface Pro.


Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T
The top-heavy ATIV Smart PC Pro is a clever little device, but it feels too low-rent for its high-end aspirations. Samsung makes better-designed ultrabooks and better tablets. The Smart PC Pro feels best as a laptop…in which case, why not simply buy a laptop? Read the full review of the Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T.


Scott: If I were buying a high-end Windows 8 tablet, I’d go with the Microsoft Surface Pro. Its compact form and excellent little Type Cover give it a low profile. More laptop-like hybrids like the Samsung Smart PC Pro may feel better in a lap, but I don’t do much lap-typing anyway…or, I’d simply use the onscreen tablet keyboard.

Dan: I have to agree. While most of the Windows 8 tablets we’ve seen so far are the less-expensive Atom-powered ones, of the handful of Core i5//i7 models we’ve reviewed, theMicrosoft Surface Pro definitely stands out. It’s still probably too expensive, but so are the other two choices (although the Acer W700 at least includes the dock and keyboard for its $999 base price). Still, the Surface wins based on its tighter, cleaner design, and that excellent Type Cover.

We both picked the Surface Pro as the best Core i-series Windows 8 tablet. If you agree or think we’re crazy, let us know in the comments section below. In our next roundup, we’ll debate which Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet is the best, and there are a lot more choices, so expect a heated exchange.

Steam’s latest hardware survey – more than twice the number of Linux users since December

How to news, lesson #53: Can’t think of an appropriate image? Slap in some graphs at an angle!

It’s a new month, meaning, for the most part, very little. Still, fans of minor incremental gains and losses in granular data do get the joy of a fresh Steam Hardware Survey, reducing down Steam’s userbase into a comparable list of percentages. February’s numbers bring strong gains for Linux, a new chunk of Windows 8 users, and the continued and seemingly unstoppable dominance of Windows 7.

The combined total of all Linux distros is 2.02% – still a fledgling next to the other major operating systems, but one that’s growing quickly. December’s confirmed Linux userbase accounted for 0.8% of the Steam user pot, meaning in two months Steam Linux gamers have more than doubled. It’s worth remembering that in the interim Steam did host both a major Linux-focused sale, and a free TF2 penguin. One indie developer noted on Gamasutra that, during the sale period, his Linux sales figures were almost triple that of Mac.

Elsewhere on the list, Mac falls 0.37% to 3.07%. Given that the number is that low, despite Mac offering a wider library for longer, it seems inevitable that Linux will eventually become Steam’s second major OS as its support continues to improve.

Meanwhile, Windows 8′s slow but steady progress means it nearly accounts for a tenth of Steam users, currently accounting for 9.63%. Windows 7 is on a downturn, but a glacially slow one. It lost just 0.42% of Steam users, and accounts for 69.31% of the platform’s population. This is almost certainly not the conversion rate Microsoft were hoping for. In fact, Windows XP 32-bit is still beating Windows 8 64-bit, although the respective rates of loss and growth mean the old war-horse may finally be toppled in the next couple of months.