Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Windows 8.1 Update: Going back to the future

In its most significant Windows 8 era change, Microsoft is releasing Windows 8.1 (codename build 9369).

The biggest change in this build is the return of the start button. Yep, Microsoft has listened to consumer feedback and brought back the sidelined, yet infamous feature of Windows. However, this button will still feed into the Windows 8 ‘Metro’ start screen as Microsoft is resisting the temptation to bring back the, also infamous, Start menu. For me, this won’t make much of a difference. I’m finding myself without the need to use the Start menu as all the apps/programs I use on a daily basis are conveniently pinned to the taskbar. Still, as a bit of a nostalgic, I look forward to the return of the Start button.

 (Reported look for the new Start button)

Another introduction in 8.1 is the expected step to a ‘Metro’ Windows explorer to manage your files. This is certainly not a mind-blowing alteration but it is necessary to encourage users to embrace the Metro layout. It fits with the clean, uncluttered look of Windows 8 and is a step towards the days without a desktop (not coming in the near future – don’t worry).

Some of you will be reading and thinking; “So what? These are not groundbreaking changes” and you would be right. But the actual changes are just a part of the significance of the 8.1 update. Microsoft are aware of the brutality of their change with the Windows 8 OS, and are listening to feedback to make this transition better for the user. The nature of Windows 8 – being extremely experimental for the most established computing OS layout – is that of trial and error. Microsoft has introduced a huge array of new interactions and alterations in the Windows 8 and there will always be teething problems when the public get their hands on it. This has certainly been true of Windows 8 but it is good to see Microsoft taking on board feedback – and reacting to it.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Facebook Home

Facebook Home was launched recently amid little media attention. Everyone anticipated a new phone, and in turn, anticipated another poorly sold new attempt at an OS. Instead, what was announced was an intelligently thought out move from Facebook by releasing an extension of Android via a launcher app. Facebook Home has been released in partnership with the HTC First and will be available on download for the HTC One, HTC One X, Samsung SIII, Samsung S4 and Samsung Note II. I don’t expect the HTC First will sell well, and in all reality, I doubt HTC are pinning any hopes on it to change their fortunes.
So what is Facebook Home? And how does it operate? How does it differ from the functionality of the other operating systems?

With Android, Facebook Home can be accessed via an app and in the words of Zuckerberg – it makes your Android device truly social. The partnership with HTC can be seen immediately with ‘Cover Feed’, a live-updated social feed that operates similarly to FlipBoard and the HTC One’s BlinkFeed. This Cover Feed swamps the entirety of the launcher screen with Facebook content but if you want to get away from it, the normal apps are available by simply swiping upwards.
     Facebook have also introduced ‘Chat Heads’ which turns Facebook Messenger into a more integrated messaging addition to your phone. Pop-up heads appear in the phone margins and can be responded to without leaving the app. I’ll put more out when I get a chance to play around with it but with my addiction to Twitter and other applications – I can’t see myself falling in love with it. That’s certainly not to say others wont.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you download Facebook Home and what you think of it/ever use it. Would be interested in hearing your thoughts.