Friday, May 31, 2013

Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium races past one million users

Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium races past one million users

Microsoft's Office 365 Home Premium races past one million users

Office 365 Home Premium has skipped past the 1 million subscribers mark 100 days (or three-and-a-half months) after launching, Microsoft has claimed.

While it took slightly longer than Instagram's 2.5 months to reach seven digits, Microsoft has used a company blog post to point out that it arrived at the milestone faster than Hulu Plus (which took five months), Spotify (five months), Dropbox (seven months), Facebook (10 months), and FourSquare (13 months).

The software giant claims one subscription of the clou d-based productivity suite has been snapped up every second since January 29, earning it the accolade of being the best selling "new" Office edition to date.

That includes Office 365 University and Office 365 ProPlus, in addition to the locally-installed Office 2013, though Microsoft chose not to share sales figures for to such editions.

Office 365 Home Premium provides access to the full Office suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook, Onenote, Access, and Publisher) on up to five devices for £79.99 a year.

Crucial clouds

While Microsoft has yet to disclose sales figures for ProPlus, the business-flavoured edition of Office 365, it recently released the results of a study by analyst house 451 Research, which found that more than 52% of organisations see the cloud as beneficial to growing the business.

The study, which surveyed 1,500 customers from small, midsized and large organisations in 10 countries, also found that 68% of respond ents plan to adopt 'hybrid' cloud models in the next two years, up from 49% today.


Hands-on review: Updated: Nvidia Shield review

Hands-on review: Updated: Nvidia Shield review

Hands-on review: Updated: Nvidia Shield review

Update: As expected, Nvidia has dropped the "Project" part of the name, and has announced that the handheld will be available for pre-order on May 20 ahead of a June shipping date.

The CES 2013 announcement of the Nvidia Shield means that PC games finally have a dedicated handheld system, and the idea isn't completely ridiculous.

OK, the controller-based design is a little out there at first glance, and many might struggle to see how this could be comfortable. However, flipping open the screen's protective lid and picking up the gamepad feels as natural as can be. < /p>

But Nvidia isn't so much concerned about how the things looks as it is about what's going on inside - a Tegra 4 quad-core processor and 72-core GeForce GPU, as you're asking.

Project Shield

At PAX East we plunked our con-weary body down in front of a Shield handheld synced with a Geforce-equipped PC. We were thankful not only to get some quality time with Nvidia's upcoming handheld, but also to just sit in a chair.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was the title being served, and we used the Shield's dual stick and triggers setup to harass some hapless (but not helpless) guards with a few fireballs.

Dual wielding is the standard approach in Oblivio n. Players generally equip a weapon or spell in their right hand, with either a defensive item like a shield or a second form of retaliation (sword, mace, lightning bolt, healing spell) in the left.

This is why having two triggers and sticks is so essential to bringing a real gaming experience to handheld. The controls were tight, and when we looked at the computer monitor with its tricked-out Geforce-fueled graphics, it felt like we were getting the best of both worlds: simple console controls and high-end PC graphics.

Wirelessly streaming PC titles to your HDTV is one trick Nvidia plans to teach Shield down the road, but initially this will require a HDMI connection.

Less than keen on the screen

We're glad that Nvidia has thought of that, because no matter how hard you try, a dinky handheld display will never hold a candle to a 1080p screen. It didn't do the Shield any favors to be played right next to a monitor rendering the exact same image , but looking much better.

Sparks and flares coming off our fireball attacks looked dull and blocky. While we were impressed at the one-for-one, zero latency between Shield and the computer it was synced with, it made us wonder why you would use this handheld when you're in the same building as your computer. Being able to bridge your TV and your PC with the Shield is a good reason. It could be a killer feature, especially if you're someone who's bent over backwards to do it with HDMI, using a wireless mouse and keyboard on the couch.

Getting back to the 5-inch display strapped to Shield, it's 720p and just 294 ppi. That was nothing to sneeze at a few years ago, but now your average smart phone is rocking ppi in the mid-300's. The lovely new HTC One has 440 ppi. For phones, a ppi in the high 200's, low 300's is mid-range territory.

Android games seem like a better fit for this handheld, since they're played locally and don't require an expensive gaming PC and the will to not use it. Still, that makes us wonder what this handheld will cost, and if it will be worth the price.

Nvidia hasn't opened up about pricing, but The Verge seems to think it won't be cheap. If that's the case, we're not sure the Shield will be able to compete in the Android gaming market. We can't see why someone would choose it over something more affordable, albeit less feature-filled, such as the Moga Pro or a gaming laptop, if it's truly mobile PC gaming they crave.

Project Shield but   tons

Not necessarily the final build

As we hacked and slashed our way through the demo, an Nvidia rep told us that the Shield would be fine-tuned a bit before its release. Specifically it's the D-pad and the triggers that might get some tweaking.

While we couldn't find anything amiss with the triggers, the D-pad did feel cheap and imprecise. There wasn't much differentiation between a diagonal and a lateral press. As with the Xbox 360 version, Elder Scrolls just uses the pad for scrolling up and down through weapons and spells, and it was good enough for that. We wouldn't want to use it for a fighting game or a platformer, though.

We were really relieved when the rep highlighted the D-pad as something that could be reworked. Controllers and peripherals aren't really Nvidia's bag, and the fact that it's aware of what's not up to snuff shows that it's doing its homework and easing into this new market smoothly.

Early Verdict

Nvidia Shield is supposed to launch in Q2 2013, and it'll be able to play PC, Steam, Android and TegraZone games out of the box.

That's quite a launch lineup. Unfortunately, PC and Steam games can only be streamed via local WiFi, as there needs to be a PC running the games; this controller-based handheld is just a receiver for these more powerful titles.

The technology is interesting and the idea is out of left field, but the price and the inability to stream all games may limit the appeal of Nvidia's PC portable.

More to come

June 2013 is currently Nvidia's target for the Shield's release date. As that date fast approaches, we're hoping that the graphics card giant has some more tricks up its sleeve for this handheld - or at the very least a competitive price. Hopefully it can launch with the PC-to-TV streaming, or ensure that if follows shortly after. Otherwise, it may have a tough time finding an audience and end up inviting some unfavorable OnLive comparisons. That, or become a handheld that few put their hands on, like the PS Vita.

Project shield

Shield: What you need to know

Read our report on next generation gaming in tech. magazine, including the latest on the Xbox 720, Shield and the PS4.

The first thing to say about Shield is that picking it up is akin to holding an Xbox 360 controller.

There are four individually colored face buttons in the same upper-right quadrant, and four shoulder buttons on top.

In fact, the only difference between the Shield controller layout and the Xbox 360 controller is the placement of the analog stick and D-Pad. Nvidia reversed the two.

In the end, PS3 gamers will feel right at home with this side-by-side dual analog orientation, while Xbox players will be accustomed to the overall body of Shield.

Nvidia tech specs

Under Shield's gamepad exterior lies an Nvidia Tegra 4 processor, which has a 72-core GeForce GPU. This is also the first quad-core application of ARM's most advanced CPU core, the Cortex A-15.

All of this translated beautiful graphics that maintained snappy movements and lag-free gameplay during tests.

Beyond the Tegra 4 processor, Nvidia wasn't ready to talk about th e disk capacity that the device will have in the future. In fact, the company wasn't even willing to divulge the storage being employed by the current prototype.

On disk capacity, all that Nvidia has confirmed is that there will be a MicroSD card slot for expandable storage.

Other ports include a micro USB port, a headphone jack and an HDMI port for easy video output to a big screen. Nvidia, working closely with Valve, ensured that Shield would take advantage of Steam's Big Picture Mode.

Shield also has 802.11n 2x2 MIMO Wi-Fi, making it nice and speedy.

YouTube :

Nvidia controller interface

Besides the short-lived Hip Interactive Screen Pad Controller from a decade ago, this is the first screen-mounted controller that is gettin g a big push from a third-party company.

Its 5-inch touchscreen is 720p, and even though everyone's focus is on the gamepad, there is multitouch in the 294 dpi retinal screen too.

Having the option to utilize the touchscreen for menus while always being able to take advantage of the controller's buttons for just about everything else is extremely convenient.

The Nvidia also packed a powerful set of speakers into the top of the controller portion of Shield. It's twice the low-frequency output of high-end laptops.

Nvidia Project Shield streaming games

Nvidia launch games and apps

One of the best parts of the Nvidia Shield is the fact that its launch games are familiar - it's everything you can already own on the PC, Steam, Google Play, and Nvidia's own TegraZone store.

PC and Steam games can be streamed to the device through WiFi so long as the PC running the games is packing an Nvidia GeForce GTX GPU - a GTX 650 (desktop) or GTX 660M (notebook) or better.

As a result, all of the usual suspects were on hand to play, including Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and they streamed to the device flawlessly without lag.

TegraZone games and Google Play apps, meanwhile, can be downloaded directly to Shield device. Nvidia, being as open as possible, isn't gimping this version of the Android OS - it's running a pure Jelly Bean 4.2.

All of this means that Shield will have the biggest launch lineup for any handheld gaming system ever built. You can't beat the countless PC games, more than 18,000 Steam games, and 675,000-plus Google Play games and apps.

YouTube :

Shield battery life

Battery life is always a bone of contention when it comes to handhelds, but Nvidia thinks that it can pull off an impressive 20-plus hours from the Shield when streaming.

That's because all of the processing power is being handled by the GeForce GTX GPU-equipped PC. Shield's hardware, meanwhile, uses energy-saving PRISM 2 technology and a battery-saver core to lengthen that charge time.

Essentially, Nvidia is doing what Netflix and OnLive have done for users - having all of the major resources handled in another location and using WiFi bandwidth to offload the heavy-duty processing.

Project Shield closed lid

PC handheld in the home

Of course, the PC and Steam games need to be running on the computer to stream to a Shield. This means that the device's handheld capabilities are pretty much limited to the home.

With the exception of taking a gaming laptop with you to a location that has WiFi, this kind of negates most of the handheld gaming aspects outside of Google Play and TegraZone titles.

Nvidia did make it possible to boot up a game via the handheld thankfully. You won't have to run to the computer each time you want to load a new game.

Shield release date and price

Nvidia has announced that the Shield will ship this June and pre-orders will kick off May 20 on Nvidia's Shield website. The handheld will be priced at exactly $ 349 (around £230/AUS$ 350)

The rapidness of pushing this out the door is possible as the powerful but efficient Tegra 4 processor is ready to go and all of the launch games are spoken for through services like Steam, Google Play, and TegraZone.

Nvidia also recently revealed that the company had invested $ 10 million (around £6.5m/AUS$ 9.5) in the handheld, which gives it a much cheaper production cost than other big console launches.

Even without a set price, Nvidia is already setting its sights high for Shield. In addition to trying to sway gamers who have become bored with the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, it's going after the broader smartphone and tablet ga ming market, too.

Nvidia said that it created Shield to do for games what the iPod and Kindle have done for music and books. And Shield might just have the hardware to back up that statement.


Interview: Razer CEO says Intel's next-gen processor is a 'quantum leap' forward

Interview: Razer CEO says Intel's next-gen processor is a 'quantum leap' forward

Interview: Razer CEO says Intel's next-gen processor is a 'quantum leap' forward

Razer rolled out two new laptops this week, the 14-inch Blade and a 17-inch refresh called the Blade Pro. The selling point of the company's press event was the smaller Blade's "thinner than a dime" profile, but CEO Min-Liang Tan was the real scene-stealer.

Tan is approachable, a little quirky (much like his spiky hair) and genuinely seems to care about gaming. Razer's tagline is "for gamers, by gamers," and the Singapore-native earned props when he posted on Facebook last month that the company would honor bogus coupon codes despite the obvious revenue hit.

We picked Tan's brain following the laptops' unveiling, wanting to know right off the bat his take on Intel's 4th generation Intel Core i7 quad-core processor, commonly called Haswell, the CPU humming in both machines.

"We have a great relationship with Intel, and they've done a phenomenal job with integrated graphics, for example," Tan effused. "I think the Haswell chip is a quantum leap over Ivy Bridge. I'm super excited about it. I'm looking forward to seeing what else we can work with them on."

new R   azer Blade laptops

On the GPU end, Nvidia powers the Blades with GeForce GTX 765Ms.

Intel and Nvidia are Razer's "traditional partners," Tan explained, and he appreciates the understanding both companies have for gaming.

"They understand gaming is important," he said. "And they appreciate great design."

Slim down

The new Blade stacks no more than 0.66-inches high and weighs a sparse 4.135 pounds, yet still packs a snappy set of specs.

"It's not enough to be the thinnest laptop - it has to run hardcore PC games," Tan said as he announced to notebook.

Tan later said portable yet capable gaming laptops are a niche Razer wants to pioneer.

"We think it doesn't exist today," he told us. "It's either really thick and heavy with a lot of performance, or it's really thin and light without. We think this is a whole new category of what people want. To have the full performance of a gaming laptop [and] a MacBook Air kind of form factor. It doesn't exist...until today.

And it's only the beginning.

"This is definitely something we're going to be investing in for a long time to come," Tan said of thinner and lighter devices. "We'll absolutely be continuing this, and pushing the limits for performance."

Tan and Blade

Challenge accepted

With the 0.66-inch Blade, Razer can lay claim to the title of world's thinnest gaming laptop. We weren't able to track down any slimmer 'tops in that league, though the MacBook Air clamps closed at 0.68-inches.

Tan spoke repeatedly about Razer's envelope-pushing ways, an attitude that helped bear the Blade's hairline profile.

"We dare to take challenges," he laid out. "Look at PCs today. When was the last time anyone was passionate about a PC? It's all been cheaper, more boring, thicker, stuff like that.

"We've got some of the best engineers, and we challenge ourselves all the time. Today, we don't really look at competitive products because we are our only benchmark. We're pushing it day after day, and it's fun. Life is short."


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nuance head predicts cross-platform virtual assistants within 2 years

Nuance head predicts cross-platform virtual assistants within 2 years

Nuance head predicts cross-platform virtual assistants within 2 years

Current virtual assistants like Apple's Siri and Google Now are far from perfect, but they could evolve within the next two years to be something much greater.

Nuance CEO Paul Ricci predicted at the D11 conference this week that virtual assistants will be lending a hand across multiple platforms and mediums, providing full control of everything from phones to TVs, within two years.

"I think we will see virtual ass istants within two years that are quite robust," Ricci said.

"I also believe that within two years we will see that virtual assistants will work across platforms."

Nuanced control

Nuance is the company behind the Dragon dictation and speech recognition software.

Last year it debuted a virtual assistant SDK for iOS and Android called Nina that can recognize individual users by their voice.

The U.S. company is also involved with Siri, Samsung's S Voice, similar technology on HTC phones, and Amazon.

It is also working on in-car speech recognition systems, Ricci revealed.

"The car does need work but the problem must be solved," h e said.


In Depth: Nvidia launches world's fastest mobile chip with GeForce 700M series

In Depth: Nvidia launches world's fastest mobile chip with GeForce 700M series

In Depth: Nvidia launches world's fastest mobile chip with GeForce 700M series

Nvidia is about to kill the notion that notebooks aren't for the gaming enthusiasts, unveiling its GeForce 700M series of GPUs.

The new notebook GPUs are Kepler top to bottom, and all feature Nvidia's Boost 2.0 technology which adjusts GPU clock speeds to maximise performance.

At the top of the range is the Geforce GTX 780M with 1,536 cores clocked at 823MHz, with a memory bus bandwidth of 256 bit and up to 4GB of GDDR5 memory. Memory here is clocked at 2,500MHz. All of which means 1080p gameplay should be nice and smooth.

The 770M, meanwhile, boasts 960 cores clocked at 811MHz. The memory bandwidth sits at 192 bit, with 3GB of GDDR5 memory clocked at 2GHz.

And at the other end of the scale, the GTX 760M and GTX 765M both host 768 cores, while the former is clocked at 657MHz and the later at 850MHz. Both have a 128 bit of also-GDDR5 memory with 2GB capacity at 2GHz.

Kepler through and through

The new series also makes use of GeForce Experience, a client that will detect the CPU and GPU and then tweak and optimise in-game settings for the notebook you're running it on.

Nvidia promises that the 700M series will bring notebooks that are 40% and lighter, delivering the enthusiast experience to the mobile gamer.

"Our competitors are pretty far behind here in terms of performance penalties and the fact tha t their profiles aren't identifying correctly a lot of different games and applications out there. Optimus just works, it doesn't cost any performance," said Mark Aevermann, senior product manager for mobile GPUs.

Speaking at the reveal event, Aevermann said that the GPUs will be targeting framerates of around 40fps, with the ability to go even higher than that in some isntances.


//PART 2