Windows 8.1 Preview Released…what’s inside and other news from Build

Microsoft’s developer’s conference, Build, began with the keynote from Steve Ballmer. Ballmer began by talking about hardware, new phones and tablets (there will be an 8 inch form factor, beginning with Acer) but quickly got into Windows 8.1, which was released today in a preview build.

Among the changes, a more functional Start button that includes the ability to shut down the computer-something that was a complete surprise. Also in the build, the boot to desktop-another feature we didn’t think would make it into this build. 

There were tons of goodies either shown or talked about. They include a Windows 8 style Office release for 2014, Outlook for Windows RT that looks really, really nice. A new version of OneNote is also in the works.  XBOX Music is not only gaining a cloud version, but has been completely re written and includes RADIO, a free streaming service.  It, too, looks good. 

win81searchPerhaps the biggest surprise was from Bing. Bing is now the in-built Windows search engine. Not only that, but Microsoft has released a set of tools for developers that gives them very tight integration with Bing.  This, to me, is probably the biggest news yet, from Microsoft.

Another surprise was an announcement from Dell that they will be selling a Windows RT tablet, giving credence to the notion that Microsoft has not abandoned the struggling operating system.

Sprint is, finally, going to be carrying two Windows Phone 8 devices, one from HTC and the other from Samsung.

Two other announcements of note: Windows 8.1 includes built in support for 3D printers and high resolution, retina like, displays. 

If you want to read more in depth reviews, the Verge has a really nice write up and MIcrosoft’s preview site has a video the explains many of the changes. You can also download the preview here. (If you are already running Windows 8, the download is an update to the Store, which is where you actually download the preview.)

I’ll have more on the preview once it is installed on my tablet.

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Microsoft does listen: licensing for Office 2013 is to change

In an amazing turn of events, Microsoft actually listened to its customers and has changed the licensing for the RETAIL version of Office 2013. As I previously warned, the license for retail, boxed copies of Office 2013 was perpetually tied to the machine that it was originally installed, unless that machine died within its warranty period AND Office were pre-installed. You would be able to transfer it ONCE.

Today, acknowledging its customers, Microsoft changed the licensing to be a bit more flexible. You may now transfer the license from one machine to another, but once every 90 days. So, you still cannot install on your desktop, your laptop, your brother’s desktop or significant other’s machine at the same time.

While not perfect, it is better and it does prove that Microsoft does, in fact, listen.

From the Office blog:

Based on customer feedback we have changed the Office 2013 retail license agreement to allow customers to move the software from one computer to another. This means customers can transfer Office 2013 to a different computer if their device fails or they get a new one. Previously, customers could only transfer their Office 2013 software to a new device if their PC failed under warranty.

While the licensing agreement text accompanying Office 2013 software will be updated in future releases, this change is effective immediately and applies to Office Home and Student 2013, Office Home and Business 2013, Office Professional 2013 and the standalone Office 2013 applications. With this change, customers can move the software to another computer once every 90 days. These terms are identical to those found in the Office 2010 software.

So, there you go. It’s a shame that they abandoned the three-install license (I called it the ‘family pack.’) With Office 2010 Home and Student, you could install and use it on three devices, concurrently. Install it on others as long as you uninstalled on one.  Nice, family and budget friendly and it gets more people using the software. For some reason, they abandoned this (OK, it’s Office 365 that did it) and went with the archaic terms for the boxed software. They REALLY want that subscription. Well, I’m just not sure I’d want to do that. At $99 a year, it would feel like I am buying it every year. Not sure I want to do that. And, while 2013 looks great, I’m just not sure it is any better than 2010. But, that is me. You decide, is it worth it?