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Tuesday 8th August 2012

Windows 8

Good or bad?

There's so much Windows 8 hype at the moment, that it can be difficult to spot the important features of the operating system from the marketing propaganda emanating from Microsoft.

Many businesses rely on the word of independent research companies to help them separate the wheat from the chaff, and one of the most respected of the these companies is Gartner.

So, Gartner's examination of the new Windows version carries a great deal of weight, and many major industrial players will use it to help them decide whether to upgrade their systems.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the news isn't good.

Gartner's research director Gunnar Berger has given Windows 8 a full test, and produced a comprehensive review, in which he asks the question:

"What is the experience like on Windows 8 when the end point isn’t touch enabled?" (by which he means a normal desktop PC or laptop, not a touchscreen tablet).

His answer: "In a word: Bad."

This confirms what I've been saying in these email newsletters for the past few months. If you're a desktop PC user, it looks like Microsoft have ditched your requirements so they can chase after tablet PC users. According to Berger:

"Desktops have a keyboard and a mouse; and as much as this doesn’t make any sense, it seems to me that Microsoft forgot about this when they designed Windows 8."

Berger's analysis has thrown up even more bad news for Microsoft:

“We recently did a large field research study and specifically asked all of our interviewees if they were looking at Windows 8, most laughed. The fact is most enterprises are still trying to get to Windows 7 and few enterprises are ready for Windows 8.”

If businesses are still working on upgrading to Windows 7, they're unlikely to want to make the further switch to Windows 8, especially when it is difficult to control with a mouse and keyboard - the way most office-based users work.

This is a blow Microsoft could have done without, coming at the same time as they announce their first ever quarterly loss. That's right, one of the most successful technology companies has actually lost money for the first time in the 26 years it has
been a public company.

Most of that loss has been attributed to the botched buyout of online advertising firm aQuantive.

But, if they are going to pull back from this problem, and buck the general trend of economic doom and gloom, they really need an absolute corker of an operating system in Windows 8, and it is looking like they just don't have it.

The crucial period will be over Christmas, when we will see if everyone asks for a Windows 8 tablet PC in their stocking. If they don't, we'll probably see a major service pack release for Windows 8 that brings back the missing desktop features such as the Start menu, to make the product more attractive to desktop and business users.

Thursday 16 Feb 2012

Barclays launches mobile rival to PayPal

Pingit service will be expanded to customers of other banks next month

PayPal allows registered users to make payments over the internet by simply using an email address linked to their banking details. The new Barclays service - called Pingit - allows users to make payments using their mobile number linked to their current account.

The service will initially be available to Barclays customers but the bank says all current accounts from other banks and building societies will be able to use Pingit from next month (March).

Users can both send and receive money for free using UK phone and bank accounts. With PayPal - which can be used globally - the recipient of cash is usually charged a fee.

Both systems enable two parties to transfer and receive cash without having to share their banking details. PayPal has become popular with many online merchants to do business, knowing that online purchasers often don't want to share their bank account numbers.

Pingit could potentially rival PayPal in ecommerce if merchants can set up a mobile number linked to their trading account, which would enable them to avoid fees for receiving cash.

The service works via a mobile app for either Apple's iOS, Google's Android or RIM's BlackBerry. Payments can also be made over the web with users registering online. The app is protected by a five-digit passcode set by the user.

Barclays said: "It is expected that this will prove particularly popular for friends and family sending money to each other. Barclays Pingit can also be used by some small business customers of Barclays and other banks, for example sole traders such as window cleaners or plumbers, meaning customers can pay them quickly, easily and securely."

Antony Jenkins, chief executive of Barclays retail and business banking, said: "Barclays Pingit could revolutionise the way people send and receive money."

Thursday 16 Feb 2012

Symantec releases updated Norton 360 client security

Integrated suite secures desktop and mobile endpoints

Symantec today released an updated version of its Norton 360 desktop and mobile security software, while also rolling out a new licensing arrangement for combined PC, Mac and Android use.

In addition, the company announced a novel plan for a new kind of customer support called "Norton One" that involves individualised unlimited assistance for customers who are mystified by computers, security and software, if they're willing to pay the annual membership fee.

Symantec's Norton 360 Version 6, available for Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7, is desktop security combining network intrusion prevention, Norton's "Sonar" behaviour-based protection, its "Insight" reputation analysis for malware, an antivirus engine and web-based anti-phishing protection, among other features.

The latest version of Norton 360 adds bells and whistles, such as the introduction of a web portal so customers can access passwords they commonly use anywhere. Its "Download insight" capability, which had been in beta, will give users feedback on how safe it is to download a file.

There are now bandwidth controls to allow the user to monitor and control how mobile broadband, which is often metered by the provider, might be used, among other network services. And in another change, a so-called "self healing" feature will now be apparent to the user as a green dialog box from Norton, which may appear, when needed, to say it has detected a unique error code in the user's machine and is applying an auto-fix correction to Norton 360 to adjust for it.

"These are probably errors unique to your environment," says Collin Davis, senior director of engineering at Norton. He says "there are a lot of idiosyncrasies that come up" that Norton will tackle with a minor custom build to Norton 360 Version 6 to correct the glitch.

Norton has found this is needed because customers use such a wide range of computers and software these days that making use of the new auto-fix will quickly solve issues that distract users, plus minimise call volumes for tech support. This auto-fix is distinct from any general patch updates that might occur.

Microsoft Windows 8 is not yet out, it's not exactly clear when it will be but a beta is expected soon with year-end general release, but Norton is working closely with Microsoft to make sure that Norton 360 Version 6 will be able to run on Windows 8. "Microsoft has given us internal preview builds," says Davis, adding at this point Norton is highly confident that if someone bought Norton 360 Version 6 now, it would work on Windows 8 when it's available.

Norton 360 Everywhere

For the first time, Norton is coming out later this spring with what it calls Norton 360 Everywhere, which basically is a licensing plan for use of Norton 360 for up to five Windows or Apple Macintosh computers, plus any Android-based smartphones and tablets based on Android 2.1 and up. Norton 360 Everywhere includes 25GB of online storage.

Norton says this is the first time it has set up a single licensing of Norton 360 across platforms like this, and that Norton 360 Everywhere is a testimony to the impact of mobile computing today. The licensing plan doesn't include Apple iOS devices, however, mainly because Apple's architecture is said not to lend itself to this use.

The "Norton One" customer-service membership

Also in the works is a plan to offer what's being called the "Norton One" membership to customers who find coping with security and management issues to be a trying ordeal, and they're willing to pay for unlimited online and phone support help from Norton for a range of its products, including Norton Internet Security for the Mac, Norton 360 and Norton Internet Security 2012.

"It's a set of support and advisory services," says Jody Gibney, group product manager at Norton, about the new membership concept that Norton is now piloting and expects to launch in earnest toward the end of March in English-speaking countries, including the US, UK, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The idea is that a "team of experts" is going to be available on call around the clock and through online remote support to help you with any difficulties, whether it be backup of photos in Norton's cloud storage or setting up the Identity Safe feature for family members. Norton One is conceived to be wide-ranging in its scope, and foresees Norton going into a new type of intense hand-holding customer interaction that isn't done yet today in the industry.

Tuesday 14 Feb 2012

Be My Valentine!

Critical fix for Internet Explorer

Microsoft used Valentine’s Day to release a critical fix for Internet Explorer. According to security firm Qualys, the fix should be installed on your PC as a matter of urgency, even if you don't use Internet Explorer as your main browser. "We saw last month how quickly attackers are incorporating browser-based attacks into their toolkits; an exploit for MS12-004 was detected a mere 15 days after Patch Tuesday," said Wolfgang Kandek of Qualys. Microsoft have also released two critical fixes for Windows problems, a critical fix for a .NET problem and an important update to repair a bug in Microsoft Office. All together the fixes released by Microsoft cure 21 different problems that have been detected in Windows software and components. If you have Automatic Updates enabled, the patches will be applied automatically in the next few days. If not, then install them using Windows Update, via Start > All Programs > Windows Update

With hackers getting more sophisticated, it has never been more important to ensure that you are protected with the latest patches from Microsoft. A report from Internet security firm Citadel has revealed how hackers and virus writers are embracing open source development techniques to create more stable malware infections. Previously, one or two hackers would develop a virus by themselves, which would probably have its fair share of software bugs. Now hackers are working together on virus code, with different groups of hackers customising their own versions of the virus, and sharing the changes they make with other hackers, similar to the way open source applications are developed. This results in better developed malware infections, since more people are studying the code and spotting bugs, and different hackers are bringing different skills to the development. This also means that viruses evolve more quickly, making it harder for anti-virus software to detect them. Make sure you apply the latest Windows patches to ensure that you stay safe.

#Barclays #Symantec