Outlook Comes to iOS& Android

office365-splitterI knew that there was a good reason that Microsoft acquired Acompli back in December. Acompli was a company that had built a high quality email app for both iOS and Android platforms. The apps were quite popular with whoever took the time to give them a shot.

Acompli cost Microsoft just over $200 million so you know there had to be a plan and this past week their plan was exposed.

Microsoft this week released Outlook for iOS and Outlook for Android (in beta).

The apps are now live on the App Store and Google Play Store, and should provide a high quality mobile email experience for users complete with all the traditional Outlook features many of us have come to rely on.

Of course there are countless email apps already available on these two mobile platforms are, but Acompli has built a bit an amazing reputation and Microsoft will be the beneficiary.

Rockin' the new Outlook App on my iPhone.

Rockin’ the new Outlook App on my iPhone.

Hopefully, with the force of Microsoft the programming and design behind Acompli will shine as the newly designed Outlook app.

I have just downloaded this app and although it took a little setup and configuration I must say it is very nice and is now my defacto email app on my iPhone. It also has my calendar, contacts, onedrive and even Box and dropbox accounts all there – in one app.

You can grab the Microsoft Outlook Preview app on Android or iOS.

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Surface Pro 3’s Windows 10 Problems

I am so glad to find that I was not crazy. After installing the latest Windows 10 technical preview on my trusty and much loved Surface Pro 3 I immediately ran into issues. The screen would not respond, the video would flash occasionally and reboot on it’s own. Not being a quitter I restored Windows 8.1 three times after finding the same sad results each time I tried again to get Windows 10 on my Surface.

I was surprised at this sad result because I have been running Windows 10 on my HP desktop and Acer Aspire S7 laptop with almost no issues at all.

Now day’s later I find that I am not alone. If you have a Surface Pro 3 I would recommend that if you are interested in downloading the Windows 10 technical build holding off until the upcoming new build scheduled for mid-February is available.

Surface-Pro-3-W10-590x330

Microsoft truly wants Windows 10 to work for Insiders, particularly those running the company’s own hardware, like the Surface Pro 3. In December, despite any new builds releasing, we saw Microsoft deliver fixes for the November release, further showing that the company is intent on fixing glaring issues to ensure Windows 10 can be used for testing and feedback, despite it clearly still showing beta software problems.

Last night, Microsoft released a fixed version of the Intel graphics driver for Surface Pro users. This version reports to  specifically addresses the video playback issues experienced by many, including me but as I suggested earlier I will just wait for the new build in a couple of weeks and I would suggest anyone with a Surface Pro 3 do the same.

To get the driver, dig into Windows Update to obtain it. Windows Update has been moved in Windows 10 Build 9926. To find it, see: Windows 10 Build 9926: Where’s Windows Update?

 

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NASA Targets 2017 for Return to Manned Space Travel

After a hiatus of six long years, US astronauts will finally return to space in a revolutionary new pair of private crew capsules under development by Boeing and SpaceX, starting in 2017. Just as importantly this will finally end our embarrassing our current reliance on the Russians for launching our astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

So what he have is that in two years from now, crews will start travelling to space aboard the first US commercial spaceships ever built, launching atop US rockets from US soil. These new “human rated spaceships” which are also known as “space taxis” are being designed and manufactured as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Boeing’s commercial CST-100 'Space Taxi' will carry a crew of five astronauts to low Earth orbit and the ISS from US soil.   Mockup with astronaut mannequins seated below pilot console and Samsung tablets was unveiled on June 9, 2014 at its planned manufacturing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

A two person mixed crew of NASA astronauts and company test pilots will fly on the first test flights going to the space station in 2017.

Hatch opening to Boeing’s commercial CST-100 crew transporter.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com

Severe budget cuts by Congress forced NASA into a two year delay in the first commercial crew flights from the original target of 2015 to 2017  and also forced NASA to pay hundreds of millions of more dollars to the Russians for crews seats instead of employing American aerospace workers.

The first unmanned test flights of the SpaceX Dragon V2 and Boeing CST-100 are scheduled to occur by late 2016 or early 2017. Manned flights to the ISS could follow by the spring and summer of 2017.

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Amazon to Offer Email Service

I am not so sure about this one Amazon.com.

While I am a big fan of your amazon.com website for purchasing and Amazon Prime is amazing, and both your Kindle and Amazon Fire TV are winners I am not sure that on the heels of the disaster that was the Amazon Fire Phone trying to sell yet another email service is the best move.

Amazon has reported that they will launch an enterprise email and calendar service that competes against products from Microsoft and Google.

Called WorkMail, the product will “focus on security and ease of use”, because Amazon claims many companies view enterprise email applications as expensive and difficult to use.

“Customers are not happy with their current email solution,” Adam Selipsky, an Amazon Web Services official, told the Journal. “A lot of customers feel those solutions are expensive and complex.”

I simply do not buy this reasoning. I have heard very few people complain to me that their email service is “too confusing” or “not secure”.

Details are few today on the technology behind WorkMail and Amazon has been vague on the service details itself. WorkMail will apparently work with existing email client applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, and provide the back end email and calendaring functionality. It will compete primarily against Microsoft’s Exchange Online, which is part of the Office 365 cloud suite for businesses, and against Google Apps for Work’s Gmail component.

With the new service, Amazon is joining a host of others in the quest to upend Microsoft as the king of email and other office productivity tools. Competitors in the crowded field already include Google, with its Apps for Business, as well as many  start-up companies, including Dropbox, Evernote, Box.com, and Quip.

Good-luck Amazon.com. I will be pulling for you but I have a bad feeling about this one.

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Windows 10 Reaches Milestone

win10It is clear that there is a certain buzz surrounding Windows 10 that no Microsoft operating system has enjoyed since Windows XP back in 2001. You can see this because 10 is attracting a large crowd of public testers, of which I am one.

Microsoft announced this week that 2 million consumers are now testing its latest and greatest Windows 10 build 9926. From what I can find that makes this the second largest public beta test in history.

In addition to the shiny new operating system Microsoft also has made it clear that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 customers, which has obviously added to the curiosity and dare I say excitement surrounding the new OS .

At the end of October, a month after the launch of the first public Preview build, Microsoft announced that 1 million consumers were testing the pending product.  In the two-and-a-half months since, Microsoft tacked on an additional 700,000 testers, and delivered two more Preview builds.

Windows 10 press event

At its January 21 press event, Microsoft announced that it had 1.7 million consumers testing Windows 10 currently.  Then during a January 26 earnings call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced that “more than 2 million” testers were now involved.

That’s big news as it means that Microsoft has been adding more than 50,000 testers a day since the press event.  This is all indicative of the strong consumer interest in Windows 10.

For me Windows 10 is running fine on two computers, my home office HP desktop and a Acer S7 laptop. However for some reason my Surface Pro 3 simply refuses to function normally with it which is a little frustrating. I am back to Windows 8.1 on my Surface but hope to give Windows 10 another try on it next month when the next build of 10 is released.

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Getting Control of Outlook’s Notifications

It’s been a little while since I posted a good old tip for you, my dedicated readers. I decided to take a minute and post one here as my day winds down. Do you find that Outlook notifications can actually distract you doing the work day. Does your PC “ding” continually while you work? Well if this is a problem there is a way that you can gain control of Outlook and it’s notifications. What I suggest is reducing the number of alerts you get to only those most important to you.

In Outlook, set desktop notifications only for those VIP messages. All you need to do is turn off all desktop alerts under the Mail Options, then create an Outlook rule to display alerts for messages from specific people sent only to you. For example:

The first thing you will want to do is un-check everything in the Message arrival section of Outlook's options.

The first thing you will want to do is un-check everything in the Message arrival section of Outlook’s options.

 

Then open “Rules” on the toolbar and “Create Rule”. Once here you can choose to “play a selected sound” for countless conditions such as “From” or “Subject Contains” as well as many more if you open “Advanced Options”. You can even choose different sounds for different people.

I won't bore you but there are endless options here and this is only the tip of the iceberg for setting sounds for specific events.

I won’t bore you but there are endless options here and this is only the tip of the iceberg for setting sounds for specific events.

 

Bonus Rule Tip: You can right click on a specific email and select “create rule” from the mini-menu that appears. If you do this, the rule will already have the sender entered in the “From” section for you.

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Introducing the Surface Hub

Microsoft announced and demoed to two very exciting devices during their Windows 10 event. These are  the Microsoft Surface Hub and the HoloLens. I will talk a little bit about HoloLens later and today I want to focus on the Surface Hub.

During the event, Microsoft hid the Surface Hub in plain sight, using it to display content and graphics for the big show. It wasn’t until the company made the reveal that we realized what it was.

The Surface Hub is a massive display unit that comes loaded full of goodness for organizations wants to get work done. It comes in two different models based on 55-inch and 84-inch sizes, and includes:

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  • An embedded computer
  • A lightweight version of Windows 10
  • 100 simultaneous touch points
  • Intel Core CPUs
  • Ports: HDMI, USB
  • Wireless connectivity: Miracast, NFC, Bluetooth
  • Stereo speakers
  • A mic array
  • Two Microsoft Surface Hub Rechargeable (in the unit) Pens
  • Integrated cameras
  • Support for centralized Enterprise management (just like a real PC or device)
  • Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, plus the OneNote whiteboard and Skype for Business
  • Direct support for Universal apps for Windows 10
  • Easy “reciprocal” touch sharing
  • One-touch meeting start
  • Available stands and mounts

The Microsoft Surface Hub is no doubt targeted toward business and has many exciting modern features. Understanding that Microsoft’s Surface tablets already are on the expensive side the retail price for the Surface Hub may also unfortunately, at least upon release be to expensive for smaller organizations.

Check out this video to see all that the Surface Hub has to offer and to discover why so many are exciting about this, very modern business collaboration tool.

Microsoft reports that the Surface Hub will be available this year, and I am guessing this fall when Windows 10 is released to the public.  At the bottom left of the official Microsoft Surface Hub web site is an email alert sign-up opportunity. Subscribing to the alert will notify you when it’s available and also deliver news about the new hardware.

I already have many ideas to how this can be applied in our organization so I am hoping for an affordable price point.

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Installing Update 2 of 1?

Oh the woes of the “technical preview”. Today I installed, or attempted to install the latest build of Windows 10 on my home office desktop PC and my Surface Pro 3. On the desktop which had been running Windows 7 the install of the technical preview went fairly well although for hours afterward the CPU usage and memory usage continued to run very high. However with the Surface Pro 3 it was a very different story. I tried twice to install the technical preview on my Surface and both times, after an hour of so of poor and erratic performance I gave up and restored back to Windows 8.1. Afterall I rely very heavily on this this device at work and just needed to get in back into a workable condition before Monday.

My frustration is that I like Windows 10… I really do. However why it causes chaos on my Surface I have no idea. That is the one device I would like to be running it right now.

Anyway the next build will be arriving in mid-February and I hope to try it on my Surface again at that time.

The good news is that Windows 10 is going to be a winner.

A side note and one that I was able to capture was Microsoft reporting on my Surface Pro during the “update” that it was “installing update 2 of 1”. I should have known at that point it was not going to go well for my Surface… and it did not.  Back to 8.1 for a bit I guess.

Screenshot (1)

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Windows 10 Free? Clarify Please.

win10Last week Microsoft announced that Windows 10 will be a free upgrade for users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 systems once the new operating system releases. However as is typical from Microsoft the “free upgrade” is more complex then it would appear.

Here again, is exactly what Terry Myserson said, and even reiterated later in a blog post:

This is more than a one-time upgrade: once a Windows device is upgraded to Windows 10, we will continue to keep it current for the supported lifetime of the device – at no additional charge.

Many are spending way too much time trying to figure out which word in Terry’s statement to emphasize, believing that Microsoft is trying to sneak a fast one by them by basically offering a free upgrade on one hand and hiding a bombshell in the other. However I believe that the bottom line is that this is a free upgrade, no strings attached.

However this offer is only good for consumers and it does not apply to businesses or enterprise customers. And, that’s where the confusion is and this is where we need to learn more.

Windows 10 Build 9926 rolled out last week as well. I will checking out the new features of this latest build during the next couple of weeks.

Access to this feature is available for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users inside the Windows Update component in Control Panel after you install a special preparation tool from the Windows Insider web site. Of course, you must first be a member of the Windows Insider program.

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Big Windows 10 News from Microsoft

Yesterday I touched a little bit on Microsoft’s big Windows 10 event. Today I wanted to cover it – in more detail. Prepare yourself for some very exiting things on the horizon from Microsoft.

First and foremost Microsoft will be releasing a new milestone build of Windows 10 “next week” and in Feburary will launch the first build of Windows 10 to target smartphones and ARM tablets.

Windows 10 upgrade

Windows 10 is the successor to Windows 8.1.  It will be offered as a free upgrade to all Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 users.  This is a big deal especially for all those Windosws 7 holdovers. Microsoft has not announced a specific release date yet, but is expected to offer up a near-complete build at a soft launch in April.  According to the most recent reports this will be followed by a full roll out, complete with new Windows 10 phones and PCs this fall.

Windows 10 Cortana

Cortana

There was some exciting news here as Cortana’s presence is being expanding across all devices. Today she only resides on Windows phone, and that is a shame because from my experience Cortana is superior to Siri in many ways. Her duties wil include the traditional scheduling (interfacing with the calendar and reminders apps), search (with web support via Bing), dictation, email addressing, and more.

In addition the PC build of Cortana wil include support for local searches of files, with natural language processing to understand context such as a date range.  It also will include the ability to type queries/commands to her.  You wil be able to activate her up by saying, “Hey Cortana.”

Windows 10 apps

Core Apps

The big news here, are the Universal Apps, which aim to offer apps across a broad range of devices with a disciplined focus on reducing effort on the developer front. As an example Microsoft showed off a new version off Office that transitions seamlessly from touchscreen devices to the traditional PC, boasting more powerful features than current mobile Office builds.  A particularity cool addition here is a new build of Outlook which features Microsoft Word fully integrated as its email editor for rich text.

DirectX 12

In support of the universal apps effort I mentioned above DirectX 12 will become the cross-platform graphics API.  Microsoft claims its offers greater power efficiency and “50 percent higher performance” in PC games (as compared to DirectX 11).

Continuum

Microsoft’s flexible UI technology switches between touch controls or traditional PC controls, based on the target device hardware.

Xbox One Games on the PC

This one will surely be a hit with gamers. Microsoft plans to offer streamed versions of popular Xbox One games.  These games will be offered for play on tablets and PCs.

Windows 10

Project Spartan Browser

The new build of Internet Explorer, Project Spartan will be the default browser for Windows 10.  From early reviews you will actually want to use this one! It will feature extensions. As a surprise bonus it will reportedly have native compatibility with Google Chrome extensions, although this was not confirmed yesterday.  Spartan is lightweight and fast thanks to its branched version of the Trident rendering engine.  It will also sport “compatibility mode” for sites having problems rendering to the new browser.

Spartan also has full Cortana integration as well as OneNote integration.  You can save Reading Lists and clip content for offline reading; these items can be synced across all your Windows 10 devices (including phones and tablets).

So there you go – that’s alot of Microsoft goodness and 2015 looks to be the “Year of Windows 10” which will allow Microsoft to place Windows 8 in the rear view mirror.

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