During the kickoff Microsoft keynote that marks the start CES, Steve Ballmer announced that Windows 7 beta is available starting today for TechNet and MSDN subscribers. Nothing too exciting there for the average Joe, we know, which is why we were excited when he also mentioned that the beta would also be publicly available beginning this Friday, January 9th. You’ll be able to grab either the 32-bit version, or the 64-bit version of the Windows 7 beta software if you are one of the first 2.5 million people to hit the download button. You just need to head to the Windows 7 product page to do so. Just be aware that the beta software will expire on August 1, 2009.
As part of the release, Microsoft was also happy to note that Windows Live Essentials, “a free suite of communications and sharing applications that make it easy for people to communicate, share and keep their online lives in sync and in one place with one login,” is now also available on a worldwide scale.
In the final announcement of the MacWorld 2009 keynote, Phil Schiller listed off some of the changes coming to the iTunes ecosystem. First and foremost, in our mind, is that iTunes is going completely DRM-free. Starting today, 8 millions songs on the service will be DRM-free, and by the end of March, all 10 million will be without DRM. Consumers will be able to upgrade their entire purchased music library to iTunes Plus, which means no DRM and much higher quality at 256 kbps.
In a related note, Apple also announced that the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store is no more, and that instead, your iPhone can now download iTunes tracks no matter what connection you are on - that means no need to find a Wi-Fi hotspot in order to download the latest from Flo Rida. Of course, iPhone downloads are also DRM-free and sport the same quality.
Keynote: New to Keynote, you can now identify objects within slides, and Keynote will take care of moving them around between slides. There is a Magic Move feature, which will do everything automatically, including resizing and rotating an object. There are new animations as well, featuring fly-ins on charts and graphs, rotating and grow on bars, zooming in on charts, etc. New deck themes have also been added.
As a side note, there is also a new Keynote remote control app available in the App Store that will allow you to use your iPhone or iPod touch to control your Keynote presentations. It will cost $0.99.
Pages: Pages ‘09 gets a few new features. First up is a fullscreen view that makes everything else on your screen disappear. Basically, you get the document you are typing on, and everything else fades to black, to help you focus. There are also new dynamic outlines, which let you outline what you are going to write before you actually start writing, and you can switch back and forth to reorganize your thoughts. Pages also gets a new mail merge feature, which works with Numbers, connecting to tables, and it also works with MathTpye and EndNote. Oh, and you get 40 new themes.
Numbers: Numbers 09 picks up easy formula writing, advanced chart options (like mixed chart types, error bars, trend lines) and new table categories. If you have a Pages document that is linked to data from a Numbers document, if you update it in Numbers, it is automatically updated in Pages. Nice. Lastly, Numbers also gets theme templates, which is rare for a spreadsheet application.
iWork ‘09 ships today, and sells for $79, or $99 for a family pack that is good on up to five Macs. If you purchase it with a new Mac, it costs just $49.
During his first (and only) MacWorld keynote speech, Phil Schiller announced the latest update to the iLife suite of software, iLife ‘09. Let’s take each app, one by one, and look at the changes and additions:
iPhoto ‘09: New to iPhoto is Faces. Faces uses facial recognition to organize and tag photos of people. iPhoto will find a face in a photo, and you tell it who it is. It will then find other photos that it thinks are of the same person. Easy way to grab snapshots that feature the same person. Another new organization feature is called Places. This uses the geotagging feature available on a lot of modern cameraa, and puts pins on a map showing the different places that the images were taken. If you have photos that aren’t geotagged, you simply tell iPhoto where the image (or event images) was taken, and it fills in the rest. The map feature is based on Google Maps, so you can zoom in on a location, look at satellite or street view, etc.
Apple has also added in built-in support for Facebook and Flickr to iPhoto - that means no more fumbling around with clunky plugins to get your pictures out of iPhoto and onto those services. A very welcome addition. Facebook users can add the names of people in their images, and iPhoto will retain that info as well (presumedly for the Faces feature.)
iPhoto also gets new slideshow themes. You choose a theme and photos, and iPhoto puts it all together. It uses the Faces to find the faces in images so that those are centered and zoomed. You can save slideshows to iTunes, and they can be synced to an iPhone or iPod touch. Something new for the Books too, you can now automatically get maps included, with pins that show your location. Great for making travel books.
iMovie ‘09: Apple has admitted that, since it was new, iMovie ‘08 didn’t have all the features that older customer wanted. This year, they aim to change that. iMovie ‘09 gets a new Precision Editor, Advanced drag & drop (that give you context-sensitive menus,) dynamic themes, and even animated travel maps. So, again, you can use your location data to insert 2D and 3D maps of those locations into your movies.
GarageBand ‘09: GarageBand ‘09 is being updated with a new feature called “Learn to Play,” which brings up an instructor which plays video lessons. If that’s not enough to get you excited, there are even Artist Lessons. You get people like John Fogerty, Colbie Caillat, Sting, Sarah McLachlan, Norah Jones, and Patrick Stump, who will teach you how to play instruments like the guitar or piano.
iLife ‘09 also includes updated versions of iWeb and iDVD, and ships free on new Macs. You can purchase an upgrade for $79, or buy a family pack (good on up to five Macs) for $99, and it will be available in “late January.”
For those wondering, Apple has also released a new version of iWork - iWork ‘09.
On the eve of MacWorld 2009, Google has finally gone and released a Mac version of Picasa. Picasa 3 for OS X is a beta version of the massively popular Picasa photo management software that Windows users have been enjoying for about five years now. If you are unfamiliar, unlike iPhoto, Picasa doesn’t wrangle all your images into one area - instead, if finds them and leaves them where they are. If you move an image, it will know where it went. You can do simple editing, and since Picasa is a Google product, it ties in to all the other Google offerings in exactly the ways you are thinking. Yup, emailing photos using your Gmail account, uploading videos to YouTube, and sending both photos and videos to the free Picasa Web Albums service, where you can then share them with friends, the world, or keep them private.
Picasa is free, and you can grab it immediately.
Read More | Picasa for OS X
Foxit has introduced its first e-book reader that they have dubbed the eSlick. With a mere 0.4-inch thickness and a weight of 6.4 oz., you can view PDF files or convert any printable document to PDF. The device also has a built-in MP3 Player. It comes with software, a 2GB SD card and earphones. Foxit says it will be arriving “very soon.” You can pre-order now for $229.99 and you will save $30.00.
Read More | Foxit
A team of MIT computer scientists decided to develop software to combine all those sticky notes with a result that it will enter, store and retrieve information. Michael Bernstein claims the team is not trying to replace Post-its, just understand the “classes of things people do with Post-its and see if we can help users do more of what they wanted to do in the first place.”
What started out as a 2007 simple study became a larger project. The systems devised include a program to capture broad content and one that streamlines note taking. The team found that if too much effort is required to store the data, most people won’t bother. We admit that we would miss our collage of paper scraps that adorn our desk.
Read More | MIT
Elecont has released an update for their Weather software. Available in both a Smartphone and Windows Mobile Pocket PC platform, it gives you a 10 day, worldwide forecast as well as hour-by-hour. Added to that are severe weather alert watches and warnings in case of extreme conditions or natural disasters. You can download a free trial and if you want to keep it, Elecont is offering a 30% discount for a price of only $9.95 until December 7.
Read More | Smartphone Thoughts Store
Microsoft has announced that they will be offering free antivirus software late next year for Windows XP/Vista/7 and the upcoming IE 8. Referred to as Morro, the software will provide “comprehensive protection from malware including viruses, spyware, rootkits and trojans.” Because it is smaller, it is a welcome relief for those of us with aging PCs. Although they are discontinuing their OneCare subscription service in June, users should be happy they are saving a few bucks.
Read More | Daily Tech
Just two months after the Zune 3.0 release, Microsoft is now deploying the next incremental update to their Zune platform with Zune 3.1. Available for download today, the Zune 3.1 update brings quite a few welcome feature changes and updates:
- New Games: Checkers, Sudoku, and Space Battle
- New multiplayer mode, and single-player difficulty levels, for Texas Hold’em
- Visual changes to the Zune Social, making it prettier and easier to navigate
- Like-Minder Listeners feature added to social, allowing you to compare your music tastes to others
- Improved play count reporting, content synchronization, and other bug fixes in both the hardware and software
You can grab the update now by launching your Zune software, going into Settings, and hitting Check for Updates.
Read More | Zune Insider