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Microsoft is the Gaming Business’ New King

When I look around the gaming industry right now, it’s tough to find any single company that really “gets” it. Nintendo has the Wii, which was performing well for quite some time, but that device’s popularity has started to wane. And the 3DS has pretty much disappointed everyone from Nintendo’s CEO Satoru Iwata to his company’s most ardent supporters.

On the Sony front, the PlayStation 3 is slowly but surely starting to come out of the hole it dug for itself, but whether or not it will ever be able to catch on in a big way in the U.S. remains to be seen. And the PSP has, for all intents and purposes, been forgotten by the gaming community.

But then there’s Microsoft. The latest entrant to the gaming industry out of the three big players, Microsoft has become, in just two generations, a powerhouse in the space. And if I had to choose any company that should be crowned the new king of the gaming business, it must be Microsoft.

Let’s start with the Xbox 360. That device’s sales have been quite steady over the past several years, easily outstripping the PlayStation 3 and hanging tough against the Wii. But over the last year, it has been especially popular. In fact, Microsoft reported recently that its console has led sales in 14 of the last 15 months in the U.S.

Now, some say that Sony’s real strength is overseas, and eventually, the PlayStation 3 will trump Xbox 360 sales. But by then, assuming that happens, the industry will likely be on to the next device. And most of us won’t even care.

That said, I don’t necessarily know if that will happen. The Xbox 360 is selling exceedingly well, and thanks to the Kinect, I don’t see that changing anytime soon. And once Microsoft responds to Sony’s recent $50 price cut of the PlayStation 3 with one of its own, I think we’ll see higher-than-expected sales of the Xbox 360 this holiday season.

But Microsoft’s crowning as the king of the gaming business must go beyond the Xbox 360. As mentioned, the Kinect has proven to be quite popular among consumers. And for good reason. It’s undoubtedly the most innovative motion-gaming peripheral in the business, and as the hard-core community will tell you, it has the most potential.

The Wii and the PlayStation Move controller are nice and all, but they’re not the Kinect.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Microsoft deserves its position as the leading company in the industry because it didn’t follow its competitors and get bogged down in the portable-gaming space.

Right now, companies that are trying their luck in portable gaming need to rethink that strategy. Smartphones and tablets, like the iPhone and iPad, are becoming increasingly popular in the portable-gaming market. And over time, most analysts and industry observers expect that to continue. In other words, the cash cow that was once the portable-gaming space is now not so welcoming to hardware vendors. Just ask Nintendo.

Microsoft was able to see that. And rather than follow the 3DS into the space and see similarly abysmal sales, Microsoft has stayed far away from portable gaming. And its video games business is benefiting because of it.

So, say what you will about Microsoft. But the way I see it, right now, it’s the company that understands the industry better than all others. And it needs to be acknowledged for that.

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The Windows Dev Kit 2023 Is Now On The Microsoft Store

The Windows Dev Kit 2023 is now on the Microsoft Store

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In case you didn’t know, the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is now up for sale.

If you want to buy it, you can find this mini PC on the Microsoft Store.

It was designed for developers to build native ARM apps for Windows 11.

If you remember, back in May, we told you that Microsoft was gearing up to release a brand-new mini PC designed to improve Windows on Arm called Project Volterra.

And, while everyone was focusing on native Arm support for Visual Studio 2023 and VS Code, the Redmond tech company was creating an Arm-native toolchain.

Support for this includes full Visual Studio 2023 & VS Code, Visual C++, Modern .NET 6 and Java, Classic .NET Framework, Windows Terminal, and WSL and WSA for running Linux and Android apps.

It looks like the time has finally come and Microsoft is launching its own version of the Mac Mini today with a price that many will find a bit spicy.

The new mini Windows PC is great for building ARM apps for Windows 11

The truth is that you will have to dig deep in your pockets and pull out a whopping $599 for this mini PC that’s designed for developers to build native ARM apps for Windows 11.

Previously known as Project Volterra, the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is already available today in Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the US.

So, developers will now be able to purchase this highly-coveted device, but really anyone wanting a miniature Windows on Arm machine can buy one as well.

You surely want to know more about this device so let’s take a closer look at it and see what actually makes this new miniature PC tick.

What are the Windows Dev Kit 2023 specs?

Well, if you are interested in buying one, know that the Windows Dev Kit 2023 is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 platform with 32GB of RAM and 512GB of NVMe storage.

Furthermore, there are also two USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 ports at the side and three USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports at the rear, alongside an Ethernet port and Mini DisplayPort.

The tech giant started to leverage NPUs in Windows 11 to power features like Voice Focus, a state-of-the-art background noise removal algorithm that doesn’t hit your CPU or GPU.

Speaking software-wise, this is where the Windows Dev Kit 2023 will absolutely shine. As we’ve said, Microsoft is working to launch a full toolchain of ARM native apps for developers to use.

Thus, Visual Studio 2023 17.4 now runs natively on Arm with far better performance, and .NET 7 will include improved performance for ARM.

Please keep in mind that previews for Arm versions of Visual C++ and the Windows App SDK are also available now.

With this device, we are getting more apps, tools, frameworks, and packages that are being ported to natively target Windows on ARM and will be arriving over the coming months. 

In the meantime, thanks to Windows 11’s powerful emulation technology, developers will be able to run many unmodified x64 and x86 apps and tools on their Windows Dev Kit.

And if that wasn’t already enough, the Windows Dev Kit will also have access to native ARM versions of Microsoft Teams, Office, Edge, and OneDrive sync.

As a result, Microsoft really hopes this device will encourage Windows on Arm app development, so we can finally see more apps run natively on Arm-powered laptops.

Since we are talking about Windows 11 and Qualcomm processors, be sure to check out the list of Windows 11-supported Intel, Qualcomm & AMD CPUs.

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Microsoft Office Web Vs Desktop Apps: What Is The Difference?

Microsoft Office is one of the most popular office suites out there. The Redmond giant has significantly improved the product and launched Office apps across different platforms. Apart from the desktop apps, Microsoft Office is now available on Android, iOS, iPadOS, Chrome OS, and most importantly, on the web. The web version of Microsoft Office is particularly promising because it’s free to use and offers almost all the major features. That said, there are minor differences in terms of features set which are a deal-breaker for pro users. So in this article, we bring you a full comparison between Microsoft Office Web vs Desktop apps. On that note, let’s go through the comparison.

Microsoft Office Web vs Desktop Apps: The Basics

First and foremost, we are going to discuss the basic differences between the web version of Microsoft Office and the desktop apps. As it’s self-explanatory, the Web version is online only meaning you can access Microsoft Office on the web only when you are connected to the internet. It does not support offline editing or viewing.

Next, you can’t directly select and edit an Office document that is available on your local disk. Instead, you will have to first upload the document on OneDrive, and then only you can edit an Office file on the web. It sure becomes a hassle when you are dealing with large Office documents — be it Word, PowerPoint, or Excel.

Coming to the standalone desktop apps of Microsoft Office, well, unlike the web version that has a free tier, it does not have one. You need to purchase a one-time license (costs $249.99) for your PC or Mac and then you can install the desktop versions of Microsoft Office. Currently, you will get the whole suite of Office 2023 and you can use it while being offline as well.

The desktop apps bring a full set of features (which we have discussed below in detail), that lacks on the web version of Microsoft Office. Having said that, keep in mind, the one-time license doesn’t bring additional perks like OneDrive storage and newly-added features like Audio Transcribe. Also, note that you can’t transfer an Office license between your PC and Mac. You will have to buy separate licenses for using the desktop version of Microsoft Office on different platforms.

In case, you don’t want to buy a one-time license then you can get a monthly subscription plan called Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365). The paid plan starts at $6.99 per month and it offers you the offline desktop version of Microsoft Office as well. Along with that, you get many perks on the web version of MS Office too.

Microsoft Office Web vs Desktop Apps: Missing Features

Now that we have got the basics, let’s now move to the missing features. Here, we will primarily talk about Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. We will list out all the features that are missing on the web version of Microsoft Office.

Having said that, bear in mind, just because a tool is not available on the web version does not mean that it can’t render an Office document made with those tools. Basically, you will be able to view those content on the web, but can’t edit them.

1. Microsoft Word

On the web version of Microsoft Word, you can’t add captions, citations and bibliography.

Unlike the desktop version of MS Office, you don’t have a full set of Reference and Researcher tools.

You can’t insert videos inside a word document

Watermarks are not supported on the web version of Microsoft Word.

2. Microsoft Excel

You can’t create PivotCharts, but can view them on the web. Bear in mind, you can now create, edit and view PivotTables.

You can’t create external data connections or make external references.

3. Microsoft PowerPoint

On the web version of Microsoft PowerPoint, you don’t have a larger selection of animations. It only has eight transitions and 37 animations. For custom animations, you will have to use the desktop app of MS PowerPoint.

 You can’t play embedded videos in PowerPoint on the web.

No rich formatting for texts and shapes. While you can apply styles and add shadow effects, the features are somewhat limited. You don’t have gradients, eyedropper, styles and effects.

Design tool and ink support is not available on the web version

No support for headers and footers.

No integration with Excel for charts.

For a full list of differences between the web version of Microsoft Office in comparison to desktop apps, head over to Microsoft’s Web Service Description.

Choose Microsoft Office Web or Desktop Apps

Is The Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ Faster Than The Surface Pro 7?

Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+ (or Surface Pro 7 Plus) launched unexpectedly last month, stepping up from the Surface Pro 7’s 10th-gen Intel Ice Lake chips to 11th-gen Tiger Lake Core chips. The question we immediately had was: Is the Surface Pro 7+ worth the upgrade?

For benchmark nerds, one of the best things about the Microsoft Surface family is that the various models have remained relatively unchanged, making it easier to draw solid comparisons between generations. That allowed us to use the Surface Laptops to compare Intel’s Ice Lake chip against the AMD Ryzen 3000 Mobile family, for example, to determine the best mobile processor of that generation. Now we can do the same for Intel’s tablet chips.

How we compared the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7 Plus

The Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7+ we’re testing differ in a few notable ways, as we have to work with what Microsoft and other vendors send us for review. Still, it’s worth noting that while the Surface Pro 7 we reviewed was a Core i7, our Surface Pro 7+ review unit is a Core i5. If you buy the Surface Pro 7+ with a Core i7 chip installed, performance should be better.

Here’s a small snapshot of the two system configurations. The key differences are in the processor and the integrated GPU. Note that Intel’s Ice Lake chips were considered U-series processors, while Intel now refers to its Tiger Lake tablet processors as “UP4” chips.

Surface Pro 7: 

Display: 12.3-inch PixelSense display (2736×1824)

Processor: Intel Core i7-1065G7

Graphics: Iris Plus 940

Memory: 16GB LPDDR4x (as tested)

Storage: 256GB SSD

Price: Prices begin at $749.99 (Microsoft)

Remove non-product link

Display: 12.3-inch PixelSense display (2736×1824)

Processor: Intel Core i5-1135G7

Graphics: Iris Xe Graphics

Memory: 16GB 

Storage: 256GB SSD

Price: Prices begin at $899 (Microsoft)

Remove non-product link

At the time we reviewed Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7, we were focusing more on whether it was a better buy compared to the Surface Pro X. Even the subset of benchmarks we used for that review, however, paints a picture of the two tablets and the chips inside.

Cinebench R15: Up to 22-percent improvement

For every enthusiast and some consumers who simply want to know how fast the new 11th-gen Tiger Lake chip is, we can see that in the Cinebench R15 benchmark. This brief test demands a burst of energy from the CPU, so it tends to reward chips with higher boost clock speeds.

Mark Hachman / IDG

The Surface Pro 7+ shows minor gains over the Surface Pro 7, until you adjust the performance slider. These scores reflect multithreaded performance, with all cores at work.

When we bumped up the performance slider on the original Surface Pro 7, basically nothing happened. We weren’t expecting much on the Surface Pro 7+. Boy, were we wrong.

Basically, adjusting the power slider increased Cinebench multithreaded performance from a 6-percent upgrade over the Surface Pro 7 to about 22 percent. (We’ve shown that in the graphs above and below with the red bar, outlined in black.) That’s an amazing, unexpected boost. Single-threaded performance, though, increased just 6 percent.

PCMark 8 Creative: Up to a 15 percent improvement

Microsoft bills the Surface Pro lineup as a tool for productivity as well as content creation, and the tablet form factor lends itself to drawing as well as creative work. We used the PCMark 8 Creative suite of tests (measuring web browsing, photo editing, light gaming and more) to measure this aspect of performance. Again, the Surface Pro 7+ outpaces its in-house competition, and performs even better with the performance slider dialed up.

Mark Hachman / IDG

PCMark’s performance also improved, probably at least partially likely to the impact the improved GPU has on tests like light gaming and video editing.

HandBrake: Up to 10-percent improvement

Mark Hachman / IDG

The move from 10th-gen to 11th-gen CPUs in the Surface Pro 7+ garnered a small boost in the prolonged HandBrake test.

3DMark Sky Diver: Up to 91 percent improvement

Mark Hachman / IDG

The difference between the Surface Pro 7 and Surface Pro 7+ in terms of graphics performance is absolutely enormous.

The Surface Pro 7+ absolutely crushes its predecessor, especially when you dial up the performance slider–graphics performance nearly doubles! That’s a strong endorsement for Intel’s integrated Xe core, at least compared to 10th-gen chips. 

Early conclusions

These performance results represent an early peek at our full review in progress for Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7+. We continue to run benchmarks and delve into its other new features—integrated LTE, for example—beyond the processor upgrade.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Transforming Business

Artificial intelligence has a wide range of uses in businesses, including streamlining job processes and aggregating business data.

Researchers aren’t exactly sure what artificial intelligence means for the future of business, specifically as it relates to blue-collar jobs.

AI is expected to take digital technology out of the two-dimensional screen and bring it into the three-dimensional physical environment surrounding an individual.

This article is for business owners and employees who are looking to understand how the use of artificial intelligence transforms the business sector.

You probably interact with artificial intelligence (AI) on a daily basis and don’t even realize it.

Many people still associate AI with science-fiction dystopias, but that characterization is waning as AI develops and becomes more commonplace in our daily lives. Today, artificial intelligence is a household name – and sometimes even a household presence (hi, Alexa!).

While acceptance of AI in mainstream society is a new phenomenon, it is not a new concept. The modern field of AI came into existence in 1956, but it took decades of work to make significant progress toward developing an AI system and making it a technological reality.

In business, artificial intelligence has a wide range of uses. In fact, most of us interact with AI in some form or another on a daily basis. From the mundane to the breathtaking, artificial intelligence is already disrupting virtually every business process in every industry. As AI technologies proliferate, they are becoming imperative to maintain a competitive edge.

What is AI?

Before examining how AI technologies are impacting the business world, it’s important to define the term. “Artificial intelligence” is a broad term that refers to any type of computer software that engages in humanlike activities – including learning, planning and problem-solving. Calling specific applications “artificial intelligence” is like calling a car a “vehicle” – it’s technically correct, but it doesn’t cover any of the specifics. To understand what type of AI is predominant in business, we have to dig deeper.

Machine learning

Machine learning is one of the most common types of AI in development for business purposes today. Machine learning is primarily used to process large amounts of data quickly. These types of AIs are algorithms that appear to “learn” over time.

If you feed a machine-learning algorithm more data its modeling should improve. Machine learning is useful for putting vast troves of data – increasingly captured by connected devices and the Internet of Things – into a digestible context for humans.

For example, if you manage a manufacturing plant, your machinery is likely hooked up to the network. Connected devices feed a constant stream of data about functionality, production and more to a central location. Unfortunately, it’s too much data for a human to ever sift through; and even if they could, they would likely miss most of the patterns. [Related: Artificial Insurance? How Machine Learning Is Transforming Underwriting]

Machine learning can rapidly analyze the data as it comes in, identifying patterns and anomalies. If a machine in the manufacturing plant is working at a reduced capacity, a machine-learning algorithm can catch it and notify decision-makers that it’s time to dispatch a preventive maintenance team.

But machine learning is also a relatively broad category. The development of artificial neural networks – an interconnected web of artificial intelligence “nodes” – has given rise to what is known as deep learning.

Did You Know?

Machine learning is useful for putting vast troves of data – increasingly captured by connected devices and the Internet of Things – into a digestible context for humans.

The future of AI

How might artificial intelligence be used in the future? It’s hard to say how the technology will develop, but most experts see those “commonsense” tasks becoming even easier for computers to process. That means robots will become extremely useful in everyday life.

“AI is starting to make what was once considered impossible possible, like driverless cars,” said Russell Glenister, CEO and founder of Curation Zone. “Driverless cars are only a reality because of access to training data and fast GPUs, which are both key enablers. To train driverless cars, an enormous amount of accurate data is required, and speed is key to undertake the training. Five years ago, the processors were too slow, but the introduction of GPUs made it all possible.”

Glenister added that graphic processing units (GPUs) are only going to get faster, improving the applications of artificial intelligence software across the board.

“Fast processes and lots of clean data are key to the success of AI,” he said.

Dr. Nathan Wilson, co-founder and CTO of Nara Logics, said he sees AI on the cusp of revolutionizing familiar activities like dining. Wilson predicted that AI could be used by a restaurant to decide which music to play based on the interests of the guests in attendance. Artificial intelligence could even alter the appearance of the wallpaper based on what the technology anticipates the aesthetic preferences of the crowd might be.

If that isn’t far out enough for you, Rahnama predicted that AI will take digital technology out of the two-dimensional, screen-imprisoned form to which people have grown accustomed. Instead, he foresees that the primary user interface will become the physical environment surrounding an individual.

“We’ve always relied on a two-dimensional display to play a game or interact with a webpage or read an e-book,” Rahnama said. “What’s going to happen now with artificial intelligence and a combination of [the Internet of Things] is that the display won’t be the main interface – the environment will be. You’ll see people designing experiences around them, whether it’s in connected buildings or connected boardrooms. These will be 3D experiences you can actually feel.” [Interacting with digital overlays in your immediate environment? Sounds like a job for augmented reality.]

Did You Know?

AI is predicted to take digital technology out of the two-dimensional screen form and instead become the physical environment surrounding an individual.

Microsoft Is Giving Up On Windows

It’s true: Microsoft has confirmed that it’s abandoning Windows as we know it. Cagey as ever, the Microsofties won’t say when it’ll happen, but they have talked a little bit about what the next OS is going to look like–or not look like.

What Exactly Is Midori?

My colleague Elizabeth Montalbano, with the IDG News Service, tried making some sense of it in “Microsoft Prepares for End of Windows With Midori” and Erik Larkin, our crackerjack OS and Web guy, has plenty to say in “Cloud Computing, Microsoft’s Midori, and the End of Windows.” There are also details–and speculation–in an SDTimes piece, “Microsoft’s plans for post-Windows OS revealed.”

Midori for Linux?

One of my smarter-than-me buddies, Gary F., told me that Linus Torvalds worked on something called Midori a few years ago, an embedded Linux for mobile devices: “I doubt Microsoft would ever release something that could be traced back to Linux, but if I recall correctly, Transmeta’s Midori had some rudimentary ‘cloud computing’ features vaguely similar to Microsoft’s Midori.” Read “Details emerge on Transmeta’s “Mobile Linux” and “Transmeta Exports Midori Linux to China” for details.

Quick aside: Cloud computing is worth knowing about, if for no other reason than sounding smart at your next dinner party. Read “Yahoo, Intel and HP Form Cloud Computing Labs” and “Sci-Fi Channel Has Head In Cloud Computing” to get a handle on it. Interesting, too, is what Dell is trying to do; read “Dell Tries to Trademark ‘Cloud Computing’” for details on that.

Now that I’ve got you completely mystified with this cloud computing thing, let’s get back onto familiar ground: free stuff that does cool things.

Shut Down Shortcut: A reader, Tenbob, recommends Karen Kenworthy’s Show Stopper, a freebie that gives you lots of ways to close down your PC.

Tenbob’s right on target. Show Stopper gives you eight ways to shutdown your PC, including suspend, hibernate, restart, power off, and if you’re not concerned about closing apps, force. The tool also has a way for you to schedule events, such as a reboot or shutdown, or launch another program at a specified time.

If you’re using Vista, you might want to give Unlocker a try–I haven’t used it yet, but a reader recommends the freebie. [Thanks, dgeiser13.]

Time Wasters

Take a quick flight over the mountains. Just move your cursor over the screen and away you go. [Thanks, John H.]

When I watched the Sales Guy vs. Web Dude video, I LOLed and thought of every IT and system admin I know. Unfortunately, if you work from home and never had to deal with an IT department, you might not get it. Either way, I have to issue a stern warning: The language is pretty crude in parts.

Steve Bass writes PC World’s monthly “Hassle-Free PC” column and is the author of PC Annoyances, 2nd Edition: How to Fix the Most Annoying Things About Your Personal Computer, available from chúng tôi He also writes PC World’s daily Tips & Tweaks blog. Sign up to have Steve’s newsletter e-mailed to you each week. Comments or questions? Send Steve e-mail.

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