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Comment Strategic boost for Windows RT and SkyDrive (Score 1) 349

I consider this pricing scheme to be one among Microsoft's many tactics that aligns well with it's cloud and OS strategy.

Consider for a moment who is affected most by (almost any) pricing change to Office. I'd wager that enterprises/corporations aren't affected as much, or perhaps it is the case that the dynamics of how they'd react to pricing changes to Office are different from the dynamics of the consumer market and how it would adapt to such changes

Consumers - home users, students and the like - will not stop wanting Microsoft Office. Technology savvy users will use other options - and there aren't a dearth of alternatives to Microsoft Office really. Nevertheless, the general populace will simply not embrace an alternative as the canonical choice - they will continue wanting Office. And Microsoft will provide it to them for free.

Consumers will receive their free version by purchasing a new version of Windows RT that comes pre-installed with Office. This will catalyze the sales of Windows RT devices, and I suspect it will notably help the sales of Surface RT. And the rest of them will receive it for free by accessing it through SkyDrive - which together with has an excellent implementation of web base Office apps. With the recent announcement of Excel Forms, Microsoft has completed the process of being at feature parity with Google Docs, and has bested Google Docs in terms of user experience.

This overall approach, of driving away users from traditional Office towards SkyDrive+Office Web Apps, or towards Windows RT, will work in favor of Microsoft's desire to sell more tablets, drive developers towards the Windows RT platform and convince them to build apps for it, and to compete with Google effectively (at least on the Docs front). I doubt that the subscription model will put a dent in it's coffers - because I suspect that the revenue they have historically accrued by selling boxed versions to families and students was likely a blip compared to enterprise revenues - and thus expendable towards the furtherance of other goals.

I've made couple of big assumption in this analysis, of course. One is that Windows RT will provide Office for free. So far, the only thing we know is that Windows RT will debut with the RC version of Office RT. I don't believe that there has been any announcement made about free upgrade to the final version of Office RT when it becomes available. I'm assuming that would be the plan, because the current plan of record insinuates it strongly as such, and it is probably not in the best interests of any company to use a cheap tactic like this to force customers to pay for an upgrade. Another assumption - which I believe to be reasonable - is that driving away consumers from buying the Desktop version of Office (or receiving it through a subscription) will not be a loss maker. Given these two assumptions, I believe that the remainder of my analysis works ok.


Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Applecare Plus vs. Squaretrade

nastav writes: Now that I'm eagerly awaiting the delivery of my new shiny iPhone 5, I'm faced with a dilemma — SquareTrade, Applecare Plus, or some other insurance option?

I have used SquareTrade in the past for iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4 (I skipped iPhone 4S). It provided Accidental Damage Handling (ADH) for iPhone before Apple introduced it's own version of ADH. I've had the opportunity to file claims with SquareTrade multiple times, and they handled it quickly and professionally each time.

Now that there is a product from Apple itself, I'm not sure which one to get. They are priced similarly ~$100 for a 2 year plan, $50 deductible for each ADH incident) Apple limits the number of ADH claims to 2, whereas SquareTrade (AFAIK) limits the number of claims to the 'value of the product', which translates to approx. 600 USD in coverage (or about 4 ADH claims).

I've tried reading many comparison articles on the internet without definitive answers. I'm hoping that the tech-savvy folks on Slashdot would help out with a discussion on pros and cons of each, and perhaps add other options into the mix.

Comment Why Win8 will work fine in the market (Score 1) 229

There is a simple reason why Win8 will work fine in the market - nobody likes carrying a 'slate' and a laptop on trips. It's sucks to lug around an iPad and a Macbook Air (or any other similar combination of devices from the Android and Win7 era PC devices). Being able to carry around one device - whether it be ARM or x86/amd64 based - is going to make Win8 work in the market. It doesn't mean that it will upset Mac or Android's place in the market, but it will, in conjunction with Winodws' inherent market advantage, be popular and be widely adopted. The only question is whether execution on Win8 sucks like Vista - and it most decidedly doesn't suck - it's quite the opposite. Win8 is more stable and more performant than Win7 (and arguably more performant than XP) on similar hardware.
So the merging of 'slate' and 'desktop' paradigms into a single OS horrifies many a /. reader - but methinks this is about the only design decision that will ultimately matter, and I'm leaning towards thinking that it will result in success despite all the complaints about it.

My only disappointment is that Windows Phone 8 isn't using the same OS as Win8, so that the phone-device will double up as the desktop device upon docking.

Comment Re:Microsoft Surface (Score 1) 115

but I'm not sure if they understand how much money a successful product is going to cost them.

It's a toss-up, really. They succeeded with XBox despite entering a new market crowded with leviathans, and they are failing with Windows Phone despite having a real first-mover advantage. They have succeeded in building very good first-party peripherals - keyboards (esp. ergonomic ones) and mice, and they did terribly with Zune. Microsoft Router (for those who can remember their 802.11b offering) was one of the best in the market, but they stopped building more when other companies started flooding the market with quality offerings (arguably, it was one of their better 'premium' offerings that is, today, reminiscent of the Airport Extreme concept - but very different from Apple's rendition). They've succeeded in launching a disruptive product like Kinect, but failed in their core competencies in the past (for e.g., Windows Vista). So I think it's a mixed report - Microsoft's track record neither predicts failure for Surface, nor does it predict serious success.

I'm inclined to give them the benefit of my patience and wait to see if it's truly a good device. The XBox (and Zune) experience specifically has indeed given them the experience needed to understand what it takes to succeed (and fail).

Comment Curiosity (Score 2) 480

There was a time when I was hopeful that humanity would form colonies on Moon or Mars, or perhaps even terraform there. It became extremely clear in the last couple of decades that infrastructure projects - the kind requiring massive investments and and resulting in long-term (only) benefits - are no longer easy to fund. This statement holds true for everything - space exploration, bridges, high speed railways, safer investments in nuclear energy, better fuel alternatives, improved roads - if it lacks immediate gratification and short-term economic and political upside, it is no longer generally funded.

This reality notwithstanding, we (as a species) are making some serious (but very slow) progress into space. There are concerted efforts by private organizations to build manned space vehicles, and helped by prizes like the Ansari X prize. Even government sponsored work - like Curiosity landing on Mars successfully - is stirring up public's imagination (although I'm afraid not enough to overcome the forces that prevent infrastructure investments across the board). Up and coming economies - especially China - are interested in making a name for themselves as innovators. This desire to establish a brand in the world stage is seemingly fueling China's space program (as it once fueled America and Soviet Russia's programs). India might yet join in and make real investments (but given India is India, there is no end to it's tendency to fail despite having all the talent and resources it needs to succeed).

So I think Armstrong might have died being disappointed at what we have achieved so far, and what we have not - but I suspect that he did not die thinking that we have given up, or that our future in space is bleak - I suspect that he'd have instead known that there is still hope, and that we are making progress - just that our progress isn't structured and US-centric as one might have imagined a few decades ago.

Comment Microsoft Surface (Score 5, Interesting) 115

I'm not entirely convinced that the game is settled in favor of Apple and the next rev of iPad. I'm extremely curious about Microsoft's Surface tablets. Surface is not in the same exact category as the purported iPad Mini or the next device from Amazon, or Google - it's an ~10" device whereas the rumor mills suggest a 7" form factor from other tablet competitors. Despite the size difference, it's worth noting that the main use-case for a consumer using one of these devices is web browsing, media consumption, note-taking, occasional (and typically RO) access to office documents, games, and platform specific apps.

The last two categories (games, platform specific apps) give Apple, and Android based devices, a significant first-mover advantage (in that order). When it comes to web-browsing, office applications and familiarity of interface, Windows has an edge (now along with Mac OS X) - at least in the consumer demographic that's waiting to spend money on a new device. If the rumors of low-pricing of Surface RT are true, and they are sold in the vicinity (or under) USD 300, and if the curiously interesting keyboard-and-mouse-on-a-flap turns out to be a seamless peripheral, then there is a good chance that Surface RT + Windows RT will gain momentum. Microsoft has already announced that they will bundle Office with Windows RT - and that's going to be a big deal IMO. This will certainly upset Google, and Amazon offerings - but perhaps only make a small dent in to Apple. Nevertheless, the world could look like an Apple and Microsoft dominated one this holiday season, leaving behind Android offerings. If the sales momentum is even somewhat interesting for Surface RT devices, I think that App developers will start implementing Metro style applications quickly - and developer experience (using Visual Studio and .NET toolsets) has been a historical strength of Microsoft's.

Of course, my analysis is predicated on two important assumptions - pricing and a great execution on the flap-keyboard, but I'll nevertheless be tempted to at least wait until Surface starts selling before deciding which tablet to buy next (and which ones to recommend to my non-techie friends).

Comment What happened to responsible disclosure? (Score 5, Insightful) 268

It's easily and effectively argued that security through obscurity does no one any good, but responsible disclosure is still widely considered to be a good practice. Supposing a vendor is willing to fix their serious bugs, it really helps in preventing large scale attacks between the time of disclosure and reaction (by the vendor). If Onity had been willing to replace all it's locks over a short period of time (say, 6 months) at massive cost to itself - but nevertheless done it to protect it's long term reputation, it makes a lot of sense to give Onity that opportunity without outing the flaw. It's unlikely that such a large-scale replacement of locks would have been pursued, but giving Onity an opportunity to consider that option would have been responsible. It helps Onity, but it also helps customers of Onity (like Hotels who might have chosen to replace their locks, or individuals who might ask questions before going to a particular hotel). Now everybody knows it can be done, and many will try. Sure, an NSA intern could have figured it out, but the fact remains that it was not being massively exploited for large-scale robberies, for e.g.. Targeted exploits are bad - no doubt - and I'm sure some of this was already going on, but there isn't much doubt that the sum total of targeted exploits does less bad than what might happen now - namely large scale exploits. I suppose I'm arguing that security-through-obscurity does work - but in a targeted and limited fashion - as to provide cover for short durations when real security is pursued. It may not work, but it's worth a try - and by going public before giving Onity a chance to pursue a 'fix', this researcher has, in my books, acted against public good.

Comment Sex ed. (Score 0) 493

I'm wondering why Sex ed. isn't called out as another controversial topic. I'm sure that the zealous Christian orthodoxy has strong feelings about sex ed., and especially contraception related teachings in the classroom.

Comment Re:Why 2 sides (Score 1) 493

These are not conservative leaning. They are religious zealots.

Calling them religious zealots makes it seem like all religions are on an equal footing in this discussion. We are talking specifically about Christianity and it's zealotry. Other religions - including other Abrahamic religions - are fairly uninvolved in these instigations, and therefore haven't earned very much criticism on this matter.

Comment Explain current system and it's failings first (Score 0) 357

A question like this without context is just a troll.

There is a current framework in the US consisting of philosophy, policies, laws and regulations that answers each of these questions. In order to elicit reasonable responses, it's important to describe the status quo, describe where it's failings are, and ask for ideas for incremental or radical improvements.

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