Microsoft have launched a preview of their new cloud computing service, Azure.
Windows® Azure is a cloud services operating system that serves as the development, service hosting and service management environment for the Azure Services Platform. Windows Azure provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage Web applications on the Internet through Microsoft® data centers.
On demand computing means that you don’t need to download applications to your computer, you can just use them from any computer.
Some of the key features of Azure include:
Build, modify, and distribute applications to the Web with minimal on-premises resources.
Perform services (large-volume storage, batch processing, intense or large-volume computations, etc.) off premises.
Create, test, debug, and distribute Web services quickly and inexpensively.
Reduce costs of building and extending on-premises resources.
Well does this mean that now Microsoft has gone into the clouds, that cloud computing is mainstream?
According to Mashable, Microsoft will be moving into social bookmarking.
According to Microsoft Evangalist John Martin, the company is set to release a product called “Social Bookmarks” this week. The product sounds a whole lot like del.icio.us, and will initially be deployed on MSDN and TechNet, so look for it to be mostly hardcore techie bookmarks for now. Features include bookmarking (presumably via a bookmarklet), tagging, and a web-based account where your bookmarks are stored.
Social bookmarking as seen on sites such as Del.icio.us, Digg and Stumbleupon allow users to collect (or bookmark) their favourite sites online and share those bookmarks with their friends and others.
BBC reports on how Microsoft is making it easier and cheaper for manufacturers to put Windows XP on the current plethora of micro low cost laptops (such as the Asus EeePC) that are currently very popular.
The price cuts will only be available for ultra-portable laptops that meet a strict set of specifications.
The move is widely seen as an attempt by Microsoft to bolster its market share in one of the PC industry sectors showing growth.
Low-powered laptops, such as the Asus Eee PC, are proving hugely popular in developed nations and in projects trying to bridge the digital divide.
I am sure that (depsite the ease of use) the fact that many of these cheap laptops run Linux have put off many a purchaser (as does Mac OS X put off potential purchasers of the Mac) the fact that you will soon be able to have Windows XP on the laptop without a huge increase in the cost of the device will make these low cost laptops even more popular.
Regardless of whether we think these are good or bad devices, I have certainly seen quite a few now in the college, including one a student was using (with Windows XP on it) and a Three 3G dongle for access to the internet.
I think more and more of our learners will start to buy these. One of the main attractions other that price is the portability, the small size means it is very easy to carry on the bus or in a bag as you move around college. Before if you wanted a small micro laptop, the only real choice was from Sony and these cost a lot, five or six times the current price of the Asus EeePC.
Expect to see more of these devices in your college.
Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq: ADBE) today announced that Microsoft has licensed Adobe® Flash® Lite™ software, Adobe’s award-winning Flash Player runtime specifically designed for mobile devices, to enable web browsing of Flash Player compatible content within the Internet Explorer Mobile browser in future versions of Microsoft Windows Mobile phones. Microsoft has also licensed Adobe Reader® LE software for viewing Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) documents including email attachments and web content. Both Adobe products will be made available to Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) worldwide, who license Windows Mobile software.
Though you can create PDF files on a Mac, it is not always possible on a PC unless you have dedicated software. This is where online PDF creator sites can be very useful.
They are also useful if you for example have been sent or downloaded a Microsoft Publisher file and you have a Mac, or you don’t have Publisher on your Windows PC. They can take the Publisher .pub file and print it as a PDF.
One such site is PDF Online, which can convert a range of file formats (including Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Office) into a PDF which is then e-mailed to you.
I would suggest that if you do use such a service that you use a disposable e-mail address, or one that can be deleted later.
The UK computer agency Becta is advising schools not to sign licensing agreements with Microsoft because of alleged anti-competitive practices. The government agency has complained to the Office of Fair Trading.
Becta is advising schools not to move to Microsoft’s subscription licensing model. They are also advising schools to look at open source solutions as well.
Google Docs and Spreadsheets are proving very popular in the e-learning community, though one obvious application is “missing”, and that is presentation software (a PowerPoint replacement).
Mashable is reporting that Google is about to launch their web based presentation software, Presently.
Google’s PowerPoint killer looks to be on the horizon. Called Presently, the presentation-creation tool will offer a web-based solution for users.
This will provide a real solution to delivering online presentations and also enable learners to access PowerPoint presentations via the web (say delivered from a VLE). Not every learner will have Microsoft Office installed and though PowerPoint Viewer is an option for some, it is not an option for all.
Regardless of whether you think PowerPoint is not an useful e-learning tool (death by PowerPoint anyone) or is, it is used on a regular basis by a lot of practitioners across the world.
I think despite the dominance of Microsoft Office there is room for a web based presentation application and I am hoping that Presently will fit the bill.
One of the things I dislike about Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer, is when people upload and post Office documents to the web and then when I come to click on it, rather than offer me the option to open or save the Office document, Internet Explorer opens the document in the browser window.
Now for viewing documents, this generally isn’t too much of an issue, however for printing, changing and saving the document, well totally different story.
It’s one of the reasons I prefer using Firefox and Mac OS X.
However if you have “accidently” configured your system to do this, it is possible to change it back.