|Online search giant Google has launched a new social networking website in its latest attempt to take on Facebook, which now claims more than 500m users.
Google+ allows individuals to share photos, messages and comments but also integrates the company's maps and images into the service.
It also aims to help users easily organise contacts within groups.
But some analysts say Google has simply reproduced features of Facebook while adding a video chat function.
Google, which handles roughly two out of every three internet searches in the US, has taken several stabs at Facebook in recent years.
But its previous efforts ended in failure, with both Google Wave and Google Buzz proving unpopular with users.
The company is now boasting that four features in Google+ could help make the company a permanent player in social networking:
Circles - a functionality that allows individuals to place friends into groups, allowing users to share different forms of content with targeted clusters of friends
Hangouts - live multi-user video conferencing that permits friends to drop in and out of live group conversations
Huddle - group instant messaging
Sparks - a feature that connects individuals on the network to others with common interests.
The current version of Google+ has only been released to a small number of users, but the company has said it soon hopes to make the social network available to the millions of individuals that use its services each day.
"Online sharing needs a serious re-think, so it's time we got started," Vic Gundotra, senior vice president of engineering at Google, said in a press release.
"Other social networking tools make selective sharing within small groups difficult," she added, taking what appears to be a jab at Facebook's recent grouping function.
But some analysts have said Google could have a difficult time converting Facebook devotees to their new social network.
"People have their social circles on Facebook - asking them to create another social circle is challenging," Debra Aho Williamson, principal analyst with research firm eMarketer, told the Associated Press news agency.
"The whole idea of a Google social network... they've been throwing stuff against the wall for several years and so forth nothing has stuck," she added.
In April, Google reached an out-of-court settlement with a US policy group over its rollout out Google Buzz, a previous social effort.
Story from the BBC.
|Microsoft is launching a cloud-based version of its Office software suite.
Called Office 365 the service puts the familiar e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet and collaboration programs on the web.
Microsoft said the programs will be accessible via desktops, laptops and tablets plus Microsoft, RIM, Apple and Android smartphones.
The launch is aimed squarely at Google and others who already offer web-based business software.
Office 365 is being formally launched on 28 June via events in New York and London. The service unshackles the well-known programs from a single PC and translates them into a web format.
Charges for the service are based on the size of the business that wants to use it Small businesses with fewer than 25 employees will pay £4 per user per month for secure access to e-mail, calendar, documents and contacts.
Larger organisations will pay from from £6 to £17.75 per user, per month and get a broader range of extras including advanced archiving, unlimited storage and Microsoft's Lync messaging and communications system.
Customers using Office 365 can host the applications they are using in Microsoft's data centres, use dedicated servers in those centres or put the programs on their own hardware in their own data centres.
Office 365 takes the place of Microsoft's current web-based offering for firms known as the Business Productivity Online Standard Suite. Office 365 stands separate from the web versions of Office which features cut down versions of the familiar programs.
The move to the cloud is seen as a gamble by Microsoft because much of the cash generated by Office comes from sales of software installed on desktop PCs. Switching to the web could dilute this cashflow which is responsible for about one-third of the company's revenue.
However, a web option is seen as essential in order to combat the growing threat from Google and others that are starting to poach Microsoft customers.
"Windows and Office are the two foundations of Microsoft's profitability and this is kind of messing with one of them," said Jeff Mann, a VP of research at analyst group Gartner. "It's definitely a very big bet."
Before the official launch of Office 365, Google put a post on its Enterprise Blog comparing its Apps service with Microsoft's offering.
Shan Sinha, Google Apps product manager, wrote that it was better to start with a new technology rather than add extras to an ageing one.
"Technology inevitably gets more complicated as it gets older," he wrote. "Upgrading platforms and adding features results in systems that are increasingly difficult to manage and complex to use."
In the blog post he runs through the differences between the two services, saying that Google Apps is about teams, the web and choice but by contrast Office 365 was for individuals, desktop PCs and other Microsoft-specific technology.
"You can't just take legacy, desktop software, move some of it to a data center and call it "cloud."," he said. "Apps was born for the web and we've been serving hundreds of millions of users for years."
Other online business software suites are offered by other companies including Zoho, VMware, IBM and Salesforce.com
Story from the BBC
|Your windows disc is important if you've got one though a lot of systems don't come with one these days. However, whats most important is that windows license number/key.
If your hard disk fails and you don't have the license number you'll need to buy a new Windows disc.
Quite often I find laptops have the stickers on the underneath and they eventually wear away becoming unreadable. Make a separate note of it and keep it safe. It'll save you a lot of money in the long run.
Simon, The PC Guy
|Consumer rights group Which? Computing has made note that paid for anti-virus is an unnecessary purchase and that free software does a good enough job for most of us.
The message comes with a warning, however, users adopting free anti-virus must use common sense to avoid disaster.
Which? Computing carried out a test on 5 computers, some with paid for anti-virus and some with free. Visiting various sites known to contain threats and none of the systems were infected.
So the motto is, you really don't have to pay to stay safe on line backed up by a high profile trusted consumer rights group. Three well known free ones are AVG Free, Avast and Microsoft's Security Essentials.
|Microsoft has just released the final version of Service Pack 1 for Windows 7, but should you drop everything and go through the process of installing it? Where can you get it? We’ve got the answers for you.
If you’ve never installed a service pack before, it’s just a big collection of fixes and changes for your operating system, bundled into a big fat download to make it more convenient if you reinstall—if you’ve kept Windows updated, it should have most of the fixes already installed through Windows Update.
Answers to Questions You Should Be Asking:
Whether you were going to ask these questions or not, we’re giving you the answers that you really need to know.
•Where Do You Download It?
While you can download the service pack manually from the Microsoft Download site, you should probably just go through Windows Update and select the optional SP1 update from there, since it’ll only download exactly what you need. More on this below.
•It’s in Windows Update? Will I Get it Automatically?
Nope. It’s an optional update (at this point) in Windows Update, so you’ll only get it if you choose to install it.
•Does This Make You More Secure?
If you haven’t installed anything off Windows Update in a while, first, shame on you! It’s important to keep yourself updated! Also, this release is essentially a big fat roundup of all the security fixes and bugfixes since Windows 7 was released, combined with a few extra bits of functionality. If you have Windows Update set to automatic, the service pack will not make you more secure.
•How Long Does It Take to Install?
The installation time isn’t terribly long, about 30 minutes, but depending on your internet connection, it’ll take quite a while to download. Your best bet is to start the install and then walk away for a while.
•Should I Drop Everything and Install it Today?
Not unless you’re bored or you haven’t run updates in a long time. There’s very little in terms of new features, and you’d be better off waiting until the download rush is over. There’s also the possibility of problems, so you might want to wait.
If you do want to download it directly, you can do so from the Microsoft Download site.
New Features in Service Pack 1:
There’s not a ton of great new stuff in SP1, at least from the perspective of the end user. Here’s the quick list of stuff that might maybe matter to you:
•Improved HDMI audio device performance: there’s a small update that helps reliability of HDMI audio devices after rebooting. This is listed as a feature in the release notes, but really feels like a bug fix.
•Corrected behavior when printing mixed-orientation XPS documents: If you’re trying to print XPS documents that have landscape and portrait pages in the same document, now they will print correctly. All 5 of you can now rejoice.
•Change to behavior of “Restore previous folders at logon” functionality: If you used the “Restore previous folders at logon” feature in Folder Options, the folders would restore into a cascaded set of windows. Now they will restore to where they were.
•Support for Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX): supports a newer processor extension that improves performance for floating point intensive applications.
•Improved Support for Advanced Format (512e) Storage Devices: hard drive manufacturers are transitioning to a new 4KB physical sector size, and now Windows 7 supports this better.
There’s a lot of other bugfixes and security fixes, but these are the most notable ones according to Microsoft’s documentation.
|Microsoft has shown off early releases of the next version of Windows.
Demonstrations of Windows 8 running on tablets, phones and desktop computers were given at separate conferences in the US and Taiwan.
As expected, the software can be used via either traditional keyboard and mouse or by gestures on a gadget's touchscreen.
No date has been given for the release of Windows 8 but it is expected to be available before October 2012.