Leaked: First Office 14 screenshots

February 7, 2009

It didn’t take long this time, either. Earlier this week, testers received alpha builds of Office 14, the codename for the successor to Office 2007. A reader wrote in to tell us that a tester from Russian site wzor.net has now leaked the screenshots of the applications included in the productivity suite.

While he didn’t screenshot every application individually, we do now know that the list includes: Access 14, Excel 14, Groove 14, InfoPath Designer 14, InfoPath Filler 14, InterConnect 14, OneNote 14, Outlook 14, PowerPoint 14, Project 14, Publisher 14, SharePoint Designer 14, Visio 14, and Word 14. Without further ado, here they are:

I’ve been told that the beta of Office 14 will start in May, and the final version is slated for the end of the year. The alpha is reportedly running with good stability, all things considered. Redmond is expected to provide official release details for Office 14 next quarter.


Working with offline web applications on netbooks

September 27, 2008

Compact, inexpensive netbooks like the ASUS Eee PC 701 are getting cheaper and more powerful. Why not consider using them for mobile fieldwork applications, like surveys and order entry?

I used the Eee PC 701 and I find it much easier to work with than a PDA. Although the netbook is a little less portable than a PDA, the netbook has a large screen suitable for filling in complex forms, and a decent-size keyboard for entering data. I highly recommend connecting a USB mouse to the netbook if you plan to work for long periods.

However developing mobile enterprise applications for the netbook can be challenging because
— Netbooks run on a variety of operating systems, from Linux (various flavours) to Windows XP/Vista.
— Netbooks have slower CPUs (e.g. Intel Celeron) and limited RAM (e.g. 512MB) so Java applications may not run properly. Netbooks are good for running web browsers and hardly anything else.
— The application should be capable of operating offline without a network connection. It should sync the offline data to a server when the netbook is connected to the network.

One possible solution is to use Google Gears to build a web application that can be used offline. Using the Dojo Toolkit enables the offline web application to sync the offline data to the server as soon as the netbook is connected to the network. I did a simple trial:
(1) I built a simple order entry application that allows you to create and edit orders. The application uses Google Gears and Dojo to operate offline and sync online automatically. I copied the HTML and JavaScript codes from here.
(2) I bought the Eee PC 701 from a shopping mall for S$400 (US$281).
(3) I launched the Firefox web browser preinstalled on the Linux-based netbook, installed the Google Gears extension (http://gears.google.com), and accessed my order entry application.
(4) Voila! I was able to create and edit orders offline, and changes were automatically synchronised to the server as soon as I connected to the Internet. I was even able to start the application when the netbook disconnected from the Internet, thanks to the offline web caching capability in Google Gears. The application performed well without any disruptive lags.

So now we have a way to build mobile fieldwork applications that can be used on virtually all netbooks. There are additional issues like security and reliability to be considered, but the netbook appears to have great potential to replace the PDA for data-intensive mobile enterprise applications.

Mini-Notebooks Compete on Size, Speed and Price

September 27, 2008

When Intel announced the availability of its low-power chip, the Atom, at Computex in Taiwan this week, it signaled that the age of the cheap mini-notebook had finally arrived.

Not bad for a product category that no one cared about six months ago.

Since its October 2007 introduction, Asus’ small, low-cost Eee PC has become a sleeper success, selling more than a million units, according to its manufacturer. That success has prompted other manufacturers to announce their own mini-notebooks, including such mainstream PC manufacturers as HP, Dell and Acer. Intel also has proposed a standard for low-cost ultralights that it is calling “netbooks.”

This sudden success is a bit of a surprise, given that computer companies have been trying to create a market for ultraportable notebooks for more than a decade. None of those attempts, however technically inspired, ever took off. They were either too compromised by crummy keyboards, substandard displays, anemic performance or all three. And to top it off, manufacturers expected consumers to pay a premium for these tiny but crummy pieces of technology. Earlier ultraportables like the OQO Model 02 and Sony Vaio UMPC cost $2,000 and up.

Today’s mini-notebooks, by contrast, are finding success because they’re so inexpensive, hovering around $500 and in some cases much less.

But which ones offer the best value? We decided to find out, by tabulating the price and key features of the mini-notebooks that are currently available (or which will soon be available). We added the hard drive-based MacBook Air, even though it’s not a cheap mini-notebook, because its light weight and slim profile put it close to the category in spirit, if not in its particulars.

Netbooks Win Top Selling Spots on Amazon

September 27, 2008

Netbooks have successfully infiltrated the notebook market, beating the popular MacBook to the top of Amazon’s best-selling laptop list.

Acer, ASUS and MSI netbooks currently top the list. All three netbooks are powered by a 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor; Acer claims the #1 spot with its 8.9-inch Aspire One netbook running for $400.

According to a Cult of Mac story, Apple may be losing ground to netbooks because of “poor economic conditions.”

“We believe this to be the effects of a more price-conscious consumer and global slowdown,” said Vijay Rakesh, a ThinkEquity analyst, in the story.

Manufacturers are well aware of growing consumer interest in inexpensive mini notebooks. Just recently, Toshiba, Dell, Fujitsu Siemens and Samsung unveiled their first netbooks.