Mini-article – The bosses of Microsoft, Amazon & Yahoo on the future of computers (and a naughty fact about Dell)…

By | June 1, 2008
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What a month! It’s been very busy here at Helpful Books… and there’s lots of other stuff going on about PCs that I wanted to tell you about. First of all, we had a new starter, Louize, (you might have talked to her if you happened to ring us up to order a book in the last two weeks). She’s picking everything up nice and quickly.

Then we’ve finished the olive oil book that I mentioned last time. It’s a bit strange for us to publish a book about olive oil. But when you’re known as a publisher you get people asking you to publish all sorts of books. Normally I politely turn them down. And I was about to say no to this one too… but I thought I might as well have a quick read. And it really surprised me. I don’t want to clutter up this newsletter with the story of it, but click here if you want to find out why it changed my mind:

Right, without any more ado…

Mini-article – The bosses of Microsoft, Amazon & Yahoo on the future of computers (and a naughty fact about Dell)…

No, I haven’t talked Bill Gates into writing a column for me. But a couple of days ago there was a big conference in California about the future of computers. All the big famous computer companies had people speaking about what they were planning. What these guys plan tends to become the standard way of doing things… so here’s an update on what they were saying.

Microsoft announced the NEXT version of Windows – the one after Vista. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be out for a while. They’re saying it’ll be ready in 2010. And given their record on launch dates (Vista was something like 5 years late!) I wouldn’t hold your breath.

But what IS interesting is how it’ll work. Instead of using a mouse and keyboard, the main control will be through touching the screen. You’ll move windows about by touching them and sliding your finger to where you want them. It’s not as far-fetched as it seems – the technology is already available. But I’m not sure how it’ll catch on. First of all, a lot of people are used to keyboard and mouse. Secondly if you have big fingers it’s never going to be very precise. And thirdly, can you imagine what a smeary mess it’ll make of the screen?

Microsoft also talked about voice control. Again, it’s technically possible – I’ve tried out voice control for writing articles and it’s surprisingly good. But I can’t see it taking off in a busy office, for example.

Oh, one last Microsoft snippet. They’re having trouble with the Windows updates (which I mentioned last time), so they might be a bit delayed. But of course they are really confident they’ll be no delays in the next version of Windows. Ahem.

I’m a big fan of Amazon, the online book store, though my books aren’t available on it. I like real book shops as well (there’s a great one in Carnforth where you can wander about for hours) but when you need a specific book that’s hard to track down it’s handy to nip online and order it to be delivered a day or two later. But I think Jeff Bezos (Amazon’s boss) might be losing it a bit.

Amazon have been investing a fortune in e-books – books that you read on your computer or a handheld electronic reader. They’ve spent lots on selling the hand-held readers… and are disappointed that not many people have been buying e-books. I’m not surprised. The electronic reader costs $399… and that’s before you buy the e-books themselves. And anyway, he should have read my book 7 Ways to Really Mess Up Your PC – I’d have told him that for most purposes paper books are just better.

They’re now talking about adding “intangibles” to it… maybe the smell of the binding. It’s nuts. If you want a nice leather binding, you can get one by buying an actual book.

Yahoo anounced that they are NOT merging with Microsoft, despite all the rumours. But they are going to work with Google to run the same adverts on their site. It won’t make much difference to how their site works for you, though.

Outside of the conference, Dell have had their knuckles rapped over some misleading adverts. They’ve been advertising PCs and laptops and not mentioning that the amount shown didn’t include VAT or delivery. Printing the amount in big writing without VAT and delivery is standard practice for computers but they are supposed to mention that you have to add on those costs. After all, it adds another £50 or so. They’ve also been told off in the USA for not honouring warranties people have paid for… but I haven’t heard of the same thing happening over here – yet!

Once last snippet (told you there was lots happening!). The government is thinking of bringing in a massive database to store every email and internet access that happens in the UK. The point is to help in the fight against crime and terrorism. There is an argument that you’ve got nothing to worry about unless you are breaking the law… but I am concerned. I know how hard databases are to keep secure and how hard they are to keep accurate. The last thing you want is for spammers to get hold of every email sent in the country! Let’s hope the government decides against it.

Webpage of the month – Quidco
On a more cheery note, here’s a chance to get money for almost nothing. Not a lot of money, I’ll grant you. But if you buy things online (even things like to insure your car, not just physical things) you can get cash back by visiting before you go to the website where you’ll buy the thing. It acts a bit like Air Miles… If you ever buy things online, it’s worth a look.

Reader’s Question
I have AVG antivirus and it’s started telling me I have to upgrade. I don’t want to start paying for it – what should I do?
I’ve had this too, on my PC at home. And the message is a little bit confusing. But all it means is they’ve brought out a new version of the program and they’re stopping releasing information about new viruses for the old one. So you really do need to get the new one. But you still don’t have to pay for it, even though they don’t make that obvious. Just make sure you choose the unpaid version. If you’re stuggling you can go straight to the download page here: and select on ‘Download AVG Free 8.0’

Word to the Wise – FAQ
FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. A lot of websites have a ‘FAQ’ button that leads to a page listing the common questions they get… and their answers!

That’s it for this month. I’m off to enjoy a well earned olive oil chocolate brownie!

Bye for now,

Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2008

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