Google adds a touch of Microsoft to applications

Google has upgraded its online package of word processing and spreadsheet programs so they work even more like the Microsoft applications with which they’re competing, reports the Associated Press. The changes introduced April 12 include several editing tools for word processing and quicker ways to fill cells in spreadsheets. The new features have long been staples in Microsoft’s widely used Office suite of software. Google has been trying to lure users away from Microsoft’s products for several years in an effort to siphon revenue from one of its biggest rivals. At the same time, Google hopes to diversify its own business, lessening its financial dependence on internet advertising powered primarily by its search engine. Google believes it has developed a superior, less expensive alternative to productivity software, because hosting the applications in a web browser makes them accessible on any computer with an internet connection. But many schools and companies remain reluctant to entrust their technology to an outside service that could be hacked or suffer lengthy outages…

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Microsoft creates Office plug-in for Moodle

Microsoft is releasing a free add-on that could make life easier for teachers, professors, and others who use the online educational system Moodle, CNET reports. The plug-in, which works with Office 2003 and Office 2007, allows users to save Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents directly to the open-source online service. It also allows users to edit directly in Office a document saved on Moodle, which is widely used in colleges and K-12 schools. Saving documents to Moodle from Office used to require up to eight steps, but the new add-on cuts that in half. Opening an Office document from Moodle is now a single step, said Jon Perera, general manager of Microsoft’s Educational Products Group. The add-on helps those using the current version of Office for Windows PCs, but doesn’t help the many educational users on a Mac. Perera said Microsoft is evaluating how to support Moodle in Office 2010, which also includes browser-based Office Web Apps that run on both Macs and PCs…

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New Windows software turns one PC into many

Microsoft announced Feb. 24 that it is ready with Windows MultiPoint Server 2010, a product that lets schools run a classroom full of systems using just a single computer, CNET reports. Multipoint Server allows up to 10 different setups—each with its own keyboard, mouse, and monitor—to run from a single server. “We heard clearly from our customers in education that to help fulfill the amazing promise of technology in the classroom, they needed access to affordable computing that was easy to manage and use,” Microsoft vice president Anthony Salcito said in a statement. NComputing, which already offers a similar approach using both Linux and standard versions of Windows, said it will incorporate MultiPoint Server across its product lineup. HP, ThinGlobal, Tritton, and Wyse also plan to offer products based on the software…

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Cashing in on idle tech assets could help close campus budget gaps

Patents that originate from campus-based research should be used by university decision makers.
Patents that originate from campus-based research can generate significant revenue for universities.

Each day, universities conduct and invest in research that has an impact on science, medical, and technology industries. And while schools of higher education serve a larger purpose, patenting those research results and licensing those patents to industries can generate much-needed funds that benefit those universities.

Patents are assets, even if they are not immediately used. As such, campus assets borne from technology created by colleges and universities usually can be licensed, sometimes later in their useful lifetimes. Dormant patents represent potential revenue sources for colleges and universities who find that those patents are infringed upon.

A growing number of universities are hiring technology transfer managers who are responsible for generating revenue by licensing out university patents to industry.…Read More

Microsoft unveils new mobile software platform

Microsoft unveiled on Monday an upgrade to its mobile operating system as the US software giant seeks to regain lost ground in the competitive handset market, according to an AFP report. Windows Mobile 7 was made public on the first day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, ending months of speculation about what Microsoft had in store for the industry’s biggest trade show. The new system, which follows the launch of Windows Mobile 6.5 in October, is “a major new step in our strategy,” Nicolas Petit, director of Microsoft’s mobile division in France, told AFP. “It is a total break from what we were doing before,” Petit said. Microsoft completely changed the platform’s interface, with a “dynamic screen” allowing users to install his or her favourite icon, from music, to contacts and social networks, he said. It was inspired by the design of Zune, the Microsoft MP3 player that is only available in the United States at the moment.

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Challengers gain in important phone software fight

As smart phones increasingly appear alike, with high-end models mostly taking their cues from Apple Inc.’s iPhone, more and more it’s the software they run that makes a difference, reports the Associated Press. A growing number of operating systems are jostling for the attention of phone buyers and manufacturers. The winners will determine what our phones can do, which Web sites we’re steered to, and which manufacturers will survive the next few years. The battle will be on display as wireless carriers and phone makers gather next week in Barcelona, Spain, for the industry’s largest trade show, Mobile World Congress. The CEO of Google Inc., suddenly a strong contender in phone software, will address the show. Also hoping to make a splash is Microsoft Corp., which is struggling to revitalize its software.

These are the contenders, starting with the largest worldwide market share: (continued)…

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IBM makes cloud computing available to academia

Cloud computing could relieve increasing strain on college IT infrastructure.
Cloud computing could relieve increasing strain on college IT infrastructure.

IBM has joined technology leaders Google, Microsoft, and Amazon in providing colleges and universities with free cloud computing aimed at easing campuses’ IT strain and enhancing distance learning.

IBM announced Feb. 10 that the company will make its cloud computing servers available to college professors at 20 colleges nationwide—a growing trend among technology giants forming partnerships with higher education.

IBM’s Academic Skills Cloud will be used by faculty members to make course curriculum available on students’ laptops any time, “free up” campus technology resources, and advance online course capabilities, according to the IBM announcement.…Read More

Microsoft opens its cloud to researchers

A new partnership between Microsoft and NSF will give researchers access to Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure.
A new partnership between Microsoft and NSF will give researchers access to Microsoft's cloud-computing infrastructure.

Researchers have until March 15 to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation (NSF) that would grant access to Microsoft Corp.’s massive cloud-computing power for three years.

Researchers and academic teams chosen by NSF officials will use Microsoft Azure, a program that offers enormous data storage and computing capabilities using the corporation’s data centers.

College and university researchers have gravitated to cloud computing in recent years as the model has proven cost efficient—campuses don’t have to maintain pricey on-site server racks—and has removed many restrictions prevalent on traditional computer networks.…Read More

The top higher-ed tech stories of 2009: No. 5

College campuses have become another battleground for Microsoft and Google.
College campuses have become another battleground for Microsoft and Google.

It might not be on par with the infamous platform wars between Microsoft and Apple that have spanned three decades—at least, not yet—but the rivalry between technology giants Microsoft and Google heated up significantly during the past year, with schools and their students as key beneficiaries.

Aiming to capture the loyalty of a future generation of computer users, both companies now offer cloud-based communication and productivity software to schools free of charge. It’s an offer that many colleges and universities acted on this year as they struggled to balance their budgets.

Microsoft’s Live@edu program gives schools a set of free hosted and co-branded collaboration and communication tools that include Windows Live Hotmail, a hosted eMail service, and Office Live Workspace, an online space to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents.…Read More