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The good old desktop gets a makeover

Last updated on: August 13, 2012 13:11 IST

The good old desktop gets a makeover

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Priyanka Joshi in Mumbai

It looks like both Microsoft and Apple want to introduce tablet-like features for their desktop users.

The OS X Mountain Lion brings more than 200 innovative new features to Apple iMac and Macbook users, in what seems to be a step closer to bridging the iOS-OSX gap.

Windows 8 users will see a more Windows Phone 7-like Metro tiled home screen. Simply, the desktop operating systems (OSes) are giving a serious thought to figure out how to move into the post-desktop PC era.

Here are some tablet-inspired features to watch for in the latest OSes.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Apple
iCloud and data sync

Once users sign up with the Apple ID, iCloud (cloud storage feature) prompts them to choose the services that need to be synced.

This includes Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, Notes, Safari, Photo Stream and Documents. Once selected, Apple syncs data from your iOS devices (iPad or iPhone) onto the computer and vice versa.

Apple has improved its web browser, Safari, making as fast as the Google's Chrome browser (if not faster), and has designed an address-cum-search bar just like Chrome.

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Photographs: Aly Song/Reuters

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How is this a tablet-like feature? By integrating with iCloud, Apple account holders can use iCloud to experience true synergy among all Apple devices by transferring data in real time to the cloud server.

Apple devices, owned by the user, will constantly be connected to this server and will get updated with user's data automatically.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: , Apple

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Inspired by apps

Reminders, Notes, Messages and Notification Centre make it to Mountain Lion. These small apps have allowed Apple tablet and mobile users a whole new way of doing things and now the company wants the Mac users to have the same experience.

For instance, users can sync Notes between multiple devices, enabling users to scribble down their shopping lists etc on the Mac and automatically shows up on user's iPhone or iPad too.

Mountain Lion also brings a nice notification panel, which is a direct match with that on the iPhone/iPad. The OS also has added a "share" button that allows users to share anything on the screen on Twitter and Facebook.

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Photographs: Stephen Lam/Reuters
Tags: Mountain Lion , Mac , OS

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Talk to your Mac

Apple PC users can now use the built in dictation tool for typing. To turn on dictation in OS X Mountain Lion, go to System Preferences>Dictation & Speech> Turn Dictation On.

To start using the feature, simply tap the function key twice. The feature could help people get rid of the keyboard, something that Apple has been quietly doing with its iPhone and iPad devices.

Mountain Lion dictation tool does a decent job of recognising voices and can be easily used for drafting documents, short emails or reminder notes.

The speech to text conversion does not happen on the user's PC, but on Apple's remote servers. This means the PC has to be connected to the internet.

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Photographs: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

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Microsoft
Quick start

Previous Windows devices, based on the Intel x86 architecture, suffered from the drawn out boot time that afflict Windows PCs. The company now claims Windows 8 systems will fully boot in eight seconds.

Microsoft said it had achieved this in part by not completely closing the kernel session when the system is switched off.

Instead, the kernel session is hibernated so that memory contents and system state is saved. In simple words, get ready to see hybrid tablets, laptops and PCs that start within seconds.

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Photographs: Ina Fassbender/Reuters

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Tiled approach

The Metro interface (mosaic of tiles) is set to become common across Microsoft products, from desktops to laptops and from tablets like Microsoft's own Surface slate PCs (to be out in the market later this year) to Windows Phone-powered devices.

So, expect to see a tile, say Windows Mail tile, on your desktop that shows a one-line preview of the latest message or a tile for a social networking app will flash notifications from friends.

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Photographs: Rick Wilking/Reuters

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Sync with cloud

Windows 8 has is closely integrated with cloud storage via Windows Live that allow users to store application updates and other software items on cloud.

This feature will be largely admired by enterprise users, who won't have to carry physical storage options while on move.


Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters
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Apps and more apps

Microsoft is seeing some sense in Apple's closed-loop approach for apps. With Windows 8, apps will be pre-installed and available as downloads from the new Windows App Store.

Microsoft has taken this approach to ensure its PCs and tablets have the same ecosystem stability and security as Apple's iPad. The killer app for Windows 8 could be the new, touch-enabled suite of Office 2013, which will come pre-installed on every Windows 8 tablet.

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Photographs: Nicky Loh/Reuters

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Availability

Mountain Lion is the ninth major release of Apple's desktop operating system, and it is available at the Mac App Store as an upgrade to older OS versions, Lion or Snow Leopard, for $19.99.

Windows 8 consumer preview (beta) version can be downloaded for free on Microsoft's website. The official launch of the OS is expected in October this year.


Photographs: Joshua Lott/Reuters

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