Office 2016 for Mac gets first public preview

Microsoft has released a preview of its updated Office suite for Mac OS 10.10 users. The official version is due out around the middle of the year.

Five years after rolling out Office 2011 for Mac, Microsoft has made a first public preview of its successor, Office 2016 for Mac, available to testers for download.

Microsoft already has updated OneNote and Outlook (available in limited preview form) available for the Mac. On Thursday, the company is delivering refreshed public previews of those two apps in addition to the first public previews of the 2016 versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint, and is making all five apps available to anyone running Yosemite (Mac OS 10.10).

The Office for Mac 2016 preview is available for download from Microsoft’s preview site, and can be run alongside Office for Mac 2011.

Microsoft plans to deliver regular updates to the preview, and will let testers know via a notification from the Office for Mac Auto-Update tool. Every new preview build will expire roughly 60 days after it’s posted. The final preview build will continue to function for roughly a month after Office 2016 for Mac becomes generally available, sometime this summer, officials said. That’s likely to be several months ahead of the Office 2016 for Windows release in the second half of 2015. Officials said they’d have more news to share soon about opening up the Office 2016 for Windows suite publicly. (The Windows version has been in private testing for several months.)

Microsoft’s goal with Office 2016 for Mac is to make it look and feel more like Office for Windows (and other Office suite flavors), while not losing the styling that makes the suite feel like it’s built for Mac OS X, said Eric Wilfrid, director of Office product marketing.

The updated Mac suite includes a newly designed Ribbon that’s similar in formatting and organization to the Office for Windows Ribbon. The suite includes full support for retina displays and is built to be “cloud connected,” so it’s tightly integrated with OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint and Office 365.

Office 2016 for Mac allows users to access files across all their devices running Office by signing in with their Office sign-in credentials. This way, a user could start writing a document on Office for Android, access it later on Office 2016 for Mac and then finish it on Office for iPad, while always having access to the most up-to-date version.

In the new version of Word 2016 for Mac, Microsoft has added threaded comments to improve coauthoring. In Excel, there’s now support for the same keyboard shortcuts as Office for Windows users have. The PowerPoint 2016 for Mac update adds the same presenter view as is available in PowerPoint for iOS.

So far, as is the case with the Office 2016 for Windows private preview, new features and functionality seem rather limited for the next version of Office for Mac. So what took Microsoft so long to bring the coming version to market?

Wilfrid said that Microsoft shifted gears after rolling out Office 365 and decided to focus on Office 365 and prioritize some of the new Office mobile releases, such as Office for iOS.

Office’s focus is now on cloud connectivity, he said, noting that anyone who has a current Office 365 subscription with support for downloadable versions of the Office suite apps will get Office 2016 for Mac as soon as it is released for no additional cost. Microsoft is not yet releasing Office 2016 for Mac pricing for those who don’t have an Office 365 subscription.

This story originally posted as “Microsoft delivers first public preview of Office 2016 for Mac” at ZDNet.


Huawei CarFi: Mobile hotspot especially for cars

The Huawei CarFi being showcased at Mobile World Congress.

Barcelona — If for some reason you’re looking for another gadget to take advantage of your car’s cigarette lighter, Huawei has something for you. The company unveiled at Mobile World Congress today the CarFi, a mobile hotspot made specifically for cars.

Huawei says the CarFi quickly “converts vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots on wheels for added convenience in daily life.” Clearly, you don’t need to CarFi for this convenience since putting any other mobile hotspot (including the dual-band E5786 4G-LTE mobile hotspot Huawei introduced last year) in a car would have the same result. However, the CarFi itself also works as a standard car charger, allowing you to plug another mobile device to it, and since it’s plugged in, it doesn’t require a battery to work.

According to Huawei, the CarFi is “inspired by the elegant lines of a golf club” and therefore boasts premium materials, including wood and carbon fiber for better durability, which is useful if you often move it between vehicles. Supporting LTE Cat4, it has the top download cellular speeds of up to 150Mbps down and 50Mbps up and can provide Internet to up to 10 Wi-Fi devices at a time. As a charger, it can provide 5V/1A power to a mobile device.

The mobile hotspot is just about the size of a standard car charger. Sarah Tew/CNET

Feature-wise, the Huawei CarFi automatically turn off when there’s no Wi-Fi device connected to it for a period of time (though it still works as a charger.) It works both with the cigarette lighter and an in-car charger outlet of a vehicle. The device can be turned on or off via a long press on its top power button and can also be controlled remotely via Android and iOS smartphones using the Huawei Hilink mobile app.

The Huawei CarFi is available now in the European market in three colors including black, brown and red. It’s unclear how much it costs or when it will be available in other markets.

By: Sarah Tew

IKEA Launching Wireless Charging Furniture

Ikea table with charge pointThe range will go on sale in North America and the UK next month

Furniture giant Ikea has unveiled a range of furniture fitted with wireless charging spots for mobile devices.

The Home Smart range will initially include lamps, bedside tables and a coffee table as well as individual charging pads for any surface.

Ikea has used the wireless charging standard QI, which is also supported by Samsung in its latest handset, the S6.

Environmental group Friends of the Earth urged caution over the recyclability of such products.

The Swedish furniture firm will sell charging covers for incompatible iPhone and Samsung models.

There are currently more than 80 QI-compatible handsets and 15 QI-enabled cars on the market according to QI’s backers the Wireless Power Consortium, an industry body whose members includes Belkin, Motorola, Panasonic and Sony.

Ikea wireless charging table
The charging spot is part of the table

Multiple choice

However it is not the only charging standard in development.

The S6 will also be compatible with PMA, a rival wireless charger solution provided by the Power Matters Alliance, whose members include Starbucks, Duracell Powermat, Huawei and Lenovo.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in January a firm called Energous demonstrated WattUp, a non-inductive system which it claims can charge gadgets that lie in a 9m (30ft) radius around the charger.

Green goal

Environmentalists said they hoped recycling was a priority for designers incorporating wireless charging equipment into their work.

“A key principle that manufacturers of furniture with built-in wireless charging technology should consider is that the furniture is designed to be easy to disassemble for upgrade, reuse, repair or recycling,” Julian Kirby, resource use campaigner at Friends of the Earth, told the BBC.

“Disposable electric toothbrushes are one example of a terrible product design in those respects – it’s virtually impossible to separate out the tech from the batteries and plastic casing which means valuable and often toxic materials are dumped in landfill or burnt in incinerators.”

Ikea said in a statement that its wireless charging products are “easy to fraction at end of life”.

“By adding wireless charging to home and office furniture, we minimise the amount of separate chargers needed,” it added.

Ikea wireless chargingThe charge pads are designed for use on any surface

Hot stuff

Additionally some existing users have reported on forums that their devices get hot while charging wirelessly.

“The wireless charging standards are evolving,” said Ian Fogg from analysts IHS.

“The industry has no incentive to allow devices to go hot because it means the charging isn’t as efficient as it might be.

“If a device gets hot, power is being lost through heat rather than being efficiently added to the battery.”

The Ikea range will go on sale in the UK and North America in April 2015, the firm said.


Volvo Talks Up Its Self-Driving Cars


Volvo last week revealed the latest developments in its Drive Me project, showing off a complete system that could make it possible to integrate self-driving cars into regular traffic with drivers behind the wheel.

Volvo is making progress toward its goal of releasing 100 self-driving vehicles to consumers on selected roads around Gothenburg — Sweden’s second largest city — by 2017, the company said.

The public pilot project is part of a collaborative effort. Volvo is working with legislators, transport authorities and city officials to achieve sustainable mobility and to help ensure a crash-free future on the roads.

“Autonomous driving will fundamentally change the way we look at driving. In the future, you will be able to choose between autonomous and active driving,” said Peter Mertens, senior vice president of research and development at Volvo.

“This transforms everyday commuting from lost time to quality time, opening up new opportunities for work and pleasure,” he added.

The Other 1 Percent

Volvo is not the only auto company that is actively developing an autonomous driving system — Mercedes and Audi announced similar efforts earlier this year. However, Volvo contends that its technology advances a crucial step beyond what has hit the roads in demonstrations so far.

Some of the other systems are considered 99 percent reliable in real-world conditions, but that isn’t good enough, according to Volvo. Autonomous systems need to get much closer to 100 percent reliability before self-driving vehicles should be allowed to merge into actual traffic.

Toward that end, Volvo’s Drive Me solution includes a holistic sensor that can generate exact positioning, as well as a complete 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings. It has a combined radar and camera unit in the windshield, which can read traffic signs, as well as the road’s curvature, and even detect objects or people in the road. A multiple beam laser scanner and trifocal camera also detects objects ahead. The surround radar system in the front and rear bumpers can locate objects in all directions.

Drive Me uses high-performance GPS and a high-definition 3D map, which together can help provide the vehicle with accurate information about its surroundings.

“This high-definition mapping solution is a crucial step forward for self-driving vehicles,” said Egil Juliussen, senior director and analyst for automotive technology at IHS Technology.

Ordinary People

Volvo’s approach to autonomous driving differs from some others in that it puts regular people in the driver’s seat, and it allows vehicles to cruise city streets along with other traffic.

“They’re also testing this in winter conditions instead of the ideal weather of California,” Juliussen told TechNewsWorld.

“What Volvo is doing is trying to get the cars on the road, which is where you will find out what technical problems you’re going to face. You are only going to find these problems if you test, and you may need to try this in different areas,” he explained.”

“Volvo is going to launch in a city they know, in a city where they have a lot more control,” said Praveen Chandrasekar, automotive and transportation research manager at Frost & Sullivan.

Three key points stand out with Volvo’s Drive Me program he told TechNewsWorld.

First, “drivers need to be in the car, to have the ability to take control, as Gothenburg is known for bad weather,” Chandraseker noted.

“Volvo is also working with traffic control in the city,” he said, “and finally, Volvo has really focused on developing vehicle infrastructure that can read traffic lights [and] road signs, and input all that information to ensure the car is safe on the road.”

The Road Ahead

Equipping vehicles with advanced sensors is just one part of the autonomous driving effort. Development of a compatible infrastructure, including roads and traffic control, is also critical. Self-driving vehicles currently can handle parking and low-speed traffic, but the next level of autonomous driving will require interaction with the roads.

“This is why the high-definition maps are so important,” said Chandrasekar.

“Communication with the traffic control center is going to be important, and Volvo is working on this,” he added, “because the car needs to know what is ahead and down the road a mile or two — not just what is immediately around it.”

While Volvo expects to put its Drive Me cars on the road by 2017, that goal applies to its test vehicles. Mass adoption of autonomous driving tech likely is still way down the road.

“Level four automation, where the car can actually drive itself, won’t likely go mainstream until 2025,” said Juliussen, “with some early adoption in some markets maybe by 2020.

By Peter Suciu

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 hard to build and extremely expensive, report says

Six Appeal

Earlier this week, an image leaked from T-Mobile of the upcoming Galaxy S6 with a curved screen. As shown above, the leaked “Six Appeal” shows a modestly curved screen and a device that looks broadly similar to previous Samsung Galaxy products. A new leak suggests that the Galaxy S6’s edged screen is difficult to manufacture — and that the device will be far more expensive than previous models.

According to Ars Technica, an unnamed contact at a European mobile partner has told them that the Galaxy S6 will launch in both curved and normal variants, with the curved variant carrying a premium. European prices can’t be easily compared to US ones (Ars has the full details on specific pricing), but the entry level prices will reportedly be €749 and €849 for the non-curved and curved products. Compare that to the S5’s launch price of $650, and the gain is significant.


Samsung is reportedly putting its technical push behind the curved display version of the phone despite having trouble stocking it, and early rumors have suggested that the S6 doesn’t fix most of the design features that Android users tend to dislike about Samsung devices. The new phone is expected to pack Samsung’s 14nm SoC Exynos 7420 as opposed to the 20nm version of that chip that’s already shipping in devices like the Galaxy Note 4.

If these pricing rumors carry over to the US, they could kick a hole in the device’s uptake. It’s a puzzling move for Samsung — the Galaxy S5 might be the company’s premium handset, but it looks and feels like a cheap plastic device. Consumers have been calling for the company to create upmarket versions of its products for years, but the Korean manufacturer has resisted doing so. After the Samsung Galaxy S5 sold 40% fewer units than anticipated, many predicted that company would respond by retooling the S6 to meet more of its customers’ demands. Apparently that hasn’t happened — unless, of course, consumers were secretly demanding higher prices.

With Apple now tying it in terms of total phones shipped and low-cost manufacturers surging in China and India, this is the wrong time to lead with the launch of a luxury platform built around an edged screen gimmick. While we do expect good things from Samsung’s 14nm hardware, the company’s bog-standard Cortex-A57 design will have to offer extraordinary performance to justify such a large premium over other Android handsets or the Apple iPhone 6. That’s to say nothing of the disaster that’ll ensue if the customers opt for a curved version that isn’t widely available.


LG’s premium smartwatch now comes with LTE and mobile payments

LG Watch Urbane LTE

Believe it or not, LG already has an upgraded version of its luxurious Watch Urbane: meet the Watch Urbane LTE, a souped-up version that focuses on speedy mobile data. The timepiece (which isn’t using Android Wear) isn’t as substantial a phone replacement as Samsung’s Gear S, but it will let you leave your handset at home sometimes. You can make LTE phone calls, share your GPS location, translate foreign speech and hold walkie talkie-style voice chats. LG has also upgraded the battery from 410mAh to a hefty 700mAh, so your cellular wristwear shouldn’t conk out prematurely.

This isn’t a one-trick pony, either. Besides the addition of GPS, the Urbane LTE is one of the first smartwatches beyond the Apple Watch to include NFC-based mobile payments. So long as there’s proper support (LG isn’t going into details yet), you can tap your wrist to pay instead of fishing your phone out of your pocket. And you may have noticed that there are three buttons on the side instead of the regular Urbane’s one — those are for navigation and quick settings, LG says. There’s no mention of when you can get the Watch Urbane LTE, but you can be sure that we’ll take a closer look at it when Mobile World Congress kicks off next month.

LG Watch Urbane LTE

Microsoft’s OneNote Staff Notebook for Education app enables school staff collaboration

OneNote Staff Notebook

Microsoft has launched a free tool to help teachers and school staff to collaborate more effectively on curriculum development, administrative duties and internal policies.

OneNote Staff Notebook for Education lets education staff leaders — like principals or faculty heads — set up shared workspaces for teachers and administrators and enable them to organize and share internal information, event and meeting schedules, student progress, parent feedback, lesson plans and more.

The service can be set up and synced using Office 365 or SharePoint 2013, and users can access all content on the OneNote note-taking app across desktops and mobile devices.

The company launched OneNote Class Notebooks for teachers to distribute lesson content to their students last October. Microsoft says it is also working on similar initiatives for business users in the next few months.

From classroom to school–introducing OneNote Staff Notebook for education [Office Blogs]