It’s amazing what people can do with one of AMD’s new eight-core FX processors, a specially built chassis, and a few tanks of liquid helium. In a pre-release stunt, AMD rounded up a small group of expert overclockers to take the new processor toworld record speeds and beyond.

Don’t expect to do the same at home when the FX chips ship in late Q4 2011: overclockers Brian Mchlachlan and Sami Maekinen had the pick of the processor litter, and PCWorld reports that they looked specifically for chips that performed well at higher voltage levels. They took things slowly at first, with the FX eventually bumping up against the 8.0 GHz barrier thanks to a little liquid nitrogen.

It took the application of some liquid helium to really kick things into high gear, as the super-low temperatures allowed the FX to hit 8.429 GHz, besting the old record of 8.308 GHz. How well the system would actually perform under those conditions was left unexplored — this was all about hitting the highest clock speed, so the stress testing and benchmarking that comes with actually using an overclocked CPU was left by the wayside.

AMD was formally presented the Guinness World Record for Highest Frequency of a Computer Processor at their Fusion Zone event in San Francisco today. The timing and location seems to be yet another jab at their eternal rival though, as Intel also chose today to kick off their SF Developer Forum.

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Today, Microsoft has announced quite the milestone for Windows 7: since its launch in October 2009, a full 450 million licenses have been sold. The numbers are somehow more impressive when broken down; just a hair over 650,000 licenses are sold each day.

Sales of Windows 7 have been on the upswing over the past two months to boot; it seems all that back-to-school prep has given Windows 7 a kick in the pants. The folks in Redmond are fond of calling Windows 7 “the fastest selling version of Windows ever,” and it turns out the claim may not just be a load of marketing fluff.

Microsoft tends to keep unit sales figures quiet, save for big announcements and financial statements, but let’s try and put Microsoft’s achievement in a bit of perspective here. They announced in their Q4 2008 revenue report that they sold 180 million Vista licenses since launch. At this point in Vista’s life (just over a year and half after launch), that averages out to about 335,195 licenses per day. Seems respectable without context, but after the same amount of time, Windows 7 nearly doubles that figure with 632,911 licenses/day.

Vista, to be fair, was a bit of a flop, but 7 compares to its grandfather XP rather nicely too: Microsoft announced that they had sold 210 million copies of XP in May 2004, a window of just about two and a half years since launch. Meanwhile, Windows 7 managed to move 240 million licenses by the time it was a year old.

What does this mean? First, there’s a massive install base of Win7 machines out there and, more important, those same machines should be powerful enough to run Windows 8 when it arrives in the next year or so. In addition it means that more users are connecting to Windows live for SkyDrive sharing and other features – 542,000,000 people to be exact. These are wildly large and impressive numbers and it’s clear that Microsoft has a hit on its hands.

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Say hello to Windows 8, Microsoft’s next-generation operating system.

Microsoft is unveiling the new OS at its Build Conference in Anaheim, Calif. The OS, a complete rebuild of Microsoft’s flagship product, is designed to work with both tablets and PCs.

Gallery: Windows 8


Amazon Working on a Netflix for Books [REPORT]

Word on the street is that Amazon may be creating a Netflix-like subscription service for books. The service would allow customers to to pay a single monthly fee for access to a library of books, with

Amazon handing over a substantial amount
 of cash to publishers to make that magic happen.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is currently still discussing the logistics on the program. The ultimate goal would be to allow customers to pay a certain fee per moth, and then be able to read a certain number of titles each month in return from a special library of books.

The idea is certainly an interesting one. If you travel often (or are just an avid reader) purchasing books can get pretty expensive over time. While you can check out digital copies of books from some libraries, being able to have access to a different Amazon library could be great for some.

Are any of you big ebook readers? What do you think about Amazon potentially offering a Netflix-likebook service?

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Microsoft BUILD: what we expect to see about Windows 8 this week

After months of rumors, speculation, sneaky peeks, and anticipation, Windows 8 will have its first truly public outing this week at Microsoft’s BUILD conference in Anaheim, California.

BUILD replaces Microsoft’s previous PDC developer event. Though PDC was most often held in Los Angeles, the move to Anaheim is a historical reference to 1993’s PDC event: 18 years ago, Anaheim was where Microsoft first showed Windows 95 to the world. Windows 95, with its radical new UI, revolutionized Windows and became the product that enabled Microsoft to attain a nigh unassailable monopoly on desktop computing. Microsoft hopes that Windows 8, described by the company as its “riskiest” product yet, will be just as important a milestone. Windows 8 will be the platform used for desktops, tablets, TVs, and beyond.

So what can we expect to see out of BUILD?

Details so far are scarce. The company has kept very quiet about Windows 8, saying only that all will be revealed at BUILD, though we do know a few bits and pieces. The new, Metro-styled, touch-first, finger-friendly user interface is chief among those. It was briefly demonstrated earlier in the year at D9, but so far, that’s all we’ve seen of it. With BUILD, we should finally get the opportunity to see how it works not just in on-stage demos, but in practice.

Even further information has been published on Microsoft’s Building Windows 8 blog. The company has been careful not to talk about the “big picture,” instead focusing on individual features. These include improved boot times, the inclusion of Hyper-V in the desktop operating system, confirmation that the operating system willsupport USB3, native support for mounting VHD and ISO disc images, and a few looks at some changes made in Explorer: a new user interface for file copying and handling of name collisions, and a new ribbon toolbar.

The last of these was met with some amount of surprise and confusion. The ribbon interface is busy, perhaps even cluttered, with lots of buttons packed in. The contrast with the clean lines and square edges of the Metro touch interface is stark. But getting too hung up on aesthetics at this stage is unwise—the appearance may change before release—and while the ribbon certainly can’t be described as minimal, it makes features very easy to discover, which is arguably more useful.

Key to competing with other tablet platforms, Windows 8 will almost certainly include an App Store. The ability to run Windows Phone applications on Windows 8 would also give it a valuable leg up in the tablet space, and there’s speculation that this will be confirmed at BUILD.

We also know that not every part of Windows 8 will be shown off this week. Media Center will be missing; its absence had been noted by users of leaked builds, and was later confirmed by Steven Sinofsky, President of Windows and Windows Live at Microsoft. However, Sinofsky said that this absence was merely temporary; Media Center hasn’t been killed, it’s just not ready at this time.

Though the new interface is essential to Microsoft’s plans to bring Windows 8 to the tablet, BUILD is primarily a developer conference: attendees are here to learn how to write Windows 8 applications. After the D9 demo, many developers were concerned that Windows 8 would force them to discard their existing skills and knowledge in favor of a new HTML5-driven development model. We argued that this was not the case, and that Windows 8 would make software development for Microsoft’s ecosystem more streamlined than ever before. The full situation will be revealed in the next few days, but the banners that Microsoft has erected all over the Anaheim Convention Center should prove reassuring: the refrain found on every one of them is “Use what you know. Do what you’ve always imagined.” Clearly, throwing away existing skills isn’t on the agenda.

Still, HTML5 is sure to get a mention, and there’s an outside chance that we might see an updated version of Internet Explorer 10. Windows 8 will include Internet Explorer 10, and Platform Preview 2 of the browser was released at the end of June. Redmond has said that it plans to produce a new preview every 12 weeks or so, so a new preview this week would be a couple of weeks early—but if the company is going to continue to beat the HTML5 drum, this would certainly be a good time to release an update.

Some discussion of Visual Studio 2012 (or whatever the next version will be called) seems likely, as a natural counterpart to the operating system changes. A new focus on C++ development is also expected.

Server Windows will also receive a mention. New features, including Hyper-V live migration, were announcedearlier in the year, and we’ll learn more about what the new version has to offer this week. A new management interface, thousands of new PowerShell capabilities, and data deduplication are all likely.

Full agendas for BUILD are still unavailable. Microsoft may have more to announce—but BUILD is all about Windows, and non-Windows topics will play second fiddle, if they get a mention at all. And to be sure, one thing that won’t be talked about this week is Windows Phone. While an eventual unification of Microsoft’s phone and desktop platforms is likely, it’s not happening this week.

This is the week in which Microsoft stakes its claim on the future. It’s not make-or-break—the company’s server, office, and even desktop businesses will remain healthy and viable regardless of Windows 8’s reception—but it’s nonetheless essential to Microsoft’s desire to move beyond the conventional PC. If it gets Windows 8 right, the company’s “Windows Everywhere” will finally come to fruition. If it doesn’t, that dream will be dead for good.

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HTC is keen on buying its own mobile operating system, a move that could help differentiate the smartphone manufacturer from its competition.

HTC Chairwoman Cher Wang, speaking to the Economic Observer of China in a report picked up by Taiwan’s Central News Agency, confirmed the company’s interest.

“We have given it thought and we have discussed it internally, but we will not do it on impulse,” Wang said in an interview with the Economic Observer.

A recent sequence of events has many wondering whether some of the major handset manufacturers may start looking toward a mobile operating system of their own. Google’s decision to purchase Motorola Mobility, while helpful on the patent front, puts the Internet giant in competition with its handset partners. Hewlett-Packard’s decision tospin off its PC division and shutter its mobile business potentially puts its WebOS platform up for sale.

The rumors have already swirled around Samsung Electronics, but the company has denied interest in both WebOS and Intel-backed MeeGo. Unlike the other smartphone players, Samsung has its own home-grown OS in Bada, which is available in smartphones in select regions of the world.

HTC, meanwhile, is wholly dependent on Android and, to a lesser extent, Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. The company has done an admirable job of customizing the user interface and experience with its Sense user interface, but the allure of creating an end-to-end experience on a phone, a la Apple’s iOS, is likely an enticing one.

“We can use any OS we want,” Wang said. “We are able to make things different from our rivals on the second or third layer of a platform,” Wang said. “Our strength lies in understanding an OS, but it does not mean that we have to produce an OS.”

Taiwan’s HTC has been one of the primary beneficiaries of Android’s rapid success. The company was the first to partner with Google on an Android phone, debuting the G1 on T-Mobile USA in 2008. Since then, HTC has seen a wave of competitors jump into the business with their own Motorola phones, including consumer electronic titans such as Samsung.

HTC, meanwhile, hasn’t been shy about making purchases in the recent months. The company made the baffling decision to spend $300 million for a majority stake in Dr. Dre’s Beats headphone business last month. In July, it purchased S3 Graphics for $300 million to get hold of its patents to better defend itself against Apple.

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Today at the TechCrunch Hackathon, Ford, the second largest automaker in the U.S., teamed with Spotify, the fast-growing Swedish music service that recently arrived in the states, to demonstrate the current opportunities for in-car app innovation as well as the new voice-activated Ford2011 Ford Fiesta to Receive New SYNC AppLink Cabability SYNCsystem. Just to clarify: This isn’t an “official partnership”, it’s just a cool hack meant to demonstrate how easy it is to integrate with SYNC. For those unfamiliar, Ford SYNC is the in-vehicle communications and entertainment system that allows drivers to make hands-free phone calls, as well as control music and other in-car entertainment with their very own vocal chords. SYNC recently added integration with AppLink (in 2011 Ford Fiestas for now) to allow hands-free use of smartphone apps in the car.

At Hackathon today, Ford offered developers the opportunity to learn more about SYNC’s API and demonstrate how to integrate apps like Spotify into SYNC. This is Spotify’s first in-car integration, and it’s still an initial hack, but it’s a pretty good start. We’re hoping this becomes a long-term Ford/Spotify strategy.

The tremendous growth of smartphone apps has created the need and the opportunity to provide the same voice-controlled solution for apps that drivers are now using in the car — but it also has to stay safe. “Look ma no hands!” is never something you want to hear while in a car with someone. SYNC provides users, through voice assistance, with the ability to easily control their car’s multimedia and app functions, and at at the Hackathon today Spotify is on board in the passenger seat.

According to Julius Marchwicki, the SYNC AppLink program manager, TC Hackathon was the perfect place to launch to give developers the information they need on Ford’s new API and SDK to get developers hacking on in-car entertainment and app goodness.

So just what’s possible for developers with SYNC AppLink at this point in its development? When working with SYNC-enabled smartphone apps, developers are able to create a voice user interface using SYNC’s in-vehicle speech recognition system, write information to the radio head display or in-vehicle touch screen, using the text-to-speech engine, the in-vehicle meny system to provide commands for their mobile app, and vehicle data, like speed, GPS location, and fuel economy. All good stuff to know, and it’s nice to see Ford, a company that didn’t look so hot a few years ago, getting in on the innovation train.

SYNC AppLink will be available in 10 models (of Ford vehicles) beginning in 2012, including Ford Fusion, the Fusion Hybrid, Mustang, Shelby, Fiesta, F-150, and more.

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