Productivity and business

How to navigate Apple's crowdsourced product support

Apple owners in need of help can now tap into community support sections at the company's product pages.

Launched a few days ago, the new sections are set up like standard Q&A forums where you can post your own questions and answer those of other people. Getting to a particular support section is just a matter of launching Apple's Web site, navigating to the page for the product in question, and then clicking on the Buy button in the upper right corner. Scrolling down the page then reveals the Answers from the community section for that … Read more

Google gets bad buzz, and Microsoft pounces--sort of

Microsoft is pouncing on the recent bad press about Google in an attempt to win over more customers.

Frank Shaw, corporate VP for Microsoft's Corporate Communications group, boasted in a blog today that Microsoft offers people a safer choice than Google, which has been buffeted by worries over its new privacy policies. The company also plans a bigger ad campaign to exploit what it sees as Google's recent missteps.

Google's woes follow its move to alter its privacy policies to share user information across different products and services. The company has even been forced to justify its decision to Congress, … Read more

Loosecubes aims to streamline office sharing (video)

Working at home can be extremely convenient but also downright isolating. Whether you're an entrepreneur, an independent contractor, or a telecommuter, sometimes you just need to get out of the house.

New York startup Loosecubes has created an office-sharing portal that helps people find a place to set up their laptop and call it an office--by the day, week, or month--in more than 60 countries. SmartPlanet recently talked to company CEO Campbell McKellar about how her Web site aims to make it easier for people to locate a "Loosecube."

This video originally appeared on SmartPlanet with the … Read more

Soluto abruptly jumps to the 'home CTO'

As long as there are computers, there are likely to be mothers and fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, and assorted thrice-removed ne'er-do-wells asking for PC help.

Israeli startup Soluto has a new way for all the tech-savvy helpers of the world to disseminate their knowledge, the company announced today. The new Soluto app is currently in closed beta, although the company has offered CNET readers early access.

The company is keeping its name and the stylized look, but it has abandoned its prior focus, a Windows utility that would analyze and help prevent program crashes leveraging a cloud-based database … Read more

Microsoft Answer Desk to go easy on 'tech jargon'

People looking for a little tech support from Microsoft now have yet another option.

The folks in Redmond have just kicked off an online version of the physical support Answer Desk that's been up and running at the various Microsoft Store outlets.

The online Answer Desk bills itself as a premium Microsoft service designed to "give you the most convenient, friendly, and easy way to get the most out of your PC." Like the Microsoft Store Answer Desk, the Web-based version is staffed by support folks trained to troubleshoot and resolve problems with your Microsoft software.

So, … Read more

Evernote: 'The longer you use it, the more likely you are to pay'

PARIS--Most people who try Evernote quickly lose interest in the cloud-connected note-taking service.

But Chief Executive Phil Libin isn't worried, because in the long run, they come back--and start paying. He showed statistics today at the LeWeb conference here to prove the point.

In the first month after signup, about 45 percent of people are return users. That drops down by half to 22 percent by 17 months. But then it picks up, and by 42 months, it's back up to 43 percent.

And as they stick around, they eventually start paying for the premium version of the … Read more

Microsoft to reveal details on its Windows 8 app store next week

Microsoft will share more information about its Windows 8 app store at a special event Tuesday.

Slated to take place in San Francisco, the two-hour Windows Store preview event should provide the latest details about the Windows Store to the invited developers and members of the press.

Microsoft has been mum about the Windows Store lately, but it did reveal some facts at its Build conference in mid-September.

Trying to outdo Apple's Mac App store, the Windows Store will let users download free trial copies of Metro-style apps to check out for a limited time. So developers won't … Read more

Google kills Knol, Wave, and others to focus operations

Google continued to kill off businesses today, as it streamlines operations, axing its would-be Wikipedia rival, Knol, and Wave, a real-time collaboration tool.

Earlier this year, Google Chief Executive Larry Page announced plans to shed businesses that didn't offer big opportunities in order for Google to focus on the ones that do. Along the way, the company has killed off Buzz, a social-networking attempt; Google Health, a personal health records service; and Google Desktop, a PC application that let users search for files and documents on their computers, among others.

The latest round of cuts, announced in a blog postRead more

Rafe Recommends: To-do manager Wunderlist

Here's a case where a free app is better than a paid one.

There are dozens of to-list apps available for every operating system. I've tried many of them and even paid (too much) for the stunning Mac and iOS versions of Things. But I have since settled on the free, ultra-cross-platform product Wunderlist, and it's what I recommend whenever anyone asks me, "How do you keep track of stuff?"

What about Siri? No, thanks. Too iPhone-focused.

Wunderlist may not be able to listen to you, but it is simple. It lets you create multiple … Read more

Mobile-payment startup unveils Square 2.2

Square is on a roll (heh).

After announcing Richard Branson as an investor and revealing a new version of its mobile wallet called Card Case, it released the latest iteration of the original product today that converts iPads, iPhones, or Android phones into point-of-sale systems.

The original Square let anyone make credit card transactions with a Square card reader (free) and Square application. The new version, Square 2.2, places new emphasis on customer loyalty.

"This feature not only allows merchants to recognize their most frequent customers when they enter their store," a Square representative said. "But … Read more