The tech news this week has been dominated by the so-called Heartbleed security issue that could have serious consequences for many Internet users, exposing their data and passwords. In a nutshell, many companies use OpenSSL, an open-source technology, as the basis for the security of their websites. It turns out that a programmer made a simple error several years ago that left the code vulnerable to exploitation.
Last fall Apple began making their popular iWork suite available for free on new iOS devices and Macs. Also, it's available for free to anyone in iCloud. If you have an older device, the iWork suite costs $10 per app. It includes Pages for word processing and page layout, Numbers for spreadsheet work, and Keynote for presentations. When I got my new iPad Air, I downloaded pages and was impressed with how intuitive the interface is while having good functionality. Last week Apple released a major update to the suite on all platforms: iOS, iCloud, and Mac. You can find extensive detail on the new features and improvements on Apple's website. One focus of improvement was compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. Pages and Numbers are now more compatible with Office 2013 files. In addition, various facets of importing and exporting Office documents have been improved.
Apple has said to expect new product categories this year, and many people think the most likely candidate will be an iWatch. Rumors out of China on Tuesday, reported on AppleInsider, say that the iWatch will be coming the third quarter of 2014, with Taiwan's Quanta Computer expected to make 65 million units in the first year. That's a huge number.
As expected, new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced the release of Microsoft Office for the iPad at a press event Thursday. Available are Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. You can download the apps for FREE, but the free version limits you to viewing documents created in those programs. If you want to create and/or edit documents, you'll need to subscribe to Microsoft's Office 365 service. Office 365 Home Premium is currently the lowest-cost option, at $9.99/month or $99.99 per year. It lets you install Office on up to 5 Macs or PCs and up to 5 mobile devices. In addition, a subscription comes with 20GB of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month. Microsoft also recently announced Office 365 Personal, which will let you install Office on a PC or Mac and on one tablet. The price will be $69.99 per year, or $6.99 per month when it becomes available.
Apple's online store recently began selling factory-refurbished iPad Airs, with the 16GB starting at $419 and the 32GB starting at $509. That's $80 or $90 off the price of a new iPad Air and comes with a one-year warranty, a new battery, a new outer shell, manuals and accessories, and new packaging. I'm not sure what they mean by an outer shell, but it sounds like you can expect the iPad to be in new condition cosmetically. They also have a ton of other refurbished iPad models, including iPad minis and fourth-generation iPads. 9To5Mac points out that WalMart actually has a lower price on refurbished iPad Airs, with the 16GB model starting at $399. But they only offer a three-month warranty and are refurbished by a third party. However, the customer reviews are quite positive, with at least one saying that he actually received a new iPad Air.
The Peterson Birds app, which regularly sells for $9.99, is currently available in the App Store for $0.99. This is a great deal on a great app. Having a bird app on your device is so much more convenient than schlepping a book, especially since you typically have your device with you. Plus, unlike books, birding apps also have recordings of their songs. You simply tap on the illustration to hear the song. The Peterson Birds app includes information from eight different Peterson Field Guide Books, such as the very popular Peterson Field Guide to North America, giving you details on over 800 species of North American birds. The app offers illustrations, range maps, bird songs, and nest photos, and claims to give you more detail than any other bird app. It also claims to be the only one that lets you compare similar species by sight, song, and range from one screen. The QuickFind index lets you go to information on a particular bird with a single tap—letting you avoid having to type in the bird's name.
Microsoft's stock jumped 5 percent Tuesday on the rumor that Office for iPad will be arriving March 27. There had been rumors that the suite was ready, and that it would be coming this month. Given that new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will be hosting a media event scheduled for March 27, many are expecting him to introduce Office for iPad. Both The Verge and ZDNet have reported that their inside sources have confirmed that Office will be arriving this month. According to rumors, the suite for the iPad will include the ability to create and edit documents in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. How much will it cost? It's a free download, but you'll need a subscription to Office 365. For example, Office 365 Home Premium costs $99.99 per year. It lets you install Office on up to 5 Macs or PCs and on up to 5 mobile devices. In addition, a subscription comes with 20GB of OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) cloud storage and 60 minutes of Skype calls per month. According to a separate article on ZDNet, Microsoft also recently announced Office 365 Personal, which will let you install Office on a PC or Mac and on one tablet. The price will be $69.99 per year, or $6.99 per month. I believe that in every case Microsoft offers a free trial subscription.
9To5Mac has yet another scoop: details and images of the forthcoming Healthbook app that will be part of iOS 8. They say the information and images come from individuals working directly on the project. This confirms the rumors that Apple is taking a major step toward integrating mobile healthcare and fitness into its iOS line. The screenshots show that Healthbook will let you track blood work, heart rate, hydration, blood pressure, physical activity, nutrition, blood sugar, sleep, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, and weight. According to 9To5Mac, the Fitness feature will be similar to other fitness-tracking apps that record information such as how far you've walked and how many calories you burned. The Weight feature will let you track body mass index and body fat percentage. The Nutrition feature lets you record the food you eat and helps you maintain a diet.
According to the website TechnoBuffalo, some recent posts via Twitter may have revealed more specs for the iPhone 6, which most people are expecting to arrive in September or October. The posts come from Sonny Dickson, who was the first to post bona fide leaked photos of the iPhone 5s and 5c last year. He says the forthcoming phone will be .22 inches thick, compared to .3 inches for the iPhone 5s. That's a significant difference. In addition, he says the phone will have an "Ultra Retina" display, at 389 pixels per inch compared to the current 326 for the iPhone 5s. That's full HD resolution. The A8 processor will be clocked at 2.6ghz, meaning that the iPhone 6 will see a speed bump even beyond that of the speedy 64-bit A7 processor in Apple's latest iOS devices.
It's that time of year again, when basketball fans work themselves into a frenzy over the NCAA basketball tournament, otherwise known as March Madness. The action begins March 18, and you'll want to be sure to have these free apps on your iPhone or iPad.