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WHAT WE LEARNED THIS WEEK: Windows 8 coming in October – five changes you need to be prepared for

Just days after Microsoft stunned the market by announcing Windows 8 will cost just $US40, the software maker has confirmed the retail version of the software will hit store shelves in late October.

Any new version of Windows always turns heads, and with good reason. Microsoft controls a huge chunk of the desktop market and any updates to their software – used by millions of businesses –attract attention.

And with Windows 8, it certainly will. Not only is the upgrade being designed with a new layout, but some of the features and settings people are used to will be gone or, at least, changed.

So with just a few months to go until Windows 8 hits the shelves, here are five things you should be prepared for when it hits:

  1. There’s a new user interface
  2. It’s designed for a tablet
  3. The desktop is being simplified
  4. It’s quick – very quick
  5. You can buy software as apps

Facebook, Yahoo! kiss and make up, will share IP and advertising

Internet giants Facebook and Yahoo! have finally reached a settlement over a nasty patent dispute that started at the beginning of the year, agreeing to let each other cross-license their patent portfolios and share advertising – without either party exchanging funds.

The agreement could also be a huge win for interim Yahoo! chief executive Ross Levinsohn, perhaps allowing him to move permanently into the role as the company struggles to become competitive.

The settlement gives hope a similar argument won't pop up again, with the companies now forming a content-sharing alliance and signing an agreement that says they cannot sue each other over patents.

''We are looking forward to building on the success we have already seen, to provide innovative new products and experiences for both consumers and sponsors,'' Levinsohn said in a statement.

''Combining the premium content and reach of Yahoo! as the world's leading digital media company with Facebook provides branded advertisers with unmatched opportunity.''

Aussie firm Freelancer.com extends global reach with purchase of Scriptlance

Australian start-up success story Freelancer.com has added another company to its portfolio, acquiring Canadian freelance marketplace Scriptlance, as it seeks to enhance its global presence.

Freelancer.com is a global outsourcing marketplace, founded in 2009 by tech entrepreneur Matt Barrie, who has confirmed the acquisition of Scriptlance for an undisclosed sum.

Based in Toronto, Scriptlance is Canada's largest freelance marketplace and the fifth largest in the world, with more than 360,000 enterprise and professional users.

It was incorporated in 2001 as R3N3 International Inc by Canadian tech entrepreneur Rene Trescases, who was 20 years old at the time.

Scriptlance is considered one of the early pioneers in the online outsourcing industry. The site now has users in more than 240 countries, regions and territories globally.

To date, Scriptlance has posted over 600,000 projects, with more than $US43 million paid out to freelancers by Trescases and his team.

Facebook transforming into eCommerce hub, as CommBank shows off new banking app

Facebook will soon become an eCommerce hub, experts are saying, after the Commonwealth Bank yesterday updated the market on its plans for a new personal banking app on the social networking site.

This comes just days after a keen-eyed developer spotted a piece of code in Facebook that references a "want" button, to presumably be used in relation to products. The code even references the term "product purchased", implying eCommerce functionality.

Telsyte senior research manager Sam Yip suggests both of these developments are the "next phase" of eCommerce on the social networking site.

"What we're seeing right now is that people are becoming less risk averse, with regard to financial companies and credit cards, and so on. So online purchasing becomes a lot looser," Yip says.

"People have become more comfortable with sharing their purchasing details online, and there's a level of trust there."

Growing competition takes $15 million chomp out of Apple reseller Next Byte

Competition among Apple resellers and growth in the mobile phone market has been blamed for the announcement that Vita Group will incur a $15 million impairment charge against its reseller chain Next Byte.

The business was acquired for $30 million in 2007. In that time, parent company Vita Group said yesterday, the business "has changed substantially... given a number of internal and external factors".

That change has come in the form of increased competition. City Markets analyst Peter Esho told SmartCompany the rapid expansion of Apple stores has contributed to Next Byte's problems – in five years the giant's local store count has grown from zero to 14, while Next Byte has 18 stores.

"But it's not just that," Esho says. "It's the fact that the mobile division of Apple's products have become some of the most popular, and they're widely available everywhere."

He also points out JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith, Myer, David Jones and even Target are aggressively pricing Apple products – most notably the iPad.

Cara Waters

SmartCompany editor

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Cara Waters is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter at the Financial Times website FT Adviser in London and she also worked for The Sunday Times in London.
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