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Title: Microsoft Embraces the Web - Encarta Premium 2006 Word Count: 922 Summary: Microsoft was long derided by its c ritics for having failed to fully g rasp the Internet revolution. It wa s late in developing Net technologi es such as a proprietary search eng ine and in coping with security thr eats propagated through the Web. Keywords: Article Body: Microsoft was long derided by its c ritics for having failed to fully g rasp the Internet revolution. It wa s late in developing Net technologi es such as a proprietary search eng ine and in coping with security thr eats propagated through the Web. Not any more. Earlier this year MSN rolled out a great search engine a nd now Microsoft has fundamentally revamped its reference products. By committing itself to this overhaul , Microsoft embraced reality: nine out of ten children (between the ag es of 5 and 17) use computers (USA figures) - and 85% of these get the ir information online. The Microsoft Encarta Premium 2006 is a breathtaking resource. It cate rs effectively (and, at $50, afford ably) to the educational needs of e veryone in the family, from childre n as young as 7 or 8 years old to a dults who seek concise answers to t heir queries. It is fun-filled, int eractive, and colorful. The 2006 Encarta's User Interface i s far less cluttered than in previo us editions. Content is arranged by topics and then by relevancy and m edium. Add to this the Encarta's Vi sual Browser and you get only relev ant data in response to your querie s. The Encarta Search Bar, which wa s integrated into the product two y ears ago, and is resident in the Ta sk Pane even when Encarta is closed , enables users to search any part of the Encarta application (encyclo pedia, dictionary, thesaurus, etc). The Encarta's new Web Companion is a (giant) step in the right directi on. It obtains search results from all the major search engines withou t launching any additional applicat ions (like a browser). Content from both the Encarta and the Web is pr esented side by side. This augmenta tion explicitly adopts the Internet and incorporates it as an importan t source of reference. It may raise important and interest ing issues of intellectual property , though. Web content copyright-hol ders may demand royalties from Micr osoft for the use it makes of their wares in its commercial products. Encarta would do well to also integ rate with new desktop search tools from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and others. Users should be able to sea mlessly access content from all ove r - their desktop, their encycloped ias, and the Web - using a single, intuitive interface. The Encarta Premium includes a dict ionary, thesaurus, chart maker, sea rchable index of quotations, games, 32 Discovery Channel videos, 25,00 0 photos and illustrations, 2800 so und and audio clips, hundreds of ma ps and tables, and 400 videos and a nimations. It incorporates numerous third-party texts and visuals (inc luding hundreds of newspaper articl es and a plethora of Scientific Ame rican features). The Encarta is augmented by weekly or bi-weekly updates and the featur e-rich online MSN Encarta Premium w ith its Homework Help offerings. Un fortunately, the Encarta still cond itions some of its functions - nota bly its research tools and updates - on registration with its Plus Clu b. The Encarta is the most comprehensi ve, PC-orientated reference experie nce there is. No wonder it has an a ll-pervasive hold on and ubiquitous penetration of the child-to-young adult markets. Particularly enchant ing is the Encarta Kids interface - an area replete with interactive q uizzes, pictures, large icons, hund reds of articles, and links to the full version of the Encarta. A veri table and colorful sandbox. Those k ids are going to get addicted to th e Encarta, that's for sure! Encarta actively encourages fun-fil led browsing. It is a riot of color s, sidebars, videos, audio clips, p hotos, embedded links, literature, Web resources, and quizzes. It is a product of the age of mass communi cation, a desktop extension of tele vision and the Internet. Inevitably, in such a mammoth under taking, not everything is peachy. A few gripes: Regrettably, installation is not as easy as before. The Encarta 2006 m akes use of Microsoft's .Net techno logy. As most home computers lack i t, the installer insists on adding it to the anyhow bloated Windows Op erating System. There is worse to c ome: the .Net version installed by Encarta 2006 is plagued with securi ty holes and vulnerabilities. Users have to download service packs and patches from Windows Update if the y do not wish to run the risk of ha ving their computers compromised by hackers. Fully installed, the Encarta Premiu m 2006 gobbles up more than 3.5 Gb. That's a lot - even in an age of e ver cheaper storage. Most homestead s still sport PCs with 20-40 Gb har d disks. This makes the Encarta les s suitable for installation on olde r PCs and on many laptops. Despite the hype, relatively few users poss ess DVD drives (but those who do, f ind the entire encyclopedia availab le on one DVD). The Encarta DVD 3-D tours have impr oved but they still hog computer re sources and are essentially non-int eractive. Is it worth the investmen t and the risk to the stability and performance of the user's computer? The Encarta tries to cater to the n eeds of challenged users, such as t he visually-impaired - but is still far from doing a good job of it. The atlas, dictionary, and thesauru s incorporated in the Encarta are o utdated. Why not use a more current - and dynamically updated - offeri ng? What about dictionaries for spe cialty terms (medical or computer g lossaries, for instance)? The Encar ta's New English Dictionary dropped a glossary of computer terms it us ed to include back in 2001. All's t he pity. But that's it. Encarta is a must-bu y (especially if you have children) . The Encarta is the best value for money around and significantly enh ances you access to knowledge and w isdom accumulated over centuries al l over the world. The amount and qu ality of content squeezed into a $5 0 package (before rebate) defies be lief. I am a 44 years old adult but when I received my Encarta Premium 2006, I was once more a child in a land of wonders. How much is such an experience worth to you?
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