New Windows Defender beta, crazy CES 2013 rumors and more Microsoft news bits

Microsoft news of the week roundup: Microsoft is beta testing an offline version of its Defender security product, offering users a new tech support service and rumored to be backing away from using CES as a major launch pad.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Here are a few Microsoft-centric news bits from this week about which I didn't have a chance to blog earlier: Windows Defender Offline goes to beta: Windows Defender -- Microsoft's antispyware software that is built into Windows 7 and Vista and downloadable for other older Windows versions -- is getting a new complement. Microsoft delivered a beta this week of "Windows Defender Offline," a version of Defender that can be installed to a CD, DVD, or USB flash drive. It can run offline, making it potentially useful in removing exploits like rootkits, which can be hard to get rid of while Windows is running.

I asked Microsoft officials as to when they expect the final version of the Defender Offline product and was told no comment. The same officials also declined to comment on Microsoft's plans for supporting Defender Offline with Windows 8. Microsoft officials already have shared quite a bit about plans to bundle a new, souped-up version of Defender in Windows 8 via a post to the "Building Windows 8" blog. Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE), a superset of Defender, disables Defender when downloaded and installed by users. Microsoft also is currently beta testing a new version of MSE.

Microsoft takes its Answer Desk online: Microsoft rolled out this week an online version of its Answer Desk support service that it has been offering at its brick-and-mortar Microsoft Stores. The new service covers problems with Microsoft Office, Windows connectivity, printing/scanning, PC performance optimization and virus removal, among other products/issues, according to News.com. Users also can talk to live "Answer Techs" -- for free (initially), but for pay once actual tech-assistance time begins. Premium Software support costs $99 an hour; PC tune-up and virus removal each cost $99 for two hours.

Speaking of Microsoft Stores, 2011 is coming to a close and there's still no New York City store. I had heard from one of my tipsters Microsoft's first New York City store was in the works for this year. Nope. Instead, there's another Apple Store opening in Grand Central Terminal today. I guess there's always next year....

Next week: First Nokia Windows Phone for the U.S.: It's looking all but certain that the December 14 announcement by Nokia and T-Mobile will be the unveiling of the Nokia Lumia 710 on T-Mobile. The 710 is the less-expensive, lower-end sibling of the Lumia 800. The 710 began shipping outside the U.S. on December 9. Nokia officials have said they are talking to all four U.S. carriers about possibly carrying Nokia Windows Phones in the coming year. Verizon seems to be playing hardball and requiring Microsoft and partners to deliver an LTE-enabled phone, according to News.com. Microsoft officials have said Windows Phones with LTE support are coming, but not until battery-drain issues plaguing LTE are solved.

Might CES 2012 be Microsoft's last? Microsoft isn't going to be launching its Windows 8 beta at the Consumer Electronics Show, officials confirmed this week. There will still be various Microsoft announcements saved up for CEO Steve Ballmer's CES 2012 keynote, no doubt. (I'm thinking the coming Kinect for Windows hardware, more Xbox Live TV partners/channels and specifics on more Nokia Windows Phones will be among the tidbits shared.) But CES 2013? I've heard -- albeit from a single decent source -- that Microsoft may not be keynoting a year from now. I've heard it's yet another move by Microsoft to be more Apple-like and to save its big announcements for Microsoft-specific/orchestrated events.

I first shared this CES 2013 rumor on the Windows Weekly webcast that I'm co-hosting with Windows SuperSite's Paul Thurrott this week. Electronista did a good write-up of what I said. Remember: I consider this to be a rumor at this point, and not something I've attempted to run past any other of my contacts to attempt to corroborate.

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