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Windows 10 to Reach Phones In December

Wednesday, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has revealed via its Facebook page that Windows 10 Mobile will be made available to a handful of Lumia phones in December. The initial list of handsets on deck to receive the update include the Lumia 430/435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640/XL, 735, 830, and the Lumia 930. Microsoft said the devices will need to be running the Lumia Denim update to Windows Phone 8.1 in order to install Windows 10 Mobile. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL, available in November, will be the first handsets to ship with Windows 10 Mobile.

Hands On with the Lumia 550

Tuesday, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Tuesday, 2:04 PM

The 550 is Microsoft's new affordable Windows 10 phone. It has a remarkably low price for a device with an HD screen. How "affordable" does it feel in person? Read on to find out.

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Hands on with the Lumia 950 and XL

Tuesday, 12:56 PM   by Rich Brome

The Lumia 950 is Microsoft's flagship phone for Windows 10. It continues the Lumia line while showcasing the new, unified Windows 10. Not only can it run the same Universal apps that run on Windows 10 desktops, it can transform into a desktop computer itself with a dock accessory, running the same apps in desktop mode. It has high-end features and classic Lumia design. So how is it in person? Read on to find out.

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Microsoft Announces Affordable Lumia 550

Tuesday, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Tuesday, 10:46 AM

Microsoft today revealed a new, affordable Windows phone called the Lumia 550. For just $140, it offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera, front camera, and Windows 10. It uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor. A version for US networks was not immediately announced. It will be available in December for $139.

Lumia 950 is Microsoft's Flagship Windows 10 Phone

Tuesday, 9:52 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Tuesday, 10:48 AM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, its own flagship phones for its new OS, Windows 10. The phones support Windows Continuum for an optional full Windows Desktop experience when connected to a desktop monitor. The two models are similar, differing mostly in screen size; the 950 has a 5.2-inch screen, while the larger 950 XL has a 5.7-inch screen. Both screen offerings are OLED and Quad-HD resolution, the best available. Leveraging OLED technology, the phones also offer Lumia's low-power Glance notification display. Both phones also sport 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, triple-LED flash, optical image stabilization, and a dedicated camera button. Both phones also come with 32 GB of internal storage, plus a memory card slot supporting up to 2 TB. The phones are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 or 810 processors, with liquid cooling. The phones also sport USB Type-C connectors with fast data transfer and fast charging. A new Microsoft Display Dock accessory enables Windows Continuum. The Dock connects to the phone via USB-C, and to a desktop monitor via HDMI or DisplayPort. It also has tree USB ports for keyboard and accessories. Connected to the Dock, the phone can be used as a full Windows desktop running desktop versions of Windows Universal apps, including Office and Outlook. When using the Dock, the phone can access files on USB storage. Both phones will be available in November, for $549 and $649, for the 950 and 950 XL, respectively.

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New Microsoft Band has Curved Screen

Tuesday, 9:35 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a new version of its Band wearable wrist device. The fitness-centric Band sports a curved color OLED display with Gorilla Glass, and a rubber strap. Like its predecessor, it tracks GPS coordinates, UV exposure, and heart rate. New in this version is a barometer for measuring altitude, and better integration with the Cortana assistant. Features include guided workouts, sleep tracking, calorie counting, and smart phone notifications. The Band integrates with the Microsoft Health app, which provides details fitness tracking and stats. The Band also has extensive golf functions, tracking swing information and more. It also supports apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Starbucks, RunKeeper, and more. The new Microsoft Band can be pre-ordered today and ships October 30. It will sell for $249.

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Facebook Commits to Windows 10

Tuesday, 9:13 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced that Facebook is building Windows Universal apps for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. The new apps will run natively on Windows 10 for Mobile phones.

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Wireless Companies Agree to Support More Remote Wipe Tools

Oct 2, 2015, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.

Google and Microsoft Bury the Patent Hatchet

Sep 30, 2015, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Microsoft today announced that they have settled various patent squabbles and dropped about 20 lawsuits between them in the U.S. and Germany. The two companies have been tussling over mobile and wireless technology since 2010. In addition to putting their arguments to rest, the companies have agreed to work together on certain technologies, such as video compression, moving forward. "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers," said the companies. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Microsoft Slips Up, Posts Lumia 950 and 950XL to Web Site

Sep 30, 2015, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed a few details about the unannounced Lumia 950 and 950 XL smartphones on its UK-based web site. The phones will be the first to ship with Windows 10 Mobile on board, Microsoft's new operating system. The web site lists only a couple of specs. Shared features include 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, 32GB of storage, and support for 2TB memory cards. The 950 sports a 5.2-inch quad HD screen, while the 950 XL offers a larger 5.7-inch quad HD screen. Microsoft is expected to announce the handsets in full at an event in New York scheduled for Oct. 6.

Nokia's Alcatel-Lucent Acquisition Clears CFIUS

Sep 15, 2015, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States has approved its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. CFIUS' approval was the last regulatory hurdle in the US, which has already been approved by the Justice Dept. Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent still have several other regulatory bodies to clear in other countries, as well as Nokia shareholders, but still believe the transaction will close during the first half of 2016.

Microsoft Releases New Windows 10 Mobile Preview

Sep 14, 2015, 6:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a new version of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview available to Windows Insiders. The fresh operating system, build 10536, contains a wide array of bug fixes and performance tweaks, as well as a handful of new features. For example, build 10536 brings back the Insider Hub and mobile hotspot; updates voice input with support for Japanese and Indian English; resolves two-factor authentication issues and Start screen load problems; and fixes the quiet hours / do not disturb function. The photos app adds a folder view and brings faster photo viewing and context menus. Last, the build brings one-handed mode to phones of all sizes (not just large handsets). Microsoft warns that there are still a number of bugs plaguing the preview. For example, the camera app may no longer automatically upload images to OneDrive. Otherwise, Microsoft is pitching build 10536 as a much more stable and complete rendition of the operating system. The Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. Users will need to update their devices twice — first to Build 10514, then to Build 10536 — before the new preview is fully installed. Microsoft has yet to say when it will make a final version of Windows 10 Mobile available to the general public, though it has scheduled a media event in New York City on Oct. 6. It is possible Microsoft will share such details during that event.

Jolla Pushing Sailfish OS 2.0 to Early Adopters

Sep 9, 2015, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today began distributing Sailfish OS 2.0 to members of its early access group. Jolla, a company formed by former Nokia employees, first revealed Sailfish OS 2.0 in March. The platform is more compatible with Android applications thanks to a stronger technical core. Jolla improved the platform's multitasking capabilities, tweaked the user interface, added privacy and personalization features, and simplified interacting with notifications thanks to swiping gestures. Jolla said the improved OS is meant to provide a more premium experience. This particular release introduces a carousel home screen and a new app grid that can be accessed from any screen. The buttons and icons have a fresher visual style, as do the calendar, store, clock, and email apps. Jolla took pains to improve the camera, which now records video in the H.264 format. The events tool offers more data regarding notifications, and an improved weather widget shows the five-day forecast. Jolla made changes specific to the tablet version of the operating system, as well. Jolla said members of the early access group should receive Sailfish OS 2.0 starting today. Sailfish was born from Nokia's discarded Maemo and Moblin Linux platforms. Earlier this summer the company separated its hardware and software businesses.

Verizon Looking to Be First to Deploy 5G

Sep 8, 2015, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless wants to stay ahead of the curve and be among the first to launch fifth-generation (or 5G) wireless network technology. The company plans to begin field tests at its Innovation Centers, which are dedicated sandboxes for testing apps and services, located in San Francisco and Waltham, Mass., at some point in 2016. Verizon will use gear supplied by partners Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Samsung to conduct the trials. Moreover, Verizon expects to reach "some level of commercial deployment" as soon as 2017, according to Roger Gurnani, chief information and technology architect for Verizon. Verizon's timeline is ambitious, especially considering 5G hasn't been defined. The International Telecommunications Union only agreed on the basic framework for developing what will eventually become the 5G wireless data specification in June of this year. The 5G roadmap is being referred to as IMT-2020, which the ITU hopes to have finalized by the year 2020. The core definition of 5G will be wireless networks that can transmit data at speeds up to 20Gbps. Most of today's LTE networks are allowing for connections as fast as 50Mbps in real-world conditions. Verizon's Gurnani said the company is targeting real-world speeds that are 30 to 50 times faster than current LTE 4G. Verizon didn't say if it intends to adhere to the ITU's vision for what 5G technology should truly be. Verizon is the first U.S. network operator to put 5G on its public roadmap, but others are sure to follow quickly.

Microsoft Avoids Import Ban in InterDigital Case

Aug 29, 2015, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.

Nokia Forges China Joint Venture to Win Alca-Lu Approval

Aug 28, 2015, 7:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has signed a memorandum of understanding with a China government-backed investment company called Huaxin in order to encourage approval of its proposed acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent. The acquisition has already been approved by U.S. and E.U. antitrust bodies, but is awaiting China's decision. The joint venture, named Nokia Shanghai Bell, will mirror one Alcatel-Lucent had in place with Huaxin and may facilitate China's approval of the deal. Nokia will hold 50% of the company plus one share, and Huaxin will hold the rest. Nokia believes merging with Alcatel-Lucent will allow it to better compete with companies such as Ericsson and ZTE, which also provide network operators with telecommunications equipment.

Microsoft Trots Out Nokia 222 Feature Phone

Aug 25, 2015, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 222, a bar-style feature phone that runs Nokia Series 30+ and includes only the most essential functions. The Nokia 222's core apps include MSN Weather, Bing Search, Opera Mini, as well as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. The device has a 2.4-inch QVGA display, an 1,100mAh battery, and a 2-megapixel camera. Other features include Bluetooth 3.0, stereo headphone jack and FM radio, support for 32GB memory cards, and SLAM photo-sharing technology. The Nokia 222 goes on sale in September and will cost about $37. Based on its limited dual-band 900/1800MHz GSM/EDGE support, the phone will likely not be sold in the U.S.

Microsoft to Close Nokia Finnish Phone Production Site

Aug 21, 2015, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today confirmed it plans to fully close a facility in Salo, Finland, that was formerly used to create and produce mobile phones. Microsoft will leave the Nokia facilities in Espoo and Tampere open, but plans to cut about 2,300 jobs in Finland in total. Last month, Microsoft announced plans to slice 7,800 people from its headcount, including most of the phone hardware business it purchased from Nokia.

Microsoft Accuses InterDigital of Antitrust Behavior

Aug 21, 2015, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, a patent-licensing firm, for charging exorbitant rates to license standard-essential patents. The two companies have been embroiled in patent litigation for years. Earlier this year, Microsoft was found by the U.S. ITC to be violating two wireless patents owned by InterDigital. The judge in that case recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. Microsoft says InterDigital is using this potential import ban as a bargaining chip to jack up licensing rates. Patents deemed essential must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Microsoft charges that InterDigital's "abusive licensing practices" violate federal antitrust law. InterDigital has taken ZTE, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and others to court over patents with mixed success.

Cortana for Android Can Override Google Now

Aug 9, 2015, 1:06 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated the beta version of Cortana for Android and gave it the power to supplant Google Now. Cortana beta testers can now set Cortana — rather than Google Now — to launch with a long press of the home button. The change makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones, though people will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana is Microsoft's personal assistant, which can do many things like Google Now, like set reminders and surface travel details. Microsoft has not yet said when it will release a 1.0 version of Cortana for Android.

Microsoft Open-Sources iOS App Porting Tool

Aug 6, 2015, 1:32 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its Windows Bridge for iOS application is moving to open source. Windows Bridge is the tool developers need to port iOS apps to the Windows platform. It can be used to create Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 desktops apps for now, but will support the mobile versions of these two operating systems later this year. Microsoft said it wants to rely on the open source community to put Windows Bridge through its paces and contribute code and/or bug fixes as needed. Windows Bridge for iOS is being released as a technical preview and will see a full release in the fall. Microsoft is expected to offer Windows Bridge for Android in the fall as a beta app. Microsoft hopes developers will bring their Android and iOS apps to the Windows Platform, which may help address the app gap.

Microsoft Unleashes a Flurry Of Apps for Android Wear, Apple Watch

Aug 6, 2015, 12:47 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made available a handful of apps for wearables running Google's Android Wear and Apple's WatchOS. First, Microsoft has ported Outlook to the Apple Watch. The app lets Apple Watch owners browse and read emails and perform actions such as archiving, deleting, and flagging messages. It includes pre-written responses and supports dictation for longer messages. It accompanies the Outlook email app for iOS. Second, Microsoft made its Translator app available to both the Apple Watch and Android Wear. The app lets wearable owners get instant translations in 50 languages by speaking to their watch. It supports search history and caches recently-used phrases. Third, Microsoft updated its OneDrive and OneNote apps for Android Wear. OneDrive will now display a photo on the watch face alongside notifications for up-to-date files. OneNote makes it easy to dictate new notes by saying "OK Google, take a note." The app also displays the most recently viewed notes on the watch face. Outlook, Translator, OneDrive, and OneNote are all free to download from iTunes and the Google Play Store.

Nokia Makes HERE Sale to Audi, BMW, Daimler Official

Aug 3, 2015, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today formally announced the sale of its HERE Maps business unit to a consortium of three German auto makers. Audi, BMW, and Daimler have agreed to buy HERE Maps for $3 billion. Nokia has been shopping the business unit since April, soon after it announced plans to acquire Alcatel-Lucent. The three car makers will act as investors in HERE, as well as customers of the mapping business and suppliers of data. Nokia said HERE-branded mobile apps will continue to be available to Android, iOS, and Windows devices. Nokia expects to complete the sale during the first half of 2016. Once finalized, Nokia will have two business units: its telecommunications equipment unit and its technology unit.

Motorola Owes Microsoft $14.5 Million Over Patent Spat

Jul 31, 2015, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

An appeals court has sided with Microsoft and upheld a 2013 verdict that says Motorola has to pay Microsoft for refusing to license standard-essential patents at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. This particular case began in 2010, when Microsoft sued Motorola for failing to pay it patent-licensing fees for technology found in Motorola's Android smartphones. Motorola filed its own lawsuit in return, in which it sought some $4 billion to cover royalties for technology in Microsoft's Xbox and Windows devices. Even though Microsoft sued Motorola, Motorola was still required to license its own patents to Microsoft at fair rates. Two separate courts determined in 2012 and later 2013 that Motorola's $4 billion demand far exceeded what's considered fair and reasonable. Therefore, Motorola violated its agreement with Microsoft and Microsoft was thus awarded $14.5 million in damages for breach of contract. This week's decision, reached by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, verifies that Motorola must pay the damages.

Europe Approves Nokia's Purchase of Alcatel-Lucent

Jul 24, 2015, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Commission today gave Nokia permission to move forward with its acquisition of rival Alcatel-Lucent. Following its initial review, the Commission approved the deal without placing any conditions on the terms. The acquisition still needs to be approved by Nokia's shareholders and antitrust regulators in a handful of other countries. Nokia expects the complete the deal during the first half of 2016.

Audi, BMW, Daimler to Buy Nokia's HERE Maps

Jul 21, 2015, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 21, 2015, 12:03 PM

A consortium of three German automotive makers has agreed to purchase HERE Maps from Nokia for about $2.71 billion, according to the Wall Street Journal. Sources familiar with Nokia's plans say Audi, BMW, and Daimler (Mercedes) have fielded a winning bid for the mapping division, which Nokia put up for sale earlier this year. By divesting the business unit, Nokia's chief remaining business will be providing telecommunications equipment to network operators. The car companies will run HERE Maps together, and plan to invite other car marks to invest in a stake if they wish. The three German car makers beat out Uber and private investors, which were also interested in HERE. Nokia bought mapping company Navteq in 2007 and rebranded its product HERE Maps. HERE Maps is a free app available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Nokia did not confirm the Journal's story.

Microsoft's Hyperlapse App Now Works with All Lumias

Jul 20, 2015, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Hyperlapse time-lapse application for Windows Phone and Android devices. The Windows Phone version of Hyperlapse is now compatible with all Lumia handsets. It had previously not worked with older devices running the Qualcomm S4 processor (Lumia 520, 620, 720, 920, 925, and 1020). Microsoft also updated the Android version of Hyperlapse. At launch in May, Hyperlapse for Android was released as a limited, closed beta. It is now available to all Android users for free. Hyperlapse can be used to stabilize shaky footage or to create fast-moving time-lapse videos. The app supports multiple playback speeds (between 1x and 32x) and can import existing video files from the phone's camera roll. Hyperlapse app is available from the Windows Store and the Google Play Store.

Nokia Forms Alliance to Standardize Mobile Transit Tickets

Jul 15, 2015, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia's HERE Maps division and other companies today announced the Open Mobile Ticketing Alliance, a new organization they hope will create a single, global standard for NFC-based mobile transit tickets. The goal of the OMTA is to develop a "register once, travel anywhere" system that's interoperable with payment vendors and transit operators around the world. The OMTA wants to standardize the way the phone and transit systems communicate with one another so users can have the same travel experience no matter which city they are traveling in. The idea is to let people purchase transit tickets through a single app and use their NFC-equipped handset to tap their way onto buses, trains, and subways. The OMTA has already conducted limited trials and expects to launch wider trials in several cities around the world later this year. Other participants in the OMTA include Scheidt & Bachmann, Thales, and Verifone Mobile Money.

Nokia Reiterates Path to New Phones Is Complicated

Jul 14, 2015, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has again affirmed its plans to bring Nokia-branded handsets back to the market eventually, but warned that things won't be as they were. Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft in 2014. As part of the deal, Nokia signed a non-compete clause barring it from re-entering the handset market for a specific period of time. Moreover, Nokia sold all its phone-manufacturing plants and capabilities to Microsoft. It no longer has the capacity to build phones. "The right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model," explained the company. "That means identifying a partner that can be responsible for all of the manufacturing, sales, marketing and customer support for a product. If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation, as we did with the Nokia N1 Android tablet. That's the only way the bar would be met for a mobile device we'd be proud to have bear the Nokia brand, and that people will love to buy." Nokia's non-compete clause with Microsoft doesn't expire until the fourth quarter of 2016.

Microsoft to Sunset Several MSN Mobile Apps

Jul 13, 2015, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has indicated that it plans to discontinue a handful of mobile apps across Windows, Android, and iOS devices. The MSN Food & Drink and MSN Travel apps will be shuttered Sept. 28, and the Health & Fitness app will be closed Nov. 1. The content for the apps will still be available from Microsoft said the apps themselves have not attracted enough users to merit their upkeep. The apps will no longer be accessible after the cut-off dates, and Microsoft suggested users take the time to download and backup any personal information they may have stored in the apps. The app closures folllow significant personnel reductions planned for Microsoft's handset business and several key executive departures. Microsoft plans to focus on fewer phones moving forward, and, it appears, fewer apps, as well.

New Group Working on Practical 5G

Jul 10, 2015, 9:34 AM   by Rich Brome

A large and diverse group of mobile companies have formed a new group to work on potential 5G radio technology. The group is focusing specifically on technologies that will work below 6 GHz, near the frequency bands of current mobile networks. Some recent "5G" demos have relied on much higher millimeter wave (mmW) frequencies, which have short range and cannot pass through walls. Many major players are exploring including mmW technology in 5G, but it is not expected to be the core of the standard. The new group - called FANTASTIC-5G (Flexible Air iNTerfAce for Scalable service delivery wiThin wIreless Communication networks of the 5th Generation) - includes Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Sequans Communications, and Wings ICT Solutions, as well as several European mobile operators and research institutes. Their goal is a new air interface to replace LTE that is more efficient and flexible, supporting diverse needs from fast broadband to small, low-power sensors.

Lumia 735 Appears In Verizon Retail Stores

Jul 9, 2015, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Microsoft Lumia 735 is now available for sale in Verizon Wireless's retail stores. It was previously only available online. It costs $30 with a two-year contract, $8 with a Verizon Edge plan, or $199 at full retail.

Microsoft Adds OneDrive Streaming to Android and iOS Xbox Music Apps

Jul 9, 2015, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has rolled out updates to the Android and iOS Xbox Music apps that adds the ability to stream music stored in OneDrive. The free feature doesn't require a subscription, so people can upload songs to OneDrive and stream them to their Android or iOS device. The feature is already available to Windows Phone. Users will need to pay for an Xbox Music Pass to stream songs they don't own, but any music stored in OneDrive can be downloaded for offline playback. The update doesn't introduce the new Groove Music branding. Xbox Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.

Microsoft to Slash 7,800 Jobs, Restructure Phone Biz

Jul 8, 2015, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 8, 2015, 8:28 AM

Microsoft today announced significant job cuts and plans to restructure its mobile phone business unit. The company will eliminate 7,800 jobs, mostly from its phone business, and streamline its portfolio of smartphones. The company said it will record a charge of about $7.6 billion in assets related to the Nokia Devices and Services acquisition, as well as another $750 million to $850 million in restructuring charges. The company warned as recently as last month that it faced tough choices. It recently cut former Nokia executives and agreed to transfer some engineering employees and assets to Uber. "We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family," said Nadella in an email to Microsoft employees. "In the near-term, we'll run a more effective and focused phone portfolio while retaining capability for long-term reinvention in mobility. We plan to narrow our focus to three customer segments where we can make unique contributions and where we can differentiate through the combination of our hardware and software. We'll bring business customers the best management, security and productivity experiences they need; value phone buyers the communications services they want; and Windows fans the flagship devices they'll love. In the longer term, Microsoft devices will spark innovation, create new categories and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly. Our reinvention will be centered on creating mobility of experiences across the entire device family including phones." Microsoft said the prospects for its smartphone business are below original expectations. The company expects the bulk of today's actions to be finalized before the end of 2015. The $7.6 billion write-down exceeds the $7.2 billion Microsoft spent to acquire Nokia in 2014.

Microsoft Prepared to Cut More Jobs

Jul 8, 2015, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is planning to announce a new round of layoffs as early as today, reports the New York Times. Many of the cuts will target employees in Microsoft's hardware group, such as the smartphone unit it bought from Nokia in 2014. Nokia and Microsoft-branded Windows Phones have struggled to gain traction with consumers. The Times' suggests Microsoft may be forced to write down a loss on the smartphone unit later this month. Other parts of the business will see headcount reductions, as well. As of March, Microsoft had about 118,000 employees globally. Last year, Microsoft said it planned to drop 18,000 employees. These new cuts are in addition to those already announced. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently warned that the company has to "make some tough choices in areas where things are not working and solve hard problems in ways that drive customer value." Former Nokia executives Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow, along with a handful of other executives, were recently shown the door. Microsoft did not confirm the Times' report, which was based on the comments of unnamed sources.

Jolla Separates Software and Hardware Businesses

Jul 7, 2015, 7:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Jolla today announced plans to split its operations into two separate companies. Moving forward, Jolla Ltd. will develop Sailfish OS and manage licensing for the platform. Jolla's hardware company will be spun off and reformed as its own entity. Antti Saarnio, Chairman of Board of Jolla, takes charge of leading Jolla Ltd. as CEO. Jolla's former CEO, Tomi Pienimäki, is leaving the company for another opportunity. Jolla said a new leader for the Jolla device business will appointed later this year. Jolla Ltd. will continue Sailfish OS and licensing operations immediately, but the company said the device business won't relaunch until the fall months. The company said it is still working to bring its Sailfish OS-based tablet to market. The tablet was offered through a crowdfunding effort. Jolla said the software is ready to go, but the company is having difficulties securing all the necessary hardware components. "Every young company has to find its clear focus at some time, and for Jolla that time is now," said Saarnio. "We have huge opportunities in the Sailfish OS licensing business, and I am very proud and excited to take responsibility of steering the Jolla ship to a new commercial phase. After three years of intensive Sailfish OS research and development we are now moving full speed to new bigger waters, which requires full focus on software from the team." Jolla was formed in 2011 by former Nokia employees. Sailfish OS is based on Nokia's discontinued MeeGo operating system.

Microsoft Rebrands Its Music Service as 'Groove'

Jul 6, 2015, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed details about the music service for Windows 10, which is now called Groove Music. Groove will be available across XBox and Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. The $10 monthly fee buys ad-free access to 40 million tracks, which can be streamed across platforms. People will also be able to create their own, custom radio stations. Microsoft says Groove will support music libraries uploaded to OneDrive, including tracks purchased via iTunes. The service will also be made available to Android and iOS devices in the near future. Groove Music is expected to launch in the weeks ahead.

Microsoft Releases Skype for Business App on Windows Phone

Jul 6, 2015, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today replaced its Lync 2013 corporate messaging app with Skype for Business for Windows Phone. The app has a refreshed user interface for messaging, more emoticons, and improved interactions with the server. Microsoft says Skype for Business better manages notifications for conversation threads, and syncs them more consistently across other devices such as PCs and tablets. Users of Lync 2013 on devices running Windows Phone 8.1 will be updated to Skype for Business automatically. Microsoft said hardware running Windows Phone 8.0 and earlier should remain on Lync 2013 or Lync 2010.

CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Jul 1, 2015, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.

Uber Buys Some of Microsoft's Bing Assets

Jun 29, 2015, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber has agreed to acquire about 100 engineers and other assets from Microsoft's Bing product. Specifically, Uber will take possession of Bing's "product image collection activities," according to TechCrunch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the companies did say that Microsoft will hand over some employees and technology. Uber, the ride-finding service, has been looking for opportunities to improve its own map data. Adding some of Bing's assets can help it do that. Uber said it was "excited about the talent and technology this acquisition brings." Earlier this year, Uber had been named as a potential suitor for Nokia's HERE Maps business. Nokia has not yet sold HERE. Microsoft and Uber didn't say when the Bing transaction might be finalized.

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