Microsoft today released a preview version of Office for Android smartphones. The latest renditions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint closely match those available to the iPhone. Microsoft said it made a lot of improvements to the apps based on feedback for the Android tablet version of Office. The apps are designed to be finger friendly and support many of the same features found on the full desktop versions. Users can create, open, edit, and save files to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. Microsoft's Office apps for Android are free to download from the Play Store, but Microsoft is requiring people to join the Office for Android Community in order to access them.
MixRadio today made its customized radio service available to Android and iOS devices for the first time. Microsoft acquired MixRadio when it purchased Nokia's handset business, but later divested it to a messaging company called Line. Due to its relationship with Nokia and Microsoft, MixRadio has been exclusive to Windows Phones until today. The new Android and iOS apps, which are available from the Play Store and iTunes, include thousands of free, curated radio stations similar to how Pandora operates. The service lets users create and listen to personalized radio stations, and can be cached on devices for offline playback. The app is supported by ads, but MixRadio may launch an ad-free version later this year. It is available in 31 countries, including the U.S. In addition to announcing the new apps, MixRadio said it has partnered with HTC to provide music-related news stories for HTC's BlinkFeed application.
Microsoft said it plans to take a more active role in making sure the existing base of Windows 10 smartphones has the latest code. The company is taking a page from Apple and will not rely on carriers to deliver operating system updates. Microsoft said, "We take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We [will] proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet that it will deliver security, performance, and feature updates to Windows 10 Mobile handsets itself, and the code will be pushed to all users simultaneously. The statement appears to apply to handsets that ship with Windows 10 Mobile, and not older devices. With Windows 8.1 and earlier, Microsoft relied on its carrier partners to approve and distribute system updates and it will continue to do so. As ZDNet points out, however, consumers with older handsets can join the Windows Insider program to maintain early access to new OS versions. Apple uses this same master distribution method for keeping its iOS devices up to date. Google still relies on its handset and carrier partners to update their individual devices to newer versions of Android.
Microsoft today released build 10080 of the Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones. The updated operating system adds a number of features and resolves a wide number of known bugs. To start, the new technical preview introduces the Windows Store beta for phones. Users will be able to browse through the new content store for apps. Thanks to the store's presence in the build, Windows Phone previewers can now download the universal app versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, and Xbox. The operating system includes the music preview and video preview apps, too, which will let testers look at how Windows 10 Mobile will handle media playback. Microsoft also added the new camera app. Microsoft recommends users read through the "known issues" bullet points before installing the operating system preview on their phone. The technical preview is in pre-beta status and not meant to be used as a daily driver.
Microsoft today released an application for Windows Phone and Android handsets called Hyperlapse. The app 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. Microsoft says the user interface takes only a few moments to master. The app is available to Windows Phones from the Windows Store, though the Android version is officially being labeled a beta. Microsoft also made Hyperlapse available to Windows PCs. There are a number of competing time-lapse apps in the market, including one from Instagram called Hyperlapse. Instagram's app is limited to the iPhone. Microsoft's Hyperlapse app is free.
Microsoft today said it will offer seven versions of Windows 10, including one tailored specifically for mobile phones. The versions are called Windows 10 Home, Pro, Mobile, Enterprise, Education, Mobile Enterprise, and IoT Core. Each version caters to a specific user-base. The mobile version of Windows 10, says Microsoft, "is designed to deliver the best user experience on smaller, mobile, touch-centric devices like smartphones and small tablets." Windows 10 Mobile includes all the same universal apps available to other versions of the platform, such as productivity tools, security, and management capabilities. One of the biggest features is Continuum, which will let people use their smartphone as a full PC when connected to peripherals such as a screen, keyboard, and mouse. Microsoft said the full versions of Windows 10 Home, Windows 10 Mobile, and Windows 10 Pro will be a free upgrade for one year to compatible Windows 7, Windows 8.1, and Windows Phone 8.1 devices. Some versions of Windows 10 will reach 190 countries this summer. The timing for the mobile version of Windows 10 has not yet been defined.
Nokia today said it intends to cut about 70 jobs from its Technologies unit. "Nokia Technologies has revised its long-term strategy and will consequently reshape [the] organization. As part of this, talks have been initiated with the staff," said a Nokia spokesperson. The Technologies unit within Nokia was responsible for creating the N1 tablet, and is believed to be working on smartphone designs that may reach the market in 2016. It is the smallest of Nokia's three main businesses and employs only about 650 people globally. Nokia didn't say to what extent the unit's strategy has been changed. Nokia's main business is telecommunications networking gear. Nokia is also evaluating the future of its HERE Maps unit.
Cricket Wireless today indicated via its Twitter account that it will begin to sell the Microsoft Lumia 640 on May 15. The company didn't immediately provide pricing details.
Uber has submitted a bid to purchase HERE Maps from Nokia for $3 billion, reports the New York Times. The bid is one of several and may not result in a sale, cautioned the Times' unnamed sources. Uber is a ride-hailing app that connects drivers and passengers, but the company has also begun delivery services in certain cities. User's bid is said to compete with one from a consortium of German auto makers, including Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. A private equity group has also submitted a third bid for the mapping business. Dollar figures for these latter two bids have not been disclosed, and none of the companies involved commented on the Times' report. Nokia said last month that it planned to conduct a strategic review of its HERE Maps business which could result in a divestiture of the business. However, Nokia's CEO just this week warned its review may not lead to a sale at all. Nokia's HERE Maps business accounts for 80% of all in-car navigation. The unit is based in Berlin and employs some 6,000 people. Nokia acquired a Chicago-based company called Navteq in 2008 for $8 billion. It renamed Navteq under the HERE brand.
Documents on the FCC website recently revealed an unannounced handset from Microsoft intended for Verizon Wireless. The FCC notes the device supports Verizon's LTE and CDMA networks, but reveals little else. The device appears to be a standard slab handset with a camera and flash visible on the back surface and large screen on the front. The phone has a design similar to previous Lumia devices. Neither Microsoft nor Verizon has announced any such device.
Microsoft has shied away from saying exactly when Windows 10 will launch other than to say "this summer." Speaking at Microsoft's Build developer conference this week, executive Joe Belfiore said the phone-specific version of Windows 10 won't arrive until after Windows 10 launches for PCs and tablets. "Our phone builds have not been as far as long as our PC builds," said Belfiore. "We're adapting the phone experiences later than we're adding the PC experiences." Belfiore didn't provide specifics, but the implication is that the revised OS for mobile phones won't arrive until the fall months. Microsoft has already released two preview builds of Windows 10 for Phones. The company is expected to seed a new build of the fledgling OS in the next couple of weeks.
Microsoft today demonstrated how Windows 10 on phones will be able to serve as full PCs thanks to the Continuum user interface idea. Continuum helps keep the UI approximately the same as users move from PC to tablet to phone. Continuum on Windows 10 phones will let users turn their phones into full computers with apps, data, and accessories such as a keyboard and mouse. According to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore, new hardware is required to power this vision. The Windows 10 platform is expected to arrive later this year, but Microsoft has not announced new Windows Phones just yet.
Microsoft today said Windows 10 devices will be able to run Android applications. According to Microsoft, developers will be able to reuse Java and C++ code to run Android apps in an Android subsystem on Windows 10 devices. Further, Microsoft said Windows 10 will support iOS and Objective C, so developers can port iOS apps to Windows 10 easily thanks to new tools in Visual Studio. Adding support for Android apps and making it possible for developers to port iOS apps to the Windows 10 platform will help Microsoft close the app gap it faces with competing platforms. BlackBerry has a similar idea in place on its BlackBerry 10 devices, which can run Android apps. Windows 10 isn't expected to arrive until later this year.
Microsoft today said Windows device owners will soon be able to purchase apps using their wireless account rather than a credit card. Carrier billing, as the practice is called, makes it more convenient for people to purchase good and services from mobile devices by removing the credit card barrier. Purchases are simply added to the user's monthly bill. Microsoft said it will launch carrier billing with 90 carriers around the world, but didn't specify which ones. Carrier billing will be possible across all Windows 10 devices, including phones, tablets, and PCs. Windows 10 is expected to arrive later this year.
The International Trade Commission today ruled Microsoft improperly used two InterDigital wireless patents without permission. The ruling judge said "it would not be against the public interest to ban the Microsoft [phones] from import into the United States." Patent-related complaints are often taken to the ITC, which has the power to enact such bans. This initial ruling, made by a single judge within the ITC, must be upheld by the full commission before any sort of penalty is enforced. InterDigital is a patent-holding firm and has filed similar suits against other phone makers, including ZTE and Samsung. Microsoft did not immediately comment on the decision.
Nokia today issued a statement reaffirming that it will not manufacture cell phones. "Recent news reports [claim Nokia] communicated an intention to manufacture consumer handsets out of an R&D facility in China. These reports are false, and include comments incorrectly attributed to a Nokia Networks executive. Nokia reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets." The statement follows a week of conjecture concerning the company's potential plans for cell phones moving forward. Re/Code reported that Nokia plans to design handsets and license those designs to outside manufacturers once its non-compete agreement with Microsoft expires at the end of the year. Nokia did not contest that report. However, Re/Code's report was later followed by others claiming Nokia was going to set up shop at a facility in China to build its own cell phones. It is those reports that Nokia says are false. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft and, as part of the sale, cannot make or build cell phones. In particular, Nokia is not allowed to re-enter the handset business in any fashion until 2015, and isn't allowed to license its brand to manufacturers for the purposes of making handsets until the third quarter of 2016. Moreover, Nokia sold all its manufacturing facilities as part of the handset sale to Microsoft and can no longer build its own devices. The company is more focused on its networking business. Nokia recently announced plans to acquire Alcatel-Lucent, the French-American networking giant, for $16.6 billion. Nokia may sell its HERE Maps business so it can concentrate on building its telecommunications unit.
The U.S. ITC today cleared ZTE of violating a phone-related patent held by InterDigital. Late last year, ZTE was found guilty of infringing three different InterDigital patents. InterDigital is a patent-holding firm and has filed similar lawsuits against Nokia and Huawei.
Four companies have expressed interest in acquiring Nokia's HERE Maps business, reports Reuters. A coalition of German auto makers, Audi, BMW, and Daimler, are weighing a joint bid, as are Facebook, Uber, and U.S. investment firm Hellman & Friedman. Nokia recently said it is considering strategic options for the mapping unit, formerly Navteq, which it acquired in 2008 for more than $8 billion. Nokia expects to bring in about $2.1 billion through a sale of the business. Nokia may use capital generated by the sale to help fund its recently-announced purchase of Alcatel-Lucent. Nokia did not confirm Reuters' report, which cited a German trade magazine. The other companies could not immediately be reached for comment.
Microsoft today pushed out a minor update to the Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones. Build 10052 resolves a number of performance issues and makes a few other tweaks. For example, users can now enable flight mode again, as well as disable all data connections if so desired. Microsoft fixed an MMS-related bug that saw some users lose their settings. It also resolved an issue that prevented some from downloading keyboards for additional languages. Last, Microsoft repaired a bug that caused the viewfinder in the camera app to display incorrectly. Build 10052 of Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones is available to Microsoft Insiders.
Microsoft today said the Universal Maps app for the Windows 10 platform is now available to phones running the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Device owners can download the Universal app via the Windows Insider program. As with all Universal apps, Maps works across phone, tablet, and PC form factors. It is responsive to touch input and includes satellite images, local search data via Bing, live traffic, and voice-guided navigation. It also supports downloadable maps, which are accessible even when the device is offline. According to Microsoft, it takes the best from both Bing Maps and HERE Maps and puts them together in a single application. Microsoft has also updated the Maps app for the desktop version of Windows 10, which now includes more 3D city renders and streetside panoramas. Maps for Windows 10 Technical Preview is free for Windows Insiders to download.
Microsoft today said Office Universal apps will be available to the Windows 10 platform for phones by the end of the month. The Office Universal apps work across desktop, tablet, and handset form factors. Microsoft only recently expanded the number of handsets able to run the Windows 10 Technical Preview. The preview will be required to install the early look at Office Universal. According to Microsoft, the Office Universal apps were built with touch-first usability in mind for phones and tablets. The Universal apps adapt to the smaller screens of phones and move the commands and controls to the bottom of the display for better one-handed editing and creating. The Universal apps produce documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that are fully compatible with the tablet and desktop versions of Office, which now share most features. Microsoft expects the preview of Office Universal for Windows 10 to go live within a few weeks.
AT&T and Verizon Wireless are limiting Microsoft's attempt to bulk up use of its mobile applications. Last month, Samsung agreed to preload Microsoft's OneDrive, OneNote, and Skype applications on the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. Verizon, however, won't pre-load any of the Microsoft apps on its versions of the S6 and S6 Edge. AT&T will include OneNote and Skype, but not OneDrive. The Sprint and T-Mobile versions of the S6 and S6 Edge are shipping with all three Microsoft apps aboard. Neither AT&T nor Verizon commented on their stance against the Microsoft-made apps. Even though the trio of apps won't be pre-loaded, people who buy the S6 and S6 Edge from AT&T or Verizon are free to download the apps, as well as Microsoft's Outlook email and Office productivity apps, from the Google Play Store for free on their own.
Google recently rolled out updates to its productivity suite of applications. Google Drive for Android now allows users to share files/photos directly from the notification panel once the file is finished uploading. Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Android and iOS were also given new powers, such as the ability to accept, reject, or comment on suggestions in Docs. Docs also makes reviewing and acting on comments/suggestions easier from mobile devices, and includes the ability to track changes across document versions. The Docs app for iOS now allows users to edit tables. The Sheets app lets people move, resize, and delete charts, as well as reorder objects. Last, the Slides app is more compatible with PowerPoint files from Microsoft, and they should load quicker and scroll faster. Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store. Google said the updates will arrive over the next few days.
Cyanogen today said it has partnered with Microsoft to bring the latter's productivity apps to Cyanogen's operating system. Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS. Cyanogen expects to include Microsoft's Bing, Skype, OneDrive, OneNote, Outlook, and Microsoft Office apps in a future version of the operating system. Cyanogen is looking to separate its version of Android, based on AOSP, away from Google's version of Android. Cyanogen needs a partnership like this one to make sure Cyanogen OS users have a full set of on-board productivity tools. Cyanogen didn't say how soon the integration might be completed. Microsoft has made an aggressive push to get its apps onto as many mobile platforms as possible. It already offers free versions of Office, Outlook, OneDrive, and others to the Android and iOS platforms.
Nokia today said it has agreed to acquire Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion. The combined companies would be a giant in the telecom equipment space with more than 100,000 employees. The terms of the deal will see Nokia acquire all of Alcatel-Lucent's stock, as traded in both France and the U.S. The companies' boards of directors have approved the deal, though shareholders have yet to vote on the acquisition. The deal will also require regulatory approval. The companies expect the deal to close during the first half of 2016. Once combined, the companies will streamline redundant operations, but believe the 40,000 research and development at its disposal employees will be able to make the company a world leader in the connected IP space. Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent will specifically target the development of 5G wireless networks. The largest competitors remaining are Ericsson and Huawei, though ZTE, Samsung, and others make telecommunications equipment, too. In addition to announcing the Alcatel-Lucent deal, Nokia said it has begun a review of strategic options for its HERE Maps business. Nokia acquired Navteq's mapping business in 2007 and turned it into a competitive global company. Nokia's HERE Maps are available to the Android, iOS, and Windows Phone platforms, as well as online, and provide robust driving, walking, and transit directions. Nokia said its review of HERE Maps may or may not result in a transaction.
Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent today said they are in advanced talks concerning a merger or acquisition between the two. Such a deal would would produce a massive competitor to Sweden's Ericsson and China's Huawei in the telecommunications market. Nokia said the deal currently being considered would entail a "full combination" of the two companies, though the deal could still fall apart. Alcatel-Lucent is valued at about $11.63 billion while Nokia is valued at about $29.59 billion. France, where Alcatel-Lucent is based, is wary of the deal. "The government will be very vigilant regarding the possible consequences on employment and activity at the French sites of Alcatel-Lucent, notably in research and development, as well as the effects on the entire telecoms sector in France," said the French economy ministry. The combined entities could employ more than 100,000 workers, but Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent have on their own slashed thousands of jobs over the years. Nokia bought out its networking partner Siemens in 2014 to abolish Nokia Siemens Networks and form the current Nokia Corp. Alcatel-Lucent was formed in 2006 when France's Alcatel merger with the US's Lucent. A Nokia-Alcatel-Lucent merger could face significant hurdles attempting to gain regulatory approval.
Following up an announcement it made last month, Microsoft today made an updated version of the Windows 10 technical preview available to a much wider range of Lumia smartphones. Microsoft delivered an early build of the technical preview to just a few handsets in February. However, due to the way most handsets' partitions were created, the preview couldn't function properly on the vast majority of devices. Microsoft has completed a process called partition stitching, which allows devices to adjust the partition dynamically. Microsoft has finished testing this new version of the technical preview on a wide variety of Windows handsets. The preview is available through Microsoft's Windows Insiders program. Some of the handsets now able to install the beta operating system include the Lumia 1520, 1320, 1020, 920, 925, 928, and a smattering of handsets from the Lumia 500, 600, 700, and 800 series. According to Microsoft today's build includes an early version of the Project Spartan browser, the new Windows 10 universal Outlook and calendar apps, and new phone and messaging apps. The People Hub has a new visual design, and the Maps app has been updated to the universal windows version. Microsoft also refreshed the app switcher tool, which now supports a new grid for faster selecting. Microsoft said it fixed a number of performance problems compared to earlier builds, but warned that there are still a number of known problems with the technical preview.
Microsoft today said that Cortana on devices running Windows Phone 8.1 will soon be able to recommend movies based on user interests. Windows Phone owners will need to activate the film concierge service by turning the feature on in Cortana's Notebook settings. According to Microsoft, after a few days Cortana will begin to make recommendations. If users are interested in a recommended movie, clicking on it will bring up details such as synopsis, reviews, cast list, and trailers, and even allow users to purchase tickets. Cortana's movie concierge service is free to use.
Apple has expanded the scope of its Reuse and Recycling Program to include smartphones, tablets, and PCs not made by Apple. Customers can take their old smartphones directly to Apple Stores and receive credit towards new Apple gear for turning them in. Customers who don't have access to Apple Stores can mail in their devices for credit. Apple will recycle just about any old phone, tablet, or computer for free. Apple says not all devices are eligible for credit and suggests customers check eligibility (online) before heading to Apple Stores. According to Apple's web site, it is accepting handsets from Sony, Samsung, Nokia, LG, and BlackBerry. Apple has partnered with Brightstar and DataServ to handle the actual device recycling processes. The expanded Apple Reuse and Recycling Program is available in the U.S., the U.K., and select European countries.
Microsoft said it is preparing to make the technical preview of Windows 10 available to a large batch of phones in the coming weeks. Microsoft delivered an early build of the technical preview to just a few handsets in February. However, due to the way most handsets' partitions were created, the preview couldn't function properly on the vast majority of devices. Microsoft has completed a process called partition stitching, which allows devices to adjust the partition dynamically. Microsoft has since been testing the technical preview on a wide variety of Windows handsets to make sure the build is functional. Microsoft expects to spend about another week engineering the code, and then will likely make the preview available through its Windows Insiders program. Some of the handsets that will be able to test the new operating system include the Lumia 1520, 1320, 1020, 920, 925, 928, Icon, and a smattering of handsets from the Lumia 500, 600, 700, and 800 series. Microsoft will have more details about timing of the release in the days to come.
T-Mobile recently added the Microsoft Lumia 640 to its web site and described the device as "coming soon." Microsoft revealed the Lumia 640 at Mobile World Congress earlier this month. The phone has a 5-inch HD screen, 8-megapixel camera, LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, and Microsoft's productivity apps. The Lumia 640 will ship with Windows 8.1, but can be upgraded to the full version of Windows 10 later this year. T-Mobile didn't disclose exact availability or pricing, but Microsoft said the phone will reach stores in April for about $180. AT&T and MetroPCS also plan to sell the Lumia 640.
TomTom today released a new version of its navigation service for Android devices. TomTom Go Mobile boasts up-to-date maps for more than 100 countries with support for offline viewing, live traffic updates, safety camera locations, points of interest, and seamless syncing with contacts. The app depicts buildings and landmarks in 3D and provides alerts ahead of known speed traps. TomTom Go Mobile offers a limited amount of free turn-by-turn navigation per month (about 60 miles). Users can upgrade to unlimited navigation for $20 for one year or $45 for three years. TomTom has removed its old navigation app from the Play Store. Consumers who've already installed the old app will be able to upgrade to the new app with a year of unlimited navigation for just $0.99. The old app will be fully discontinued Oct. 1. TomTom Go Mobile is free to download from the Play Store. It competes with Google Maps and Nokia HERE Maps, which offer unlimited navigation for free.
Samsung plans to preinstall a wide range of Microsoft's productivity apps on its Android devices moving through the first half of the year. Samsung already announced the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge will have Microsoft's OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype apps on board. Today, Samsung said will will put Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive, and Skype on some of its Android tablets. The GS6 and GS6 Edge will also have access to 100GB of OneDrive storage for a period of two years. Microsoft and Samsung believe the expanded partnership will provide potential business customers with improved productivity options via Office 365, and better security through Samsung's KNOX program. The companies did not specify if Microsoft's productivity apps will be preinstalled on more smartphones, but Microsoft Office apps are already free for most Android devices to download from the Google Play Store.
Microsoft has made it possible for people to access their personal music collections from OneDrive across their Windows devices with the Xbox Music app. A new "music" folder has been added to OneDrive. Any music stored in that folder will be available in users' Xbox Music apps for Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1, the Xbox 360/One, and via the web. The OneDrive music service doesn't require Microsoft's Xbox Music Pass, but customers who do have the pass will gain 100GB of OneDrive storage for their music.
Microsoft today announced the Lumia 430, an entry-level smartphone that will be among those updated to Windows 10. The Lumia 430 features a 4-inch WVGA screen; 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage; 2-megapixel main camera and VGA user-facing camera; and 1,500mAh battery. The Lumia 430 runs Windows 8.1 with the Denim update installed and will be updated to Windows 10 later this year. The Lumia 430 supports dual SIM cards and costs approximately $70.
Nokia recently announced a moderate improvement to HERE Transit Maps for Android and iOS devices. Nokia focused its efforts on adding more timetables and routes to public transportation schedules. In North America, Nokia HERE Transit Maps now includes directions for Fredericton (New Brunswick, Canada), as well as 19 cities in the U.S. including Orlando, Detroit, and Raleigh. Nokia also made improvements to the suburbs around New York, including Sussex County in New Jersey. A smattering of other cities around the globe have updated transit schedules, too, including Rennes and Marseille in France; Granada, Huesca, and Ávila in Spain; Trento, Brescia, Mantua, and Verona in Italy; and many others. Android and iOS device owners don't need to update their apps in order to access the improved transit directions. Nokia HERE Maps is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today made a number of announcements regarding Windows 10, including details about its arrival. Microsoft will make Windows 10 available to smartphones, tablets, and PCs "this summer." Previously, Microsoft had only committed to "later this year." In addition to the timetable, Microsoft announced a commitment from Lenovo that will the see the company bring Windows 10 phones to market (in China) by the middle of the year. Further, Microsoft is helping Xiaomi create a downloadable technical preview of Windows 10 that owners of the Xiaomi Mi Note 4 will be able to install on their Android phones and test. Microsoft and Qualcomm today introduced the DragonBoard 410C. It is a developer board for Windows 10 with integrated WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Snapdragon 410 chipset. (Qualcomm recently released an Android version of the developer board, too.) At launch, Windows 10 will be available in 190 countries and 111 languages. More details will emerge at Microsoft's Build conference, scheduled for late April.
Microsoft today said Windows 10 will natively support biometric security measures, such as fingerprints, retina scans, or facial recognition. Microsoft's biometric authentication service is called Windows Hello and it will be available to PCs, tablets, and smartphones. Microsoft believes these measures can be more secure than passwords, as they are truly unique to individual users. Windows Hello can be used to authenticate devices, network access, and app access. Moreover, Microsoft is offering a tool called Passport to developers and IT admins, who will be able to add biometric support to their own apps, sites, and services so users will never have to use a password to log in. Windows 10 is set to debut later this year. Biometric support has been available to Windows devices for a decade or more, but only through third-party hardware and software support. Microsoft's competitors, including Apple, HTC, and Samsung, have added fingerprint scanners to their smartphones in recent years.
Apple was exonerated in a Texas courtroom Monday where a jury found it had not infringed on five wireless patents held by Conversant Intellectual Property Management. Core Wireless, a Conversant subsidiary, sued Apple in 2012 over a dozen patents. It sought damages of $100 million and a portion of future sales of infringing products, including the iPhone and iPad. Core eventually whittled the lawsuit down to five patents. The patents in question, which cover wireless data transmission, were formerly owned by Nokia. The jury sided with Apple and cleared it of any wrongdoing. Apple is often the target of patent-holding firms, which file lawsuits in an attempt to generate revenue.
Microsoft is preparing to make its Cortana personal assistant software available as a stand-alone application to the Android and iOS platforms later this year, reports Reuters. Microsoft is already developing an improved version of Cortana for its forthcoming Windows 10 desktop, tablet, and phone operating system, expected this fall. Microsoft is culling research from an artificial intelligence project called Einstein to improve Cortana's predictive and conversational abilities. "This kind of technology, which can read and understand email, will play a central role in the next roll out of Cortana, which we are working on now for the fall time frame," said Eric Horvitz, managing director of Microsoft Research, in an interview with Reuters. Microsoft believes Cortana's abilities can surpass those of its rivals, Google Now on Android phones and Siri on iPhones. "We're defining the competitive landscape of who can provide the most supportive services that make life easier, keep track of things, that complement human memory in a way that helps us get things done," said Horvitz. Microsoft envisions Cortana becoming more capable with respect to helping users by anticipating their needs. Google and Apple have taken similar steps with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Google Now is adept at providing just-in-time reminders and details in the form of cards, but Siri is more limited to responding to direct requests. Horvitz did not confirm Microsoft's intent to bring Cortana to Android and iOS, but Reuters says people familiar with Microsoft's plans are certain it will appear after Windows 10's debut later this year. Microsoft has made an aggressive push over the last year to port key applications to the Android and iOS platforms, such as Microsoft Office. Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS would fit in with the pattern of Microsoft's behavior.