The European Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed purchase of Nokia's handset business. After assessing any overlap between the two companies' businesses, as well as how the merger might affect each companies' existing business relationships, the EU believes the merged entity won't be a threat to competition or choice in the industry. Microsoft's proposed acquisition of Nokia recently garnered approval from U.S. regulators.
The U.S Federal Trade Commission today approved Microsoft's proposed $7.2 billion purchase of Nokia's handset business. Microsoft first announced the plan in early September. With the U.S. government on board, Microsoft is one step closer to absorbing Nokia's phone-making capabilities. Nokia's shareholders have already approved the deal. Nokia switched to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in 2011 and has since become the world's foremost supplier of Windows Phone handsets. Nokia will continue to run its networking business and will retain rights to the Nokia brand.
Twitter recently made a new version of its Windows Phone app available to smartphones running Microsoft's operating system. The app adds several new features, including notifications when there are new tweets from favorited accounts. The app also makes it possible to delete individual direct messages and makes various other bug fixes and performance improvements. Twitter for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today made an updated version of its SkyDrive application available for iOS devices. SkyDrive, which is Microsoft's cloud-based storage service, now lets iOS device owners automatically backup their photos and videos. The new SkyDrive makes improvements to how Office Mobile and OneNote perform on the iPhone, and added the ability to edit Office docs. The app also adopts the iOS 7 design language and fixes bugs. SkyDrive is free to download from the iTunes App Store.
Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Acacia Research this week over a broken contract pertaining to smartphone patents. Microsoft signed an agreement with an Acacia subsidiary in 2010 to license some of its mobile device patents. Last month, other Acacia subsidiaries sued Microsoft for violating about a dozen mobile device patents. Microsoft's lawsuit is a response to the first. Acacia and its subsidiaries are owned by Access, which is based in Japan.
Nokia's shareholders today approved Microsoft's proposed acquisition of the company's handset business, according to the Financial Times. About 80% of Nokia's shareholders sided with management in favoring the deal, which will see Nokia's phone-making unit sold to Microsoft for $7.2 billion. Microsoft believes the deal will strengthen the footing of its Windows Phone platform. Nokia's Lumia-branded smartphones represent the lion's share of Windows Phones sold throughout the world. Nokia will still hold onto its networking business. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop is expected to run the new hardware division from Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond. The deal still needs to meet regulatory approval.
Microsoft today announced a new application for Windows Phone 8 devices called Office Remote. The app lets any WP8 device control a PowerPoint, Word, or Excel presentation. The app requires a Bluetooth-enabled computer with Office 2013 and a desktop plug-in. With all the components together, WP8 device owners will be able use their smartphone to advance slides, view thumbnails, jump between slides, access speaker cues, and more. Office Remote for Windows Phone 8 is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced that developers will be able to add support for Facebook Login to Windows and Windows Phone 8 applications. Apps that use Facebook Login allow device owners to sign in using their existing Facebook credentials rather than force them to create a separate account for that particular app. This often increases consumer engagement with apps, as it removes a roadblock for some users who might seek to minimize the number of accounts they own across the web. Developers will also be able to tap into the Facebook social graph to improve the performance of their applications, and their relevancy to end users. The feature is being rolled out in Facebook beta 5.2 and Microsoft provides detailed instructions for developers on how to add Facebook Login to their apps.
Vine today launched its first application for Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Vine, which is owned by Twitter, lets users record six seconds of video that can then be shared through various social networks online. Vine first launched in December 2012 for the iPhone and earlier this year for Android. Today marks the first time it is officially available for devices running Windows Phone 8. Unique to Windows Phone, Vine users can pin their favorite Vine accounts to the WP8 home screen. Vine is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
AT&T today began accepting orders for the Nokia Lumia 1520. According to AT&T, the device will ship to those who preorder it on November 19. It will reach AT&T retail stores November 22. Earlier this week, Microsoft said the release date would be November 15. AT&T is charging $199.99 for the 1520 when purchased with a new contract. The 1520, which has a 6-inch full HD display and 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, runs Windows Phone 8.1 and features a 20-megapixel PureView camera. AT&T is offering a $20 gift card to the Windows Phone Store, which can be used to purchase apps and games. AT&T is also offering 50GB of storage in its cloud-based AT&T Locker service.
Microsoft today announced that it is combining the registration processes for its Windows and Windows Phone developer programs. Any developer that has registered for either the Windows or Windows Phone developer programs will automatically be enrolled in the other. Further, it now costs less to join Microsoft's Windows/Windows Phone developer organization. Despite the unified registration process, developers will continue to use the separate Windows Store and Windows Phone Dev Center Dashboards to submit and manage their applications. Microsoft is offering some incentives, such as cash prizes, for developers who submit apps for both Windows and Windows Phone. Developers can learn more by visiting Microsoft's developer support site.
Microsoft is now accepting preorders for the Nokia Lumia 1520 smartphone. The 1520, which has a 6-inch full HD display and 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, costs $199.99 when purchased with an AT&T contract or $549.99 without a contract. Orders placed through Microsoft's online store will ship November 15. It comes in black, white, red, or yellow. AT&T itself has yet to announce release details for the 1520.
Nokia today said that Samsung has agreed to license some of its phone-related patents for another five years. Samsung will begin to make royalty payments to Nokia beginning in 2014. Nokia didn't say which patents are being licensed by Samsung. Patent licensing has become a contentious issue over the last few years as mobile device makers seek to drive profits from their patents and the resulting products. Many companies resort to filing lawsuits to force settlements. Nokia is in the process of selling its handset division to Microsoft, but it will retain ownership of its patents.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Google, Samsung, Huawei, and HTC. Rockstar alleges that the companies are violating its patents. Google, in particular, stands accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Specific details about Samsung, HTC, and Huawei's infringements weren't immediately specified. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents. Google and others attempted to buy the same patents won by Rockstar. "Despite losing in its attempt to acquire the patents-in-suit at auction, Google has infringed and continues to infringe," read a portion of the lawsuit.
Microsoft has requested that European antitrust regulators approve its proposed acquisition of Finland's Nokia. Microsoft announced its intent to purchase Nokia's handset business for $7.5 billion last month. The European Commission said that it will device no later than December 4 on whether or not it will approve the deal. The deal needs to be approved by U.S. regulators, as well. Nokia is the world's largest purveyor of Windows Phones, Microsoft's smartphone operating system.
Nokia today announced its first modern tablet, the Lumia 2520. The 2520 runs Microsoft's Windows RT 8.1, rather than Windows Phone, though many apps are compatible with both platforms. The device features a 10.1-inch full HD display with Gorilla Glass 2, an 8,000mAh battery, stereo front-facing speakers, and Microsoft Office/Outlook. The 2520 shares most other specs with the Lumia 1520, including the same 2.2Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and connectivity options (including LTE). The Lumia 2520 has a 6.7-megapixel main camera with Zeiss optics and a 2-megapixel, wide-angle user-facing camera. The Lumia 2520 will reach the U.S. during the fourth quarter and will cost $499.
Microsoft today announced Windows Phone 8 Update 3, a revised version of its smartphone platform that adds a handful of new features. Chief among the new capabilities is support for 1080p HD screens and quad-core processors, such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800. Support for bigger screens means Windows Phone displays will be able to fit six apps across the Start screen instead of just four. It also puts Windows Phone on an even playing field with Android devices, which already support 1080p screens. Support for quad-core processors means Windows Phones can offer even more performance. WP8 Update 3 adds a new Driving Mode, which can be used to limit incoming notifications when the phone senses that it is in motion. The update also improves internet sharing with Windows 8.1 devices; adds customizable ringtones; adds screen rotation lock; adds better storage management tools; adds the ability to close apps from the App Switcher; and improves Bluetooth functionality thanks to tweaked connection quality with accessories. The update will begin rolling out to Windows Phones in the weeks ahead, though timing will depend heavily on the device and carrier in question.
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Google by consumers who claim the company violated privacy laws. In February 2012, researchers found that Google had bypassed the privacy settings of Apple's Safari browser and Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser in order to install cookies on PCs and smartphones. Consumers sued, saying that despite taking steps to prevent cookies from being installed on their machines, Google did so anyway and served them targeted ads. The judge overseeing the case said it was clear that Google circumvented the privacy settings of Safari and IE, but that the plaintiffs were unable to prove they had been harmed. Google was fined $22.5 million by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year for its transgression.
Microsoft today provided Android device owners with a new version of its Outlook.com email application. The app is rife with new features, including the ability search not only on the device, but Microsoft's email servers for older messages. Users can now download all their Outlook.com email to their Android phone if they want, and the app throws in support for multiple aliases. The app now includes vacation responders, and introduces several new colors. Outlook.com is free to download from the Google Play Store.
AT&T will begin offering the GDR2 and Amber system software updates to the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 later today. The company posted information about the update in its community forums and an AT&T spokesperson confirmed the details with Phone Scoop via email. The GDR2 update, which comes from Microsoft, improves XBox Music and how the devices manage storage. The Amber update comes from Nokia and adds features including an FM radio, flip-to-silence, Nokia Smart Camera, and call/SMS blocking. According to AT&T, Lumia device owners will be notified by their handsets when the update is ready. It can be downloaded and installed over Wi-Fi.
Microsoft today made a new version of Skype available for iOS devices. The application has a refreshed look to better match the design language of iOS 7. It also has improved accessibility features, as well as speed improvements and other fixes. Skype for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. It is compatible with both the iPhone and the iPad.
Microsoft today announced that a new version of the Facebook application is available to Windows Phone devices. The updated app adds a number of new features, including the ability to attach photos to messages and upload them in batches. Windows Phone users should see inline tagging improvements and faster check-ins. Last, Facebook for Windows Phone now allows users to unfriend people and unlike things. Facebook 5.1 for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Motorola may not yet be out of the woods with respect to an on-going patent dispute with Microsoft. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today ruled that the U.S. International Trade Commission used faulty reasoning in a patent case brought against Motorola by Microsoft. The appeals court says the ITC was correct in finding that Motorola did not infringe on three patents, but said it "erred" in determining that Motorola did not infringe on a fourth patent pertaining to graphical computer interfaces. The appeals court has asked the ITC to reconsider its evaluation of the fourth patent.
Google today announced that it is stripping the price tag off its QuickOffice productivity application. Anyone with a Google account can download the Android or iOS versions of QuickOffice from their respective app store free of charge. QuickOffice lets people edit Microsoft Office Excel, Word, and PowerPoint files on an iPhone, iPad, Android smartphone, or tablet. Quickoffice is also integrated with Google Drive, so files can be stored online and easily shared with others. In addition to the app, Google account holders who download, install, and sign into QuickOffice on their mobile device by September 26 will have 10GB of space added to their Google Drive for a period of two years.
Microsoft today announced that it is extending its XBox Music service to Android and iOS devices. The XBox Music Pass, which costs $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year), gives users on-demand access to a catalog of more than 30 million tracks on their PC, tablet, or smartphone, whether it runs Windows, Mac OS, Android or iOS. The service also lets owners of the XBox 360 watch tens of thousands of music videos. Microsoft said the service is launching with basic listening tools for Android and iOS at first, but will continue to expand over the coming months, gaining features such as Radio, web-based playlists, and offline listening. XBox Music is available beginning today.
Microsoft says a jury awarded it $14 million in damages against Google-owned Motorola over standard-essential patents. Microsoft alleged that Motorola was overcharging for the patents, which are required to be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. The jury agreed. Motorola must now pay Microsoft. Microsoft was pleased with the outcome, but Motorola said it would appeal the decision. This marks the second case that Motorola has lost to Microsoft over patents. It lost another last year that pertained to Wi-Fi.
Microsoft today announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire the Devices and Services division of Nokia for approx. $7.2 billion. Microsoft will also gain the Lumia and Asha brands, as well as Nokia's patent licensing agreement with Qualcomm. Nokia will continue to exist as a separate company, focusing on networks via its NSN division, mapping via its HERE division, and and Advanced Technologies division. Nokia will retain its brand and patents, but license them to Microsoft. Microsoft has recently moved to refocus itself on devices and services; this move advances that goal for the mobile devision and Windows Phone. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will move to Microsoft. Nokia has worked closely with Microsoft on Windows Phone devices since 2011, when the company ditched its troubled Symbian platform. Competing mobile OS makers Apple and BlackBerry have always made their own hardware. Google purchased Motorola in 2012 to shore up its Android strategy. The Microsoft-Nokia deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014, subject to shareholders and regulatory approval.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer plans to retire some time in the next 12 months, said the company. Microsoft's board has formed a special committee to begin a search for a successor to Ballmer, who has led the company since January 2000. Once a successor is chosen, Ballmer will step down. "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," said Ballmer. "We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Microsoft's business has changed radically during Ballmer's tenure, as computing has moved away from traditional desktop and laptops to more mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones.
Google has once more blocked the Microsoft-developed YouTube application for violating YouTube's terms. "Microsoft has not made the browser upgrades necessary to enable a fully-featured YouTube experience," said Google, "and has instead re-released a YouTube app that violates our Terms of Service. It has been disabled. We value our broad developer community and therefore ask everyone to adhere to the same guidelines." Microsoft said it is working with Google to resolve the issue. Google blocked Microsoft's YouTube app for Windows Phone earlier this year for a similar reasons. Google did not spell out exactly how the new app is violating YouTube's terms.
Microsoft today made available its YouTube application for the Windows Phone platform. The new app lets WP 7.8 and WP8 users pin videos, playlists and channels to their Start screen; adds the ability to manage YouTube profiles, playlists, and uploads; makes it easier to find channels and share videos with social networks; and makes it easier to manage content for children. Microsoft was forced to pull an earlier version of the app this Spring after complaints from Google. YouTube 3.2 for Windows Phone complies with Google's requirements. The app is free to download.
Microsoft today announced the availability of its Bing applications on the Windows Phone 8 platform. The apps include Bing News, Weather, Sports, and Finance. Each offers content culled from leading sources to deliver a wide range of information covering that particular subject. For example, Bing News lets users keep tabs on the latest headlines and videos of breaking news, as well as choose what types of news they want highlighted on their handset. All four apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today released Skype 2.9 for the Windows Phone 8 platform, an update that carries with it several new features. With Skype 2.9, users can now filter their contact lists to more easily see all their contacts, just their Skype contacts, or only which contacts are available. The new Skype also makes adjustments to the home screen. For example, Favorite Contacts tiles are now smaller so more are visible on the screen at one time. The app also makes several performance improvements. Skype 2.9 is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today announced changes to its Bing search application for Windows Phone 8 devices. The refreshed app gets a new user interface as well as new features. The new results page slims down from four categories to just three (web, images, video), which are accessed by swiping from side to side. Microsoft has reworked the results that are delivered with each search to better match these new categories, and will put most of the information under the first (web) category. The images and video categories also get infinite scrolling. Bing for WP8 now incorporates Microsoft's Instant Answers feature, which delivers information such as traffic, flight status, and exchange rates. Microsoft said that the new search app brings the Snapshot feature (already available in other markets) to U.S. users of WP8 devices. Snapshot provides at-a-glance information about people, places, or things. According to Microsoft, Bing is also faster and uses less data to return search results. The new Bing Search for Windows Phone 8 will be rolled out slowly to all U.S. users over the coming weeks, with other markets to follow.
Google has once again decided to delay its plans to cease supporting Google Sync for Windows Phone. The new cut-off date is now December 31, extended five months from July 31. Windows Phone users rely on Google's Sync support to get their calendar and contact data pushed to their Windows Phones. Google said that new and existing Windows Phone devices can continue to set up their accounts using Google Sync. Microsoft is working to add CalDAV and CardDAV support, Google's preferred method for syncing, to Windows Phone 8. The support for these protocols is already being pushed out in the form of a minor system update, known as GDR2, though it has not yet reached most WP8 devices.
Microsoft today released Office Mobile for Office 365 subscribers. The software allows Android smartphone owners to create Microsoft Office Word and Excel documents, as well as open and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, but it requires a subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 service. The subscription carries monthly fees. Office Mobile allows Android smartphone owners to open Office documents embedded in emails, and syncs document changes back to SkyDrive or SharePoint automatically. It also supports collaboration tools, such as adding and viewing comments, and sharing documents with others via email or SharePoint. Office Mobile for Office 365 is optimized for the Android phones, not tablets, and requires Android 4.0 and up. Microsoft released Office Mobile for Apple's iPhone earlier this year.
The Bluetooth Special Interest Group today announced that LG has joined the organization's board of directors. Specifically, Minsoo Lee, chief research engineer for standards and technology at LG, will fill the new seat at the SIG's board. The Bluetooth SIG's board is composed of 11 different companies spread around the globe, including Apple, CSR, Ericsson, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Nordic, Toshiba, and now LG Electronics. The group has more than 18,500 member companies.
Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency today and accused its directors of ignoring a ban placed on Motorola products. Microsoft won a U.S. International Trade Commission case against Motorola last year. The ITC ordered that select Motorola devices be prevented from entering the country. According to Microsoft, Google (owner of Motorola) held a secret meeting with customs officials and convinced them that the order didn't really apply. The ITC did not enforce the ban and allowed the devices to enter the country. "Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review," said Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard. "Here Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions." The ITC ban is supposed to be in effect until 2018, when Microsoft's patent expires. The patent pertains to how devices sync data wirelessly. The case was filed in Washington, D.C.
Microsoft today announced several changes headed to Windows Phone that it hopes will make its enterprise customers happier. First, Microsoft is extending the amount of time it will support WP8 devices from 18 months to 36 months. That means Microsoft will provide security and other incremental updates to each WP8 device for a period of three years. In addition to the extended support, Microsoft will soon distribute a feature pack that adds business-specific features. Some of these include S/MIME to sign and encrypt email; automatic access to corporate VPNs with app aware; and support for EAP-TLS security in enterprise-class Wi-Fi networks. The enterprise feature pack will also add new mobile device management tools that businesses can use to control more granular aspects of employee devices (such as approving/disapproving app select installs.) Microsoft said that feature pack will be delivered soon.
Talks between Microsoft and Nokia that would have seen the two cpmpanies combine have fallen apart, reports the Wall Street Journal. The talks were in advanced stages and occurred as recently as this month, but were halted by several roadblocks. For starters, the two companies could not agree on a price. Nokia's current stock price gives it a valuation of about $14 billion. Further, both Nokia and Microsoft are each in precarious positions. Nokia, in particular, is struggling to compete against smartphones made by firms such as Apple, Huawei, and Samsung. The Journal notes that the talks will not likely be revived any time soon. Nokia uses Microsoft's Windows Phone platform in its Lumia smartphones.