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Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Today, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneNote application to support Google's Android Wear platform. The app allows Android Wear owners to wake their device and use OneNote to dictate notes that are saved on the host Android smartphone. In addition to Android Wear compatibility, Microsoft also updated OneNote for both the iOS8 and Windows Phone platforms. The iOS8 version of OneNote adds extensibility, which allows users to save files to OneNote without leaving the app they are currently using. The Windows Phone version of OneNote was updated to allow users to convert photographs into PowerPoint or Word files. The updated OneNote apps are free to download from the Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Windows Phone Store.


FCC Dubious On Future Wireless Mergers

Sep 9, 2014, 4:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today suggested the agency will take a long, hard look at any proposed mergers between wireless companies. "We will continue to be skeptical of efforts to achieve scale through the consolidation of major players," said Wheeler at the CTIA trade show in Las Vegas. Sprint and its parent company SoftBank abandoned plans to acquire T-Mobile just last month after meeting with resistance from lawmakers. The FCC also shot down AT&T's attempted purchase of T-Mobile in 2011. The FCC has repeatedly suggested it prefers to have four national wireless network operators for increased competition. Wheeler also warned operators that the FCC may yet take a more active interest in regulating how they manage their networks. "One of the constant themes on the record is how consumers increasingly rely on mobile broadband as an important pathway to access the internet," said Wheeler. According to Wheeler, Microsoft agrees. It said there is "no question that mobile broadband access services must be subject to the same legal framework as fixed broadband access services." The FCC has new net neutrality rules on deck for approval in the months ahead.


Nokia Puts On Lumia Denim

Sep 4, 2014, 3:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Sep 4, 2014, 3:52 AM

Microsoft's handset division, Nokia, today announced Lumia Denim, the next update to its Windows Phone platform for Nokia-branded hardware. Lumia Denim's chief improvement is making Cortana is easier to use. It introduces a "Hey, Cortana" catchphrase that can be used to launch Cortana for filing reminders and other actions. Denim brings geofencing powers to Cortana, too, which can recognize geographic areas for assisting in reminders and tasks. Lumia Denim also makes improvements to the camera application. For example, the start-up process has been sped up so the camera launches faster. The camera is quicker to capture individual shots, as well, and adds a quick-capture mode that records 4K video with 8.7-megapixel images. The software can then pull out individual shots from the video to make for more compelling images. Lumia Denim will first be available on the Lumia 930, 1520, and Icon, with others to follow in the fourth quarter. The separate camera app will also be made available during the fourth quarter to just the 930, 1520, and Icon.


Nokia Routing Maps Apps to Android and iOS

Sep 3, 2014, 6:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia is preparing to release versions of its mapping application for the Android and iOS platforms. Nokia executive Sean Fernback told The Wall Street Journal the apps will offer features not available to Google Maps and Apple Maps. For example, Nokia Maps users will be able to download maps of cities, regions, or states so they may be used when offline. This is a hallmark feature of Nokia's HERE Maps for Windows Phone. Nokia believes its offline maps will draw users away from Google and Apple's alternatives. The offline maps will support searches, as well. "I'm convinced people are looking for alternatives," said Fernback. "Google Maps is a good solution for many, their maps work very well, but it has looked the same and done the same for a long time." Nokia released a version of its HERE Maps for iOS back in 2012, but later pulled the app after it received poor reviews. Nokia plans to release the new Android and iOS mapping apps before the end of the year. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year, but retained ownership of its mapping business.


OneDrive for Android Adds Business Account Support

Aug 28, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its OneDrive cloud storage application for the Android platform. The primary new feature of the app is support for OneDrive Business accounts, which allows device owners to sign in with either or both of their personal or work-assigned accounts. Android device owners can access their personal and business files separately and easily save files to either account. Other new features include support for pin code lock, improvements to camera backup, and the ability to open OneDrive files with the storage access framework. OneDrive for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Microsoft to Cleanse Windows Store of Questionable Apps

Aug 27, 2014, 8:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced it is making changes to the Windows Store in order to improve the quality of the apps therein. To start, it has established three main criteria apps need to pass in order to be certified for sale through the store. App names need to clearly and accurately reflect what the app does; the app must fall into a category so it is easier to discern the app's function and purpose; and app icons must be sufficiently differentiated from other apps to avoid confusion. Microsoft said many of its developers were receptive to making changes so their apps fall in line with the new policy. Some developers, however, did not, and Microsoft has removed 1,500 apps from the Windows Store. Microsoft said it will continue to review apps currently in the store to make sure they adhere to the new policies.


California Signs Smartphone Kill Switch Into Law

Aug 26, 2014, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will mandate all smartphones to come with a kill switch by July 2015. The law's goal is to curb smartphone thefts. Lawmakers believe that allowing smartphones owners to render their device unusable after it is stolen will reduce the appeal to thieves, who won't be able to use or sell them. Minnesota enacted a similar law earlier this year, and the CTIA Wireless Association said all carriers will support kill switches by July 2015, too. Apple already added a kill switch functionality to iOS, and Google and Microsoft are working on similar tools for Android and Windows Phone.


Google Debuts New Slides, Sheets, Docs Apps for iOS

Aug 25, 2014, 1:57 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today refreshed its productivity suite for iOS devices, including the iPhone and iPad. To start, Google is making a stand-alone Slides app available for the first time. Slides allows iOS device owners to create and edit slide presentations on their device, including those originally made by Microsoft's PowerPoint app. The Docs and Sheets apps have been updated with performance enhancements. All three apps can be used to create documents, spreadsheets, or presentations even when offline. Google Slides, Docs, and Sheets, part of Google's Drive productivity suite, are all free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Huawei: No Tizen and No More Windows Phone for Us

Aug 25, 2014, 11:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Huawei recently said it has no plans to release a Tizen-based smartphone, and also said it will no longer make smartphones using Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system. "Some telecom carriers are pushing us to design Tizen phones but I say 'no' to them. In the past we had a team to do research on Tizen but I canceled it," said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei's consumer business group, to The Wall Street Journal. "We feel Tizen has no chance to be successful. Even for Windows Phone it's difficult to be successful." Tizen is a Linux-based platform created by Samsung and Intel. Samsung, Tizen's primary backer, has delayed plans to realize a Tizen phone indefinitely as it builds up the app ecosystem. Huawei remains a member of the Tizen Association, but its new stance on the platform further clouds Tizen's potential. As for Windows Phone, Huawei complained of losing money on the platform for two years. "We have tried using the Windows Phone OS. But it has been difficult to persuade consumers to buy a Windows phone," said Yu. "It wasn't profitable for us. So for now we've decided to put any releases of new Windows phones on hold. We have worries about Android being the only option, but we have no choice. And we have a good collaboration with Google." Google's Android platform holds about 85% of the global smartphone market, with Apple's iOS holding 11% and Windows Phone holding 2.5%. BlackBerry's share of the market is less than 1%.


Opera to Provide Browser for Microsoft's Feature Phones

Aug 21, 2014, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Opera Software today said it has struck a deal with Microsoft to supply the browser for Microsoft's feature phones. Opera Mini will replace the Nokia Xpress browser on Series 30, Series 40, and Asha phones moving forward. "All the current user base will be encouraged to upgrade to Opera Mini and all the new phones will come with Opera Mini pre-installed as a default browser," said Opera. Nokia developed the Xpress browser as a competitor to Opera Mini, which uses server-side compression to reduce mobile data use. Opera has long pitched its Mini browser as ideal for cost-concious consumers. Opera's browsers are available to a wide variety of desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The move shows that Microsoft is looking to save costs on developing its feature phone lines, which are mostly sold in developing markets.


Steve Ballmer Leaves Microsoft's Board

Aug 19, 2014, 1:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Steve Ballmer today resigned from his position on Microsoft's board of directors effective immediately. Ballmer left the company's CEO post just six months ago, but said in a letter to current CEO Satya Nadella he felt his new obligations as owner of the LA Clippers, among others, will keep him too busy to participate meaningfully on Microsoft's board moving forward. Ballmer succeeded Microsoft founder and CEO Bill Gates. He wished Nadella and Microsoft well, and will remain a large shareholder in the company.


Hands-On: HTC One for Windows Phone

Aug 19, 2014, 9:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

HTC gives Windows Phone fans what they've always wanted: A premium device with Microsoft's operating system. Here are our initial thoughts on HTC's latest device.

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HTC One Trades Android for Windows Phone

Aug 19, 2014, 9:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 19, 2014, 9:32 AM

HTC today announced the One for Windows Phone, a variant of the One (M8) that swaps Google's mobile platform for Microsoft's. The One for Windows Phone runs the latest operating system from Microsoft and carries over a few HTC apps, such as Blinkfeed, the HTC duo-camera, SenseTV, Video Highlights, and BoomSound. The One for Windows Phone adopts some of the M8's motion gestures, such as double-tap to wake, but also loses a few. Apart from the operating system, the hardware is identical to the One (M8) with Android. It has the same 5-inch 1080p HD screen, quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, Ultra-pixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera, and premium aluminum design. The HTC One for Windows Phone is exclusive to Verizon Wireless. It is available online from VerizonWireless.com beginning today and reaches Verizon stores August 20 for $99 with a new contract or $30 with Verizon Edge.

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Microsoft Brings Live Lock Screen App to Windows Phone

Aug 14, 2014, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made available the Live Lock Screen application for Windows Phone 8.1. The Live Lock Screens were first announced as a WP8.1 feature back in April. The app, which is being offered as a beta, lets users change the way the clock is displayed and adds more image options for wallpaper. The app also adds the ability to set just an accent color or make use of the preloaded Lock backgrounds as your wallpaper. Last, wallpaper images can be set to change every hour, every four hours, every 12 hours, daily, or never. Live Lock Screen Beta is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Microsoft Debuts Entry-Level Nokia 130 Handset

Aug 11, 2014, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 130, a simple, inexpensive handset meant for first-timers and emerging markets. The candybar-style phone runs the Series 30 platform and includes a 1.8-inch screen, stereo headphone jack, Bluetooth 3.0, and support for memory cards up to 32GB. According to Microsoft, the Nokia 130 supports both video and audio playback, and includes an FM radio. The phone has a flashlight, but no camera. The Nokia 130 will reach select markets this quarter. Pricing is expected to be about $25 and it will be sold in single- and dual-SIM variants. Microsoft Devices Group includes the handset division of Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year. Microsoft's Jo Harlow said though the company is killing off Nokia's Android/X devices, it still believes there is a good market opportunity for entry-level phones in addition to its Lumia Windows Phone devices.


Skype to End Support for Windows Phone 7 and Symbian

Aug 8, 2014, 9:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently indicated it will cease to support Skype on devices running Windows Phone 7 and Symbian. The company said it will retire the official Skype app for WP7, as well as any ancillary apps that support it over the next few weeks. "We want everyone to experience the best Skype has to offer – from enhanced quality to better reliability to improved security – and the newest version of Skype is the way to do that. So everyone can benefit from the latest improvements, we sometimes retire older versions of Skype across all platforms, including mobile devices," explained the company. Of Symbian, Microsoft said, "Symbian wasn't built for the cloud-connected world, so we are retiring the Skype for Symbian app and focusing on bringing the best possible experience to the most popular mobile platforms: Windows Phone, iOS, and Android." Symbian is Nokia's old smartphone operating system and was among the first to support Skype years ago.


Facebook for Windows Phone Receives Major Facelift

Aug 5, 2014, 7:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made available a new version of Facebook for the Windows Phone platform. The latest update to the social networking app mixes in several new features that were previously only available in the beta, as well as overhauls both the user experience and performance. The app adds support for more languages and the ability to upload videos directly to Facebook. Facebook for Windows Phone can now work hand-in-hand with the separate Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone. Last, the app can now connect directly with the People Hub. In Windows Phone 8.1, contacts, events, and photos albums in the People Hub are controlled by Facebook. Facebook for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 Pushing to Developers

Aug 4, 2014, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today began distributing the first update to Windows Phone 8.1. The update, announced last month, adds a number of new features to the platform, including Live Folders and Apps Corner. It also makes improvements to Xbox Music and SMS handling. The update is available to developers, as well as to consumers who've downloaded the Windows Phone Preview for Developers.

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Microsoft Takes Samsung to Court for Abandoning Patent Agreement

Aug 1, 2014, 5:23 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today filed suit against Samsung for failing to comply with a 2011 agreement on Android patent royalties. Samsung had been paying Microsoft a certain amount for each Android phone sold, but has threatened to stop since Microsoft closed its acquisition of Nokia's device business.


BBM Beta for Windows Phone Now Available

Jul 31, 2014, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Microsoft today announced the immediate availability of BBM for the Windows Phone platform. BBM is being offered as a beta, but it includes many of the features available to the Android and iOS versions of the app. BBM for Windows Phone supports regular chats and group chats; makes it easy to find and connect with BBM contacts; includes BBM feeds for social networking; and offers a Live Tile that can be pinned to the Start screen. BlackBerry will add more features to the app over time. BBM Beta for Windows Phone 8 is free to download and available from the Windows Phone Store now.


Nokia Networks to Buy Panasonic's Base Station Biz

Jul 31, 2014, 7:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia Networks today announced that it has agreed to purchase select portions of Panasonic's wireless business. Specifically, the company will buy Panasonic's mobile phone wireless base station and related wireless equipment system businesses. As part of the deal, Panasonic will transfer fixed assets, employees, and business contracts to Nokia in Japan. Nokia called Japan a key market and believes the deal will strengthen its business goals there. The terms of the deal have not been finalized, but Nokia Networks expects the asset acquisition to close by January 2015. Panasonic ceased making smartphones in late 2013. Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft earlier this year.


Microsoft Adds Features to Windows Phone 8.1

Jul 30, 2014, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the first update to Windows Phone 8.1, which adds several new features to the smartphone platform. To start, the update will expand Cortana's availability outside the U.S. Microsoft its offering Cortana to China and the U.K. as a beta, and Canada, India, and Australia as a alpha. In the U.S., Cortana has been improved with natural language scenarios, snooze times for reminders, and a bit more personality. The update adds a feature called Live Folders, which can be placed on the Start screen. The Live Tiles of the apps in the folder appear on the Tile of the Folder, so users will be able to see when the apps in the folder have been updated. The folders can be arranged and shaped however users want. The update improves the performance of the XBox Music application, which should see improvements in app load and list scrolling, as well as the return of several features, such as background sync and swipe-to-advance. The Windows Store Live Tile has been improved to provide dynamic updates concerning new apps. Users will have ability to select multiple SMS messages for deletion and forwarding. Last, the update includes a new feature called Apps Corner, which is aimed at business users. It sandboxes select apps and restricts which ones can be used so businesses can have more control over employee devices. Microsoft said the update will be pushed to developers in preview form in early August and will be distributed to consumers within several months.


Cortana Now Shows Foursquare Recommendations

Jul 29, 2014, 11:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 29, 2014, 11:31 AM

Microsoft today said it has enabled Foursquare recommendations within Cortana, the virtual personal assistant that's part of Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana will now proactively showcase local recommendations on handsets, though the feature must first be enabled by device owners. Users can click on the items to discover more information about the nearby venues, but the separate Foursquare application is required to access that info. There is no need to update or download anything to see the recommendations within Cortana, as Cortana's Foursquare integration comes from Microsoft's servers. It is free to use.


Microsoft Updates Nokia X Platform

Jul 28, 2014, 8:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Though Microsoft plans to eventually can the Nokia X platform, the company today announced an update that adds several new features to the operating system. According to Microsoft, the improved OS now includes an app switcher for multitasking. It also integrates Outlook.com, OneDrive, and OneNote into the platform, which provide Outlook email, cloud storage, and note-taking tools, respectively. Last, the update makes significant improvements to the Nokia Store, which now includes content from third-party app stores and a new home screen Spotlight widget. The update is available to the Nokia X, X+, and XL handsets. It can be downloaded and installed over-the-air.


Skype for Android Makes Finding Friends Easier

Jul 23, 2014, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 5.0 for the Android platform and added one big feature: the ability to cross-integrate contacts between Skype and the phone. Skype 5.0 can scan the local phone address book for other registered Skype users and will then automatically add them to the Skype app's people list. Skype will also be able to sync the Skype address book with other Microsoft services to make sure it finds and adds all possible Skype users. Android users will be able to turn this feature off if they wish, or pick and choose which contacts are added to Skype. Users' actual phone number will not be shared as part of their public profile. Skype said similar features will soon appear in its apps for other platforms, such as iOS and Windows Phone.


Microsoft Intros Entry-Level Lumia 530

Jul 23, 2014, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 23, 2014, 7:48 AM

Microsoft today revealed the Lumia 530, a new entry-level Windows Phone that succeeds last year's 520. The device features the same colorful design language common to Lumia models and includes interchangeable rear shells for personalization. The Lumia 530 runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana, MixRadio, and HERE Maps. The 530 features a 4-inch 854 x 480 display, is powered by a quad-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor, and includes a 5-megapixel camera. Connectivity is limited to HSPA at 21Mbps, but it includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and aGPS. System memory is limited to 512MB and storage is limited to 4GB. The Lumia 530 supports microSD cards up to 128GB and will be sold in a dual-SIM variant in select markets. The Lumia 530 will be available globally and begins shipping in August. The target price point is about $130. T-Mobile is the only U.S. carrier to voice support for the 530, which it said will go on sale later this year.


Microsoft Downsizes, Kills off Nokia X

Jul 17, 2014, 7:49 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a sweeping company-wide re-organization that includes major changes to the mobile device business acquired from Nokia. Of Microsoft's 18,000 layoffs today, 12,500 are within the former Nokia units. Microsoft will combine the smartphone and feature phone units, with the feature phone operations continuing "for maximum efficiency with a smaller team." Nokia's Android-based Nokia X lineup will be abandoned. Select future models will be reworked to run Windows Phone to address new low price points for Lumia. Existing Nokia X phones will be supported, but the software will not appear in any new phones. The company will focus primarily on Windows-Phone-powered Lumia phones, and tablets. In an open email to employees, Stephen Elop explained that "the role of phones within Microsoft is different than it was within Nokia. Whereas the hardware business of phones within Nokia was an end unto itself, within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy."


Nokia Rolling Out Windows Phone 8.1 To Lumias

Jul 15, 2014, 10:13 AM   by Rich Brome

Nokia today began rolling out automatic updates to Windows Phone 8.1 for all Lumia devices that currently have Windows Phone 8. The update includes all new Windows Phone 8.1 features from Microsoft, plus several new enhancements specific to Lumia devices. Lumia devices will gain updated Nokia Camera apps, plus Nokia Device Hub, which intelligently tracks accessories used with the device. The Lumia 1520 and Icon phones will gain Nokia Rich Recording and Dolby surround sound video capture, plus Screen Share. Standard Windows Phone 8.1 features include a more customizable home screen, Action Center quick settings, Wi-Fi Sense for automatically connecting to free hotspots, and the Cortana voice assistant. The update will roll out to all eligible devices "in the coming weeks."


Microsoft Commits Anew to Creating Great Mobile Devices

Jul 10, 2014, 9:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella today sent an email to employees outlining his thoughts on the company's future. Much of the email centered on what Nadella believes should be a renewed focus on improving productivity through software and services. Nadella did spare a few words, however, to discuss the company's hardware strategy. "Our Windows device OS and first-party hardware will set the bar for productivity experiences. Windows will deliver the most rich and consistent user experience for digital work and life scenarios on screens of all sizes – from phones, tablets and laptops to TVs and giant 82-inch PPI boards," said Nadella. He suggested the company continue to invest in new technologies, such as speech, gesture, and pen input, as well as entice developers with greater opportunities across is range of products. "Our first-party devices will light up digital work and life. In addition, we will build first-party hardware to stimulate more demand for the entire Windows ecosystem. It also means we will responsibly make the market for Windows Phone, which is our goal with the Nokia devices and services acquisition." Microsoft closed its purchase of Nokia's cell phone business earlier this year. The company's latest Windows Phone device is the Lumia 635, which reaches T-Mobile later this month. Further, Windows Phone 8.1, the company's latest operating system, will begin to see widespread distribution to existing devices in the weeks ahead. Nadella didn't announce any specific new hardware or features for Windows Phone.


Microsoft Publishes Video Tuner App for Windows Phone 8.1

Jul 9, 2014, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a video-editing application for the Windows Phone platform. Video Tuner, which requires Windows Phone 8.1, lets budding Christopher Nolans fine-tune their videos with a wide range of tools. Video Tuner includes filters, supports music soundtracks, and offers basic edits such as trim, crop, rotate, mirror, and flip. Video Tuner also lets users adjust playback speed, as well as adjust exposure, contrast, saturation, and volume. The app includes dedicated publishing tools for Vine and Instagram, too. Video Tuner is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Samsung, Dell, Intel, Others Form Internet of Things Consortium

Jul 8, 2014, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today announced that it and several other companies have created a group called the Open Interconnect Consortium. The OIC's goal is to create a connection protocol for what is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things. Some of the other companies include Dell, Atmel, Intel, Broadcom, and Wind River. The group is focused on delivering a specification, an open source implementation, and a certification program for wirelessly connecting devices, such as smartphones, tablets, PCs, and various other bits of gear. The group will first target hardware common to homes and home offices, such as thermostats and refrigerators, and will expand from there. The OIC is competing with a similar group supported by Qualcomm and Microsoft.


Microsoft Adds More Features to Skype for iPhone

Jul 7, 2014, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Skype team today announced yet another update to its mobile application for the iPhone. Skype version 5.2 adds several new features, including new support for voice messages, which are automatically added to text conversations. The app makes it easier to view contact profiles, which reveals details such as mood, name, birthday, location, and so on. Skype 5.2 also allows users to add participants to existing conversations. Skype completely overhauled its iPhone app in mid-June. Skype for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Nokia to Buy Illinois-Based SAC Wireless

Jul 2, 2014, 9:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it plans to acquire SAC Wireless, a telecommunications equipment installer located in Shaumburg, Illinois. The company has about 450 employees and works with wireless network operators in the U.S. Nokia said it believes the acquisition will help it win business in North America for its telecommunications gear. Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft earlier this year and now runs its networking and HERE Maps businesses. Nokia didn't say how much it will spend on SAC Wireless.


Microsoft Joins Qualcomm-Backed AllSeen Alliance

Jul 2, 2014, 7:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has joined the AllSeen Alliance, an effort backed by Qualcomm to provide a standard for connecting the Internet of Things. The alliance already has 50 companies on board, including LG, Panasonic, and Sharp. The group's goal is to make it easy for devices to interact with one another by devising a single standard through which they can communicate. Qualcomm's rivals, however, are prepared to form their own group, according to unnamed sources cited by Reuters. The competing consortium may launch as soon as next week, and will seek to create its own standard for connecting the Internet of Things. Apple has already announced HomeKit, its own protocol for connecting smartphones and tablets to devices around the home. Further, Google recently released an SDK for its Nest thermostat, which will eventually allow smartphones, tablets, and other apps to interact with Nest. Multiple standards may make it more difficult for consumers to find devices that work with one another. Reuters didn't say which companies are going to support the competitor to AllSeen.


Microsoft Boosts OneDrive, Outlook.com Security

Jul 1, 2014, 10:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed it has taken steps to further protect user data by encrypting some of its key services. Moving forward, Microsoft's Outlook.com email service is protected by Transport Layer Security encryption for both inbound and outbound mail. As long as the recipient's email service also supports TLS, emails will be fully protected as it travels between the two email servers. Microsoft also added encryption to its OneDrive cloud storage service as accessed both from desktops and from mobile devices. OneDrive uses Perfect Forward Secrecy encryption, which makes it more difficult for hackers to decrypt connections. Last, Microsoft announced a new transparency center, which will allow governments to access Microsoft code in order to ensure its integrity. Many companies are taking security more seriously in light of the data-gathering practices revealed last year by Edward Snowden.


Skype Adds Cortana to Windows Phone App

Jun 26, 2014, 11:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today updated its mobile application for the Windows Phone platform and added support for Cortana, Microsoft's virtual assistant. Windows Phone 8.1 users can now use voice commands to launch Skype conversations. The updated app also adds notifications to the Action Center, jumps from 19 languages to 51 languages, adds message editing, and improves fast-resume times when multitasking. Skype is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


Google Updates Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides

Jun 25, 2014, 2:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today rolled out updates to its core productivity apps associated with Google Drive. The chief new feature is the ability to edit Microsoft Word documents - online or offline - natively with no need for plugins or conversions. Google Docs users will be able to make whatever edits they need to Word documents and send them back as Word files. Google Drive also brings Slides to mobile devices for the first time. Android smartphone and tablet owners can now create, edit, and interact with slide presentations on their mobile devices. Another new feature is called Suggested Edits. Using a new tool called Commenting Access, document owners can give others the ability to add comments or suggestions to documents, but not the power to make actual edits. This leaves the document owner in control. Last, Google has given Drive a performance boost both on mobile devices (Android and iOS) and the web. Google says Drive now takes advantage of background syncing so files load faster, and the cloud-based storage service delivers search results quicker, too. The new versions of Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Slides will be available in the Play Store and iTunes App Store beginning today.


Microsoft Reveals Nokia X2 Android Phone

Jun 24, 2014, 7:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 24, 2014, 7:14 AM

Microsoft today announced the Nokia X2, a low-cost smartphone that runs its modified version of Android. The device follows three other Android handsets announced by Nokia in February. The X2 has a 4.3-inch ClearBlack display, dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel main camera and VGA user-facing camera. Microsoft said the X2 will have three basic home screen configurations, including one that resembles Windows Phone with colorful, resizable tiles; one called Fastlane, which prioritizes access to recent apps and calendar events; and one that incorporates Windows Phone's ability to pin select items to the home screen. Though the X2 runs Android, it ships with Microsoft services on board, including Outlook email, Bing search, Skype, OneDrive, and OneNote. The Nokia X2 will be offered in a wide range of colors, and features interchangeable rear shells. Its target price is about $135. It will initially be sold in emerging markets with support for two SIM cards. Microsoft didn't say if or when a single-SIM version would become available.


Microsoft Now Taking Preorders for Lumia 635

Jun 23, 2014, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently began accepting preorders in the U.S. for the Lumia 635. Microsoft is asking $99 for the AT&T model and $129 for the T-Mobile model, both off contract. The 635 is an entry-level Windows Phone 8.1 handset.


Microsoft Doubles Free OneDrive Capacity to 15GB

Jun 23, 2014, 10:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 23, 2014, 10:23 AM

Microsoft today overhauled its cloud storage service OneDrive and is offering more storage for less money at all price points. To start, Microsoft has increased the standard, free 7GB storage amount for all OneDrive users to 15GB. Microsoft's move puts OneDrive inline with Google Drive, which also offers 15GB for free. Customers who need more than 15GB in OneDrive can buy more if they so choose. Microsoft is asking $2 per month for 100GB and $4 per month for 200GB (previously $7.50 and $11.50, respectively). Further, Microsoft is increasing the OneDrive capacity available to all Office365 subscribers (professional, home, student subscriptions) to 1TB. The increases are all automatic and will go into effect next month.


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