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Apple, Google, Others Weigh In On Supreme Court Data Case

Aug 15, 2017, 12:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple and a handful of technology companies are asking the Supreme Court to carefully consider the potential adverse outcomes if law enforcement is given warrantless access to personal information, such as location data. The companies filed a brief with the Supreme Court, which will soon hear a case about how law enforcement gleaned a suspect's location by taking the data from a third party without a warrant. The case, and the companies' collective opinion, hinges on the third-party doctrine, which has been in place since a 1979 case. The corporations that signed the brief together collect, transmit, and hold terabytes of data and meta-data generated by their customers' use of their services. If the Supreme Court decides data held by third-parties should still be up for grabs, the corporations may have to provide it whenever law enforcement asks. They feel this violates the spirit of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees certain expectations of privacy, and could in turn convince people to use their online services less. "This transmission of data will only grow as digital technologies continue to develop and become more integrated into our lives. Because the data that is transmitted can reveal a wealth of detail about people’s personal lives, however, users of digital technologies reasonably expect to retain significant privacy in that data," argued the companies. "Fourth Amendment doctrine must adapt to this new reality." The signees include Airbnb, Apple, Cisco, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nest, Oath, Snap, Twitter, and Verizon. The companies filed the brief through the ACLU, which is participating in the upcoming case.


Microsoft Adds PayPal 'Send Money' Tool to Skype

Aug 2, 2017, 9:03 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said the latest version of Skype for Android and iOS devices makes it possible to send funds to other Skype users via PayPal. Users will be able to send money through PayPal without leaving the Skype app. The sender will need the new version of Skype to send PayPal funds, but the recipient can accept funds from older versions of Skype. Both the sender and the receiver, however, will need a PayPal account in order to fund and accept the money. If the recipient does not have a PayPal account, they'll be prompted to create one in order to access the funds. The service is available in the U.S. and 21 other countries, and supports the ability to send funds in various currencies. The new version of Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google Makes Its Calendar Play Better with Microsoft Exchange

Aug 1, 2017, 7:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google this week updated Google Calendar so that it interacts more fully with Microsoft Exchange Server. Specifically, Google Calendar now supports real-time free / busy lookups between Google and Microsoft servers within businesses. This means people will be able to search for common meeting times with colleagues and collaborators even if they use different email and calendar systems. Google says this has been a top request from users. This change targets Google's G Suite, which is the business-grade version of Google Calendar. It requires IT admins to configure it properly, so it is not meant for consumers at this time. Google didn't say if or when the same functionality will be made available to free users. The improved hybrid G Suite / Microsoft Exchange integration is coming to both mobile and the web over the days ahead.


Microsoft Cans Its WordFlow Keyboard App for iOS

Jul 31, 2017, 7:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently withdrew its WordFlow keyboard application from the iTunes App Store. WordFlow was one of many Microsoft Garage projects, which are chiefly apps that target Android and iOS devices. WordFlow for iOS was a version of Microsoft's capable swipe-style keyboard that was originally found on Windows Phone. On its own web site, Microsoft calls the WordFlow experiment "complete" and suggests people download SwiftKey instead. "The SwiftKey product team is frequently building and evaluating new features for SwiftKey and shipping updates," said the WordFlow team. Microsoft bought SwiftKey in February 2016.


USB 3.2 Spec Promises to Double Data Transfer Speeds

Jul 26, 2017, 7:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group this week released the spec for USB 3.2, which has the potential to boost speeds through cables. Specifically, USB 3.2 takes advantage of the multi-lane operation that has been built into existing USB Type-C cables. Now, as long as both devices support USB 3.2, end users should see data transfer speeds double. The Promoter Group says the spec allows for up to two lanes of 5 Gbps or two lanes of 10 Gbps operation. The spec makes use of the existing SuperSpeed USB physical layer, but makes minor updates to the hub specification to address increased speeds in addition to transitions between single- and two-lane operation. The USB 3.2 specification is available to developers only at this time. The USB 3.0 Promoter Group expects to release the final version of the spec in September. Devices with support for USB 3.2 will likely not appear in the market before 2018. It's unclear if or how USB 3.2 might be used with mobile devices. Some of the companies in the USB 3.0 Promoter Group include Apple, HP, Intel, Microsoft, ST Microelectronics, and Texas Instruments.


Adobe to Retire Flash In 2020

Jul 25, 2017, 2:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Adobe today said it will stop updating and distributing the Flash player in 2020. The web plugin is widely used across the web to power experiences such as video and gaming. Adobe says new, open standards such as HTML5 and WebGL have already begun to replace Flash in web browsers. Adobe is working with partners including Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla to help with the end-of-life process. Adobe will update and patch Flash up until the end-of-life moment arrives in order to ensure users are protected. It is already encouraging content creators to adopt the new open standards ahead of the change. Flash was once a flashpoint in the mobile space after Apple debuted the iPhone. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously penned a blog post entitled "Thoughts on Flash" in which he explained Apple's reasons for not supporting Flash within iOS. It was a major point of contention, as it prevented the iPhone from accessing some web content. Apple is now helping Adobe with the transition away from Flash.


Microsoft Redesigns Mobile Outlook App for Android and iOS

Jul 13, 2017, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released an overhauled build of its Outlook mobile email application for both the Android and iOS platforms. The update targets several specific functions of the app to smooth over performance. For example, the new app makes it much simpler to switch between email accounts or folders within email accounts thanks to a redesigned nav bar. The help and settings tools are surfaced higher up within the app so they can be reached more easily. Microsoft also targeted threaded conversations. The app now shows more of the conversation at once, with clearer borders between messages. Outlook will automatically open the first unread message in a thread, while still allowing people to open other messages in the conversation. Replying to everyone in a thread should be easier, too, thanks to a quick reply function built into the app. Last, Microsoft plans to add a universal search bar to Outlook that can be used to find names, addresses, emails, and more. While the first two features are reaching Android and iOS this week, the search tool will be added at a later date. Outlook is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Overhauls Skype, Adds Highlight Reels

Jun 1, 2017, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has totally re-envisioned its Skype messaging application and, in the process, made it more like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. To start, Skype offers more personalization. For example, users can tweak colors and more easily add animated emoji and reaction icons to conversations. The app now supports what Microsoft calls a Highlight Reel, which is a Snapchat Stories-like compilation of videos and photos. Microsoft says people can create Highlights by accessing the in-app camera, or by pulling in content from their phone's photo gallery. People can then react to Highlights or use them as a starting point for a new conversation thread. Bots are headed to Skype, too, via the new Find tab that's built into the app. Users can take advantage of the bot-enabled search tool to find concert tickets, see what's trending across social networks, and more. Microsoft expects third-party developers (businesses and brands) to create their own add-ins and bots for Skype over time. Skype still supports one-on-one and group conversations, video calls, audio calls, and other legacy features. Microsoft says the new Skype will reach Android devices over the next few weeks with the iPhone to follow in a month or so, and Mac and Windows desktops to follow later this year.


Microsoft Will Help You Ditch Passwords

Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Microsoft to Sell Customized Versions of Galaxy S8 and S8+

Mar 30, 2017, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft will sell the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ in its brick-and-mortar retail stores beginning April 21, reports ZDNet. Microsoft will customize the S8 and S8+ by adding a number of its own apps and services, though Microsoft declined to state exactly which ones. Likely contenders include OneDrive Cortana, Outlook, and MSOffice. "The new device customization is an example of bringing together Microsoft applications on more devices so customers can work, play and connect from their pockets," said Microsoft in a statement provided to ZDNet. Microsoft has preinstalled its software on Samsung handsets in the past. Microsoft will charge the same $750 and $850 retail prices for the S8 and S8+, respectively, as Samsung and other retailers. Microsoft did not say if the customized phones will be sold unlocked.


Samsung DeX Turns Galaxy S8 Into an Android Desktop

Mar 29, 2017, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 29, 2017, 3:38 PM

Samsung today announced DeX, a desktop accessory for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that allows them to function as computers when attached to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. DeX is similar in concept to Microsoft's Continuum product. For the S8 and S8+, the DeX includes HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and cooling functions. The software relies on features baked into Nougat to help scale the Android user interface for desktop screens. It supports full multitasking with moveable windows and runs most standard Android apps. Phone apps, text messaging, and other essential mobile communications will all function normally. DeX and the S8/S8+ support Microsoft Office, with Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop Express coming soon. A special Samsung browser provides a full desktop internet experience. Pricing and availability of the DeX are to be announced at a later date.


Cortana for Android Now Works On the Lock Screen

Mar 27, 2017, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Android device owners to access and use Cortana above the lock screen on their smartphones. Microsoft has been testing the feature since earlier this year and is now rolling it out to all users. People can swipe on the lock screen to see Cortana's basic information screen as well as ask Cortana questions, set reminders, and view their calendar appointments. These features are all usable without requiring people to unlock their devices. Microsoft also improved Cortana home on Android, which now includes more glanceable information about daily schedules, commute times, reminders, as well as shortcuts to creating reminders and calendar items. Last, Microsoft is making Cortana available to Android and iOS devices in Australia. The new version of Cortana with lock screen access for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Gmail Bolstered with Exchange Tasks

Mar 2, 2017, 6:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Gmail application for Android devices more useful to those who use Microsoft Exchange services. The latest version of Gmail adds support for Exchange tasks. Gmail can automatically synchronize tasks to/from Exchange, allowing Gmail users to stay on top of their task list. People can create, edit, and flag tasks, as well as set or alter task priorities from within Gmail. The unified task list across Exchange and Gmail means people will be able to check things off their task list from their phone or PC and see things marked as complete on their other devices. Gmail for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Qualcomm Targets IoT Anew with Snapdragon 210 and SoC

Feb 21, 2017, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today revealed two new sets of products design with the Internet of Things in mind. First, the company plans to add support for the Android Things operating system to its Snapdragon 210 processors and X5 LTE modems. Android Things is Google's IoT platform. Qualcomm says the the Snapdragon 210 and X5 combo will be the most powerful processor/modem available to Android Things, allowing developers and hardware makers to design more capable devices and services. Some possible use cases include electronic signage, video monitoring, and asset tracking, as well as smart home assistants and smart appliances. The Snapdragon 210 and X5 SoC for Android Things will be available later this year. Separately, Qualcomm said it is sampling two new SoCs for IoT that combine three radios into a single package. The QCA4020 includes Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4-based technologies, including ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 tech. These modules will support a wide range of IoT platforms, including Apple's HomeKit, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Open Connectivity Foundation. Qualcomm expects to see them put to use in smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking, and home entertainment. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling now and will reach consumer devices later this year,


Skype Douses Android and iOS Apps with Silliness

Feb 17, 2017, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype's mobile app for Android and iOS devices now looks a lot more like Facebook Messenger, based on the preview released by Microsoft this week. In a blog post, Microsoft explained the new features are meant to make conversations more expressive and entertaining. First, Skype adds in-call reactions. These let people add live emoticons, photos, and text to video calls. The integrated camera now supports emoticons, stickers, and annotations. People can respond to any individual message with multiple reactions, such as a thumbs up, sad face, smiley face, or shock. Last, the app adds a new search panel for finding and sharing links, news, sports, points of interest and other data. Microsoft says this negates the need to jump back and forth between apps. Android device owners can download this Skype Preview from the Google Play Store. iPhone owners will need to apply to become a Skype Insider for iOS. If selected, Skype will email a download link to the app. Microsoft hopes those who preview this version of Skype for Android and iOS will offer feedback before the company releases these features to everyone.


Cortana to Help People Follow Up On Email Commitments

Feb 9, 2017, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today improved its Cortana personal assistant, which can now remind people to take care of tasks they've promised to do via email. The tool is available in Microsoft's Office 365 and Outlook.com email services. Cortana will scan emails and when users tell someone they'll complete a specific task (such as file a report) Cortana will automatically suggest a reminder to help people follow through. Microsoft says machine learning is behind the new tool and it will learn from user behavior over time. Moreover, these reminders will automatically be added to the action center so they are visible outside of the email app. Users will need to ensure they are signed into their Microsoft account and have granted Cortana the proper permissions. The tool is being made available to Windows 10 devices first, but Microsoft plans to expand it to Android and iOS in the weeks ahead.


Microsoft's Project Rome SDK to Let Android, Windows Play Nice

Feb 9, 2017, 2:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft this week released the Project Rome SDK, a tool for developers that will let Android devices control Windows devices and vice versa. Once fully enabled, third-party apps will be able to see Android and Windows devices when they are connected to the internet. For example, a Windows PC may see a music app on a connected Android handset and open it remotely. The remote app service lets people not only open, but control apps from afar. For now, the SDK only permit Windows devices to access and run apps on Android devices, but Microsoft expects to make expand the SDK so Android devices can control Windows apps. Developers can download the SDK from Microsoft's developer console.


Microsoft Outlook for iOS Adds Support for Third-Party Apps

Feb 2, 2017, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email application for iOS devices and gave the app the ability to support add-ins. Microsoft says add-ins let Outlook users do more with their email thanks to powers enabled by third-party applications. For example, adds-ins will negate the need to leave Outlook to perform certain tasks, such as translate text, insert GIFs, or save items for safekeeping. Some of the launch partners include Evernote, Giphy, Nimble, Trello, and Smartsheet. Microsoft says add-ins are only available when reading emails for now, but it plans to add support for add-ins to the email composing/replying screens before too long. Moreover, add-ins are being made available to Office 365 subscribers first, with Outlook.com users to follow. Add-ins will be added to Outlook for Android at a later date. Microsoft Outlook for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows Now Available Unlocked

Jan 17, 2017, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today made its Idol 4S with Windows 10 smartphone available unlocked from the Microsoft Store. The Windows Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C. Other features include a wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,000mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Idol 4S with Windows is compatible with Continuum, which enables it to act like a full PC with the proper accessories. The phone is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 costs $470.


Microsoft and Qualcomm to Bring Windows 10 to ARM-Based Snapdragon Processors

Dec 8, 2016, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Qualcomm plan to make Windows 10 run on Qualcomm's next-generation, ARM-based Snapdragon processors. The idea is to enable full PC functionality on cellular-connected devices of varying form factors. Qualcomm said its new chips are fully compatible with the Windows 10 ecosystem, and hardware makers can use them to create phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. The companies say new Windows 10 PCs with Snapdragon inside can support x86 Win32 and Universal Windows apps, including titles such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and even games. Microsoft said these "cellular PCs" will be able to take advantage of eSIM technology, allowing people and businesses to activate and use them on the network of their choice. Microsoft and Qualcomm expect to see the first Snapdragon-based Windows 10 PCs reach the market as early as next year. "With Windows 10 on cellular PCs, we will help everyone make the most of the air around them. We look forward to seeing these new devices with integrated cellular connectivity and the great experiences people love like touch, pen, and Windows Hello," said Microsoft's Terry Myerson.


EU Approves Microsoft's LinkedIn Acquisition

Dec 6, 2016, 2:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Union today approved Microsoft's proposed $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. The Union set several conditions in allowing Microsoft to proceed. For one, it must allow other professional networks to link into Office, and must let PC makers choose whether or not to preinstall LinkedIn on their machines. Last, Microsoft must let rival networks access the Microsoft Graph for mining data. The U.S. has already approved the transaction, which can now move forward.


Outlook for iOS Makes Scheduling Meetings Easier

Oct 31, 2016, 9:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced an update to its Outlook email app for iOS that should ease the process of scheduling group meetings. A new scheduling assistant built into the app makes it possible to see coworkers' availability when booking new meetings. Users will first need to create an event and set invitees. Outlook will then use color-coded effects to show when invitees are free. Users can drag the time picker around the calendar until it turns green, which signals when all the invitees are available. A few more taps sets the event and sends invites to the other participants. The new tool requires a connection to Office 365 or the latest version of Exchange. Microsoft said this feature will be available to Android and Windows 10 Mobile devices soon. Outlook is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Announces 3D Capture App

Oct 26, 2016, 6:29 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a new 3D Capture app for phones. Using only the phone's camera, it can capture an object's shape and texture for importing into the new 3D tools available in the new version of Windows 10, dubbed Windows 10 Creators Update. The app will be available soon for Windows 10 Mobile, followed by versions for Android and iOS.


T-Mobile Outs Windows 10 VR Phone From Alcatel

Oct 26, 2016, 9:39 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile today listed the "Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 VR" on its web site. The unique version of the Idol 4S not only runs Windows 10, but sports many of the upgrades available in the related BlackBerry DTEK60, such as the high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C connector, none of which are in the standard Idol 4S. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also includes free VR goggles (for a limited time) for use with "pre-loaded games and videos". Curiously, while the standard Idol 4S includes a Quad-HD display ideal for VR, this version steps down to a full-HD display, according to T-Mobile's specs. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also supports Windows Continuum, which lets you connect a screen and keyboard to turn the phone into a full Windows 10 computer. Other features of the phone include a memory card slot, stereo speakers, 8-megapixel front camera, and 4 GB of RAM. T-Mobile's specs do not mention NFC. Pricing and release date have yet to be announced. Microsoft is


Microsoft Debuts Skype Sign-In Across Services

Oct 18, 2016, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Skype users to sign into other Microsoft services with their Skype username and password. For example, people who have Skype credentials will be able to use them to log into Xbox, Office, or OneDrive. Moreover, people will be able to use those services across devices and platforms with this new single sign-in, negating the need to enter separate usernames and passwords for each Microsoft service across their devices. Microsoft is now wholly managing the Skype sign-in screen, password change, and account recovery flow, but none of these changes impact how people access and use Skype. Microsoft says the single sign-in tool will be available in the newest versions of the Skype app across platforms in the days ahead.


Samsung to Buy AI Startup

Oct 5, 2016, 6:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to purchase Viv, an artificial intelligence startup run by the team that originally developed Apple's Siri. Siri's creators left Apple to form Viv, which is based in San Jose. Samsung plans to add Viv's artificial intelligence technology to its own Galaxy smartphones and other consumer electronics products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Samsung did not explain if Viv will have its own personality, or if it will be baked into Samsung's S Voice app, which is already on its phones. Samsung wants to ensure its devices can compete with the voice-activated personal assistants available on products from Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.


Facebook, Google, Microsoft Team Up to Quell AI Fears

Sep 29, 2016, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A handful of big tech companies have formed a partnership with the goal of keeping people informed about the development of artificial intelligence. Many people already use technology that is aided by AI, and that number will only continue to grow. The group includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, each of which has its own AI tech (such as Alexa, Watson, and Cortana). The primary aim of the Partnership on AI will be to educate the public about the uses of artificial intelligence and calm any fears that AI will take over our lives. The secondary goal will be to ensure that all companies developing AI are using best practices formed by non-business experts such as philosophers and ethicists. Founding members of the coalition are expected to contribute financial and research resources that will be shared among all members. The group has mandated that the board be equally split between corporate members and non-corporate members. "AI technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation," said the Partnership in a statement. "Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, [we] hope to maximize this potential and ensure it benefits as many people as possible."


Skype for iOS Gains Siri Support

Sep 28, 2016, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of Skype for iOS 10 devices that includes support for Siri. Skype users can now initiate Skype calls by asking Siri to connect them. In order for the tool to work well, Skype suggests users save Skype contact information directly to the native contacts app — something that's now possible in the new version of Skype. This should make it easier to start Skype audio/video calls, as well as Skype IM chats, without requiring people to first open the Skype app. Last, Skype for iPhones and iPads makes use of Apple's CallKit, so incoming and outgoing calls now rely on the native iOS phone application. Skype 6.25 for iOS 10 devices is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Adds More Sunrise Features to Outlook Calendar

Sep 13, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email and calendar app for Android and iOS devices. The refreshed communications and scheduling tool offers a number of new features aimed at the calendar. For example, Outlook now offers design elements borrowed from Sunrise (a calendar app acquired by Microsoft.) The Outlook calendar will show things like coffee cup and bike emoji when people schedule coffee meetings or bike rides. Moreover, Outlook will autocomplete addresses when filling in meeting locations, as well as allow users to tap the time/date on the calendar to create events with those details filled in automatically. Meeting participants will be notified automatically if the organizer adjusts meeting start/end times, and users can create Skype for Business meetings directly from their phone. Last, Outlook will allow people to discover and subscribe to interesting calendars, such as sporting events, holidays, and more. Microsoft's Outlook email and calendar app for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Microsoft Adds GIF Search to Its iPhone Keyboard

Aug 24, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard now features a search tool for finding GIFs, images, and emojis. The search functionality also allows iPhone owners to find contacts and look up restaurants. Microsoft says the app includes more predictions, including GIFs, that show up as users type. Word Flow now makes it possible to control the cursor placement with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The app gains some accuracy improvements, particularly when in one-handed mode, and support for the iOS text replacement function. Last, Word Flow has even more themes that people can use to customize their keyboard. Word Flow from Microsoft is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Lenovo to Preload Microsoft Apps on Android Phones

Aug 23, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo has agreed to install Microsoft's core productivity applications on some of its Android-based devices. The apps include Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Skype. Lenovo said the productivity apps will reach millions of customers over the next few years. The agreement between Lenovo and Microsoft also includes a patent cross-licensing accord, allowing Lenovo to use Microsoft patents on its own devices, as well as those that carry the Motorola brand. Microsoft has patent-licensing agreements in place with most Android device makers. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


AT&T Spearheading Robocall 'Strike Force'

Aug 19, 2016, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.


Microsoft Pushing Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update

Aug 16, 2016, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made the Windows 10 Anniversary update available to devices running Windows 10 Mobile. The update is the first major improvement to the Windows 10 platform. It adds features and makes improvements to phones such as the Lumia 650, 950, and 950 XL. Some of the changes impact the Edge browser and Maps app. Unlocked devices can snag the update through the settings menu, but carrier-locked phones will need to wait for the carrier-specific update to arrive. The Windows 10 Anniversary update is free to download and install.


New Nokia Phones One Step Closer to Reality

Aug 15, 2016, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 15, 2016, 10:03 AM

HMD Global has hired a former Nokia executive to help kickstart its phone ambitions. HMD Global is a Finnish company that licensed the Nokia name with the intent of making Nokia-branded smartphones. Today HMD Global picked up Pekka Rantala, former CEO of Rovio, to serve as its Chief Marketing Officer. Before he worked at Rovio, Rentala spent 17 years at Nokia. HMD Global will design Android-based smartphones and tablets that will be manufactured by FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. Microsoft sold its feature phone business — the last remnants of Nokia's former hardware unit — to FIH earlier this year. HMD expects to spend $500 million over the next few years to increase its ability to make and market mobile devices. In addition to branding rights, Nokia is supplying HMD with cellular standard essential patent licenses in return for royalty payments, but Nokia itself is not investing in HMD. Nokia continues to focus on its core telecoms business.


Skype Gains More Bots to Help with Travel and Purchases

Aug 4, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated Skype for Android, iOS, Mac, the web, and Windows devices and given the communications tool access to more chat bots. Microsoft says it worked with select partners this time around to bring dedicated services to Skype. A bot from Skyscanner lets Skype users search for flights, while a StubHub bot makes it simpler to find event tickets. A bot from IFTTT can deliver alerts from apps, devices, and web sites, while a Hipmunk bot helps book entire vacation packages. Microsoft updated its bot platform last month with support for group bot chats and info cards. The company says more bots and capabilities are on the way. Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, Apple App Store, and Windows Store.


Starbucks Debuts Brand New Windows 10 Mobile App

Aug 3, 2016, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Starbucks today released a new application for Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile platform. The app, available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, allows Windows users to find stores, manage account details, and make payments. People can use the app to send e-gifts, check their account balance and transactions, leave digital tips, and track Starbucks rewards. Starbucks for Windows 10 Mobile is free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft to Trim Another 2,850 Employees

Jul 29, 2016, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed more job cuts on Thursday as it continues to wind down its mobile phone business. The company plans to reduce headcount by 2,850 employees, primarily in its mobile phone and sales businesses. These cuts are in addition to the 1,850 job eliminations announced in May, also in the phone unit. Microsoft expects to finalize the cuts by the middle of 2017. Windows Phone's presence in the smartphone market has been hovering around 1% for the last few quarters.


Microsoft Develops Camera App for iPhone

Jul 27, 2016, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a camera app for the iPhone called Microsoft Pix. The app uses artificial intelligence to set parameters such as exposure, aperture, and color in order to get the best possible shot. The app has a long list of features. Microsoft says its AI includes face recognition so it automatically knows when it is photographing people to create better portraits. Pix can shoot regular photos and videos, as well as capture bursts. The app can bracket images, allowing users to pick the best one. Pix includes a GIF creator and timelapse mode, and syncs with the iPhone's camera roll in order to make for easier sharing. Microsoft Pix is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Skype to Drop Support for Older Windows Phone Versions

Jul 20, 2016, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 20, 2016, 9:14 AM

Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.


Groove Music for Android and iOS Snags Update

Jul 19, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Groove Music application for Android and iOS devices for the first time since September 2015. Microsoft says the refreshed application offers a number of performance and feature improvements. For example, playback should be more reliable, albums and songs should download faster, and a wider variety of screen sizes and resolutions are supported. The app gains a tool for exploring new releases and popular songs from top artists, as well as new sorting options for viewing music collections. Last, the sign-in process is quicker when using a Microsoft account. Microsoft warns that app will need to rebuild users' libraries from scratch to improve sync. This may take a few moments when the app is first launched. Groove Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


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