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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.

Acer Jade Liquid Primo Hits Microsoft Store

Jul 18, 2016, 2:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Acer's Jade Liquid Primo landed in the Microsoft Store today for $649. The device runs Microsoft's Windows 10 platform with Cortana, OneDrive, and Office. The Jade Liquid Primo includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera captures 21-megapixel images and includes a dual-tone LED flash, while the selfie camera shoots 84-degree wide-angle images at 8-megapixels. Other specs include support for memory cards up to 128 GB, 2,870mAh battery, NFC, USB Type-C, GPS, Bluetooth, dual-band WiFi, and a bevy of sensors. The Acer Jade Liquid Primo is available directly from Microsoft's web site, unlocked with support for GSM-based networks (LTE Cat 6), for $649.

Skype Makes Sharing Files Less Painful

Jul 6, 2016, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype recently updated its mobile and desktop apps to improve the file-sharing experience. To start, Skype users can now send files up to 300 MB to friends and family through the app. Further, recipients no longer need to be online to receive shared files; the files will be waiting for them next time they log in. (Microsoft suggests people who need to share files larger than 300 MB use OneDrive.) Last, Skype users can now retrieve shared files multiple times. For example, people can download a Word document to their smartphone for editing on the go, and then download it again from the desktop when they get back to the office. Previously, files could only be downloaded to a single device. Skype is free to mobile devices from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.

Skype for Android Adds Arabic and Hebrew

Jun 29, 2016, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 7.05 for Android devices, which adds proper support for Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right like English or Spanish. Microsoft says Skype 7.05 offers a native right-to-left experience in the app for the first time. Rather than simply mirror its UI for Arabic and Hebrew, Skype recreated every transition animation and optimized its navigation tools to function normally with the two right-to-left languages. Skype 7.05 is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Luna Mobile Licenses Microsoft Patents

Jun 28, 2016, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a new partnership with Luna Mobile, which has agreed to license Microsoft's technology patents for mobile devices. Luna has committed to launching 5 different smartphones this year, ranging in price from $139 to $459. Luna Mobile did not provide any details about the handsets in question, such as what operating system they might run and where they might be sold. The company has several manufacturing partners lined up in China. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Microsoft did say it will receive royalties from Luna. Microsoft has similar patent-licensing agreements with many other phone makers.

Microsoft Wallet Gains Tap-to-Pay Functionality

Jun 21, 2016, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Microsoft Wallet app and gave Lumia smartphone owners the ability to make mobile payments at supporting retailers. Windows Mobile has long included a Wallet app, but until today it was reserved for loyalty cards and other retail programs. Now, people can add their credit or debit card to Microsoft Wallet and use the app for tap-and-go purchases. The app is available to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, and 650, and requires Windows Insider build 14360 or higher. The Windows Insider program is free to join and distributes pre-release versions of Windows 10 Mobile that are still in development. Microsoft says the tap-to-pay feature will be expanded to all users running stock builds of Windows 10 Mobile later this summer. Both MasterCard and Visa support Microsoft Wallet, along with financial institutions including Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, People's United Bank, Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, and others. Microsoft says mobile payments should work at any retail terminal that accepts contactless payments. Microsoft Wallet is free to download from the Windows Store.

Microsoft Picks Up Wand to Boost Bots

Jun 16, 2016, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has acquired Wand Labs, a company that combines human language with machine intelligence. Microsoft said it plans to add Wand Labs' talent to its Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows platforms. "The Wand team's expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration, and conversational interfaces make them a great fit ... especially with the work we're doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots," said David Ku, corporate vice president, Information Platform Group. Wand Labs was founded in 2013 by Vishal Sharma. The acquisition fits the roadmap unveiled earlier this year by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which will focus on the "conversation as a platform."

Samsung to Buy Cloud Company Joyent

Jun 16, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to acquire Joyent, a U.S.-based cloud services provider. Samsung will use Joyent's assets to support various products, including mobile devices, internet of things, and its own cloud-based software. Samsung's competitors, such as Apple and Microsoft, offer cloud services like iCloud and OneDrive to help tie together their respective ecosystems. Joyent will help Samsung fill that gap in its online services. Joyent will continue to operate as a standalone company and will retain its current client base. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.

Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn for $26.2 Billion

Jun 13, 2016, 7:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has agreed to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. LinkedIn is well known as a professional networking and employment resource for companies and job seekers alike. Under the terms of the deal, LinkedIn will retain is brand, culture, and management team, and it will be operated as a separate company. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner will report directly to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. The transaction has been approved by the boards of both companies, but still has to win approval from shareholders. Microsoft and LinkedIn expect the deal, which will require regulatory review, to close before the end of 2016.

Verizon to Delete Its Paid Visual Voicemail Service

Jun 8, 2016, 9:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless said it will discontinue its $2.99 Visual Voicemail service come July 8. All customers who use the Visual Voicemail app will be transitioned to Verizon's free, basic voicemail service. Verizon says customers won't lose their existing voicemails, but may need to make room in their voicemail inbox, as well as reset their voicemail greeting. The list of phones impacted by the change is significant, including old and new models from BlackBerry, Casio, HTC, Kyocera, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Pantech, and Samsung. Verizon did not say why it is discontinuing the Visual Voicemail service.

Skype Debuts Mojis and Emoticons of Professional Women

Jun 2, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today added more women to Skype's supported set of mojis and emoticons. The new moji specifically depict women in a greater variety of professional roles, such as scientist, athlete, teacher, and director. Microsoft hopes the expanded moji selection will help people convey more meaningful messages to one another. People who have the latest version of Skype installed on their Android, iOS, or Windows smartphone will see the updated emoticon picker tab beginning later today.

Xiaomi to Load Microsoft Apps On Its Android Phones

Jun 1, 2016, 7:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Xiaomi have forged a partnership concerning mobile apps and patents that should benefit both parties. Xiaomi has agreed to install Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Skype on a collection of its Android-powered smartphones and tablets in China, India, and other regions. Xiaomi is targeting September to install the apps on devices including the Mi 5, Mi Max, Mi 4s, Redmi Note 3, and Redmi 3. The deal also includes a cross-license and patent transfer agreement that will see Xiaomi gain some 1,500 patents from Microsoft. Microsoft benefits by exposing its apps and services to Chinese, Indian, and other consumers. The companies say the agreement marks the beginning of a long-term relationship between the two.

Microsoft to Cut 1,850 Smartphone Workers

May 25, 2016, 7:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it plans to further streamline its smartphone business, an action that includes job cuts and restructuring charges. The company plans to cut 1,350 jobs from its facilities in Finland, as well as another 500 jobs globally. The company expects to take a charge of about $950 million, of which $200 million will be used for severance packages. "We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability, and our Continuum capability, and consumers who value the same," said Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO. "We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms." Microsoft says it expects to complete most job cuts by the end of this year and all cuts by July 2017. Sales of Windows 10 Mobile phones began in late 2015, but the platform has lost more ground since then, accounting for just 1% of smartphone sales during the first quarter, according to Gartner. Microsoft recently sold its feature phone business to a Foxconn subsidiary, and Nokia recently gave that same subsidiary the rights to use its brand on mobile devices. This paves the way for Nokia to make a return, of sorts, to the mobile phone business.

AT&T Adds More Phones to Extended BOGO Promo

May 20, 2016, 10:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today added a handful of new handsets to a buy one, get one free offer the carrier has had in place since February. The extended BOGO promotion now applies to the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, the Microsoft Lumia 950, the HTC One A9, and the Kyocera DuraForce. The other handsets already included in the offer are the Apple iPhone 6s, 6s Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge Plus, S6 Active, and Note 5; and LG G5 and V10. The offer lets new and existing customers buy one phone at full price and receive a second one for free. The two handsets must come from the same manufacturer. AT&T says both phones must be purchased via its AT&T Next installment plan. The first phone can be a new line or an upgrade, but the second phone must be a new line purchased with an AT&T Next 24 plan (req's 30 payments). Both phones must be added to a qualified plan, such as Mobile Share Value, which starts at $70 for two lines. Customers will need to pay sales tax on the two phones at the time of purchase and may need to make several monthly payments on both before AT&T credits up to $650 for the second phone spread out over the 30 months. The offer is available through June 30.

Nokia-Branded Phones to Make a Comeback

May 18, 2016, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia and Microsoft today put in motion a series of deals that will eventually lead to Nokia-branded handsets returning to the market. Microsoft has agreed to sell its feature phone business to FIH Mobile Limited, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for about $350 million. The deal will include the transfer of select assets, such as manufacturing facilities and about 4,500 employees. At the same time, Nokia has agree to license its brand to Finland-based HMD global Oy, which has partnered with FIH Mobile to make smartphones and tablets. HMD expects to spend $500 million over the next few years to increase its ability to make and market mobile devices. Nokia said in addition to branding rights, it will supply HMD with cellular standard essential patent licenses in return for loyalty payments. Nokia itself will not invest in HMD. FIH Mobile's parent company, Foxconn, manufacturers the iPhone for Apple.

Sunrise Calendar to Fold Into Outlook

May 11, 2016, 12:51 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft plans to discontinue the Sunrise calendar application it offers to the Android and iOS platforms. Microsoft acquired the team behind Sunrise last year. Sunrise will be removed from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store within a few days and will cease working entirely on August 31. The Sunrise team is now working to bring Sunrise's best features to the Outlook email/calendar app for Android and iOS.

Microsoft Pulls WiFi Sense from Windows 10

May 11, 2016, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has decided to remove the WiFi Sense feature from all versions of Windows 10, including mobile devices and PCs. The feature was pulled from the most recent preview build of Windows 10 for PCs; it will be pulled from phones, too. WiFi Sense allowed people to share their WiFi logins with social network connections, as well as connect to public WiFi networks with less hassle. "The cost of updating the code to keep this feature working combined with low usage and low demand made this not worth further investment," explained Microsoft. Microsoft said people who leave WiFi Sense running on their phones will still be able to connect to open WiFi hotspots that are already in Microsoft's shared database. Microsoft recently released a new preview build of Windows 10 for handsets. Build 14332 mostly targets bugs and makes refinements to the user interface of select apps. The next preview build for phones will likely strip out WiFi Sense.

FCC, FTC Query Carriers and Phone Makers Over Security

May 9, 2016, 12:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The FCC and FTC today asked carriers and phone manufacturers how they handle security updates for their devices. The FCC sent letters to AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless, and other carriers, while the FTC queried Apple, Blackberry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung. In particular, the agencies want to know: the factors carriers/OEMs consider in deciding whether to patch a vulnerability on a particular phone; data on the specific phones sold in the U.S. since August 2013; the vulnerabilities that have affected those devices; and whether and when the company patched such vulnerabilities. The government said the line of inquiry is to help it further understand how these companies do or do not protect consumers. "Consumers may be left unprotected, for long periods of time or even indefinitely, by any delays in patching vulnerabilities once they are discovered," said the FCC. "To date, operating system providers, original equipment manufacturers, and mobile service providers have responded to address vulnerabilities as they arise. There are, however, significant delays in delivering patches to actual devices — and that older devices may never be patched." Google provides monthly security updates to Nexus-branded Android devices, but individual phone makers lag badly. Apple provides occasional updates.

Microsoft Testing Advanced Pre-Touch Sensing On Phones

May 6, 2016, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently demonstrated new touchscreen technology that can anticipate users' actions and call up different controls, options, or menus to suit the current task. Pre-touch sensing helps the phone determine how the user is gripping the phone, as well as where the user's fingers are approaching the display. Using these cues, the device is able to provide adaptive user interfaces that are specific to the context of how the phone is being held and used. In a video, Ken Hinckley, principal researcher at Microsoft, shows how users can access video controls that vary depending on if the phone is being held in one or both hands. Pre-touch sensing can also help better differentiate between flicking gestures, selecting text, and highlighting content. The technology is in a developmental stage and Microsoft hasn't said if or when it may bring pre-touch sensing to consumer devices.

Bing for iPhone Let's You Search via Pictures

May 3, 2016, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Bing search application for the iPhone and added the ability to search for images captured by the camera. The tool, similar to Google Goggles, lets users take a picture and then use the picture to perform a search. Bing will examine the image and return results that include more pictures of the same thing, as well as information about it. The updated search app can now also provide alerts about movie availability, and help find bus routes and schedules. Microsoft took time to improve the app's launch time, too, and stomped out several bugs. Bing search for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Acer Liquid M330 Runs Windows 10 for $100

Apr 27, 2016, 7:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently added the Acer Liquid M330, a low-cost handset running Windows 10 Mobile, to its U.S. web store. The M330 includes a 4.5-inch screen with 854 by 480 resolution and is powered by a Snapdragon 210 processor with 1 GB of RAM, 8 GB of storage, and support for 64 GB memory cards. The phone has two 5-megapixel cameras. The rear-facing camera includes autofocus and a flash, while the front-facing camera is fixed focus. It includes a standard batch of radios, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi, and limited LTE support including bands 2, 4, 7, and 12. This makes it somewhat compatible with the 4G networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile. The M330 supports two SIM cards. The phone is available directly from Microsoft for $99.99 It is sold unlocked.

Gmail for Android Gains Microsoft Exchange Support

Apr 25, 2016, 12:56 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Apr 25, 2016, 1:40 PM

Google today said the global Android Gmail app is set to add support for Microsoft Exchange. "Whether you're on Google Apps or Exchange, you can use the Gmail app on any Android device to send and receive mail," said Google in a blog post. Gmail will also be able to support Exchange-based calendars. Gmail has long supported the IMAP and POP email protocols, including Microsoft's Outlook and Hotmail services. Google added Exchange to Gmail back in November 2014, but only Nexus handsets running Lollipop had access to the feature. Providing Exchange support to all Android users is a big win for businesses that rely on Microsoft's email management product. Google says the updated app will be made available from the Google Play Store over the next few days.

Microsoft Rolls Out Lumia 950 BOGO Offer

Apr 25, 2016, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is looking to clear inventory of the Lumia 950 XL and Lumia 950 smartphones, which means consumers can buy one at full price and get the second one for free. The deal is available via Microsoft's U.S. web store. Specifically, people who purchase the 950 XL at $649 will receive a Lumia 950, valued at $549, for free. Both devices are being sold unlocked with support for GSM carriers, such as AT&T and T-Mobile. The promotion is available while supplies last through May 2. Microsoft reported shipments of about 2.3 million Lumia phones in its most recent financial documents, which represents a steep drop from the 8.6 million it shipped in the year-ago period. The company admitted it is sitting on a lot of excess inventory of its flagship Windows 10 Mobile devices. Moreover, the company expects "year over year revenue declines to deepen as we work through our Lumia channel position." Cricket Wireless is expected to launch Microsoft's mid-range model, the Lumia 650, early next month. Microsoft has recently pushed a significant update to its Windows 10 Mobile platform and updated core apps such as email, Groove Music, and the Edge browser.

Microsoft Sending Invites for Word Flow Keyboard

Apr 25, 2016, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has begun inviting people who registered to test its Word Flow keyboard to download the app from the iTunes App Store. Microsoft had been testing the alternate keyboard in a closed beta, but started accepting signups earlier this month. One the iPhone, Word Flow will support custom backgrounds, one-handed typing, and swiping gestures to spell words. The keyboard was developed by Microsoft's Garage unit, which heads up projects for Android and iOS. Word Flow for the iPhone only supports English at launch. It is free to download and use.

Google and Microsoft Make Nice, Drop Regulatory Complaints

Apr 22, 2016, 12:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Alphabet, parent company of Google, have agreed to cease all ongoing regulatory fights between them. Microsoft has complained to US and European Union antitrust regulators often and loudly with respect to Google's search practices and other behaviors. Microsoft said it has changed its legal priorities and would rather compete against Microsoft in the open market for business and for customers. Google said the change in legal strategy is partly due to the firms' dismissal last year of patent lawsuits. "Our companies compete vigorously, but we want to do so on the merits of our products, not in legal proceedings," said Google. Rather than file complaints with governmental bodies, Microsoft and Google will reach out to one another directly if business-related problems arise.

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