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Microsoft Makes Fresh Windows 10 Preview Available

Wednesday, 1:21 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile for Windows Insiders. Build 10586.107 is a cumulative update and only makes some bug fixes and performance improvements. Microsoft called out adjustments to missing Start screen tiles, narrator behavior, and the reset experience. Microsoft also noted it will release technical previews in three stages moving forward, rather than two. Before today, it offered updates first to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring followed by Insiders in the Slow Ring. Now, it has added the Release Preview ring, which Microsoft says is "best for Insiders who enjoy getting early access to updates for the Current Branch, Microsoft applications, and drivers, with minimal risk to their devices." The latest preview will hit the Lumia 950 and 950 XL first. Microsoft is still working to bring Windows 10 to existing Windows 8.1 handsets, which it was expected to do late last year.

VAIO Trots Out A Windows 10 Handset

Feb 4, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

VAIO has unveiled a smartphone running Microsoft's Windows 10 platform for its home market of Japan. The VAIO Phone Biz is a stylish handset with aluminum unibody construction and mid-range specifications. It includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen, Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor, 16 GB of storage, 3 GB of RAM, and a 2800mAh battery. The Phone Biz offers a 13-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel selfie camera. It can run Microsoft's Continuum software, which allows it to act like a full Windows 10 PC when hooked up to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. VAIO will sell the phone in Japan for approximately $424 beginning in April. VAIO is Sony's former PC business, which it spun off several years ago. The VAIO Phone Biz won't be sold in the U.S., but is notable due to its design and the fact that it is the first VAIO-branded Windows smartphone. The VAIO Phone Biz isn't as capable on a spec basis as Microsoft's own Lumia 950 and 950 XL phones, but it is more stylish and less expensive.

Microsoft Buys SwiftKey Software Keyboard Maker

Feb 3, 2016, 8:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Feb 3, 2016, 8:30 AM

Microsoft today said it has acquired SwiftKey, a company that develops software keyboards for Android and iOS devices. SwiftKey has strong word prediction capabilities, and is often able to suggest not only the word being typed, but what word might come next. Microsoft said SwiftKey's technology aligns with its own vision of "personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands." Microsoft also finds SwiftKey's use of artificial intelligence and prediction interesting. SwiftKey employees will be added to Microsoft's roster, where they will continue their work and enhance Microsoft's own Word Flow software keyboard for Windows. Microsoft said the SwiftKey app will continue to be available to Android and iOS devices. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Microsoft Pushing Windows 10 Build 10586.71

Feb 1, 2016, 1:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released technical preview build 10586.71 for Windows 10 Mobile Insiders. The new platform build mostly fixes bugs, such as performance and stability, SD card detection, Edge browser PDF rendering, Bluetooth, Groove Music, and power usage. The fresh build also includes the small Configuration Update that Microsoft released last week. Microsoft hopes users will test the build and provide feedback.

Nokia and Samsung Settle Patent Licensing Deal

Feb 1, 2016, 8:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has reached an agreement with Samsung over the licensing of its wireless patents. The companies have been disputing the value of Nokia's patents since Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft. Samsung said the sale violated the terms of the existing licensing agreement between the two. The firms have finally set new licensing terms, but did not disclose the financial details. Nokia is facing a similar issue with LG, and is expected to renegotiate licensing terms with Apple in the next few years. Even though Microsoft owns Nokia's former handset business, Nokia maintained ownership of its patent portfolio, which it continues to license out to other companies. Nokia's core business, however, is now its telecommunications networking equipment division. Nokia is currently integrating its telecom gear business with Alcatel-Lucent.

Microsoft: New Windows 10 Mobile Builds Coming Eventually

Jan 27, 2016, 1:29 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new technical preview of Windows 10 for PCs, but not for mobile devices. The company hasn't provided an update to Windows 10 Mobile in some time, so it took the opportunity to reassure consumers that new bits are on the way. Microsoft said it is "still on track to release Windows 10 as an upgrade to existing devices early this year as we planned." (The update was originally supposed to arrive in December.) Microsoft said it is fine-tuning the code based on feedback from Windows Insiders who've installed preview builds, and it continues to make good progress. The company will share more details as soon as it knows when the rollout to older phones will take place. More to the point, Microsoft says it is working to unify the Windows OneCore across PCs, smartphones, Xbox, and its HoloLens platform. "Our build systems produce new builds daily for all of these editions, so as we've been doing this work we have been producing new PC builds as well as mobile builds. Today we deliver our 4th PC preview build, and are nearly ready to start sharing new preview builds for mobile as well," explained Microsoft. The new preview builds will be made available to the 950, 950XL, and 550 first, followed by other Windows 10 devices down the road.

Microsoft's Garage Team Brings News Pro App to iPhone

Jan 26, 2016, 3:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released News Pro for iOS devices, a news- and article-aggrating app that delivers "hyper-relevant" news to users based on their interests. In the same vein as Apple News, Pro News from Microsoft allows users to select from more than one million topics to receive catered results. The app can "find articles and topics you didn't know you needed," says Microsoft. Users can sign in via Facebook or LinkedIn, if they wish, to extend the app's ability to suggest content and then share it with social connections. News Pro, developed by Microsoft's Garage project, is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Cortana Won't Let You Forget Your Promises

Jan 25, 2016, 9:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it is adding new features to Cortana that will help people better manage their schedules. To start, Cortana will be more proactive with respect to reminders. Microsoft says people often make promises or commitments to one another via email, but then fail to follow through for various reasons (most often forgetfulness). Using tools from Microsoft Research, Cortana is able to scan email messages for promises/commitments and then automatically add reminders to help people keep track of those commitments. Microsoft also took steps to improve Cortana's ability to help manage calendar appointments. Microsoft says Cortana is able to see individuals' unique work styles, such as when they generally like to take meetings. Now, when meeting requests arrive that fall outside of preferred meeting windows, Cortana will send alerts so the recipient can take the appropriate action, whether it be to reschedule the request or set an alarm. Cortana's new powers will reach Windows Insiders on Windows 10 PCs first and expand to others Windows 10 devices and users over time.

Microsoft Office for iOS Adds 3D Touch

Jan 21, 2016, 11:51 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for Apple's iOS platform with a handful of new features. Most significantly, the Office productivity suite now supports 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, which can be used to call up actions such as opening or creating files. All three apps also gain support for the Apple Pencil for use with the iPad Pro, and compatibility with iOS 9's Spotlight Search tool. Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are free to download from the iTunes App Store, though some features require a subscription to Office 365.

Cricket Offers Discounted Phones to Switchers

Jan 21, 2016, 8:58 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cricket Wireless is looking to entice people to switch to its network by offering discounts on a number of smartphones. Beginning January 22, consumers who port their number to Cricket can buy the Samsung Galaxy S6 for $399.99, a savings of $100 over the normal retail price. Cricket is making similar discounts, ranging from $20 to $50, available to a dozen other devices, including the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3 ($109.99), ZTE Grand X Max ($99.99), HTC Desire 626s ($89.99), and Microsoft Lumia 640 ($79.99). The promotion runs for a limited time. Cricket's service plans start at $40 per month. Wireless carriers are competing for customers fiercely. With most Americans already carrying a smartphone, the only way for carriers to score new customers is to steal them from rivals.

Skype for Android Earns Tighter Outlook and Office Integration

Jan 20, 2016, 11:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated Skype for Android with new ways to work with Outlook and Office. The latest version of Microsoft's calling and messaging app allows users to schedule calls in Outlook from Skype easily by tapping the contact's name and using the scheduling tool to send an invite. This feature is available to other calendar apps, too, says Microsoft. Skype now also supports Word, PowerPoint, and Excel documents, which can be opened directly in the app from within chat threads. Users who've not already downloaded Microsoft's Office apps for Android will be prompted to install the app before they can open the shared file in Skype. Skype for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Microsoft Expands Continuum Support to Snapdragon 617

Jan 20, 2016, 8:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has added the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor to the list of those that support Continuum. Continuum allows Windows 10 Mobile devices to act as full Windows PCs when connected to a monitor, mouse, and keyboard. The feature had previously be reserved for high-end handsets based on the Snapdragon 808/810, such as the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. Expanding compatibility to the Snapdragon 617 means mid-range handsets will eventually be able to include Continuum.

Lumia 950 Owners Get Free Office 365 Subscription

Jan 14, 2016, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said owners of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL can snag a free one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal. The subscription, which has a retail value of about $70, gives users full access to Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) on their Lumia smartphone as well as a companion PC/Mac computer. The subscription includes 1 TB of OneDrive storage, as well, for syncing documents online. In order to access the free subscription, Lumia owners need to download and install the Lumia Offers application from the Windows Store. Users are required to provide an email address. Microsoft didn't say how long the offer will be available.

Microsoft Makes Skype Accessible from Outlook Mobile

Jan 13, 2016, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated Outlook for iOS with new Skype integration. Outlook already merges email and calendar functionality into one app. Now, users can make any calendar appointment a Skype meeting with the flick of a switch. When the meeting starts, a simple tap in the calendar app will start the Skype call. The refreshed Outlook app also gains a new three-day calendar view. Outlook for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store. Microsoft didn't immediately say if or when it might add Skype to the Android version of Outlook.

Microsoft Bringing Free Group Video Chats to Skype

Jan 12, 2016, 3:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said mobile device owners will soon be able to conduct group video chats for free. The feature is headed to Android, iOS, and Windows Mobile 10 handsets and tablets in the coming weeks. Skype is allowing people to preview the tool ahead of its general release. Anyone interested can sign up on Microsoft's web site. Microsoft claims Skype has been downloaded 750 million times. The app will be updated across platforms with the new feature shortly.

Microsoft Prepping Own SIM for Windows 10 Devices

Jan 8, 2016, 8:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has published a new app for Windows 10 devices meant to help people connect to and pay for data networks using their Microsoft account. According to the app's description, Windows 10 device owners can view locally available plans and sign up for contract-free service directly from their device. Microsoft says the app is "designed to work solely with specific Windows 10 devices and requires a Microsoft SIM card." The concept mimics one used by Apple, which created its own SIM card for iPads. The Apple SIM card lets iPad owners sign up for cellular service from a handful of different providers without requiring them to buy a carrier-specific SIM card. Microsoft didn't say when the Microsoft SIM card will be available, nor which devices will be able to use it.

Lumia 550 Reaches the U.S. Unlocked

Jan 4, 2016, 10:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made the Lumia 550 available to U.S. buyers through its web store. The 550 launched in international markets last month. The 550 includes a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. The device, available in black, is being sold unlocked. It supports the LTE networks of both AT&T and T-Mobile. The Lumia 550 costs $139.

Microsoft Releases Selfie App for iPhone

Dec 30, 2015, 2:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made a photo-editing app available to the iPhone that targets selfies. The app, called Microsoft Selfie, lets people fine-tune their self portraits with various filters and enhancements. Microsoft says the app uses age, gender, skin tone, and lighting information to make improvements automatically. Microsoft says one of the chief benefits is the ability to reduce noise, which is often present in selfies. The app can also adjust color and exposure. The app is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft Nixes 'Hey, Cortana' from Android App

Dec 21, 2015, 3:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has removed the Hey, Cortana catchphrase from the Cortana app for Android devices. Uttering the phrase within earshot of an Android handset could launch Cortana. A bug, however, locked up Google Now on some users' devices an in some instances impeded the ability to make phone calls. A recent update to the Android Cortana removes the Hey, Cortana feature and makes several other tweaks, such as improving calling and messaging actions. Microsoft did not say if or when the feature might return. Cortona is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Microsoft Says Older Phones Won't Get Windows 10 Until 2016

Dec 17, 2015, 2:36 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said owners of handsets running Windows Phone 8 / 8.1 will have to wait a bit longer to receive Windows 10. The update was originally expected to arrive this month, but Microsoft has now delayed the rollout. "This November we introduced Windows 10 to phones including brand new features such as Continuum and Universal Windows Apps with the introduction of the Lumia 950 and 950 XL. The Windows 10 Mobile upgrade will begin rolling out early next year to select existing Windows 8 and 8.1 phones." Microsoft has not defined exactly which devices will receive the update, nor did it provide any explanation for delaying the Windows 10 update. In other Microsoft news, the company released a new Technical Preview for Windows Insiders today. Build 10586.36 further refines performance of the platform.

Microsoft Pushes New Preview of Windows 10

Dec 16, 2015, 1:59 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released Windows 10 Technical Preview build 11082 to members of the Windows Insider program. According to Microsoft, this preview chiefly impacts the OneCore, which is the heart of Windows across all platforms. The updated OneCore code improves stability and performance for phones, tablets, and PCs. The changes to the OneCore will also make sure developers are able to code and check their own apps for Windows 10 devices. Microsoft says Windows Insiders can expect to see more frequent updates beginning January 2016.

Outlook for iOS Gains 3D Touch

Dec 16, 2015, 8:26 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated Outlook for the iPhone and added support for 3D Touch. On the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, a forceful press of the Outlook icon will open an action menu that lets people start a new email, add a new calendar event, or open the calendar. The app also adds support for printing from the email view across all iOS devices. Outlook for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft Backtracks On OneDrive Limits

Dec 11, 2015, 1:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft, responding to a firestorm of customer complaints, has softened the hard line it is taking with free OneDrive storage. In November, Microsoft surprised everyone by eliminating the unlimited storage option and severely restricting the amount of free storage given to customers. The company is keeping the 1TB limit proposed in November, but will allow existing customers to retain a higher percentage of their storage. Current OneDrive users can keep the 15GB of storage Microsoft historically offered, as well as the 15GB camera roll bonus — making for a total of 30GB of free storage. However, customers will have to reclaim these storage allotments before the end of January in order to keep them. Details will be sent via email. New customers will be given just 5GB of free OneDrive storage. Office 365 customers who have already exceeded 1TB in OneDrive consumption will be able to keep their current amount for a period of 12 months. Those who remain unhappy with the loss of unlimited storage can seek a refund.

Microsoft Adds Carrier Billing to Windows Store

Dec 10, 2015, 6:50 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has expanded an existing agreement with Boku to bring carrier billing to the Windows Store. Sprint is the first carrier too support the service, which means Sprint customers will be able to charge Microsoft Store purchases to their monthly bill. Customers simply enter their phone number as a payment option. Carrier billing is compatible with Windows 10 on smartphones, tablets, and PCs in the U.S. first, but Microsoft plans to expand carrier billing to other carriers and markets over time. The carrier billing service is provided by Boku. "The Windows Store is designed to be a one-stop shopping experience for free and paid digital content. We believe offering carrier billing is important to giving consumers a convenient payment method and driving developer monetization," said Todd Brix, general manger of the Windows Store, in a statement. Carrier billing covers apps and games, as well as music, movies, and TV content. Carrier billing is generally regarded as a way to reduce barriers for consumers who may be uncomfortable entering credit card data into their phone.

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Microsoft Updates Groove Music and Movie Apps

Dec 9, 2015, 3:03 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is delivering a significant update to its Groove music app for Windows 10 Mobile. The company is also updating the Movies and TV application. Groove for Windows 10 Mobile now automatically sorts songs by the date they were added, though it is easy to view by song, artist, and album as well. The secondary menu can be accessed by swiping from the left for improved one-handed use. A long press will scramble tracks within a playlist. The app shows download progress in the title bar and lets users access the download manager from the left navigation menu. Groove interacts with Cortana, which will respond to requests such as "Play Rock" to start listening to shuffled rock songs. The update also improves how Groove music performs through Continuum (when connected to monitors). The artist gallery now has better spacing and alignment, and the artist detail pages are improved with larger resolutions. Search results now look better at higher resolutions, too. The update to Microsoft Movies and TV applies to the universal app, which means smartphones, tablets, and PCs. It now shows cast and crew information, queues up sequential TV episodes, and features a better downloading experience. Groove music and Movies and TV are free to download from the Microsoft Store.

Cortana for Android and iOS Moves Out of Beta

Dec 9, 2015, 10:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Cortana more widely available to Android and iOS devices. The app, which has been in beta testing on both platforms for several months, is now in the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store as a full release. Android and iOS device owners can use Cortana to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, monitor packages, and perform web searches for just about anything. It syncs with the Windows 10 desktop version of Cortana, so people can manage their appointments no matter which device they happen to be using. The "Hey, Cortana" voice-activation feature is not available to either platform and is reserved for Windows-based machines. Android and iOS users who download Cortana will still be able to interact with Google Now and Siri, respectively. Cortana requires Android 4.1 and iOS 8 and up and can be downloaded from the Pay Store and App Store for free.

AT&T's GoPhone Rolls Out Handset Discounts

Dec 7, 2015, 10:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

GoPhone, AT&T's prepaid brand, today dropped the prices of several handsets. Customers who activate a plan costing $45 or more can snag the ZTE Maven for free, or receive $40 off a small selection of other devices. After the new-line discount, for example, the Asus Zenfone 2E costs $59.99, the Microsoft Lumia 640 costs $19.99, the Motorola Moto E costs $14.99, and the ZTE ZMax 2 costs $89.99. AT&T did not say how long the discounts will be available, but they kick off beginning today.

Microsoft Lumia 550 Goes On Sale

Dec 7, 2015, 8:10 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its affordable Windows 10 Mobile handset, the Lumia 550, is now available in select markets. The 550 offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera with 720p HD video capture, and 2-megapizel front camera. It uses a 1.1 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor and includes 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of storage. Microsoft hasn't announced a U.S. version of the Lumia 550, and it's unclear if it will ever be made available here. It costs $139.

Microsoft Pushes New Windows 10 Preview

Dec 5, 2015, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released another technical preview for Windows 10 Mobile, and the company said is changing its strategy for previews moving forward. Microsoft pushed build 10586 a few weeks ago, which is the same build new Windows 10 handsets are based on. Microsoft said users on the 10586 preview and the shipping version of Windows 10 should expect to see the number of updates increase over the coming weeks and into the new year as it addresses user feedback. The newest release is 10586.29, which Microsoft says is a cumulative update that tackles issues in build 10586 only. It improves application backwards compatibility for Windows Phone 8.1 devices; improves edge performance and stability; improves auto-completion with URL editing tweaks; and improves Bluetooth stability. Moreover, Microsoft is adding several new devices to the technical preview program, including the LG Lancet, Microsoft Lumia 550, Lumia 950, and Lumia 950 XL. These devices will be supported in the Windows Insider Fast and Slow Rings starting next week. Microsoft said it will release a new version of the Windows Device Recovery Tool to address detection issues with these handsets.

Nokia Closes Sale of HERE Business to Car Companies

Dec 4, 2015, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today said it has closed the sale of its HERE Maps business to a consortium of automobile manufacturers, including Audi, BMW, and Daimler. The sale leaves its telecommunications equipment unit as Nokia's core concern moving forward. The company already divested its handset business to Microsoft, and expects to close its acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent early next year.

Microsoft Adds Business Intelligence to Cortana's Bag of Tricks

Dec 1, 2015, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has given its business customers a new tool by integrating its Power BI product into Cortana. Power BI provides access to company-specific data, such as financial filings and performance reports. Together with Cortana, Power BI allows Windows 10 users to ask Cortana for information such as average sales prices of core products, or recent revenue numbers. Microsoft says the idea is to make it easier and more natural for people to ask for and receive data about their company. Microsoft is offering Power BI to Windows 10 desktop users as a preview. Microsoft didn't say if or when Power BI integration might reach Windows 10 Mobile.

Microsoft Pushing Cortana to iOS Beta Testers

Nov 28, 2015, 9:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made good on its promise to make Cortana available to iOS devices. The company polled Windows Insiders earlier this month to gauge interest in the idea and received enough feedback that it has begun rolling out Cortana in beta form to those interested in testing. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant, which first debuted in Windows Phone 8.1. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Eligible beta testers will receive an email with information on how to download the app. The beta software is being distributed through Apple's TestFlight program, which functions apart from the iTunes App Store. TestFlight allows beta-class apps to be installed on iOS devices. Typically, iPhone apps can only be installed directly from the App Store. TestFlight limits beta testers to a maximum of 2,000. Cortana is already available to Android devices.

Microsoft Lets Android Owners Compare Apps

Nov 23, 2015, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has released a new tool aimed at helping people switch from an Android smartphone to a Windows smartphone. AppComparison, an app for Android handsets, scans the device for apps and then finds the corresponding Windows apps. If the app can't find exact matches, it suggests the Windows Phone equivalent. For example, since Google Drive is not available to Windows Phones, the AppComparison tool points people to Microsoft's OneDrive app instead. The idea is to show Android owners which of their favorite apps are available to Windows handsets. The app also shows off some of the most popular Windows Phone apps in the Microsoft Store. Microsoft's AppComparison tool is free to download from the Google Play Store.

Microsoft Delivers Another Preview of Windows 10 Mobile

Nov 19, 2015, 8:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10586 available to Windows Insiders. This build focuses on cleaning up bugs, according to Microsoft. For example, Microsoft resolved an issue that corrupted the Start screen. It also made it possible to set memory cards as the default storage location and cleaned up corruption issues that renamed memory cards. Messaging and Skype have been improved with conversation-loading fixes. The camera button on phones that have them should be working once more. Last, apps and games should download from the Microsoft Store more reliably. There are still some known issues in the preview, but Microsoft says the build performs well. Windows 10 Mobile is nearing public readiness. Microsoft has said the operating system will reach consumers in December. This week also marks the launch of the first Windows 10 Mobile smartphones. Microsoft has made the Lumia 950 and 950 XL available from its web site, and AT&T is selling the Lumia 950 in stores starting Friday.

Microsoft Rebuilds Bing for iOS

Nov 18, 2015, 11:22 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a wholly new version of its Bing Search application for the iPhone. The app takes advantage of new features in iOS, such as app linking, to improve search suggestions and results. To start, the app now includes generalized, touch-based search tools to more quickly find places nearby, restaurants, movies, and other popular searches in the area. Users can tap to search for these types queries rather than enter text. Deep linking lets Microsoft merge search queries with on-board apps. For example, search results for items such as restaurants and movies will reach into third-party apps, like Fandango, for taking action. Microsoft took pains to improve the experience of searching for media, including movies, books, songs, and videos, as well. Bing for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.

Microsoft Taking Orders for Lumia 950 XL Online

Nov 16, 2015, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is allowing U.S. consumers to order the Lumia 950 XL, unlocked, from its web site for $649. Microsoft lists a ship date of Nov. 25 for orders placed today. The 950 XL comes with a free Microsoft Display Dock (while supplies last), which transforms the handset into a full PC when attached to a keyboard, mouse, and display. The 950 XL is the larger brother of the 950. It has a 5.7-inch quad HD screen, Snapdragon 810 processor with 3GB of RAM, 20-/5-megapixel camera arrangement, and a 3,340mAh battery. It runs Windows 10 Mobile and is compatible with the LTE networks operated by AT&T and T-Mobile in the U.S.

Microsoft's Lumia 950 Hits AT&T Stores November 20

Nov 16, 2015, 9:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 16, 2015, 10:15 AM

AT&T today said the Microsoft Lumia 950 smartphone will be available online Nov. 17 and in stores Nov. 20. The 950 is the first handset to run Windows 10 Mobile. Some of the core features include a 5.2-inch quad HD display; Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage; 20-megapixel main camera and 5-megapixel front camera with 4K video capture; and a QuickCharge 3,000mAh battery. AT&T is offering a handful of financing methods for the Lumia 950. First, AT&T will sell it for $149.99 with a two-year contract ($45 activation fee req'd). Second, AT&T will sell it via monthly installments with an AT&T Next plan ($15 activation fee req'd). Customers can get the 950 for $19.97 per month with a Next 24 plan, $24.96 per month with Next 18, or $29.95 per month with Next 12. The full retail price is $599. The Lumia 950 will be available in matte black or matte white. The smartphone works like a PC when paired with the Microsoft Display Dock HD-500 (sold separately). AT&T did not say if or when the Lumia 950 XL will go on sale.

Microsoft's Android-App-Porting Tool May Be Shelved

Nov 16, 2015, 8:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has dialed back efforts to port Android apps to the Windows 10 platform, reports Windows Central. In April, Microsoft announced plans to allow app writers to port iOS, web, Win32, and Android apps to the Windows 10 platform. The Android tool, called Project Astoria, is an emulator and not an actual port. This means Android apps would run in a software container on Windows devices, rather than on the device natively. Windows Central says Project Astoria forums have been silent for several months and Microsoft hasn't responded to Astoria-focused questions for some time, even to those under NDA. Moreover, recent Windows 10 Mobile Technical Previews have stripped out the Android subsystem. When asked for comment, Microsoft said, "We're committed to offering developers many options to bring their apps to the Windows Platform, including bridges available now for web and iOS, and soon Win32. The Astoria bridge is not ready yet, but other tools offer great options for developers." Microsoft didn't expressly say Project Astoria has been cancelled, but the Android port is clearly no longer a priority. The idea behind all these app-porting tools is to get more apps onto Windows-based handsets. One of the major critiques of Windows mobile phones has been the poor app experience when compared to Android and iOS devices.

Microsoft Wants Insiders to Test Cortana for iOS

Nov 4, 2015, 8:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 4, 2015, 8:47 AM

Microsoft is asking Windows Insiders to give Cortana a whirl on their iOS devices. Cortana is Microsoft's virtual assistant. The company made a beta version available to Android handsets back in August, and now it is the iPhone's turn. Cortana for iOS can be used to track flights and calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Microsoft said testers will not be able to launch Cortana with the "Hey, Cortana" catch phrase, but most other features are intact. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with Siri, Apple's own personal assistant. Cortana for iOS is free to download from Microsoft's Windows Insider community, though interested testers need to complete a questionnaire in order to gain access to the program. Microsoft said it will use feedback from these testers to improve Cortana over time.

Microsoft Drops Free OneDrive Storage from 15GB to 5GB

Nov 3, 2015, 8:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft plans to reduce the amount of storage available through OneDrive in an effort to stem abuse. Significantly, free OneDrive storage is being curtailed from 15GB to just 5GB for all users, including the 15GB camera roll storage bonus. Microsoft no longer plans to offer unlimited storage to Office 365 Home, Personal, or University subscribers, and will instead limit these accounts to 1TB. Microsoft is also dumping the 100GB and 200GB paid plans in favor of a 50GB plan for $1.99 per month. (Customers who already pay for the 100GB and 200GB plans will be able to keep them.) Microsoft said subscribers who are using more than 1TB of storage will be able to keep what they have for 12 months. People who are using more than the 5GB free offering will also have access to their files for 12 months. The bulk of these changes go into effect in early 2016. Microsoft said it will make sure everyone is aware of the changes before they occur.

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