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printed November 26, 2014
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Office for Android Gains Dropbox Integration

Nov 21, 2014, 8:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Office apps for Android smartphones and added compatibility with Dropbox. The company announced Dropbox integration for its Office products earlier this month. Android users can now access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Microsoft Office and Dropbox are free to download from the Play Store.


Microsoft's Lawsuit Against Samsung May Proceed

Nov 18, 2014, 4:01 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung has lost its bid to delay a trial with Microsoft, which is seeking interest payments of $6.9 million on patent licenses. Samsung and Microsoft forged an agreement in 2011 in which Samsung agreed to pay royalties for patents Microsoft holds that are used in the Android operating system. Samsung delayed making its royalty payments after Microsoft announced its intent to acquire Nokia's handset business. According to Samsung, Microsoft's move made it a direct competitor, which it feared could lead to collusion charges. Samsung asked an international court in Hong Kong to hold arbitration hearings, which it wanted to complete before dealing with Microsoft in the U.S. A U.S. District Court Judge disagreed, however, and said Microsoft's case can move forward during the arbitration process.


Microsoft Hands Off Nokia Phone App Store to Opera

Nov 18, 2014, 9:18 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced that Opera Software will soon provide the default app store for older Nokia handsets. Beginning in the first quarter of 2015, the Opera Mobile Store will replace the Nokia Store on devices running the Series 40, Series 60, Symbian, Asha, and Nokia X operating systems. The Nokia Store itself will close once all handsets are transitioned to the Opera Mobile Store, which is expected to be complete by July 2015. According to Opera, it has over 300,000 applications for Nokia's legacy devices. Old apps are updated often, and Opera says its 40,000 developers constantly produce new apps, too. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset business earlier this year. It has committed to selling entry-level feature phones, but would rather concentrate on managing one app store (the Windows Phone Store) instead of two.


Nokia Releases Android Launcher, Debuts Tablet

Nov 18, 2014, 8:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia today announced wide availability of the Z Launcher for Android devices. Nokia first debuted the Z Launcher earlier this year, but as a limited alpha. It is now available in beta form directly from the Google Play Store. The Z Launcher is a learning launcher that adjusts what it shows the phone owner on the home screen throughout the day depending on their pattern of behavior. For example, in the morning Z Launcher will present apps such as email and the calendar, while in the evening it will present apps such as Facebook and Spotify. Nokia says Z Launcher improves its predictions over time. Further, Z Launcher includes a gesture search tool that lets users initiate searches from the home screen by tracing letters on the glass. Launchers are alternative home screen treatments for Android smartphones. In addition to the launcher, Nokia announced the N1 tablet, which includes a 7.9-inch screen and runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. Other specs include a 64-bit Intel Atom processor, 8- and 5-megapixel cameras, stereo speakers, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. The N1 tablet will cost $249, and is headed to China first. Nokia, which sold its handset division to Microsoft earlier this year, is not manufacturing the N1 itself. Rather, it is licensing the brand and the design to an unnamed manufacturer in order for it to be built.


Microsoft Debuts New Movie Creator App for Windows Phone

Nov 13, 2014, 11:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Movie Creator, a new app for editing video content into finished pieces. The app lets Windows Phone owners combine up to 25 video clips, photos, cinemagraphs, and Living Images into a single project. Microsoft says the app allows users to trim video clips and move them around with ease. Some features include text cards, pan and zoom, and filters for added effects. The app includes pre-loaded themes to help with quick projects. Movie Creator lets people enhance their videos with music, too. Movie Creator, which is being offered as a beta, is free to download from the Windows Store. It is compatible with Windows Phone 8.1.


Lumia 535 First Windows Phone to Wear Microsoft Name

Nov 11, 2014, 8:12 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 535, the first phone it has revealed without the Nokia brand since it acquired the company's handset division earlier this year. The 535 is a low-cost smartphone meant for emerging markets. It features a 5-inch qHD display, and two 5-megapixel cameras with one on the front and one on the back. The rear camera has an LED flash. The user-facing camera has the same wide-angle sensor found on the Lumia 735. Both cameras can capture FWVGA video. The phone is powered by a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 200 processor with 1GB of RAM. The 535 has 8GB of internal storage, but supports microSD cards up to 128GB. Microsoft will sell the Lumia 535 in single- and dual-SIM variants, but the phone only supports 3G networks (WCDMA at 42Mbps) and not LTE 4G. Other on-board radios include Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Like many Lumia phones, the 535 comes in a range of bright colors. It ships with Windows Phone 8.1 and the Lumia Denim system upgrade out of the box. The Lumia will be available in select markets beginning later this month. It is priced at about $135.


Opera Scores Browser Deal with Microsoft

Nov 10, 2014, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has agreed to replace the Nokia Xpress browser on low-end and mid-range handsets with Opera's Mini browser. Moving forward, Opera Mini will become the default browser on Asha devices and feature phones bearing the Nokia brand. Both the Nokia Xpress browser and Opera Mini use server-side compression to help reduce data usage over mobile networks. Opera Mini has become very popular in India, where many Asha devices are still sold. Opera believes this distribution agreement will help it add approximately 100 million users in India and other emerging markets. Internet Explorer is the default browser on Microsoft's Windows Phone handsets.


First Microsoft-Branded Phone Arriving Next Week

Nov 7, 2014, 8:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft published a teaser page suggesting the first Lumia smartphone to wear the Microsoft brand (rather than Nokia) will be revealed on November 11. The company didn't provide any more details beyond the date.


Microsoft Outs New Office Apps for iPhone, iPad, Androids

Nov 6, 2014, 9:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a major expansion of its core Office productivity suite across mobile devices. Microsoft is replacing the limited Office app for the iPhone with three brand new apps, including Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. The apps allow iPhone users to create and edit Office content on their iPhones for free. Microsoft updated the iPad version of these three apps so there is continuity across them on the iOS platform. Further, Microsoft announced a new preview version of Office for Android tablets. This means most people will be able to work with Office documents on their mobile devices at no cost. Previously, Microsoft required a subscription to its Office 365 product. Moving forward, subscribers to Office 365 will have a more robust feature set, including advanced editing and collaboration tools, unlimited OneDrive storage, and Dropbox integration. Last, Microsoft said it is working on a touch-enabled version of Office for Windows 10. The new iPhone and iPad Office apps are free to download immediately. Android tablet owners can sign up for the Office preview beginning today.


Microsoft and Dropbox Announce Collaboration

Nov 4, 2014, 11:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Nov 4, 2014, 11:13 AM

Microsoft and Dropbox today announced a new partnership that will make it easier for smartphone and tablet owners to remain productive. They have agreed to integrate Office 365 and Dropbox for mobile and online document creation and storage. Android and iOS users will be able to access Dropbox from Office apps to get to their files and folders; edit Office files directly from Dropbox and sync them across devices; and share new or edited files from the Office apps using Dropbox sharing tools. Microsoft said it will update Office for Android and iOS with these new features over the coming weeks. Online sharing between Office and Dropbox won't arrive until early 2015. Interested users will need both an Office and a Dropbox account in order to access these tools. Dropbox will also make its application available on the Windows Phone and Windows tablet platforms in the coming months.


Lumia Camera App to Reach More Phones

Nov 4, 2014, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has updated a handful of its apps for Windows Phone devices. The Nokia Camera app is being renamed to Lumia Camera, though there are no changes to the app itself. The app is, however, being made available to the Lumia 830, Lumia 930, Lumia 1520, and Lumia Icon with the Lumia Denim Update, which starts rolling out later this year. The Lumia Cinemagraph app is receiving a minor update that makes the sharing function simpler and faster. Microsoft also noted that the app will no longer store Cinemagraphs on Nokia's web site and will instead keep them on Microsoft's OneDrive web site where they can be shared with social networks such as Facebook. Nokia said the new Cinemagraph app is expected to roll out early next year.


Windows Phone Owners Can Now Use Softcard

Nov 4, 2014, 8:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Softcard recently expanded to Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Softcard, formerly Isis, is a mobile payment service backed by AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless. Windows Phone owners can associate a credit card from select financial institutions with Softcard on their phone and use it for mobile payments. According to Softcard, its app is accepted at more than 200,000 retail locations around the U.S. Softcard is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, but it requires a secure SIM card from AT&T, T-Mobile, or Verizon Wireless in order to function properly.


Microsoft's Lumia 830 Reaches AT&T Nov. 7

Nov 3, 2014, 10:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T today announced that it will offer the Microsoft Lumia 830 online and in stores beginning November 7. The Lumia 830 was announced earlier this year. It runs Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and features a slim-and-light design. The 830 has a 5-inch HD display, quad-core processor, and 10-megapixel camera. AT&T is selling the phone for $450 at full retail, $100 with a two-year contract, $22.50 per month with AT&T Next 12, or $18.75 per month with AT&T Next 18. For a limited time, AT&T is offering a FitBit Flex wearable with the Lumia 830 for free. The FitBit can be used to track activity and sleep. It normally retails for $99.


Samsung Looking to Escape Paying $1B to Microsoft

Nov 1, 2014, 8:48 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung claims that if it honors a 2011 patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft it could be charged with collusion. The argument is the latest from Samsung, which owes Microsoft $1 billion in patent licensing fees, plus another $6.9 million in interest. Several technologies found in the Android operating system are patented by Microsoft. Nearly all Android device makers pay Microsoft to license those patents in their smartphones. Samsung agreed to do the same in 2011, though Microsoft cut it a bit if a break after Samsung agreed to continue to develop devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. Part of the agreement entails Samsung sharing sensitive inside information with Microsoft. Samsung now contends that Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset business earlier this year puts them into direct competition. It says if it pays the licensing fees, it could be seen as colluding with Microsoft in violation of the law. Microsoft sued Samsung over the unpaid licensing fees earlier this year and believes it has a strong case.


Microsoft Debuts Health Platform and Wearable

Oct 30, 2014, 8:30 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Microsoft Health, a new platform that's similar in basic approach to Apple's HealthKit and Google's Google Fit programs. Microsoft Health relies on a cloud-based service where consumers and the industry both store health and fitness data. The Microsoft Health application is available today for Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices. It collects information from third-party apps and services and saves the data to the cloud, where it can help users manage their health and fitness goals. Microsoft Health doesn't combine data points from apps locally on smartphones, which both HealthKit and Fit do. Instead, the data is analyzed by Microsoft's Intelligence Engine online, which can be used to generate graphs, charts, and other ways to assess the data. For example, Microsoft Health can tell people which exercises burn the most calories, or calculate the quality of users' sleep. Though Microsoft Health works with select third-party devices, such as Jawbone Up, Microsoft announced the Microsoft Band wearable. The band was designed to be worn all day long. It has 10 sensors inside that track steps, calories burned, heart rate, and more. Together with the Microsoft Health app, the Microsoft Band offers guided workouts created by Gold's Gym, Shape, and others. The band also includes notifications for incoming calls, messages, or social networking updates. The Band is available from Microsoft's web site and retail stores beginning today for $199. Last, Microsoft is offering SDKs and APIs to health providers and app developers so they may hook their products into Microsoft Health.


Microsoft's New SDK Lets Devs Add Office 365 to Their Apps

Oct 28, 2014, 7:13 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

App writers can now integrate Office 365 features into their own applications thanks to a new SDK from Microsoft. The SDK is modular and has five distinct parts, such as Outlook services and Directory services. They can be used individually or all together. Separate SDKs are available for the Android and iOS platforms. Microsoft hopes developers will take advantage of the new features to enrich business-grade apps for Android and iOS devices.


Microsoft Makes Branding Change Official

Oct 24, 2014, 6:44 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today indicated its branding transition from Nokia Lumia to Microsoft Lumia is progressing as planned. Microsoft has slowly been rebranding apps, services, and web sites from Nokia to Microsoft. The company has now reached the point where its Windows Phone hardware will make the same change. The last smartphones announced to wear the Nokia brand are the Lumia 830 and Lumia 735 Windows Phones, which were announced in September. The company said the first Microsoft Lumia device will be announced soon, though it didn't share any details. Microsoft will, however, continue to sell Nokia-branded feature phones, such as the Nokia 130. Microsoft has licensed the Nokia name from Nokia for such devices. All its smartphones will use the Microsoft name moving forward.


Microsoft Opens the Garage Door, Releases Android Apps

Oct 22, 2014, 8:38 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed Garage, a collective of Microsoft employees that is encouraged to tinker with apps and services for a wide range of platforms and products. Microsoft describes the Garage as "a community of interns, employees, and teams from everywhere in the company who come together to turn our wild ideas into real projects." Along with its public unveiling, Microsoft announced several Android apps created within the Garage that are available from the Play Store today. For example, Torque is an app for Android Wear that lets owners of such devices twist their arm to launch Bing (not Google) Voice Search. Another, Next Lock Screen, lets Android device owners see their missed calls, messages, and calendar appointments without unlocking their device. The apps are free to download starting today. Microsoft indicated more apps and products may emerge from the Garage, not just for Android, but for iOS, Windows Phone, and Windows, too.


Microsoft to Drop Nokia Brand from Smartphones

Oct 21, 2014, 8:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft indicated that it is prepared to drop the Nokia brand from its line of Windows Phones. Moving forward, the company will use the Microsoft Lumia name to refer to its phone hardware. Microsoft purchased Nokia's handset division earlier this year, but Nokia still exists as a separate company selling HERE Maps and telecommunications gear. Microsoft could not continue to use the Nokia brand indefinitely. Microsoft has already rebranded many of the old Nokia apps with the Lumia name, and told The Verge that it plans to begin rebranding its remaining Nokia properties in the weeks ahead.


Skype for Windows Phone Gains Drawing Feature

Oct 20, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today issued an update to its Skype app for Windows Phone 8 and 8.1. The app has been refreshed with several new features, the foremost of which is the ability to create drawings within messages. Users can create their own pictures with the drawing tool, or annotate existing images and Bing Maps. The update makes it possible for users to select between their Microsoft account and their Skype account more easily. The app also improves resume times and adds support for HD screens. Skype for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft Gives Cortana a Bit More Bing

Oct 17, 2014, 2:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has added several features to Cortana, the voice-activated assistant built into Windows Phone 8.1. One of the new capabilities is called Daily Glance Evening Edition. At the end of each day, Cortana will show users the travel time to home and upcoming items on their calendar. Cortana will also begin to offer concert recommendations within 100 miles of the phone's location based on the owner's artists and Bing searches. Cortana will now more actively create and make available cards with flight information based on travel itineraries and Bing searches. Last, Bing adds location-based app recommendations. For example, Cortana might suggest visitors to Disney World in Florida download the Disney Expedition App. Some of these features need to be turned on in Cortana's Notebook before they'll function.


Skype Updated for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Screens

Oct 15, 2014, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Skype 5.6 available for the iPhone. The updated app now supports the screen size and resolution of all iPhone models, including the newer iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Skype says the app displays more of your recent chats and shows more messages in conversation view on the larger iPhones. Skype 5.6 for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Debuts Xim, a Cross-Platform Photo-Sharing App

Oct 8, 2014, 9:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced Xim, an app and service that allows people to share photos with select groups of people. Xim was created by Microsoft Research's FUSE labs and is compatible with Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Users can select up to 50 photos to share and create a Xim. Users can pluck photos from their camera roll, Facebook, Instagram, Google Drive, or OneDrive. The Xim can then be viewed by whoever the user invites, including those who don't have the app (viewed via the browser). The app includes a group chat feature that allows everyone invited to a Xim to chat with each other. Xims are impermanent, sort of like Snapchat, and expire after a short period of time. The Xim app should be available in the iTunes App Store, Google Play Store, and Windows Phone Store today.


Nokia to Idle Indian Manufacturing Plant

Oct 7, 2014, 7:07 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has indicated it will cease production at a facility located in Chennai, India. Nokia still owns and operates the plant despite the fact that it sold its handset division to Microsoft earlier this year. The plant was caught up in tax issues with the Indian government and left out of the sale. Nokia has continued to run the plant as a contract service for Microsoft. "Microsoft has informed Nokia that it will be terminating the manufacturing services defined in the agreement with effect from Nov. 1. In absence of further orders from Microsoft, Nokia will suspend handset production at the Sriperumbudur facility," said the company in a statement. The facility is among the largest owned by Nokia.


Microsoft Sues Samsung Over Unpaid Interest

Oct 4, 2014, 8:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has filed a suit against Samsung seeking to collect $6.9 million in interest. According to Microsoft, Samsung delayed payment of $1 billion in smartphone patent royalties owed Microsoft. When it did finally pay, the company omitted the accrued interest. Samsung believes Microsoft violated a 2011 patent-licensing agreement the two companies struck when Microsoft agreed to purchase Nokia's handset business in 2013. Microsoft's new legal filing asks a judge declare it didn't violate the 2011 agreement and demands Samsung pay the interest on the late patent royalties. Most makers of Android smartphones pay Microsoft patent fees due to several Microsoft technologies contained in Android devices. Motorola is the only company not paying patent fees to Microsoft, and the two companies are still embroiled in legal proceedings.


T-Mobile Says Its Lumia 530 Goes On Sale Oct. 15

Oct 2, 2014, 8:08 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

T-Mobile today followed Cricket Wireless in announcing the availability of the Nokia Lumia 530. T-Mobile's variant reaches Best Buy and Microsoft stores October 5, and T-Mobile stores October 15. T-Mobile is charging $79.20 for the 530.


Microsoft Announces Windows 10 for Varied Devices

Sep 30, 2014, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the next version of Windows will be called Windows 10. According to Microsoft, Windows 10 will encompass "one product family, one platform, one store." Windows 10 will run on desktops, laptops, tablets, and phones. Microsoft says the operating system will offer users a seamless experience across multiple different form factors with varied input types (mouse, pen, touch). One of the key components will be the shared code so developers can create apps that run on any of the supported form factors with little customization. Microsoft shied away from sharing too many specifics as far as features go, but noted that preview builds of the desktop platform will reach consumers in early 2015. The company didn't make any commitments as to when then next version of Windows Phone will be available.


Microsoft Launches MSN Anew

Sep 30, 2014, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today re-launched its MSN web portal. The site has been redesigned from the ground up and provides one-click access to many tools, such as OneDrive, Outlook email, OneNote, and Skype. Microsoft says the new MSN will look and behave the same across all devices, be they PCs, tablets, or smartphones. Microsoft said it is pulling in content from a wider range of sources in order to appeal to as many users as possible. It is also localizing news content, so people in the US will have content that differs from the content offered in Japan, India, and other regions. The new MSN is free to visit on the web. Along with the reboot of MSN, Microsoft said it is updating a handful of its apps for Windows Phone, including Health & Fitness and Weather. Both apps gain new lock screen features. Health & Fitness, for example, will be able to provide GPS data and a step counter on the lock screen so users won't have to launch the individual app to see their workout stats. Similarly, the new weather app will offer real-time weather updates on the lock screen. Both apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.


OneDrive for Android Gains New Photo Viewer

Sep 29, 2014, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of OneDrive for Android smartphones and tablets. The updated cloud storage app includes what Microsoft calls the All Photos View, which makes it easier to browse and see photos across OneDrive. OneDrive also adds new business tools, including a search function and a file viewer to find documents that colleagues have shared with the user. The updated app for Android devices is free to download from the Google Play Store. Microsoft recently doubled the amount of free storage from 15GB to 30GB - as long as users choose to automatically upload photos from their phone to OneDrive.


Microsoft Offering 30GB of OneDrive Storage for Free

Sep 20, 2014, 9:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has launched a limited promotion that will double OneDrive users' free storage to 30GB. Microsoft already offers 15GB of online storage for free. Those who sign into their OneDrive accounts between now and the end of September will see their free storage jump to 30GB. The offer is good for all users of OneDrive, including people using Android, iOS, Mac, Windows, and Windows Phone devices. Microsoft also offers incremental amounts of additional storage (usually 3GB) when smartphone/tablet owners choose to backup their camera roll to OneDrive. Users who already have more than 30GB of free OneDrive storage will receive the additional 15GB of storage, too.


Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to Have Kill Switch

Sep 17, 2014, 6:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Apple's new iPhones will include a kill switch that owners can use to remotely lock or wipe them, reports Reuters. The feature has been part of iOS for several years, but the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will have the feature turned on by default. The feature can be installed on older iPhone models, as well. The news comes from the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, rather than Apple itself. Earlier this year, Apple, Google, and Microsoft all agreed to add kill switches to their devices by July 2015. Most major wireless network operators in the U.S. have agreed to a similar framework. Lawmakers believe the presence of the kill switch will eventually deter street crime and reduce the thefts of smartphones. The logic behind the effort is to reduce the demand for stolen goods by allowing owners to render them useless and valueless to thieves.


Microsoft Ports OneNote to Android Wear

Sep 16, 2014, 11:23 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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


FCC Dubious On Future Wireless Mergers

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

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


Nokia Puts On Lumia Denim

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

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


Nokia Routing Maps Apps to Android and iOS

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

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


OneDrive for Android Adds Business Account Support

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

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


Microsoft to Cleanse Windows Store of Questionable Apps

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

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


California Signs Smartphone Kill Switch Into Law

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

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


Google Debuts New Slides, Sheets, Docs Apps for iOS

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

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


Huawei: No Tizen and No More Windows Phone for Us

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

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


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