Microsoft today announced the availability of WinJS 2.1, a tool developers can use to help port their Windows apps to Windows Phone 8.1. Microsoft says it should be painless for most developers to recreate their full Windows apps for the Windows Phone platform thanks to WinJS 2.1's familiar set of technologies, APIs, and other resources. WinJS 2.1 ties into recent changes made to Visual Studio, which includes templates for Windows apps, Windows Phone apps, and universal apps that run on both platforms. Microsoft hopes the allure of universal apps will entice developers into supporting Windows Phone.
Microsoft has begun allowing developers to post responses to reviews of their application in the Windows Phone Store. For now, Microsoft is limiting this feature on a trial basis, though it will expand soon. The responses are emailed to the review author through Microsoft. Microsoft does not provide the developer with reviewer contact data. Microsoft thinks the ability to respond to user reviews will help developers improve their apps over time. Developers will be able to respond to reviews posted from devices running Windows Phone 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 only. The feature will be limited to the U.S. from the onset. Microsoft didn't say if it will expand review responses to more countries.
The CTIA Wireless Association today said a number of handset makers and wireless network operators have agreed to a basic framework that will eventually provide consumers with better anti-theft tools for their smartphones. The Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is meant to deter theft while also giving phone makers and carriers room to innovate. All the companies agreed to implement a baseline anti-theft tool preloaded on (or downloadable to) all wireless smartphones manufactured after July 2015. This tool will let consumers: remotely wipe their data; render the smartphone inoperable to unauthorized users; prevent reactivation without owner's consent; and reverse the inoperability of the device as well as restore the data to the device in the event it is found by the owner. Consumers will also be free to use whatever third-party anti-theft tools they wish in addition to those provided by the phone maker. All signatories will make the baseline anti-theft tool available with all its core features. The initial batch of companies signing the commitment include: Apple; Asurion; AT&T; Google; HTC America; Huawei; Motorola; Microsoft; Nokia; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile; U.S. Cellular; and Verizon Wireless. Some of those who haven't signed include Kyocera, LG, Sony, ZTE. A number of lawmakers lauded the commitment, which arrives several months after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler mandated that wireless companies come up with such a solution or face regulatory intervention.
Microsoft today made available a preview version of Windows Phone 8.1. The operating system is in its penultimate form and available to developers for testing purposes ahead of the general release. Members of Microsoft's developer community may download the preview for free. It includes all the features that are part of the revised operating system, including Cortana, the personal assistant, new Start screen, and Action Center. Microsoft warns that the update may void device warranties. Carrier and manufacturer software updates are not included in the developer preview. Microsoft expects to release Windows Phone 8.1 to the general public over the summer.
Nokia today said it has received approval from the People's Republic of China to sell its handset business to Microsoft. The deal, first announced last September, has already been approved by the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other regulatory bodies. Nokia competitors Samsung and Google had asked Chinese regulators to ensure the deal wouldn't lead to higher licensing fees, but the regulators did not place any restrictions on the transaction. Nokia and Microsoft expect the sale to close this month.
Verizon Wireless recently made the previously unannounced Samsung ATIV SE available for preorders on its web site. The SE is a high-end Windows Phone that features a 5-inch full HD display protected by Gorilla Glass and offers three columns for Live Tiles on the home screen. The phone clearly draws its design inspiration from Samsung's Galaxy-branded Android devices. The SE is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. The device supports microSD cards up to 64GB for additional storage. The SE includes a 13-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture and a 2-megapixel user-facing camera. The phone supports Verizon's LTE network in the U.S., but can also roam onto HSPA networks in more than 200 countries around the world. Other radios include Wi-Fi (with support for mobile hotspot), Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, and NFC. The SE includes several Samsung apps and services, such as its WatchOn television remote control, Samsung Link for sharing content across devices, a photo editing app, and ATIV Beam, which can be used to send files to other smartphones via NFC pairing. The ATIV SE runs Windows Phone 8 and includes the usual set of apps from Microsoft, such as Office and XBox Live. Verizon is selling the Samsung ATIV SE for $199.99 with a contract or $599.99 without a contract. Verizon is accepting preorders, and currently says the phone will ship by April 12.
Following the revelation of Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft has released the related set of tools that developers need to adjust their apps for the new operating system. Registered developers can download the Windows Phone 8.1 SDK and emulators from Microsoft's developer support site. Windows Phone 8.1 includes a number of new features that developers can take advantage of, such as customizable lock screens and integration with the Cortana personal assistant. Windows Phone 8.1 will be made available to consumers in several months.
This is a video tour of Microsoft's Windows Phone 8.1. The new operating system closes the gap with rivals Android and iOS, and fine tunes the user experience, as well. In this video, we take a look at features such as the notification center, transparent live tiles, and new calendar.
Microsoft today said that it will no longer require hardware makers to pay a licensing fee for Windows Phones or Windows tablets as long as they have a screen size of 9 inches or less. This means companies will no longer need to pay Microsoft to use its smartphone and tablet platforms in their hardware and devices. Theoretically, this should boost the number of companies interested in making Windows Phone and other Windows hardware.
Microsoft today announced new tools that will make it easier for developers to create web apps that work on Windows, Windows Phone, Android, and Apple devices. The tools rely on a wide range of new functions that are part of Internet Explorer 11. Microsoft believes developers should be able to create web apps that work across all platforms, and this will benefit users of the Windows Phone 8.1 platform once it becomes available.
Microsoft today said it is making it possible for developers to create a single app that will run on Windows Phones, Windows tablets, and Windows PCs. Microsoft calls these Universal Windows Apps. Microsoft is making this possible with new developer tools thanks to user interface code, APIs, app models, and the Windows Store. Universal apps will be available with Windows Phone 8.1, as well as Windows 8.1 tablet/PC hardware.
Microsoft today said that Windows Phone 8.1 will first be available on brand new smartphones in late April or early May. Windows Phone 8.1 will be distributed to existing devices "in a few months," according to Microsoft's Joe Belfiore. As always, the timing of Windows Phone 8.1's release to existing hardware will depend on region, carrier, and device.
Microsoft is working on an update to Skype for the Windows Phone 8.1 platform. The new version of the app incorporates Skype into the native phone app. Users will be able to start a traditional voice call and automatically transition to a Skype call (or video call) thanks to new buttons. Microsoft didn't say when the new version of Skype will be available.
Microsoft today revealed what's in store for the next-generation of its Windows Phone platform, called Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Phone 8.1 adds a number of features that are meant to bring the platform in line with Android and iOS. The first feature revealed by Microsoft is an action center, which mimics the behavior of the notification tray in Android. It provides access to radios, actionable notifications, and other tools. Windows Phone 8.1 adds the ability to personalize the lock screen, which can be interactive and appear in a wide range of styles. Microsoft plans to offer APIs to developers so they can create their own lock screen customization tools. The third new feature is an evolved Start Screen experience. With WP8.1, users can choose a high-density layout that includes three columns for tiles, as well as use custom background images that appear behind all the tiles. Windows Phone also introduces Cortana, a voice-activated search assistant that responds to users' voice commands and questions. Cortana is built on Microsoft's Bing search engine, and can perform searches, schedule appointments, set reminders, and more. Cortana can learn users' most-frequently contacted people, places they prefer to go, and even what music they typically search for. Cortana can be used to set "do not disturb" time, which Microsoft calls Quiet Hours. Like Google Now, Cortana will scan the user's email for things such as flight details, and automatically provide details such as travel times to the airport, flight delays, and more. Microsoft says that Windows Phone 8.1 is also a better choice for business users thanks to new support for secure VPNs, and the ability to read encrypted emails. Devices can be activated by businesses and turned into secure work machines, but can also be stripped of enterprise apps and data if an employee were to leave a company and keep their phone. Windows Phone 8.1 includes significant changes to the Windows Phone Store, such as more personalized recommendations, easier-to-use categories, and quick links. There's a new calendar in WP8.1, which allows users to swipe from day-to-day as well as see "week" views. A feature called Wi-Fi Sense suggests known, good, free Wi-Fi networks that may be available in public spaces - and will automatically connect to them. Microsoft has also added a new keyboard to Windows Phone that allows users to swipe their finger across the keyboard rather than type. Last, Microsoft said Windows Phone includes IE 11 and new synchronization tools that will better share information between the mobile phone and Windows desktops.
Microsoft today said two companies, called Prestigio and Micromax, have agreed to make low-cost Windows Phone devices. Both companies are still in the development stage, but will bring products to market soon.
Microsoft today confirmed plans to release a version of its Outlook Web App for Android handsets. Outlook Web App is an email application that offers all the features and functionality of Microsoft's Exchange ActiveSync technology. Microsoft released a version of OWA for iOS devices last year. This forthcoming OWA for Android is different from the Outlook.com web mail client that Microsoft already offers to Android devices. Instead, it is a business-class piece of software that will allow mobile professionals to choose an Android device and still benefit from Microsoft's email service. Microsoft didn't say when the app will be released.
Microsoft today updated Office for the iPhone and Android smartphones and made the application suite free for home users. Previously, the app required a subscription to Office 365, which carried a monthly fee. iPhone and Android smartphone owners can now open, edit, and create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files on their smartphone for no charge. Business users will still need to subscribe to Office 365 in order to access Office on their smartphone. The change comes just after Microsoft announced Office for the Apple iPad. Office for the iPad is free to download, but is limited to read-only unless iPad owners subscribe to Office 365.
Microsoft and Dell have inked a patent-licensing agreement in which Dell has agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for sales of devices based on Google's Android and Chrome operating systems. Android uses some patents that are owned by Microsoft, and most major handset makers have already signed similar licensing agreements with Microsoft. Motorola is the last major hold out because it believes its thousands of mobile patents negate the need to license Microsoft's. Terms of the agreement between Dell and Microsoft were not disclosed.
Nokia today indicated the planned sale of its handset and services business to Microsoft has been delayed. The company originally expected the deal to close by the end of March, but has pushed the closing date back to April. The company cited on-going negotiations with antitrust regulators in several Asian markets as causing the delay. Nokia and Microsoft have already received approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission. Nokia noted the tax issues it is facing in India will not play a role in delaying the transaction, and both companies are confident the deal will close next month. Microsoft originally proposed to by Nokia's handset business in September 2013.
Huawei today indicated it has changed its plans and will no longer bring a dual-boot smartphone with Android and Windows Phone to market. "Huawei adopts an open approach towards mobile operating systems to provide a range of choices for consumers," said the company in a statement provided to FierceWireless. "However, most of our products are based on Android OS, [and] at this stage there are no plans to launch a dual-OS smartphone in the near future." A Huawei executive had earlier said the company would make a smartphone with both Android and Windows Phone on board. The company has effectively cancelled those plans. Huawei noted, however, that it considers Microsoft to be an important business partner and it will continue to support Windows Phone. "As long as the consumers continue to demand Windows, we will continue to supply them."
Microsoft today pushed out an update to the Android version of its mobile Skype application. The change notes indicate the app has been rewritten in order to make "aggressive battery savings." Microsoft says that the app can be left running in the background all day with no noticeable impact on battery life, but it had to disable push notifications for group chats in order to realize those efficiency gains. Users can elect to turn the group chat push notifications back on, though their impact on battery life is not clear.
Facebook has made a version of its Messenger application available to devices running Microsoft's Windows Phone. The app, which is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, brings conversations to life in a way the stock Windows Phone messaging app cannot. Facebook Messenger runs independently from Facebook. It lets users send stickers and photos, create and manage group conversations, share location data, and see read receipts. The app includes presence, which shows people who's available to chat via mobile or desktop, as well as adjustable notifications, and persistent log-in to prevent missed messages. Facebook Messenger is for devices running Windows Phone 8 and up.
Microsoft today made its OneDrive cloud storage service available to BlackBerry 10 devices. The app, which is free to download from the BlackBerry World store, provides users with 7GB of free online storage. Customers can choose to pay for more storage if they wish. The service, which was recently rebranded from SkyDrive, is already available to Android, iOS, and Windows Phone devices.
Julie Larson-Green, who has led Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit since last year, is moving to a new position as Chief Experience Officer of Microsoft's Applications and Services group. There she will manage the look and feel of key Microsoft apps and services as exsperienced on Microsoft devices. The move is being made, in part, because Microsoft is set to close its acquisition of Nokia's handset business. Once the deal closes, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop will be put in charge of Microsoft's Devices and Studios unit, which includes Windows Phone hardware, in addition to XBox, Microsoft Surface, and game development. Elop was a Microsoft executive before being hired by Nokia to turn the company's mobile phone business around. Elop was responsible for ditching Nokia's Symbian platform in favor of Microsoft's Windows Phone platform.
The rumors seemed surreal: an Android phone from Nokia?! Well it's real, and it's part of Nokia's aggressive strategy at the lower end of the market. With a unique blend of slick Lumia design, Android software, Microsoft services, Asha features, and a very low price, Nokia has created something that feels altogether new. Read on for our first hands-on impressions.
Nokia today announced the Nokia X, Nokia X+, and Nokia XL, its first phones to run the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) platform. The phones run standard Android apps, available through a new Nokia Store, or side-loaded. The phones offer Microsoft services - such as Outlook, Skype, HERE Maps, and OneDrive - instead of Google services. The interface is a blend of Lumia and Asha, including re-sizeable live tiles like Windows Phone, plus FastLane from Asha. The Nokia store supports carrier billing and in-app purchases. Facebook is pre-loaded. The X and X+ include a 4-inch display. The X+ adds a memory card slot. The XL steps up to a 5-inch display and a 2-megapixel front camera. The Nokia X will sell for 89 Euros. The X+ will sell for 99 Euros, in Q2. The XL is coming in early Q2 for 109 Euros. Nokia will sell the X family globally, starting in "growth markets." Nokia also re-affirmed its commitment to Lumia and Windows Phone. The company expects to price all X family phones lower than its Lumia phones. It will also continue offering Asha touch phones, at even lower price points, such as the new Asha 230, which will sell for only 45 Euros.
Microsoft today announced a handful of features of the next version of Windows Phone. The slate of changes announced center on supporting cheaper hardware and developing markets. The new software will support Qualcomm's newer low-end Snapdragon 200 and 400 chipsets. It will also reduce memory requirements and allow apps loaded on removable memory cards. Microsoft will also remove the requirement for three hardware buttons below the screen and a dedicated camera button. This is designed to allow manufacturers to re-use hardware designed for Android phones. Microsoft will also expand its driver support for common hardware parts used in Android phones, further making it easier for manufacturers to offer a phone in both Android and Windows Phone versions. Microsoft will also support dual-SIM phones in the new version. The company is expected to fully reveal the new Windows Phone OS at its upcoming Build conference.
Microsoft today announced Facebook Messenger app for Windows Phone. The app - previously only available for other OSes - is in final testing and will be available "soon."
Microsoft today launched OneDrive, a renamed and improved version of its SkyDrive cloud storage service. OneDrive is available to most devices, including Windows Phone handsets, Windows machines, and Android and iOS phones and tablets. OneDrive offers 7GB of storage for free, and allows users to score more storage by recommending friends to the service. Microsoft is releasing new versions of the OneDrive app today, and the Android variant gains automatic photo backups. Microsoft said people who use the automatic camera backup feature will earn an additional 3GB of storage. Microsoft also offers higher storage increments to those who need more than 7GB for small monthly payments. OneDrive is free to download from the Windows Phone Store, Google Play Store, and iTunes App Store.
Microsoft today released new versions of Bing News, Bing Finance, Bing Weather, and Bing Sports for Windows Phone, as well as three new Bing apps. The new apps include Bing Food & Drink, Bing Health & Fitness, and Bing Travel. Bing Food & Drink caters to cooking enthusiasts and ties in content from Epicurious, Bon Appetit, and other recipe sites. It also helps people create shopping lists based on recipes. Bing Health & Fitness offers nutrition, fitness, and medical information, including workouts and a diet tracker, cardio tracker, and GPS tracker. Bing Travel makes it easier to plan and manage trips with destination guides, photos, and more. The app also lets people book travel, including flights, from within the app. Bing Finance has been updated with an investment tracker. Bing News was updated with new sources, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Bing Sports was updated with live event coverage for NBA, NFL, and all major soccer leagues. All the Bing apps are free to download from the Windows Phone Store and seamlessly sync across devices with their tablet and desktop counterparts.
Nokia today said that it expects Microsoft to finalize its acquisition of Nokia's handset business by March 31. The company issued a statement regarding some tax difficulties it is facing in India that could complicate the sale. Nokia said the issues won't delay the deal, which it looks forward to closing in the weeks ahead. Microsoft and Nokia had previously suggested the deal would close by the end of the first quarter, so it is running on schedule. Microsoft first proposed to buy Nokia's handset business in September last year. The deal is valued at $7.2 billion.
Nokia plans to announce a smartphone later this month running Google's Android operating system, rather than Microsoft's Windows Phone platform. The device, reports The Wall Street Journal, was already under development when Microsoft made its bid to buy Nokia's handset business, a transaction that has yet to close. Nokia's Android phone is meant to target emerging markets and will run a modified version of Android that will not feature the Google Play Store. Instead, the phone will come with Nokia's own application store and apps, such as HERE Maps, and Mix Radio. The device is expected to make an appearance at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, according to the Journal's unnamed sources. Nokia did not confirm the Journal's report.
Microsoft today announced the appointment of Satya Nadella as chief executive officer of the company. Nadella replaces Steve Ballmer, who will remain on the board of directors. Nadella has been with Microsoft for 22 years and held various roles during his tenure. "Microsoft is one of those rare companies to have truly revolutionized the world through technology, and I couldn’t be more honored to have been chosen to lead the company," Nadella said. "The opportunity ahead for Microsoft is vast, but to seize it, we must focus clearly, move faster and continue to transform. A big part of my job is to accelerate our ability to bring innovative products to our customers more quickly." Microsoft also announced that Bill Gates, previously chairman of the board of directors, will take on a new role as Founder and Technology Advisor. He will devote more time to the company and assist Nadella in shaping future products. Nadella is CEO effective immediately.
Microsoft today announced that it plans to rebrand its SkyDrive cloud-storage product. The new name will be OneDrive. Microsoft said SkyDrive users will see no change to their service other than the name itself. "We believe the new OneDrive name conveys the value we can deliver for you and best represents our vision for the future," said Microsoft in a blog post. The official launch of OneDrive was not disclosed, but a sign-up page is now live for those interested in more information.
Rockstar, a patent consortium jointly owned by Apple, Microsoft, Blackberry, Ericsson, and Sony, has dropped its patent infringement lawsuit against Huawei. The suit was originally filed last year, and included co-defendents Google, Samsung, and HTC. Rockstar believes the companies are violating its patents. Neither Rockstar nor Huawei indicated why the suit was dropped, nor whether or not Huawei signed a licensing agreement with Rocktar. The lawsuit still stands against the other companies. Google, in particular, is accused of infringing on seven different patents that pertain to internet search terms and advertising. Rockstar is seeking damages from Google, which it says is violating the patents willfully. Rockstar is a group of companies that together purchased thousands of patents from bankrupt Nortel. The firms spent a total of $4.5 billion on the patents.
Microsoft has updated both the Android and iOS versions of its XBox Music application. The updates provide both apps with the ability to cache music locally for offline playback. The Android version also makes it easier to playback your entire music collection and to playback entire genres. The XBox Music app itself is free to download, but the service can incur a monthly fee.
Microsoft today pushed out a small update to its Bing Translator application for Windows Phone devices. The most significant aspect of the update is improved speed and accuracy with spoken voice translation. Microsoft also adjusted the UI of the offline language packs. Bing Translator for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Google has filed a patent lawsuit against Rockstar, the company formed by Apple, Microsoft, and BlackBerry to manage major communications patents bought from Nortel. Google accuses Rockstar of being a patent troll targeting the whole mobile industry. Google is asking the court to specifically declare that its Nexus devices do not infringe, which could set precedent in favor of all manufacturers of Android devices. Rockstar has made patent claims against most major Android players, including Samsung, LG, Huawei, ZTE, HTC, Pantech, and Asus. Rockstar bought the patents in 2012 for $4.5 billion, with $2.5 billion contributed by Apple.
Microsoft today made available a revised version of Facebook for Windows Phone. The updated social networking app makes improvements to notifications, which are now pushed more regularly to the Live Tile. Facebook also added secondary Live Tiles, which let users pin specific events, groups, pages, or photo albums to the Start Screen. These secondary Live Tiles each support notifications for their respective function, separate from the main Live Tile. Facebook for Windows Phone now supports 50 languages, as well as stickers, and emoticons within messaging. Last, the app gains some reliability and performance tweaks. Facebook for Windows Phone is free to download from the Windows Phone Store.
Microsoft today made available separate applications for its Xbox Music service and Xbox Video service. The Xbox Music app for Windows Phone 8 requires an Xbox Music Pass, but lets device owners explore, stream, and download millions of songs. The Xbox Video app for WP8 is brand new and lets device owners rent and buy movies and televisions shows. New TV shows are available after they air. It supports WP8, as well as Microsoft's PCs, tablets, and Xbox One and Xbox 360 gaming consoles. The app offers ratings and reviews, lets users resume playback where they left off, and shows trailers. The Xbox Music and Xbox Video apps themselves are free to download from the Windows Phone Store.