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printed July 28, 2015
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Microsoft Debuts Android Launcher

Yesterday, 10:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently released a launcher for Android smartphones that delivers a different take on the home screen. The launcher, which replaces the standard Android home screen, uses three panels to display various information. The left-most panel focuses on people, including recent contacts complete with addresses and numbers. The central home panel is where users can put their apps. It also includes a section for recently-used apps so people can jump back into those apps quickly. The last screen is for notes and reminders and can display calendar items as well as personal reminders. Microsoft's Arrow Launcher is available in a closed beta, which means people need to join the Google+ community in order to access the launcher. However, the APK is available directly from Microsoft, as well, for those who want to bypass the community aspect. Arrow Launcher is free to use. Microsoft has created a wide range of apps for Google's Android platform. Arrow is the latest.


Microsoft's 'Send' App is More Messaging than Email

Jul 22, 2015, 10:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new email application called Send. The idea behind Send, developed by Microsoft Garage, is to let people send quick messages to one another while still harnessing the power of corporate email. Send messages strip out headers, subjects and footers, and look and feel more like text messages. Even so, they are backed by companies' Office 365 email servers and can be viewed and/or responded to via Outlook. "These are the sort of quick emails you send to the people you care about at work—your boss, your teammates, and sometimes partners or customers outside your organization. You're usually busy or on the go when you send them, and Send is specifically designed for this get-in get-out scenario," explained Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft knows co-workers often need to reach one another and don't always have phone numbers on hand. Office 365 integration means the corporate email directory is available to Send users, making everyone easy to reach. Send is available to corporate and education iPhone owners and will soon reach Android and Windows Phone. Microsoft said it hopes to expand Send's availability to more platforms/devices over time.


Microsoft's Hyperlapse App Now Works with All Lumias

Jul 20, 2015, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its Hyperlapse time-lapse application for Windows Phone and Android devices. The Windows Phone version of Hyperlapse is now compatible with all Lumia handsets. It had previously not worked with older devices running the Qualcomm S4 processor (Lumia 520, 620, 720, 920, 925, and 1020). Microsoft also updated the Android version of Hyperlapse. At launch in May, Hyperlapse for Android was released as a limited, closed beta. It is now available to all Android users for free. Hyperlapse can be used to stabilize shaky footage or to create fast-moving time-lapse videos. The app supports multiple playback speeds (between 1x and 32x) and can import existing video files from the phone's camera roll. Hyperlapse app is available from the Windows Store and the Google Play Store.


Microsoft Updates OneNote for Android and iOS

Jul 16, 2015, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released updates to its OneNote application for the Android and iOS platforms. The Android version of OneNote gains the ability to move or copy pages from one section or notebook to another section or notebook. Microsoft said it will add the ability to view OneNote documents on Android Wear-based devices in the near future. The iOS version of OneNote has been merged from separate iPhone and iPad apps into a single app for both devices. New features include a widget for the today screen, the ability to quickly find recent notes, and page previews. OneNote for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store, respectively.


Skype for Android Improves Login Experience

Jul 14, 2015, 4:20 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Skype app for Android devices. The revised app makes a few improvements, notably a smoother login experience when re-opening the app. It now remembers login details and requires one simple tap rather than username and password information typed out. The app also offers previews of web links within chat. The updated Skype is free to download from the Play Store.


Nokia Reiterates Path to New Phones Is Complicated

Jul 14, 2015, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia has again affirmed its plans to bring Nokia-branded handsets back to the market eventually, but warned that things won't be as they were. Nokia sold its handset division to Microsoft in 2014. As part of the deal, Nokia signed a non-compete clause barring it from re-entering the handset market for a specific period of time. Moreover, Nokia sold all its phone-manufacturing plants and capabilities to Microsoft. It no longer has the capacity to build phones. "The right path back to mobile phones for Nokia is through a brand-licensing model," explained the company. "That means identifying a partner that can be responsible for all of the manufacturing, sales, marketing and customer support for a product. If and when we find a world-class partner who can take on those responsibilities, we would work closely with them to guide the design and technology differentiation, as we did with the Nokia N1 Android tablet. That's the only way the bar would be met for a mobile device we'd be proud to have bear the Nokia brand, and that people will love to buy." Nokia's non-compete clause with Microsoft doesn't expire until the fourth quarter of 2016.


Microsoft to Sunset Several MSN Mobile Apps

Jul 13, 2015, 8:09 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has indicated that it plans to discontinue a handful of mobile apps across Windows, Android, and iOS devices. The MSN Food & Drink and MSN Travel apps will be shuttered Sept. 28, and the Health & Fitness app will be closed Nov. 1. The content for the apps will still be available from MSN.com. Microsoft said the apps themselves have not attracted enough users to merit their upkeep. The apps will no longer be accessible after the cut-off dates, and Microsoft suggested users take the time to download and backup any personal information they may have stored in the apps. The app closures folllow significant personnel reductions planned for Microsoft's handset business and several key executive departures. Microsoft plans to focus on fewer phones moving forward, and, it appears, fewer apps, as well.


Lumia 735 Appears In Verizon Retail Stores

Jul 9, 2015, 11:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Microsoft Lumia 735 is now available for sale in Verizon Wireless's retail stores. It was previously only available online. It costs $30 with a two-year contract, $8 with a Verizon Edge plan, or $199 at full retail.


Microsoft Adds OneDrive Streaming to Android and iOS Xbox Music Apps

Jul 9, 2015, 7:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has rolled out updates to the Android and iOS Xbox Music apps that adds the ability to stream music stored in OneDrive. The free feature doesn't require a subscription, so people can upload songs to OneDrive and stream them to their Android or iOS device. The feature is already available to Windows Phone. Users will need to pay for an Xbox Music Pass to stream songs they don't own, but any music stored in OneDrive can be downloaded for offline playback. The update doesn't introduce the new Groove Music branding. Xbox Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.


Microsoft to Slash 7,800 Jobs, Restructure Phone Biz

Jul 8, 2015, 8:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 8, 2015, 8:28 AM

Microsoft today announced significant job cuts and plans to restructure its mobile phone business unit. The company will eliminate 7,800 jobs, mostly from its phone business, and streamline its portfolio of smartphones. The company said it will record a charge of about $7.6 billion in assets related to the Nokia Devices and Services acquisition, as well as another $750 million to $850 million in restructuring charges. The company warned as recently as last month that it faced tough choices. It recently cut former Nokia executives and agreed to transfer some engineering employees and assets to Uber. "We are moving from a strategy to grow a standalone phone business to a strategy to grow and create a vibrant Windows ecosystem including our first-party device family," said Nadella in an email to Microsoft employees. "In the near-term, we'll run a more effective and focused phone portfolio while retaining capability for long-term reinvention in mobility. We plan to narrow our focus to three customer segments where we can make unique contributions and where we can differentiate through the combination of our hardware and software. We'll bring business customers the best management, security and productivity experiences they need; value phone buyers the communications services they want; and Windows fans the flagship devices they'll love. In the longer term, Microsoft devices will spark innovation, create new categories and generate opportunity for the Windows ecosystem more broadly. Our reinvention will be centered on creating mobility of experiences across the entire device family including phones." Microsoft said the prospects for its smartphone business are below original expectations. The company expects the bulk of today's actions to be finalized before the end of 2015. The $7.6 billion write-down exceeds the $7.2 billion Microsoft spent to acquire Nokia in 2014.


Microsoft Prepared to Cut More Jobs

Jul 8, 2015, 7:19 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is planning to announce a new round of layoffs as early as today, reports the New York Times. Many of the cuts will target employees in Microsoft's hardware group, such as the smartphone unit it bought from Nokia in 2014. Nokia and Microsoft-branded Windows Phones have struggled to gain traction with consumers. The Times' suggests Microsoft may be forced to write down a loss on the smartphone unit later this month. Other parts of the business will see headcount reductions, as well. As of March, Microsoft had about 118,000 employees globally. Last year, Microsoft said it planned to drop 18,000 employees. These new cuts are in addition to those already announced. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella recently warned that the company has to "make some tough choices in areas where things are not working and solve hard problems in ways that drive customer value." Former Nokia executives Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow, along with a handful of other executives, were recently shown the door. Microsoft did not confirm the Times' report, which was based on the comments of unnamed sources.


Microsoft Rebrands Its Music Service as 'Groove'

Jul 6, 2015, 3:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed details about the music service for Windows 10, which is now called Groove Music. Groove will be available across XBox and Windows devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones. The $10 monthly fee buys ad-free access to 40 million tracks, which can be streamed across platforms. People will also be able to create their own, custom radio stations. Microsoft says Groove will support music libraries uploaded to OneDrive, including tracks purchased via iTunes. The service will also be made available to Android and iOS devices in the near future. Groove Music is expected to launch in the weeks ahead.


Microsoft Releases Skype for Business App on Windows Phone

Jul 6, 2015, 2:22 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today replaced its Lync 2013 corporate messaging app with Skype for Business for Windows Phone. The app has a refreshed user interface for messaging, more emoticons, and improved interactions with the server. Microsoft says Skype for Business better manages notifications for conversation threads, and syncs them more consistently across other devices such as PCs and tablets. Users of Lync 2013 on devices running Windows Phone 8.1 will be updated to Skype for Business automatically. Microsoft said hardware running Windows Phone 8.0 and earlier should remain on Lync 2013 or Lync 2010.


Microsoft, Kyocera Expand Patent-Licensing Deal

Jul 2, 2015, 4:09 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said that it has expanded the scale of a patent cross-licensing agreement with Kyocera. Microsoft and Kyocera are now able to use a broader range of one another's technologies in a variety of products. The licensing agreement also resolves a patent infringement lawsuit filed earlier this year. Microsoft did not disclose the terms of the agreement. Microsoft holds a number of smartphone-related patents and most makers of Android smartphones pay Microsoft royalties to license those patents.


CTIA Says Smartphones Better Protected Against Theft

Jul 1, 2015, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Beginning today, most smartphones sold in the U.S. will include anti-theft security tools. July 1 marks the day by which phone makers and network operators agreed to implement free theft deterrents on smartphones. According to the CTIA, most of the industry has responded by placing remote lock/wipe capabilities on consumer devices. The addition of an activation lock on the Apple iPhone, for example, has dramatically reduced iPhone thefts in major cities. The activation lock prevents a stolen device from being activated by another person, thus making it useless to thieves. Remote wipe features allow people to erase the personal data from their handset if lost/stolen to protect their identity. The major participants in today's action include Apple, AT&T, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Microsoft, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon Wireless, and ZTE. "Today's fulfillment of the Smartphone Anti-Theft Voluntary Commitment is another example of the wireless industry proactively working together with policymakers and law enforcement to help protect consumers' smartphones in the event they are ever lost or stolen. We will continue to work with all interested parties to continue to deploy new technologies and tools to improve device theft-deterrence tools. We remind consumers to take a few minutes to use PINs, passwords, apps and other device features to protect their mobile devices and personal information." The industry was coerced into acting "voluntarily" when the FCC threatened to make such protective measures mandatory.


Uber Buys Some of Microsoft's Bing Assets

Jun 29, 2015, 1:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Uber has agreed to acquire about 100 engineers and other assets from Microsoft's Bing product. Specifically, Uber will take possession of Bing's "product image collection activities," according to TechCrunch. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the companies did say that Microsoft will hand over some employees and technology. Uber, the ride-finding service, has been looking for opportunities to improve its own map data. Adding some of Bing's assets can help it do that. Uber said it was "excited about the talent and technology this acquisition brings." Earlier this year, Uber had been named as a potential suitor for Nokia's HERE Maps business. Nokia has not yet sold HERE. Microsoft and Uber didn't say when the Bing transaction might be finalized.


Microsoft's OneDrive App Adds Chromecast Support

Jun 29, 2015, 6:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft recently updated its OneDrive app for Android devices. The revised app adds the ability to cast photos and videos from the app to a Chromecast-enabled TV. OneDrive is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Microsoft Releases New Build of Windows 10 Mobile

Jun 25, 2015, 4:35 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another new build of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. Build 10149 adds features and resolves several bugs from the previous build. Microsoft released build 10136 earlier this month, but it required users to backtrack to Windows Phone 8.1 first. Microsoft says testers who stayed on build 10080 will be able to update directly to 10149, skipping over build 10136 completely. Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview 10149 brings new branding to the Microsoft Edge browser, which relocated the address bar to the bottom and added the ability to view web sites in desktop or mobile views. Edge replaces Project Spartan, which was in previous builds. Build 10149 makes improvements to Cortana and the flashlight, as well as general user interface tweaks. Microsoft says the UI should be more responsive. The new build features an updated photos app that adds support for GIFs, and the camera can now be set to automatically upload images to OneDrive. Microsoft fixed a range of bugs impacting call and SMS filtering, text notifications, Podcast performance, and app installs. Microsoft listed a number of known issues still plaguing the preview. The Technical Preview is not meant for general consumers and shouldn't be installed on anyone's daily device. These builds are pre-beta status for the mobile OS, which won't be offered in final form until the fall months.


Office for Android Easier for Everyone to Download

Jun 24, 2015, 10:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Office Mobile fully available to everyone from the Google Play Store. The company released penultimate versions of the apps in May, but required interested users to join the Office for Android Community on Google+ in order to access them. Microsoft removed that requirement, which means anyone who wants Office can now download the suite of productivity apps. Office Mobile requires Android 4.4 and up, but is not compatible with Android M.


Nokia Will Design and License Phones Beginning In 2016

Jun 18, 2015, 11:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said the company will tackle the mobile phone industry again once its non-compete clause with Microsoft expires next year. Nokia no longer owns any manufacturing facilities and will not make its own phones. The company did something similar with an Android-based tablet it released in December. "We will look for suitable partners," said Suri in an interview with the German magazine Manager Magazin. "Microsoft makes mobile phones. We would simply design them and then make the brand name available to license." Microsoft bought Nokia's handset business in 2014 for $7.2 billion. Just this week, Microsoft reshuffled its executive deck and removed two former leaders from Nokia, Stephen Elop and Jo Harlow. Neither Elop nor Harlow has said what their next steps will be. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and Lumia-branded handsets continue to struggle in the market against Apple's iOS and Google's Android. The company is releasing a new mobile operating system, Windows 10 Mobile, this fall. Suri did not say if Nokia will use Android, Windows Phone, or some other platform for its future devices.


Verizon Selling Lumia 735 Starting Today

Jun 18, 2015, 8:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Verizon Wireless today announced the Microsoft Lumia 735, a low-cost Windows Phone. The 735 includes a 4.7-inch HD screen, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, and 16 GB of storage. The main camera has a 6.7-megapixel sensor and the user-facing camera has a 5-megapixel sensor. The phone supports memory cards up to 128 GB and includes a 2,220mAh battery. In addition to Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and the Lumia Denim update, the Lumia 735 offers owners a free year-long subscription to Office 365 as well as 1 TB of OneDrive cloud storage. The Lumia costs $192 at full retail or $8 per month for 24 months with a Verizon Edge plan. It is available online today, but won't reach stores until July. Verizon also is offering $100 bill credit to customers who port their number.


Microsoft's Jo Harlow to Depart, Too

Jun 17, 2015, 1:11 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has confirmed that Jo Harlow, head of the company's mobile phones, will leave alongside device chief Stephen Elop in the weeks ahead. Harlow began at Nokia in 2003 and played a role in Nokia's switch to Windows Phone in 2011. Harlow joined Microsoft when it later acquired Nokia's handset business. Harlow was often seen on stage during device introductions. Microsoft did not say what Harlow intends to do next.


Microsoft Reorganizes Execs, Stephen Elop to Leave

Jun 17, 2015, 9:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has moved around some of the top executives at the company and some are leaving Microsoft. Among those headed out the door is Stephen Elop, who helmed the company's device business. Elop was the former CEO of Nokia and played a large role in selling Nokia's handset business to Microsoft. Terry Myerson will assume many of Elop's responsibilities and now leads the Windows and Devices Group, which includes Lumia, Xbox, and Surface, as well as Microsoft's core Windows products. Other departures include Mark Penn, Eric Rudder, and Krill Tatarinov. Exec Scott Guthrie is picking up some responsibilities, include Microsoft's Dynamics business. Guthrie already runs Microsoft's cloud business, including OneDrive. Executive Vice President Qi Lu will continue to lead the Applications and Services Group, which is focused on reinventing productivity services for digital work. "We are aligning our engineering efforts and capabilities to deliver on our strategy and, in particular, our three core ambitions," said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. "This change will enable us to deliver better products and services that our customers love at a more rapid pace." Microsoft's fiscal year ends June 30.


Lumia 640 XL Reaches AT&T June 26

Jun 17, 2015, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 17, 2015, 8:58 AM

AT&T today said it will begin selling the Microsoft Lumia 640 XL on June 26. The phone runs Windows Phone 8.1 with the Denim update and includes Cortana. It has a 5.7-inch HD screen, 13-megapixel camera, 3,000mAh battery, and a Snapdragon 400 processor. The 640 XL costs $8.34 per month with 30 device payments on Next 24, $10.42 per month at 24 payments on Next 18, or $12.50 per month at 20 payments on Next 12.


Microsoft Releases New Technical Preview of Windows 10

Jun 16, 2015, 12:26 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made available a new build of its Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview. To start, the new build requires users to downgrade from the previous technical preview (10080) to Windows Phone 8.1 due to a bug. People not interested in downgrading for the new build (10136) can choose to wait for the next build of the technical preview. The new build includes a large number of improvements to the fit and finish of the operating system, especially with respect to the user interface. Microsoft says the newest build of Cortana is very close to the final version. Microsoft also made changes to the camera and photos apps, as well as one-handed use. Microsoft says devices with screens larger than 5 inches should offer more configurable control options to improve usability. Microsoft said it resolved a number of bugs compared to the previous build, but a handful of issues still remain. The final build of Windows 10 Mobile is not expected until the fall months.


LG Agrees to Pay Nokia Royalties, But Rates Not Settled

Jun 16, 2015, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

LG has signed a patent-licensing agreement with Nokia over smartphone technology, but the companies have yet to agree on pricing for the patents. Nokia may have sold its handset business to Microsoft, but it retained many of the related patents for licensing purposes. Nokia and LG have agreed to enter arbitration to settle pricing for the patents in question. The arbitration period is scheduled to conclude within two years. In the meantime, LG will be able to use Nokia's patented technology in its own smartphones. Patent-licensing has been a contentious issue for smartphone companies over the years. Samsung is currently in a similar arbitration arrangement with Nokia, which should be settled soon. Nokia's patent business earned the company $649 million in 2014. Nokia's main focus is its telecommunications and networking gear business.


Microsoft Beefs Up Outlook Email App Security

Jun 10, 2015, 11:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jun 10, 2015, 12:04 PM

Microsoft today improved login security for its Android and iOS Outlook email applications. Moving forward, Outlook will use something called Active Directory Authentication Library (ADAL)-based authentication for Exchange Online mailboxes in Office 365. Microsoft says this replaces the basic authentication method previously used. The change also brings OAuth support to Office 365 accounts and alters the technical handshake Microsoft's apps use to verify account holders as they move between them. Though the improved security is mostly meant to help companies better manage their employee email and productivity access, everyone who uses Office 365 will have a more secure login. Microsoft said all Office 365 users will be prompted to re-enter their login credentials over the next week. This will trigger the new ADAL sign in and convert accounts from basic authentication to OAuth. The Outlook apps themselves do not need to be updated.


Facebook Connect Disconnected from Windows Phone

Jun 9, 2015, 9:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook has updated its Graph API and the change will impact the Facebook Connect feature on Windows Phone handsets. The Facebook Graph API is what lets Microsoft connect users' Facebook accounts to their Microsoft accounts for the purposes of populating the People app with current contact data and newsfeed updates. The changed API breaks functionality most dramatically with handsets running Windows Phone 8.0 and earlier. This means the People app and others (photo gallery, movie maker, and OneDrive) will no longer be updated with content from Facebook. The change doesn't have such a large impact on devices running Windows Phone 8.1, but the People app will still cease updating Facebook content on WP8.1 handsets. Microsoft said the Facebook application for Window Phone will continue to function properly.


Microsoft Refreshes the Nokia 105

Jun 3, 2015, 6:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a new version of the Nokia 105, its entry-level feature phone. The Nokia 105 is a bar-style device with a physical keypad and 1.45-inch LCD display. The phone runs Series 30+ and has features such as an FM radio, torch light, and several games. Microsoft improved talk time to 15 hours and standby time to 35 days. Microsoft also expanded the phone book capacity to 2,000 entries. Microsoft says the earpiece speaker is 20% louder than the original for better clarity. The phone supports 850/1900MHz GSM networks and is also being offered in a dual-SIM variant with 900/1800MHz GSM. The Nokia 105 will be sold in select markets beginning this month. It costs $20.


Microsoft Acquires Maker of Wunderlist

Jun 2, 2015, 10:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has acquired 6Wunderkinder, the company behind the popular Wunderlist app. Wunderlist is a to-do app for managing tasks. Microsoft said it will add the app to its stable of mobile productivity tools for smartphones. Microsoft said it will not change Wunderlist's free pricing, nor will it break the app's functionality. Wunderlist will continue to be compatible with myriad third-party apps. Microsoft said it will have more to say about its plans for Wunderlist later this year.


Windows 10 for PCs Lands July 29; No Word On Mobile

Jun 1, 2015, 7:20 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced that Windows 10 will be available as a free download to PCs and tablets on July 29. Most hardware running Windows 7, 8, and 8.1 should be able to upgrade to the new operating system. Microsoft recommends people reserve a copy online. Microsoft did not provide an update concerning the availability of Windows 10 Mobile. Earlier this year, Microsoft indicated the smartphone version of Windows 10 would not arrive until after the desktop version. Windows 10 Mobile is expected to arrive in the fall months, though Microsoft has not specified exactly when. Windows 10 for desktops, tablets, and phones share many features and apps. A technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile is available for testing purposes, but it is far from its final form.


Google Introduces Google Photos

May 28, 2015, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today announced Google Photos, another attempt by the company to help people get a handle on their photos and videos. Google wants Photos to serve as users' central repository for all their photos and videos, make it easy to manage and edit them, and make it easy to share and save the photos that matter. The service will be available online and to mobile devices. Users can take advantage of pinch gestures to view days, weeks, months, or years. Everything is stored online in Google Drive. The service also automatically creates albums based on location and time stamps. Google strove to remove the work from keeping photos organized. Users can use people, places, and things to categorize images — and all the tags are generated automatically and privately so only the user can see them. Google's image recognition is able to tag people consistently as they age over time. Photos also has powerful search tools, which allow users to find specific moments in time. The service supports albums, movies, storyboards, animations, soundtracks, and editing. Sharing functions make selecting multiple shots a cinch with a single gesture. Users can easily generate links to photo albums for sharing that don't require the recipient to have a specific app installed. Google Photos offers unlimited storage for full-resolution photos and 1080p HD videos for free. Google Photos is available beginning today for Android, iOS, and the web.


Microsoft Pledges to Clean Up Windows Store

May 28, 2015, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft said it plans to more effectively enforce rules in the Windows Store in order to rid it of duplicate and questionable apps. The company will focus on four main areas: eliminating app clutter; ensuring apps are appropriately priced; distinguishing informational apps; and ensuring relevant app titles and keywords. Microsoft plans to strip away app clones that don't offered differentiated features, such as the myriad flashlight apps in the store. Microsoft will be checking to be sure developers price their apps in line with similar apps, and will also make sure developers describe them appropriately so people know what they're getting. Microsoft also wants informational apps to be more differentiated from functional apps so users know when they're buying a game and not a game guide, for example. Microsoft believes these enforcements will improve the Windows Store for both developers and consumers.


Office Lens for Android Graduates from Preview Status

May 27, 2015, 7:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a full version of its Office Lens application for Android devices. Prior to today the app was offered only as a preview. Office Lens uses a smartphone's camera to capture receipts, business cards, menus, whiteboards, sticky notes, and other documents and save them to OneNote. The tool is able to adjust automatically for crooked or angled images, and can recognize text thanks to optical character recognition. Users can convert images of paper documents into Word, PowerPoint, or PDF files; automatically populate their contact lists with scans of business cards; as well as search, save, export, or share the images. Office Lens is free to download from the Play Store.


Microsoft Bringing Cortana to Android and iOS

May 26, 2015, 7:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said Android and iOS users will soon be able to use Cortana, its virtual assistant, on their smartphones. The Android and iOS Cortana app will work in coordination with Cortana on Windows 10 PCs, according to Microsoft. A Phone Companion app for Windows 10 PCs will help Android and iOS device owners install Cortana on their handset so they can access Microsoft's virtual assistant wherever they go. The Android and iOS version of Cortana will include most features available to the Windows 10 and Windows Phone versions, such as setting reminders, alerts, and alarms; tracking flights and managing travel details; and accessing Cortana's Notebook function for search preferences. Changes made in one version of Cortana will be reflected across all devices. Microsoft said the Phone Companion app will function with Windows Phone handsets, too, to help sync Cortana functions across devices. In order to test Cortana on Android and iOS smartphones, users will need to enroll in Microsoft's Windows Insider program and install the Windows 10 Technical Preview for PCs. Microsoft said the Cortana Companion App will be available for Android phones at the end of June and for iPhones later this year. Microsoft also mentioned that the updated Xbox Music app for Android and iPhone will be available in late June or July with the beta label in tow to stream OneDrive music content. Google's own personal assistant, Google Now, is available for Android and iOS devices, but not Windows Phone. Apple's Siri is only available to iOS.


Cyanogen Introduces Platform SDK

May 20, 2015, 3:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Cyanogen today announced the Cyanogen Platform SDK, a new tool meant to make developing for Cyanogen easier. Cyanogen describes the Platform SDK as an open-source tool that lets developers use existing APIs within CyanogenMod's framework or to create their own APIs for the greater community. Cyanogen believes approaching its platform from an SDK/API perspective will be less daunting than approaching the platform as a whole. The organization is offering an alpha-level SDK with an introductory API for the Quick Settings Tile. Cyanogen hopes developers will take a look and eventually contribute to its platform. Cyanogen is based on Google's Android operating system, but the organization has broken away from Google's version in favor of its own. Earlier this year Cyanogen partnered with Microsoft and will include Microsoft's productivity apps in its operating system. Cyanogen has lots of documentation ready for developers and looking forward to community submissions to the Cyanogen Platform SDK.


Microsoft Releases New Office Apps for Android Smartphones

May 19, 2015, 11:52 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a preview version of Office for Android smartphones. The latest renditions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint closely match those available to the iPhone. Microsoft said it made a lot of improvements to the apps based on feedback for the Android tablet version of Office. The apps are designed to be finger friendly and support many of the same features found on the full desktop versions. Users can create, open, edit, and save files to OneDrive, OneDrive for Business, SharePoint, Dropbox, Google Drive, and Box. Microsoft's Office apps for Android are free to download from the Play Store, but Microsoft is requiring people to join the Office for Android Community in order to access them.


MixRadio Expands to Android and iOS

May 19, 2015, 11:40 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

MixRadio today made its customized radio service available to Android and iOS devices for the first time. Microsoft acquired MixRadio when it purchased Nokia's handset business, but later divested it to a messaging company called Line. Due to its relationship with Nokia and Microsoft, MixRadio has been exclusive to Windows Phones until today. The new Android and iOS apps, which are available from the Play Store and iTunes, include thousands of free, curated radio stations similar to how Pandora operates. The service lets users create and listen to personalized radio stations, and can be cached on devices for offline playback. The app is supported by ads, but MixRadio may launch an ad-free version later this year. It is available in 31 countries, including the U.S. In addition to announcing the new apps, MixRadio said it has partnered with HTC to provide music-related news stories for HTC's BlinkFeed application.


Microsoft to Sidestep Carriers for Windows 10 Mobile Updates

May 18, 2015, 7:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft said it plans to take a more active role in making sure the existing base of Windows 10 smartphones has the latest code. The company is taking a page from Apple and will not rely on carriers to deliver operating system updates. Microsoft said, "We take our responsibility to keep Windows secure seriously. We [will] proactively update supported devices with necessary updates to address issues. And today, we're announcing this continuous update process applies to all Windows 10 devices, including phones." Microsoft confirmed to ZDNet that it will deliver security, performance, and feature updates to Windows 10 Mobile handsets itself, and the code will be pushed to all users simultaneously. The statement appears to apply to handsets that ship with Windows 10 Mobile, and not older devices. With Windows 8.1 and earlier, Microsoft relied on its carrier partners to approve and distribute system updates and it will continue to do so. As ZDNet points out, however, consumers with older handsets can join the Windows Insider program to maintain early access to new OS versions. Apple uses this same master distribution method for keeping its iOS devices up to date. Google still relies on its handset and carrier partners to update their individual devices to newer versions of Android.


Microsoft Delivers New Preview of Windows 10 for Phones

May 14, 2015, 12:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released build 10080 of the Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones. The updated operating system adds a number of features and resolves a wide number of known bugs. To start, the new technical preview introduces the Windows Store beta for phones. Users will be able to browse through the new content store for apps. Thanks to the store's presence in the build, Windows Phone previewers can now download the universal app versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, and Xbox. The operating system includes the music preview and video preview apps, too, which will let testers look at how Windows 10 Mobile will handle media playback. Microsoft also added the new camera app. Microsoft recommends users read through the "known issues" bullet points before installing the operating system preview on their phone. The technical preview is in pre-beta status and not meant to be used as a daily driver.


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