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Microsoft Lets Android Owners Compare Apps

Monday, 8:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

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

Microsoft Delivers Another Preview of Windows 10 Mobile

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

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

Microsoft Rebuilds Bing for iOS

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

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

Microsoft Taking Orders for Lumia 950 XL Online

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Microsoft Wants Insiders to Test Cortana for iOS

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

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

Microsoft Drops Free OneDrive Storage from 15GB to 5GB

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

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

Latest Windows 10 Preview from Microsoft Fixes Bugs

Oct 29, 2015, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released another technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile. Rather than stuff the release with new features, Microsoft said it focused on cleaning up bugs and improving performance. Chiefly, build 10581 will allow people to upgrade from earlier preview builds without first reverting to Windows Phone 8.1; testers can go straight from 10549 or 10572 to 10581. Microsoft resolved an issue that prevented "Hey, Cortana" from functioning on the Lumia 930 and 1520; made it possible to select photos for sharing through third-party messaging apps; and tweaked text prediction and auto-correct. Microsoft says battery life should be improved, as should video recording and visual voicemail syncing. The Windows 10 Mobile technical preview is not for consumers and is for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.

Microsoft Updates Outlook, Will Sunset Sunrise App

Oct 28, 2015, 12:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a significant refresh of its Outlook mobile email app for Android and iOS devices. Most of the changes center on making the app easier to use. For example, Outlook for iOS more clearly calls out event invitations, and makes flags and attachments easier to spot when scrolling through the inbox. The mail composition screen can now add attachments with one tap. Outlook gains several new features in the calendar portion of the app, such as a more visible "today" button that follows through the calendar as users scroll into the future. The full month view is more easily opened through the day picker tool, and events now list core elements (date, time, location) at the top. Outlook for Android adopts Material Design in a big way, giving the app a feel more native to that of Google's mobile operating system. The email app has a redesigned header, message list, and composition tool that rely on elements of Material Design. The app now supports contact images, and icons are more prominent to help users locate unread or flagged emails. Similar to the iPhone app, the calendar portion of Outlook for Android gains new event cards that prioritize the key information. Many of these changes have been brought over from the Sunrise application, which Microsoft purchased earlier this year. Microsoft said it will continue to add more elements from Sunrise to Outlook over time, but indicated that Sunrise has entered its twilight phase. The app will be retired at some point down the road. The new Microsoft Outlook for iOS is available today, and the Android version will follow in early November.

Microsoft's Joe Belfiore Taking Leave of Absence

Oct 21, 2015, 8:53 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Joe Belfiore, one of the chief driving forces behind Windows Phone, is taking a break from his job at Microsoft. Belfiore plans to take a leave of absence from November through mid-2016, during which time he will be focusing on his family. Belfiore has often been seen on stage demonstrating Windows Phone features, and he played a prominent role in bringing Windows Phone 7, 8, and 8,1 to fruition. Belfiore says Microsoft is supporting his time off. "When the trip is over, I'll be right back at it," said Belfiore in a post to his personal Facebook page. "I'm proud to have spent the last 25 years working for a thoughtful and considerate company here at Microsoft. I'll be back at Microsoft in my same job working on Windows next summer." Belfiore's work in shaping Windows 10 Mobile has likely run its course as the platform nears final release. Windows 10 Mobile is expected to arrive in December, shortly after Belfiore begins his leave.

Microsoft Pushes Windows 10 Mobile Preview Build 10572

Oct 20, 2015, 5:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a new technical preview of Windows 10 Mobile available to fast ring members of the Windows Insider program. As with the previous build, interested testers will need to downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1 before installing build 10572. (Microsoft says beginning with build 10575 and up, users will be able to once again go straight from one preview to the next.) The new build takes advantage of Cortana to push call and text notifications from the phone to Windows PCs as well as handle text replies. This function requires Cortana to be up and running on both machines. Build 10572 integrates Skype across the messaging, phone, and Skype video apps, and now supports animated GIFs and message/call history search. The build further refines Cortana, which can be used to track movie and event reminders, as well as book Uber rides. Offline maps can now be saved to memory cards; the photo app supports local favorites and more editing functions; and storage settings have been improved in a such a way that the user experience is more consistent between phones and PCs. As always, Microsoft warns that the technical previews are not for primary handsets and are for testing purposes only. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.

Microsoft May Give Windows 10 Mobile Payments

Oct 20, 2015, 2:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft is weighing what to do with the mobile wallet app that's part of the Windows 10 Mobile platform. The operating system already has a basic wallet app (since Windows Phone 8) for storing credit card and loyalty card data, but it stops short of making mobile payments. Joe Belfiore, corporate VP of Microsoft's operating systems group, said, "Windows is going to have a wallet concept. You've seen it on phones before. We're going to continue to iterate it. We're going to think about the range of payment scenarios." Belfiore did not say if or when any type of mobile payment service might launch, nor what technology it might rely on. However, the spec page for the recently announced Lumia 950 says the smartphone includes "secure NFC for payment." When asked exactly what that referred to, Microsoft told Phone Scoop, "We have nothing to share." Belfiore admitted that mobile payments are not easy to implement. "[Mobile payments] is just one of these things that is a massive network of complexity," Belfiore said. "I think the biggest challenge is, what effect will cause enough of the right things to align that you’ll get a good experience with all the places that you want it to happen in?" Apple, Google, and Samsung all offer mobile payment platforms that vary a bit in how they function. Despite support from handset makers, carriers, retailers, and financial institutions, mobile payments have yet to go mainstream. Even so, it would behoove Microsoft to make sure its smartphone platform can compete with the industry leaders.

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Microsoft Pushes Another Preview to Windows 10 Phones

Oct 14, 2015, 1:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview build 10549 available to testers in the Windows Insider program. Microsoft says a bug in the new preview mandates that devices first downgrade to Windows Phone 8.1, rather than install from the most recent technical preview (10536). People already using one of the technical previews can revert to Windows Phone 8.1 using the Windows Recovery Tool. Once WP8.1 is loaded and the Windows Insider app is re-installed, Fast Ring subscribers can update to 10549. The new build makes improvements to Cortana and the messaging application, and adds a more diverse set of emoji. Microsoft said it has resolved some bugs impacting the previous build, such as the camera, notifications, screenshots, and apps stored on memory cards. Microsoft also notes that pinch-to-zoom should work properly within maps, and some ringtone behaviors have been smoothed over. As always, the technical preview includes some known issues, and Microsoft warns that the build is for testing purposes only and not meant for consumers. Microsoft is expected to release Windows 10 Mobile to the general public in December.

Windows 10 to Reach Phones In December

Oct 7, 2015, 8:47 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has revealed via its Facebook page that Windows 10 Mobile will be made available to a handful of Lumia phones in December. The initial list of handsets on deck to receive the update include the Lumia 430/435, 532, 535, 540, 635, 640/XL, 735, 830, and the Lumia 930. Microsoft said the devices will need to be running the Lumia Denim update to Windows Phone 8.1 in order to install Windows 10 Mobile. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL, available in November, will be the first handsets to ship with Windows 10 Mobile.

Lumia 950 Coming To AT&T

Oct 6, 2015, 2:31 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 3:12 PM

Microsoft and AT&T have confirmed that the Lumia 950 will be offered by AT&T. The phone will also be available unlocked directly from Microsoft.

Hands On with the Lumia 550

Oct 6, 2015, 1:51 PM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 2:04 PM

The 550 is Microsoft's new affordable Windows 10 phone. It has a remarkably low price for a device with an HD screen. How "affordable" does it feel in person? Read on to find out.

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Hands on with the Lumia 950 and XL

Oct 6, 2015, 12:56 PM   by Rich Brome

The Lumia 950 is Microsoft's flagship phone for Windows 10. It continues the Lumia line while showcasing the new, unified Windows 10. Not only can it run the same Universal apps that run on Windows 10 desktops, it can transform into a desktop computer itself with a dock accessory, running the same apps in desktop mode. It has high-end features and classic Lumia design. So how is it in person? Read on to find out.

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Microsoft Announces Affordable Lumia 550

Oct 6, 2015, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 10:46 AM

Microsoft today revealed a new, affordable Windows phone called the Lumia 550. For just $140, it offers a 4.7-inch HD display, 4G LTE, 5-megapixel camera, front camera, and Windows 10. It uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 processor. A version for US networks was not immediately announced. It will be available in December for $139.

Lumia 950 is Microsoft's Flagship Windows 10 Phone

Oct 6, 2015, 9:52 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 6, 2015, 10:48 AM

Microsoft today announced the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL, its own flagship phones for its new OS, Windows 10. The phones support Windows Continuum for an optional full Windows Desktop experience when connected to a desktop monitor. The two models are similar, differing mostly in screen size; the 950 has a 5.2-inch screen, while the larger 950 XL has a 5.7-inch screen. Both screen offerings are OLED and Quad-HD resolution, the best available. Leveraging OLED technology, the phones also offer Lumia's low-power Glance notification display. Both phones also sport 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, triple-LED flash, optical image stabilization, and a dedicated camera button. Both phones also come with 32 GB of internal storage, plus a memory card slot supporting up to 2 TB. The phones are powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 or 810 processors, with liquid cooling. The phones also sport USB Type-C connectors with fast data transfer and fast charging. A new Microsoft Display Dock accessory enables Windows Continuum. The Dock connects to the phone via USB-C, and to a desktop monitor via HDMI or DisplayPort. It also has tree USB ports for keyboard and accessories. Connected to the Dock, the phone can be used as a full Windows desktop running desktop versions of Windows Universal apps, including Office and Outlook. When using the Dock, the phone can access files on USB storage. Both phones will be available in November, for $549 and $649, for the 950 and 950 XL, respectively.

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New Microsoft Band has Curved Screen

Oct 6, 2015, 9:35 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a new version of its Band wearable wrist device. The fitness-centric Band sports a curved color OLED display with Gorilla Glass, and a rubber strap. Like its predecessor, it tracks GPS coordinates, UV exposure, and heart rate. New in this version is a barometer for measuring altitude, and better integration with the Cortana assistant. Features include guided workouts, sleep tracking, calorie counting, and smart phone notifications. The Band integrates with the Microsoft Health app, which provides details fitness tracking and stats. The Band also has extensive golf functions, tracking swing information and more. It also supports apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Starbucks, RunKeeper, and more. The new Microsoft Band can be pre-ordered today and ships October 30. It will sell for $249.

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Facebook Commits to Windows 10

Oct 6, 2015, 9:13 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced that Facebook is building Windows Universal apps for Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram. The new apps will run natively on Windows 10 for Mobile phones.

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Wireless Companies Agree to Support More Remote Wipe Tools

Oct 2, 2015, 1:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The CTIA today announced that a number of member companies have agreed to take on additional measures to help prevent cellphone thefts. Following recommendations made by the FCC, wireless companies will make anti-theft tools available to all consumers that also respect consumer choice and privacy. All new phones made after July 2016 will "make readily available to the authorized user an option that allows the authorized user to enable or disable the anti-theft solution at any time that the smartphone is connected and is in the authorized user's possession." Beyond this baseline tool, consumers will have the option to use other, third-party solutions to locate, wipe, or reinstate their devices if they so wish. Companies that have agreed to this include Apple, Asurion; AT&T; BlackBerry; Google; HTC; Huawei; LG; Microsoft; Motorola; Samsung; Sprint; T-Mobile USA; U.S. Cellular; Verizon, and ZTE. In response, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "CTIA members' ... enhanced voluntary commitment to adopt anti-theft features and educate consumers demonstrates their resolve in combatting it. I am hopeful that this new voluntary commitment will make a meaningful difference for consumer safety. As the enhanced commitment recognizes, these solutions work only if they are adopted widely. The FCC will remain vigilant in this area by pushing for further improvements to the theft-prevention toolbox, and also by monitoring closely whether the efforts of industry and others are producing meaningful results." Apple's iOS and Google's Android already contain features that let device owners find and protect their mobile devices. The FCC hopes allowing people to download and use the protective measure of their choice will help encourage consumers to make broader use of the tool.

Asus to Preload Microsoft Apps Thanks to Licensing Deal

Oct 2, 2015, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus and Microsoft has expanded the scale of an existing patent-licensing agreement between them and expect the change to benefit customers. The cross-licensing deal will allow Asus and Microsoft to use one another's technologies in their own products. Moreover, Asus said it will let the two work closer together on products down the road. Last, the deal will result in Microsoft's Office productivity suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) being preloaded on Asus Android smartphones and tablets. Samsung also preloads Office on some of its Android devices. Terms of the agreement between Asus and Microsoft were not disclosed.

Google and Microsoft Bury the Patent Hatchet

Sep 30, 2015, 4:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google and Microsoft today announced that they have settled various patent squabbles and dropped about 20 lawsuits between them in the U.S. and Germany. The two companies have been tussling over mobile and wireless technology since 2010. In addition to putting their arguments to rest, the companies have agreed to work together on certain technologies, such as video compression, moving forward. "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers," said the companies. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

Microsoft Slips Up, Posts Lumia 950 and 950XL to Web Site

Sep 30, 2015, 7:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed a few details about the unannounced Lumia 950 and 950 XL smartphones on its UK-based web site. The phones will be the first to ship with Windows 10 Mobile on board, Microsoft's new operating system. The web site lists only a couple of specs. Shared features include 20-megapixel cameras with Zeiss optics, 32GB of storage, and support for 2TB memory cards. The 950 sports a 5.2-inch quad HD screen, while the 950 XL offers a larger 5.7-inch quad HD screen. Microsoft is expected to announce the handsets in full at an event in New York scheduled for Oct. 6.

Microsoft Makes Inviting People to Meetings A Breeze

Sep 24, 2015, 1:24 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Garage lab has churned out another productivity-minded application, this time for the iPhone. Invite is an iOS-first app that purports to simplify the process of inviting others to meetings. The process is straight-forward. The organizer picks a time that works for him or her and then invites potential attendees through their email address. Attendees will get an email (or a notification if they have Invite installed) and can respond with times that work for them. Once all invitees have responded, the organizer can pick the time that works for the largest group of potential attendees and set the meeting time. After the meeting time is set, it is added to respondents' calendars. Microsoft says Invite will work best for those with Office 365 subscriptions, but it also functions with Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo mail. The app will be available to the iPhone first, followed by Android and Windows Phone.

Microsoft's Groove Music Now Works With Sonos

Sep 16, 2015, 9:42 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Groove Music service with support for Sonos. This means Groove subscribers can now listen to their music via Sonos speakers in their home. Microsoft launched Groove earlier this year, which is available across XBox and Windows devices, and Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. The $10 monthly fee buys ad-free access to 40 million tracks. Users can create their own, custom radio stations, and Groove supports music libraries uploaded to OneDrive, including tracks purchased via iTunes. The Sonos app is available separately. Groove Music is free to trial for 30 days.

Microsoft Releases New Windows 10 Mobile Preview

Sep 14, 2015, 6:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made a new version of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview available to Windows Insiders. The fresh operating system, build 10536, contains a wide array of bug fixes and performance tweaks, as well as a handful of new features. For example, build 10536 brings back the Insider Hub and mobile hotspot; updates voice input with support for Japanese and Indian English; resolves two-factor authentication issues and Start screen load problems; and fixes the quiet hours / do not disturb function. The photos app adds a folder view and brings faster photo viewing and context menus. Last, the build brings one-handed mode to phones of all sizes (not just large handsets). Microsoft warns that there are still a number of bugs plaguing the preview. For example, the camera app may no longer automatically upload images to OneDrive. Otherwise, Microsoft is pitching build 10536 as a much more stable and complete rendition of the operating system. The Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview is available to Windows Insiders in the Fast Ring. Users will need to update their devices twice — first to Build 10514, then to Build 10536 — before the new preview is fully installed. Microsoft has yet to say when it will make a final version of Windows 10 Mobile available to the general public, though it has scheduled a media event in New York City on Oct. 6. It is possible Microsoft will share such details during that event.

Alcatel to Build Windows 10 Handset By Year's End

Sep 11, 2015, 7:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel OneTouch said it will release a smartphone with Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile platform before the end of the year. "We are very supportive of the Windows ecosystem," said Steve Cistulli, Alcatel OneTouch's senior vice president for North America, to CNET. Cistulli did not provide any details about the phone, other than to say it will be inexpensive and sold through at least one U.S. carrier. Microsoft has yet to launch Windows 10 Mobile.

Microsoft Still Working Through Windows 10 Mobile Builds

Sep 9, 2015, 2:12 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said new builds of the Windows 10 Mobile Technical Preview are on the way, even if they are rolling out slower than the company hoped. In a blog post, Microsoft explains that it encountered several large issues that forced it to reset its approval process three times over the past several weeks. The issues were significant enough that they would have impacted daily usability of the preview. Now that it has resolved the three issues, Microsoft said it is moving toward finalizing a new build that it should be able to distribute before too long. Windows 10 Mobile is widely expected to arrive in the next few weeks. Microsoft didn't say if the issues have pushed back the anticipated launch date of the mobile operating system.

Microsoft Adds Disney Anywhere Content to Movies & TV

Sep 8, 2015, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a new partnership with Disney that adds content from the Disney Movies Anywhere service to Microsoft's Movies & TV video service. Microsoft says users who connect their Microsoft Movies & TV account with a Disney Movies Anywhere account will automatically see content cross-populate their libraries. All content will be viewable via the Movies & TV app on Windows Phone handsets, in addition to Windows 10 PCs and the Xbox. Similarly, movie purchases made via Microsoft Movies & TV will automatically be made available through Disney Movies Anywhere, allowing users to view the content (Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars) across multiple devices in whichever app they prefer. For example, users will be able to start a movie on one device and finish watching it on another, or download for offline viewing. Microsoft said users who marry their Microsoft Movies & TV and Disney Movies Anywhere accounts will receive a free copy of Monsters, Inc.

Amazon, Google, Microsoft Working On Open Media Formats

Sep 4, 2015, 3:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A handful of tech companies this week launched the Alliance for Open Media with the intent of creating an open standard for high definition video that will be compatible with all devices across the web. The companies hope to field next-generation codecs that are interoperate and open, optimized for the web, and scalable to any device at any bandwidth. They also hope the video codec will deliver consistent performance in real-time, while having a low computational footprint that is flexible for commercial and non-commercial use. The Alliance for Open Media is working on a video standard first, but will target other standards, such as audio, over time. Founding members include Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix. The alliance will use its" collective technology and expertise to meet growing internet demand for top-quality video, audio, imagery and streaming across devices of all kinds and for users worldwide." The alliance said it will provide more information about itself and its goals later this year.

Microsoft Avoids Import Ban in InterDigital Case

Aug 29, 2015, 9:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft escaped what could have been a harmful ban on its devices as the U.S. International Trade Commission decided not to block the import of Microsoft's smartphones into the U.S. Microsoft lost a patent case against InterDigital in April when it was found to be infringing on two patents. The individual trade judge who reached that decision recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. The full ITC panel rejected that judge's decision on Friday, however, which means Microsoft will continue to be allowed to bring its handsets into the U.S. Microsoft expressed relief at the decision, while InterDigital voiced disappointment. Earlier this month, Microsoft filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, claiming the company charges exorbitant fees for standard-essential patents. Such patents must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discrimonatory rates. InterDigital is a patent-holding company and has had mixed success in suing companies such as Samsung, ZTE, and Huawei.

Facebook Testing Messenger-Based Personal Assistant

Aug 26, 2015, 1:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 26, 2015, 1:22 PM

Facebook is trialling a smart personal assistant that will live inside its Messenger application and complete various tasks for users. For now, the assistant is called Facebook M and Facebook claims it will be superior to competing products. "Unlike other AI-based services in the market, M can actually complete tasks on your behalf," explained Facebook VP David Marcus. "It can purchase items, get gifts delivered to your loved ones, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and way more." Facebook is testing M with a small number of people the Los Angeles area and, for now, its most complicated tasks will be overseen by real people. Facebook didn't say if or when it will expand testing to more users, nor when it will launch the product to everyone. M will join a crowded market of virtual assistants, which already includes Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google's Now, and Microsoft's Cortana.

Microsoft Trots Out Nokia 222 Feature Phone

Aug 25, 2015, 7:05 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced the Nokia 222, a bar-style feature phone that runs Nokia Series 30+ and includes only the most essential functions. The Nokia 222's core apps include MSN Weather, Bing Search, Opera Mini, as well as Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Twitter. The device has a 2.4-inch QVGA display, an 1,100mAh battery, and a 2-megapixel camera. Other features include Bluetooth 3.0, stereo headphone jack and FM radio, support for 32GB memory cards, and SLAM photo-sharing technology. The Nokia 222 goes on sale in September and will cost about $37. Based on its limited dual-band 900/1800MHz GSM/EDGE support, the phone will likely not be sold in the U.S.

Microsoft Releases Cortana for Android in Beta Form

Aug 24, 2015, 11:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made its Cortana voice-activated personal assistant available to Android users via the Google Play Store beta channel. The app had previously only been available through a closed beta, but is now accessible through an open beta program. Cortana for Android can be used to track flights and other calendar appointments, set reminders and alarms, and monitor packages. Cortana can also supplant Google Now on Android handsets if users so wish. Cortana beta testers can set Cortana to launch with a long press of the home button, which makes it easier to use Cortana on Android phones. Cortana testers will still be able to interact with and launch Google Now on their handsets via other actions. Cortana for Android is free to download from Microsoft's beta site in the Google Play Store. Microsoft is still working to bring Cortana to iOS devices.

Microsoft to Close Nokia Finnish Phone Production Site

Aug 21, 2015, 7:54 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today confirmed it plans to fully close a facility in Salo, Finland, that was formerly used to create and produce mobile phones. Microsoft will leave the Nokia facilities in Espoo and Tampere open, but plans to cut about 2,300 jobs in Finland in total. Last month, Microsoft announced plans to slice 7,800 people from its headcount, including most of the phone hardware business it purchased from Nokia.

Microsoft Accuses InterDigital of Antitrust Behavior

Aug 21, 2015, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has filed an antitrust lawsuit against InterDigital, a patent-licensing firm, for charging exorbitant rates to license standard-essential patents. The two companies have been embroiled in patent litigation for years. Earlier this year, Microsoft was found by the U.S. ITC to be violating two wireless patents owned by InterDigital. The judge in that case recommended Microsoft's handsets be banned from import. Microsoft says InterDigital is using this potential import ban as a bargaining chip to jack up licensing rates. Patents deemed essential must be licensed at fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory rates. Microsoft charges that InterDigital's "abusive licensing practices" violate federal antitrust law. InterDigital has taken ZTE, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and others to court over patents with mixed success.

Bing for Android Can Better Search Through Other Apps

Aug 20, 2015, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 20, 2015, 9:12 AM

Microsoft today updated its Bing Search app for Android devices and gave it the ability to perform searches from within other applications. The feature, called Bing snapshots, scouts things mentioned on any given page and provides relevant information about them in snapshots. Users need only long-press the home button when surfing the web or browsing Facebook and Bing will automatically search the current screen for details for display. It works similar to Google's forthcoming Google Now On Tap feature in that it is contextually aware. In addition to the updated app, Microsoft is making a new Bing API available to developers so they can integrate the search functionality into their own apps. Bing for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.

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