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Microsoft Overhauls Skype, Adds Highlight Reels

Jun 1, 2017, 1:45 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has totally re-envisioned its Skype messaging application and, in the process, made it more like Snapchat and Facebook Messenger. To start, Skype offers more personalization. For example, users can tweak colors and more easily add animated emoji and reaction icons to conversations. The app now supports what Microsoft calls a Highlight Reel, which is a Snapchat Stories-like compilation of videos and photos. Microsoft says people can create Highlights by accessing the in-app camera, or by pulling in content from their phone's photo gallery. People can then react to Highlights or use them as a starting point for a new conversation thread. Bots are headed to Skype, too, via the new Find tab that's built into the app. Users can take advantage of the bot-enabled search tool to find concert tickets, see what's trending across social networks, and more. Microsoft expects third-party developers (businesses and brands) to create their own add-ins and bots for Skype over time. Skype still supports one-on-one and group conversations, video calls, audio calls, and other legacy features. Microsoft says the new Skype will reach Android devices over the next few weeks with the iPhone to follow in a month or so, and Mac and Windows desktops to follow later this year.


Microsoft Will Help You Ditch Passwords

Apr 19, 2017, 12:25 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has a new tool for Android and iOS device owners to use when signing into Microsoft accounts. The phone sign-in functionality relies on the Microsoft Authenticator. People can add their Microsoft account to either the Android or iOS version of the Microsoft Authenticator mobile app. Then, when signing into a new Microsoft app, people will only have to put in their username. The Authenticator will pop up a notification on users' phones that, once approved, unlocks access to the new app. "This process is easier than standard two-step verification and significantly more secure than only a password, which can be forgotten, phished, or compromised," said Microsoft in a blog post. Microsoft Authenticator is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Microsoft to Sell Customized Versions of Galaxy S8 and S8+

Mar 30, 2017, 10:43 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft will sell the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ in its brick-and-mortar retail stores beginning April 21, reports ZDNet. Microsoft will customize the S8 and S8+ by adding a number of its own apps and services, though Microsoft declined to state exactly which ones. Likely contenders include OneDrive Cortana, Outlook, and MSOffice. "The new device customization is an example of bringing together Microsoft applications on more devices so customers can work, play and connect from their pockets," said Microsoft in a statement provided to ZDNet. Microsoft has preinstalled its software on Samsung handsets in the past. Microsoft will charge the same $750 and $850 retail prices for the S8 and S8+, respectively, as Samsung and other retailers. Microsoft did not say if the customized phones will be sold unlocked.


Samsung DeX Turns Galaxy S8 Into an Android Desktop

Mar 29, 2017, 10:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 29, 2017, 3:38 PM

Samsung today announced DeX, a desktop accessory for the Galaxy S8 and S8+ that allows them to function as computers when attached to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse. DeX is similar in concept to Microsoft's Continuum product. For the S8 and S8+, the DeX includes HDMI, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and cooling functions. The software relies on features baked into Nougat to help scale the Android user interface for desktop screens. It supports full multitasking with moveable windows and runs most standard Android apps. Phone apps, text messaging, and other essential mobile communications will all function normally. DeX and the S8/S8+ support Microsoft Office, with Adobe Lightroom and PhotoShop Express coming soon. A special Samsung browser provides a full desktop internet experience. Pricing and availability of the DeX are to be announced at a later date.


Cortana for Android Now Works On the Lock Screen

Mar 27, 2017, 8:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Android device owners to access and use Cortana above the lock screen on their smartphones. Microsoft has been testing the feature since earlier this year and is now rolling it out to all users. People can swipe on the lock screen to see Cortana's basic information screen as well as ask Cortana questions, set reminders, and view their calendar appointments. These features are all usable without requiring people to unlock their devices. Microsoft also improved Cortana home on Android, which now includes more glanceable information about daily schedules, commute times, reminders, as well as shortcuts to creating reminders and calendar items. Last, Microsoft is making Cortana available to Android and iOS devices in Australia. The new version of Cortana with lock screen access for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Gmail Bolstered with Exchange Tasks

Mar 2, 2017, 6:10 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made its Gmail application for Android devices more useful to those who use Microsoft Exchange services. The latest version of Gmail adds support for Exchange tasks. Gmail can automatically synchronize tasks to/from Exchange, allowing Gmail users to stay on top of their task list. People can create, edit, and flag tasks, as well as set or alter task priorities from within Gmail. The unified task list across Exchange and Gmail means people will be able to check things off their task list from their phone or PC and see things marked as complete on their other devices. Gmail for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Qualcomm Targets IoT Anew with Snapdragon 210 and SoC

Feb 21, 2017, 9:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today revealed two new sets of products design with the Internet of Things in mind. First, the company plans to add support for the Android Things operating system to its Snapdragon 210 processors and X5 LTE modems. Android Things is Google's IoT platform. Qualcomm says the the Snapdragon 210 and X5 combo will be the most powerful processor/modem available to Android Things, allowing developers and hardware makers to design more capable devices and services. Some possible use cases include electronic signage, video monitoring, and asset tracking, as well as smart home assistants and smart appliances. The Snapdragon 210 and X5 SoC for Android Things will be available later this year. Separately, Qualcomm said it is sampling two new SoCs for IoT that combine three radios into a single package. The QCA4020 includes Bluetooth Low Energy 5, Dual-band Wi-Fi, and 802.15.4-based technologies, including ZigBee and Thread. The QCA4024 integrates Bluetooth Low Energy 5 and 802.15.4 tech. These modules will support a wide range of IoT platforms, including Apple's HomeKit, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Open Connectivity Foundation. Qualcomm expects to see them put to use in smart cities, toys, home control and automation, networking, and home entertainment. The QCA4020 and QCA4024 are sampling now and will reach consumer devices later this year,


Skype Douses Android and iOS Apps with Silliness

Feb 17, 2017, 8:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype's mobile app for Android and iOS devices now looks a lot more like Facebook Messenger, based on the preview released by Microsoft this week. In a blog post, Microsoft explained the new features are meant to make conversations more expressive and entertaining. First, Skype adds in-call reactions. These let people add live emoticons, photos, and text to video calls. The integrated camera now supports emoticons, stickers, and annotations. People can respond to any individual message with multiple reactions, such as a thumbs up, sad face, smiley face, or shock. Last, the app adds a new search panel for finding and sharing links, news, sports, points of interest and other data. Microsoft says this negates the need to jump back and forth between apps. Android device owners can download this Skype Preview from the Google Play Store. iPhone owners will need to apply to become a Skype Insider for iOS. If selected, Skype will email a download link to the app. Microsoft hopes those who preview this version of Skype for Android and iOS will offer feedback before the company releases these features to everyone.


Cortana to Help People Follow Up On Email Commitments

Feb 9, 2017, 3:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today improved its Cortana personal assistant, which can now remind people to take care of tasks they've promised to do via email. The tool is available in Microsoft's Office 365 and Outlook.com email services. Cortana will scan emails and when users tell someone they'll complete a specific task (such as file a report) Cortana will automatically suggest a reminder to help people follow through. Microsoft says machine learning is behind the new tool and it will learn from user behavior over time. Moreover, these reminders will automatically be added to the action center so they are visible outside of the email app. Users will need to ensure they are signed into their Microsoft account and have granted Cortana the proper permissions. The tool is being made available to Windows 10 devices first, but Microsoft plans to expand it to Android and iOS in the weeks ahead.


Microsoft's Project Rome SDK to Let Android, Windows Play Nice

Feb 9, 2017, 2:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft this week released the Project Rome SDK, a tool for developers that will let Android devices control Windows devices and vice versa. Once fully enabled, third-party apps will be able to see Android and Windows devices when they are connected to the internet. For example, a Windows PC may see a music app on a connected Android handset and open it remotely. The remote app service lets people not only open, but control apps from afar. For now, the SDK only permit Windows devices to access and run apps on Android devices, but Microsoft expects to make expand the SDK so Android devices can control Windows apps. Developers can download the SDK from Microsoft's developer console.


Microsoft Outlook for iOS Adds Support for Third-Party Apps

Feb 2, 2017, 1:42 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email application for iOS devices and gave the app the ability to support add-ins. Microsoft says add-ins let Outlook users do more with their email thanks to powers enabled by third-party applications. For example, adds-ins will negate the need to leave Outlook to perform certain tasks, such as translate text, insert GIFs, or save items for safekeeping. Some of the launch partners include Evernote, Giphy, Nimble, Trello, and Smartsheet. Microsoft says add-ins are only available when reading emails for now, but it plans to add support for add-ins to the email composing/replying screens before too long. Moreover, add-ins are being made available to Office 365 subscribers first, with Outlook.com users to follow. Add-ins will be added to Outlook for Android at a later date. Microsoft Outlook for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Alcatel Idol 4S with Windows Now Available Unlocked

Jan 17, 2017, 8:59 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Alcatel today made its Idol 4S with Windows 10 smartphone available unlocked from the Microsoft Store. The Windows Idol 4S has a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C. Other features include a wide-angle 8-megapixel selfie camera, 3,000mAh battery, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage, stereo speakers, and a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. The Idol 4S with Windows is compatible with Continuum, which enables it to act like a full PC with the proper accessories. The phone is compatible with the networks run by AT&T and T-Mobile. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 costs $470.


Microsoft and Qualcomm to Bring Windows 10 to ARM-Based Snapdragon Processors

Dec 8, 2016, 8:25 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft and Qualcomm plan to make Windows 10 run on Qualcomm's next-generation, ARM-based Snapdragon processors. The idea is to enable full PC functionality on cellular-connected devices of varying form factors. Qualcomm said its new chips are fully compatible with the Windows 10 ecosystem, and hardware makers can use them to create phones, tablets, and other mobile devices. The companies say new Windows 10 PCs with Snapdragon inside can support x86 Win32 and Universal Windows apps, including titles such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, and even games. Microsoft said these "cellular PCs" will be able to take advantage of eSIM technology, allowing people and businesses to activate and use them on the network of their choice. Microsoft and Qualcomm expect to see the first Snapdragon-based Windows 10 PCs reach the market as early as next year. "With Windows 10 on cellular PCs, we will help everyone make the most of the air around them. We look forward to seeing these new devices with integrated cellular connectivity and the great experiences people love like touch, pen, and Windows Hello," said Microsoft's Terry Myerson.


EU Approves Microsoft's LinkedIn Acquisition

Dec 6, 2016, 2:58 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The European Union today approved Microsoft's proposed $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn. The Union set several conditions in allowing Microsoft to proceed. For one, it must allow other professional networks to link into Office, and must let PC makers choose whether or not to preinstall LinkedIn on their machines. Last, Microsoft must let rival networks access the Microsoft Graph for mining data. The U.S. has already approved the transaction, which can now move forward.


Outlook for iOS Makes Scheduling Meetings Easier

Oct 31, 2016, 9:56 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced an update to its Outlook email app for iOS that should ease the process of scheduling group meetings. A new scheduling assistant built into the app makes it possible to see coworkers' availability when booking new meetings. Users will first need to create an event and set invitees. Outlook will then use color-coded effects to show when invitees are free. Users can drag the time picker around the calendar until it turns green, which signals when all the invitees are available. A few more taps sets the event and sends invites to the other participants. The new tool requires a connection to Office 365 or the latest version of Exchange. Microsoft said this feature will be available to Android and Windows 10 Mobile devices soon. Outlook is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Announces 3D Capture App

Oct 26, 2016, 6:29 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft today announced a new 3D Capture app for phones. Using only the phone's camera, it can capture an object's shape and texture for importing into the new 3D tools available in the new version of Windows 10, dubbed Windows 10 Creators Update. The app will be available soon for Windows 10 Mobile, followed by versions for Android and iOS.


T-Mobile Outs Windows 10 VR Phone From Alcatel

Oct 26, 2016, 9:39 AM   by Rich Brome

T-Mobile today listed the "Alcatel IDOL 4S with Windows 10 VR" on its web site. The unique version of the Idol 4S not only runs Windows 10, but sports many of the upgrades available in the related BlackBerry DTEK60, such as the high-end Snapdragon 820 processor, 21-megapixel camera, and USB Type-C connector, none of which are in the standard Idol 4S. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also includes free VR goggles (for a limited time) for use with "pre-loaded games and videos". Curiously, while the standard Idol 4S includes a Quad-HD display ideal for VR, this version steps down to a full-HD display, according to T-Mobile's specs. The Idol 4S with Windows 10 also supports Windows Continuum, which lets you connect a screen and keyboard to turn the phone into a full Windows 10 computer. Other features of the phone include a memory card slot, stereo speakers, 8-megapixel front camera, and 4 GB of RAM. T-Mobile's specs do not mention NFC. Pricing and release date have yet to be announced. Microsoft is


Microsoft Debuts Skype Sign-In Across Services

Oct 18, 2016, 12:38 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made it possible for Skype users to sign into other Microsoft services with their Skype username and password. For example, people who have Skype credentials will be able to use them to log into Xbox, Office, or OneDrive. Moreover, people will be able to use those services across devices and platforms with this new single sign-in, negating the need to enter separate usernames and passwords for each Microsoft service across their devices. Microsoft is now wholly managing the Skype sign-in screen, password change, and account recovery flow, but none of these changes impact how people access and use Skype. Microsoft says the single sign-in tool will be available in the newest versions of the Skype app across platforms in the days ahead.


Samsung to Buy AI Startup

Oct 5, 2016, 6:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to purchase Viv, an artificial intelligence startup run by the team that originally developed Apple's Siri. Siri's creators left Apple to form Viv, which is based in San Jose. Samsung plans to add Viv's artificial intelligence technology to its own Galaxy smartphones and other consumer electronics products. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Samsung did not explain if Viv will have its own personality, or if it will be baked into Samsung's S Voice app, which is already on its phones. Samsung wants to ensure its devices can compete with the voice-activated personal assistants available on products from Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.


Facebook, Google, Microsoft Team Up to Quell AI Fears

Sep 29, 2016, 7:41 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

A handful of big tech companies have formed a partnership with the goal of keeping people informed about the development of artificial intelligence. Many people already use technology that is aided by AI, and that number will only continue to grow. The group includes Amazon, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, each of which has its own AI tech (such as Alexa, Watson, and Cortana). The primary aim of the Partnership on AI will be to educate the public about the uses of artificial intelligence and calm any fears that AI will take over our lives. The secondary goal will be to ensure that all companies developing AI are using best practices formed by non-business experts such as philosophers and ethicists. Founding members of the coalition are expected to contribute financial and research resources that will be shared among all members. The group has mandated that the board be equally split between corporate members and non-corporate members. "AI technologies hold tremendous potential to improve many aspects of life, ranging from healthcare, education, and manufacturing to home automation and transportation," said the Partnership in a statement. "Through rigorous research, the development of best practices, and an open and transparent dialogue, [we] hope to maximize this potential and ensure it benefits as many people as possible."


Skype for iOS Gains Siri Support

Sep 28, 2016, 10:29 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a new version of Skype for iOS 10 devices that includes support for Siri. Skype users can now initiate Skype calls by asking Siri to connect them. In order for the tool to work well, Skype suggests users save Skype contact information directly to the native contacts app — something that's now possible in the new version of Skype. This should make it easier to start Skype audio/video calls, as well as Skype IM chats, without requiring people to first open the Skype app. Last, Skype for iPhones and iPads makes use of Apple's CallKit, so incoming and outgoing calls now rely on the native iOS phone application. Skype 6.25 for iOS 10 devices is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Adds More Sunrise Features to Outlook Calendar

Sep 13, 2016, 11:24 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Outlook email and calendar app for Android and iOS devices. The refreshed communications and scheduling tool offers a number of new features aimed at the calendar. For example, Outlook now offers design elements borrowed from Sunrise (a calendar app acquired by Microsoft.) The Outlook calendar will show things like coffee cup and bike emoji when people schedule coffee meetings or bike rides. Moreover, Outlook will autocomplete addresses when filling in meeting locations, as well as allow users to tap the time/date on the calendar to create events with those details filled in automatically. Meeting participants will be notified automatically if the organizer adjusts meeting start/end times, and users can create Skype for Business meetings directly from their phone. Last, Outlook will allow people to discover and subscribe to interesting calendars, such as sporting events, holidays, and more. Microsoft's Outlook email and calendar app for iOS and Android is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Microsoft Adds GIF Search to Its iPhone Keyboard

Aug 24, 2016, 7:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard now features a search tool for finding GIFs, images, and emojis. The search functionality also allows iPhone owners to find contacts and look up restaurants. Microsoft says the app includes more predictions, including GIFs, that show up as users type. Word Flow now makes it possible to control the cursor placement with 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. The app gains some accuracy improvements, particularly when in one-handed mode, and support for the iOS text replacement function. Last, Word Flow has even more themes that people can use to customize their keyboard. Word Flow from Microsoft is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Lenovo to Preload Microsoft Apps on Android Phones

Aug 23, 2016, 7:06 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Lenovo has agreed to install Microsoft's core productivity applications on some of its Android-based devices. The apps include Microsoft Office, OneDrive, and Skype. Lenovo said the productivity apps will reach millions of customers over the next few years. The agreement between Lenovo and Microsoft also includes a patent cross-licensing accord, allowing Lenovo to use Microsoft patents on its own devices, as well as those that carry the Motorola brand. Microsoft has patent-licensing agreements in place with most Android device makers. Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed.


AT&T Spearheading Robocall 'Strike Force'

Aug 19, 2016, 9:11 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

AT&T and dozens of other companies are escalating the war on robocalls with a new Strike Force aimed at disrupting spammers' ability to call and pester consumers. AT&T CEO Randal Stephenson says carriers, device makers, OS developers, network designers, regulators, and lawmakers will all need to work together to create a play book to tackle the problem. "In parallel with technological solutions, we need our regulatory and law enforcement agencies to go after the bad actors. Shutting down the bad guys is a necessary step, and a powerful example to others. Our goal isn't complicated: Stop unwanted robocalls. Easy to say. Hard to do," said Stephenson in remarks made at the FCC's first meeting of the Robocall Strike Force. Industry player are gathering today to discuss initial plans and are expected to report back with more solid short- and long-term plans on October 19. Some of the companies participating in the Strike Force include AT&T, Apple, Blackberry, Comcast, Ericsson, Google, LG, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Samsung, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon.


Microsoft Pushing Windows 10 Mobile Anniversary Update

Aug 16, 2016, 1:48 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today made the Windows 10 Anniversary update available to devices running Windows 10 Mobile. The update is the first major improvement to the Windows 10 platform. It adds features and makes improvements to phones such as the Lumia 650, 950, and 950 XL. Some of the changes impact the Edge browser and Maps app. Unlocked devices can snag the update through the settings menu, but carrier-locked phones will need to wait for the carrier-specific update to arrive. The Windows 10 Anniversary update is free to download and install.


New Nokia Phones One Step Closer to Reality

Aug 15, 2016, 8:04 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Aug 15, 2016, 10:03 AM

HMD Global has hired a former Nokia executive to help kickstart its phone ambitions. HMD Global is a Finnish company that licensed the Nokia name with the intent of making Nokia-branded smartphones. Today HMD Global picked up Pekka Rantala, former CEO of Rovio, to serve as its Chief Marketing Officer. Before he worked at Rovio, Rentala spent 17 years at Nokia. HMD Global will design Android-based smartphones and tablets that will be manufactured by FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn. Microsoft sold its feature phone business — the last remnants of Nokia's former hardware unit — to FIH earlier this year. HMD expects to spend $500 million over the next few years to increase its ability to make and market mobile devices. In addition to branding rights, Nokia is supplying HMD with cellular standard essential patent licenses in return for royalty payments, but Nokia itself is not investing in HMD. Nokia continues to focus on its core telecoms business.


Skype Gains More Bots to Help with Travel and Purchases

Aug 4, 2016, 7:21 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated Skype for Android, iOS, Mac, the web, and Windows devices and given the communications tool access to more chat bots. Microsoft says it worked with select partners this time around to bring dedicated services to Skype. A bot from Skyscanner lets Skype users search for flights, while a StubHub bot makes it simpler to find event tickets. A bot from IFTTT can deliver alerts from apps, devices, and web sites, while a Hipmunk bot helps book entire vacation packages. Microsoft updated its bot platform last month with support for group bot chats and info cards. The company says more bots and capabilities are on the way. Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, Apple App Store, and Windows Store.


Starbucks Debuts Brand New Windows 10 Mobile App

Aug 3, 2016, 11:39 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Starbucks today released a new application for Microsoft's Windows 10 Mobile platform. The app, available in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, allows Windows users to find stores, manage account details, and make payments. People can use the app to send e-gifts, check their account balance and transactions, leave digital tips, and track Starbucks rewards. Starbucks for Windows 10 Mobile is free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft to Trim Another 2,850 Employees

Jul 29, 2016, 7:31 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft revealed more job cuts on Thursday as it continues to wind down its mobile phone business. The company plans to reduce headcount by 2,850 employees, primarily in its mobile phone and sales businesses. These cuts are in addition to the 1,850 job eliminations announced in May, also in the phone unit. Microsoft expects to finalize the cuts by the middle of 2017. Windows Phone's presence in the smartphone market has been hovering around 1% for the last few quarters.


Microsoft Develops Camera App for iPhone

Jul 27, 2016, 8:33 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today released a camera app for the iPhone called Microsoft Pix. The app uses artificial intelligence to set parameters such as exposure, aperture, and color in order to get the best possible shot. The app has a long list of features. Microsoft says its AI includes face recognition so it automatically knows when it is photographing people to create better portraits. Pix can shoot regular photos and videos, as well as capture bursts. The app can bracket images, allowing users to pick the best one. Pix includes a GIF creator and timelapse mode, and syncs with the iPhone's camera roll in order to make for easier sharing. Microsoft Pix is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Skype to Drop Support for Older Windows Phone Versions

Jul 20, 2016, 8:55 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Jul 20, 2016, 9:14 AM

Microsoft today said its Skype service will no longer be updated for Windows Phone 7 - 8.1 and older versions of Android and iOS. The company said it wants to "focus on the platforms of the future" which means it "must end support for some devices and operating systems." Skype will continue to support Windows 10 for Mobile, Windows 7, 8, XP, and Vista, Yosemite on Mac, iOS 8, and Android 4.03. Versions of Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android older than those named here will no longer be supported with updates. Skype says its service won't cease immediately on older platforms, but as the company continues to move Skype to the cloud, some features may become broken over time.


Groove Music for Android and iOS Snags Update

Jul 19, 2016, 7:36 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its Groove Music application for Android and iOS devices for the first time since September 2015. Microsoft says the refreshed application offers a number of performance and feature improvements. For example, playback should be more reliable, albums and songs should download faster, and a wider variety of screen sizes and resolutions are supported. The app gains a tool for exploring new releases and popular songs from top artists, as well as new sorting options for viewing music collections. Last, the sign-in process is quicker when using a Microsoft account. Microsoft warns that app will need to rebuild users' libraries from scratch to improve sync. This may take a few moments when the app is first launched. Groove Music is free to download from the iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.


Acer Jade Liquid Primo Hits Microsoft Store

Jul 18, 2016, 2:27 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Acer's Jade Liquid Primo landed in the Microsoft Store today for $649. The device runs Microsoft's Windows 10 platform with Cortana, OneDrive, and Office. The Jade Liquid Primo includes a 5.5-inch full HD screen and is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage. The main camera captures 21-megapixel images and includes a dual-tone LED flash, while the selfie camera shoots 84-degree wide-angle images at 8-megapixels. Other specs include support for memory cards up to 128 GB, 2,870mAh battery, NFC, USB Type-C, GPS, Bluetooth, dual-band WiFi, and a bevy of sensors. The Acer Jade Liquid Primo is available directly from Microsoft's web site, unlocked with support for GSM-based networks (LTE Cat 6), for $649.


Skype Makes Sharing Files Less Painful

Jul 6, 2016, 7:46 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype recently updated its mobile and desktop apps to improve the file-sharing experience. To start, Skype users can now send files up to 300 MB to friends and family through the app. Further, recipients no longer need to be online to receive shared files; the files will be waiting for them next time they log in. (Microsoft suggests people who need to share files larger than 300 MB use OneDrive.) Last, Skype users can now retrieve shared files multiple times. For example, people can download a Word document to their smartphone for editing on the go, and then download it again from the desktop when they get back to the office. Previously, files could only be downloaded to a single device. Skype is free to mobile devices from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Skype for Android Adds Arabic and Hebrew

Jun 29, 2016, 7:27 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype today announced version 7.05 for Android devices, which adds proper support for Arabic and Hebrew. Both languages are written right-to-left, not left-to-right like English or Spanish. Microsoft says Skype 7.05 offers a native right-to-left experience in the app for the first time. Rather than simply mirror its UI for Arabic and Hebrew, Skype recreated every transition animation and optimized its navigation tools to function normally with the two right-to-left languages. Skype 7.05 is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Luna Mobile Licenses Microsoft Patents

Jun 28, 2016, 9:28 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced a new partnership with Luna Mobile, which has agreed to license Microsoft's technology patents for mobile devices. Luna has committed to launching 5 different smartphones this year, ranging in price from $139 to $459. Luna Mobile did not provide any details about the handsets in question, such as what operating system they might run and where they might be sold. The company has several manufacturing partners lined up in China. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Microsoft did say it will receive royalties from Luna. Microsoft has similar patent-licensing agreements with many other phone makers.


Microsoft Wallet Gains Tap-to-Pay Functionality

Jun 21, 2016, 1:07 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Microsoft Wallet app and gave Lumia smartphone owners the ability to make mobile payments at supporting retailers. Windows Mobile has long included a Wallet app, but until today it was reserved for loyalty cards and other retail programs. Now, people can add their credit or debit card to Microsoft Wallet and use the app for tap-and-go purchases. The app is available to the Lumia 950, 950 XL, and 650, and requires Windows Insider build 14360 or higher. The Windows Insider program is free to join and distributes pre-release versions of Windows 10 Mobile that are still in development. Microsoft says the tap-to-pay feature will be expanded to all users running stock builds of Windows 10 Mobile later this summer. Both MasterCard and Visa support Microsoft Wallet, along with financial institutions including Bank of America, Chase Manhattan, People's United Bank, Fifth Third Bank, US Bank, and others. Microsoft says mobile payments should work at any retail terminal that accepts contactless payments. Microsoft Wallet is free to download from the Windows Store.


Microsoft Picks Up Wand to Boost Bots

Jun 16, 2016, 1:05 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said it has acquired Wand Labs, a company that combines human language with machine intelligence. Microsoft said it plans to add Wand Labs' talent to its Bing, Microsoft Azure, Office 365, and Windows platforms. "The Wand team's expertise around semantic ontologies, services mapping, third-party developer integration, and conversational interfaces make them a great fit ... especially with the work we're doing in the area of intelligent agents and chat bots," said David Ku, corporate vice president, Information Platform Group. Wand Labs was founded in 2013 by Vishal Sharma. The acquisition fits the roadmap unveiled earlier this year by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, which will focus on the "conversation as a platform."


Samsung to Buy Cloud Company Joyent

Jun 16, 2016, 7:15 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Samsung today said it has agreed to acquire Joyent, a U.S.-based cloud services provider. Samsung will use Joyent's assets to support various products, including mobile devices, internet of things, and its own cloud-based software. Samsung's competitors, such as Apple and Microsoft, offer cloud services like iCloud and OneDrive to help tie together their respective ecosystems. Joyent will help Samsung fill that gap in its online services. Joyent will continue to operate as a standalone company and will retain its current client base. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions.


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