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Microsoft's New Unified Office App Available in Public Preview

Nov 4, 2019, 11:50 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft has released a public preview of its new, completely revamped Office app for Android and iOS. A single Office app replaces the previously separate Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps. It also includes the previously-announced features that let users take a photo of a document to create an editable Word document, and use the camera to import table data directly into Excel. It includes dedicated sections for non-Office documents: PDF, Media, and Notes. An Actions panel makes it easy to transfer files between phone and computer, or with nearby phones. It also includes shortcuts to create PDFs and add signatures to them. Anyone can try out the public preview, but it requires extra steps of enrolling in the testing program, a process that requires joining a group for Android, or using TestFlight for iOS.


Streaming Game Services Launching

Oct 15, 2019, 9:24 AM   by Rich Brome   updated Oct 15, 2019, 9:38 AM

Google today announced that its Stadia game-streaming service will launch on November 19th. Separately, Microsoft has formally launched a public preview of its xCloud game streaming service, starting with Android.


Microsoft Previews Dual-Screen Surface Duo Running Android

Oct 2, 2019, 10:47 AM   by Rich Brome

The Microsoft Surface Duo is a unique dual-screen device running Android that functions as a foldable tablet and mini version of the company's just-announced Surface Neo. Its dual 5.6-inch displays are joined by a 360-degree hinge that lets it fold with the displays facing either in or out. When folded, it's far wider than most phones, making it a slightly distinct category of device. It can run two apps side-by-side, use the second display as a keyboard, or function like one unified tablet. It won't be available until fall 2020.


Surface Earbuds are Microsoft's Stab at True Wireless Bluetooth

Oct 2, 2019, 10:04 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft's new Surface Earbuds are true wireless Bluetooth earbuds that promise 24-hour battery life. The buds integrate with Spotify and Microsoft Office. Touch controls on the outside can control Spotify music, or a PowerPoint presentation. They also include voice dictation and translation features. For example, they can add real-time captions of what you're saying to a live PowerPoint presentation, and translate those captions into any one of 60 languages. Surface Earbuds will sell for $250 and be available this fall.


Microsoft App Brings Spam Filter, AI Sorting to Your Text Messages

Aug 19, 2019, 3:30 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft SMS Organizer is an alternative SMS app for Android that includes a configurable spam filter and several smart sorting and filtering features. The app was launched in India last year, but xda-developers discovered that it has now become available in the US, UK, and Australia as well. The app uses machine learning to automatically sort incoming SMS messages into categories such as promotional, transactional and personal. Promotional messages are considered spam; they won't trigger a notification and can be deleted automatically after a configurable amount of time. The apps also detects and helps organize info received by text about travel, tickets, and bills. The app can also backup and restore messages from Google Drive. The app is available now, for free, from the Google Play Store.


Skype Launches Screen Sharing

Jun 5, 2019, 9:40 AM   by Rich Brome

The Skype app for iOS and Android now supports screen-sharing in video calls. Microsoft announced the launch of the feature this week, after making it available to beta testers a few weeks ago. The feature lets you share whatever is on your phone's screen, including other apps, with the person on the other end of the video call. Skype also tweaked its video call interface with a new design and the ability to hide all controls during a call.


Minecraft + AR + The World = Minecraft Earth

May 17, 2019, 8:41 AM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft is working on a new Minecraft game for phones that uses AR to overlay Minecraft as a persistent, massively multiplayer game over the whole planet. Players will be able to build with Minecraft blocks anywhere in public. Players will be able to see avatars of other players and collaborate. Adventure challenges will pop up in the game, with rewards like treasure and rare blocks. Microsoft says it will kick off a closed beta of Minecraft Earth this summer on iOS and Android. Microsoft is also starting with select locations before eventually expanding the game to be truly global.


Microsoft Brings Android Notifications to Windows Desktop

Apr 29, 2019, 9:56 AM   by Rich Brome

A preview version of Windows extends notifications from your Android phone to your Windows desktop. Notifications on the phone are mirrored as Windows notifications in real time, and notifications dismissed in Windows are also dismissed on the phone. The feature is a new part of Windows' Your Phone app, which also lets users sync photos and messages, and can mirror the whole phone interface in a window within Windows.


Google Lookout Describes What it Sees to the Visually Impaired

Mar 13, 2019, 12:00 PM   by Rich Brome

Google Lookout is a free app that uses AI to identify things it sees through the phone's camera and describe it to a visually-impaired user. The company announced this week that the app is available now for English speakers in the US with a Google Pixel phone. The app has three modes: Explore, for exploring new spaces and dealing with typical office, home, and cooking tasks; Shopping, which reads bar codes, prices, and physical currency; and Quick Read, which reads text from mail, signs, and labels. The app is designed to be used with the phone held in hand, or hung on a neck lanyard. Microsoft already offers a similar app called Seeing AI, and recently updated it to include haptic feedback.


Microsoft Excel Can Now Import Table Data Using Camera

Mar 1, 2019, 12:05 PM   by Rich Brome

Excel for phones now lets users import table data directly into spreadsheets from a photo taken with the phone's camera. Microsoft announced the feature last September. It's rolling out now for the Android version of the app, "with iOS support coming soon". The feature lets users take a new photo from within the app, or import an image already on the phone. They can then crop to the table, then review the import for errors in a split-screen mode.


Microsoft: Windows 10 Mobile Users Should Switch by End of Year

Jan 18, 2019, 12:25 PM   by Rich Brome

Microsoft will end support for its Windows 10 Mobile smartphone OS on December 10 2019, and is encouraging people still using Windows 10 Mobile phones to switch to Android or iOS phones. Microsoft is now focusing on those platforms and offers a suite of its own apps for both platforms. After December 10th, Microsoft will no longer offer free security updates for any version of Windows Mobile, making the continued use of Windows phones a security risk. The cutoff for the Lumia 640 and 640 XL phones is sooner: June 11th. "After the end of support, automatic or manual creation of new device backups for settings and some applications will continue for 3 months, ending March 10, 2020. Some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support."


Microsoft Redesigns Outlook for iOS to Help Speed Users' Tasks

Dec 5, 2018, 12:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today revealed a wholly redesigned version of Outlook Mobile for iOS devices. Not only did Microsoft give the app a fresh coat of paint, it tweaked many of the tap and swipe actions to help speed up and simplify users' daily routines. For example, when users swipe left or right on an email they'll see changes in color and shape, as well as experience haptic feedback to make it more obvious what action is taking place. Microsoft has animated the calendar icon, which now fans forward or backward as people scroll their agenda, and the app now calls out calendar conflicts more visually. Microsoft has changed the color of the app, which is a bolder shade of blue across the inbox and calendar. Microsoft says this helps people visually identify apps faster as they swipe through the iOS app picker. Microsoft has embraced the native font and typography of iOS, giving the app a look that's more in line with those from Apple. Other changes impact the mechanics of the app, such as the Focused Inbox toggle and message list filtering, which now help people focus on content and account details. The app continues to support multiple accounts, and will now call them out visually with personalized avatars. These are meant to instantly alert the user as to which account they have accessed. Similarly, Outlook adds new avatars for contacts to aid in visibility. The new Microsoft Outlook Mobile for iOS is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Rolls Out Refreshed Cortana App for iOS

Nov 14, 2018, 5:33 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today dropped a rebuilt version of Cortana for iOS devices. Cortana is similar to Siri in that it can perform actions based on voice requests. Microsoft says the new Cortana is less robotic and more conversational. This helps interactions feel more natural. The app can be used to set up and manage Cortana devices, listen to music and podcasts on the go, and stay on top of tasks, reminders, and to-dos. Cortana for iOS also integrates with other Microsoft services more tightly, such as Skype and Teams, email and calendar. Cortana is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Asus' ROG Phone Now Available for Preorder

Oct 19, 2018, 1:02 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Asus has made its ROG gaming phone available to U.S. consumers. The device is available online from Asus, Amazon, and Microsoft. The 128 GB version costs $899 and the 512 GB version costs $1,099. The company says the phone will start to ship during the last week of October. The ROG Phone has a Snapdragon 845 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and an Adreno 630 GPU. Asus gave the phone a vented copper cooling panel in order to control thermals. The device includes a 6-inch, full HD+ AMOLED screen with a 90 Hz refresh rate, as well as a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, and a discrete imaging chip for HDR playback. Other features include 24-bit stereo speakers, DTS Headphone with 7.1 virtual surround, a 4,000mAh battery, and a 12-megapixel camera. Asus will make a number of accessories available for the phone, including a dock, case, and game controller, later this year.


Microsoft's SwiftKey for Android Will Translate As You Type

Sep 27, 2018, 12:44 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its SwiftKey keyboard application for Android devices can provide real-time translations between more than 60 languages as users compose their message. This is made possible by the introduction of Microsoft Translator, which uses artificial intelligence to predict words and phrases as people type. "We wanted to make it really easy for users to be able to translate as they type and to be able to translate incoming messages," said Colleen Hall, senior product manager for SwiftKey, in a blog post. Microsoft believes the real-time translation feature will be helpful when people message friends, family, or colleagues who speak different languages. By integrating the tool directly into the keyboard, people no longer need to leave the messaging app when they want to translate languages. Moreover, the app will remember users' preferences for language pairs so people don't have to scan the entire list each time. Microsoft says the translation feature can work when offline as long as the Microsoft Translator app and accompanying language packs are also installed on the device. SwiftKey for Android is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Microsoft Asks Developers to Sunset their Windows Phone 8 Apps

Aug 20, 2018, 11:17 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said that it will soon cease accepting new apps for Windows Phone 8.x or 8/8.1. Microsoft will stop taking in new Windows Phone 8.x and 8/8.1 apps on October 31 of this year. Microsoft will stop pushing updates to apps for Windows Phone 8.x starting July 1, 2019, and will stop pushing updates to apps for Windows Phone 8/8.1 on July 1, 2023. Microsoft asks developers to consider updating to the Windows 10 platform. "We encourage you to explore how you can port your existing app to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) where you can create a single Windows 10 app package that your customers can install onto all device families." Windows Phone 8 has been discontinued for some time. Microsoft has also stopped making new Windows Mobile 10 phones. Some of these devices remain in use, however, and are still receiving support from Microsoft.


Microsoft Feeds Its Android Launcher Some Oreo

Aug 2, 2018, 12:52 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has updated its launcher for Android phones. Version 4.12 of the app adds full support for Android 8 Oreo, while it also removes support for older Android platforms, 4.0.x and 4.1. With Oreo, the app adds folder and app icon gestures for swiping to interact with apps. Other changes include more control over the last row of the dock, and alphabetical sorting of apps within folders. Further, parents can turn on web filters via the Family card. Improvements to the user interface include animation adjustments, blur effects, and app badges in the app drawer. The Microsoft launcher is free to download from the Google Play Store.


Google Improves Calendar with ‘Propose New Time’ Function

Jul 30, 2018, 9:16 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today made it slightly easier to schedule meetings in Google Calendar. As invitations arrive, invitees can respond by clicking the usual “yes,” “no,” and “maybe” buttons, or select the new “propose a new time” option. In businesses where people are allowed to view one another’s calendars, they’ll be able to match up schedules for a time that works for everyone. Guests can then send the new proposed time back to the original sender with a message. Google says this feature is available across domains and with Microsoft Exchange. This feature is available on the web now, and will reach mobile devices August 13.


Facebook, Google, Microsoft to Make It Easier to Port Data Between Services

Jul 20, 2018, 7:35 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Facebook and partners today announced the Data Transfer Project, an initiate with the goal of giving people more control over their data. The companies are working together to create an open source method that people can use to easily transfer their data from one service to another. For example, the tool would make it possible for a Google Photos uses to swap their image library to Microsoft OneDrive and any other provider. The Data Transfer Project hopes to do this in a way that is simple, secure, and supported by as many services as possible. While Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter are the first to lend support, the initiative is open to all companies. "If a user wants to switch to another product or service because they think it is better, they should be able to do so as easily as possible. This concept of allowing users to choose products and services based on choice, rather than being locked in, helps drive innovation and facilitates competition," said the companies in their white paper. The participants admit it is early days for the project and they haven't said when the DTP might be available to the public. Consumers often choose an ecosystem — Android, iOS, macOS, Windows, et al — when buying hardware. The DTP could make it simpler for people to change ecosystems when upgrading to new devices.


Bing Gains Visual Search Tool

Jun 22, 2018, 7:32 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft this week rolled out an update to its Bing search engine that lets people perform searches based on things they see in the real world. The visual search function works similarly to Google Lens. Bing users can take a snapshot of a landmark, or plant, or animal and then search based on the image. Microsoft says it will identify the object and provide information about it along with links to learn more. Microsoft says the app also allows people to shop from image searches if they wish. The new visual search function is available within the Bing search app on Android and iOS, as well as via the Edge browser on Android. Visual search will reach the Edge browser on iOS in the weeks ahead.


Unicode 11 with Dozens of New Emoji Arrives June 5

Jun 1, 2018, 11:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

New emoji are coming to a phone near you, eventually. Unicode 11.0, which was finalized in February, will be released on June 5, according to Emojipedia. Some of the new options will let men and women emoji select from various hair styles (including red-haired and bald), while new hero and villain styles support new gender and skin tone options. There are new colors available for leg, foot, bone, and tooth emoji; new animals such as badgers, swans, peacocks, and llamas; new food such as mangos, leafy greens, and moon cakes; and many new places, activities, games, objects, and symbols. Support for Unicode 11.0 will be gradual. For example, Twitter, Facebook and Microsoft are expected to adopt Unicode 11.0 between June and August, while Google and Apple likely won't add Unicode 11.0 to Android and iOS, respectively, until September or October. Phone makers such as Samsung may not adopt Unicode 11.0 until January or February of next year.


Microsoft Puts Android and iOS Groove Music Apps to Pasture

May 31, 2018, 12:53 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft says Android and iOS users of its Groove Music mobile apps will soon need to find another way to listen to their tunes. "We're notifying customers that on December 1, 2018, the Groove Music iOS and Android apps will also be retired and, effective June 1, are no longer available for download," said Microsoft in a statement provided to The Verge. Though Microsoft retired the Groove Music streaming service last year, it kept the app up and running so people could access their music. Microsoft indicated that users' music files stored in OneDrive will still be accessible, but not via the Groove Music app.


Microsoft Adds Parental Controls to Android Launcher and Edge

May 31, 2018, 12:39 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today introduced new tools for parents that can help them manage their kids' use of mobile devices. The Microsoft Launcher for Android phones now includes location history so parents can see their children's last known location with a time stamp. The Launcher also gains the ability to let parents view app activity. Parents can see which apps are accessed at what time and for how long they are used. The Microsoft Edge browser for Android devices now gives parents the ability to allow or block web sites. Parents will have to set up a family group in order to control these tools. Microsoft says parents can also check usage on Windows 10 PCs and Xbox One consoles. The updates to Microsoft Launcher and the Edge browser will begin rolling out today.


Microsoft to Connect Windows 10 PCs to Your Text Messages

May 7, 2018, 6:49 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today announced several new mobile initiatives that pair its own Windows platform with Android and iOS devices. First is a new tool, tentatively called Your Phone, that connects Android and iOS devices with a Windows 10 PC in order to access text messages, photos, and notifications. People will be able to perform actions such as drag-and-drop photos from their phone directly to their PC. Microsoft said this will be available via the Windows Insider Program for testing in the near future. Microsoft has also updated its Microsoft Launcher app for Android devices, specifically with business customers in mind. Launcher will fall under full control of the IT department and will support business applications via Microsoft InTune. Businesses will be able to use the Launcher to control which apps are made available to employees. Last, the new Timeline tool helps people move their work flow from one device to another seamlessly. In other words, employees working in Word on their Android device will be able to pick up where they left off on a Windows 10 PC. Timeline will be available via the Microsoft Launcher on Android phones and through the Microsoft Edge browser on the iPhone and iPad. Microsoft said all these tools and features will be available in the near future.


Microsoft's AI-Powered Translator App Now Works Offline

Apr 19, 2018, 8:14 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its Microsoft Translator application can now function when offline. End users will need to download free AI-powered packs for the language of their choice ahead of time. Once downloaded, the Translator is able to take advantage of Microsoft's neural translation technology without a network connection. The AI-powered offline language packs are available to Microsoft Translator for Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire devices. Beyond the end-user features, Microsoft is allowing developers to integrate online and offline AI-based text translations into their own apps. This would let, for example, camera applications translate text in real time even with the phone is offline. Developers can find the new tools on Microsoft's developer web site. Microsoft Translator is free to download from the Google Play Store, iTunes App Store, and Amazon Appstore.


BlackBerry and Microsoft Partner On Mobile Services

Mar 20, 2018, 8:02 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

BlackBerry and Microsoft announced a new partnership that will see the two deliver mobile software and services to businesses customers. A new solution, called BlackBerry Bridge, lets business users access Microsoft mobile apps from within BackBerry Dynamics. This means corporate employees will have the same experience opening, editing, and saving Microsoft Office documents on any Android or iOS device. It gives mobile workers a secure way to access their files that are immediately backed up in Microsoft's cloud. Microsoft says the partnership also brings new powers to the IT department, which will better be able to secure company data and maintain privacy while remaining compliant with regulatory statutes. In order to make this work, the companies have integrated BlackBerry UEM Cloud, Workspaces, Dynamics, and AtHoc into the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Microsoft and BlackBerry didn't specify how quickly these new services will be available to their customers.


Microsoft Selling Customized Variants of Samsung Galaxy S9

Mar 9, 2018, 12:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft has added the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ to its online store. The devices are pre-configured with Microsoft apps and services. "A Microsoft customization is applied to the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+ Microsoft Edition when the devices are unboxed and connected to WiFi," explained Microsoft. When users first boot the device, they will be prompted to download Microsoft apps such as Office, Outlook, OneDrive, Cortana, and Microsoft's launcher for Android. Other than the software, the specs and features of the S9 and S9+ are unchanged from other versions of the phone. When purchased from Microsoft, the S9 and S9+ are unlocked. The S9 costs $720 and the S9+ costs $840.


Microsoft Says It Optimized Skype for Older, Slower Android Devices

Mar 5, 2018, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   updated Mar 5, 2018, 9:03 AM

Microsoft recently released an updated version of Skype for Android meant for older smartphones. Specifically, this down-tuned variant of Skype is intended for Android devices running 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich to 5.1 Lollipop. Microsoft says Skype for these phones uses less memory and less storage, allowing the app to run faster while also improving audio and video quality even in challenging network conditions. Microsoft is rolling out this update worldwide over the next few weeks. Those who want to download the app immediately can do so via the Skype Insiders Program. Skype is free from the Google Play Store.


FTC Wants Mobile Industry to Be Better At Security Updates

Feb 28, 2018, 11:50 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

The current state of mobile device security patches is lacking, according to a new report issued today by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC studied how Apple, BlackBerry, Google, HTC, LG, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung support their devices over time. "Our report found significant differences in how the industry deploys security updates and that more needs to be done to make it easier for consumers to ensure their devices are secure," said Acting Director Tom Pahl. The agency notes that many devices are updated infrequently, if at all, and that manufacturers often fail to deliver on promises. It wants phone makers and carriers to improve the situation. The agency suggested each does a better job of explaining mobile device security to consumers (i.e., make it clear to them that the updates are important and worth installing). The FTC also recommended that phone makers consider issuing security patches as stand-alone updates, rather than bundled with general OS upgrades. The FTC noted that companies that make their own operating system, in this case, Apple and Google, are often better at providing timely updates for a longer period of time. The FTC is calling for members of the mobile industry to find a way to bring clarity to consumers and more rapid security updates.


Intel Targeting 2019 5G Launch in Phones and PCs

Feb 22, 2018, 9:00 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Intel today announced a range of efforts in the 5G space, including its timeline for bringing new Intel-powered 5G devices to market. The company says it has been developing 5G technology for some now, including virtualized network functionality and software defined networks. It is relying on the 3GPP 5G NR spec and is working with vendors and partners to create an ecosystem of products to support 5G as it rolls out. One of the primary pieces of the 5G puzzle is Intel's recently announced Xeon D-2100 system-on-a-chip (SoC) processor. It can handle intensive compute and network workloads demanded by 5G at the network edge. Further, Intel has partnered with China's Unigroup Spreadtrum and will pair a Spreadtrum processor with its own XMM 8000 5G modem. Intel expects to see phones packing the combined Spreadtrum/Intel SoC during the second half of 2019. PCs with embedded 5G are on the horizon, too. PC makers Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Microsoft all plan to enable their mobile computers to support 5G connections with the Intel XMM 8060 modem. Intel and its partners will have some concepts on display at the forthcoming Mobile World Congress trade show. They also expect to bring these concepts to market during the second half of 2019.


Microsoft Disabling Notifications for Windows Phone 7.5 and 8

Feb 19, 2018, 11:01 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft says devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and 8.0 have reached end-of-life status and will no longer be supported. Beginning February 20, Microsoft will turn off push notification services for Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0. This means devices running those platforms will no longer receive notifications, will not receive live tile updates, and will not be able to use Find My Phone to locate the device. Microsoft says Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile remain fully supported for the time being. Devices running Windows Phone 7.5 and Windows Phone 8.0 were originally sold in the 2011 and 2012 timeframe.


Microsoft's New Photos Companion App Acts Like AirDrop, But for Windows PCs

Feb 15, 2018, 9:57 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft's garage team has released a new application that lets Android and iOS users easily transfer photos from their phone to their Windows 10 PC. Photos Companion works in coordination with the Microsoft Photos app on Windows 10 PCs. As long as the iPhone or Android device is on the same network as the PC, users can transfer photos and videos directly from the phone to the computer over WiFi. The app makes use of a QR code in Microsoft Photos on the PC that users scan with the Photos Companion app to initiate the transfer. Photos Companion is free to download from the Google Play Store and the iTunes App Store.


Google Drive Lets Users More Easily Comment on Microsoft Office Files

Feb 7, 2018, 2:18 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Google today improved Google Drive's compatibility with Microsoft Office documents. Drive users can now comment directly on more file types, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDFs, and images without first converting them to Docs, Sheets, or Slides. The commenting system for Office documents functions much the same as it already does for Google Docs. Google explained that the Drive preview pane lets people "comment, assign tasks, or mention coworkers and the people you work can reply back, even if they’re not using G Suite." Google continues to offer its Drive plug-in for Outlook to make it easier to insert files stored in Drive to an Outlook email or vice versa. As always, Drive users can fully convert Office documents to Docs, Sheets, or Slides if they wish. Google said the new Office integration is coming to all users over the next few weeks.


Qualcomm Intros Smart Speaker Platform for Amazon, Google, Microsoft

Jan 8, 2018, 6:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm's Smart Audio Platform now supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana. The idea is to make it easier for hardware makers to add voice assistant features to their devices, such as smart speakers and other smart home gear. The platform will reduce the time and development cost to bring such functions to various designs for in-home use. In addition to Google Assistant, the Smart Audio Platform includes support for Android Things, Google Cast for audio. and other Google services. "The integrated platform is designed to bring together a unique combination of processing capability, connectivity options, voice user interfaces and premium audio technologies to help meet increasing consumer demand for comprehensively featured, highly intuitive smart speakers," said Qualcomm. The Smart Audio Platform is powered by a quad-core ARM A53 processor and includes Qualcomm's Hexagon Audio DSP, WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy with aptX and aptX HD, audio playback for various codecs, far-field microphones, beam forming, echo cancellation, and noise suppression. The Qualcomm Smart Audio Platform with support for Amazon Alexa is already in production, while the Smart Audio Platform for Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana is expected to be generally available in the first half of 2018.


Qualcomm's Latest Bluetooth Module Targets Voice Assistants

Jan 8, 2018, 6:00 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Qualcomm today announced the Low Power Bluetooth SoC QCC5100 Series module for wearables and hearables. The SoC is meant to empower small form factor hardware by reducing power requirements and adding advanced features at the same time. The module runs on a dual-core, 32-bit processor with Qualcomm's Kalimba DSP Audio subsystem. It supports high-fidelity music and call playback with aptX, aptX HD, Qualcomm TrueWireless Stereo (for fully wireless earbuds), and enhanced active noise cancellation. Moreover, it bakes in support for voice assistant services from Amazon (Alexa), Google (Assistant), and Microsoft (Cortana) with low-power wake word detection. Other specs include Bluetooth 5.0 and 2 Mbps Bluetooth Low Energy support, embedded memory and storage for music, integrated amplifier, and developer tools for hardware makers to put to work in their designs. Qualcomm claims the SoC is very efficient, reducing power consumption by 65% for voice calls and music streaming. Qualcomm expects designs based on the QCC5100 Series will reach the market during the first half of the year.


Internet Association to Fight FCC's Net Neutrality Repeal

Jan 6, 2018, 5:16 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

The Internet Association plans to fight the FCC's attempt to repeal net neutrality. The FCC this week published the final version of its Report & Order to sack the Obama-era laws that govern the internet. The FCC seeks to reclassify broadband internet under Title I of the Communications Act as a private service, rather than as a utility under Title II. The FCC also plans to ditch the bright-line rules that prohibit throttling, blocking, and prioritization. In response, the Internet Association said, "The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers. This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet. IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution." Members of IA include internet giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, Spotify, eBay, Twitter, Pandora, PayPal, and others.


Microsoft's Pix Camera App for iOS Can Now Capture Mega-Panoramas

Dec 20, 2017, 1:34 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today updated its Pix camera application or iOS devices and added several new and fun tools. First up is a function called Photosynth, which lets iPhone owners create much wider and taller panorama photos. It provides faster and smoother capture, and uses Pix's auto-enhancement capabilities to improve white balance, tone, and focus in real time. Microsoft ways the tool borrows code from its old stand-alone Photosynth app. The second tool is called Pix Comix and will automatically create comic book-style collages from video clips. Microsoft says its algorithms can identify and assemble the most interesting frames in any given video to paste together a comic strip. Pix Comix specifically seeks out three frames that offer sharp focus, open eyes, and interesting composition. People can then add speech bubbles, as well as rotate and arrange the comic strip to suit their preferences. Microsoft Pix for the iPhone is free to download from the iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Edge for Android and iOS Now Available to All

Nov 30, 2017, 10:45 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today said its Edge browser for Android and iOS has exited preview and is now available as a final, public application. Microsoft Edge for mobile devices ports over popular desktop features, include Favorites, Reading List, New Tab Page, and Reading View. It can sync bookmarks and browser history with the desktop and includes a built-in QR code reader. This final version of the app adds Roaming Passwords, which allow you to save passwords on one device and sync them to others, such as from a phone to a PC and vice versa. The browser also gains a dark theme. Microsoft Edge is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Skype Now Lets You Dress Up Your Photos with Stickers and Effects

Nov 9, 2017, 8:49 AM   by Eric M. Zeman

Skype has updated its mobile app with new tools for customizing pictures similar to Instagram and Snapchat. The photo effects include face stickers, captions, celebrity lookalikes, location and weather, and face swaps for adding a dash of whimsy to shared images. A "magic wand" button appears on the screen after users snap a photo and provides access to the effects tools. Photos can then be shared with friends and family via chat or highlights. Microsoft says the sticker selections will change over time, especially as holidays come and go. The new version of Skype is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


Microsoft Brings Cortana Assistant to Skype for Android and iOS

Oct 9, 2017, 2:54 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Microsoft today ported its Cortana personal assistant to its Skype chatting application, providing people with access to information without forcing them to leave Skype. Microsoft says Cortana in Skype can suggest useful information based on chat contents, suggest smart replies, manage schedules and/or reminders, and more. Beyond the proactive assistant duties, Cortana exists as a Skype contact with which users can have "conversations" to check movie times, the weather, flight status, stock quotes, and restaurant recommendations. Microsoft says it is rolling out Cortana to Skype users in the U.S. gradually beginning today. The personal assistant is available to the Android and iOS versions of Skype. Microsoft today also updated its Outlook mobile email and calendar app for Android and iOS devices with much wider support for varied calendar actions. For example, Android and iOS users will now be able to view and edit shared Office 365 or Outlook.com calendars; manage someone else’s calendar at work; connect your Meetup account to Outlook; and more easily manage events from mobile devices. Outlook for Android and iOS is free to download from the Google Play Store and iTunes App Store.


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