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Windows Phone 8 Announced

While Microsoft has already made a huge impact this week at the Windows 8 Surface tablet announcement, but hasn’t stopped yet. At Wednesday’s Windows Phone Summit, the all-new Windows NT core found in Windows Phone 8 is the same Windows RT core in Windows 8. Sadly, existing Windows Phone devices like the Nokia Lumia 900 or HTC Titan II won’t be upgradeable to the new OS because the kernel requires specific hardware as well as security functions. Microsoft also announced Windows Phone “7.8”, which will be on the current Windows CE kernel and be offered to existing devices. This means that those devices will get many features of the new operating system, as well as the homescreen redesign. So what does all this mean for consumers?

We’ve already seen the first supposed Windows Phone 8 phones, and from those and all we heard we can draw some conclusions. According to the Verge, these devices from HTC, even the lower-end, all have at least dual-core processors, as well as chips which support NFC and LTE. This means that Windows Phones can be expected to offer superior hardware even in what would be at cheaper entry-level. For more info, check out the Verge’s post.

Below is a comparison of the Start screens of two Nokia Lumia 900 phones, one running Windows Phone 7.5 and the other, right, running 7.8. The difference is significant, and customizability has been seriously revamped. 

Now for the full feature breakdown:

  • DirectX and Direct3D support, Havok Technology Suite (the engine which powers Halo, Assassin’s Creed, and Skyrim) as well as other gaming engines for a powerful gaming experience.
  • C++ native code support. This means developers can access the grassroots of the phone, utilizing all hardware. (This also puts developing potential on the level of other platforms.)
  • NFC support.
  • Multi-core processor support.
  • “Wallet” app offers integration of credit cards, gift cards, coupons, and PayPal, allowing in-app purchases and supporting NFC payments.
  • A variety of new theme colors along with the new Start screen. Live tiles can be made quarter tiles, regular tiles, or double tiles (there aren’t any in the picture).
  • HD Screens including 1280 x 720 (720p) and 1280 x 768 (720p and a higher pixel density) resolutions, as well as current 800 x 480.
  • Over-the-air updates eliminates reliance on a PC.
  • Integrate Skype and VoIP services, as well as developer access to this.
  • Camera API which allows the camera button to be linked to other apps.
  • Device encryption and secure boot.
  • Office 2013 apps.
  • App “sideloading” (meaning you can install apps not on the market).
  • Device “manageability compatibility” (we’re not sure what this means).
  • Removable microSD support and management.
  • Java in web browser is faster than the iOS 6 beta.

That’s what we know so far, so of course we’ll be waiting to see the final product which Microsoft delivers. There’s also rumor of Microsoft making their own device, like they’re making the Surface tablets, but we’re not sure this rumor holds water. All-in-all, I’m impressed with Windows Phone 8, but in order to make a market impact, a lot more people are going to have to be impressed first.

The following is an informative video, showing a brief history of Windows Phone, along with introducing the new Start screen.

The entire Summit presentation from Microsoft is available to be viewed, coming in at about 2 hours long. There’s got to be more we missed, so check it out.

Via: WPCentral  Source: Microsoft Channel 9The Verge

E3: The Tech

Though the yearly E3 convention is intended for video games, often times companies stretch the definition a bit and unveil new software and technology enabling new ways to play. Microsoft and Nintendo took the stage in this regard, though we did see a few other pieces of technology rear their heads. In all honesty, the concept of Xbox Smartglass looked an awful lot like the new features of the Wii U, given the tablet-console communication will enrich the gaming experience. The Wii U’s tablet integration has been awaited for a while now, but this does raise questions. That said, Microsoft has been keeping us on our toes in awaiting the “Three Screens Vision”, connecting the console, tablet or phone, and PC. It’s also important to note that both have their advantages. Xbox Smartglass will be available for Windows 8 tablets, Windows Phone, Android, and iOS as far as we know. In the keynote,  Marc Whitten mentions the use of the app on Android, so we can assume iOS as well. The Xbox website’s Smartglass page says that there will be an Xbox Smartglass app for Windows and Windows Phone, and that the “Xbox SmartGlass technology is available on other major platforms in the My Xbox app”. There is already an Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone and a beta for Windows 8 (since Windows 8 is in beta–download the latest iteration, Release Preview here). We also assume that there will be something along those lines for Android and iOS, perhaps with some limited features, though we have no details as of yet. The real deal here is that Xbox Smartglass is connecting “the devices you already own” for an enhanced experience not just gaming, but viewing movies or videos, and for browsing the web. All these features are briefly described in Xbox video below.

As far as the Wii U goes, I’m convinced that Nintendo has this technology pretty much in the bag. The integration that they demoed does look more refined than that of Smartglass, and, as of late, superior. That said, Nintendo has the advantage working with only one “tablet”, if the so-called “gamepad” could be described as such. As far as we know, the gamepad will have some abilities we associate with a tablet, like video-chatting, but the apps and services which will be available are uncertain. We can’t hardly blame Nintendo for this though, because so far as we’ve “heard” the gamepad should be in the $100 price range, limiting the hardware. Then again, if Amazon can do it, why can’t Nintendo? It’s important to note that the gamepad isn’t a tablet. And unlike the devices meant for Smartglass, the gamepad is not really a device outside of gaming purposes. Outside of gaming, we know the gamepad may have features like the 3DS currently has. Both devices will feature integration with the new MiiVerse “social network”, for which smartphone apps will also be available. Nintendo seems to be really going out of their comfort zone in order to try and bring customers what they want most, so kudos to them there.

We’ll admit there was some other technology that was there, but we’ll save you the trouble of it because it wasn’t all that special. If you’re interested on the “virtual reality” Doom 3 goggle gizmo, we recommend the article at the Road to VR blog.

Sources: Xbox.com, KCCI.com,

Can Smartphone Companies Keep Up With the Market?

How can you tell when a market is moving quickly? It’s a sure sign when some companies are falling behind, and worse–they don’t recognize it. Whether it be the hardware, the software, the tablet or phone, the market in cellular and mobile devices is growing at a very fast pace and becoming even more profitable than ever before.

As of early May, we can tell that its likely that about half of everyone in the U.S. who pays regularly for a phone has a smartphone. This is up from about 29% in October 2010. The growth of the smartphone industry has followed, growing significantly as well.

Here’s a severely obvious statement: The entire market in mobile is growing and has grown a lot. Facebook is continuing its unprecedented social network expansion, and Apple is continuing to set precedents with pioneer technology. They’re are growing rapidly, to put it mildly. Maybe a better example is Verizon, which has seen only further growth this quarter, as it has more than the past year. AT&T has exceeded profit expectations with record smartphone sales both 2011’s Q4 (4th Quarter) and Q1 this year. And that’s just in the US.

What’s new, then? Companies in the line of phone making, selling, and supporting are doing great with more smartphones, right? Not necessarily. It seems to be the strategy of many Android OEMs to pump out phones every month or two. But as we saw back in December, HTC was the first to discover that this hit-people-with-everything-you’ve-got method isn’t the most effective. As we go back to Economics 101, the demand, though growing rapidly, isn’t meeting that volume of supply. Without saying anything specifically about HTC’s future, balancing constantly improving and innovating in devices and getting that on shelves and making sure it actually get bought (or that there is sufficient demand) is difficult.

We’ve seen a lot of executive stepping up and stepping down recently anywhere from RIM to Best Buy. HP is reportedly cutting as many as 25,000 jobs as of Thursday. RIM got their new CEO Thornston Heins not too long ago, and is said to be adopting two new executive staff members from Light Squared and Sony. Best Buy has lost its chairman Richard Schulze and CEO Brain Dunn in a scandal, and is in need of a replacement CEO–along with a new strategy. They’re hoping to start this off by cutting 50-some stores, but while already looking at huge losses in revenue. And there are more examples of major rethinking in companies dealing with mobile products, and which are effecting companies’ strategies in the mobile market. The question for these companies and others is ‘Are the changes they’re making to adapt to this market enough?’.

The precedents that have been set recently with fast advancing technology such as quad-core CPU phones and LTE mean that consumers are continuing to expect greater things from manufacturers and developers. Apple could be argued to have largely brought on this age of smartphones, but the personal precedents they set raise the bar for everyone, themselves included. This means consumers expect them to deliver outstanding results as well. Because of these expectations, it’s more than a difficult market. New devices are coming out by the dozen, month-to-month, and companies have to continuously perfect products to keep up, let alone get ahead. If that wasn’t hard enough, companies have to juggle pleasing shareholders, which is far from an easy task. The strategies that companies have directly effect both their end product and end user, and the experience the user gets (UE or UX) can, overt time, come to directly reflect the share values of a company.

But this is like any other market, right? On the contrary, the vicious pace we’re seeing is more than just business competition. The competition for the best smartphone has been speeding forward at a pace which would cause many businesses strain. At this point, its nearly impossible for smaller companies to enter the game unless they have something which can make consumers think twice about their iPhone. We have seen some heads turned with Nokia’s new Windows Phone Lumia line, and considering the company has only reentered the US smartphone game a relative few months ago, the accomplishment is notable. It will be interesting to see if Samsung, Motorola, LG, HTC, Nokia, Sony, RIM, and others, all keep enough of a trusting and trusted userbase to keep on trucking. Can so many companies really keep up?

The answer, however, is difficult. On one hand, the heavy competition and difficulty in pleasing everyone could be a destructive burden that eventually beats out software and hardware giants alike. Yet at the same time, as the market grows, there should be room for more products.

In terms of shares, Apple currently appears to be greatly leading in its industry, to no one’s surprise, with share prices still climbing. Microsoft has been on a downward trend for years, but has had a small trend upwards very recently, though its shares are far below in value. It’s heyday was right around the turn of the century. Google looks tentatively to be trending upwards, growing rapidly, and though perhaps not at the pace of Apple, its share prices are far closer to Apple’s than Microsoft’s. That all said, Google and Apple have under 1 billion shares, while Microsoft has more than 8 billion, meaning that the company’s value could still be equal or higher. Ultimately, its difficult to tell who’s really on top. At least, right now.

Sources: Google Finance, Bits on NYTimes, Bloomberg Businessweek, BGR, Nielsen Wire, WPCentral, Forbes

Fall Update Overload: iPhone 5, Windows 8, Jelly Bean, And More

There’s a lot of stuff happening this fall. The updates, news, hardware, and tantalizing prospects of the future in consumer technology we’re all looking for are going to come “en masse” this late summer and fall. There are a number of updates and promises and rumors that we should see coming all around this time. Software from Apple, Microsoft, and Google–the big three, of course–are all launching new versions of their mobile OSs. This means not only devices to current phones we love and behold, but a whole new fresh round of devices. From everyone, hopefully. This unified release could lead to some serious competition. When everyone has their latest and greatest on the field, it will be even more crucial to get the public eye, to compete, and to win the individual’s checkbook. Here’s a look at a few of the things which we’re heading into.

  • iPhone 5. This phone may have been the most rumored device in history. This extremely-long-awaited phone could have some difficulty in competing in hardware to some Android devices like the HTC One X or Galaxy S III. The amount of time that Apple has made consumers wait for this phone will also mean the expectations will be extremely high. Larger screen? LTE? 1 GB RAM? Quad-core? Full HD screen? 20 MP camera? Built-in keyboard projector? … Apple released the iPhone 4 in June of 2010, but rumors do seem to be pointing to later fall. We’re just going to have to wait.
  • Windows 8.The only computer OS which is getting a major update is getting the most major update it’s seen in years. Microsoft is bringing its revamped and reinspired OS to tablets, PCs, and everything in-between. The shear number of products that should come with this release will probably be overwhelming.
  • Jelly Bean. The next iteration of Android is rumored to be coming this fall, but hasn’t truly been confirmed. (We should get more details this summer.) Supposedly, we’ll be looking at more tablet-friendly interfaces and some potential Jelly Bean notebooks. There was also word of a dual-operating system feature with Chrome, allegedly allowing you to dual-boot without having to reboot. Stay a little hesitant there.
  • Windows Phone 8. Windows Phone 7.5 “Tango” should be just around the corner for many users, if their carrier is willing to give it to them. New devices, however, have been limited by the hardware limitations of the current Windows Phone version. Windows Phone 8 is rumored to be a complete rebuilding of the OS, and will likely unify the experience with Windows 8 even futher, while allowing for more impressive hardware specifications.
  • iOS 6. If Apple continues to follow their pattern of releases, it is likely we’ll see a new version of Apple’s operating system, which should make way for the iPad following the 3rd generation iPad, and likely also the iPhone 5. Given that Apple has waited so long for the iPhone 5, it’s possible we’ll see something big with this update. The OS has been around for a long time now, looking practically the same. The features of iOS 5 enliven the experience, but a whole new homescreen redesign may be in order. Surprise us, Apple.

We’ve got a lot coming to us, but we should get peeks and leaks before we get our hands on anything. It’s going to be a wild ride this fall. Stay tuned.

via: AndroidCentral, Technorati

Also: Windows 8 Overview , Windows 8 Gallery

Battle of the Mobile OSs Part 2: Ecosystem and Extras

Previously, I released a post titled Battle of the Mobile OSs Part 1: Apps. So, in the continued battle of the smartphones, I know bring to you my spin on the ecosystems associated with each major mobile platform.

This is less about statistics than the plain and simple user experience when it comes to a platform. But this simple experience, or perhaps not so simple, is not to be overlooked. All considered, this ecosystem is one of the biggest things that a consumer new to the smartphone market will look at. Many phones have the same apps, hardware capabilities, and other overall features, but consumers will start looking to what else the phone has to offer. Ecosystem, in layman’s terms the functionality and compatibility with other hardware and software components, is key to every device. To every phone, it’s own.

Android has convenient functionality with the vast majority of Google products. Apple has extremely simple but effective functionality between other Apple devices, including iCloud and AirPlay, but most key is its amazingly mainstream media software: iTunes. Windows Phone has holds its own with its integration with the Xbox and the Zune software, along with other Microsoft products. Blackberry has unique features in this realm including some functionality between a Blackberry phone and Playbook tablet, but more importantly, Blackberry Messenger  (BBM). Each mobile platform has a unique foundation under it, making each appealing in its own way.

I suppose I should start with the platform which most prizes its unique ecosystem: Windows Phone. Among many things like Microsoft Office and Xbox Live, Windows Phone 7 has capabilities built in that are unavailable or not cheap on other phones. Backed by one of the most essential software corporations on the planet, Windows Phone has plenty of power behind its punch, even if it has yet to fully mature. Windows Phone is also wired to automatically integrate Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Windows Live, and other accounts to present you the latest in statuses, tweets, and news, along with contact linking and other functionality. What truly comes to mind concerning ecosystem for Windows Phone is the future in Windows Phone 8, Windows 8, and the new Xbox; the idea being to unite all of Microsoft’s platforms

It could also be argued that Blackberry’s ecosystem, or rather its characteristic extras, make it the most secure mobile OS around. Blackberry supplies features which though unique, often come at the cost of others. The platform does however elevate above the rest when it comes to fast, easy comunication–with BBM. With new features like Blackberry Music, Blackberry is also becoming a more social phone, and can be argued one of the best for chit-chatting, texting, and talking digital-style. However, on a stricter interpretation of “ecosystem”, Blackberry is somewhat of RIM’s only child, outside of the PlayBook.

The OS with the most true punch, the hip and the now, iOS takes the cake when it comes to media ecosystem. Outside of apps, however, the platform suffers on a lack of built-in functionality. iOS offers many features like iCloud, allowing the seamless transfer of data, and also AirPlay, used for the access of an Apple TV. The platfrom could be considered relatively barebones, leaving the user to rely sometimes inconviently on apps. The core functions, such as Settings, Music, AppStore, and iCloud are also apps in and of themselves.

The Google phone, Android offers everything from Gmail, YouTube, Latitude, Calendar, and just about every other Google product, often preinstalled as an app. The app-for-everything approach can get repetitive when you have it for every little piece of software, however, it offers capable access to all Google programs. Aside from this, the Android plane is relatively open to whatever you prefer.. The Android Market now has music, movies, and more through a variety of Google services including Google Music, Google Books, and YouTube. While it may seem a little disorganized, the Android Market unites the majority of Google media products to utilize the core functionality. Nonetheless, if you don’t care for Google products, you’re out of luck.

Ecosystem is essential to every smartphone. Without it, we would have no music, videos, apps, or anything on our phones. We need ecosystems for just about everything behind our phones.  So, without discrimination, I can only leave the choice up to you.

Battle of the Mobile OSs Part 1: Apps

Modern technology markets move at the speed of sound, and mobile smartphones are no exception. In the war of the mobile platforms, it is always a trick to what’s best for you. It’s difficult to decide which operating system is truly superior, as they all seem to have their advantages and downsides. Android, for example, has a huge variety of free apps, along with an enormous ROM and hacking community, but often sacrifices other things, like software efficiency, or iOS, which though it has the greatest app store around limits hardware options and software customizations. And whether it’s iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, the apps for your smartphone are an important aspect to consider.

Here are the stats on apps:

iOS: Over 500,000

Android: Over 340,000

Windows Phone: About 60,000

Blackberry: Over 43,000 (as of December 2011, according to bgr.com)

Each marketplace does, however, have its problems and caveats.

Android, for instance, has a large percentage of low-quality apps, according to AppBrain. Though the app growth is considerable, there is much fragmentation between Android marketplaces to specific manufacturers and even apps which may include risks to the user identity and integrity of the software.

iOS may be the biggest, but it still lacks the streamlining, or perfection if you will, of demos, and upgrading to a paid version. Along with this, some argue that an app selection that is too large makes it difficult to weed out what you want.

Windows Phone, though growing, still has a lack of some major app titles. The Windows Phone Marketplace did notably grow from an estimated 50,000 apps to 60,000 in about 25 days, so the platform could see some very rapid progression in the future. It does also have the support of many independent developers, dedicated individually to their apps, and therefore responsive to users.

As for Blackberry, there has been little to no data released by RIM on the actual numbers of apps in Blackberry’s App World, though some other figures, such as an alleged 2 billion total app download were officially announced at CES 2012. It may also be noted that a substantial number of ‘apps’ in the App World may also be eBooks, though the same may apply to any app store.

This covers the four major mobile operating systems, but there are more out there. For WebOS, MeeGo, Symbian and whoever more, the app selection is rarely substantial. Also, look out for future posts on the ever-raging battle of the operating systems, for the showdown of other features (or the lack thereof).

via AppBrain, bgr.com, Crackberry, iMore, and WMPU

Continue reading: Battle of the Mobile OSs Part 2: Ecosystems and Extras.

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