All posts by Bernard

I immensely enjoy letting people know how awesome Microsoft and its products are.

Help a 22 year old blogger choose Windows Phone


Taylor Soper, blogger at GeekWire.com, is in the market to replace his HTC G2 for T-Mobile, and is debating between the Apple Phone 5 and the Samsung Droid Galaxy 3. He hasn’t discounted Windows Phone, though he thinks he “just won’t go that route”. Let’s convince him otherwise.

Taylor is 22 years old and owns a Machintosh computer (hello Windows Phone Companion for MAC). He already blogs frequently about Microsoft. His most used applications on a phone are social networking, camera, maps, music, and voice recording. I have never met a more appropriate user for Windows Phone, with its integrated Facebook and Twitter, stellar camera (and picture sharing ability), downloadable maps, cloud-based Xbox Music (as well as Spotify, Rhapsody, Nokia Music, free Pandora, etc.), and the ability to post voice notes using WP8′s OneNote.

So head on over to GeekWire and answer Taylor’s poll, write in the comments, and tweet him to help him join the Windows Phone camp. He’ll join a good crowd that includes the likes of Jessica Alba, Will Arnett, Andy Samberg, Gwen Stefani, Cam Newton, and most recently Mark Cuban.

Bing Rewards comes to Windows Phone 8

The ability to earn Bing Rewards points has now come to the built-in Bing search app in Windows Phone 8, even if Microsoft isn’t speaking about it. Previously in WP7.x, the only way to earn points was to use the browser-based Bing search, which isn’t nearly as convenient as tapping the search button, nor does it have the amount of features (i.e. Bing Vision, local gps-based search, deals, etc.) that the built-in search does.

For those unfamiliar with Bing Rewards, it’s a way of earning points for searches you do on Bing, which can then be redeemed for Xbox Live points, Hulu Plus subscriptions, gift certificates (including Amazon.com), sweepstakes, Skype credit, and the recently-announced ability to purchase Windows Phone 8 apps.

The ability to earn points through your phone is a huge one for consumers, as most people are likely to do the majority of their Web searches on their smartphone, which they have with them at all times, as opposed to a computer at a desk which they are only at for part of the day. The cycle of life is complete with the ability to claim those points to purchase apps and games, making it possible for people to essentially earn their apps for free.

Many things are still missing, which I’m guessing is why Microsoft isn’t advertising it at the moment. For one Bing Rewards is a U.S.-only program right now, so Microsoft would not want to advertise a feature not available elsewhere, especially given some pundits’ recent criticism of the fragmented Microsoft ecosystem. Another essential thing is that there is no points counter in the Bing app (which is why I’m guessing no one noticed that you can now earn points), much less the ability to sign up for Bing Rewards. Also missing is the ability to refer-a-friend to Bing Rewards, through which you can earn 20 points; you would think this would be a no-brainer on a smartphone with the ability to pull in contacts from the People Hub. My guess is that Microsoft is prepping to add all those features to WP8 at some point in the future, at which point they will announce it with much fanfare. Better announce it once it’s right than right now when it’s halfass.

Nevetheless, if you have been clamoring to earn Bing Rewards on your Windows Phone through the built-in app, you’re in luck that Microsoft listened and implemented it, even if they aren’t talking about it. Enjoy.

Get ready to ‘Meet Your Match’ at the Microsoft Store for a $25 voucher

Microsoft is kicking off a challenge at their retail stores that replaces the #SmokedByWindowsPhone initiative of the WP7 era. With ‘Meet Your Match’ Microsoft is hoping to show people how much more personal Windows Phone 8 devices are compared to smartphones that people currently have. And people who do the challenge this time will be rewarded with a $25 voucher they can use towards any $75 purchase in the store, through the end of the year.

You get the $25 voucher no matter what happens during the challenge, there is no “winning” or “losing” this time, so don’t get crazy. Leave your shenanigans at home. All you do is come in to the store; a staff member will greet and introduce themselves and ask how you use your smartphone; based on that they will pick a task to do on the phone and show how Windows Phone does in comparison to your current smartphone, similar to the Smoked challenge. The difference this time is that the purpose is that it’s focused on the person, and how Windows Phone can help them do things better. It’s not a contest of specs, speed, or power; it’s meant to be a friendly conversation where people can take away something new learned about Windows Phone 8. In many ways it’s very similar to the recent Bing It On Challenge where people did a blind side-by-side comparison of search results from Bing and Goolge, without any of the controversy.

Some of the challenges you might encounter on the ‘Meet Your Match’ challenge include personalization (live tiles and colors, pinning people to the Start Screen and communicating with them easily, live apps on the lock screen), camera (great low-light pictures in Lumia 920, video stabilization, and wide-angle lens of HTC 8X front-facing camera), Kids Corner, and Local Scout.

Live Apps: much ado about nothing

Over the weekend Neowin received a tip from a Best Buy employee concerning marketing material that referred to something called “Live Apps” coming to Windows Phone 8, and folks have been trying to decipher exactly what that might be.

Live Apps is actually Microsoft’s new marketing term for any Windows Phone app that has the ability to present personalized live information on the Start Screen, such as Groupon deals or CNN news stories. Yes, that’s right, Live Apps are apps that have Live Tiles. Simple as that, nothing to see here.

The bigger scoop, in my opinion, is that Windows Phone (and Windows in general) is receiving such a prominent shelf presence at Best Buy, judging from the banners in those pictures. You definitely didn’t see that kind of noticeable presence of Windows Phone at Best Buys during this last generation of phones…

Source: Neowin

Windows 8 Release Preview is out


Today Microsoft announced the availability of the Windows 8 Release Preview (fancy name for Release Candidate) in 14 languages. The build is 8400. You can download it here.

In his Building Windows 8 blog, chief Steven Sinofsky says that this will be the final pre-release version available to the public before Release To Manufacturing/retail availability. He does not go into much detail about what’s changed in the Release Preview, although he does note that “Internet Explorer 10, new Windows 8 apps for connecting to Hotmail, SkyDrive, and Messenger (and many more), and hundreds of new and updated apps in the Windows Store” are included.

Source: Building Windows 8 blog.

Almost 50,000 people have been #SmokedByWindowsPhone


As was reported here a few days ago, the #SmokedByWindowsPhone challenge continues at Microsoft Stores, despite claims by some reporters that it had ended.

Now Microsoft has updated their Facebook cover picture to reflect new stats on how many people have lost the challenge, showing that since the contest started in mid-March, Windows Phone has won 46,704 times and lost only 588 times, giving it a very healthy success rate of 98.75%.

Consequently, the contest, which should have ended yesterday, has been extended until 10 May, after which it will most likely be extended again.

Spread the word, people.

Source: Microsoft Store on Facebook and Microsoft Store online.

Actually, #SmokedByWindowsPhone still going on at Microsoft Stores

Despite claims that the Smoked challenge at the Microsoft Store retail locations has ended, the contest is actually still ongoing on a week-by-week basis.

See, the contest is set to end each week on Thursday (hence why other tech sites pronounced April 12th as the end date), but Microsoft just keeps renewing it and renewing it each week. It has now been renewed until the 3rd of May, but something tells me, that when the 4th comes, we will see it renewed again and again.

The contest, as if anyone needs a refresher at this point, pits Windows Phone against competitor’s phones at doing an everyday task such as posting a picture to Facebook or translating text into another language. If the competitor wins they receive a $1000 gift card, but even if they lose they receive a $25 gift card.

So think about it: why would Microsoft want to end a perfect opportunity to get people to shop at their stores, as well as a chance to inform people of the strengths of Windows Phone? Something tells me the Smoked challenge will be a permanent fixture at the stores for some time to come…

Note: If you have taken the Smoked challenge in the past for the free phone offer you are no longer eligible for the contest.

Source: http://content.microsoftstore.com/store/smokedbywindowsphone

White and Cyan Lumia 900 are definitely in stock at the Microsoft Store


Looking for the white and cyan colored versions of the Nokia Lumia 900? Tired of them going out of stock quickly at AT&T online and retail stores? Well, if you’re lucky enough to be near any of the 15 Microsoft Store locations (including the new Austin and Stanford stores) you will find those color variants there. The rarity of the retail location plus the fact that people don’t normally know to look there means that you will more than likely find all colors of the Lumia 900 there.

In addition, the Microsoft Store also offers two bundles when you buy a phone:

Microsoft Assure Bundle    Get two years of extended warranty ($49) + Car charger ($30) + Phone case ($20-$30) = $99 – $109, you pay only $49!

Zune Music Pass Bundle    Get the warranty ($49) + Charger ($30) + Case ($20-$30) + 1 year Zune Pass ($99) = $198 – $208, you pay only $99!

Store locations

#SmokedByWindowsPhone Challenge Extended, Watered Down

It’s the promotion that just won’t end! Microsoft has extended its Smoked challenge at their retail stores for another week, albeit with a change.

The challenge is the same: Windows Phone vs. customer’s smartphone, complete 1 task out 6, picked at random. The change now, however, is that if you win you get a $1000 gift card instead of a laptop (not much of a change since the laptop was worth a little more than $1000 anyway), and if you don’t win, instead of exchanging your POS phone for a cost-free contract-free Windows phone, you only get a $25 gift card, limited to the first 250 people per day.

Still an easy way of getting a $25 gift card that you can use to buy a case or some Microsoft Points, but who else thinks they’ve already milked this idea for all it’s worth?

Oh, and before you ask, NO, you cannot use Microsoft Store gift cards at their online store at this time.

Thanks William for the tip.

#SmokedByWindowsPhone scrapped, Microsoft outright giving phones away


Two days before the Windows Phone challenge at the Microsoft Stores was set to end, Microsoft has now extended the deal to April 8th, albeit with a change.

Because customer demand has been so high and because customers have pretty much been coming in just to LOSE and get a phone (they don’t care about the challenge), the stores will no longer be doing the challenge and instead, if you bring in any old smartphone and recycle it at the store, they will give you from $50 to $300 in credit towards a new Windows Phone, free of cost, contract and activation. The reason they’re doing the credit instead of giving you the phone right away is because many (if not all?) stores are literally out of stock of phones at the moment, and they will be slowly fulfilling the phones as they get new stock.

This is the perfect opportunity to get the Radar, Lumia 710, and Focus Flash for free (those phones are under $300), or a nice $300 discount on all of the other phones at the store.

FYI: Microsoft Stores are also taking pre-orders for the Lumia 900.

More detail on the new Windows Phone Challenge at the Microsoft Stores

From now until March 29 at all fourteen Microsoft Stores, Microsoft will be challenging users of other smartphones to their #SmokedByWindowsPhone challenge and offering awesome prizes, whether you got smoked or not.

As you may remember, #SmokedByWindowsPhone is a campaign started by Ben Rudolph the PC Guy at CES 2012 where he challenged users of the iPhone, Android, etc. to complete everyday tasks on their smartphone, showing them how fast Windows Phone is at these tasks because of its built-in functionality. Unsurprisingly Windows Phone has had a huge success rate, and since then Microsoft has taken the challenge to other locations, and has promoted it on the web and very soon possibly on TV.

For the challenge happening at the Microsoft Stores, Microsoft is offering a limited-edition Hunger Games HP Folio 13 laptop valued at $1,049.00 for those who win the challenge. However, even for those who lose the challenge, Microsoft will offer, free of charge, any Windows Phone of their choosing (excluding the Nokia Lumia 800 bundle) either contract-free (given that they give up their current phone) or on a new two-year contract (no need to give up their current phone).

The #SmokedByWindowsPhone challenges are:

Pocket-to-Picture-to-Post

Real-Time Information with Live Tiles

Using the People Hub to Stay in Touch with the People You Care About Most

Updating Your Status Across Multiple Social Networks

and

Local Scout

Most of us on here wouldn’t be eligible for the challenge given that we already have Windows Phones, but this is the perfect opportunity to get your family and friends to switch over to Windows Phone free of charge (plus tax). So if you live anywhere close to a Microsoft Store from now until the end of the month, be sure to take advantage of this awesome offer!

Microsoft Store to open in Google’s backyard


A job listing for an Assistant Store Manager in Palo Alto, CA has been posted on the Microsoft Store Careers site. Palo Alto, of course, is adjacent to Mountain View, home to the headquarters of Google, Inc., otherwise known as the ‘Googleplex‘. Microsoft has not publicly announced this store, which could be located in the Stanford Shopping Center.

This follows the news that Apple Computer is planning a “new prototype store” in Palo Alto as well. Most, if not all, of the current Microsoft Stores are located in shopping centers that also house Apple Computer Stores.

Last summer at their Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft announced that 75 stores would open in the next two to three years. They released a map which shows that a dense amount of those stores could be located along the California coast (a Microsoft spokesperson later clarified to Mary Jo Foley that the map “shows the location of top retail centers across the country”, not necessarily the location of its future stores).

A listing for an Assistant Store Manager in Austin, TX was also posted; Microsoft already has one store in Texas at the Houston Gallery. No news yet if Microsoft plans to launch stores outside the United States.