All posts by rush24

Rush24 loves everything Microsoft and is fascinated by the influence of technology in everyday life.

A very Bing dilemma

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It has been a longtime since Microsoft’s main location and mapping service, Bing, made any announcements regarding new features. With Nokia’s updated maps and Nokia Drive apps that now include offline maps and public transportation capabilities, are we facing the unpleasant future where a core functionality, location and mapping on Windows Phones, will differ significantly between the OEMs with Nokia having the best experience while others lag behind with a more limited Bing feature set as it currently stands? The latter’s experience outside North America and a handful of European countries leaves a lot to be desired to say it politely. I think Microsoft needs to address this sooner rather than later because I bet neither Samsung nor HTC, or the other smaller Windows phone device makers are happy about it either.

The situation worsens when you consider that the awesome Local Scout feature combined with Bing Vision, Audio and turn by turn directions are inaccessible in most countries. With the addition of 23 new markets onto the platform, I think a solution to bring a uniform premium mapping and location experience to all Windows phone needs to be tackled as soon as possible.

What do you guys think?

 

Mobile innovation in an unlikely place

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When one thinks of third world countries, one pictures starving children, civil wars or dire economic conditions just to name a few. Interestingly, a different image sprung in my mind with the news a week or so ago about certain Google (third party contractors) poaching business from a Kenyan startup Mocality. I instead recalled a post I had read sometime back in regards to the rapid growth of mobile device usage in that country. From the article, Africa Might Just Skip the Entire PC Revolution

Earlier this year, the Chinese firm Huawei unveiled IDEOS through Kenya’s telecom titan, Safaricom. So far, this $80 smartphone has found its way into the hands of 350,000+ Kenyans, an impressive sales number in a country where 40% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

The country has an approximate population of 41 million with an outstanding 26.5 million mobile phone users in contrast to mere 355,493 fixed line customers!

With consumers here in the US bombarded with ads touting 4G LTE as the panacea for all our data hungry app cravings, nobody here in their right might would think that the good old SMS technology could be used for more than text messaging.

As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, facing the prospects of serving a large subscriber base living on a limited disposable income, the country’s largest carriers have come up with solutions that give their customers the best value for their money.

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Apple’s education event has huge ramifications for the Windows 8 tablet

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I hate to admit it, but I was very impressed by the Apple’s education event today. Following along the event via the Verge.com live blog, it was clear that the guys from Cupertino have created a compelling set of products with iBooks 2, iBooks Author and a revamped iTunes U app that will indeed change the education landscape. Its not that these ideas are new, Apple has just found a way to offer them to the masses in a more user friendly format that millions of users will flock too. Apple, in one fell stroke has just outmaneuvered their rivals  by creating a new lucrative and integrated ecosystem in the learning field that neither Microsoft or Google posses a completive alternative. What’s more as is customary with Apple, the products are available now rather than a few months down the road giving them an enormous first mover advantage.

So how does this affect the Windows 8 tablet? Even with the success of the iPad and iPhone, Microsoft still dominates the education field whereby a majority of the PCs being Windows based in conjunction with Microsoft office products.This announcement turns the whole paradigm on its head. If more schools decide to adopt the new Apple system, why would any student need a PC when all their textbooks and school assignments are accessible via iPads? Furthermore, with a version Microsoft Office for the iPad in the works, its evident that the long running PC advantage finds itself on shaky ground. Imagine also a student getting their project done and presenting it to whole class wirelessly via airplay (via a compatible projector or simply an Apple TV connected to a regular projector. The possibilities are endless!

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Are we going to get better looking Windows 8 apps?

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Note: I wrote this article before this story  that partly covers the future of Metro UI at Microsoft. It answers some questions but I think this post is still relevant .

Ever since Microsoft brought Metro UI to the forefront with Windows Phone 7, the design principles now seem to pop up everywhere from apps to websites. This is a good development. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be jumping on the bandwagon without any thought of aesthetics. Simply designing websites or apps with large flat colored tiles overlaid with text betrays the spirit of the Metro guidelines.

I’ve seen way too many apps on WP7 that are no more than the default template with developer content plugged in. Where are apps that look like the image below from Clarity Consulting which were showcased when wp7 was introduced?

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Most apps also don’t seem to take advantage of the Panorama controls offered by the platform to create a magazine effect. It seems like there are a lot of programmers but not enough designers.

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Windows Phone; waiting for a hero

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The Windows phone has been out for over a year now and yet month after month, the sales numbers indicate the platform not gaining positive traction with consumers in terms of market share. With the release of the Mango update, stories are now pouring in of tech bloggers and Microsoft critics praising the OS with the latest being  Robert X Cringely.

Month after month we wonder, what will it take for the average consumer to give the OS a chance? Will it be new phones with LTE or dual core processors? Will it be the return of Nokia to the US? Microsoft has a huge perception bias against them as this ZDNet article perfectly illustrates with Bing (but can applied to most its other products as well) Who or what will be the hero that will come down and lead Windows phone to victory?

A few months ago, I wrote a post on what I thought Microsoft needed to do in order to remain competitive with the then yet unannounced iPhone 4S and Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Five months later. I think the main problems still persist. The carriers (where a majority consumer purchase their phones) are still not pushing the OS or at least presenting it in a favorable light. The advertising is virtually non existent though Nokia seems to be doing a great job in Europe. In the US, I’m quite puzzled by Microsoft spending a bulk of the prime time advertising Windows 7, an OS which already gained traction in the market and sold hundreds of millions of licenses thereby needs no help, while giving a cursory mention to fledgling mobile OS. Yes, there are some ads from the carriers, but you will notice that they are mainly focused on selling the hardware and not the OS.

Where is Microsoft’s sustained “Droid Does” like campaign that vaulted Android into the mainstream? If they only could bring themselves to embark on an product promotion that focuses on the integration found in the people hub with Facebook and twitter, messaging hub with voice and seamless switching between, SMS, Facebook chat and Messenger, Pictures, Calendar and Email with linked inboxes, Bing with Local Scout, Vision and Audio, Xbox live Office and the Zune hub. Just show the ads with a phone and a feature in action. No cheesy gimmicks. Deemphasize apps because the OS’s strength is getting helping the user to accomplish tasks as efficiently as possible without having to think what app they need to use.

What will it take to get Windows Phone over the hump? Six months from now, do you guys think we’ll still be having this discussion on what Microsoft needs to do to gain market share? Are we still going to be waiting for a hero, perhaps Windows Phone 8?

Elements of Metro on the latest Windows 8 Blog post

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To the undiscerning eye, the latest Window 8 blog post was just that, an article revealing a little more about the future of the OS building up to the great reveal at the BUILD conference in about two weeks from now.  I on the other hand was happy to finally see evidence that the Windows 8 Shell may actually be updated from the current Aero glass look to a more flat metro look.

As you can see from the image above, the fonts and styling are more akin to the Zune/Windows phone 7  feel. The only remaining vestige of the past are the gradient shadings on the buttons that  I hope they get rid off. The final mockup (shown below)unfortunately IMHO  reverts back to the Windows 7 design.  I hope they are just keeping the revamped UI secret until the conference. Watching the first Windows 8 video was quite jarring when they switched between the new touch based UX and the old Windows 7 shell. Updating it to Metro should unify the experience. I hope the update goes beyond the shell to cover all the Office Suite and Windows Live Essentials programs as well. (click on the source link for more images)

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Steve Jobs resigns as Apple’s CEO

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Well if this wasn’t a crazy week already, now comes the news of Steve Jobs resignation as Apple’s CEO. It is a sad turn of events because more than likely, the decision was due more to his illness as it can be extrapolated from his resignation letter than him willingly resigning to go pursue other ventures. He has led Apple with a singular vision of what he thinks technology should be like and at 56 years of age, he still had a lot of more years ahead to push that dream forward under normal circumstances. As much as I don’t care for Apple products as a matter of preference, there is no denying that the firm under his leadership has forced other tech companies to up their game and those that did not have been left on the wayside.

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Lync Mobile coming to Windows Phone, iOS, Android and Symbian (updated)

More news from TechED New Zealand. The Lync Mobile app was demoed and according to the Video, the app will be available in Q4 of this year. What’s more interesting is that the app will also makes its way onto iOS, Android and Symbian devices. From what I can gather from the Microsoft officials in the video, It seems that the app may eventually be integrated into the people and messaging hub like Windows live messenger. The app will support both video and and audio at some point depending on the device’s capabilities and talk about Windows phones with front facing cameras can be heard again making it inevitable that some of upcoming devices will have the feature.

Lync is a powerful unified communications solution that can even replace a traditional PBX system. Microsoft is making a play for the enterprise  and by making it available on the major mobile OSes, they are fending off potential threats that offerings like Google voice/gchat/google apps, salesforce chatter or even iMessage might portend.

Update:  My fellow editor, Pradeep gave  me the the heads up that the latest Nokia handsets the 700, 701 and 600  do come with the Lync app installed.

Thanks to @samsabri for the tip

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Front facing camera and Skype coming to Windows Phone Mango

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There have been indications of this in the past but now finally, Neowin has news from Tech Ed in New Zealand whereby Microsoft confirmed front facing camera support in the official Mango update. The story is supported by a tweet from Windows Phone NZ. They go on to say…

Neowin can confirm this news, as staff members saw devices a few months back already sporting front facing cameras. We also reported back on January 10 that Microsoft was working on a FaceTime competitor for the platform, uncovering references in the SDK for a "portrait camera.

Furthermore, the author writes about hints of Skype integration with the front facing camera.

This is welcome news all around and especially if it will also seamlessly integrate with Windows Live Messenger and Facebook video chat.

Via Neowin

Image credit Q / WPcentral

‘Play To’ should be standard on Windows Phones and tablets as Airplay is to iOS

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On a recent video showcasing the future of speech on the Windows platform, there is a point in the video as shown on the screenshot whereby the lady is asked where she wants the content to be displayed. Windows 7 has had the DLNA capability of pushing content from once device to another via the Play To functionality since its inception. Unfortunately, it is somewhat hidden and thereby rarely used. These feature should occupy a prominent spot on the Windows Phone and  tablets to go head to head with iOS Airplay. Microsoft also needs to work with more home theater systems manufactures so that they can have more devices certified as “Play To” ready. This will increase the appeal of purchasing Windows based devices due to the increased compatibility with high end third party devices and accessories.

Imagine going to a conference and all you had to do is turn on your phone or tablet, find the  “Play To” ready projector and bam! your presentation is on the screen, no wires involved! It would also be an excellent way to share family videos, pictures and music on a big screen via an Xbox 360 or “Xbox TV” The Apple Airplay ad here showcases it more convincingly but as you can see from the Microsoft Play To demo, they basically achieve the same goal.

The LG quantum phone has DLNA built in but I contend that the feature should be a part of the core OS available on all devices.

Free Windows Phones, tools, training for abandoned WebOS developers

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Microsoft’s Brandon Watson is continuing his valiant quest to make Windows Phone a success by offering published WebOS developers with Windows phones and whatever else that they may need to  get their apps running on Windows phone. With HP’s abrupt abandonment of the platform, its an awesome move and I hope that the WebOS developers out there take him up on the offer. It’s a win-win situation for both Microsoft and the developers.

Windows 8 “Signature Series” brand of hardware will need an overhaul

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ZDnet’s Ed Bott has an intriguing article titled, “Windows 8 on a Mac: why Microsoft should write its own Boot Camp” which in summary posits this argument

Apple designs some of the best PC hardware you can buy, and its designs use the same parts as a Windows PC. Yes, you can run Windows on a Mac, but the experience is substandard. For Windows 8, Microsoft needs to replace Apple’s Boot Camp software with its own.

Read the whole article to understand his thinking because he does make some valid points. Quite a few Windows focused people I follow on twitter have, or are considering getting MacBook Airs and some even describe it as the “best Windows 7 laptop” out there!

Currently, I own a 3 year old 14 inch HP laptop that I can barely tolerate at times! It is heavy and the battery barely lasts for more than two hours! I have already decided that my next laptop will have to be much lighter and posses a battery life of more than 5 hours. Like Mr. Bott mentions, the MacBook air is made out of the same general components as the Windows based laptops, but how come they perform much better? Apple is very serious about battery life that they reportedly threatened abandon Intel based chips over power consumption.

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