Showing posts with label Windows. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Windows. Show all posts

Friday, 19 September 2014

Notion Ink quietly releases Cain, a 10.1-inch Windows 8 tablet

The Notion Ink Adam was a tablet with big dreams, but it hit the market with a loud flop. It's successor, the Adam II, whooshed by with almost no public notice at all. Now the company is back, but it's not trying to redesign the Android tablet anymore. No, this time the company is building a Windows 8 tablet: the Notion Ink Cain. The Cain is a 10.1-inch, 1.8GHz Intel Atom-powered tablet with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage and a detachable magnetic keyboard. Despite a sleek design and a rather snazzy folding keyboard case, however, the Cain appears to be a fairly straightforward implementation of Windows 8: no custom apps, or skinned interface included. Less bold than the company's other ventures, but less risky too.
There's no mention of the new tablet on Notion Ink's website, but it's currently available for order at Snapdeal, one of India's most popular online marketplaces. Interested? The slate can be had for 19,990 Indian Rupees, or about $327. Check out the full product page at the source link below.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Microsoft to launch Windows 9 on 30th September

Microsoft's sent out invites to an event later this month, with the firm expected to launch Windows 9.
The San Fran event should see the Windows 8 sequel land, though not as a general release. Instead, it's likely to be some kind of dev edition or beta, prior to the public version.
The invitation reads: "Join us to hear about what's next for Windows and the enterprise", a clear sign that Windows 9 will be a talking point.
Windows 9 has been running under the codename 'Threshold' during development, which could signal a big breakthrough or turning point in the software.
Just last month, Russian leaker WZOR claimed that Microsoft will give Windows 9 away for free to Windows 8.1 users.
While WZOR didn’t say that Windows 8 customers would get it for free, considering the update to 8.1 was free, it’s likely they too will get the update for free – if the rumour turns out to be true.
The move would bring it into line with rival Apple. Apple has been giving away updates to its OS X operating system for the last couple of years.
New features expected to appear in Windows 9 include the live start menu, alongside a possible appearance from Microsoft's Cortana AI software.
Last month, Neowin reported that Cortana had been showing up in early Threshold builds, which means the voice-controlled assistant could be coming to the desktop.
Check out our full rumour round-up for Windows 9 to find out just what to expect from the Microsoft's latest flagship OS.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

HTC One (M8) for Windows review: Same muscle, different soul

Since Windows Phone's humble beginnings, Microsoft has been the underdog in the wireless industry. Four years later, nothing's changed -- except, perhaps, a few more percentage points of market share. Even then, it's got a long way to go before catching up to Android and iOS. Let's give the company credit for pushing forward, improving its platform and not giving up, though: When I reviewed the last major OS update, I said I could finally use Windows Phone as my daily driver. The one element that Microsoft continued to lack, however, was buy-in from large phone makers. They put more focus on Android products, which meant anyone interested in Windows Phone had a small selection of devices to choose from.
For Microsoft, it's time to experiment with a new, simpler approach. The software giant has buddied up with HTC to convert the One M8, its Android flagship, into a Windows Phone. That's all there is to it. There's absolutely no change to the hardware -- and it's a fantastic idea. If it fails, neither company loses much from the deal; since they're using an existing phone, the cost of design and engineering is far lower than it would be on a standalone device. If it's successful, it may inspire other manufacturers to follow suit, resulting in a market with a wide variety of Windows Phones to choose from. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

HTC One (M8) for Windows review


The hardware section is typically one of the longest in a phone review, but this time, the opposite is true. That's because the HTC One M8 for Windows, as awkward as the name is, is exactly that: an HTC One M8 that happens to run Windows Phone instead of Android. (Why the name omits "Phone" is beyond me, however.) The aluminum unibody chassis, 1080p display, Snapdragon 801 processor, BoomSound speakers, 2,600mAh battery, even the UltraPixel Duo Camera setup -- it's all there. It comes with the infrared blaster embedded into the power button as before, and all of the buttons, LED flashes and card slots are all precisely in the same place. In fact, if it weren't for the Windows Phone logo on the back, the hardware would be virtually indistinguishable. Of course, that also means that it's still just as slippery and just as tall as the Android version, so if you didn't like it before, nothing about this phone will change your mind.
The version I'm reviewing is the Verizon-exclusive model, which only comes in a gunmetal gray color with 32GB of internal storage (and a microSD slot that handles cards up to 128GB). If Verizon isn't your thing, AT&T announced that it plans to release the device after the exclusivity period is over. HTC's been tight-lipped about whether the phone will eventually head to other markets or carriers.
The Verizon version of the M8 for Windows comes with quad-band LTE, which covers both of Verizon's high-speed frequencies and a couple of bands (3 and 7) friendly to many countries in Europe, Africa and Asia. In case the LTE doesn't work when you're traveling abroad, it also comes with quad-band HSPA+ (up to 14.4 Mbps) and quad-band GSM/EDGE. Regardless of where you travel, you're bound to have some sort of connection, even if it isn't incredibly fast.


It's only when you turn the two devices on that you'll really notice the difference. For the first time since the Palm Treo days, you can choose between two different operating systems running on the same hardware. I want to see more companies try this, but most manufacturers seem wary of dedicating resources to make Windows Phone available on existing Android devices. Of course, this wasn't even an option until Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 8.1 earlier this year, when it announced that manufacturers could take any Android phone they wanted and just slap on the third-place mobile OS instead. (Sadly, Microsoft and Google aren't so keen on letting anyone use both at the same time.)
What matters is that it's here now, and Windows Phone flagships are no longer limited toNokia's Lumia series; it introduces more options for fans of the OS, and it gives the platform more visibility for everyone else.
If you've used a Windows Phone before, the user experience will be familiar. HTC tweaks aside (I'll tackle those shortly), the M8 is a Windows Phone 8.1.1 device without a custom user interface. Which makes sense: Microsoft doesn't allow skins. As you'd expect, then, the phone features Cortana, Live Tiles, quick controls, notifications, folders and the new lock screens, among other things. If you've seen one Windows Phone, you've seen them all.
The biggest early question about the M8 for Windows was how (or if) it would utilize HTC's homemade software features from its Android skin, such as Zoe, BlinkFeed, Duo Camera capability, Sense TV and Video Highlights. Fortunately, all but Zoe made it into the phone, although there are slightly different implementations for each feature. BlinkFeed on Windows is its own separate app and Live Tile as opposed to a full home screen panel on Android. Ditto for Video Highlights, which takes the form of a standalone app. The camera UI is the same, but only some Duo Camera editing features made the OS jump. Finally, theHTC Dot View case is supported.
BlinkFeed feels more at home on Windows Phone than it does on Android, primarily because its interface is tile-based. Its functionality is similar on both platforms: You have access to your social network feeds (yes, including Google+) and a wide variety of highlighted feeds (like Engadget!). At present time, the Windows Phone version doesn't come with a search option or custom feeds, so you'll just have to stick with what HTC offers. It also comes with an active Live Tile that shows the most recent news updates.
Video Highlights has been around since the HTC One M7 came out in early 2013. It compiles your photos and videos and combines them into a 30-second highlight reel; you can choose from several different themes (akin to Instagram filters) as well as music, including pre-loaded tracks and selections from your own library. Once the clip is created, you can share it however you want. On Android, the video highlight-creation tool is a part of the Sense gallery app, but here it's a standalone app. The basic setup is the same on both platforms, but their designs match their respective OSes. All told, too, the functionality is the same, though the WP option doesn't appear to have the ability to choose which images or clips to start and end with.

HTC One (M8) for Windows screenshots

The on-screen navigation bar is a recent addition to Windows Phone, and a very welcome one, at that (Android has had this functionality for a while). The bar consists of the usual WP buttons like back, home and search. You can choose to have the bar be dark, match the background of the app you're in (which doesn't seem to change too often) or match your accent color instead. It's also possible to hide the bar, in case you're watching a 1080p video or using another app that wants to take advantage of the full screen rather than getting cut off at the bottom. By default, you can press a small arrow on the left side to tuck it away and swipe up from the bottom bezel to bring it back; however, you can choose to disable the button and swipe up for both actions instead.
The Dot View case is an optional accessory introduced on the One M8 for Android, but HTC's made it compatible with the Windows Phone version as well. You'll still get the time on top and a symbol for notifications on the bottom, but there's a new feature: Swiping down from the top will activate Cortana, who will begin listening to you without any further action.
Unfortunately, this swipe-down functionality isn't available without the case. In fact, the One M8 motion gestures are limited to a simple double-tap-to-wake option; you can't swipe your finger in any direction to take it directly into specific apps. Even worse, the only way to activate the camera is to manually unlock the screen and tap on the Live Tile or go through the Action Center. I'd prefer to have a faster shortcut to the camera for quick access.


The M8 for Windows sticks with the same love-or-hate UltraPixel Duo Camera setup as its Android brother, and it even offers a nearly identical user interface. (The only differences are in the settings, which must adhere to Windows Phone UI elements.) In general, HTC's UltraPixel option takes decent pictures and fares well in low-light settings, though shots tend to be less detailed than on other flagship devices.
But while the camera modules are exactly the same, a quick image comparison between the Windows Phone and Android versions reveals a few minor disparities. The M8 for Windows seems to do better at capturing dynamic range, and the photos are more saturated in color. The default white balance is also marginally colder. The gap between camera performance widens further in low-light situations, in favor of the Android version. The M8 for Windows produced images that were fuzzier and less detailed than those taken on its counterpart. This may be in part due to the length of time HTC's worked on optimizing its UltraPixel tech on Android versus Windows Phone, and I'm hopeful this can be fixed in a future update.

HTC One (M8) for Windows sample shots

For now, one version isn't better than the other in every department; you'll have to pick and choose the factors that are most beneficial to you. If you want the full gamut of imaging options, however, stick with the Android model for now. HTC's signature Zoe feature, which takes a few seconds of video and burst-mode shots and converts it into aHarry Potter-esque moving picture, isn't available; the Zoe app, which is a social network that lets you show off your Video Highlights to friends and family, is also restricted to Android 4.4. Lastly, the Windows edition lacks a few of the M8's Duo Camera editing tools. It comes with UFocus (which lets you change the area of focus), Foregrounder (adds funky visual effects to objects in the background), Dimension Plus (gives the picture a faux-3D feel), rotate/crop tools, most filters and a few frames. Copy/paste, stickers, draw/flip/straighten tools and seasons (a pointless feature that shows leaves, snowflakes, etc. falling down in front of your picture) didn't make the cut, but I rarely use those features on the Android version anyway.


In its early days, Windows Phone earned a reputation for robust performance that has continued to the present. Until recently, the gap in performance between flagships and entry-level devices had been relatively small because Microsoft imposed restrictions on which processors and other specs could be used on the platform; phones like the Nokia Lumia 520 are cheap, but perform well given their limited processing power and RAM. As Microsoft has slowly lifted those restrictions, flagships have now become even more powerful, possessing the same specs as many top-of-the-line Android devices.
With the One M8 for Windows, you're going to enjoy all of the same performance benefits as the Android version -- on paper, at least. It has a quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 801 chipset with 2GB of RAM, so it's no slouch. The M8 for Windows runs WP 8.1 Update 1, which is still only available as a Developer Preview on other devices; this is the first time it's been included on a new device out of the box.
The M8 for Windows runs well most of the time. To nitpick ('tis my burden and duty), the Android version is a little faster when loading apps and multitasking, primarily due to the time-wasting animations scattered throughout the Windows Phone OS. It's a difference of a couple seconds each time, which likely won't matter at all to most users. Games run smoothly with few to no frame skips, but the same titles on Android were consistently more fluid. Occasionally, the processor on the Windows version would slow down, making games extremely choppy for around 15 seconds, after which it'd smooth out for two or three seconds before returning to its frozen state. A reboot usually cleared up the problem, but I've never run into similar issues on the M8 for Android.
I've also noticed that the two 1080p displays aren't calibrated identically; it appears that both devices use different temperatures (the original M8 is a tad warmer), though the brightness and viewing angles are both good. Images and graphics on the Windows Phone model appear to be fuzzier and have less clarity when looking at the two devices side by side, as if they're displayed at a lower resolution somehow, but at least text and games look great.
Running benchmarks can be a little tricky when doing cross-platform comparisons, since most Android tests aren't available on Windows Phone. Microsoft's OS was slightly better on internet-based tests like SunSpider (609ms vs. 649ms, where a lower time is better) and Google Octane (2,801 vs. 2,666), while the Android version did better on GFXBench 2.7 (28 fps vs. 19 fps). The latter score is the most concerning, as it's a much larger difference than I'd expect to see on two devices with identical hardware. Compared to the Icon, the M8 does better on Octane and GFXBench but worse on SunSpider and WPBench. So, just like it was on the camera, there's no clear-cut answer to which phone is the better choice. Since the differences are minor, only a few power users may be dissuaded by the results.
Battery life is a mixed bag. The benefit in testing identical hardware on competing operating systems is that you can compare the two much more easily and closely study the effect each platform has on power efficiency. In my testing so far, it appears that the WP option is better than the Android version in some ways and worse in others. (My tests are ongoing and I'll continue to add more results as they come.)
First, the good news: You can still get through an entire day of normal usage with a little left to spare when you hit the sack. When using the device for email, taking a few photos, browsing the web and running an occasional app, I was able to get slightly more battery life than on my Android M8. When streaming movies through Netflix, the Windows Phone M8 soundly defeats its Android counterpart. Additionally, it lasted for 12 hours and 10 minutes in our standard video rundown test, an increase of 40 minutes over the Sense-clad version.
I wouldn't recommend playing games without having a charger nearby, however; titles likeAsphalt 8 and Frozen Free Fall (my kids' favorite) drain up to 30 battery percentage points per hour, as compared to around 15 percentage points on the Android M8. (As an aside, both versions of the M8 get hot when playing graphics-intensive games for more than 10 minutes, the point where it becomes uncomfortable to hold.) Finally, the M8 for Windows lasted two hours and 35 minutes in the standard WPBench CPU stress test, in which it forces the processor to work at high intensity. That's pretty typical: The Lumia Icondelivered nearly identical runtime of 2:36. (It scored 2:42 on our initial review, which was on older firmware.)


Now that a flagship phone is available on more than one major mobile platform, it's tougher to clearly define its competition; whether you're a fan of Windows Phone, Verizon or nothing more than good phone design, there are plenty of factors to consider. The M8 for Windows is available for $100 on-contract, which is half of what the Android edition cost when it first came out. It may have limited appeal at first because of its exclusivity, but Windows Phone users on Verizon will appreciate it because they can now choose among this and two other flagship devices: the Lumia Icon, which is renowned for its 20-megapixel camera, and the Samsung ATIV SE, which is somewhere between a GS4 and GS5 in terms of specs. The Icon is definitely a well-built phone, but the M8 has more curb appeal thanks to its robust aluminum frame and arched back.
Let's go more into specifics on how it compares with the Lumia Icon, its direct Windows Phone competitor. If you're looking for a superior imaging experience, go with the Icon; the M8 is in no way a horrible picture-taking device, but Nokia's had a lot more time and experience to get things right on Windows Phone than HTC has. (And since the Icon still does quite well in low-light situations, the UltraPixel tech isn't quite as persuasive in this case as it may be on Android.) The screen size is only 0.1 inch smaller on the Icon, but the chassis is significantly shorter and much less slippery. HTC offers a great audio experience with BoomSound; the Icon has a hardware shutter button for faster access to the camera; and you'll also need to decide between capacitive buttons and virtual ones.
In a way, the M8 for Windows is competing against its Android brother as well, but HTC's goal isn't to cannibalize sales. By adding a second platform, it's allowing HTC to reach a new set of smartphone users without the high cost of designing, developing and producing a brand-new device. I also doubt many people have held off on buying the M8 because it wasn't on Windows Phone, as fans of the platform will have already looked at other options already available to them.


This is the first time in years that a user can select a device's hardware and software at the same time; you usually have to choose one and then live with the other. People who already use and love Windows Phone now have a flagship option that isn't the latest Lumia device. This phone won't end the platform wars by showing undeniable proof that Windows Phone trumps Android or vice versa; both devices clearly have pros and cons in different areas, and it ultimately comes down to your personal preference.
If your go-to OS is Windows Phone, the M8 is one of the best options, thanks to great design and solid performance. The Lumia Icon still has a bit of an edge, but you'll be happy with either device. If given the choice between M8s, I'd go with the Android version for now because HTC's had much more time, experience and flexibility to get things right on that platform. The performance is a bit more optimized in most cases, and it comes with more of the HTC-branded functionality that makes the One M8 unique. But isn't it nice to finally have a choice?

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Microsoft Build 2014: Windows Phone 8.1 with Cortana and Action Center, Windows to Bring Back Start Menu

Today in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Microsoft kicked off its annual Build developers conference. Up until now, many had been questioning Microsoft’s continued relevance in this new mobile-friendly age. However, today’s keynote clearly shows that Microsoft doesn’t intend on letting Google and Apple have all the fun.
Does Windows have what it takes to be your platform of choice in 2014? Read on to find out more about what Microsoft has in store for Windows and Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8.1

cortana 1Microsoft began today’s keynote by talking about the future of Windows Phone. As we’ve known ever since the middle of December, WP8.1 has been poised to provide a major facelift to Microsoft’s struggling mobile OS. Now, Windows Phone 8.1 is official here.
First up, we have Cortana. Just like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, Cortana can place calls, send messages, schedule appointments, set reminders, create notes, set alarms, play music, get directions, and search the Web. This functionality can also be extended via third party apps.
Despite its similarities to other digital assistants, Microsoft states that Cortana is able to get to know you more than what you’d expect from “a mere search engine.” While the not-so-subtle jab may vastly underplay Google Now’s features, there is some merit to the claim. Cortana’s keeps a “notebook,” which puts you in control of how Cortana interacts with you. This notebook allows you to customize your interests, inner circle of people who matter most, quiet hours, people who can break through quiet hours restrictions, and much more.
Next up on the topic of personalization are personalized lock screens and tile customization. Like we’ve already seen for some time on Android, WP8.1 allows developers to take control of the lock screen to deliver highly themed, custom experiences. In addition, users can now heavily customize their start screens by adding backgrounds and configuring how many tiles are displayed.
Windows Phone 8.1 finally brings proper notification handling. Dubbed “Action Center,” Microsoft’s take on the Android notification shade offers four customizable quick settings atop a standard notifications from all apps. This is accessible all throughout the entire UI, including the lock screen.

Windows 8.1 and Beyond

Microsoft also talked quite a bit about the future of traditional Windows. For starters, many will be elated to learn that Microsoft is bringing back the Start Menu with an update coming later this year. The revised Start Menu is essentially the Windows 7 Start Menu with some Windows 8 flair. It’s about the same size as what we’re used to in Windows 7, but with the added benefit of also displaying Windows 8 Live Tiles.
In addition to the new Start Menu, Microsoft is also introducing a new interface mode that allows you to run Modern UI apps while in Desktop mode. Furthermore, a substantial update to Windows 8.1 to improve keyboard and mouse usability is coming in under a week. This will bring an ever present task bar, which allows users to seamlessly switch between apps just like what was possible on Windows 7.

Unified Apps

Finally, Microsoft also talked about making applications easier to code across all of its platforms. Now, developers can create a single app that works on Windows Phone, traditional Windows, and even the Xbox One. With this, developers can allow consumers to purchase an app on one device and access it on any connected Windows device.
What do you think of Microsoft’s announcements today at Build? Does the prospect of Unified Apps help developers and consumers? Are you glad to one day get the Start Menu back? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’d like to watch the entire three hour keynote in its entirety, head over to Microsoft’s Channel 9.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nokia Lumia 630 expected to break cover next week

Nokia has announced that it will be holding an event at the beginning of Microsoft Build next week. It’s at that event we’re likely to get our first glimpse of the Nokia Lumia 630, along with other details such as its launch date.
With Microsoft expected to focus on Windows Phone 8.1, at the event, it’s also possible that we might get to find out the first details of the Nokia Lumia 930, codenamed Martini. The Martini is expected to be the first Windows Phone 8.1 handset.
The company hasn’t revealed what it will be showing off at the event, which will take place on Wednesday April 2nd. It has said that attendees should get ready for “more Lumia”.
The invite with the more Lumia also has the O of more replaced with a camera, a map, a compass and a smiley face. Few other details have been hinted at.
Details of the Nokia Lumia 630 first leaked in February. According to those leaks, it will be the first Windows Phone with on screen buttons, rather than the physical ones found on most devices today.
It’s also expected to come with a five megapixel camera, without a flash and be aimed at the low end of the market.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Microsoft Surface Phone Rumours: Release date, specs and images

Microsoft Surface review

With Windows Phone 8 proving popular, speculation has grown that Microsoft might be manufacturing their own handset. We round up all the rumours and speculation across the web.
Released late 2012 the Microsoft Surface RT has, according to CEO Steve Ballmber, had only a ‘modest’ amount of sales.
Just a few weeks after launch, the tablet received some criticism from users, who said that the accessories were prone to damage.
With the HD version, the Microsoft Surface Pro arriving soon, there have been rumblings that the software giant may be making it’s own handset in order to expand on the Microsoft Surface brand.
With third-party-manufactured Windows 8 phones proving popular, it would certainly make sense for Microsoft to look into manufacturing their own phone, however in an interview with Information Week Microsoft’s Senior Marketing manager, Greg Sullivan has denied the claims.
As these things go, Sullivan’s denial seems to have done nothing but fuel yet more speculation and rumour about a possible Microsoft Surface Phone.

Microsoft Surface Phone: Release date

The most promising news comes in the form of an article from IBTimes which suggests that Microsoft will unveil a new tablet and phone at Computex 2014.
Reports suggest that the tablet will be a smaller 8.4-inch version of the Microsoft Surface whilst the phone would be a flagship Surface phone running an updated version of WIndows Phone 8 which will tie in more with Windows 8 RT.
With Microsoft's launch of the Xbox One and Xbox Smartglass it seems logical that Microsoft is looking to create an ecosystem that integrates tablets, smartphones and its games console.
The Surface Mini and Surface Phone would also launch with the much-anticipated version of Office for the Metro UI whilst there have been reports that Siri-rival Cortana will be set to launch at Computex as well.

Microsoft Surface Phone: Rumours

Despite the Marketing Manager’s denials, has reported that Foxconn, which manufactures a whole host of smartphones, has already received orders from Microsoft for the phone, with a mid-2013 launch date. Sources pointed out that the own-brand handset would have a limited shipment volume at first.
Of course, Foxconn has declined to comment

Microsoft Surface Phone: ‘Juggernaut Alpha’

A French website has seemingly managed to track down the GPS location of a mysterious device; ‘Juggernaut Alpha’, which is thought to be a codename for the Surface Phone. The devices’ GPS location traced back to none other than Microsoft’s owncampus, where the Windows Phone development team is situated.

Microsoft Surface Phone: Rumoured Specs

With nothing confirmed by the manufacturer, any details on the phone’s hardware are purelyspeculative; however there are some rumours circulating at the moment suggesting a 300dpi display measuring around 4.3-4.7-inches, a multicore processor and an 8mp camera. Naturally, the operating system is most likely to be Windows Phone 8.
We will be bringing you all of the latest updates on the Windows Surface phone if, or when, they break.

Monday, 3 March 2014

First dual-boot Windows Phone 8 and Android handsets said to arrive by June

Windows and Android are such good pals, they're quite literally inseparable on a number of dual-boot devices
Aside from some old community-driven projects, however, the relationship between Google's mobile OS and Windows Phone hasn't blossomed to a point where they're officially comfortable sharing a smartphone. Well, they better pencil in a bonding session, because The Times of India reportslocal manufacturer Karbonn is set to launch the first such dual-boot handset by June. With the ink now dry on a deal with Microsoft -- presumably a WP license agreed behind closed doors at MWC -- plans are to offer a range of split-personality devices with professional and tech-savvy types in mind. Perhaps they'll run Windows Phone 8.1 right off the bat, too, given the new version's broader hardware support, and show that you needn't create mutant advocates to tempt consumers one way or another.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Should Microsoft kill Windows Phone and switch to Android?

Nokia Lumia 1020, running Android 4.4 KitKatSkype, phone dialler, and other apps on Nokia's Normandy deviceNokia Lumia 920, running Windows 8I’ve just had an interesting idea (which is pretty rare at the end of a long, hard week). What if Microsoft’s new CEO,Satya Nadella, drops Windows Phone in favor of Android? This might seem crazy, given the amount of time and money that Microsoft has put into Windows Phone — but desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Adding credence to this idea is the Nokia X (codenamed Normandy) — a Lumia-style phone that runs Android. This mid-range phone, despite Microsoft’s acquisition of Nokia, still looks like it’s going to come to market this spring. Is it possible that Microsoft is waiting to see how the Nokia X does, before making a decision on the continuation of Windows Phone?
Now, there is obviously a lot of inertia against this idea. Microsoft has worked very, very hard to make Windows Phone a viable third option alongside iOS and Android. It’s not quite there, but it’s getting tantalizingly close. Presumably, Windows Phone 8.1, due out in the first half of the year, will finally push us over the “hey, this is actually really cool” threshold. Likewise, and perhaps more importantly, Microsoft has spent a lot of time and money cultivating an army of Windows Phone app developers — developers that, confronted with the runaway success of iOS and Android, probably took a lot of convincing.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Windows 8.1 Update 1 leaks: Boots to the Desktop by default, allows Metro apps to be minimized

Windows 8.1 Update 1 Start screen, with power buttonWindows 8.1 Update 1, showing a Metro app with the Minimize optionNew UI scaling options in Windows 8.1 Update 1Windows 8.1 Update 1 Desktop, showing the build string, and a Metro app on the toolbarThe latest build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 has leaked, revealing many of the changes that Microsoft hopes will make Metro less painful for desktop users. The biggest change appears to be that Windows 8.1 Update 1 will boot straight to the Desktop interface by default, reducing Metro to its rightful role as a full-screen Start menu. This, of course, would be a complete 180 from the original release of Windows 8, which defaulted to the Metro interface and lacked an easy way to see the Desktop after logging in.
Other notable changes in the leaked build of Windows 8.1 Update 1 are the addition of apower button to the Metro interface (no longer must you swipe in from the right-hand side!), and the option to “minimize” Metro apps, strongly hinting that Metro apps will be usable on the Desktop. (One of the screenshots shows the Windows Store icon on the taskbar, too.) Apparently, if you have a Windows tablet that’s smaller than 8.5 inches, the power button won’t be present, preventing you from accidentally turning your tablet off.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Microsoft slashes prices on Windows 8.1 tablets, achieves near-parity with Android devices

Microsoft Surface Nexus
We’ve known since IDF that Intel intended to put pressure behind Bay Trail’s sales volume by aggressively positioning the tablets across both Windows 8.1 and Android, but it seems Microsoft doesn’t want to be left behind — or undercut. The company has made significant slashes to prices on multiple devices in the Microsoft Store — the 32GB Dell Venue Pro has dropped from $299 to $229, while the 32GB Lenovo Miix 2 and Toshiba Encore (also 32GB tablets) have fallen to $249, from $299.
Dropping the Venue Pro to $229 actually puts Microsoft in the unusual position of going head-to-head against the $229 Google Nexus 7 (2013), but offering twice the storage (32GB versus 16GB). While Windows 8 has been roundly chewed up for offering far less than maximum capacity once the OS and restore files are accounted for, the 32GB Dell Venue 8 will still have 4-6GB more practical storage available than the Nexus 7 device.
The tablets themselves are powered by the Intel Bay Trail Z3740D, the same chip inside the Asus TransformerBook T100. While more expensive, the T100 also sports a larger screen (10.1 inches), a removable dock, and up to 64GB storage). Having used it extensively, I can say that the performance of this solution is surprisingly good — it far outstrips Clover Trail, and the integrated GPU is capable of handling many tablet games.
No, the Venue Pro 8 doesn’t have the Nexus 7′s 1920×1080 screen, but the 8.1-inch display on the Venue Pro still hits a PPI of 186. That’s higher than a conventional desktop monitor, even if it isn’t quite “Retina” quality (though as always, that’s a relative term and depends on viewing distance).
Dell Venue 8
Microsoft is clearly trying to boost the visibility of its own Store (it’s selling the Dell Venue 8 Pro for a lower price than Dell itself). Still, this move also aligns with some of Intel’s priorities. The chip manufacturer has stated that its goal is to dramatically drive new tablet adoptions in 2014 with strong offerings in both the Windows 8 and Android ecosystems. If prices like this stick around, we’ll see Windows selling at head-to-head parity with Android throughout the year, at least at the upper end.


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