Posts with tag windows phone
Microsoft has their building blocks
Mojang isn’t a big studio, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from paying a big price for it. While the Swedish indie studio is home to less than 50 employees, these guys are hard at work on one of the biggest games the gaming industry has seen in some time – Minecraft, the multiplatform wonder that has captured the heart of hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of gamers across potentially even more devices. And now, for a cool $2.5 billion, it belongs to Microsoft. Or it will as soon as the deal closes, rather.
While it’s not inherently clear as to what Microsoft plans on doing with Mojang, you can bet that Minecraft won’t see any neglect going forward. Minecraft is essentially the singular big product the company has ever put out, which means that Microsoft’s interest in the company has to be directly relating to Minecraft. More than likely, the company is planning on using the studio to build up the in-house studio support of their Xbox (and likely Windows, including Windows Phone) gaming platforms.
While that may sound like it makes sense, and also pretty exciting – Microsoft is a massive company with enough clout and money to improve all the ways Minecraft has lagged behind some expectations in recent years -it should also kind of scare you. Minecraft is famously available on just about every platform known to man (as long as that platform doesn’t happen to be made by Nintendo – sorry, fellow Wii U and 3DS fans), and Microsoft likely has very little interest in becoming an enthusiastic PlayStation or Android developer. While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Minecraft will ever become an Xbox and Windows exclusive, it does mean that we know where their priorities lie; indeed, Microsoft promises that Minecraft will “remain available” on all available platforms.
Mojang leader Markus “Notch” Persson has taken this opportunity to leave the company he helped build, explaining his feelings towards both the sale of his company to Microsoft as well as his personal feelings towards his relationship with his fans and game development in general in a new note posted on his personal website (and mirrored here) entitled, appropriately, “I’m leaving Mojang.” Notch claims that the deal, to him, isn’t about the money – but rather his sanity.
Things are getting pretty bad
Honestly, it’s not like things haven’t been bad for Microsoft on the mobile front since around the time Apple launched the iPhone in 2006, but frankly things are looking even worse than ever for the behemoth mobile software developer today. The IDC has reported on this quarter’s smartphone sales, revealing that sales of Windows Phone 8 devices (ie. Nokias) have seen a sharp decline from 11.9% to a measly 2.5% – a drop worse than even Microsoft might have imagined.
As if to prove just how bad things have gotten for the platform, OEM support for Windows Phone has thus far diminished to just about one – Nokia, which Microsoft acquired earlier this year in order to keep the Windows Phone devices coming. Prior to the acquisition, Nokia had been working on a line of new Android devices and was in talks to drop the Windows Phone options entirely, which would have all but diminished Windows Phone’s presence in the marketplace. Though Microsoft managed to stop that disaster from happening, Nokia did release their first line of Android devices before the acquisition was announced, Microsoft recently killed that line in favor of lower priced Windows Phone devices.
Microsoft is preparing to launch a new line of Lumia smartphones earlier September, with initial reports suggesting that there are two models incoming – a midrange Lumia “Selfie” phone with a 5 megapixel front facing camera, and a new Lumia device wrapped in an all aluminum body. The company has already sent out invitations for the event where these phones are rumored to launch.
All that said, it really is just a simple question at this point – have things been too bad for too long for the company? Or, in other terms, is it too late for Windows Phone? It’s nearly been 4 years since the Windows Phone platform launched at this point, replacing the archaic but long lasting Windows Mobile one which was almost instantly obsoleted by iOS and Android. Microsoft hasn’t really had much luck since that point, and there has to be a point where it would make more sense to just give in the towel – maybe this is it?
Unless, of course, you’re Microsoft, and you’ve got a selfie phone coming.
I'm going to make it call me Chief
Microsoft made a splash with Cortana when Windows Phone 8.1 finally launched a couple of months ago, and after months of testing people have gotten a pretty good idea of how accurate and useful Microsoft’s Siri alternative truly is – and as it turns out, Cortana is actually pretty impressive. It should come as little surprise then that Microsoft is working on bringing its Cortana Personal Assistant to the next major version of Windows, Codename “Threshold”, which will likely be named Windows 9 upon its release in 2015. According to Neowin, who has provided accurate information in the past, current development builds of Windows Threshold actually do have placeholders for Cortana, however it has yet to be fully realized in the most recent builds.
Rumor has it Microsoft will integrate Cortana deeply into the core of the operating system, as opposed to acting as just a separate application that runs on top of the operating system. Microsoft currently takes a similar approach to Cortana in Windows Phone 8.1. Windows Threshold is rumored to be announced later this year at an upcoming Special Event alongside an early Developer Preview of the operating system and will be home to a significant reworking of the way Windows currently works and looks. Recent rumors indicate that Microsoft is killing off the much loathed Charms bar in Threshold while also bringing native support for virtual desktops – a feature that has been in most Linux distributions and Mac OS X for quite some time now.
Recently leaked screenshots have also revealed that Microsoft has reimplemented a newly redesigned version of the Start Menu in Windows Threshold, which seems to be a monster mash between the Windows 7-era Start Menu and the Windows 8 Start Screen. Recently opened applications are seen on the left side of the Start Menu while the right is dominated by live updating tiles, which users could presumably pin for easy access to glanceable information.
September looks to be a busy month
The progression of the Lumia line has kind of slowed since Microsoft completed their purchase of Nokia’s mobile phone division a couple of months ago, but all at once the blockade is breaking. Just a few short days after announcing the company’s second generation Android smartphone, the Nokia X2, and then promptly killing the Android program all together – Microsoft has officially announced that they’ll be holding their first Lumia Special Event on September 4th in Berlin, Germany. While the invitation never says the word “Lumia” directly – for all we know, Microsoft could actually be killing the Lumia name in favor of something a little more Surface-y – it does invite us to join Microsoft for some “face time” with a nice photo of a Nokia’s PureView camera like the one found on the Lumia 1020.
According to recent rumors, the phones slated to make an appearance are the Lumia 730 and the Lumia 830. Both are slated to be fairly midrange phones, with the 730 rumored to be coming with an impressive 5.1 megapixel front facing camera, all the better for taking selfies. The 830 will feature an all aluminum build similar to the Lumia 925, but with fairly midrange internal specifications and a PureView branded camera.
Whatever Microsoft is so excited to talk about on September 4th, we’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the latest news regarding Microsoft’s upcoming first Lumia Special Event.
It seems as if the Nokia X was so popular that it demanded a new version – and here it is, the Nokia X2. While still aimed at the low-end, off-contract market, the X2 has been vastly upgraded and improves just about everything that was present in the Nokia X.
While the X2 still comes with a custom fork of Android that isn’t Play-certified, the hardware has been massively upgraded and even trumps the low-end Windows Phone market. Specs-wise, you get a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon 200, 1GB of RAM, 4GB of storage, a 5-megapixel camera with flash, a front facing camera and even a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 32GB cards.
On the software side of things, the Metro-esque custom launcher comes with a few improvements like an apps list similar to that of Windows Phone, new screens, and the ability to set the color of the tiles pinned to your Start Screen, also a feature straight out of Windows Phone. Pre-loaded apps include Skype, Outlook and OneDrive with a generous 15GB of online storage (though this was given to every non-paying OneDrive user recently). And being Android, apps aren’t a worry even if it’s not Play-certified.
As mentioned before, the device will sell for about $135 and will be available immediately in “select countries”. As ever, they come in a wide variety of colors; green, orange and black are the launch colors and they’ll later introduce yellow, white and grey colors.
Microsoft now controls the OS and the hardware
If there’s one thing Microsoft has always been good at, its developing software and partnering with hardware manufacturers to get that software out into the world. But starting today, Microsoft has turned into a big player of both the hardware and the software. That’s right, after over half a year of waiting and waiting for the right government approval, Microsoft has officially acquired Nokia’s devices and services unit.
The deal, which was originally announced in September of 2013 and cost Microsoft $7.2 billion, puts the software giant firmly in control of nearly the entire Windows Phone ecosystem, from end to end. Nokia had been Microsoft’s biggest Windows Phone supporter, however the company began to accelerate a deal that would merge the two companies when it became public knowledge that Nokia was heavily considering switching to Android – a consideration that eventually turned somewhat to reality with the announcement of the Nokia X and XL last month.
Under the acquisition, Microsoft will be allowed to use the “Nokia” name on feature phones until December 31st, 2015. However, any new smartphones by the former Nokia team will be released under the Microsoft brand. It remains to be seen on whether or not Microsoft is planning on using the Lumia branding with upcoming Windows Phone devices, however a rumor a while back indicated that Microsoft could be considering switching to the Surface brand for all smartphone models going forwards.
A couple weeks ago, we reported on a rumor that Windows Phone 8.1 would be arriving on April 14th. Today is that day and it’s confirmed – the Windows Phone 8.1 Preview for Developers has been released through Microsoft’s Preview for Developer program, meaning anyone with a Windows Phone developer account (even a free App Studio account) can download and install this update just like you would any other update.
According to one of my contacts, the update is split into two parts: the first part is a pre-update, if you will, that presumably contains some bugfixes for the existing Windows Phone 8 OS while the second part is the actual Windows Phone 8.1 Developer Preview update.
Windows Phone 8.1 contains many new features such as VPN support, more tile customization options and most notably, Cortana. If you’re interested in the update, all you have to do is get your phone developer unlocked and install the Preview for Developers app – but be aware that once you update, there’s no going back to a stable OS.
Review coming soon!
Says the leaked documents
Yesterday, Microsoft showed off Windows Phone 8.1 during the //BUILD/ 2014 Day 1 keynote. The speakers stated that the build would be arriving for developers sometime later in April but didn’t leave any specifics.
Neowin has acquired an internal email that may help shed some more specifics on when the build will be arriving. While there was an earlier build of Windows Phone 8.1 released to Microsoft Connect partners, it wasn’t deemed the gold master because there were a few extra bugs that had to be fixed. This pushback seems to have resulted in the new release date of April 14th with the build being signed off on April 8th.
An important thing to note is that the leaked Neowin email refers to an “adaptation kit” which is for OEM partners to tailor Windows Phone images to their devices and may not mean that ordinary developers will get the build at the same time the OEMs do.
The Lumia 635 is the successor to the Lumia 521 and will be available on T-Mobile. Like the 521, it’s a budget device aimed at the no contract market but it does include LTE support, something that Stephen Elop mentioned during the keynote this morning. It’ll also come with a 4.5″ screen and a quad-core processor which is a considerable upgrade from the 521.
But if you’re still rocking a Lumia 925 or 521, T-Mobile will be releasing the Windows Phone 8.1 update for those devices too. And it’ll also be available for people who own the MetroPCS version of the Lumia 521, as MetroPCS is now owned my T-Mobile. Unfortunately, owners of the Lumia 810 are once again going to be left out in the cold as the press release makes no mention of that device.
The devices and updates are coming to T-Mobile “this summer” with no specific dates or price points mentioned.
Cortana, what's new?
As expected, Microsoft has officially announced Windows Phone 8.1 on stage at the BUILD opening keynote speech today. Although Windows Phone 8.1 has been designated as a minor point upgrade, in actuality Windows Phone 8.1 is a large upgrade to the platform, bringing some of the most commonly requested features and bits of functionality into Microsoft’s floundering mobile phone platform.
While we’ve seen a lot of this before already, the biggest bit of new news came from Windows Phone’s Cortana functionality. Cortana, for those who don’t know, is Microsoft’s take on an intellectual voice assistant on Windows, akin to Siri on Apple iOS and Google Now on Android.
Cortana is incredibly intelligent, keeping track of a held conversation in a way that Siri for example has yet to truly grasp – commands can be treated as sort of threads, so if you say “What’s the weather in Boston, MA?” for example, you can amend that in the next command by saying something like “What’s that in Kelvin?” – for you scientists who just need to know what the weather’s like in Kelvin.
Meanwhile, Cortana can also keep reminders outside the Cortana UI itself. Ask Cortana to remind you to tell your wife something, and a reminder will pop up next time you text, call, or Skype with your wife. It’s very smart, and a welcome addition to the voice assistant family – something I hope will make its way to some competitor’s platforms before long.
Other than Cortana, Windows Phone 8.1 provides several other impressive new features. There’s a new lock screen customization UI that allows developers to create unique new lock screen designs. Picking up the personalization trend and running with it, Microsoft has also integrated a sort of unique wallpaper support in the platform that allows you to transplant images onto live tiles. It’s kind of odd, but it creates some unique and interesting customization options.
Microsoft has also integrated Internet Explorer 11 support into Windows Phone 8.1, as well as a bunch of other updates to integrated applications, such as Settings and Calendar. The keyboard has been updated to allow for Swype-like usage with swiping instead of tapping on the individual letters. Windows Phone 8.1 is slated to ship to new phones beginning in April, and will ship as an update to existing Windows Phone 8 devices (we hope) in the “next couple of months.” Good luck.
Customer Experience Team still working
According to popular Microsoft blog WPCentral, Microsoft has completed work on the Windows Phone 8.1 core, bringing the product – which is expected to be officially announced at Microsoft’s BUILD developer conference – one step closer to finalization.
According to WPCentral, the Windows Phone 8.1 team is still hard at work on other elements of the operating system; the Customer Experience Team in particular is still working on fixing some lingering bugs, blocking the operating system from being eligible for RTM (gold) status just yet.
Looks to make Windows more attractive
In one of the most unexpected pieces of news since forever, we’re hearing confirmation today that Microsoft will be participating in an effort to release dual-boot Android/windows Phone hybrid devices starting this calendar year. The root of this confirmation comes from Karbonn, an Indian-based smartphone manufacturer, Chairman Sudhir Hasija, who claims that his company has been in discussion with Microsoft about the project for some time now and that dual-boot smartphones will be coming within the next six months.
But before that will start, Karbonn will begin selling their first line of Windows Phone-exclusive smartphones by June. These phones should ship with Windows Phone 8.1 out of the box and will be the result of an effort by Microsoft to, as Hasija has said, ease “regulations and… open[ing] up its platform for other players.”
Microsoft has seen only limited success with its Windows Phone platform, capturing less than 5% of the smartphone market. This comes in stark contrast to the overall success of the Windows Mobile line prior to the unveiling of the iPhone in 2007, a product that largely dominated the marketplace in its time.