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Microsoft reveals Xbox Companion app for Windows Phone 7


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Microsoft just might be finally getting into the smartphone market and today they announced a cool app that will help you control your Xbox right from your phone.  The Xbox Companion app will help you control your Xbox and interact with some games, plus the app will let you search video and audio content that you’d like to watch via your Microsoft Xbox 360 console.  Once you have searched for something to listen to or watch, your smartphone will then turn into the remote control allowing you access to features that let you play, fast forward and pause the content.

The app is sort of neat and maybe an easy way for Microsoft to test out the app development side of their new smartphones, but the app will not be doing much more than you can do with your original remote control.  Not that an update couldn’t add more features in the future, but the app in its original form is not all that impressive according to what can be found online.  Once the app is able to control the Xbox the possibilities are endless, but it might take some digging around in the technology department to come up with something creative.

The app was revealed at Nokia World 2011 this year and watching some of the demo videos the app looks pretty neat.  The app is tied with Bing for the search feature which isn’t a real surprise.  Windows Phone powered smartphones have been able to interact with Xbox Live online since the first one launched, but the functions are quite limited.  A gamer can play games on the smartphone through Xbox Live and gain achievements and add to their gamer score at the same time, but that is about it.

Games like “Full House Poker” and “Fable Coin Golf” are a couple of games that you can play on your WP7 powered smartphone and by playing them you can impact the Xbox 360 versions of the games.  Watching a video online about how the WP7 smartphone can be used to control the Xbox Kinect system certainly gives you the idea that the app can really be updated to add some really nice functionality.  A user will be able to transfer information from the phone, to the Xbox console and back in order to keep up with what is happening on certain Kinect games.

Source: http://www.mobilebloom.com/microsoft-reveals-xbox-companion-app-for-windows-phone-7/226209/

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Posted by on November 1, 2011 in Microsoft, WP7, Xbox Live

 

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Nokia Launching Windows Phone 7 Devices Next Week


Nokia will be launching its Windows Phone 7 devices next week, Microsoft’s Andy Lees has revealed.

The news comes via Engadget, which said that Lees – Microsoft’s Windows Phone chief – hinted of the launch of the Nokia Windows Phone devices next week at the AsiaD event.

He said that the Finnish handsets manufacturer will have “differentiating hardware and software” at its Nokia World 2011 event in London.

The Nokia World 2011 event will begin on October 26.

Furthermore, Engadget quotes Lees:

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“Nokia will announce its rollout plans with Windows Phone, among other things. It made an evaluation early on, and saw our roadmap for this year and next year, and it decided to bet the whole company on Windows Phone based on that. We’ve seen that other hardware makers have seen this occurrence as an accelerant, which in turn helps both Microsoft and Nokia. I’m also excited about naming some new OEMs that will be coming onboard [with WP7].”

Industry observers have been waiting for Nokia to release its own crop of Windows Phone devices since it announced in February that it will be using the Microsoft platform instead of its Symbian platform in future smartphones.

Source: http://socialbarrel.com/nokia-launching-windows-phone-7-devices-next-week/24933/

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in Microsoft, Nokia, Symbian, Windows Phone 7, WP7

 

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Windows Phone 7 To Get Price Cut


Microsoft wants to reduce components costs, lower phone prices, and gain market share.

A Microsoft official said the company and its partners may reduce the price of Windows Phone 7 devices by as much as 50% in some cases in order to boost demand for the system, which significantly trails Apple and Google-powered phones in the smartphone market.

“We are supporting componentry that that will allow us to go below $200,” Windows Phone head Andy Lees told Bloomberg. Lees said Microsoft is counting on higher sales volumes to make up for lower margins that would result from a price cut.

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Carriers like AT&T already offers some Windows Phones, such as the Samsung Focus, for as little as $50, but unlocked devices from retailers like Amazon sell for $250 or more. Microsoft currently holds about 5.7% of the U.S. mobile OS market, according to the latest data from ComScore. Google leads the pack with about 43.7%, while Apple is second with 27.3%.

In addition to price cuts, Microsoft hopes the release of Mango, or Windows Phone 7.5, will boost sales. Mango adds more than 500 new features to the Windows Phone platform, including multitasking, 4G support, and the ability to work with rights-protected email.

“It leapfrogs the competition in many areas,” said Lees, while speaking on stage at the All Things D conference in Hong Kong.

On Monday, Microsoft and AT&T introduced three new phones that come with Mango pre-installed–the HTC Titan, which features a big 4.7-inch display, the Samsung Focus S, which boasts 1.4-GHz processor, and the budget Samsung Focus Flash, which has a 3.7-inch display. AT&T has yet to announce pricing for the phones.

Microsoft is also counting on its alliance with Nokia, still the world’s largest seller of phones by volume, to significantly boost market share. Next week, the Finnish company is expected to introduce its own line of Windows Phone 7 devices at its Nokia World conference.

“They are going to be investing very aggressively,” said Lees. “They’ve bet the success of the whole company on Windows Phone.”

Microsoft also recently struck a deal with handset maker Samsung under which the two companies will jointly invest in smartphone research, development, sales, and marketing. “You’ll see that ramp up in 2012,” said Lees.

Lees also announced that Microsoft plans to start selling Windows Phone 7 devices in China next year.

Source: http://www.informationweek.com/news/windows/microsoft_news/231901442

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in Apple, Microsoft, Windows Phone 7

 

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Hands-on: Windows Phone 7 Mango edition adds features, polish


Computerworld – The recent iOS 5 announcement highlighted several interesting additions to Apple’s app-focused operating system, such as the new Siri voice command interface, which will be available only on the iPhone 4S. In contrast, Microsoft’s new Mango version of Windows Phone 7 (which is actually version 7.5) helps fulfill that platform’s promise of helping people focus on the tasks they want to accomplish and the information they want to receive, rather than the apps they run — especially when it comes to social networking and communications.

I had a chance to try Mango out using a Samsung Focus. My conclusion? Windows Phone 7 now feels like a complete, polished operating system rather than a work in progress.

Changes to social networking and contacts

Microsoft has clearly targeted social networking and contacts with Mango. For a start, it fixes the most glaring issue with earlier versions of Windows Phone — incomplete support of social networking and difficulty with multitasking — and now supports Twitter and LinkedIn.
Mango
Mango targets social networking.
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Social networking is now woven through the entire Windows Phone experience. You don’t need to consciously launch a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn app in order to gain the benefits of social networking, because their capabilities are integrated directly into the way you use the phone.

For example, a new profile pane for each contact shows a combined history of your communications with that contact, whether it be via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or text messaging. A new pictures pane shows the photos that each contact has posted to Facebook and Windows Live. In addition, the new Me tile aggregates updates and content from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Windows Live, so you can see at a glance all the recent updates from your contacts on multiple social networking services. You can also use the Me pane to send updates to multiple social networking sites with a single post.

Another welcome change: Mango finally adds threaded messaging for email and text messaging, so you can easily follow all messages in a single conversation. And Mango introduces something even better: You can hold a single conversation with someone across multiple communications services. For example, if you start a conversation with someone on Facebook chat, you can continue that same conversation via text messaging.

Also new is the ability to filter which updates from which social networks you want displayed. If you’re suffering from Twitter fatigue, for example, you can tell Windows Phone to stop displaying Twitter updates. When you’re ready again for the unending Twitter stream, enable it.

And you can now place your contacts into groups — family, colleagues, people on your softball team and so on — using a feature appropriately named Groups. You can send out a single message to the entire group in several ways. You’ll also be able to see the combined social networking updates (and the newest phones) of everyone in the group at a glance. One feature I found especially useful: You can pin a group to your Start screen, and the group’s tile will tell you when anyone in the group posts to a social network or sends you a message. The tile also alerts you when you’ve missed a call.

Facebook integration has been strengthened, so events from Facebook are now included in your phone’s calendar. However, you can’t make changes to the Facebook events from the calendar — you’ll have to head to Facebook for that.
Mango

Microsoft also claims that Live Tiles update more frequently than in the past. As a practical matter, I didn’t notice a difference, but those addicted to the need for instant updates may see one.

Each of these changes to social networking is useful, but what really counts is the cumulative effect. Use Mango for a while, and you’ll find yourself more easily focusing on the content of your communications with others, and less on the mechanics of communications.

Bing takes center stage

The second most important set of Mango additions centers on Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, which has gained a bunch of new features.

To begin with, the new Local Scout feature integrates into Bing Maps and shows a variety of local information, including places to eat, drink and shop, as well as local attractions and events. It grabs that information from a variety of partners such as Yelp.

Overall, Local Scout is a nifty addition, but it’s only as good as the partner information, which is not always stellar. Restaurant information wasn’t comprehensive; in my neighborhood, for example, it left out several of the best restaurants and most interesting stores. As for local things to see and do, it included events well over an hour’s drive away, which may not fit everyone’s idea of local. And I found the recommendations in its “highlights” section, which are supposed to list the most interesting places and things to do, downright strange at times — for example, it listed a nearby burrito joint as one of the top three attractions in my vicinity. Note to Local Scout: My neighborhood is a whole lot more interesting than that.

Bing also adds a feature called Bing Vision, which is like a combination of the Google Goggles and Barcode Scanner Android apps. It scans bar codes, QR codes, Microsoft tags and the covers of CDs, DVDs and books; it then provides information about the object it scanned. I found the results to be hit-and-miss. It was able to identify the wireless Sonos 3 music system from a bar code, for example, but got the pricing wrong. It did, however, properly identify a CD of the opera Tristan und Isolde by Richard Wagner.

Bing Vision also says it will translate foreign words and signs into English. Based on my experience with it, though, it needs to re-take Languages 101. For example, when presented with the simple French phrase, Decrivez un acteur, it defined it as “Define an actor” rather than “Describe an actor.” Worse yet, when confronted by the simple sentence, Votre francais est excellent, it translated it as “Your English is excellent.”

A new music identification feature works like the Shazam music recognition app: It listens to and then identifies the song being played. I found it surprisingly accurate. As with similar apps, it had no trouble identifying popular music — and while I’ve found that Shazam often chokes on classical music, the Bing feature was no slouch, correctly identifying Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 1 after only a few seconds of listening.

The music ID feature also shows how Bing may eventually become less a standalone search engine than a kind of virtual glue connecting disparate parts of Windows Phone. For example, you can identify a song, have Bing search for the guitar tablature and lyrics, and then send the links to a music group you’ve set up.

Multitasking and apps

With Mango, Windows Phone joins the other major phone platforms in allowing a form of multitasking. You can now easily switch between running apps by pressing and holding the Back button. If all the open apps don’t fit on one screen, you can swipe to see others.

Apps have been better integrated into the operating system. Do a Bing search, for example, and you’ll see any related Windows Phone apps you might want to download. Tap the Music + Videos tile and swipe to the right, and you’ll see any related apps you’ve installed on your device, such as a built-in radio player app.

Speaking of apps: Microsoft Marketplace now has a substantial number — about 30,000. That’s certainly nowhere near the estimated 500,000 for iOS or 250,000 for Android. But you’ll find most of the popular apps you might expect, and you now have a solid choice of many others as well.

Interface tweaks

Mango introduces a number of welcome tweaks to the interface, notably on the Start screen. It’s much easier to customize it — you now have the ability to pin an item to the Start screen and move and delete tiles. You can also pin Groups and individual contacts, making it easier to follow friends. The Lock screen has received a modest makeover so that, if you’re listening to audio, you don’t need to unlock the phone in order to control your music player.

The on-screen keyboard is now context-sensitive, so it changes according to your task. When you’re text messaging, for example, you can choose from ASCII emoticons, and when you’re inputting an email address, you’ll find .com and @ keys.

Wi-Fi tethering

Mango gives Windows Phone the ability to share its 3G or 4G Internet connection with up to five other devices by setting up a Wi-Fi hot spot, something that Android devices and the iPhone already offer. But if you’ve got a Windows Phone device, don’t start celebrating yet because this feature won’t work on existing devices; only new ones will have this capability. (My review unit didn’t support tethering, so I was unable to test this feature.)

As with Android and the iPhone, you’ll have to pay extra for the tethering capability. Prices may vary depending on your carrier, although $20 per month is often the going rate. And tethering will not be available on every new Windows Phone device with Mango; availability will depend upon the specific device and carrier, so check before buying if this is important to you.
Other additions

Beyond all this, Mango has plenty of other features. The browser is now based on Internet Explorer 9 rather than 8, and its interface has been tweaked somewhat, so that the address bar is at the bottom of the screen. It includes support for a variety of Web standards, including HTML5, has a faster JavaScript engine and uses hardware acceleration for displaying graphics.

Windows Phone has always included voice commands, but you can now compose text messages and instant messages using your voice; Mango also will read text to you. But there’s nothing in Windows Phone that comes close to the new Siri feature in iOS 5, which performs complex, multistep tasks by voice alone.

A new SmartDJ feature automatically creates playlists from your music collection, and there’s better Xbox Live integration so that you can do things such as track how you’ve done in various games. There are now parental controls as well.
The bottom line

All in all, Mango is a significant upgrade to Windows Phone, and it brings out even more of the platform’s strengths, notably the way in which information is brought to you, rather than you having to go out and search for it. With Bing’s new features, and other improved functionality such as multitasking, Windows Phone is now a polished operating system.

Those with existing Windows Phone devices will welcome the upgrade. As for those buying a new phone, if you’re looking for a smartphone with a task-based approach rather than an app-based one, you’ll find Windows Phone 7.5 Mango to be a solid OS.

Preston Gralla is a contributing editor for Computerworld.com and the author of more than 35 books, including How the Internet Works (Que, 2006).

Source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9220605/Hands_on_Windows_Phone_7_Mango_edition_adds_features_polish_?taxonomyId=89

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Mango, Microsoft, Windows Phone 7

 

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Android Already As Profitable for Microsoft as Windows Phone 7


Microsoft makes almost as much money licensing patents to HTC, Samsung and other companies as it does selling Windows Phone 7 devices.

Yes, you read that right, Microsoft makes almost as much from Android sales as they do through sales of their own Windows Phone devices. That’s more than Google makes from the Android, which the company gives away to manufacturers. It is worth noting that Android users generate ad revenue for Google, which could add up to $1.3 billion in 2012.

Goldman Sachs estimates Microsoft will make $444 million annually from Android patent settlements for the current fiscal year. This is just slightly less than the estimated $600 million that Microsoft makes annually from the Windows Phone business.

Goldman Sachs pegs Microsoft’s earnings per Android sold at $3 to $6 per device. For comparison, Microsoft is estimated to take in about $15 per Windows Phone 7 device sold by HTC. This comes from settlements with Samsung and from a settlement with HTC made earlier this year, and match up with those from a Citi analyst earlier this year. Estimates suggest that over this same period, Google will earn about $10 per Android users in the form of ad revenue.

As Business Insider points out, this $444 million is a drop in the bucket, when you compare it to the estimated $75 billion in revenue for the same fiscal year. Unfortunately for Microsoft, patent settlements aren’t adding to the bottom line, and they aren’t slowing down Android either.

Nielsen’s analysis of smartphone purchases in the last 3 months showed that Android took 56% of the purchases, iPhone had 28% and RIM had 9%. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 didn’t even make the list, aside from being lumped into 6% of other smartphone purchases.

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Despite dire beginnings, Windows Phone 7 has a chance at coming back in 2012. Windows Phone 7.5, better known as Windows Phone Mango, has been released and will being many improvements to the Windows Phone devices. If we can get a helping of high end Windows Phone 7 devices with 4G LTE in early 2012, Microsoft might be able to get out of this slump.

Source: http://www.gottabemobile.com/2011/09/29/android-already-as-profitable-for-microsoft-as-windows-phone-7/

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Android, Google, IDC, Microsoft, Samsung, Windows Phone

 

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IE9 features in Windows Phone 7 Mango update detailed


As owners of smartphones with Windows Phone 7 installed await the long awaited “Mango” update, Microsoft continues to offer info about what users can expect in terms of new features. In a recent update on the official Windows Phone 7 blog site, Microsoft’s Amin Lakhani reveals more about how the Mango update will improve Windows Phone 7’s version of the Internet Explorer 9 web browser.

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One major change is that Windows Phone 7’s version of IE9 can actually use all of the hardware of a user’s smartphone. Lakhani states, ” … it can now tap into your phone’s built-in graphics processor to make web-based video and animation run faster and smoother.” It also allows for full HTML5 support which means that if you surf to YouTube’s web site it will show and play videos with no need to access an extra application.

Using anonymous usage data information sent by some Windows Phone 7 users, Microsoft discovered that the address bar was the most frequently used feature in the earlier version of the web browser. At the same time the favorites and tabs buttons on the bottom of the earlier web browser were used far less. Lakhani says, “Since our primary goal in Mango was to put the focus on websites, we decided to move the address bar down into the app bar, and turn the favorites and tabs buttons into menu options.” The new IE9 version also puts the browser’s refresh button next to the address bar for easier access by user.

The Windows Phone 7 Mango update, complete with IE9, is due out sometime in the coming weeks, with US phone carrier AT&T distributing the update to select handsets on September 27.

Source: http://www.neowin.net/news/ie9-features-in-windows-phone-7-mango-update-detailed

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in IE9, Mango, Microsoft, Windows Phone 7

 

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Windows 8 And Windows Phone 7 Justify At $28


Microsoft is focusing on improving its entertainment and devices business, which includes PC gaming device Xbox, the Zune portable media player, as well as its Windows mobile operating system.  These businesses together account for just under 10% of Microsoft’s stock value by our estimates.

While Windows phone 7 hasn’t generated as much revenue as expected since its launch last year, management is confident that Windows 8 will be able to provide the much needed boost to help challenge Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS. Meanwhile, Microsoft will also earn hefty income from the licensing deals signed with around 7 smartphone vendors.

While we anticipate Microsoft’s revenues from PC games, Windows Mobile and other consumer software will increase from $2.9 billion in 2012 to $3.9 billion by the end of our forecast period, Trefis members expect an increase from $3.2 billion to $4.7 billion during the same period.

We currently have a Trefis price estimate of $28 for Microsoft’s stock, about 15% above the current market price..

Windows 7 Phone Sales Slow, Management Optimistic

Windows 7 Phone saw strong sales for the initial few months after launch in October 2010 [1] but since then the sales have slowed down with market research firm AC Nielsen estimating that Windows Phone 7 accounts for just 1% of the mobile market versus 38% for Google’s Android, 27% for Apple’s iOS and 21% for RIM as of June 2011. [2]

However, Microsoft recently showed developers a preview of Windows 8 and it is quite optimistic that the new OS, with its radically different look and feel and a touch-centric user interface, will boost Windows phone 7 sales. It is also planning to launch an app store, in a nod to the success of Apple’s powerful ecosystem of products and distribution platform for apps and updates. Moreover, with Google acquiring Motorola, Microsoft remains the only pure smartphone software provider which should make it a better alternative over Android and iOS and thereby attract more smartphone vendors.

Income from Patent Licensing Deals

Microsoft has a total of 7 Android patent licensing deals with the last two coming from Acer and ViewSonic. (See Microsoft Signs with Acer and ViewSonic for License Fee from Android Sales) Under these agreements, the companies will have to pay Microsoft a fixed licensing fee for each Android device that they ship. It also has deals with manufacturers like HTC, General Dynamics, Wistron and Onkyo from whom it nets around $5-$15 for each Android device sold. In this way, it can also encourage these manufacturers in using Windows Phone 7 over Android.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2011/09/27/windows-8-and-windows-phone-7-justify-microsoft-at-28/

 
 

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