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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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Windows Phone 7 App Recap – Freebies


The folks over at Microsoft were kind enough to let Platform Nation in on some Windows Phone 7 action for the last couple of months, and while I was initially hoping to give you all the details on Mango (Windows Phone’s latest OS release), I decided to give you an overview of some of the apps I’ve been using instead. If you’re looking for an OS review, stay tuned, as we’ll be getting more coverage on Windows Phone 7, which will include a full overview of the (in my opinion) incredible features that are packed into this OS.  I even picked up an HTC Trophy from Verizon for myself and my wife, we liked what we saw that much.

But I’m getting ahead of myself; in this recap, I thought I’d highlight some of the quality Free apps in the marketplace that I’ve come across so far.  This is far from an inclusive or exhaustive list, but what you’re about to see is what I have used and loved so far.  The links for the apps will take you to the Marketplace for the app, where you can download and add it to your phone from the website – no syncing to your computer is necessary!

Weave – News Reader: Weave is an app that “gets” what being a Windows Phone 7 app is all about.  It utilizes the Metro theme well, bringing you news based on topics you select when you first load it up.  Think the default options suck (they don’t)? Then use the in-app Google Feed search service to add more, or even punch in the RSS feed address directly (Like, say, http://feeds.feedburner.com/platformnation). Going through the news in the list will show you twenty articles on a page, with a click taking you to whatever the article has before the More tag.  You can easily view the article from within the app to see the entire article, share the article with Twitter, Facebook, instapaper, or even email the link to yourself.  There is also a section of the app for featured articles, which takes the top news from what you like and puts them in a list of about 8 tiles horizontally.  Personally, I didn’t find it to be particularly useful, and usually just opted to go into the list of news for the particular topics I was interested in.  There’s some lag time initially while it loads up all the news, and if you have a lot of categories, this could take a little time (30 seconds at most), but you can read what you had downloaded before while you wait.  Overall, a solid news reader, and at 1MB, a lightweight one as well. Would be nice to see some Live Tile support (A top story headline perhaps).

AppFlow and WP7applist – App Discovery:  I list these two different apps together because they both do the same thing, and do it well.  Even with just 30,000 apps so far, finding what you want (or what you SHOULD want) can be a little tricky.  Surfing through the default marketplace on the phone is hit or miss for app discovery, so using AppFlow or WP7applist will help wade through the crap to get to what you should have.  Both feature search functions such as New & Impressive (new apps with high ratings), Apps Gone Free, and Highest Rated.  AppFlow has a few more search functions, such as Hidden Gems (low download but high rating) or David vs. Goliath (Official and unofficial apps for the same function, compared together).   WP7applist does have a nice live tile that shows the number of new marketplace releases in the last 24 hours.  Pick up either one, and start finding more things to download.

Sudoku, Minesweeper and Flowerz – Games:  Free games are always good.  Free Xbox Live games are better. And free Xbox Live games with achievement points?  Sign me up.  Sudoku and Minesweeper should need no introduction.  Both have a similar looking layout, with clean and crisp graphics that are both intuitive and responsive.  As a nice added bonus, you gain experience for completing (or partial credit for failing) each game, and this experience will allow you to level up and unlock powerups.  Examples of these powerups would be things like adding in all possible answers in pencil mode, or providing one correct answer (in Sudoku), or revealing a section of squares (which mark all the mines) or getting a shield that protects you from one mistake (in Minesweeper).  These powerups use energy that is accumulated over time, so it doesn’t imbalance the games too much, it just adds a nice perk to playing.  Both of these games offer 50 achievement points each.  Flowerz, which is a match-3 game, offers 200 points.  While well put together, the limited game modes in Flowerz will make it tough to plow through beyond the first couple of playthroughs. That being said, there is some decent challenge to the game, and I liked the leaderboard integration, that keeps you going by showing your score against what your friends have done in the game.  I just wish it wasn’t so.. blah.

TouchDevelop – App Development: My final app for this first review is a great example of what I really hope is the new Microsoft when it comes to developing software that really makes your excited about them.  TouchDevelop is a development tool for Windows Phone 7 that allows you to create apps from within the phone itself.  Well, “Apps” is a strong word – scripts might be better, as you run them from within this app, but there is a social aspect in that you can publish your scripts for others to use.  The tool is very robust, while still being accessible, and there are great tutorials to help you along.  If you ever wanted to channel your inner developer, or if you want to see some of the stuff that other people are creating with this tool, check this app out.  It stands out as being something truly unique and, well, awesome.  I have a feeling that as more people get on board with this tool, you will begin to see some truly creative programs being shared, and this will only help to create cooler features for your phone.

Like I said, there are a TON of great free apps out there (and I have more that I use every day).  Hopefully these apps will get you started on getting your news, finding new apps, playing some games, and maybe even making some of your own.

If you like what you read, or want to give feedback on what you want to see in the future, let us know in the comments section below.

Source: http://www.platformnation.com/2011/10/12/windows-phone-7-app-recap-freebies/

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2011 in App, Facebook, Verizon, Windows Phone 7

 

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Microsoft Preps Big Win Phone 7 Push Heading into Holidays


Brace yourself for the upcoming Windows Phone 7 onslaught. In the coming months Microsoft will make a big holiday push that will extend into early 2012 in an attempt to win over converts to its new mobile operating system. Andrew Lees, president of Microsoft’s Windows Phone Division, has been busy recently spreading the gospel of Phone 7 and dishing on Microsoft’s mobile plans, according to a number of reports.

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In several recent interviews the Phone 7 chief has addressed several shortcomings the company’s mobile platform has been criticized for including a lack of dual-core handsets and LTE connectivity – two features Android handset makers jumped on many months ago. Apple’s new iPhone 4S also has a dual-core processor.

Lees’ publicity push for Phone 7 follows Microsoft’s recent roll out of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango in late September. The software update featured over 500 new features such as multitasking, an improved Web browser and a Wi-Fi hotspot mode. Critics largely welcomed the upgrade since it gives Microsoft’s mobile platform some degree of parity with its main competitors Apple’s iOS-powered iPhone and Google’s Android mobile OS.

Phone 7 Home For The Holidays

More Windows Phone 7 devices are apparently coming out in time for the holiday season including budget-priced $100 handsets, and higher-priced devices featuring big screens and dual-LED flash, according to the Seattle Times. Lees didn’t say which companies were launching the new devices or when these announcements would start. PCWorld will have the latest news from this week’s CTIA Enterprise & Applications event in San Diego.

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At least one Mango deice is expected to be from Nokia, which is expected to release its first Phone 7 device before the end of the year. Nokia announced in February that it would concentrate on producing Microsoft phones.

LTE and Dual Core

Lees also said the first LTE Phone 7 device will become available in 2012, but didn’t provide other specifics. The Phone 7 chief told AllThingsD that handsets sporting dual-core chips are also coming. But it’s not clear when a dual-core Phone 7 device might show up. Lees told AllThingsD that Microsoft wants to make sure Phone 7 software is optimized to take advantage of multiple processor cores before working with manufacturers on producing dual-core devices.

While that sounds sensible, Microsoft would be better off figuring out dual-core optimization sooner rather than later or it might find Phone 7 is left behind once again. Apple recently announced its first dual-core phone, the iPhone 4S, and handsets powered by Nvidia’s Kal-El quad-core chip for mobile devices are expected in the coming months.

Source: http://www.pcworld.com/article/241573/microsoft_preps_big_win_phone_7_push_heading_into_holidays.html

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Android, Apple, Google, iPhone, Mango

 

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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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