Showing posts from April 30, 2015

Are Non-Microsoft Windows Phone Sales Booming?

One of the take-outs from Kantar's sales numbers yesterday was that Windows Phone sales improved market share to the tune of about 1% compared to the same quarter one year ago. At the same time the overall market for smartphones grew by 15.5% to 345 million phones.
That means that around 3.5m extra Windows Phone devices were sold when compared to Q1 2014. Microsoft said its sales improved by 16% - or about 1.3m handsets. Which means that for the first time since Nokia switched from Symbian to Windows Phone 7 other OEMs are starting to drive growth on the platform. To the tune of two million additional sales last quarter.
Best known of the non-Microsoft handsets in the HTC One M8, but bigger sellers are likely to be the handsets from BLU and YEZZ. Italy's NGM produces a Harley-Davidson phone, which is probably the quirkiest of the Windows Phone offerings available now.

Ubuntu Races Microsoft For First Convergent Smartphone

When Microsoft showed off Windows 10 Phone's Continuum feature at Build last week there were many who were quick to point out the Ubuntu was there first. Only it isn't yet, as Canonical haven't got anything approaching this capability into Ubuntu yet, has only shipped one low end handset with an near unknown OEM and does't have anything like the funding necessary to compete with the Microsoft division formerly known as Nokia.
Mark Shuttleworth, point man for all things Ubuntu, claims that he intends to beat Microsoft to release, even with all these challenges.
That's a ballsy claim considering all the challenges. Given how far Ubuntu has come in just over a decade I wouldn't bet against Canonical pulling it off.

Apple's App Store Policies Face Criticism And Investigation

Apple's policies and fees for its App Store - and possibly its efforts around music streaming - are anti-competitive and add significant additional cost to their own customer's purchases. At least this is the view of music industry insiders, according to The Verge. In any case, recent news of the company facing scrutiny in the US and EU is long overdue.
The EU Treaty has specific controls around mis-use of market dominance outlined in article 102 of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union.
The article states:
Any abuse by one or more undertakings of a dominant position within the internal market or in a substantial part of it shall be prohibited as incompatible with the internal market in so far as it may affect trade between Member States."Such abuse may, in particular, consist in:
(a) directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices or other unfair trading conditions;
(b) limiting production, markets or technical development to the prejudice of…

Windows Phone Holds 10% Of The European Market

Microsoft's focus on the mid and low-range phones seems to be paying off. Kantor Worldpanel reports that Windows Phone now holds 10% of the European smartphone market. That's a reasonable increase in market share year on year and consistent with Kantar's results for the previous three months ending in April. Outside of Europe Windows Phone maintained its  market share in the markets on which Kantar reports. If Kantar's numbers are correct the combination of growth in market share and a growing market should mean that Microsoft has some more promising numbers to report next time out. Kantar's report can be found here.

Skype Gets Beating With The EU Stupid Stick

Europeans are apparently too dumb to tell the difference between Skype and Sky. In the same way that the EU courts forced Microsoft to change the name of Skydrive to Onedrive, the company has now been denied a trademark for the Skype name on the basis that it is too close to the Sky trademark.
In terms of stupid decisions this outranks even the previous Skydrive one. And appears to have given Sky ownership of the word 'sky' and anything derived from it, in Europe at least.
Hopefully Microsoft will appeal the decision.

Android Wear Smartwatches Looking Better Every Day

Whilst Apple has been soaking up the headlines with the Apple Watch, there have been some impressive Android Wear smartwatches announced, not to mention the latest Wear update itself, which suggests, even if Apple is front and centre of the consumer's mind at the moment, Android users may actually end up in a better place.
The Huawei smartwatch shown in the cringe-worthy ad above is a really nice piece of technology to look at. If it's as nice in the hand (on the wrist?) then it moves Android Wear on a pace. The choice of hardware and the different directions OEMs are taking closely mirrors those which preceded the rapid growth phase of Android phones and then tablets in previous years.
The interesting difference between Apple Watch and Android Wear seems to be in their different ambitions. The Watch may well be the priciest iPhone accessory that Apple sells, but it also sets out to be much more than an accessory, getting you to do more and more on the Watch itself. Android W…

Hello 'Made For Apple Watch' Goodbye Diagnostic Port

Well that didn't take long did it? Within a day of Reserve announcing that the diagnostic port on the Apple Watch supported charging and that it would be updating its design to provide power over it, Apple has announced its 'Made for Apple Watch' certification program - and the diagnostic port plays no part in it.
Now that doesn't mean that Reserve - or anyone else for that matter - couldn't use the port, just that they wouldn't be able to get certification to do so. Also, Apple appears to be looking to license the design of the strap lugs, which suggests that they will be looking to shut down any third party, non-approved OEMs who look to build Watch straps outside of the programme. In fact the license's wording specifically ties licensees to 'conform in all respects to the guidelines... quality, materials, dimensions, testing and interaction with the Apple Watch lug channel'. Doesn't mean that the OEMs have to use the license, but it could ca…

iSyncer: iTunes To USB Sync

I use iTunes to manage music on my Mac, not just because it supports my iPhone and iPad, but also because both Sony and Microsoft provide tools for syncing music  between iTunes and their phones. Makes things nice and neat and allows me to manage the music I own in one place.
If I want to send music to a USB drive things aren't so simple however. The tradional way of doing it is to drag the files from the iTunes windows to the USB stick where they will be deposited with no useful ordering or playlists.
Enter iSyncer, a free, donation supported tool which allows you to sync from iTunes to a USB key without losing any of your precious efforts in creating playlists.
Other than a requirement to have JRE installed there's nothing much to do. Fire up the app, select your USB drive, playlist format and the playlists / music you want to sync and hit go. One very short wait later you have a flash drive with your music transferred.
A relatively simple tool to accomplish what would othe…

Windows 10 For Small Tablets Demoed

Joe Belfiore took some time out at Microsoft's Ignite conference to demonstrate to Neowin how Windows 10 will work on smaller tablets. Obviously its hard to get a good feel for how exactly how well it works from this short video, but first impressions are positive.
The new, more compact Start menu and fixed navigation look to suit the smaller screen better and of course docking gives you the full desktop interface as part of Continuum.
Here's another good argument for USB-C being the connection port of the future. The new connection could make the idea of hot-desking with a small tablet an enterprise and consumer solution worth pursuing. The ability to provide power and KVM over a single connection, as well as host USB for drives and other peripherals does suggest a new degree of flexibility for full size computing. 

Google+ Pivots Into A Pinterest / Blogging Frankenmonster

Google+ has billions of registered users, but hardly any of them use it. That's not to say that the community is a barren wasteland, far from it, with a vibrant community that posts on plenty of specialist topics. The big numbers of users (well, non-users to be perfectly accurate) are those who have been forced to create a profile by Google's policies for accessing some of its content, like YouTube.
Now Google appears to be looking for new ways to boost usage of G+, as the photos element has done in the past. This time around Google is offering Collections - or a sort of cross between Pinterest and blogging.
Some users have used the new tool to group together posts about topics, whilst others are building something closer to Pinterest's boards. Collections seems to work both ways. Although to be honest a single topic board curated by a single person may not prove to be the most interesting thing in the world for anybody else to read.
Good to see that Google hasn't beg…

Apple Watch And The Danger Of Undocumented Features

Turns out that the Apple Watch has a secret hiding in its developer port, which itself is hidden in the attachment point for the Watch's bands. It is possible to charger via a physical connection, as well as the Qi connection on the rear plate.
This opens up all kinds of possibilities for bands with batteries or charging connections exposed to the outside world. One watch band manufacturer - Reserve, discoverer of the capability - intends to rejig its planned battery band to use the port.
Now, placing the port where it is on the Watch strongly suggests that Apple may have had this in mind for a future development. Or may have had it in mind for launch and decided to cancel the feature at the last moment. Whatever the truth basing a project on an undocumented feature which could be disabled by Apple through software doesn't strike me as a particularly clever thing to do.
Not that I think it represents a risk to the Watch itself, but if the Reserve were to prove successful and …

Apple Leaning On Labels, Wants To Kill Spotify Free

Interesting story on The Verge, which if true suggests that Apple's business practices are as underhand now as they ever have been.It appears that in the run up to launching its Beats / iTunes streaming service Apple has been leveraging its power over the music industry to force an end to Spotify's free streaming option, as well as killing YouTube's ad-supported music service.Whilst that might appeal to some in the industry (take a bow Taylor Swift) others might point to Spotity's success at converting free users into subscribers as a reason to keep the option open.Whatever the rights and wrongs of the free services, Apple's manoeuvring appears to have caught the eye of both the US Justice Department and the European Union.With black marks from both the no-hire and ebook price fixing investigations to its name another piece of shady behaviour would be very disappointing, just when it seemed that Tim Cook was making Apple into a more ethically run business.

Rumoured iPad Pro Specifications Look Interesting

Apple Insider claims to have details on the much rumoured iPad Pro, which if accurate would make it an attractive option for anyone who would like more functionality but wants to keep the capability of iOS on their tablet of choice.Bringing together updates that have been heard in several earlier rumours, Apple Insider says that the Pro will feature a Bluetooth stylus, NFC, Force Touch and a USB-C port. The screen will be 12.9"in size.If these specs turn out to be true the iPad Pro will be a very different device to the rest of the iPad family. It will reflect an Apple vision of Microsoft's Surface, which is seeing sales growth even as the iPad sales fall away. The USB port will bring new levels of device access and NFC could be more functional than on the iPhone, given how unlikely the Pro would be for making payments.I'd want a much better understanding of how the stylus is going to work before I'm ready to welcome the iPad Pro with open arms though. My recent negat…

Myscript Stylus Handwriting Recognition On iOS

Given that Apple invented the concept of handwriting recognition on mobile devices with the, oh-so-far ahead of its time, Newton it is somewhat galling that the platform has lacked a handwriting option for data input.However, the arrival of iOS 8 opened up the input panel for replacement by third-parties and, as a result, iOS users have gained a great deal of flexibility when it comes to input.The good news for scrawlers like me is the availability of a cursive handwriting tool called MyScript Stylus.In terms of accuracy and speed this is handwriting recognition at its best. The engine keeps up with my input no matter how fast or untidy my writing gets. It handles punctuation well and supports gestures for deleting errors, adding or removing spaces and entering carriage returns. Just write your text along the line and when you reach the end of the line wait a second or so for the text to shuffle over and make room for more.If you are inclined to write on your devices - especially if y…

Would You Snap Up Windows 10 For Your Android Phone?

Windows 10 for Phones promises to add a whole bunch of new capability to your phone when it arrives later this year. Tied to new hardware it promises to do much more than that, potentially becoming your go to device in many more ways. Continuum, if it works as well as the demos suggest, and Universal apps designed to support both desktop and phone interfaces become more common; really does extend the reach of your phone.
Getting new hardware might prove to be a stumbling block for current Windows Phone users however, especially given the preponderance of low end handsets on the platform.
For current Android users however, this may prove to be an altogether more exciting upgrade - for their current phone.
We knowMicrosoft has been working with Xiaomi to deliver a Windows Phone firmware for the company's Android phones. How about if it was able to extend out to more manufacturers? There are an awful lot of previously flagship Android devices, as well as current mid range phones, wh…

Cityman and Talkman: Are These The New Microsoft Flagships?

It's been so long since Microsoft-Nokia launched a flagship phone you begin to wonder whether the company has given up with competing against Apple and Samsung completely. The Lumia 930 / Icon is a pretty good phone and still holds its own against the iPhone and Galaxy S6. But holding its own is never going to be good enough. The Lumia 1020 created a buzz around Windows Phone, the camera was a talking point and every site rushed to review it, whether they were technology or camera focused, everyone wanted to find out whether it was as good as Nokia promised.
The answer was a qualified yes.
As a flagship the 1020 succeeded by raising the profile of the Windows Phone range. The 930 never really achieved that. So when Microsoft does release a new flagship model it needs to grab the eye.
First hints of how Microsoft would do that came last week at Build. Desktop Continuum, support for external devices and more power were promised. Now Unleash The Phones has uncovered details of the h…

Xbox Music Subscribers Score 100GB OneDrive Bonus

You may know that Microsoft just added a music locker function to OneDrive. If you have a Windows or Xbox device you can upload your own music to the cloud and have access to it from within the Xbox Music app or the Xbox Music web player. If you're an Xbox Music subscriber there's a little bonus as well: 100GB of extra storage. As far as I can tell visiting the Music folder from within the OneDrive app is all that it takes to activate the extra storage and it appears to be a worldwide offer too - not always guaranteed with some of Microsoft's promotions. Given that you have access to all the music you could want through your Xbox Music subscription there doesn't seem to be much point in uploading your own catalogue, but it could be useful for integrating tracks that aren't currently available from the streaming service. Otherwise it appears that you can just go and enjoy all that extra free storage for any document you like.

Cheeky Smart Commercial Goes Big On Small

This ad from Smart France makes the point about the For Two's size advantage when looking for a parking space. No mention of the number of seats or other disadvantages of the For Two, but hey its a commercial right?


Twenty-one years gone, not forgotten.

MIcrosoft Edge Browser Channelling Courier Spirit

Microsoft's new modern browser, Edge (formerly known as Project Spartan) introduces some new features that promise to make it less of a hated tool than Internet Explorer. The ability to use extensions and plugins from other browsers is novel. The promised integration with Cortana on the desktop exciting. But it's the inking feature that has me most intrigued. For users with a touchscreen it will be possible to annotate webpages directly in the browser, annotations which will it will store in the cloud and place back in the page when you next visit. The annotations can also be shared with other users. For those who remember the Courier concept which Microsoft floated a while back, this sounds all too familiar. In fact if integrated with OneNote and an enhanced version of the Windows Snipping tool you could indeed begin to replicate the Courier experience, shown below, on a Windows 10 touchscreen tablet.

Microsoft Surface Revenue Up 44%

Even before the arrival of the new, full fat Windows, entry-level Surface, Microsoft's tablet hybrid seems to be making progress in the marketplace, with last week's earnings call reporting an increase in revenue of 44% to $713m. Revenue isn't profit, but growing the former is important in that it indicates the build up of momentum behind the product. That growth hasn't been achieved in an easy climate either, with both PC and Tablet markets shrinking year on year, Microsoft's performance looks even better, whichever category you place the Surface in. When the new, cheaper and more relevant Surface 3 starts to bring numbers in I wouldn't be surprised to see Microsoft post some as impressive growth figures at its next reporting call. However, lets not got carried away. The iPad was being panned in commentary on the Apple earnings call, with sales down 23% year on year. It still brought in close to $5.5bn in revenue in quarter though, so Microsoft have some way …

Here's How Good Continuum Looks On Windows Phone 10

Here's Joe Belfiore showing off Continuum on Windows Phone and I have to say it looks pretty good. Whilst you may not choose to use your phone as your only computer, it certainly offers new options for hot-desking that look mighty attractive.
Two things, Windows 10 for Phones will be available "this summer" and new hardware will be required to make this work, some of which Belfiore details in the voice over.
This alone makes a Windows Phone far more attractive than previously thought possible. Let's see if Microsoft can make something of this or whether it turns into another Origami.

Did Nokia Let Slip Smartphone Plans?

Just a day after denying that it was working on a smartphone of any type, Nokia managed to mix up its messages and 'confirm' that it was in a response to a query on its Facebook page. Most likely this is the result of a mistake by the person responsible for the social media strategy at Nokia. Whilst it may be working on its future smartphone strategy it certainly shouldn't be talking about it, at least until the constraints placed upon it by the sake of its handset division to Microsoft have expired. It seems an absolute sure bet that Nokia will be working on bringing its name back to the smartphone world as soon as it can. I think the only question is: how will it do this? I'm still betting a haphazard strategy of licensing deals will be the way they choose to go. Individual devices may well be strong (and the N1 tablet certainly looks to be) but there may be a lack of coherence across the range of devices.

Build: Lots Of Good News For Windows Fans

Lots of exciting news coming out of Microsoft's Build '15 conference today as the company prepares the world for the release of Windows 10 later this year. 
Talking points include new desktop capability for phones, a first glimpse at Edge the replacement for Internet Explorer, new migration capability for iOS and Android developers looking to bring their apps to Windows 10 and a new consolidated Store supporting both modern and traditional apps.
The latest release of Windows 10 was also released to testers as well, featuring an updated version of Cortana, with improved links into your applications and information.
For me the most interesting new information concerns Windows Phone's Continuum feature, which potentially makes your phone the single source of computing power for all your needs. It practically guarantees a USB-C connection on Microsoft's next flagship Lumia, as it leverages an external screen, keyboard and mouse to turn your phone into a desktop computer. …