Despite mobile’s momentum, desktop search activity has been on the rise.
In fact, a recent comScore study reveals that October’s overall desktop search activity saw an increase of 8 percent compared to the previous month – with a total of 17,623 searches conducted.
Other statistics show that Google gained two-tenths of a percentage point and continues to lead the search industry with 66.9 percentage of the market share. However, Microsoft also gained a tenth of a percentage point and now makes up 16 percent of the search market share, followed by Yahoo at 12.2 percent.
This means that even though many Web workers have focused on mobile lately, desktops should still not be overlooked – especially during the holiday season. In the coming weeks consumers will be conducting a lot of searches, both on mobile devices and on desktops, and the only way to guarantee your business is found is by continuously monitoring your brand’s placement on the SERPs. For those Web businesses who need a little help to do so, check out Website Magazine's Master List of SEO Tools.
China’s increasingly important role in the future of the Internet and Web hosting just got a major seal of approval from Microsoft, who recently announced that it was going to bring its Windows Azure cloud-based operating system to the Asian nation.
This launch, which follows the release of Windows Server 2012, will bring multi-tenant public and private cloud services to millions of the businesses that operate in the world’s most populous country, giving owners a choice in how (and when) they will move to the cloud. Thanks to both Server 2012 and Azure, Windows customers can find the cloud that best matches the needs of their businesses, from on-premises datacenters to a public cloud.
According to a report from Forrester Research, the public cloud market in China is set to grow from $297 million in 2011 to an astonishing $3.8 billion in 2020.
Microsoft has signed a memorandum of understanding with the municipality of Shanghai and inked a deal to license its technologies with the company 21Vianet, which will provide Windows Azure services from its local Chinese datacenters to provide the best performance for its customers in the country.
DotNetNuke, a Web content management system for Microsoft .NET, recently announced an alliance with Microsoft to offer its Social CMS software through Microsoft's Windows Azure Cloud. DotNetNuke will also receive an investment from Microsoft to support engineering, sales and marketing.
By running DotNetNuke in the Azure cloud, users will be able to install and manage the software and hardware required to run the platform and will have access to the full feature set including site and document management, social collaboration, security, workflows, page and module caching, analytics and even mobile site management.
"Social experiences are ideal for cloud computing; they are consumed across many devices and browsers and they also need to scale based on fluctuations in usage," said Kim Akers, General Manager of Microsoft. "With Windows Azure developers can build social experiences that take advantage of a reliable cloud backend and a scalable way to manage and continually refine their sites. DotNetNuke's Windows Azure-based offering is designed to make it easy for organizations to build and deploy websites."
DotNetNuke began offering Windows Azure-based trials of its professional edition software worldwide, localized into five languages, earlier this year. The company today opened up registration for a beta version of its cloud offering that will be available in Q4 2012. DotNetNuke is scheduled to make the service generally available in early 2013, with service plans for mid-sized businesses and enterprises.
DotNetNuke began offering Windows Azure-based trials of its professional edition software worldwide earlier in 2012 but the company has now officially opened up registration for a beta version of the cloud offering that will be available in Q4 2012.
TypeScript was developed by Microsoft’s Anders Hajlsberg, along with Steve Lucco and Luke Hoban. The language’s source code has been licensed under Apache 2.0 and now on Codeplex.
Bing announced a name change for its Microsoft adCenter, the tool advertisers use to manage their search-based ads on the Yahoo!/Bing Network. But if you've been following adCenter changes the past six months, you know that it's much more than a name change alone.
In the official announcement, Bing touted several new features which should indicate that not only is it ready for prime time, but that it has its sights set clearly on Google and is singularly focused on providing a better experience for those managing ad campaigns on the network.
In the past few months, Bing’s list of improvements is impressive and include a new Web interface, improved ad rotation controls, and agency enablement tools for those managing multiple accounts.
The Yahoo! Bing Network is comprised of 151 million unique searchers in the U.S. who are likely to spend 24% more than the average searcher, and likely to spend 5% more than Google searchers in the U.S.*.
* Source: US, comScore Core Search (custom), June 2012
Microsoft has formally released a tool that gauges the security of an application by exploring how it affects the computer upon which it is installed.
The Attack Surface Analyzer, which might just be the best name ever for a security product, was originally released in January 2011 during the Blackhat DC security conference. Over the 20 months since launch, Microsoft claims that it has reduced the number of false positives, enhanced performance and made some bug fixes.
The tool takes snapshots of a system before and after an application was installed and then compares each to identify changes made when new apps were installed. The tool then provides an overview of changes including those such as newly added files, registry keys, services, ActiveX Controls, listening ports, access control lists, etc.
Analyzer only looks at classes of security weaknesses where programs fall short or those which are exposed to attack vectors, but it is something developers should explore running attack surface validations before releasing Windows apps is now required by Microsoft.
The Outlook email service is a big part of what makes Microsoft’s Office suite of such a success. For many businesses, it’s an essential tool that helps them keep track of more than just email correspondence, but also in-house communications, scheduling, task management, and more.
Apparently the world’s best known software company is looking to build upon the Outlook name with the release of a brand new free email service launched earlier this week, Outlook.com.
Upon first glance, this may seem like a curious decision, as the company already has the widely used Hotmail platform. More so when you compare the features of the two services, which seem basically identical on paper.
However, once you see Outlook.com, you’ll see that they are, in fact, very different products. While Hotmail is littered with gaudy display ads, Outlook.com is are more prudent and professional about the way it presents advertising. Best of all, it doesn’t show any targeted ads inside personal email correspondence with individual people (this doesn’t include newsletters, etc.), which is great for those users who are a little unnerved by the idea of Web-based email programs scanning their messages for advertising purposes.
The service will offer quick and easy access to social networks Twitter and Facebook, allowing users to retweet, Like, or post comments on the content of an email. It also links to the social profiles of the people that users are corresponding with, so their status updates will appear on the right side of the screen (in place of personalized ads). Eventually, it will also feature integration with the Microsoft-acquired Skype video chat service, just not yet.
With its clean, minimal interface, Outlook.com seems to be Microsoft’s attempt to provide a more grown up alternative to Hotmail, which has about as much credibility with Web professionals as a dirty sock.
Outlook.com is already open to the public in a preview period, and users can either create an account or sign in with an existing Hotmail address (which you can “upgrade” to an Outlook.com account). The company is offering nearly unlimited storage, and new accounts will be given access to 7GB of Microsoft SkyDrive cloud storage.
For marketers, targeted ads were the next logical step in the online advertising space, and this was made clear by the rapid rise they have seen over the last few years. However, for many everyday Web users, the idea that advertisers were tracking them based on their personal information wasn’t quite as popular.
There are a number of issues inherent in attempting to target display ads to a specific set of customers, and none is more pertinent than the fact that one simply cannot know how accurate the information that a user submits actually is, and thus, whether the ads are actually reaching the desired audience.
Largely because of this, Microsoft has removed the ability to target ads based on age and gender in adCenter, which provides the pay-per-click ads seen on the Microsoft Network, most prominently on the Bing search engine.
According to a company employee in a Microsoft Advertising Help thread, “Some people add the information accurately, most don’t and even more don’t add the information at all. So if you use age and gender, your [sic] limiting yourself to what information was provided by the searchers when signing up for Windows Live.”
Microsoft Windows hosting solutions provider DiscountASP.NET has been offering node.js support in its WebMatrix 2.0 beta labs sandbox for a while, and many of the developers using it have requested that it make node.js generally available in its Web hosting service.
Now, its Windows 2008 hosting platform officially features beta support for node.js.
It was a natural choice for DiscountASP.NET to begin supporting node.js, as Microsoft announced in 2011 that it would be actively working with Joyent to port node.js to Windows. The first stable port was available last November.
Major news out of Camp Microsoft last week, as CEO Steve Ballmer officially unveiled the customer preview of the new line of Microsoft Office products.
The biggest advancement in the company’s core suite of applications is its cross-platform capabilities, as well as its deep integration with Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage service.
The new Office works seamlessly with touch, stylus, mouse, or keyboard across all new Windows 8 devices, from desktops to tablets to smartphones. Users will be able to create and edit content and access features using touch or a stylus as naturally as if they were using a keyboard and mouse.
It will also come with new Windows 8 applications built for touch-first experiences on tablet devices, such as OneNote and Lync. For ARM-based Windows 8 devices, there is Office Home and Student 2013 RT, which offers new versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote.
But it’s not just about optimizing Office for new devices; Microsoft has been hard at work preparing for the future, which includes social media and cloud technology.
On the social front, Microsoft has integrated Office 2013 (via SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics) with Yammer, the private social network for businesses, and it now comes with Skype, letting users call or instant message anyone, as well as add their contacts into Lync. Companies can also use SharePoint to follow people, teams, documents, and sites, as well as view embedded pictures, videos, and Office content.
As for the cloud, Office 2013 will be closely tied to Microsoft SkyDrive; so much so that all documents will be saved to SkyDrive by default, making that content accessible across various Windows devices. For example, when users take notes using OneNote, regardless of the device, they can then access them again on whatever they happen to be using at the time. Of course, these documents will be available offline and will sync once the user reconnects to the Internet.
Cloud technology allows Office to roam a user’s personalized settings, which includes recently used files, templates, and custom dictionaries (among other things), to remember where they left off and bring them back in a single click.
Suite offerings and pricing plans will be announced in the fall, as well as new Office 365 subscription services, which (when available) will all feature 2013 versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, and Access. The three announced subscription services will be Home Premium, Small Business Premium, and ProPlus, and each will come with rights to version upgrades and per-use rights for up to five PCs, Macs, and/or mobile devices.
It has been officially announced that Windows 8 will be released on October 26.
Microsoft, once unquestionably the biggest name in technology, has fallen drastically behind the pack in most areas over the years. However, as of late the company has been making a major push to remain relevant, if not become a leader, in today’s hottest industries – not the least of which is cloud computing.
Earlier this week, Microsoft announced a new white-label-type version of its Windows Azure cloud platform for Web hosts using Windows Server.
The Service Management Portal (as it’s being called) will allow Microsoft’s hosting partners to provide their customers with an Azure-based Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) without having to tap into the Microsoft cloud. The service will use a standardized management portal, and will also come with extendable APIs. This will allow developers to connect their current hosted applications to their hosts’ other services, their own on-premises resources, or directly to Windows Azure.
At present, Microsoft is working on developing a collection of partnerships with various service providers, and has already named big time Web hosting and domain name company GoDaddy as the Service Management Portal’s pilot customer.
The service will also work with long-time Microsoft partner Apprenda; so, if Web hosts set up an Apprenda instance internally and plug it into the portal, their customers will be able to deploy their Web apps using the auto-scaling and other Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) capabilities of Apprenda from within the Service Management Portal.
For now, the offering is in a beta-ish Community Technology Preview mode.
Here is the proof that 2012 is the year of mobile…
A recent study by Nielsen reveals that two thirds of new mobile buyers in the U.S. are now opting for smartphones, which has led to more than half (54.9 percent to be exact), of U.S. mobile subscribers now owning a smartphone.
And although this is good news for the mobile market, as well as for Web workers who are already monetizing off of this new channel (retailers, marketers, affiliates, etc.), it is not good news for some companies who have put many dollars into mobile, yet are still being left in the dust – we are talking about you, Microsoft.
The Q2 smartphone study shows that the Windows 7 phone is only used by 1.3 percent of the U.S. smartphone market, while other Windows phones only make up 3 percent of the market. This means that less people have a Windows phone than still have a Blackberry, since RIM devices make up 9 percent of the U.S. smartphone market.
The study also reveals that Android leads the smartphone market in the U.S., with 51.8 percent of smartphone users owning an Android device. And Apple is currently in second place, with more than a third of smartphone owners (34.3%) using the company’s iPhone. However, it is also important to note that Apple has the highest manufacturer share of smarphone handsets. Additionally, among smartphone owners who bought their device during June 2012, 54 percent said they chose an Android phone, while 36 percent bought an iPhone.
Cloud solution provider Cloudshare announced an integration with Microsoft TFS (Team Foundation Server) which will provide its customres both on-premise and cloud-based development and testing labs.
Cloudshare customers will be able to create new multi-serve environments or use pre-confifured environements which can be used for building, unit-testing or functional testing via TFS Lab Manager. Developers will likely be interested in this as having build-and-test labs which can be deployed in the cloud can have significant savings on expenses, not to mention improving development and testing agility.
"For CloudShare, development and testing is our fastest growing customer segment. CloudShare was built to fit pre-production needs -- new application developers gain fast access to the cloud and can easily collaborate on projects -- making for an agile development and testing process," says Zvi Guterman, founder and Chief Strategy Officer at CloudShare.
It seems as though developers with an expertise in Microsoft Windows 7 won’t be out of a job any time soon.
Although the release of Windows 8 is just around the corner, Microsoft’s current operating system (OS), Windows 7, has become the OS of choice for more than half of the world’s computers.
According to StatCounter, Windows 7 has made it onto 50.2 percent of the world’s computers as of June 2012, taking the top spot from XP, which stats show is now the OS for 29.9 percent of computers. This means that despite Apple’s popularity, more than 75 percent of the world is still using a Microsoft OS.
However, no operating system stays on top forever. StatCounter’s data should provide incentive for developers not only to be familiar with Windows 7, but to also stay ahead of the trend by becoming Windows 8 Certified. After all, it is only a matter of time until Windows 7 is dethroned, right?
Microsoft gave the Bing search results page a facelift yesterday, going for “a fresh, de-cluttered experience designed to help you find the results you want faster”, according to the Bing Search Blog.
The redesign was based on dozens of experiments conducted over several months, and involved removing the left rail, minimizing the header, increasing the space between lines, consistently placing all results annotations and social data in one spot, among other things. Bing also claims that page-load times are faster and relevance is higher, and that more changes are on the way.
The redesign is noteworthy on a couple of different levels. First, it represents a clear commitment to simpler, cleaner Web design, which has been one of the most important trends of the past year. Secondly, as part of its ongoing competition with the undisputed search leader, Bing not only took a page from the Google playbook, but it out-Googled Google. The new design is actually cleaner than Google’s search results page, which was once the poster child for simplicity.
That very fact is an important one for anyone associated with Web design. When Bing first came onto the scene, it tried to compete with Google’s simplistic look by dressing itself up and over-accessorizing. After that strategy failed, now Bing is trying to add by subtraction. And when you put the two sites together, Google looks amazingly cluttered today by comparison (see below).
Who really needs all of those additional features when you’re making a simple search query? Do the extra elements on the page help or hurt the user’s end goal? I say they are a hindrance in the long run, and most of today’s website designs could stand to strip out similar unnecessary features that play little to no part in the ultimate goal of conversion.
However, judging from the comments on Bing’s blog, the early opinions are mixed – and some of the remarks bring up some very intriguing questions about what makes for the best, most user-friendly Web designs in the search field. WM urges you to go check out those comments, but before you do, take a look at the examples below and leave your overall opinions in our own comments section below.
What follows are Bing’s old search results page design, followed by the new redesign, followed by current examples from other engines including Google, DuckDuckGo and Blekko.
Please tell us which one is best, which is worst, and why.
Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have formed a new partnership that aims to accelerate the digital world's transition to e-reading.
A new Barnes & Noble subsidiary backed in part by Microsoft’s $300 million investment will bring together B&N’s digital and college businesses. The two companies have settled their patent litigation and the new subsidiary will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft's patents for its NOOK e-reader and tablet products.
Microsoft will have an approximate 17.6-percent equity stake and Barnes & Noble will own approximately 82.4 percent of the new subsidiary, which has yet to be named and which will have an ongoing relationship with the company's retail stores. One of the intended benefits for consumers will be a NOOK application for Windows 8, which will extend the reach of Barnes & Noble's digital bookstore by providing one of the world's largest digital catalogues of e-books, magazines and newspapers to hundreds of millions of Windows customers.
The inclusion of Barnes & Noble's college business is also an important component of the new subsidiary’s strategic vision. Through the newly formed company, Barnes & Noble's NOOK Study software will provide students and educators the technology platform for the distribution and management of digital education materials in the market.
The race to the cloud is heating up, and the last week has seen some pretty big cloud-related news from two of the largest technology companies in the world.
Like other major names in the tech industry, Microsoft has moved to the cloud with SkyDrive, an online storage service that is the meat of its cloud computing services (think: Amazon Web Services). Just yesterday, Microsoft rolled out some impressive new apps for SkyDrive that may prove to be a breakthrough moment for the company, at least in the cloud.
Perhaps the biggest revelation was desktop integration with Windows and Mac (although only the OS X Lion version).
In a move that is highly reminiscent of Dropbox, users will be able to access and save files in SkyDrive as if it were just any other folder on their computers, and everything they put in there will be automatically backed up in the cloud, safe and sound, as well as synced to other computers with access to the account.
A new preview application will allow Windows users to access, browse and stream files using a remote PC.
Microsoft also updated its mobile apps for iOS and Windows Phones, as well as launching a SkyDrive iPad application.
One major downside to this update is that the company is drastically reducing the amount of free storage it offers, from 25 GB to a paltry 7 GB. But maybe it’s not that bad, as Microsoft claims that less than 0.1 percent of current SkyDrive users actually use more than 7 GB. Plus, current customers who are using over 4 GB of storage will be upgraded to 25 GB for free, and new users will obviously be able to buy more storage, with a starting package that runs just $10 a year for 20 GB.
Google has also announced Google Drive, the company's first major attempt to bring its brand into the cloud.
After a long period of speculation, Google finally came clean with its announcement of Drive, which will work pretty much like SkyDrive, AWS and most other cloud services.
Users will be able to create, share, collaborate on and, of course, store all kinds of content in Drive, including photos, videos, documents, PDFs and more. This content will be available from basically anywhere, as Drive can be installed on both Macs and PCs, along with an app for Android mobile devices; the iOS version is in development.
Google has built Google Docs right into Drive to make it easy for users to create and work with others in real time on documents, spreadsheets and presentations. All shared content will allow users to add and reply to comments on anything (including image or video files), and Drive will notify them when other users comment on shared items.
And, no surprise, Google built in some handy search features, allowing users to search for keywords and filter results by file type, owner and other considerations. The service will even be able to recognize text in scanned documents with Opitical Character Recognition technology.
Drive is another component of Google's attempts to create a seamless experience for users across all facets of the Web, and it integrates nicely into other Google properties like Google+ and Gmail. It will also work with third-party applications for faxing documents, editing videos and more. These apps can be installed in the Chrome Web Store, with more additions on the way.
To start, users will get 5 GB of free storage. From there, they can upgrade to 25 GB for $2.49 a month, 100 GB for $4.99 a month or 1 TB for $49.99 a month. Paid accounts will also automatically expand a user's Gmail storage to 25 GB.
Nokia's multibillion-dollar bet on Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system is still in its early stages, but so far the bet is a financially losing one. Though, there are glimmers of hope.
The Finnish phone-maker reported a $1.38-billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2011 on Thursday, but the company also said that it has sold "well over 1 million Lumia devices to date."
While the Lumia sales so far don't come close to challenging heavyweights such as Apple's iPhone, which sold about 37 million units in the same three-month period, the consumer uptake is notable considering that the Lumias aren't sold in nearly as many markets as rival phones from Apple, Samsung and HTC.
The Lumia line is Nokia's first range of handsets running on the Windows Phone software, and since the series debut in October, Nokia has released just two phones — the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800 — to Europe, Hong Kong, India, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.
Only the Lumia 710 is currently available in the U.S. The newly announced Lumia 900, a phone designed specifically for the U.S. market, is expected to hit stores as early as March. Nokia has yet to launch its Lumia phones in China or Latin America, though the company said in a statement that would happen sometime in the first six months of the year.
Overall Nokia sales fell 21% in the last three months of the year, while smartphone shipments fell 31% from a year ago. Much of Nokia's smartphone dip is attributable to the decline in popularity of phones running the company's Symbian and MeeGo operating systems as consumers have turned to Google's Android platform and the iPhone. When Nokia agreed to take on Windows Phone, it stated that it would abandon Symbian and MeeGo as well.
The company's $1.38-billion fourth quarter loss follows a profit of about $980 million a year earlier.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A Nokia Lumia 800 smartphone sits on display inside a Nokia retail store in Helsinki, Finland. Credit: Ville Mannikko / Bloomberg
Nokia's eagerly awaited Lumia 900 might undercut rival flagship phones on price in a big way, according to new reports Wednesday.
If the rumor is true, the AT&T-exclusive smartphone would come in at about half the price of the entry-level Apple iPhone 4S and even less than half the price of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. AT&T officials declined to comment on the reports.
That's a pretty good price considering the hardware the Lumia 900 offers (I was expecting a price of about $200 but no lower than about $150).
The Lumia 900 — which I got a bit of hands-on time with at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this month — features 4.3-inch touch screen with a resolution of 480 by 800 pixels.
The unique-looking new Nokia will also be available with either cyan or black bodies, a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM and 16 gigabytes of built-in storage.
An 8-megapixel camera that can shoot up to 720p video is on back, while a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera sits above the Lumia 900's display.
So, do you think $99 is a fair price for the Lumia 900? Would $199 have been a better price? Feel free to sound off in the comments and check out our hands-on video with the Lumia 900 from CES below.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the middle and an Apple iPhone 4S in the rear. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Microsoft's Hotmail service now has a Kindle Fire app.
OK, this may not be as exciting as Google releasing a Gmail app for Apple's iPhone, and there is still no native Gmail app for the Fire. But the Hotmail app for the Fire should be a worthwhile release for many owners of Amazon's popular 7-inch tablet due to the addition of Exchange Active Sync.
Unlike Amazon's included email app on the FIre, which merely downloads your messages via POP3, Microsoft's Hotmail app will synch emails, contacts, folders and subfolders, said David Law, Microsoft's director of Hotmail product management, in a blog post.
While the free Hotmail app for the Fire is technically an Android app, the version for Amazon's tablet is different from the standard Hotmail Android app used by more than 3 million people, Law said.
The differences between the Fire Hotmail app and the standard Android Hotmail app have to do with the changes Amazon made to Android to create the Fire-specific operating system it runs on its tablet, which as we've noted before is unlike any other version of Android out there.
"Because the Kindle Fire uses a different implementation of Android, we needed to make some updates to our previous Hotmail app for Android to ensure it worked well," Law said. "Now that we've finished the work and the app is ready, we're excited to give customers a great Hotmail experience on the Kindle Fire."
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of the Hotmail app listing in Amazon's Appstore for Android. Credit: Microsoft / Amazon
Just one day after Research In Motion shares received a boost off news that Samsung Electronics might be interested in buying the struggling smartphone and tablet maker, Samsung came out on Wednesday and said the rumored deal isn't happening.
Samsung, the second-largest cellphone producer on the planet behind Nokia, said it is not considering taking over RIM and that it has "never" been interested in buying the BlackBerry maker, according to a Bloomberg report.
James Chung, a Samsung spokesman, told the news outlet that the Korean company and RIM, based in Canada, haven't had any contact regarding a purchase deal.
Chung also told Bloomberg that Samsung isn't interested in the rumored software licensing deals that RIM has been reportedly exploring as well.
On Tuesday, stock in RIM rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share after the tech news site BGR ran a story, citing unnamed sources, stating that Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM.
Of course, Samsung hasn't been the only company that has been rumored to be interested in buying RIM. Among the other potential suitors with speculated interest in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon. RIM shares jumped 10% in December on news of possible takeover interest from Microsoft and Amazon.
This also isn't the first time that Samsung has come out and denied rumors of its interest in a smartphone property. Last September, Samsung declared its lack of interest in buying the WebOS operating system from Hewlett-Packard.
After months of trying to figure out what to do with WebOS, HP eventually decided to retain ownership, open-source the software and then move forward on developing new tablets (but no new smartphones) running the operating system.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: BlackBerry Messenger on a BlackBerry smartphone from Research In Motion. Samsung announced Wednesday that will not purchase BlackBerry maker RIM. Credit: Oliver Lang / Associated Press
BlackBerry maker Research In Motion is again at the center of buyout rumors and this time the speculated buyer is consumer electronics giant Samsung.
Among other possible suitors believed to be interested in RIM are Nokia, Microsoft and Amazon, which sent shares in the smartphone and tablet maker up as much as 10% in December when the rumor mill was churning.
On Tuesday, after the website BGR published a story that stated Samsung was the "front runner" to purchase RIM, stock in the Canadian company rose $1.30, or 8.04%, to $17.47 per share.
"Research In Motion is currently weighing every single option it can think of in an effort to reverse a negative trend that is approaching a boiling point for investors," BGR said. "Reports that RIM is currently in talks to license its software to other vendors are accurate according to our trusted sources, though we have been told that RIM is most likely leaning toward an outright sale of one or more divisions, or even the whole company."
RIM officials were unavailable to comment on the BGR report on Tuesday.
The negative trend mentioned by BGR is a well-documented slide at RIM that didn't relent in 2011. In December, RIM recorded a $485-million loss on unsold PlayBook inventory after the tablet failed to live up to sales expectations since its launch in April. Every model of the PlayBook was also cut to $299 in a move to entice consumers.
With sales of the PlayBook slow, no wireless carriers have stepped up to offer a 3G or 4G version of the BlackBerry tablet as RIM had originally planned.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Research In Motion's senior manager of brand marketing, Jeff Gadway, discusses new BlackBerry technology in a presentation at the company's "BeBold" event at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 10. Credit: Eric Reed / AP Images for BlackBerry
Yet, despite Microsoft buying Skype at a price of $8.5-billion in October, you still can't make a Skype call on a Windows Phone handset. However, that will change soon, Skype and Microsoft said in a YouTube video produced at the Consumer Electronics Show last week.
If you're feeling a bit skeptical, you're likely not alone. Skype has been promising a Windows Phone app since April of last year. But a higher level of integration between Skype and its new owner Microsoft is inevitable, if not late.
Rick Osterloh, Skype's vice president of product, said in the company's CES video that the online calling service is working on apps for not only Windows Phone, but also for Microsoft's Xbox gaming console and the in-development Windows 8 operating system.
Osterloh also said that Skype is on an upswing of growth with the service recently passing 200 million monthly users who use more than 1 billion minutes a day. Also on the way is group-calling with up to 10 people on a single call, he said.
Image: A screenshot of a demonstration video of Skype for Android on a Samsung Nexus S smartphone. Credit: Skype
The Lumia 710, Nokia's first Windows Phone to hit the U.S., barely went on sale on Jan. 11 and already Wal-Mart is undercutting other retailers by giving the new phone away for free on a two-year contract.
T-Mobile USA, which launched the phone, sells the Lumia 710 for $49.99 on a two-year data plan, as do other retailers such as Best Buy. The price drop by Wal-Mart is a fast one and it's unclear if other retailers or T-Mobile itself will follow suit.
But if we do see more price drops on the Lumia 710, they will probably be motivated in part by the pending arrival of the new Lumia 900 at AT&T, which is rumored for sometime in March. An official release date and price haven't yet been disclosed for the Lumia 900.
The Lumia 900, which made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week, has a 4.3-inch display and a unique polycarbonate body.
But while the 900 packs a larger screen and a bit more style, it and the 710 are very similar on the inside, with both phones running Windows Phone 7.5 Mango on a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor and 512-megabytes of RAM.
The Lumia 710 has 8 gigabytes of built-in storage, while the Lumia 900 has 16 gigabytes. And the Lumia 710 features a 5-megapixel camera with a single-LED flash, while the Lumia 900 has an 8-megapixel camera with a dual-LED flash.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Nokia Lumia 710 Windows Phone from T-Mobile USA. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles TImes
The future of video games is increasingly shifting from discs to downloads over Internet-connected consoles, phones, tablets and PCs.
Microsoft Corp. is aware of this trend as much as any other player in the gaming industry and rolls out multiple promotions a year to bring attention to games available for download through its Xbox Live Arcade storefront on the Xbox 360 console. And next up for Microsoft is the Xbox Live Arcade House Party, which starts Feb. 15 and includes the launch of one game a week for four weeks.
At the Consumer Electronics Show last week in Las Vegas, I went hands-on with Alan Wake's American Nightmare, which will be the first game to roll out in the month-long promotion.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare is a sequel to the on-disc game Alan Wake, which was released in 2010 to critical acclaim for story-driven game play that mixed a psychological thriller plotline with the action of a third-person shooter.
The game, which focused on a fictional fiction writer named Alan Wake and his quest to solve the mystery of his wife's disappearance in a small Washington town, was also praised for its inventive use of lighting, with Wake spending a lot of time running around in dark forests at night with a flashlight and a gun.
In Alan Wake's American Nightmare, the game's hero finds himself in the deserts of Arizona. The impressive lighting effects are back and shooting mechanics are solid. I tried my hand at the new title's Fight 'til Dawn survival mode, which pits players in a 10-minute scene with wave after wave of enemies attacking. (You can check out our hands-on with the new game above.)
The game play was intense and challenging, and it should be a satisfying experience for fans of the original Alan Wake game as well as those of shooting games such as Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil and the Call of Duty series' zombie modes.
Alan Wake's American Nightmare will also have a campaign of about four to five hours, depending on how much time a player spends exploring and digging into the game's story, said Oskari Hakinnen, a spokesman for Remedy Entertainment Ltd., the developer of the series.
For those who haven't played the original Alan Wake, there's no need to fret. Hakinnen said that the sequel will pick up where the first title left off story-wise, but it was written in a way that won't confuse those who are new to the world of Alan Wake. Pricing for the game hasn't yet been disclosed.
The other three titles coming out in this year's Xbox Live Arcade House Party are Warp, a new puzzle game from Electronic Arts; arena-based first-person shooter Nexuiz from THQ; and the eagerly anticipated I Am Alive, from Ubisoft, which follows a man searching for his wife and daughter a year after a worldwide disaster killed most humans on the planet.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot from Alan Wake's American Nightmare. Credit: Remedy Entertainment
As General Motors introduced its first efforts to bring apps from your smartphone into your dashboard at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, Ford expanded its Sync AppLink system — which does just that and launched about a year ago.
When AppLink made its debut, Pandora was the only app a Sync user could operate via in-dash touch screen. Later, Stitcher radio gained Sync compatibility, which includes voice control as well.
Ford announced at CES in Las Vegas this week that apps for iPhones, BlackBerrys and phones that Google's Android would be added to the AppLink-friendly list, including NPR News, Slacker Radio, iHeartRadio, TuneIn Radio and Ford's own Sync Destinations turn-by-turn navigation app.
To see NPR News and Slacker Radio in action in a new Ford Mustang GT, check out our video from CES above.
Ford says that more apps that work with Sync's voice recogniton software are on the way. Oddly enough, Sync (which was developed through a partnership between Ford and Microsoft) has no AppLink compatibility with Windows Phone apps.
Just as with GM's in-car-app systems — Chevrolet MyLink and Cadillac CUE — AppLink can use apps only if it’s connected to a smartphone with the app installed, and it accesses data through the phone. Ford isn't selling any AppLink data plans.
For now, AppLink is available only in Sync-equipped Fiestas, Mustangs, Fusions, F-150s and Econoline vans, but the U.S. automaker is considering pushing AppLink out to other Ford brands, such as Lincoln, as well as to vehicles running older versions of Sync.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of Ford's Sync Destinations app. Credit: Ford
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, we saw a bit of a scramble by TV makers such as Samsung and LG to show off what they working on or releasing in the coming year that would allow us to control our TVs using voice, gesture and facial recognition.
Many technology pundits and analysts have said these sorts of announcements, which also took place at last year's CES, are in response to rumors that Apple is working on an "iTV" that will offer a new way of controlling a TV and maybe even how we pay for or watch channels and TV shows.
But as many video-game lovers out there know, TV voice recognition, gesture controls and facial recognition are already here in the form of Microsoft's Kinect motion-sensing camera, which is an accessory to the Xbox 360 home gaming console.
However, Kinect is just getting started, and currently has a small number of apps. And it's still a device that sells for about $150 and requires an Xbox 360, which starts at $200. Make no mistake, there will be a cost of entry to the future of TV.
At CES 2012, Microsoft showed off a bit of what the future may hold for Kinect, the Xbox and TV with demonstrations of its latest Kinect-enabled app for the Xbox, called Sesame Street Kinect (you can see our demonstration of the app in a video atop this article).
Sesame Street Kinect is what it sounds like, episodes of the long-running children's program tailored to use the Kinect camera. And what Kinect can do is really impressive.
Since 1969, children around the world have sat in front of TVs repeating back the alphabet, colors, words and numbers to characters on Sesame Street (I did it when I was a child). Until Sesame Street Kinect, which is set to release later this year at an unannounced price, the characters on the screen couldn't respond to the viewer's actions. Now, to a limited extent, they can.
The demonstration we saw featured the Grover, Elmo and Cookie Monster characters prompting viewers to interact by either saying certain words or moving in certain ways.
For example, we took part in a demonstration in which Grover drops a box of coconuts and asks that the viewer pick them up and throw them back to him.
I f the viewer stands up and moves in the way that they would throw an imaginary coconut (don't throw a real coconut unless your trying to break your TV) then Grover catches each one in his box, even reacting to how hard the Kinect interprets the viewer's throw to be.
The experience was a lot of fun for a room of four adults, and I imagine kids will enjoy this sort of thing too. Jose Pinero, am Xbox spokesman, said a similarly interactive app from National Geographic is coming this year as well.
Although Microsoft has sold more than 66 million Xbox consoles and more than 18 million Kinect cameras, the tech giant realizes it has something bigger than just video games on its hands with Kinect.
Both Kinect and Xbox Live are headed to Windows 8 later this year. Hopefully, that will mean more interactive "two-way TV" apps like Sesame Street Kinect, and more apps related to media outlets such as ESPN and National Geographic.
There are also rumors that the company is working to get Kinect built directly into TVs, which would very likely place Xbox Live and Kinect in direct competition with Google TV and Apple's expected entry into the TV market. That's a living-room showdown I'd like to see.
Photos: Sesame Street Kinect in action. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
Remember Cher's virtual closet from "Clueless," the one that helped the fashionable teen choose her outfits by digitally placing the clothes on an image of her body? Now you can have a better version of it.
At the Consumer Electronics Show this week, a Calabasas company was giving demonstrations of Swivel, a real-time virtual dressing room that takes a lot of the hassle out of shopping — no more long waits in the fitting room line loaded down with an armful of clothes, or the tedious process of getting dressed and undressed several times during one trip to the mall.
To use the Swivel system, which works by utilizing motion-sensing technology, stand a few feet in front of a webcam or Microsoft Kinect device. A live image of yourself will appear on a connected television or computer screen, along with a selection of categories like clothing, jewelry and handbags.
Select a category — say, dresses — by waving your hand over it. A lineup of gowns will appear on the right-hand panel; another wave of the arm selects the dress you want to try on and digitally overlays it over the live image of yourself.
Turn to the side and the dress will move with you; the product takes into account your unique body type, and items appear to be form-fitting. You can layer accessories onto the look by selecting necklaces and belts, or change the background image to a red carpet or city scene to put the look into context. The Swivel system also gives users outfit recommendations and enables them to send an image of the final look to their friends for approval.
FaceCake Marketing Technologies, which created Swivel using proprietary software, hopes the system will be used by retailers, in malls and at home.
FaceCake recently did a mall tour in Southern California to debut the system to shoppers. The average shopper tried on 66% of the items available, or about 45 products, far more than he or she would typically try on in a physical dressing room, said FaceCake Chief Executive Linda Smith.
"It's a virtual dressing room that makes things easy," she said during a demo for The Times at CES in Las Vegas. "It really puts the whole store in a little six-foot area."
With retailers' merchandise selections changing daily, Smith said the Swivel system would update its merchandise content regularly to give users the most up-to-date products.
Swivel will be available later this year for consumers for in-home use and FaceCake is in discussions with a national mall operator to put Swivel in shopping centers, Smith said. A handful of retailers, including Banana Republic and Nordstrom, signed on for the mall tour, allowing their merchandise to be featured in the system.
– Andrea Chang in Las Vegas
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said his group is considering filing a letter with the FTC.
EPIC made the complaint that resulted in Google's settlement with the FTC that requires the Internet search giant to submit to external audits of their privacy practices every other year.
"We believe this is something that the FTC needs to look at," Rotenberg said.
Google calls the new feature rolling out to users of its English-language search engine "Search Plus Your World." It blends information such as photos, comments and news posted on its Google+ social network into users' search results.
It mostly affects the one in four people who log into Google or Google+ while searching the Web. Those users will have the option of seeing search results that are customized to their interests and connections, say, a photo of the family dog or a friend's recommendation for a restaurant.
Google has been working for years to create a personal search engine that knows its users so well it delivers results tailored to them. It's also trying to catch up to social networking giant Facebook, which, with more than 800 million users, knows its users far better than Google does.
But critics contend Google, a laggard in social networking, is using its dominance in Internet search to favor its own products and take on its chief competitor.
"Google is an entrenched player trying to fight off its challenger Facebook by using its market dominance in a separate sector," Rotenberg said. "I think that should trouble people."
Critics also say the move raises alarm bells for consumer privacy.
"Although data from a user’s Google+ contacts is not displayed publicly, Google's changes make the personal data of users more accessible," EPIC said in a note on his website.
The effect of Google's latest search feature may be fairly limited — at least for now. The 6-month-old Google+ has 40 million users.
Google is not the first search engine to do this. Microsoft's Bing, which has an alliance with Facebook, has been tapping some information shared on Facebook since May. But Google is attracting more attention because of its dominance in search. It handles as many as two-thirds of all search queries in the U.S.
Twitter has also complained about the new Google search feature. So far Facebook has stayed out of the fray, declining to comment.
When a user is logged into Google or Google+, Google will now tap information from Google+ and photos from its photo-sharing service Picasa, to deliver personalized search results. In the future it will also incorporate other Google services.
Seeing how much information Google gathers could make some people uneasy, said Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineLand.com. Google has tried to assuage privacy concerns by switching to technology that encrypts all of its search results.
Rotenberg says the FTC needs to go further to protect consumer privacy on the Web.
"This is a problem the FTC needs to look at closely," he said.
In an interview this week, Google Fellow Amit Singhal said Google has taken significant steps to make its new feature private and secure. He also said Google was open to including information from Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
"However," he said. "It has to be done in a way that the user experience doesn't deteriorate over time and that users are in control over what they see from whom and not some third party."
– Jessica Guynn
Photo: Google's new search feature has raised concerns. Credit: Virginia Mayo / Associated Press
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, it's something of a rebuilding year. There have been no jaw-droppingly new consumer technologies unveiled, or obvious must-have new devices like in years past.
But that's not stopping near-record crowds from descending on Sin City, slurping up all its beer and bandwidth, and filling convention halls up and down The Strip.
The show's organizer, the Consumer Electronic Assn., has said that close to 150,000 attendants filled the city's hotel rooms this year, coming to check out exhibits from a record 3,100 companies.
The booths at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Tuesday, the show's official opening day, ranged from tiny stalls hung with bejeweled iPhone cases to city-block size mega-booths from global electronics makers, many paying millions to erect giant walls of high-definition screens that showcase their latest TV technology.
After attendants handed out 3D glasses at the booth of South Korea's LG Corp., a movie started on a massive IMAX-size screen showing a meteor shower shooting toward the audience. More than a few "whoas" where audible from the crowd below.
At the Samsung booth, representatives gave demonstrations of the company's new Smart TVs, showing onlookers how to change channels or search the Web with simple voice commands, or to "click" on-screen buttons and links with a hand gesture. A model of the company's latest ultra-high-def TV hung on another wall, with pictures of waterfalls and forests that were so clear that one visitor said, "Wow, is that in 3D?"
And more laughs were had Monday night at Microsoft Corp.'s final keynote (the software giant has said it will no longer give the show's main speech, or maintain a booth at CES.) The company did its best to mark the semi-somber occasion by hiring American Idol host Ryan Seacrest to be the master of ceremonies.
Seacrest and Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer enjoyed some amusing back-and-forth banter, such as when Ballmer explained the new, tile-based look of Windows 8, which is called Metro and is an improvement on the company's earlier phone operating system.
"The Metro user interface — you’ve seen it being pioneered in recent years, but now it’s all coming together."
"Why did you look at me funny when you said Metro?" Seacrest asked, feigning hurt feelings.
Ballmer laughed, and Seacrest said, "I guess I'm going to be your mascot now."
More stunts lay in store for the show, too — on Thursday, ESPN will stage a live boxing match at the convention center that will be broadcast in 3D on the network.
– David Sarno
Image: Ryan Seacrest and Steve Ballmer at the Microsoft keynote at CES. Credit: David Sarno / Los Angeles Times
Nokia and Microsoft's first flagship smartphone for the U.S., the Lumia 900, made its official debut at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The new Windows Phone handset was first unveiled Monday by Nokia, and later that night Microsoft brought the new phone on stage in what was the final CES keynote speech from the tech giant best known for the powerhouse Windows PC operating system.
The Lumia 900 so far has been confirmed as running only on AT&T's 4G LTE network and picks up stylistically where the Lumia 800 left off, with an attractive rounded polycarbonate body and a flat, sliced-off-looking top and bottom.
However, the Lumia 900 will have a larger screen than the Lumia 800 — up to 4.3 inches from 3.7 inches. The resolution of the display will remain 480 by 800 pixels, as is standard for all Windows Phone handsets.
The new Nokia will be offered from AT&T in either cyan or matte black and feature a 1.4-gigahertz Qualcomm processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 16 gigabytes of built-in storage, an 8-megapixel rear camera that can shoot up to 720p video and a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera for video chatting.
The Lumia 900 will be thinner than T-Mobile's Lumia 710, a 0.45-inches-thick 4G phone I reviewed last weekend.
Nokia officials also told me at CES that the Lumia 800 is finally going to get a U.S. launch as well, but it will be sold only as an unlocked phone. That means the Lumia 800 will sell without part of the cost of the phone being eaten up by a wireless carrier's subsidy, which may put it in the $500-range, though Nokia declined to specify.
Microsoft and Nokia also had no details to offer on pricing or a release date for the Lumia 900. As soon as we can, we'll get the phone in our hands for a full review. In the meantime, check out our hands-on video from CES with both the Nokia Lumia 900 above; and photos and of the Lumia 900 and Lumia 800 after the jump.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Nokia Lumia 900 in the foreground, with the Lumia 800 in the middle and an Apple iPhone 4S in the rear. Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Vizio is hoping to find the same success it’s had in the TV business in the competitive market of personal computing.
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week, Vizio is showing off its lineup of PCs, which consists of two all-in-one desktops and three laptop computers all running Microsoft’s Windows 7 operating system.
The Irvine company is planning on taking the same retail approach with its PCs that it used with its TV and home-theater products, selling its devices at lower prices than most rivals, said Jim Noyd, a Vizio spokesman.
On the laptop side of Vizio’s offerings will be a 15.6-inch-screen laptop and two thin and light laptops in both a 15.6-inch screen size and a 14-inch size. The thin and light laptops will be lower-cost alternatives to Apple’s MacBook Air and Ultrabook laptops from the likes of Dell, Lenovo and HP.
Desktop-wise, Vizio is planning on releasing two all-in-one models to challenge the likes of Apple’s iMac. The desktops will be built in both 24- and 27-inch screen sizes.
So far, Vizio isn’t offering any details on the specs of its PCs or its processor partners, though the company says it is set to release its PCs sometime this spring.
We’ll go hands-on with Vizio’s PC lineup later at CES, but for now check out the media photos Vizio sent to the Technology blog to see some detailed shots of how these new Windows machines will look.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles in Las Vegas
Photos: Vizio’s laptop (top) and desktop (bottom) PCs. Credit: Vizio
The Nokia Lumia 710 is a small, low-cost smartphone with some big, high-cost bets riding on its success.
The Lumia 710 is Nokia's first phone to hit the U.S. running Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system — more specifically, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. It's also the first tangible product to hit store shelves, in this case T-Mobile stores, as a result of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.
So is the Lumia 710 a good smartphone or not? Simply put, it is. It's a simple, low-end phone, but it's a solid little phone worth your consideration if you're new to smartphones or looking for an affordable Windows Phone handset. The Lumia 710 runs $49.99 on a 2-year contract with T-Mobile starting Jan. 11.
A 3.7-inch touch screen is featured on the new Nokia, which looks good but results, disappointingly, in a bit of color distortion at extreme angles. The resolution of the screen, which is responsive and very fingerprint prone in the black colorway I tested, is 800 x 480 pixels. Video playback, apps, photos and websites all looked great on the Lumia 710.
The phone is powered by a single-core 1.4-gigahertz Snapdragon processor from Qualcomm, and 512 megabytes of RAM and 8 gigabytes of built-in storage are included. There is no microSD card slot for storage expansion and there is no front-facing camera for video chatting — which falls in line with the lower-end expectations the Lumia 710's price reflects. Though it should be noted that the HTC Radar 4G, which sells for the same price from T-Mobile, does include a front-facing camera.
On the back is a 5-megapixel camera with a single LED flash, which takes clear, detailed photos and can also shoot 720p video. The camera can't match the 8-megapixel shooters found on higher end smartphones, but again, the Lumia 710 isn't a high-end $200 or $300 smartphone.
The Lumia 710 was fast and performed well. I won't go too deep into Windows Phone Mango (for more on that, check out my October review of Mango), but while it isn't the most complicated or power-demanding operating system out there, the Lumia 710 handled everything I threw at it. In about two weeks of testing, I never had an app freeze or crash on me. Call quality was good with voices sounding clear and no dropped calls experienced. T-Mobile's 4G network offered up fast downloads and uploads on the Lumia 710. Battery life was also great: I consistently got a day's worth of charge, no problem.
Stylistically, the Lumia 710 is a bit plain, though not at all unattractive. The curved back plate on the phone is coated in a rubberized plastic that is grippy and comfortable to hold in the hand no matter what you're doing on the phone. The back plate is removable and Nokia is selling different colors — cyan, magenta, yellow, black and white — which thankfully can help add a bit of style.
Below the phone's display is a single piece of plastic which rises out of the face of the Lumia 710 to house three buttons: back, home and search. Many Windows Phone handsets have opted for touch-capacitive buttons and not a large physical button, but that's the way Nokia went this time around and it's unique. You may or may not like the large button, but it is an original look and one I didn't mind at all. The right side of the Lumia 710 is a volume rocker above a dedicated camera button, which responded fast when clicked. Up top is the phone's power button, headphone jack and, in another departure, USB port.
The top of the phone is a bit of a strange place for a USB port, but I actually liked this decision simply because I hadn't really seen it before. Nokia's phones will need to stand out and feel genuinely different from Samsung, HTC and others that make Windows Phone handsets.
This phone, while overall a standard and not at all groundbreaking phone, still feels different than others I've seen at this price range and I think that's a good thing. It's small choices, like the removable colored back plates, the large button on the front, and the USB port up top that give the Lumia 710 some personality.
Build quality is solid and the Lumia 710 feels like it could take some abuse and survive over the life of a two-year contract with no problems.
The Lumia 710 also has a couple of unique features on the software side, with a different color option for Windows Phone's app tiles called Nokia Blue, which looks a bit more royal than the standard blue like the Tar Heel blue worn by the University of North Carolina. Nokia apps are also another differentiator for the Lumia 710 and future Nokia Windows Phones.
The best of the included Noika apps was Nokia Drive, a turn-by-turn voice navigation app that delivered GPS directions in a clear, understandable manner. Nokia Drive also re-calibrated quickly when I went against its suggested routes.
All in all, the Nokia Lumia 710 was a phone I enjoyed using. It didn't make me want to give up my Apple iPhone 4S or the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But unlike the Nokia Lumia 800 on sale in Europe and Asia, the Lumia 710 wasn't designed to do that. Nokia will need to release such a phone in the U.S. to justify its multibillion-dollar partnership with Microsoft.
But while there aren't a ton of bells and whistles here, this straightforward, well-built, speedy little smartphone looks like a good starting point for Nokia and Microsoft.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photos: The Nokia Lumia 710. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh/Los Angeles Times
Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system has reportedly passed 50,000 published apps, hitting the milestone just 14 months after its launch.
The 14-month time frame for 50,000 apps is second only to Apple's iOS, which hit 50,000 published apps in 12 months, according to a report from All About Windows Phone, a website that tracks Windows Phone apps and hosts a Windows Phone app directory as well.
Google's Android reached 50,000 apps published in its Anroid Market in 19 months, the report said.
For its part, Microsoft declined to comment on the report, neither confirming nor denying that it has passed the 50,000 mark. All About Windows Phone, a site not affiliated with Microsoft, said it compiled its data "from our own tracking system," which is also used to power its directory of Windows Phone apps.
"It took just over a year to get to 40,000 apps, but just 40 days to add the next 10,000 apps," showing increased growth for the Windows Phone operating system, Rafe Blandford, who runs the All About Windows Phone site, wrote in the site's report.
But just because more than 50,000 apps published doesn't mean that every Windows Phone user has access to all of those apps, Blandford said.
"Of the 50,126 items published to the Marketplace, just under 6,000 are no longer available," meaning they were removed by Microsoft or withdrawn by the publisher, he said. "In addition, some apps are only available in select markets. This means the number of available items to a consumer, in a given market, is lower than the number of published items."
In the U.S., about 42,655 apps are available for download, the report said.
Of the apps published to the Windows Phone Marketplace storefront, about 58% are free, compared with about 69% of apps being free in Google's Android Market and about 43% free in Apple's iOS App Store, Blandford said.
Both Android and iOS have published about 10 times more apps than Windows Phone so far, he said, though the two rivals have been offering downloadable apps since 2008.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: The Foursquare app running on a Windows Phone handset. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times
The BlackBerry maker's stock rose 10% in trading on Wednesday after rumors began to circulate that the Canadian company had been in various talks to sell itself to Amazon.com Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Nokia Corp.
Nothing has come of those talks, but the buzz about a possible sale lifted the battered stock above dismal lows it had hit last week when it reported that quarterly profit had sunk 70% since a year earlier. The company has faced stiffening competition from rival smartphone powers such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc., and its BlackBerry Playbook tablet joined the ranks of also-rans that failed to chip away at the dominance of Apple's iPad.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Microsoft and its ally Nokia considered making a joint bid to buy RIM, but that the status of those talks remained a secret. A second report from Reuters described similarly indefinite talks the company had with Amazon, which it said hired an investment bank to research the viability of a deal during the summer.
The stock rose $1.26, or 10.06%, to $13.78 during regular trading, but is still down nearly 77% this year.
– David Sarno
Photo: A customer holds BlackBerry smartphones at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, this month. Credit: Mast Irham / EPA
Microsoft Corp., a 20-year stalwart of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, has decided to fold up its booth and move on after the 2012 show in January.
The company, which for years highlighted its own products and broader tech trends at the show's main keynote, said it felt that it would be better to make announcements on its own time. The company will no longer give the keynote or host a booth on the trade show floor.
"Our industry moves fast and changes faster," the company said in a statement. "And so the way we communicate with our customers must change in equally speedy ways."
The company said its decision had come after it asked itself, "Are we doing something because it’s the right thing to do, or because 'it’s the way we’ve always done it'?"
CES is one of the world's largest trade shows and annually attracts more than 100,000 visitors from far flung parts of the electronics industry. This year the show will have close to 2,700 exhibitors and more than 1.8 million square feet of floor space.
But the show, once a marquee launchpad for some of the biggest new technologies, has struggled to stay in the headlines as big companies increasingly announce new products on their own timeline. In 2011, no eye-openingly new products were announced at the Las Vegas show, and most companies chose to introduce televisions, tablets and smartphones that largely resembled existing products.
Apple Inc., arguably the industry's most popular and innovative company, does not participate in the show.
Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will give the final keynote Jan. 9.
– David Sarno
Steve Ballmer speaks about the Xbox 360 system during his 2011 CES keynote. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg
That's what StatCounter is reporting.
It says Chrome topped Internet Explorer 8 in the last week of November, when Chrome took 23.6% of the global market and IE8 took 23.5%.
Of course, if you combine all of the versions of Internet Explorer, it's still the browser champ. And in the United States, Internet Explorer is still on top, with 27% of the market.
So what's driving the growth? Aodhan Cullen, chief executive of StatCounter, says businesses as well as consumers are adopting Chrome.
Microsoft, which includes Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system, used to have a lock on the browser market. Google didn't even enter the market until 2008.
But Chrome recently surpassed Mozilla Foundation's Firefox browser, which it used to support. Firefox launched in 2004 and drove innovation in the market, which was dominated by Internet Explorer since IE overtook Netscape's browser in the late 1990s.
Google CEO Larry Page was always a proponent of Google's getting into the browser market. Google began to build a browser in 2006, concerned that existing browsers were not good enough to support its online services or might lead users away from its search engine. (Microsoft uses Internet Explorer to send users to its own Bing search engine.)
– Jessica Guynn
Photo: The logo for the Google Chrome Web browser is shown during a news conference at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., in September 2008. Photo credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press.
If you’re using Microsoft adCenter and think that it can be a bit difficult to understand exactly how your campaigns are performing, you’re not alone.
Never fear, however, as Microsoft has heard your concerns and decided to include a new multi-metric trend chart on the Home and Campaign tabs in your Web interface to provide “a rich visual snapshot of your campaign performance.”
And these aren’t just any old trend charts; they were designed to provide you with control and access to metrics most important to you. The charts will present up to five performance metrics (out of a possible eight) at once to allow users to compare their most important metrics simultaneously. Finally, you’ll be able to get actual visible data through adCenter so you can tell just how effective your advertising efforts have been in areas like impressions, clicks, CPA, etc.
While this is very good news for adCenter users, one has to wonder what took so long.
Here's an example of what an adCenter mutli-metric trend chart will look like:
T-Mobile and Nokia are expected to announce next week that the Lumia 710 Windows Phone, and possibly the Lumia 800 as well, is headed to the U.S.
Nokia's Lumia phones are the handset maker's first devices to run Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, the product of a deal between Nokia and Microsoft announced in February and signed in April that's reportedly worth billions of dollars.
The colorful new handsets are already available in Europe, but so far Nokia hasn't announced a U.S. carrier for the Lumia, despite saying that its intent is to have at least the Lumia 710 available in America by sometime next year.
Nokia hasn't yet said whether the Lumia 800 will also be available stateside. Nokia also hasn't introduced any other planned Windows Phone devices outside of the Lumia 710 and Lumia 800.
On Friday, T-Mobile sent an invitation to the press for an event in New York on Wednesday, Dec. 14, that reads "T-Mobile and Nokia have something exciting in the works. Be amongst the first to experience it."
For details on the Lumia 710 and the Lumia 800, check out our previous coverage of the handsets here.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: The Nokia Lumia 800, running Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system. Credit: Nokia
Microsoft has released new details on its Windows Store for Windows 8 — no it's not called App Store a la Apple — which will be its online storefront selling applications to run on Windows 8 laptops, desktops and tablets.
The Windows Store will sell "Metro-style" apps. Microsoft Metro is the design language of flat, actively updating "live tile" icons for apps that debuted last year on the Windows Phone 7 operating system, and is making its way over to the Xbox 360 video game system this week in a software update.
Most Windows 8 Metro apps available in the Windows Store should adhere to touch, stylus or keyboard and mouse input, since they'll have to run on traditional PCs and tablets as well.
Microsoft will also have a tiered system of what its cut of an apps revenue will be. Apple famously takes a 30% cut of revenue for all apps sold in its iOS App Store (for the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch) and Mac App Store (for Mac computers).
Microsoft will take a similar 30% share of revenue for each app sold in its Windows Store, but once an app passes $25,000 in total revenue, the tech giant will drop its share down to 20% for the remainder of time that the app is sold, the company said in a statement.
To access the new Windows Store, the masses will have to wait until Windows 8 officially launches sometime next year. But developers will be able to access the Windows Store, in a beta release, if they've installed the Windows 8 Developer Preview version of the new OS, which is a free download available to all.
Microsoft is now taking Windows 8 app submissions and has launched a "First Apps Contest," which the tech giant will use to choose the first eight apps available in the Windows Store when it officially opens.
The new Windows Store isn't the first time that Microsoft is taking a stab at replicating the success Apple has had with its App Stores. The much-maligned Windows Vista had an app store called the Windows Marketplace, though both the operating system and the Marketplace never found much popularity.
Still, Windows is the most widely used PC operating system in the world. Microsoft says it has sold more than 500 million Windows 7 licenses worldwide to date and the company is hoping that Windows 8 will continue dominating PCs as well as give the company a significant stake in the growing tablet market that it lacks.
Microsoft also said that the Windows Store will launch globally in 231 markets and more than 100 languages, with the ability to accept payments in 58 currencies.
Follow the jump to see screen shots of the Windows Store in action.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Image: A screen shot of the Windows Store in Windows 8. Credit: Microsoft
Google's Android Market has passed 10 billion app downloads, a major milestone for the world's most widely used mobile operating system.
"One billion is a pretty big number by any measurement. However, when it’s describing the speed at which something is growing, it’s simply amazing," said Eric Chu, director of the Android Developer Ecosystem, in a company blog post. "This past weekend, thanks to Android users around the world, Android Market exceeded 10 billion app downloads — with a growth rate of 1 billion app downloads per month."
The massive number is even more impressive when considering the fragmentation found on Android, with companies such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Yahoo hosting Android app stores of their own, in addition to independent app stores such as GetJar.
Apple passed 15 billion downloads from its App Store in July, noting that there are more than 200 million iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch users worldwide.
More than 200 million Android smartphones and tablets have been sold and about 550,000 new Android activations take place each day, Google has said.
To celebrate passing the 10-billion-download mark, Google and a number of developers are offering selected apps for 10 cents for a limited time, Chu said.
"Starting today for the next 10 days, we'll have a new set of awesome apps available each day for only 10 cents each," he said. "Today, we are starting with Asphalt 6 HD, Color & Draw for Kids, Endomondo Sports Tracker Pro, Fieldrunners HD, Great Little War Game, Minecraft, Paper Camera, Sketchbook Mobile, Soundhound Infinity & Swiftkey X."
Each day, until the 10-day period is up, Google will offer another 10 apps for 10 cents each, as listed on the Android Market.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: A screen shot of Google's Android Market. Credit: Google
Spam: annoying emails that infiltrate your inbox and try to get you to shell out for erectile dysfunction drugs, credit cards and international scams purportedly involving Nigerian princes.
Could these two things possibly have anything in common? According to Microsoft researcher David Heckerman, the answer is yes.
Heckerman is the inventor of Microsoft's spam filter that protects Hotmail, Outlook and Exchange clients from deluges of unwanted email, but for the last seven years he's been working on designing a vaccine for HIV.
He said it's not so strange that he shifted his attention from protecting email systems to protecting body systems. He is a doctor, and besides, fighting spam and fighting HIV are not as different as you might think.
"We have an adversarial situation going on between spam filters trying to block the spam and the spammers changing and mutating," he said in an interview with The Times. "And in the case of HIV, we have the immune system fighting the virus and HIV mutating to try to get through."
Heckerman said the key to fighting spam and HIV is the same: Find the part that absolutely can't mutate — what he calls the Achilles' heel — and attack there.
"In the case of spammers, they want to extract money from you. That's what they can't avoid. So our spam filters, at least in part, focus on that," he said.
Now he and his team are trying to find the Achilles' heel of the virus that causes AIDS.
"It mutates a lot, but it can't mutate to where it stops functioning," he said. "If it does do that, we win."
The work now is to find the places where if the virus mutates there, it dies out. To find it, Herckerman and his team are using the needle-in-a-haystack approach — crunching enormous amounts of data with the help of thousands of computers in order to find clues to what might work.
"I think it is a solvable problem, but we have a lot of work left to do," said Heckerman. "But I'm working on this every day, and I'm hopeful."
Want more information? Microsoft Research has put together this video.
– Deborah Netburn
Image: A computer model of the human immunodeficiency virus. Efforts to find a vaccine to prevent its spread have failed. Cedit: Corbis 20080512.
Microsoft on the iPad: So far there isn't much of that happening outside of the Bing app.
But that might change next year, according to a report from the Daily, News Corp.'s e-magazine delivered each day to Apple's iPad.
According to some unnamed sources of the Daily writer Matt Hickey, Microsoft is prepping iPad-versions of its Office suite of software.
"With the iPad making up over 80 percent of the tablet market and millions of people worldwide using Office, that could mean big bucks for the tech giant based in Redmond, Wash.," Hickey wrote in his report. "In addition to an iPad-ready version, a new edition of Office is expected for OS X Lion sometime next year."
Microsoft's current Office for Mac offering, Office 2011, lacks the ability to take advantage of new features found in Mac OS X Lion. "A Lion version, likely available via the Mac App Store, is widely expected," the report said. "Windows, too, is due for an update, with Office 2012 currently in beta form."
If Microsoft were to challenge iWork on the iPad (and maybe even iPhone) with Office, apps for Word, Excel and PowerPoint could go head-to-head with Apple's own productivity apps.
– Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Photo: Apple's Numbers app for the iPad. Credit: Nathan Olivarez-Giles / Los Angeles Times
by Rebecca Buckman,
The Internet portal didn’t shed light on a possible deal with the software giant as it reported a loss and more job cuts.
BURLINGAME, Calif. — Beleaguered Internet portal Yahoo! reported first-quarter earnings of $118 million, or 8 cents per share, a decrease of 78% from the year-ago period.
Microsoft is sure making a lot of news in search these days. As reported here earlier the new look search of Kumo is lurking about although Microsoft is acting like Kumo is some kind of hallucination that deserves a homepage.google-cartoon
Now add to that the news reported in a Computerworld article regarding the U.S. market share of the major search engines. It appears that Microsoft’s share is at a 12 month low which is, well, not real good. Microsoft may be