All posts by Abhishek Baxi

Abhishek Baxi is an independent technology columnist for several international publications and a digital consultant. He speaks incessantly on Twitter (@baxiabhishek) and dons the role of Editor-in-Chief here at Techie Buzz.

How to Order a Surface in India

While Microsoft has made it’s flagship Windows RT tablet – Surface – available in seven countries, India has been left out from the list. Bhaskar Pramanik, Chairman, Microsoft India gave no definite answers on the availability when I put the question to him at the launch event of Windows 8. While the strategic decision to keep Surface off India might please the OEMs in India, it certainly is irking the Windows 8 fans and early technology adopters in the country. 

Unless you have an uncle or a good friend travelling from the US who can carry a Surface for you, here are all the ways to buy a Surface RT online in India. While all the three options promise a similar delivery time-frame (around two weeks), there is no option yet to buy either the Type Cover or other Surface accessories.

eBay India

The premier shopping portal for anything that’s not available on the retail shelves, eBay of course was the first to have Surface listings. The price starts at INR 38,490 for the base 32GB model without a cover. The popular seller also lists Surface with Touch Cover in different colors. Amongst the three options, eBay is the only one that provides EMI facility for certain credit cards.

Tradus

Tradus.com, another one of India’s growing online malls, also lists Surface at a similar price of INR 38,840 (Link). There is no listing for the product with keyboard cover though.

ShopYourWorld

ShopYourWorld, an online store that offers Indian consumers the ability to shop from a wide range of products from the US and the UK, also lists the base 32GB model for INR 36,783 (Link). Again, like Tradus, there is no option to buy the tablet with the keyboard cover.

Top Technology Companies & W3C Come Together For A Better Web Platform

It’s not just another day when top technology companies who develop technologies, platforms, and devices for the Web or do business on it get together with the World Wide Web Consortium with an aim to enable a better Web for everyone. Web Platform Docs is a new community-driven site that aims to become a comprehensive and authoritative source for web developer documentation. It has been convened by W3C and the partners – Adobe, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, and Opera – support it through content, people, funding, and other contributions.

This central repository for developers and designers who use open Web standards intends to host clear reference docs, thoughtful tutorials for existing and new technologies, a sample library that takes into account real-world scenarios, and tells you what platforms and devices you can use various technologies on and the current standardization, stability, and implementation status of each technology specification. The initiative would be an ongoing concerted effort attempting to deliver the promise of interoperability through the same standards-based markup.

The web platform has become the medium of creative expression for web developers and designers, and it continues to evolve and to become ever more expressive. Having a reliable source of information for modern, up to date best practices is a huge time saver for creative professionals and will allow them to focus on what they do best: creating.

– Arno Goudrol, Senior Director for the Web Platform for Adobe

The site is a wiki platform, and anyone can become a member, anyone can contribute, and the resulting community creates and manages the content through collaboration and moderation. The founding organizations are known as stewards. The stewards seeded WPD with topics donated from already-published content, for example, Microsoft has contributed over 3200 topics from MSDN.

Loewe Debuts in India with Soundbox

Loewe, the premier home entertainment systems brand from Germany, has launched Soundbox in India. The device has been brought to the market by NavShiv India Retail Private Limited, the official distribution partners for Loewe in India.

 

Soundbox offers an impressive surround experience and Loewe claims it to be the technologically most advanced and customizable audio device in India. The sleek digital stereo amplifier cum speakers comes with a customizable surface in vibrant colors as well as metallic and high gloss chrome finish. Soundbox allows you to play music with an iPhone or any other MP3 player, from the radio or a CD, or any source via the USB or Aux-In port. The top panel features an iPhone/iPod dock and an integrated CD drive with slot-in mechanism. The device comes with a Loewe Assist remote that not only works with Soundbox but other Loewe televisions and playback devices as well.

The brand Loewe comes with the promise of best in German technology which perfectly blends top of line technology with elegant style. The Soundbox caters to the personal and social musical beats of its customers. The sleek and stylish device comes with a changeable skin that adds to the fun of the play and play device.

– Naveen Rao, CEO, Navshiv Retail Pvt Ltd

While the stylish device makes for a great luxury gadget device and ideal for house parties, the price is a little steep at INR 49,000. It is, however, an elegant accessory for your living room and seamlessly plays music without the hassles of a complex setup or a bunch of cables.

Microsoft Answers Rebranded as Microsoft Community

Microsoft Answers has got a new look and feel as well as a new name starting today. If you head to answers.microsoft.com, you would notice the clean white design, quite a change from the prominently green design before this, and a new name – Microsoft Community – integrating the new Microsoft logo.

Microsoft Answers is now Microsoft Community!

We’ve got a new name and a new look, but the Microsoft Community will continue to provide the same great questions and answers that you rely on to get the most out of your technology.

Microsoft Community are community-supported forums where Microsoft users and customer support agents from around the world connect to share ideas and solve problems. The site allows users to find answers, ask questions, and share their expertise. Users can submit their questions, and other users and agents post helpful replies and step-by-step instructions or add on to the common issues. The support agents moderate the discussions and mark useful replies as answers.

The community is structured in to eight categories based on products and technology: Hotmail, Messenger & SkyDrive, Internet Explorer, Office, Office for Mac. Virus and Malware, Windows, Windows Phone, and Zune.

While the design is neat and visually appealing, this looks like a quick rebranding exercise only. The URL is still answers.microsoft.com. At the moment, community.microsoft.com directs to Microsoft homepage and Microsoft may want to leverage the same. The categories are simply migrated and there has been no effort to refresh the same. For example, ‘Hotmail’ is not replaced by ‘Outlook’ and the URL of this category says ‘windowslive’. Ouch!

Microsoft Announces an All New MSN for Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10

Microsoft has announced a radical refresh of MSN, one of the most popular media destinations on the Internet, with the launch of Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10. Microsoft’s flagship website gets about 480 million visitors per month worldwide and is one of the biggest portals on the Internet. The new version is built from the ground up to harness the capabilities that Windows 8 and IE10 offer and built for touch.

The new MSN is a full-screen experience and the user experience is clean and intuitive. Because Internet Explorer 10 was designed to take advantage of the system architecture of Windows 8, Microsoft promises blazing fast speed along with the consistent visual layout providing instant access to the information you want.

Microsoft also intends to establish itself as a small media operation creating its own content. While MSN would aggregate news from premier sources like Reuters and Associated Press, it has been building up a news team on its own. Microsoft sold its 50% stake in news website MSNBC.com in July to NBCUniversal, and hence would focus all the capabilities in content creation and aggregation here.

The updated site would be available from October 26, the official launch date of Windows 8. Here are a few expectations that I’d have from the rollout:

  • The design is rolled out to all MSN sites globally simultaneously. Several worldwide MSN sites are slow to adapt a design update.
  • The design is consistent across all sections and sub-sites. Even after the last design refresh, few sections of MSN continue to live with the older design.
  • While Reuters and Associated Press are as good as news sources can get, I’d like to see more content partnerships for lifestyle and other channels; something like MSN Health.

Microsoft Advertising Introduces Bing Ads and Yahoo! Bing Network

Microsoft has announced rebranding of adCenter to Bing Ads and the launch of Yahoo! Bing Network, formerly known as Search Alliance.

Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance was born two years ago and reaches 151 million people today. The network includes the reach and benefits of Yahoo! Search and Bing partner publisher sites. Earlier this year, Microsoft brought all advertising marketing programs from Microsoft Advertising to the Bing umbrella. The latest announcement is a step in the same direction of streamlining a single digital advertising platform.

Bing Ads is a reimagined and improved way for managing campaigns on the Yahoo! Bing Network. Along with the rebranding, the platform has introduced a new Import Campaign feature which allows advertisers to import their search campaigns from Google Ad Words into Bing Ads. This will give their campaigns greater visibility and reach beyond just one search platform. Also, the new Editorial Exceptions feature will help advertisers resolve any editorial disapprovals during and after the ad submission process. With ongoing enhancements to the Bing Ads Editor tool, advertisers have an additional resource for tracking performance and identifying growth opportunities.

The Yahoo! Bing Network represents 70% of all searchers in the US, 20% of which are unique to the Yahoo! Bing Network. According to a comScore report quoted by Microsoft, searchers on Yahoo! Bing Network in the U.S. are likely to spend 24% more than the average searcher, and likely to spend 5% more than Google searchers.

Editor’s Pick of the Week: Evernote

Welcome to the fifth edition of Editor’s Pick Of The Week. This week Abhishek Baxi talks about the very popular note-taking application, Evernote, that he uses everyday – on phone, on PC, and on a tablet.

The leading text would irk the folks at Evernote since they insist to call it a memory tool than a note-taking application to broaden the horizon. Last year when I interviewed Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote, he mentioned that their competition is pen-and-paper, not other note-taking apps or utilities. Evernote allows you to save your ideas, things you like, things you hear, and things you see.

Evernote allows you to create text notes as well as add voice memos, snapshots, files and web clips. All the notes you create are synced across all devices that you own as well as to the cloud. You can also sync individual notebooks (container of these notes) with your friends or colleagues to collaborate. You can of course email a note or post it to your social network. The powerful search feature allows you to search within your notes by keyword, tag or even printed and handwritten text inside images.

I use Evernote for diverse scenarios. Sometimes, I plan and my trips by keeping all the itineraries, confirmations, and plans in Evernote. My fascination for Evernote had me using it to plan my wedding ceremonies and manage the guests, which became a case study for a feature on Evernote in a business magazine.

Apart from the user experience and the feature-set of Evernote apps, there are a couple of reasons for which I’m a big fan of Evernote. Evernote is available on all devices, and the company strives to make it available on every platform that comes about. As an early adopter of Windows Phone last year I was glad when it arrived on Windows Phone Marketplace in a great avatar. Similarly, the app is already available on Windows Store with the new Windows design style. Also, there is a huge app ecosystem integrating with Evernote. There are several apps and services that allow you file the output as a note in Evernote. I use Evernote in conjunction with several apps on my phone to manage my to-dos, scan documents, file payment receipts, record meeting minutes, et al.

There is a cheeky sticker on my laptop lid. It says – “I’m not being rude. I’m taking notes in Evernote.” :)

Finally, Kindle Arrives in India – At the Stores and on Amazon.com

Amazon has finally launched India Kindle Store with the largest selection and lowest prices of any e-bookstore in India. The India Kindle Store would feature a vast selection of titles from a range of Indian authors priced in Indian Rupees (INR) catering to a growing number of Kindle users in India who’ve ordered their devices from Amazon US. That too will change now, since Indian customers can now purchase Kindle at Croma retail stores across India.

“We are excited to be the first retailer in India to offer the latest generation Kindle to our customers. This product will launch exclusively in all Croma stores across India at an introductory price of 6,999 INR.”

– Mr. Ajit Joshi, CEO and Managing Director, Croma

With the availability of Kindle on retail shelves and the ability to download ebooks from India authors, Kindle would soon see mainstream adoption even if it continues to battle unfair comparisons from tablet devices at every price point. In my opinion, it makes for an affordable gift for not just voracious readers but also young students and senior family members.

Along with this announcement, Amazon also launched Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) for independent authors and publishers in India. KDP is a fast, free and easy way for authors and publishers to make their books available to Kindle customers in India and around the world.

[Windows 8] What’s Missing in the Mail App?

So, yes, Windows 8 RTM is here. And one of the first things I did was to configure my Hotmail Outlook.com email address on the new Mail app. While the user interface is slick and uses the screen estate in a brilliant way, there are some quirks that make me go back to Outlook or Outlook.com.

Sync
This might be an isolated incident with me, but the sync when the account is set up for the first time is awkward. I had to click on every folder separately to download the emails in that folder.

Flags
Am I missing something or is there no way to flag an email or access the flagged emails? I like Outlook.com’s feature of pinning the flagged emails on the top of the Inbox. In Outlook, I can access them in the right pane.

Move
While the Hotmail/Outlook.com team has been working to mimic desktop app like experience with features like drag-and-drop emails and right-click on folders, all that is deeply missed in the Windows 8 app. Moving an email to a different folder requires three steps that are anything but fluid.

Calendar
The Mail app does not integrate with the Calendar app. There is no way to create an appointment from an email message or accept calendar invites in email.

Folder Management
The app does not offer any functionality to create a folder or modify the folder structure. Also, there is no way to empty the Junk or Deleted Items folder in one go. No, seriously, there isn’t.

Bing Goes Down; No Update from Microsoft Yet

At 19:45 IST (07:15 PST), I observed that Bing (bing.com), the search engine from Microsoft, had an outage.


I checked @bing on Twitter but there was no update and no acknowledgement of the outage. I’ll update the post as soon as the service is back up, or we have an update from Microsoft.

UPDATE – 07:25 PST:

The service is back up, but no comment from Bing as to what happened.

UPDATE – 07:30 PST:

The outage is erratic. I could definitely search via Bing five minutes before but it’s throwing the screen above again now.