Microsoft Announces WP7 Mango RTM Hours Before Fujitsu’s WP7 Handset Unveiling

Fujitsu will be unveiling the first Windows Phone 7 Mango device a few hours from now. And Microsoft just dropped a bomb on us.

Speculated and rubbished a few days ago were claims of Windows Phone 7 reaching the all-important RTM (Release to Manufacturing) milestone. (It means Microsoft’s finished the code and handed it to partners to get it to the customers.) The excitement was short lived but our hopes of getting WP7 Mango on our phones by the holiday season remained strong.

Today, those hopes were bolstered by Microsoft signing off on Windows Phone 7 Mango. As of now, developers have access to Mango Beta which while stable has some features missing. Mango reaching RTM also means, Microsoft will start pushing out the update to carriers. Microsoft’s experience with the past two Windows Phone 7    updates was not pleasant. Unlike the previous updates, Microsoft and partners are expected to see a smoother roll out this time around.

At their Worldwide Partner Conference, Microsoft showed 4 new Windows Phone 7 handsets. Fujitsu is expected to officially unveil the waterproof phone at an event in Tokyo.

You can catch a live stream of the Fujitsu event below:

Microsoft Evangelist To Donate $1000 If Web-Celebs Don’t Like WP7

Here’s something you don’t come across often. Microsoft developer evangelist Brandon Watson has decided to put a $1000 on the line if Internet-celebrities give Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 a try.

In a challenge that seems to be his idea, Watson is going after users who’ve had problems with Android and are considering the iPhone. A few hours ago, he commented on the widely-popular comic strip Dilbert’s blog where author Scott Adams ranted about Android’s battery. Watson’s challenge is he will send Scott a Windows Phone 7 developer device (running mango) for Scott to try and if Scott doesn’t like it, Watson will donate a $1000 to any charity of Scott’s choice.

Watson extended this challenge to CNET reporter Molly Wood who complained about having issues with her Droid X. This definitely is a ballsy move and I have to say, Brandon Watson is changing the rules of the game. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s competitors can’t say, “I have the advantage of knowing your habits, my dear Watson.”

Update: Molly Wood has accepted the challenge. And so has Scott Adams.

Microsoft Hoping To Reduce Xbox Production Costs With New Motherboards

Till a few months back I used to look at new job openings within Microsoft to find information about their new products, now I am searching for a job. Going through the new positions, I came across one where Microsoft talks about updates to the Xbox.

There is little known about what Microsoft is planning. The Xbox 360 has so far been getting incremental hardware upgrades and many are thinking about how Microsoft will be furthering the boundaries of innovation in entertainment with a new Xbox – the Xbox 720. A recent job opening describes Microsoft’s plans to reduce the (production) costs of an Xbox. The Xbox team hopes to get this done by designing a new motherboard for the Xbox.

For those keeping tabs, with the Xbox 360 Slim or Xbox 360 2010  Microsoft introduced a new motherboard design codenamed Vejle. Vejle’s single chip design (CPU+GPU+Memory) allowed engineers to improve the cooling for the console and also with the on-chip memory, one could access more features without an HDD or memory card. Microsoft is looking to improve this design. The job description explains:

 The team is responsible for the design and aggressive cost reduction of the console throughout the life of the product as well as expanding the market for the console in derivative products.

The responsibilities of this position are focused on specifying, designing (schematic capture, PCB layout, BOM, cost analysis), implementing and verifying subsystems on the Xbox motherboard. This includes development of subsystem requirements by working with team members evaluating different solution options for functionality, cost and risk, developing the solution, implementing it, verifying it and supporting it in production. […]

The hardware design for computers has seen radical changes and it is now becoming an engineering challenge to keep systems cool, reduce size and perform better. It will be interesting to get a look at how Microsoft engineers achieve this.

Breakdown Of The Patents Against Kinect & A Look At Microsoft’s Patent Portfolio

A hot, boring, lazy Friday just turned exciting. As we reported earlier, Microsoft has been sued by Ohio based Impulse Technology Limited. Impulse claims that the Xbox Kinect infringes 7 patents the company owns. I have been closely following Microsoft’s patent portfolio for quite a while. Microsoft has been filing for several (and I mean) several patent relating to body movements, gestures and Kinect. I have done a quick preliminary search to find some of the patents. There are more, the search on USPTO is more broken than their patent system.

Going through the patent applications and Impulse’s statement, the case seems more against how Kinect Fitness leverages body scanning, room environment for health stuff. The patent claims are broad and also cover some of Kinect’s key operations. Here’s what Impulse has sued Microsoft for:

The first claim in 3 of the 7 patents (6,430,997 6,876,496 & 6,308,565) is the same. Way to go patent lawyers.

A testing and training system comprising a continuous tracking system for determining changes in an overall physical location of a player, in a defined physical space; a computer operatively coupled to the tracking system for updating in real time a player virtual location in a virtual space corresponding to the physical location of the player in the physical space, for updating a view of the virtual space, and for providing at least one indicia of performance of the player moving in the physical space, wherein the at least one indicia is or is derived from a measure of a movement parameter of the player.

Patent 6,430,997 has 30 claims, some key ones:

A reactive power training system comprising: a reactive training device which provides cues to elicit responsive changes in an overall physical location of a subject in at least two dimensions; and a resistive training device; wherein the reactive training device and the resistive training device are used in a training sequence.

A method of reactive power training for a user using a reactive training device and one or more resistive training devices, comprising: performing a training sequence, wherein the performing the training sequence includes: exercising utilizing the reactive training device, to perform reactive training bouts; and performing resistive strength enhancing activities on the one or more resistive training devices, to perform resistive training bouts; wherein the reactive training bouts are alternated with the resistive training bouts.

marker worn by the subject, wherein the reactive training device tracks movement of the marker.

a transmitter worn by the subject which transmits information to the reactive training device without being physically connected to the reactive training device.

wherein the information includes an identification of the subject.

wherein the information includes the subject’s heart rate.

wherein the transmitter acts as a marker, allowing the reactive training device to track location of the subject.

Claim #2 and #3 are Kinect Fitness. The rest of the claims I’ve listed also relate to Kinect Fitness. However, Kinect does not use any such transmitter device, sensor does all the magic. Kinect Fitness however does receive feedback about the user’s body. The Kinect sensor can be considered as the reactive device in this case.

Patent 6,765,726 has 16 claims:

A multiuser physical assessment system comprising: a first tracking system for determining changes in a first overall physical location of a first user within a first physical space; a second tracking system for determining changes in a second overall physical location of a second user within a second physical space; and at least one computer operatively coupled to the tracking systems for updating user virtual locations in a virtual space corresponding to the physical locations of the users; wherein performance of at least one of the users in the virtual space is modified so as to handicap one of the users relative to the other user.

[…] first and second displays operatively coupled to the at least one computer, wherein the displays display respective views of the virtual space; wherein the displays display different views of the virtual space; wherein the tracking systems are both continuous three-dimensional tracking systems; and wherein the at least one computer updates in real time the user virtual locations in the virtual space.

[…] wherein the first view includes first virtual representations of at least parts of both of the users; and wherein the second view includes second virtual representations of at least parts of both of the users.

All claims in this application are related to how Kinect works.

Patent 6,876,496 has 20 claims:

the computer provides at least one indicium of performance of the player moving in the physical space, wherein the at least one indicium is or is derived from a measure of a movement parameter of the player.

the view of the virtual space includes a player icon located at the player virtual location.

the updating of the protagonist virtual location is made in response to the changes in the physical location of the player, such that the virtual protagonist and the player engage in an interactive task.

These claims, again, go on to cover how Kinect tracks the users and displays it. Instead of an icon, Kinect shows a translucent 2D figure.

Patent 7,359,121 has 27 claims. Key claims:

A method for prompting a user to engage in a physical activity, the method comprising: causing displaying of a representation of the user on a monitor, wherein the displaying of the representation includes moving the representation of the user to reflect movement of the user; causing displaying of one or more virtual objects on the monitor, wherein the displaying of the one or more virtual objects includes displaying the one or more virtual objects to prompt physical motion of the user […]

[…] displaying the virtual objects of the method includes prompting the user to perform an interception task that includes the representation of the user moving to have the representation of the user intercept at least some of the targets.

Prompting user to engage in a physical activity, is more of what Microsoft & Kinect game advertisers are doing. Having said that, this patent is about Kinect, a moving representation of the user is the 2D figure we see in games.

Patent 7,791,808 with 20 claims:

the tracking system continuously tracks an overall physical location of the user in a defined physical space corresponding to the virtual space; wherein the computer updates in real time a user virtual location in the virtual space corresponding to the physical location of the player in the physical space; and wherein the viewpoint of the view is from the user virtual location.

the view is a first person view

he first person view is a first person perspective view

the tracking system tracks the translations in three dimensions

the tracking system includes a beacon worn by the user

the tracking system includes a camera

All claims, except user wearing a beacon are how Kinect works.

Patent 6,749,432 with 18 claims has a funny title: Education system challenging a subject’s physiologic and kinesthetic systems to synergistically enhance cognitive function

A method of educating comprising: prompting a person to engage in body core movement which elevates the person’s metabolic rate; and prompting the person to engage in a cognitive academic learning task while the person’s metabolic rate is elevated, wherein the prompting to engage in a cognitive academic learning task includes displaying a view of a virtual space, and wherein the promoting to engage in body core movement and the prompting to engage in a cognitive academic learning task both include promoting the person to engage in a body core movement cognitive academic learning task.

he updating a view includes updating a first person perspective view of the virtual space from the virtual location

prompting to engage in a body core movement cognitive academic learning task includes prompting the person to engage in interactive challenges that involve manipulation of objects in a virtual world by body core movement of the person in a defined physical space

further including ascertaining the degree of metabolic rate elevation

including adjusting the prompting to engage in body core movement to maintain the metabolic rate elevation at a desired level

ascertaining the degree of metabolic rate elevation includes monitoring the person’s heart rate

These claims would be akin to Kinect Fitness including a freaky 3D doctor telling you why you need to do certain exercises. This patent application deals with Kinect Fitness and maybe broadly apply to other games.

Patent 6,208,565 has a 100 claims. Most of these claims are slight modifications of claims in the other patents or exactly the same. Once again, way to go patent lawyers.

These are the 7 patents Impulse has sued Microsoft. Now let’s take a look at a fraction of the Kinectgesture patents Microsoft has applied for.

Patents 20110032336 20110109724 20100194872 deal with body scanning:

A device for capturing depth information of a scene, the device comprising: a camera component, wherein the camera component receives a depth image of the scene; and a processor, wherein the processor executes computer executable instructions, and wherein the computer executable instructions comprise instructions for: receiving the depth image of the scene from the camera component; determining whether the depth image includes a human target; scanning the human target to locate at least a first joint, if the depth image includes a human target […]

A 3D user scanning device, using cameras.

Patent 20110035666 is about displaying the position of a user on the screen. (Something Impulse has claimed.) The abstract of the patent says:

A capture device may capture a user’s motion and a display device may display a model that maps to the user’s motion, including gestures that are applicable for control.

A claim from the patent:

A method for determining whether to provide feedback, the method comprising: receiving image data for a scene, wherein the image data comprises depth data representative of a target’s motion or position in a physical space; comparing the depth data representative of the target’s motion or position in the physical space […]

Patent 20110085705 is about scanning props (or objects as Impulse has mentioned in their applications):

acquiring one or more color images from one or more color sensing image sensors, the step of performing prop tracking includes using color information from the one or more color images to help track the second target.

the step of performing skeletal tracking includes receiving position information regarding the second target, the position information is taken into consideration when determining the first position of the first target.

the step of performing prop tracking includes receiving position information regarding the first target, the position information is taken into consideration when determining the second position of the second target.

receiving orientation information from the first prop, the step of performing prop tracking uses the orientation information to help track the first prop.

Kinect allows you to scan your own skateboard and use it in a game.

Patent 20100195867 is about tracking the user as he moves. Impulse has this in their patent claims. Microsoft’s claims include focusing on the user by ignoring non-target items from the background and some pretty smart algorithms to track the user’s movements:

[…] analyzing the observed depth image with a hand-identifying algorithm configured to identify hands on the human target; and increasing relative confidence of the exemplar pose if the exemplar pose more closely places hands in a same location as the hand-identifying algorithm […]

removing non-target background information from the observed depth image includes removing depth image information outside of a sphere surrounding the target

the source includes a depth camera

the source includes stereo cameras

Patent 20100278384 complements the above patent and is about estimating the human body’s pose.

Patent 20100195869, 20100197395, 20100197400, 20100197391, 20100197392 & 20100197399 are titled Visual Target Tracking and are related to tracking the human body movements. Claim from 20100195869:

A method of tracking a human target, the method comprising: representing the human target with a machine-readable model configured for adjustment into a plurality of different poses

One of the newer patents I came across yesterday is about multi-user tracking. This is also there somewhere in Impulse’s claims. Patent 20110175809

A processor-implemented method for tracking multiple people in a motion capture system, comprising the processor-implemented steps of: tracking at least one group which includes a first group, the first group comprises peoples’ bodies in a field of view of the motion capture system, the tracking includes detecting the peoples’ bodies in the field of view

Patent 20100306685 is having the user’s avatars on screen as feedback about the user’s physical movements. Claim from the application:

method for providing feedback to a user about a computing environment, the method comprising: recognizing, using an image-based capture device, a presence of a first user in a capture area; associating a first avatar with the first user and displaying the first avatar on a display screen; recognizing aspects of the first user within the capture area; and modifying an appearance of the first avatar to provide feedback to the first user about at least one of capabilities, features, rights or permissions of the first user in the computing environment.

Most of the Microsoft patent I’ve listed here are yet to approved. Whereas Impulse has approved patents. How that plays out will have to be seen. The patents I’ve listed are only those I could find, there are more. Kinect is a product developed using 3D camera trcking technology developed by PrimeSense. I have not looked into patent held by them or whether the patents were  transferred  to Microsoft.

Cab Driver Leaks Information About Microsoft’s Event

Close to 12,000 Microsoft employees have gathered at the Colorado Convention Centre for this year’s annual (internal) MGX (Microsoft Global Exchange) conference. The conference is for the product teams and executives to come together and discuss the product roadmaps & company strategy.

This year Microsoft has an active Twitter police protecting company secrets from making their way on to the social network. The memo however, did not extend to a cab driver.  According to a cab driver, Lady Gaga will be performing at the MGX conference. The information was slipped to one of the attendees who shared it on Twitter and it was spotted by Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet.

The past MGX conferences haven’t had a lot of details to write about.  MGX 2009 was where Microsoft confirmed the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) of Windows 7 and the biggest news coming out of MGX 2010 was a new set of logos for Microsoft products that later turned out to be hoax.

Windows 8 and Windows Phone are expected to be the consumer products on everyone’s minds. Microsoft’s tablet strategy depends on the next version of Windows and it will be in Microsoft’s best interests to get it right the first time.

Update:  The cab driver was wrong. Unfortunate.

WP7 Developer Dashboard Updated With Much Needed Improvements

My twitter feed is filled with excited Windows Phone 7 developers within Microsoft and outside. App Hub, the developer dashboard to submit Windows Phone 7 applications for verification received a major update today.

The two widely appreciated feature additions are:

  • Private beta
  • Editing application details

The Private Beta option has been a desired feature by app developers and bloggers. Developers can now allow a set of users to try (and review) their applications before they go live in the marketplace. So far this process needed sharing and side loading of the application file on a developer unlocked phone, which was a hassle.

The second feature makes it easy for application developers to make changes to the application’s listing in the marketplace and description without having to submit a new version. The developer can edit application’s category and artwork. Daniel at WPCentral has listed a few more changes that include better crash reports (critical for developers) and a new layout.

Microsoft understands the importance of developers in the mobile OS race. They have been actively developing and supporting the community. The App Hub update comes after the public beta of Windows Phone 7 Mango which fixes a lot of shortcomings and introduces some compelling features to the phone.

h/t @matthidinger  for the information on editing app details.

Update: Long Zheng has shared details about Private Beta, the beta lasts for 90 days and a developer can share the app with up to 100 users.

Microsoft Brings In-App Purchases With Microsoft Points To WP7

Xbox LIVE introduced Microsoft’s micro-transaction platform to make purchases against Microsoft Points that can be purchased. Xbox has had Microsoft Points for a while allowing users to purchase game addons and other multimedia content. Microsoft Points is like a virtual currency for the Xbox world. As Microsoft explains it, they introduced Points to replace credit cards that had a minimum of $5 restriction.

Windows Phone 7 game Beards & Beaks is the first to introduce Microsoft Points integration. The game has been developed by Microsoft Game Studio. (Looks like they called dibs on the feature.) Kev J from Electronic Theatre discovered the feature  and has explained the Microsoft Points integration. According to Kev, a user can use Microsoft Points to refill Mushrooms that can be used for special abilities in the game.

Points can be bought from Microsoft or other marketplaces like Amazon etc. Prices are:

  • 400 Microsoft Points – $4.99
  • 800 Microsoft Points – $9.99
  • 1600 Microsoft Points – $19.99
  • 4000 Microsoft Points – $49.99
  • 6000 Microsoft Points – $74.99

Microsoft Points integration could be how Microsoft will offer game upgrades like more levels for Angry Birds. I’m done with the current levels, I can haz moar pigs, plis! Magazine and news paper subscriptions could also be offered against Microsoft Points.

Does Microsoft Have Plans For E-book Readers?

Microsoft’s Worldwide Developers Conference has seen its fair share of drama. Microsoft showed phones it wasn’t authorised to and laid out a strategy that Nilay Patel at This is my next believes signals the end of Windows as a brand. Andy Lees talked about the future of Windows being available on all devices made possible with Windows now supported on SoC.

Kevin Turner talked about competition and the Microsoft ecosystem. His slide about Microsoft’s ecosystem laid out Microsoft’s pans of making their services available across all screens. Everything on the slide seemed in place except the mention of an E-book Reader. Microsoft teased us with a dual screen tablet but unfortunately the project was killed. While tablets (like the iPad) make more great E-book readers, the Kindle and Nook have found themselves a market. IDC found that the E-book Reader buyer market grew by a staggering 105% (year-on-year).

Two reasons why people would buy an E-book Reader are:

  • Battery life (saved on the Tablet while travelling)
  • Screens easier on the eyes (E-Ink technology)

Microsoft has Windows Embedded which can be customized by OEMs to be used on their E-book Readers but Microsoft doesn’t have a book store or marketplace like Amazon or iBook. If Microsoft does want to enter the space, they will have to come up with services around the devices, an ecosystem as they call it.

Till we see something from Microsoft that hints at an ecosystem around books, I’ll file this under unhealthy optimism. Nevertheless, Kevin Turner having Reader in that slide is intriguing.

Update: Microsoft does have  (a software for reading E-books on Windows based devices) but its presence is as good as its absence right now. When I said Microsoft doesn’t have an ecosystem around ebooks, I meant more like an active, well known system.

Microsoft Shows 4 New WP7 Phones

Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference for 2011 is currently underway at Los Angeles and after Steve Ballmer’s keynote yesterday, it was all about devices today.

During their VIP event in May where they officially unveiled Mango, Microsoft shared details about new hardware partners for WP7. A notable absenty was Dell. At WPC, a demo of WP7 Mango was followed by Steve Guggenheimer showing a lot of Windows PCs and four upcoming Windows Phone 7 devices.

Three new devices are from the new OEM partners and one is from Samsung. The new Samsung phone has a front facing camera which is expected to be in Nokia’s N9 version running WP7 too. The devices are Acer, Fujitsu and ZTE:

WMPU says the Samsung handset is the SGH-i937, the Galaxy SII running Windows Phone 7. The phone clearly has a front facing camera:

The guys over at WMPowerUser have uploaded an edited video of the conference showing just the phones which they have had to remove due to a confusion at Microsoft’s end.

Update: Rafael at WithinWindows has uploaded the clip. Here is the presentation that Microsoft didn’t want you to see:

HTC To Start Shipping Updates To Unlock Bootloaders From August

Listening to feedback from the homebrew and modding community, HTC decided not to lock the bootloaders on their phones. The policy announced by HTC CEO back in May makes it easy for users to tinker with their phones. For all the openness claims of Android, unlocked bootloaders are great news for the community.

In an update issued on their Facebook page, the company said that they will be shipping software updates for the HTC Sensation (worldwide) in August that would enable unlocking the bootloader. The company said, T-Mobile HTC Sensation 4G and Sprint EVO 3D will be getting the updates soon as well. According to the statement, devices should be capable of unlocking bootloaders by September and more devices will be supported as maintenance updates are released.

Recently in a statement to Ina Fried of AllThingsD, Bill Cox said that Microsoft is okay with enthusiasts porting Windows Phone 7 Mango to older devices (HTC HD2 in this case). With Windows Phone 7, Microsoft has reached out to the community realizing their importance in growth of the platform.