Where Does Skype Fit In Microsoft

For quite  while there have been updates about Facebook and Google being interested in Skype. Today, the Wall Street Journal has confirmation that Microsoft is paying somewhere between $7 Billion to $8 Billion to acquire the VoIP telecommunication company. Back in 2005, eBay purchased Skype only to sell it off in 2009. While the business strategy saw ups and downs, Skype’s user base kept growing. According to Wikipedia, Skype had 663 Million registered users and claimed 25 Million users online at the same time not long ago.

Microsoft has Windows Live Messenger on the PC and Kinect (in the consumer market) and Lync (for the corporates) that essentially do what Skype does. So why bother with spending such insane amounts for Skype? The simple answer is maintaining dominance. If Google were get hold of Skype, Google would have a compelling solution for SMBs with Google Apps and Skype for over-the-Internet collaboration. At the same time, all those ~700 Million registered users would be running a Google service.

Skype decided to pull out their Windows Mobile client back in early 2010 and have not been able to do Windows Phone 7 client due to technical restrictions. However, being a cross platform service available on OS X, iOS, Android, Linux and Windows, Microsoft suddenly has a cross-platform communication software by tomorrow.

There is a belief that Microsoft will be coming up their answer to FaceTime for WP7 which will be powered by Lync in the background but might have a different branding, a  re-branded  Skype simply makes Microsoft’s efforts easier. While the number $8 Billion sounds crazy, there were some really smart people at Redmond crunching numbers projecting the worth of this acquisition. Keeping in mind cloud and communication in the next 5 years, Skype as part of Microsoft gives the Redmond company a huge user base and infrastructure that will not be part of either Facebook or Google or Apple.

Image credit: DeviantArt

Microsoft Engineers Set WP7 App Coding Benchmarks Pretty High

Windows Phone 7 right now has close to 16,200 applications in the marketplace. According to mobile apps watcher Distimo, at the current growth rate, the WP7 marketplace will have more apps than BlackBerry and Nokia’s app stores in less than a year of launch. When WP7 launched, it came with apps that early adotpers would ask for, namely:

  • Foursquare
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

These apps were borderline decent with basic functions. The first version of Facebook did not have Places, Foursquare’s app was not updated to include Foursquare 3.0 features. However, developers within Microsoft who used these services and  realized  that the development platform for WP7 could implement the missing features took matters in their own hands. As a result we have two beautiful apps that leverage WP7 and the service APIs for feature-rich apps.

Rowi (Twitter client):

Developed by @HumanCompiler and @heskew, Rowi has a paid and free version. The free version is better than the official WP7 twitter app, it has ads though. The paid version ($2.99) includes  push notifications, linked images in tweet and live tile  notifications.

The subtle features in the app are what I love the most. If your WP7 has the dark theme, the starting animation for the app fades into black from white or vice versa if the phone’s theme is white. The app uses the accent color for the tile, twitter handles and the nice upward pointing arrow to show availability of new tweets.

Earlier this week Rowi and the MetroTwit team announced that they will be offering a cloud based sync between the two applications. MetroTwit is a popular Windows PC twitter client that’s designed based on the Metro principles.


4th & Mayor (Foursquare client):

A few days back the official Foursquare client for WP7 was removed and users were redirected to @jeffwilcox’s 4th & Mayor. A stamp of validation for the app that it is indeed the best Foursquare client for WP7 as of now. The first run for the application has a gorgeous animation which disappointingly can’t be revisited. The application has all features available in the official Foursquare iPhone application including:

  • Uploading venue photos
  • Explore
  • Specials
  • Commenting on check ins
  • Adding tips


The  developers  for both apps have done an amazing job on designing around the Metro theme, showcased the developer tools capabilities and made use of WP7 capabilities. Hoepfully, more developers work on coming up with applications equally good.

PS: Websites for both these applications are well designed as well.

WP7 Sent To The Cloud, Then Sends Data To Microsoft’s Cloud

A UK based start up company – Segoz, part of the Atmospheric Science Through Robotic Aircraft (ASTRA) group decided to send a Windows Phone 7 device into the Stratosphere to gather data useful for research.

A custom application on the phone gathered location data using GPS and using GSM network transmitted this to Windows Azure. The setup allowed scientists to predict trajectories for different pay loads and helium gas in the balloon.  An excerpt from the project’s description page explains the project:

The Windows Azure workers are used to calculate predicted landing sites,  based on factors such as  payload weight and atmospheric conditions,  for various helium quantities.   Once a landing site has been chosen and the flight commenced, the Azure workers update the predicted trajectory based on updated location information  received from  a Windows Phone 7 device within the payload. The latest predicted landing sites are automatically sent out to the balloon followers.

The device was sent as high as a Concorde flight, which according to Wikipedia is 60,039 ft and survived the atmospheric conditions. Based on the image, the device is either the HTC Mozart or the Trophy. Here’s a video on the experiment:

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Twitter Gets New Home Page, Focus On Interests

With Jack Dorsey back in charge at Twitter, the company seems to be preparing for new features and improvements. Earlier today we wrote about the possibility of Facebook like brand pages for companies on Twitter. Yesterday Twitter announced improvements to their "Who to follow" feature. A few hours ago I noticed a new look to twitter’s home page. Previously the focus was tweets from some randomly selected pointless accounts dishing out completely irrelevant opinions on love and life. The new home page focuses on topics and interests. The new home page:

New Twitter Home Page

The focus on interests suggests to me a new direction twitter is taking, more of a real time, relevant, expert opinion aggregator. The evolution of Digg in some ways. For what it’s worth, the new page looks way more amazing than the previous one.

Try Xbox Kinect At Your Home Before Buying: New Microsoft India Campaign


In a very interesting campaign, the Xbox India division is allowing users to try the Xbox 360 and Kinect at their homes and then decide if they want to buy it. The facility is available in partnership with an electronics retail chain E Zone and limited to only 3 outlets (and 2 cities) across India. Currently available only at:

  1. E Zone: Oberoi Mall, Mumbai
  2. E Zone: Powai (Mumbai)
  3. E Zone: Koramangala Mall, Bengaluru

This is a clever marketing strategy from people at Microsoft India. Though the fine print hasn’t been shared, enthusiasts and casual gamers should indeed give it a try and then perhaps buy.

via Xbox 360 India

Mozilla Engineer Calls IE9 Launch Miserable & Starts Abusing When Asked For Stats

If there’s something that ticks me off the most, it is the marketing/PR of a company fudging statistics to suit their needs. Both Microsoft and Mozilla announced new versions of the browsers this month and number of downloads in the first 24 hours were used to showcase how awesome the browsers are.

Microsoft did a blog post claiming 2.35 Million downloads for IE9 and Mozilla announced 7.1 Million downloads. Woah! That’s a huge difference! I mean really that’s almost 3 times but. Yes, there’s a capital BUT here. IE9 is only for Windows Vista and Windows 7 whereas Firefox is available for all desktop operating systems. This little piece of information has been conveniently skipped by all. Why IE9 is not available on Windows XP is Microsoft’s decision, they’ve talked about that and I shall not get into that since it has nothing to do with the download numbers.

Today Romit Mehta asked Asa Dotzler if he could share OS specific numbers for the downloads since that would give a clearer picture as to who wonif the first 24 hour download numbers were the scale. The discussion had several analogies exchanged but Asa did not talk numbers, much like a PR professional he danced around but not being one he lost his cool and shit hit the roof. Here are some quotes:



Since I follow @Rawmeet and these statistics have been something of an issue for me since everyone started talking about them, I jumped into the discussion and here’s how that went:


Getting a PR response meant I had to take a dig at Mozilla:


I just got complimented by Asa for my persistence (and my blunt truth):


With that done, I decided to look at numbers. They weren’t going to come from Asa or Mozilla so the next best public source, Statscounter and here’s what I found:

The 28 days of March 2011

  • Windows Vista 13.74%
  • Windows 7 30.63%
  • Total download base for IE9 = 44.47% (2.35 Million Times)
  • Compared to the 100% marketshare Firefox had, they managed 7.1 Million downloads.
  • This is 55.53% more and they got 3 times the downloads.

Windows XP has 47.22% of the marketshare which means if IE9 were available on Windows XP the download numbers would’ve well been close. Or in other words, Firefox 4 didn’t exactly do a hell lot better than IE9 despite the 3x downloads.


So much for the BS Mozilla and you might want to get your engineers some anger management therapy. Maybe the congratulatory cake Microsoft sent Mozilla wasn’t his  favourite  flavour.

Microsoft Pilots Xbox Kinect For Interactive Education In South African School

Microsoft shared details on how they are using Xbox Kinect in a rural South Africa school for education. The project involves, Microsoft’s Live@Edu, a NGO — SchoolNet SA who helped develop the training material along with the local experts.

For those who remember, Xbox Kinect was known as Project Natal and the school in South African province KwaZulu-Natal is where the pilot has started.

Here’s a video shared by the team:

Microsoft Shares NoDo & Pre-NoDo Update Status For US & International Phones

Microsoft has so far released two updates for Windows Phone 7, one being pre-NoDo that updates the updating mechanism for the phones (or something like that) and the second that brings copy/paste along with performance tweaks. Unfortunately, not all customers have these updates. Most consumers with unlocked phones seem to have the update while those with carrier contracts don’t. I have a Samsung Focus with AT&T and no NoDo. Microsoft has now posted a status report on the updates. For the US, both NoDo and pre-NoDo are under testing for Samsung Focus, HTC Surround and LG Quantum whereas Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7 are being pushed the update. The schedule table:


For international users, here’s the page.

As disappointed I am about the not getting the updates, at least Microsoft made it official that they are not ready with the update for me. Based on the page, it looks like AT&T is not ready for the update. Damn you carriers, damn you.

Microsoft Uses Bing Maps To Show Before-After Pictures of Japan Quake

The tragedy in Japan and the use of Web 2.0 technologies to spread the word about the disaster has increased awareness about Tsunamis, Japan’s spirit and Nuclear power as well. Microsoft tried to leverage their twitter presence to pitch in but were caught off guard by the backlash. My colleague called the tweet "insensitive". Microsoft later made the right move and tried to fix the damage by talking about their various efforts.

Now the Bing Maps team has come up with an interactive map showing the before/after images of the disaster. The Bing Maps application is pretty simple to use and if I may point out, Microsoft has placed a link on how we can help the relief efforts in Japan.

Japan Earthquake Before and After

Bing Maps - Japan

New Kinect Sensor Being Worked On, From The Inside

The Xbox Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 changed Microsoft’s fortunes. The company suddenly got  recognized  as an innovative company and bagged quite a few awards for the Kinect. One of the factors responsible for Kinect’s success are the community projects. Microsoft has not sued any of the hackers unlike Sony and in fact released a SDK for developers to play around with the Kinect. But what’s next?

Knowing Microsoft, the next iteration is usually under discussions by the time a version ships out and I came across two job posting that clearly indicate that the next Kinect sensor is well underway and Microsoft is looking to change the guts. Here are  excerpts  from job postings:

The optical engineer will be responsible for designing and specifying interface requirements among opto-mechanical system, modules, and components […]

should have a working knowledge of radiometry, photometry, and optical testing, and apply these skills to identify critical to quality metrics for imaging and illumination systems.

[…] will also be responsible for qualification of injection molded lenses, accessory components, camera module, and solid state light sources.

Opto-mechanical systems are tiny mechanical circuits, much like the motors in the Kinect that follow you around. Another application:

responsibilities of this position are focused on specifying, designing, implementing and verifying subsystems in the sensor electrical design. This includes owning the part selections, schematic capture, PCB layout, BOM, and cost analysis of the subsystem design.

The subsystems include high speed busses (RGB, IR, USB, I2S), memory, audio/video interfaces, system clocking, power and thermal management, and misc. analog/digital circuitry.

This job application talks about the internal circuits of the Kinect.