Over the weekend, Linus Torvalds’s talk at his alma mater—Aalto University in Finland went viral for his sharp and blunt criticism of nVidia for their Linux support. While I wanted to watch the talk, I kept putting it off until the boredom of the slow weekend got to me and I had nothing else to do. So I decided to listening and realized after 10 minutes into the talk that it was boring. I fast forwarded by 20 minutes and it got entertaining.
Around 40 minutes in, someone mentioned to Linus that both Linux and GitHub were accidental, so what’s the next “accidental” project Linus has in mind. Linus started answering the questioning by talking about mobile and desktop kernel convergence, mentioned Apple’s 2-OS approach, said Microsoft has the same approach and BAM! Linus said Microsoft was lying and they’re full of shit. After a boring day I finally laughed out.
According to Linus, Microsoft is not converging the mobile and desktop OS with Windows 8 which technically might be true as of now but is strategically incorrect. Time and again there have been reports of Microsoft working on unifying the underlying tech in Windows and Windows Phone, and Apollo is expected to be the first step towards that goal. You can watch Linus calling out technology giants (and showing nVidia the finger) below:
On Thursday there was confusion and intrigue in the Microsoft blogger camp (yes, there’s such a thing). Several new outlets were invited to an event which nobody knew anything about. The invitation by itself added to the mystery. Here’s how things happened:
News outlets get cryptic invitation for a Microsoft event in Los Angeles
Barnes and Noble already has a Kindle Fire competing NOOK Tablet that runs on Android. This new rumored device cannot be running Windows 8 since Windows 8 devices aren’t coming out till October. Windows 8 will go RTM in July/August. So what will this Microsoft NOOK run? It can’t be Android. It can be Windows Embedded.
For what it’s worth, Microsoft has been able to keep everyone in the dark for the second time. The Windows Phone reset with WIndows Phone 7 Series was a tightly kept secret that was revealed only a few minutes before announcement. Tomorrow’s announcement should be equally exciting.
In the iOS6 segment of Apple’s WWDC keynote yesterday there were some interesting features talked about; some known and some new. Reminders is an iOS app from Apple that I’ve found interesting due to its geofencing capabilities. Introduced in Reminders, your iPhone reminds you of tasks when you are in a particular geographical area. Simplest of all concepts, not mainstream enough, Apple realized the benefits of this Geofencing; so much so that they have added the feature to more iOS functions. Announced at WWDC, Geofencing is now part of:
This one of those, why didn’t anyone else implement this? Surely the smartest engineers have thought of it. As Scott Forstall explained, sitting in a meeting and if your phone rang, you could in a tap tell your phone to remind you about the call once you’ve exited the premises. Genius many would say, and it is. Apple deserves props for making this feature mainstream.
One of the key announcements made yesterday, Pass Book brings all your tickets, coupons and boarding passes in one location. And that isn’t the cool part—many apps do this. What makes Pass Book a delight to use, is geofencing. If you buy a ticket through Fandango and when you are near a theater, Pass Book will give you a prompt taking you to your ticket. No more hassles of launching an app, scrolling to the “pass.”
Your smartphone is smart enough to know where you are and what you want to do. Geofencing is the smarts in smartphones, at least one of them.
Update: Macworld is reporting that Geofencing will be powering Find my Friends too. According to Serenity Caldwaell, in iOS6, your devices will send you a notification when a particular friend exits or enters a certain area. Very cool.
Apple’s WWDC announcements weren’t the only fun things in consumer tech today. Before Tim Cook took stage, Damaster writing for LiveSide leaked the new logo for Microsoft Office. Since everything in Microsoft’s world is going Metro, the Office logo is getting the same treatment. Like the Windows 8 logo, the new Office logo will face the left and is quite different from the previous logo—a straightened single square, instead of intertwined four, with a tapering edge.
Damaster also confirmed the Metro UI for Office Web Apps to complement the new Hotmail UI. If Hotmail and Office Web Apps are being Metro-fied, we should expect SkyDrive getting a new interface. A few screenshots to compare the Metro UI as it has progressed:
One of my favorite or frequently used feature on Windows Phone is Bing Local Scout. The app inside Bing Search or stand-alone lets you search for nearby events or places that you can visit. You can search for Art Galleries, exhibitions or restaurants. The app’s usefulness is that not only does it show relevant results but it populates information such as link to the website, contact number, address, and also lets you launch Bing Maps for directions from your current location to the address. It is a handy function that is not highlighted by many.
Anyway, yesterday I forgot my debit card at Olive Garden and to call them I used Local Scout for the number. I clicked the first result looking at the address meta and I landed up on a webpage. That was odd. I hit the back button and saw the A next to the listing and realized that this was an ad placement. The second result was the right one. A very clever placement and use of Local Scout. Nicely done Microsoft.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 stopped being just a gaming console some time back. Ever since, the console has been Microsoft’s ticket into the living room. Earlier today, Peter Kafka writing for AllThingsD covered a report that says Xbox 360 is the most used device other than a PC for viewing videos. (Xbox 28%, iPad comes a close second with 27%.) Cable companies like Comcast are now working with Microsoft on offering cable content through the console.
When news about a $99 Xbox/Kinect bundled came out, I categorically stated that Apple TV and Google TV are a long way from stealing any marketshare from Microsoft in the living room. Going further, Tom Warren at the Verge is reporting that Microsoft is expected to bring feature-full Internet browsing on the Xbox 360 using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Google has Chrome powering the Internet browsing experience on their Google TV platform. According to Tom’s sources, Microsoft is currently testing a version of IE9. It is highly likely that the Metro based Internet Explorer 10 available in Windows 8 will be available on the Xbox 360.
The other interesting tidbit Tom got was that this version of Internet Explorer for Xbox will support Kinect gestures. Thinking about browsing the web with arms and hands does scare me a little, I’ll end up tiring myself going through Facebook, but then again, I will be able to say that I am doing upper-body workout while browsing the Internet. Rumors suggested that Apple will be bringing Siri integration to an Apple branded TV set, if this were to happen, Microsoft isn’t far behind. The company already has voice commands through the Kinect. Turning this into a personal assistant is missing from Microsoft’s implementation of voice commands, but for the company it isn’t rocket science.
Meanwhile, I still believe, an Xbox 360 with Kinect is the best living room entertainment device.
Recently, Bing rolled out an update that de-cluttered the search results page. The designers got rid of the left navigation bar and cleaned the header. The result is a nice search result page with white space. As it turns out, Microsoft will be adding a social bar on the right side of the screen. The new social integration will be powered by Facebook. Announced on their Bing blog, the team has done a demo of the upcoming update. Here’s a video that you should watch before reading ahead:
The social sidebar, isn’t just a running feed but the integration is contextual. The blog post says:
You will be able to ask specific friends for what you’re searching for
Bing will use “likes” by your friends to determine if they know about a particular topic and you can ask for their inputs from the social sidebar
Bing’s integration will also leverage the larger Facebook userbase and in case you don’t have or want to ask your friends, Facebook will suggest people you can ask
Google has been trying to do social & search for a while and Google+ is integral in this. However, Facebook is more popular than Google+ and for Microsoft, this is a good thing. The new social search will let you interact and ask friends for recommendations though the sidebar. Jay Greene for CNet reports that the integration came as a result of hackathons where Facebook and Microsoft’s teams came together at Microsoft’s California office. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg took interest in these hackathons and talked to the engineers working on this product.
In addition to the sidebar, the Bing team talked about “Snapshot” which lies between the upcoming sidebar and the search results. Snapshot will have actionable information.
At the CTIA 2012 conference, Nokia announced a list of partnerships and apps that will be coming to the Windows Phone platform in the coming months. Some of these apps will be exclusive to Nokia’s Lumia series of Windows Phone handsets. In the list, the Nokia says a Groupon app with augmented reality features will be made available exclusively to Lumia owners. According to Nokia, the updated Groupon App will be exclusive for a period of 6 months after launch (expected to come in Summer 2012). The app will feature a Deal-finder function that will support augmented reality capabilities.
This will be the second augmented reality on Nokia’s Lumia. At the same conference, Nokia showed Nokia City Lens on Windows Phone. The app lets you see locations around you as you move the camera around. The app features a camera view, map view and list view. The app is currently in a beta and comes from Nokia Beta Labs. Here’s a video created by Nokia demo-ing the Nokia City Lens:
The other big player in cloud storage and cloud products—Amazon—too launched desktop clients for it consumer cloud. Unveiled to little fanfare, Amazon introduced desktop clients for users to upload files to their Cloud Drive account on Amazon. The desktop clients just help you upload the files and there is no Finder or Explorer integration. The Windows and OS X clients are the same, after installation a cloud sits in the taskbar for you to drag files to upload. Some details about Amazon’s cloud drive:
Apple introduced MobileMe as a cloud service for iPhone users. A web interface for email, tracking the phone and a cloud storage service called iDisk. Unfortunately for Apple the product was not received as well as the company hoped leading to a complete overhaul of what Apple visioned with iDisk and MobileMe. The new product as most of you’ll might know is called iCloud. As iCloud was rolled out to everyone, existing MobileMe users were asked to migrate to iCloud, the process was not very difficult from what I remember. In fact it was simple enough for me to forget which means there were no complicated steps involved.
Anyhow, Apple will discontinue iDisk in June and expects most of its user to have shifted to iCloud by then. As the date nears, Microsoft is attempting to get some iDisk & iCloud users over to the new SkyDrive. The SkyDrive folks have created two videos explaining how you can move your data from iDisk to SkyDrive and how SkyDrive is better than iCloud.