Microsoft Takes #SmokedByWindowsPhone To California & To Open More Stores

Microsoft’s successful and creative Windows Phone promotion at CES 2012 will not be going from a tech conference to the real world.

Ben Rudolf’s brainchild, #SmokedByWindowsPhone is a competition where Ben challenges an owner of a competing mobile platform to see who is faster at a particular task, for example, finding and tagging a song. If Ben lost he’d give his challenger $100. The Techie Buzz team was at CES 2012 and while Parth Dhebar beat Ben Rudolf in uploading a pic to Twitter with his iPhone, Romit Mehta caught up with Ben to talk about the campaign.

According to Ben, Windows Phone 7 had a 88% success rate (30 wins, 3 losses & 1 draw) at CES. The campaign was positively received by the tech world; showing how and where Windows Phone 7 is better than the competition directly to the end-user makes for a great sales pitch as compared to the one made by the representatives at carrier outlets. Many enthusiasts suggested the campaign be aired on television and continued. As it turns out, Ben plans to continue this campaign at Microsoft stores.

In a post on the Windows Team Blog, Ben says that he will be at Microsoft’s store in California. The challenge remains the same, beat Ben and get $100 or accept that Windows Phone 7 is indeed faster (and better) than your iPhone or Android phone. Details and timings about the competition can be found in the blog post; be sure to follow Ben on Twitter.

In a separate story, Tom Warren writing for The Verge is reporting that Microsoft plans to open at least 4 stores across the American continent. New York, New Jersey to be specific, will be getting its first store and so will Canada. The other two stores will be in Austin, Texas and Palo Alto, California.

Microsoft Shows Windows 8 Can Run On A Phone

In his post about development of Windows 8 for ARM processors, Windows president, Steven Sinofsky shared images of Windows 8 running on a phone. Sinofsky says that they did not hav ARM powered tablets in those days so ARM powered phones became the best choice.

Sinofsky added a note saying that the images were just testing and did not hint at new product. Rumors about running Windows 8 on phones have been doing rounds and these early-day trials could be the reason. As Long Zheng pointed out on his blog, these images are from 2010. Windows 8 on ARM powered phones:

PS: The first image reads Windows 7 but if looked at closely it is build 7652 which is widely considered to be one of the early Windows 8 builds.

Windows 8 Tablets: Software & Hardware Features We Now Know

Steven Sinofsky’s post about Windows 8 on ARM has provided us with a lot of information about platform and ecosystem. Sinofsky’s post describes how and why the Windows 8 tablets will be immune to existing viruses, why Windows 8 tablets will have the traditional desktop, they demonstrated Office 15 and Windows Live Metro on Windows 8 ARM. The finer details about some of the OS features included in the post are:

  • Windows 8 for ARM will not be available as a software distribution, it will only come pre-installed
  • There will be only 1 SKU of Windows 8 for ARM
  • Existing x86/x64 apps will not be compatible with Windows 8 on ARM
  • Applications can only be installed through the Windows App Marketplace
  • WOA will include Office 15 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote)
  • Windows 8 won’t support virtualization or emulation
  • Driver support for Mobile Broadband, Printers, GPS, a variety off sensors, Bluetooth will be provided
  • Windows 8 on ARM tablets don’t don’t turn off, hibernate or sleep; they go into Connected Standby
  • IE in Windows on ARM will not support browser plugins, like Flash (via All About Microsoft)
  • Windows 8 on ARM will be serviced through Windows Update, like desktop Windows
  • Windows 8 on ARM tablets will come with DirectX capable GPUs (which version wasn’t specified in the post)

Microsoft has in the past stressed on their partnership and the work done by hardware OEMs to make a lot of this possible. Sinofsky talked about acknowledged this partnership and talked about their priorities for Windows 8 ARM tablets:

Long battery life, thin and light industrial design
Texas Instruments, NVIDIA and Qualcomm are the OEMs that have worked closely with Microsoft thus far on ARM tablets

Rafael Rivera over at WithinWindows uncovered the minimum hardware specs for Windows tablets as defined by Microsoft in their Hardware Requirement Documentation. The important specs are:

  • Storage: At least 10GB free for use
  • System firmware: UEFI
  • Networking: WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Graphics: Direct3D 10
  • Resolution: 1366×768
  • Multi Touch: At least 5 touch points
  • Camera: 720p
  • Sensors: Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope
  • USB 2.0
  • Speakers

A Windows tablet will have five physical buttons:
* Windows
* Power
* Volume (Up & Down)
* Rotation Lock

The form factor and pricing will decide whether Microsoft can beat Android based tablets, unify the ARM OEM army and pose real competition to the iPad.

[Screenshots] Microsoft Demos Office 15 & Windows Live Metro

Windows President, Steve Sinofsky’s article about Windows 8 on ARM, Microsoft shared a video demonstrating how the product looks as of now. During the demo, Microsoft showed what Office 15 will look like on a tablet and the Metro version of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite of applications. Here are the screenshots:

Microsoft Office 15 Word

Microsoft Office 15 Excel

Microsoft Office 15 PowerPoint

Microsoft Office 15 OneNote

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Metro Photos

Windows Live Metro Mail

Why Does Windows 8 ARM Still Have The Desktop

When Microsoft showed Windows 8 on ARM there was a lot of enthusiasm. It was clear that Windows on ARM is Microsoft’s attempt of developing an OS for tablets that will consume less resources, have a long battery life, and provide a nice UI/UX.

One of the biggest concerns raised by critics was the presence of the traditional desktop in the tablet version. Like many, even I’d like to see Windows 8 tablets to not have the desktop UI. Office 15 shows why I don’t want the desktop interface on Windows tablets–it’s schizophrenic. Having to switch between the tablet and desktop interface is confusing and at many times annoying. Behind the intuitive Metro interface and Metro inspired apps lies the dormant ghost of Windows waiting to be unleashed every few hours when you use your tablet, haunting you as you hold that tablet.

Steven Sinofsky in his post about Windows 8 on ARM explains why the design decision was taken to include the desktop interface. Long story short, to give you the best of both worlds. Sinofsky and Microsoft believe that there are features and capabilities in Windows that users have become familiar with over the years and would want to have them going forward as well. Sinofsky explains:

[…] Enabling Windows to run super well on the ARM architecture is a significant engineering task. We undertook this work because when you look to the future you can see that so many of the capabilities that have been added to Windows over the years are things that customers will inevitably desire or require in the types of devices supported by today’s ARM-based products—changes in form factors and the desire for mobility only add to the scenarios and capabilities we all desire in our search for no-compromise PCs. While it is tempting to make bold statements about “starting over,” we believe in the evolution of technology assets when the foundation is strong. The foundation of Windows, the core, is the most solid, scalable, and secure one around. Our desire to deliver a no-compromise experience motivates our efforts. […]

[…] The availability of the Windows desktop is an important part of WOA. The desktop offers you a familiar place to interact with PCs, particularly files, storage, and networking, as well as a range of peripherals. You can use Windows Explorer, for example, to connect to external storage devices, transfer and manage files from a network share, or use multiple displays, and do all of this with or without an attached keyboard and mouse—your choice. This is all familiar, fast, efficient, and useful. […]

[…] Some have suggested we might remove the desktop from WOA in an effort to be pure, to break from the past, or to be more simplistic or expeditious in our approach. To us, giving up something useful that has little cost to customers was a compromise that we didn’t want to see in the evolution of PCs. […]

Sinofsky does make a valid argument. The iPad does not have a file explorer and is tied to iTunes. Microsoft sees the tablet as a mobile computing device somewhere between the phone and a laptop. By keeping the desktop in WOA, Microsoft is letting the end-user have the familiarity of good ol’ Windows while on a tablet.

Sinofsky says that having the traditional Windows desktop on ARM will not result in performance loss. The other way to look at it is, because Microsoft can.

 

ARM Powered Windows 8 Tablets To Be Virus Free

Earlier today, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, Steven Sinofsky wrote a lengthy article detailing Microsoft’s development of Windows 8 for the ARM architecture.

As I still go through the article (it’s so long that I printed a copy), there is a lot of information hidden in the 8,600 word article which I will share in subsequent posts. However, the biggest news is that viruses that affect Windows 7 (and even Windows 8) won’t be compatible with Windows on ARM. According to Sinofsky:

  • WOA will not be able to run existing x86/x64 applications. In order to build applications for Windows on ARM, they will have to be developed using the WinRT architecture.
  • Apps that have been developed for WOA, using WinRT, will be only available through the Windows App Marketplace. The marketplace will act as a checkpoint for rogue applications.

The two steps ensure that a WOA device (primarily tablets) will not be as easily affected by the plethora of viruses that exist today.  Talking about the issue in the article Sinofsky says,

Our focus on delivering a new level of security for consumers using WOA is paramount. In one public event, we were asked if we would “make it easy for existing viruses and malware to run.” Now you can see the answer is decidedly, “no.”

I spoke with Windows hacker Rafael Rivera (of Within Windows fame) and he believes that unless a user roots his WOA device, his device is theoretically safe from virus infections. For Microsoft, Windows on ARM (WOA) is another version of Windows akin to Windows Server, Windows Phone or Windows Embedded. Microsoft is also expected to bundle their antivirus/antimalware tool–Security Essentials–with Windows 8.

Google To Compete With Microsoft & Apple In The Living Room

In early February, GigaOm reported that Google is working on an entertainment device, Stacey Higginbotham cited an FCC application filed by Google claiming the development of an entertainment device. The FCC application explained that the deice will connect to WiFi networks and pair home electronic devices over Bluetooth.

Companies test various products and not a lot was made out of this report until the news about Google poaching Apple’s Senior Director of Product Integrity. This was a clear sign of Google’s intentions to take hardware more seriously, it could’ve been just about working with Google TV OEMs but it appears to be more than that.

Amir Efrati reporting for the Wall Street Journal says Google is working on a home entertainment system. Piecing the three developments together, it does look like Google will be launching a hardware product. Though Google has Google TV for the living room and Apple has the Apple TV, Microsoft has eclipsed both these companies and currently rules the next-gen living room entertainment market with the Xbox 360 and Kinect.

Like Microsoft and Apple, Google has a music service and a phone platform, getting these to work together and offer an integrated home entertainment system seems like a no-brainer.

Amazon To Open Retail Store In Seattle

Amazon isn’t just disrupting the traditional publishing and distribution business; it is now sprinkling salt on the wounds.

A few months back, book distributor Borders started exiting, the company was liquidated. (The company’s website now redirects to Barnes & Noble’s). Amazon and their business model was seen as a major reason for Borders inevitable shut down. While one could argue that Borders failed to anticipate the competition, like Barnes & Noble, and did not adapt.

According to reports, Amazon is now planning to open retail stores. The first store will open in Seattle and Amazon will be selling exclusive titles. Like Apple’s iBooks and iAuthor platform, Amazon has a self-publishing platform. The Kindle Fire and Kindle Reader have given Amazon a powerful position in the publishing industry.

As TechCrunch points out, having a store, popular ebook reader, cross-platform ebook reading software lets Amazon disturb the agent, publisher, distributor model by becoming an all-in-one shop for authors and readers.

Barnes & Noble, on their part, said that they will not be carrying the Amazon exclusive titles; looks like B&N won’t be carrying the book on Miley Cyrus.

Flamboyant Windows Phone Developer Evangelist Leaves MSFT For AMZN

Just as information about Windows Phone 8 leaked and the Windows Phone marketplace crossed 60,000 apps, Windows Phone developer evangelist, Brandon Watson, is leaving Microsoft.

For those who remember, Watson was behind the popular $1000 donation announcement if web-celebs did not find Windows Phone 7 a competent platform. Android users, Dilbert creator–Scott Adams and CNet editor Molly Wood were his participants. While Scott found WP7 to be a nice OS, Molly Wood disagreed (imho, her reasonings were flawed). Whatever the outcome, the spontaneous challenge was the first of the many that followed.

Probably Brandon Watson’s biggest contribution to the Windows Phone developer community was working with enthusiast developers Rafael Rivera, Long Zheng and Chris Walsh to release the homebrew tool–ChevronWP7. According to Ben Lower who works on the WP7 developer ecosystem, Cliff Simpkins and JC Cimetiere will be coordinating with the ChevronWP7 team and the homebrew community. (The future of ChevronWP7, as it stands now, is in the hands of the ChevronWP7 team.)

To attract developers working on competing platforms, he reached out to webOS developers left stranded post HP’s lack of direction for webOS. Brandon Watson used his influence on Twitter to his benefit, his methods would make for a good case study in social media.

According to Mary Jo Foley, Watson will now be working for Amazon and be the director Kindle’s Cross Platform team.

 

Windows Phone 8 Feature-set Leaks

When it came to Windows Phone 7, Microsoft was able to pull off Apple-like product secrecy. Unfortunately for the Windows Phone team, some details about their next major release–Windows Phone 8, aka Apollo–have made their way on to the interwebs.

PocketNow got hold of a video prepared by the Windows Phone team featuring Joe Belfiore (he’s the dude in-charge of product design and definition) for OEM partners, specifically Nokia, in this case. According to PocketNow, Apollo or Windows Phone 8, will have the following features:

PC Sync

Probably the biggest news in my opinion is Microsoft giving up on Zune for syncing to Windows Phone. Microsoft has had ActiveSync (a horrible mobile sync tool) in Windows for a while. With WP7, Microsoft moved to Zune for syncing, no more with Windows Phone 8.

Microsoft has a very simple, no frills, snappy sync utility for OS X and looks like Windows will be getting something similar. This is another nail in Zune’s coffin.

Data Consumption

In Windows 8, Microsoft introduced basic capabilities to track your data consumption. This was done with tablets and expensive US data plans in mind. Microsoft will be adding similar functionality in Windows Phone 8.

Camera

An OEM- customizable camera experience with Microsoft providing the basic interface. The implementation/app is currently known as “Lens.”

Cloud

While Windows Phone 7 has pretty solid SkyDrive integration, there are gaps. According to the leaked information, Microsoft will strengthening their SkyDrive integration by allowing backups on the cloud and having seamless iCloud-like sync between Windows, media marketplace and the phone.

Internet Explorer 10

The PocketNow report says Microsoft will deploy an Opera Mini like implementation where webpages will be served via proxy server to offer quicker load times.

Skype

According to PocketNow, Skype in Apollo will be an optional thrid-party app but applications will be able to customize and provide an experience similar to native phone calling.

In addition to the above, Windows Phone 8 will bring the following hardware changes:

  • microSD storage support (the current implementation is not plug & play)
  • multi-core processors (joining the ranks of under-utilized, battery hogging phones)
  • new screen resolutions, 4 expected (currently, Windows Phone has a 800×480, not-as-clear-as-iPhone resolution)
  • NFC support (for Google Wallet like use-cases)

via PocketNow and Paul Thurrott