Vague Windows Live Essentials Update Detailed

Late last month, Microsoft pushed out an important update to the Windows Live Essentials software suite which contained “critical fixes”. As I expressed in my blog post covering the topic, I was giddy with curiosity about what exactly the update would bring. And now, the truth is finally revealed; Neowin spotted a post on Microsoft Answers which contained a few details of what’s inside the critical update. Described as “improving performance” in WLE 2011, here are the changes:

  1. Setup:  During installation, the splash screen loads faster after user accepts UAC prompt.
  2. Windows Live Mail:  When users click on photos within Windows Live Mail that are hosted on SkyDrive or Facebook, instead of using the Client Album Viewer to view the photos, a browser opens the web album viewer for that application.
  3. Windows Live Messenger:   Fixes the Messenger sign-in error “0x84cb000c” and the Messenger crash or hang when accepting/declining a pending invitation. When users click on photos are hosted on SkyDrive or Facebook, instead of using the Client Album Viewer to view the photos, a browser opens the web album viewer for that application.
  4. Windows Live Movie Maker:  Fixes error “80004003” where Windows Live Movie Maker can’t open project files.  Fixes setup failure error “80040705” and error “87260103” or when Movie Maker becomes unresponsive, hangs when adding WMV video files.
  5. Windows Photo gallery:  Microsoft updated authorization method required to publish to Flickr and Facebook.  Microsoft updated authorization method to communicate with Bing Maps services for geo tagging.
The update will be optional for a little while, but, in time, it will be required to continue to use the Windows Live Essentials applications. The update impacts Vista SP2 and Windows 7 users.

Microsoft To Expand WinRT Programming Language Support

WinRT — Windows 8’s programming model which allows developers to create new Metro-style apps — already supports a decent breadth of languages. You can develop WinRT apps using JavaScript/HTML5, Visual C#, XAML, Visual Basic, and C++. However, according to a report from ZDNet, Microsoft is expressing interest in adding more languages into the WinRT support mix.

WinRT team Development Manager Martyn Lovell said while speaking at Lang.Next (in reference to WinRT) that Microsoft “wants developers to create languages for the new developer platform.” This was in response to a rhetorical question which asked whether or not WinRT would be “at home” in each programming language. So, what other languages should be fully supported by WinRT? I’m thinking that the three languages which would be commonly requested are Ruby, Delphi, and Python.

WinRT is certainly an interesting programming model. Thus far, I’ve only dipped the tip of my big toe in the WinRT waters when I created a Windows 8 HTML5/JavaScript app which pulled images from a rather unsavory subreddit (hint: space) just to mess around with it. I think that even if support for other languages isn’t added anytime soon, the ability to create Windows 8 apps with HTML5 and JavaScript will be sufficient in allowing people who haven’t done much development with Microsoft technologies to “join the dark side” and create some awesome Windows 8 apps.

Microsoft Shuts Down German Distribution Center Due To Patent Spat With Motorola

According to a report on Monday, Microsoft will be moving its European distribution center to the Netherlands, effectively shutting down its current center in Germany. This is due to a patent dispute with Motorola Mobility Inc. in Germany.

“We would have preferred to keep our European distribution centre in Germany, where it has been for many years. But unfortunately the risk from disruptions from Motorola’s patent litigation is simply too high,” said Thomas Baumgaertner, a Microsoft spokesperson.

The dispute between Microsoft and Motorola Mobility has to do with patents surrounding the H.234 video standard and 802.11 WiFi. Basically, Microsoft is complaining that Motorola are charging exorbitant royalties — reportedly over $22.50 per $1,000 laptop — for use of technologies pertaining to their patents. Apple share the same sentiment, as they have to pay Motorola 2.25% of every iPhone or iPad produced due to a 3G patent held by Motorola. That being said, Microsoft and Apple are both complaining to the EU that these high royalties are not in compliance with FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms.)

Motorola claims that they have made Microsoft a “fair offer”, however a compromise is yet to be reached.

In Germany, the patent wars have been raging on for quite some time. Their courts have served as a battlefield for patent disputes in recent times, forcing Samsung to stop selling the Galaxy 10.1 in Germany while also having Apple disable push notification functionality for some users.

Next-Gen Xbox Rumored To Feature Blu-Ray Player

Contrary to a rumor which surfaced last month stating that the next Xbox will not have a disc drive at all, VG247 is hearing that the next-generation Xbox will have a Blu-ray drive. People have commonly assumed that, due to Sony’s involvement with the Blu-ray technology, Microsoft would never implement it in their console. However, this rumor certainly suggests otherwise.

VG247 is also reporting that they heard the following from various sources:

  • The next Xbox has been ‘detailed’ to select Microsoft partners.
  • Microsoft hopes to release the console by Christmas 2013.
  • An always-on connection will be required to fight piracy, similar to Steam on the PC.
  • On the hardware front, we can expect a four or six core CPU, with one core reserved for Kinect use and another for the OS. The console is also rumored to feature two GPUs, similar to the AMD 7000 series. However, the dual-GPU implementation is unlike Crossfire or SLI on the PC; the units will be able to independently function and draw separate items simultaneously, unlike on the PC where the GPUs work together to draw lines of the same object.
  • Kinect will be built into the device itself.

Now, don’t get your panties in a twist just yet; we’ll have to wait until 2013 to see if any of these rumors come to fruition (or if Microsoft will even release it that year; 2015 has also been rumored to be the release date of the next Xbox.) In conclusion, VG247 also reports that Microsoft will likely not announce anything related to the next Xbox until next year.

Giveaway: 10 MetroTwit Plus Licenses

Last week, the MetroTwit guys released MetroTwit 1.0, a massive update to their Twitter client with a novel-worthy changelog to boot. Introducing features such as multi-account support, list management functionality, and filtering — on top of multiple bug fixes and more minute features/refinements. We also had the opportunity to interview MetroTwit developer David Golden, which should make for some interesting reading.

Nevertheless, we have 10 MetroTwit Plus codes to give away! People of all ages, everywhere are eligible to enter in the contest. To enter, simply leave a comment on this post stating why you’d like to have a copy of MetroTwit Plus, and 10 commenters will be chosen at random. You have until 12PM EDT on Friday, April 6th to enter.

Good luck!

Update: We have our winners:

  1. Malcom
  2. myimmortalize
  3. sumit goswami
  4. Josué Márquez
  5. Asriel Rusdyawan
  6. Paf Borg
  7. Kalpik Nigam
  8. Nitin
  9. Sharad
  10. Jake Andreøli

Nokia Hosting Lumia 900 Launch Party In NYC

Considering the fact that AT&T plans to heavily promote the Lumia 900 — which is internally referred to as a “hero” device by the carrier; a term given only to other highly-touted devices including the iPhone — it should come as no surprise that Nokia will be hosting a special event to celebrate the launch of the device, according to a tweet.

Taking place in Times Square at 7PM “sharp” on Friday, April 6th, the event will feature a live performance from a yet-to-be-revealed special guest. WPCentral points out that the countdown on the Nokia Smartphone Beta Test website counts down to this date exactly. Looks fun!

To elaborate on the “hero” label internally assigned to the Lumia 900, it essentially means that it will be AT&T’s touted flagship device; Nokia, Microsoft, and AT&T will be spending up to $200 million on getting the device marketed to consumers.And, on top of “conventional” advertising, Nokia have also struck a deal with AT&T where they will be paying the company to provide the Lumia 900 to employees at no cost.

This is pretty much the first time that a US carrier has taken Windows Phone this seriously, and it should be interesting to see how it impacts the Windows Phone platform (and the Lumia 900 itself, of course.)

WP7 Root Tools Released, Homebrew Backup App In The Works

If you’re a homebrew Windows Phone developer with a thirst for the ability to utilize root-level features of the OS in building your apps, then you’re in luck. Windows Phone hacker Heathcliff74 released the WP7 Root Tools 0.9 last week, which is essentially a set of tools that includes a full blown registry editor, file system browser, and certificate injection capabilities.

The bigger news, however, is the accompanying APIs, which will allow you to access the very root-level features that the tool utilizes. One example of an app that’s able to exist thanks to these APIs is the Complete Backup app, developed by Rafael Rivera and David Golden. The root tools released by Heathcliff74 has allowed Rivera to finally create a functioning backup app, following a previous failed hackathon attempt to do so.

If you’ve been eager to get your Windows Phone data properly backed up, then you won’t have to wait for too much longer. They just have to work on a few other things (such as a restoration app), but it’s coming soon. And on top of this, it will be open-source and available on GitHub.

Something cool about the WP7 Root Tools is that homebrew apps utilizing these root-level features will require explicit authorization from users to function; they will have to independently mark the app as “Trusted”. This is put in place to at least help alleviate the quality concerns in using homebrew software.

In conclusion, this is pretty good news for the homebrew/Windows Phone enthusiasts out there. It would be nice if Windows Phone had a proper backup and restore implementation to boot, though.

‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ Contestant Plans To Take Legal Action Against Microsoft

Earlier this week, a huge fiasco unfolded surrounding Microsoft’s promotional ‘Smoked by Windows Phone’ competition, in which tech blogger Sahas Katta participated in the contest, and was told that he lost even though according to his account, he beat the Windows Phone at the challenge.

Now, yet another participant who feels that he was unfairly declared the loser in the competition has taken a less passive approach. Instead of taking to the keyboard to deal with the situation as Katta did, Vivek Viswanathan took to a lawyer. Visiting his local store in Atlanta to participate in the challenge, Viswanathan claims to have beat the Windows Phone twice, while being denied the laptop.

Here’s what happened, according to his own account of the events that he provided to CNET: Viswanathan’s iPhone has an issue. All of the physical buttons apart from the home key did not work. So, he disclosed this information to the Microsoft employee, and he shut down all of the background apps. The challenge that he had to perform was to open up a Facebook page on the phone. “I unlocked the phone and pressed the Facebook icon I had on my screen, placed the phone back on the table and as soon as a page loaded I said done, moments before the associate.” However, despite this, the associate claimed that he had won.

There was a crowd, and, when offered to perform a second challenge, Viswathan begrudgingly agreed.

With all the due diligence completed, the associate challenged me to find a restaurant near the store. Again, I unlocked the phone opened Maps and pressed R and restaurants showed up as a suggestion (I may have added that to auto correct in the dictionary a while ago) and then hit search. I place the phone on the table and as soon as I got a hit, I screamed done well ahead of the associate.

The asociate, Lee Johnson, then admitted defeat. He did, however, state that Viswathan did not qualify to win the prize due to the defective iPhone bower button. A manager showed up, wanting to see a third challenge. Viswanthan did not go ahead with it, and the manager backed his associate in saying that Viswathan is ineligible.

Interesting. Viswathan has now hired a lawyer, who has contacted Microsoft to attempt restitution. So, is this yet another legitimate complaint from a participant unhappy with Microsoft’s handling of the matter, or is this someone else trying to take advantage of the immense (negative) media coverage that Katta brought to the competition only days ago? On an unrelated note, the egg display picture on Vivek’s recently registered Twitter account is quite bothersome.

Bing And Skype Come Together

If you happen to both participate in Bing’s Rewards program and use Skype, then you’re in luck. Microsoft announced on Wednesday that Skype Credit will be added to the Bing Rewards redemption center; so for only 100 credits, you will be able to receive Skype credit worth 60 minutes of calling on Skype.

Sure, Skype-to-Skype is free, but having the ability to call landlines and mobiles, and send SMS messages through Skype is quite nice. You will also be able to set up a Skype to Go number and access Skype Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide. If you aren’t already signed up for the Bing Rewards program — which can be used for plenty of other rewards beyond Skype credit as well — then you should sign up here.

Recently, Bing and Skype came together in another way: The Bing Bar is offered to users during Skype installation. This is a far worse promotion to come out of the collaboration of both teams in contrast to the awesome Bing Rewards for Skype credit promo.I mean, seriously, a web toolbar… that’s offered during the installation of software.

Nevertheless, Liz Tassey Gerber, the Director of Bing and MSN Engagement Marketing concluded her blog post telling us to keep our eyes peeled for more exciting new stuff to come out of the Bing + Skype relationship.

Windows Phone Beats Out Android, Ties With iOS In PC Mag’s 2012 Reader’s Choice Awards For Customer Satisfaction

While on the marketshare front, Windows Phone still lags behind iOS, Android, and even RIM, it has surpassed Android and tied with — but in some categories, surpassed — iOS according to readers of PC Magazine.

According to the results of their 2012 Readers’ Choice Awards (the smartphones and mobile carriers category), Windows Phone gained 0.6 points from its rating of 8.1 last year; a pretty substantial jump, to say the least. Apple’s score gained 0.3 points from its score of 8.4 last year, and Android remained at 7.9. In terms of overall satisfaction, Microsoft and Apple have tied at 8.7, but Windows Phone slightly beat iOS in reliability, text messaging, web browsing, and gaming. iOS, however, was substantially favored over Windows Phone for its app quality and availability, along with its music playing functionality.

Windows Phone also boasted the lowest rate of 20% when it came to users needing technical support with their device, compared to 25% for iOS and a whopping 32% with Android. Here is how PC Mag summed up the Windows Phone platform:

You may not see many people using Windows Phone handsets yet, but those who chose this route are very happy. Clearly, Microsoft needs to get more app developers on board to gain traction, but in every other aspect we measured, it’s providing a winning experience.

However, despite people’s satisfaction with the platform, they didn’t seem too keen on recommending the devices to friends compared to Apple and Android users. In terms of how likely users were to recommend their device to others, Apple received a 9.2, Android received an 8.2, while Windows Phone was only 0.1 points higher. This may have something to do with app quality and availability reasons; perhaps people using Windows Phone now are early adopters, and know that their smartphone-seeking friends would hate to not be able to use apps such as Instagram or Path.