All posts by Paul Paliath

I founded and regularly wrote blog posts on GeekSmack from 2008 until 2011, when I failed at running a blog. I now write about Microsoft for Techie-Buzz. When not writing blog posts, I'm usually found designing websites and learning how to code. You should follow me on Twitter here.

ZTE Hopes To Introduce Windows Phone Devices To The US By The End Of 2012

ZTE has once again stated that it plans to introduce a Windows Phone device to the United States market, saying that they plan to do so by the end of the year. It’s a fairly tough quest, however, as not only is Windows Phone an underdog platform that’s working hard to get ahead, but ZTE itself is a very unknown brand in the United States (as of now, ZTE handsets largely run the Android operating system, and are sold in the U.K. and China.). They’d have to escape the shadow that is casted over them by HTC, Samsung, and Nokia, all within what is already a considerably niche OS.

Nevertheless, they do want to do it, especially now that the Windows Phone platform is more accommodating of their goals. See, ZTE wished to make low-cost, inexpensive phones, and before Tango, Microsoft’s minimum required hardware specifications only for the most part allowed pricy, high-end devices to exist. But now of course, things have changed. ZTE has already developed a low-cost device for emerging markets called the Orbit.

Given the late 2012 projected release date of their Windows Phone device, it should be interesting to see whether it will be based on Windows Phone 7.5, or the major Apollo update which is set to be available by then. Also, will it be well-endowed on a hardware and functionality level with NFC support, and other Apollo bells and whistles? We’ll see, but that would be nice. It would be unfortunate if they’re trying to sell outdated (and low-end, for that matter) hardware during a time when such a major update to the OS is coming. We also still don’t know about what the hardware requirements will be for a lower-end Apollo device.

We’ll see, but I think that their biggest challenge is building a brand in a place where they’re practically unheard of.

Mozilla Hates Microsoft’s Classic Desktop Limitations on Windows RT

Once again, Microsoft has found itself in the crosshairs of rival web browser companies who are accusing the company of unfair, anti-competitive practices. And somehow, the latest accusation — coming from Mozilla — is even more sensationalist and ridiculous than those of the past. In a blog post from Harvey Anderson of the Mozilla General Council that, in a nutshell is six paragraphs of senseless bitching, Mozilla accuses Microsoft of not allowing third-party browsers to fairly compete with IE as developers cannot build apps in the “privileged” Windows Classic desktop.

While the post did a horrible job at explaining why, Asa Dotzler penned a post with a more technical explanation:

That means that IE on ARM has access to win32 APIs — even when it’s running in Metro mode, but no other Metro browser has that same access. Without that access, no other browser has a prayer of being competitive with IE.

Essentially, Mozilla feels that it cannot build a proper browser without access to the legacy win32 APIs.

Also, I want to point out something that I haven’t seen any tech blog point out as of yet. This isn’t a targeted attack against browsers. Microsoft executives didn’t gather with their monocles and three-piece suits and decide that it was time to ruin competing browsers by eradicating their access to essential APIs. Nope. Instead, for quality control reasons, no third-party developers will be able to create applications that run on the Windows RT legacy desktop. Apart from the apps bundled with Windows — including IE — features of Windows like Windows Explorer for filesystem access, or the “classic” control panel, and an ARM-optimized version of Office, no other applications are allowed.

So no, anti-establishment, Microsoft-hating weenies. Put away your signs and pitchforks, and cancel that #OccupyRedmond protest you were inevitably planning to destroy the evil corporation. For whatever reason, Microsoft wants to offer a crippled legacy desktop for ARM tablet users that shouldn’t even be there. Nobody cares about filesystem access on their tablet. But, they do acknowledge its uselessness, and, for quality reasons, they’re simply not allowing other developers to make stuff on ARM, or access APIs to power Metro apps.

But Microsoft isn’t forbidding third-party browsers. Mozilla are free to go ahead and develop something awesome through WinRT. That is what they would have done if there was no legacy code in Windows 8.

But, I do wonder how Microsoft will handle this situation. Will they begin to allow select partners to have additional access — under their supervision, of course — to win32 APIs, or even worse, the ability to develop full-blown legacy applications on ARM? That would be awful. There’s no need for the legacy desktop, and, like most users likely will, developers need to ignore it.

Image Source: eBaumsworld

Lumia Still Selling Out As Nokia Locks Eyes With Verizon

It appears that sales of the Nokia Lumia are continuing to be rather strong, with sales of the device “outpacing” supply, according to Nokia U.S. President Chris Weber.

Demand has been outstripping supply for the first couple of weeks, and we’ve been working hard to rectify that,” he said. “The demand for cyan [phones] is significantly outpacing supply. When you give people something different from a design perspective—colors, etc. —it really stands out, and consumers want that.”

Like you may expect on an episode of Undercover Boss, Weber has personally visited many AT&T stores over the past few weekends to monitor how the salespeople take to and promote the Lumia. The verdict? Support has been generally “very good”, but it’s overall still a “work in progress”, he said. Whatever the case, the Lumia does seem to be selling out quite rapidly at many AT&T stores; my Twitter timeline can attest to this, with people all over the country saying that their local store was either running low on or completely out of the Lumia.

“Selling out” is definitely a refreshingly new thing to hear with the Windows Phone, platform, however. But despite these not-too-shabby sales — Lumia sales topped 2 million in the first quarter of this year — the launch wasn’t without problem. A data connectivity bug plagued the device initially, resulting in Nokia/AT&T offering a $100 credit to those who purchased defective devices. This in turn prompted Nokia’s share price to hit a 16-year low, unfortunately. Some other quirks seem to also effect the device, such as a purple tint on the screen (as Mr. Rafael Rivera has encountered with two Lumias already.)

It’s also far too early to deem the platform a complete success; Windows Phone still has ways to go before it can catch up to iOS and Android in the marketshare leaderboard. And to help the platform grow and find its way into the hands of more users, Weber commented saying that the company is working hard to join forces with the CDMA carrier:

“We’re not making any announcements, but we understand the importance of Verizon and we’re working hard to make that a reality.”

Verizon did recently admit that it too had a crush on Windows Phone during an earning’s call late last month. Hopefully the two can proceed to copulate and put more Windows Phones in the hands of consumers

Microsoft Reveals Smoked by Windows Phone Statistics

When the Smoked by Windows Phone ad campaign kicked off at CES in Vegas earlier this year, it was  a rather well-received and fun contest — our own Parth Dhebar has firsthand experience with this — and thus, it continued. Ben Rudolph, the face of the challenge, went on a quick tour and visited Microsoft stores to conduct the challenge. Microsoft launched a digital ad campaign to show off the victories of the platform, and they even had stores conduct the challenge on their own (which led to quite a fair bit of controversy after a participant claimed that he was wrongfully denied victory.)

But, putting aside the debate of whether the campaign had a positive or negative impact on the brand as a whole, it does seem to have been successful at getting the word out. Microsoft released some interesting statistics of the ad campaign on Tuesday:

8,000,000+ — The total number of views of Smoked by Windows Phone videos since it kicked off in January.

2 — YouTube top 5 most viewed lists in which Smoked videos appeared.

95% — Percentage of viewers who liked Smoked videos on YouTube.

36 — The number of countries running Smoked by Windows Phone.

50,000+ — This represents the number of smartphones that have been Smoked by Windows Phone since CES.

98% — Windows Phone’s global win percentage. This includes everything from CES through today.

100,000,000+ — The estimated number of people who’ve seen, participated in, or read about Smoked by Windows Phone worldwide.

Along with the stats, the team also released a whole playlist’s worth of new Smoked-based ads. This has definitely been an interesting campaign, and it will be interesting to see where Microsoft goes from here with it.

Nokia Chairman: Tablets And Hybirds Are Being Looked Into

Whenever asked whether or not there are plans to develop a Windows RT tablet, Nokia has generally beat around the bush and strayed from issuing any definitive answers. However, Jorma Ollila, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nokia — who will be departing the company after a 27-year run this week — has told the Financial Times on Wednesday that the company does plan to launch both tablet and “hybrid” (smartphone + tablet) devices in the future.

He said this in particular referring to tablets:

“Tablets are an important one, so that is being looked into, and there will be different hybrids, different form factors [handset designs] in the future.”

Nothing was said about specific device plans, or whether or not these devices will run Microsoft software at all. But, I think that it’s pretty much a given at this point that if Nokia indeed develops a tablet, it will be an ARM-based Windows RT device. It will be quite the challenge if they do go this route to get their foot in the door of an iPad and Android-dominated market. This will be yet another market where the company is an underdog that will have to go above and beyond to succeed.

Another interesting thing here though is Ollila’s mention of “hybrids” and other form factors. Is Nokia considering entering the market defined by the Galaxy Note, which is a very bizarre market segment to say the least? Perhaps Nokia may feel that, instead of trying to overtake a market that has largely been created and dominated by the iPad, they want to be the pioneers who “do things right” in the hybrid space. Still, I am a bit biased as I’m not a fan of the Note, or that breed of device.

I am, however, extremely excited at the prospect of a Windows 8 tablet from the company.

Nokia Extends Partnership With Carl-Zeiss

Nokia announced on Wednesday that it has extended its partnership with infamous optical instrument company Carl Zeiss to continue producing quality cameras in future Nokia devices. Carl Zeiss technology can already be found in the Nokia N9 and 808 PureView smartphones, along with the Lumia collection of Windows Phone devices.

“Carl Zeiss was a crucial partner in the creation of the first PureView experience,” said Jo Harlow, executive vice president of Nokia Smart Devices. “The benefits of our ongoing collaboration will be more PureView innovation and further advancements in smartphone imaging in the coming months and years.”

Now, not to go too offtopic here, but Carl Zeiss — the person who founded the company — was born in 1816. I find this fact to be fascinating; he was born when the world was hardly industrialized, and now, nearly 200 years later, his company continues to remain relevant in an era of consumer electronics. Carl Zeiss AG — the company — was itself founded in 1846.

The company also offered a comment on the continued partnership with Nokia:

“When joining forces with Nokia in 2005, we wanted to push the boundaries of mobile photography. Looking back at seven years of successful partnership, we are proud of the innovations and outstanding products created in this shared journey. Today we are celebrating the extension of our collaboration with a new technology that sets another real benchmark in this sector.”

Windows Phone Web Marketplace Launches in 22 More Countries

Not too long ago — on the heels of the Mobile World Congress, where Microsoft debuted Tango and lower-end emerging market devices — Microsoft greatly increased the availability of the Windows Phone Marketplace to quite a fair amount of additional countries along with their launch of the platform in those very emerging markets.

And now, Microsoft has expanded the global availability of the Windows Phone Web Marketplace to closely match that of the Marketplace. As of yesterday afternoon, the Web Marketplace is available in Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, UAE, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kazakhstan, Israel, Thailand, and Vietnam.

It’s nice to see Microsoft working hard to bring the complete Windows Phone experience to more and more parts of the world. On top of this, Microsoft also announced plans to improve the overall Marketplace experience by reviewing keywords used to tag apps and removing irrelevant ones in order to make it easier to find what you’re looking for when searching for an app.

Microsoft Will Host A Windows Phone Developer Summit In San Francisco

As Steve Ballmer has succinctly expressed on stage, Microsoft is a company that’s big on its developers. While Windows Phone is certainly doing reasonably well at getting people to create apps for the platform — at least on a quantity level — Microsoft still has to work towards bringing over even more quality, popular developers and apps to the platform in order to better sway people from purchasing iOS and Android devices. With key applications such as Instagram still not on the platform, people may be less eager to give it a shot.

That being said, they are actively working to solve this problem, and, to help spread the word about why developers should jump on the Windows Phone bandwagon, they will be hosting a special developer summit in San Francisco, on June 20th-21st. It’s a pretty interesting location choice; it appears that Microsoft is trying to reach out to the Silicon Valley crowd, which is a pretty awesome thing.

If Microsoft could get more and more quality app developers on board to the platform — in terms of both existing apps that can be ported and new apps that are being developed with great potential — then I think that this huge app issue that many consumers surely face will be solved. June is definitely cropping up to be a busy month for developers; on top of the Windows Phone Developer Summit, Apple’s WWDC and the Google I/O events are also going to be happening.

Microsoft Might Launch A Subsidized $99 Xbox 360 + Kinect + LIVE Gold Bundle

According to The Verge, Microsoft will be offering a subsidized Xbox bundle that includes a $99 4GB Xbox, an Xbox LIVE Gold subscription, and a Kinect sensor, on top of additional streaming content from cable providers. Users will be able to purchase this entire bundle at the low cost of $15 a month, for two years. This is actually a pretty smart move; it’s clear that Microsoft wants to give itself an edge against the PS3 and Apple TV as an entertainment device in the living room, and a payment plan like this makes it a more affordable option for many.

As you can see, it’s definitely an interesting deal, and the difference in cost between buying at a subsidized price vs. buying outright at a local store is only slightly less or more  (a total of around $420 for the duration of the two years.) So, you do not need to get ointment for your rear; Microsoft is not screwing you with this offer.

Now of course, this also doesn’t take into account price drops that may occur as we inch closer towards the release date of the next Xbox, but it’s still a pretty good deal. Those who take advantage of it will also be covered under a two-year warranty as well.

LG Fantasy: The LG Windows Phone That Never Will Be

Earlier this week, we covered LG’s announcement that they will no longer be making Windows Phones. This should come as no surprise; not only is Windows Phone still an underdog platform, but on top of this, LG makes terrible phones. The people who do explore the platform — and also the salespeople that enlighten the more non-technical bunch about it — deviate more towards Nokia, HTC, and Samsung devices. That being said, before reaching this decision, it appears that LG was toying with the idea of producing a newer Windows Phone device.

WPCentral has gotten its hands on the aptly named LG Fantasy, a prototype Windows Phone device. The prototype, concocted by the company back in 2011 seems to have been a mid-range (or upper low-end) offering from the company; although it does have 512MB of RAM, it lacked in other areas.

It was made of plastic and felt cheap, and also extremely light due to the materials used to produce the device. However, harshness aside, it is a prototype, so it can’t necessarily be judged on the hardware front. One noteworthy tidbit about the device is that it does have fully-functional NFC hardware.

But, all in all, it’s a pretty lackluster and boring device. I can’t say that I’m going to lose any sleep over LG’s decision.

Windows 8 Release Preview Set For Early June

At Japan’s Windows 8 Dev Days, Windows boss Steven Sinofsky dropped the news that the next preview release of Windows 8 — dubbed the Release Preview — will touch down a little more than a month from now in the first month of June.

We currently know little about what the RP will bring to the table, but having spent a few additional months in the oven compared to the Consumer Preview, which was released in February, here’s hoping that various stability and UI bugs have been ironed out in this release. One thing we do know however is that Microsoft will be adding 33 more countries to the Windows Store, hopefully diminishing the amount of people exiled to the “Rest of World” part of the Windows Store.

This news suggests that Windows 8 development is well on-track for an RTM by October, as rumors have suggested. Which is a great thing, as Windows RT tablets will then be able to get their foot right in the door of the holiday market.

Just last week, Microsoft revealed that it had simplified the SKUs of Windows 8 to just two which regular consumers can purchase, and three if you count the WOA SKU, Windows RT. The other two SKUs are for developing markets and the enterprise space.

White Nokia Lumia 900s Hit The Shelves

Today, the white Nokia Lumia 900 flagship Windows Phone has officially gone on sale at AT&T stores.

Some stores did sell the device a day early, according to reports. AT&T stores were allegedly allowed to begin selling the phone a bit earlier than expected at their own discretion, and clearly some stores did just that. If you didn’t go to one of the early bird AT&T stores, however, then now is your chance.

When it comes to phones, people seem to be mesmerized by white. This was most clearly demonstrated in the case of the iPhone 4, when many held out waiting for the white version of the device which didn’t ship for quite some time. Some have other reasons behind their choices to purchase white phones, such as Rafael Rivera, who bought his so that he could use the green bumper.

The Nokia Lumia 900 is pretty much the flagship Windows Phone devices. It’s being heavily promoted by AT&T as a flagship device, as they greatly covet a third ecosystem. Even Verizon expressed a desire for a third ecosystem, claiming that they wish to throw as much support behind Windows Phone as they did for Android.

Skype for Windows Phone 1.0 Released, No Longer In Beta

Following a particularly long wait — leading up to a private beta in February of this year, during which the product version was 0.2 — Microsoft has finally released Skype for Windows Phone 1.0 to the Marketplace.

The new release packs some optimizations and improvements, according to WPCentral, including the ability to search for and add contacts and call landlines. However, the unfortunate limitation that prevents you from leaving a call running in the background while “out” of the app, performing other tasks on your phone persists.

We can only hope that this issue will be rectified come Windows Phone 8, perhaps with deeper OS integration of Skype to boot. Microsoft explained the limitation to The Verge, saying that it is due to “a combination of how Skype works and how the Windows Phone OS works.” This is quite unfortunate, really, as those on iOS and Android will be able to enjoy Skype calls running in the background on their devices. Considering Microsoft acquired the company, it isn’t exactly thrilling to see such an important feature working on every platform but their own.

Nevertheless, it’s still good to hear that Skype for Windows Phone has now been released. Let’s just hope that they aspire to resolve this issue with — or maybe even before — Apollo.

Is Verizon Feeling A Bit More Enthusiastic About Windows Phone?

Out of all the U.S mobile carriers, Verizon is probably the one to demonstrate the least amount of enthusiasm for the Windows Phone platform. While AT&T and T-Mobile have began to embrace the platform — particularly with the addition and heavy promotion of Nokia devices, especially from the former carrier — the old, pre-Mango HTC Trophy is the only Windows Phone available on Verizon.

However, it appears that the company may be interested in changing this attitude towards the platform. During its Q1 2012 earnings call on Thursday, the company stated that it is looking to do the “same thing” that it does with Android with Windows Phone, going on to stress the importance of a third ecosystem:

“It is important that there is a third ecosystem brought into the mix here,” said Verizon CFO Fran Shammo. “We are fully supportive of that with Microsoft. … We helped create the Android platform from the beginning and it is an incredible platform today, and we are looking to do the same thing with a third ecosystem.”

Considering the fact that the company still sells only one — first-generation at that — Windows Phone device, surely they intend to add newer Windows Phones to their portfolio. But which device(s)? Surely they will go the route of a Nokia Lumia. But when? I wonder if they’re going to wait until Apollo before beginning to heavily back the Windows Phone platform.

Still, it’s nice to see that the company is at least slightly interested in Windows Phone. I just hope that their actions soon begin to back the bold statement issued at the earnings call.

Will Apollo Allow For Additional OEM and Carrier Customization?

Thus far, Microsoft hasn’t really opened up Windows Phone for OEM customization. Apart from some apps which may come pre-installed with a device from a carrier — which can be easily uninstalled should you not want them — Windows Phone is pretty much stock. This may change, however, as the company may be opening up the platform for additional “customization and differentiation”.

Netbook News obtained the agenda of an Apollo summit that the company is hosting in Reading, UK, and one of the primary topics that will be discussed is “customization and differentiation opportunities”. While the report doesn’t reveal anything beyond the topic titles themselves, this topic in particular is highly suggestive of more carrier/OEM customization to come.

Tom Warren thinks that the integration will be seamless and executed well enough to not be interpreted as bloatware by the user. One implementation he notes is the integration of Rich Communication Suite-enhanced services within Windows Phone 8. He reported that Microsoft will allow operators to integrate their own (or third party) voice and messaging solutions seamlessly into the OS within the People hub. VOIP may even be integrated, with VOIP calls looking like normal voice calls when received over Windows Phone 8.

I wouldn’t mind seamless integration of that nature. However, if this allows for even more bloatware, or perhaps customization that makes Windows Phone look like an OS developed by AT&T, that would be terrible. Here’s the complete list of topics that Microsoft will reportedly be touching on during the summit:

  • Apollo Review
  • Windows Phone Schedules and release plans/processes
  • Customization & Differentiation opportunities
  • New Windows Phone 8 application development capabilities
  • What’s new feature review of Apollo
  • Connectivity and APN management
  • Better together with Windows 8