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

Microsoft Announces Visual Studio Achievements for Windows Azure

In January this year, Microsoft announced Visual Studio Achievements for Developers – a fun way bringing Xbox LIVE-like points to everyday programming tasks. The fascinating program makes sure your hard day’s work doesn’t go unnoticed and after over 80,000 downloads since the initial release, Microsoft has now extended the game to enroll developers working on Windows Azure.

The Visual Studio Achievements Extension has now been updated to include fifteen new achievements, all focused on exercising features of Windows Azure. Using the extension, various achievements are unlocked based on your activity. When you unlock an achievement, Visual Studio lets you know visually with a pop-up. In addition, your Channel 9 profile is updated with any achievements you earn. So, head over to Channel9, sign up for an account and download the plugin.

VisualStudio_badges,There are 15 new Azure achievements, such as publishing to Windows Azure from Visual Studio (Heading into the Cloud), using page blobs (Attack of the Blob), using SQL Azure (Database Darling) and configuring start up tasks (It’s My Party). Two of the achievements – Phone in the Cloud and Game in the Cloud – require use of Windows Azure toolkits.

You might also want to check Visual Studio Achievements for Windows Phone – a Windows Phone app that allows you to view Visual Studio Achievements on the go.

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.

Microsoft Develops Kinect Like Gesture Recognition without Cameras

Earlier today, we showcased a couple of futuristic projects from MIT Media Labs that are trying to re-imagine how we interact with devices. Now, it is the turn of Microsoft Research, which is known to come up with pretty neat stuff (like Harry Potter clock) from time to time.

This time around, a four member project team has developed a simple Windows application to enable gesture recognition without the use of any sophisticated gesture recognition hardware. Forget about complex (and often expensive) peripherals like Kinect, you don’t even need a basic camera. All that is required is a speaker and a microphone.

Microsoft’s gesture recognition technology, which is being called SoundWave, depends on Doppler Effect. Doppler Effect describes how the frequency of sound perceived by an observer changes with variation in the relative velocity of the observer with respect to the source. SoundWave emits a high frequency sound (18-22 KHz) that is inaudible to human beings. It then uses the microphone to pick up the frequency shifted signal to recognize the gesture. The use of high frequency sound makes SoundWave incredibly accurate even in a noisy environment.

SoundWave

SoundWave is still a research project, and there is no word if and when it might become ready for the general public. Unlike Kinect, SoundWave will probably not be able to recognize complicated gestures. In all likelihood, distance of the user from the speaker and microphone will also be a limiting factor. However, even with these constraints, it’s a fascinating piece of technology that might one day transform how we interact with computers.

Microsoft Goes After iDisk Users To Get Them On SkyDrive

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.

Video 1: How to move from iDisk to SkyDrive

Video 2: iCloud not enough? Try SkyDrive

Subsidized $99 Xbox 360 & Kinect Bundle Official

Last month we covered a story that Microsoft is expected to introduce a $99 Xbox 360 and Kinect on a 2 year contract. The details back then were that this will be an addition to Microsoft’s Xbox line up. Today, Microsoft confirmed that they are indeed bringing a bundle at the price but as of now it is just a Microsoft Store promotion.

The bundle comes with a 2 year Xbox LIVE Gold subscription at $15 a month contract and can only be purchased from a brick & mortar Microsoft Store. While this does seem like a lucrative deal at $15 a month and just $99 as upfront cost, the math suggests in the long run, you end up paying a little more. The current deal is in all likelihood a test run for a cheaper version of the next Xbox. It is quite clear that Microsoft wants everyone to own an Xbox 360 irrespective of them owning an iPad, iPhone, PC or Mac. The technology battle has moved to living room entertainment and compared to both Google and Apple, Microsoft has a huge lead. The details of the $99 Xbox & Kinect bundle are:

What a deal

How to redeem this offer

  • Sign up for 2 year subscription to Xbox Live Gold Membership* at $14.99 per month and receive a 4GB Xbox 360 with Kinect for $99.
  • Promotional offer (Microsoft may terminate this Offer at any time).
In case you wish to opt out of the contract, you can by paying an Early Termination Fee depending on when you decide to terminate the contract.

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.