Category Archives: Microsoft

[Screenshot] Microsoft Shows Remote Device Navigation Via SkyDrive

As of now SkyDrive offers remote connections into another device on your Mesh network. Unfortunately it is useless to me. I cannot install Mesh on my college computers and there is no Internet Explorer on OS X. In most cases it is a file that I need to access and not remote control (there’s Team Viewer for that).

With Windows 8 and the new Windows Live update, Microsoft will allow you browse through another device on SkyDrive. WIthin the browser, the Explorer interface is replicated in tiles that allows you to navigate your computer remotely. While not a lot of details were shared about the update, the Windows Live team did sneak this screenshot:

Windows Dev Center for Windows 8 Launched; Download Preview Release Now

Earlier today at the keynote of   BUILD conference, Steven Sinofsky, President, Windows & Windows Live Division at Microsoft announced that developers will be able to download the Windows Developer Preview via the new Windows Dev Center. Microsoft showcased a detailed preview of the next major release of Windows, code-named Windows 8.’ The Windows Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. Windows Dev Center

The new Windows Dev Center dev.windows.com – has just gone live and promises to make guides, tools, samples, forums, docs and other resources to build on Windows available soon. You can download the Windows Developer Preview right away.

Download Windows 8 Developer Preview

Windows Developer Preview with developer tools English, 64-bit (x64) – DOWNLOAD (4.8 GB)

All of the following come on a disk image file (.iso).

  • 64-bit Windows Developer Preview
  • Windows SDK for Metro style apps
  • Microsoft Visual Studio 11 Express for Windows Developer Preview
  • Microsoft Expression Blend 5 Developer Preview
  • 28 Metro style apps including the BUILD Conference app

Windows Developer Preview English, 64-bit (x64) – DOWNLOAD (3.6 GB)
Includes a disk image file (.iso) to install the Windows Developer Preview and Metro style apps on a 64-bit PC.

Windows Developer Preview English, 32-bit (x86) – DOWNLOAD (2.8 GB)
Includes a disk image file (.iso) to install the Windows Developer Preview and Metro style apps on a 32-bit PC.

System Requirements

Windows Developer Preview works great on the same hardware that powers Windows Vista and Windows 7:

  • 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) processor
  • 1 gigabyte (GB) RAM (32-bit) or 2 GB RAM (64-bit)
  • 16 GB available hard disk space (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM 1.0 or higher driver
  • Taking advantage of touch input requires a screen that supports multi-touch

Note that you can’t uninstall the Windows Developer Preview. Also, the preview is available as-is, and is unsupported by Microsoft. The Windows Developer Preview is delivered as an .iso image that must be converted into installation media stored on a DVD or a USB flash drive.

Sinofsky mentioned that this developer preview will be followed by one beta version, and a release candidate before the final release. With Windows 7, a similar process took about a year to go from developer preview to final release. Microsoft hasn’t specified if and when a preview version of ARM-based version of Windows 8 will be made available.

Prior to this, all the developer information, downloads, and documentation was hosted at Microsoft’s developer portal MSDN. This included development for Windows client, and other Microsoft’s web and server technologies. With the launch of Windows Phone 7, Microsoft created App Hub, a developer portal for Windows Phone 7 app and games developers and Xbox LIVE game developers. Unless some integration or merger happens in the future around the release of Windows 8, this could create factions between developers on same technologies but on different portals.

[Screenshots] Microsoft Details Their Windows App Store

Not long ago, I spotted the Windows App Store tile during a Windows 8 demo. It confirmed what we knew was coming—a Windows App store. During the BUILD conference at Anaheim, CA, Microsoft demonstrated the process and how a developer can get his application to the store.

One of the key features of the App Store is a simple  implementation  by Microsoft that will bring already available non-Metro regular-Windows apps to the store. As an example cited by Sinosfky, several developers already sell applications through their websites and have different pricing or licensing models. Microsoft wants these developers to leverage the app store and developers can have entries for the apps like any new app but instead of having a buy option within the app store, the user can be directed to the developer’s website. Screenshot:

For apps that will be sold through the Windows App Store, everything is the same except added options to try or buy. Screenshot:

For new developers, submitting an app to the marketplace is a simple process. Microsoft’s IDE—Visual Studio—will have a new option in the menu calles “Store”. This will direct the developer to MSDN app portal to fill in details about the app. Screenshot:

The developer can set the price, enable a trial version and other meta information:

Once done, the developer will be shown where their app is in the submission process. Microsoft stressed on their “openness” regarding the app submission process and said that they will make tools available for developers to verify their apps for potential failure points during the approval process.

The Windows App Store itself looks exactly like the Zune Marketplace. Screenshot:

[Screenshots] Metro Version Of The Windows Live Suite

Earlier today Steven Sinofsky and team demonstrated what to expect from Windows 8. It wasn’t a peak at some of the features but a comprehensive look at the platform for the users and developers.

Microsoft showed how the dual UI strategy comes together and the traditional Windows complements the new touch-inspired Metro-based Windows 8. One of the criticism for Windows’ dual screen strategy was once one uses the Metro versions it’ll become difficult to use the traditional Windows Explorer—a perception problem of sorts. Those concerns were noted and the Windows Live team worked on Metro-inspired versions of the popular Windows Live suite.

At the BUILD conference a short demo of the Windows Live suite and how the cloud plays a critical part in offering a great user experience. Here are some screenshots:

Windows Live Mail

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Photo

Sharing photos through services:

Mail within the Photo app:

The thing about Windows Live Photos is that the app is currently only pulling in and aggregating photos, the editing capabilities of PhotoGallery weren’t part of the demo and hence I am not certain whether that will be a separate app or part of the Metro-fied Photos app.

Update:  Microsoft has shared a link about their SkyDrive integration in Windows 8.

Bing for Mobile Browse ‘Likes’ Facebook

Bing has introduced a new set of features that enhances Bing for Mobile Browse  experience for the mobile browsers at m.bing.com with the help of Facebook integration and some new additions. Earlier this year, Bing rolled out Liked Results’ to the desktop site which allowed you to instantly see which stories, content, and sites your Facebook friends have liked’. bing-for-mobile

 

A thumbs up from your friends definitely makes a particular news story, article, or blog post more relevant to you. The latest update has brought the same feature to the mobile browser. Bing shows faces of up to three of your friends that like a search result, offering a visual and virtual seal of approval from your trusted social network. To enable this feature, you need to authenticate and connect your Facebook account to Bing on the Settings page.

The latest update also brings together millions of videos from across the web: from Hulu, MSN, YouTube, and a slew of other sources. For sports fans, there are special tabs for MLB, NBA, and NHL. To make movie watching decisions easier, the update allows you to quickly review user and critic ratings while you browse the list of currently playing movies, watch trailers, and find show times. You can even ask your Facebook friends what they thought of a movie, or if they want to join you, all from within Bing.

Windows 8: Cloud and Windows Come Together

In my last post I talked about the dual user interface and how it helps Microsoft in the tablet market. Thin and light laptops like the Chromebooks and MacBook Air (or Ultrabooks as Intel likes to call them) are becoming popular, these computers don’t come with a lot of storage space. Cloud computing to stream media, store images or work on documents is what makes these lightweight computers more capable. (Google Docs, Office Web Apps, Live Mesh, Dropbox, iCloud, Pandora, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Spotify, Zune etc.)

One of my favorite Google Chrome feature is the account sync. Logging with my Google ID and I can get my Preferences, Bookmarks, Autofill, Apps etc. synced on any PC. Microsoft plans to offer users with similar possibilities. In Windows 8, connecting your Windows Live account, a user can have his Explorer, Mouse, Application settings etc. synced on another Windows 8 machine. The feature is referred to as Roaming profiles, something Windows Server based network users must have heard before. Roaming Profiles was introduced as part of the Server family of Windows. In Windows 7 Microsoft allowed users to connect  their Windows Live accounts and it added no value whatsoever. However, with Windows 8, Windows Live integration actually makes sense.

According to leaked images, Microsoft will be offering roaming profiles for Windows 8 through Windows Live.

Initial leaks also showed Windows Live profile picture next in the start bar next to the clock. The Explorer integration doesn’t stop here. As revealed by Windows enthusiasts Rafael Rivera and Paul Thurrott, sync and Web Sharing showed up as an option in the Explorer Ribbon. Windows Live Mesh is an evolution of Windows Sync, Live Mesh and SkyDrive. In Microsoft Office multi-author editing and saving to SkyDrive were introduced. Sync and Web Sharing in Windows 8 with SkyDrive as the back-end would offer seamless access across a Windows 8 tablet, Windows Phone any PC with a browser.

It is fascinating to see how Windows Live, projects like Live Mesh, Sync and implementations in Office are shaping in Windows 8.

Windows 8: The Best of Both Worlds

In the first post in Windows 8 series I pointed out that Windows 8 is influenced by Zune and the Windows Phone. Let’s take a look at the interface enhancements in Windows 8 before we go into the features.

Like I said, for Windows 7 Netbooks were the in-thing, now it is tablets. Microsoft isn’t new to tablet computing. In fact they’ve been doing Windows for tablets for a really long time. Unfortunately for Microsoft they were ahead of their time. There was no Gorilla Glass, capacitive screens weren’t there and multi-touch simply wasn’t commercial, SoC GPUs weren’t as powerful. Simply put, it wasn’t just Windows that led to Microsoft losing the tablet race. Cut to 2011, all these  peripherals  are in place and it is now on Microsoft to come up with an OS that is for tablets.

A few years ago Microsoft released their iPod competitor, the Zune media player. While the player wasn’t able to garner competitive sales, it gave birth to the design philosophy for Microsoft’s consumer products. Christened Metro, crisp typography, clean icons and sharp corners are quite different to iPhone’s bevels, gradient overlays and rounded corners. The Zune desktop interface was quite a stunner compared to Microsoft’s other products. Media Center came close but wasn’t remotely as gorgeous as Zune. We saw the sharp corners and tiles in Zune and many loved it.

The next iteration for Microsoft’s Windows Phone was expected when Zune HD was launched. Initial leaks showed an evolution of the ugly Windows Mobile. Microsoft did what nobody expected them to do. Engineers from the Zune team worked on the interface for Microsoft’s mobile platform and everybody was stunned at what they announced. A beautiful fluid UI with well thought-out social, communication and entertainment capabilities. In many circles, Windows Phone is also known as the next Zune.

One feedback for Zune and Windows Phone’s UX/UI was for Microsoft to bring the interface to the tablet, like Apple. Microsoft is well aware of the tablet market and their PC stronghold. For Microsoft, they could either bring the mobile OS to tablets (Android/iOS) or use the collective genius of the engineers to offer users the best of both worlds (PC and tablet). They went with the latter and we have a new start menu or shell for Windows on tablets. The new shell is based on Metro and uses the same principles. The interface brings some innovative features for tablet use, like a split keyboard for landscape mode that makes holding the tablet and typing with two hands quite easy.

(Image credit CNet)

The idea that Microsoft’s beautiful Metro UI will be masking the regular Windows UI, has been met with strong criticism. Unfortunately those who make that argument have sort of ignored the millions of Windows users. There are more desktops than tablets and Microsoft needs to cater to the market while they find footing in the tablet market (Netbooks : Windows 7 :: Tablets : Windows 8). I have written considerably on the topic and how enterprise is a huge factor in Microsoft’s decision.

The Metro UI from Zune to Windows Phone and now on Windows (for touch) along with Windows’ Explorer UI (for mouse) lets users switch seamlessly between intensive work and leisure activities. It is not scaling the phone OS to a tablet like iOS but bringing the phone’s interface elements to the desktop (like OS X Lion). The approach offers the best of both worlds.

Windows 8: Microsoft’s Next

Windows 7 succeeded where Windows Vista failed. The Windows team under Sinofsky was able to deliver a competitive product. Sinofsky came to the Windows division after delivering a controversial yet popular Office version—Office 2007.

Windows 8 will be released to manufacturing around August 2012. When Windows 7 was around launch, Netbooks were the fad. Vista’s footprint, system requirments and the Netbook fad was enough fodder for bloggers to announce Microsoft’s end, Windows’ death and soon-to-come Ballmer’s resignation. Nothing happened. Windows 7 delivered, sold several licenses ensuring Windows’ relevance in consumer and enterprise computing. Windows 7 was accompanied by Office 2010, the duo tag-teamed their dominance on Microsoft’s balance sheets.

For what it’s worth, Windows XP is now well on its way out. The transition from XP to Vista presented a challenge that made Microsoft and Windows look bad. Microsoft on their part was clear, changes in Vista were needed for better security and upcoming hardware transitions. They were right, Windows 7 runs on Vista’s hardware specs and offers robust security. Sinofsky has assured Windows 8 will support Windows 7 specs and go beyond by supporting the ARM architecture. For Microsoft and their OEM ecosystem, support for ARM architecture is a huge step forward. The Windows-everywhere dream lives on.

Windows 8 is an amalgamation of four successful* Microsoft products—Zune, Windows Phone, Office 2007 and Windows Vista/7. The design theme—Metro was introduced with Zune. Polished and refined, the typography differentiates Windows Phone from iPhone and Android. The Metro interface is Microsoft’s strategy against the iPad. The evolution of the interface from a media player to a phone and now to the desktop is also the company’s transition from desktops to mobile devices. The desktop OS has been around for a long time, with each iteration Microsoft has been able to introduce new features to keep it relevant, dominant and competitive; Windows 8 is no different. Starting today we will be writing a-post-a-day about what’s new in Windows 8 and in many cases how these features came to be.

The Holy Grail of Speech Recognition

A Microsoft Research team has been working on a research breakthrough that improves the potential of real-time, speaker-independent, automatic speech recognition. Dong Yu, researcher at Microsoft Research Redmond, and Frank Seide, senior researcher and research manager with Microsoft Research Asia, have been spearheading this work.

Speech recognition has been an active research area for more than five decades. In the current commercially available speech-recognition technology, voice-to-text typically achieves accuracy by having the user train the software during setup and by adapting more closely to the user’s speech patterns over time. However, automated voice services that interact with multiple speakers do not allow for individual speaker training because they must be usable instantly by any user. Therefore, they either handle only a small vocabulary or strongly restrict the words or patterns that users can say. This research suggests using artificial neural networks for large-vocabulary speech recognition in order to achieve the ubiquitous speaker-independent speech recognition delivered out-of-the-box.

Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are mathematical models of the low-level circuits in the human brain. The notion of using ANNs to improve speech-recognition performance has been around since the 1980s, and a model known as the ANN-Hidden Markov Model (ANN-HMM) showed promise for large-vocabulary speech recognition. However, performance issues hindered commercial adoption.

A speech recognizer is essentially a model of fragments of sounds of speech. State-of-the-art speech recognizers use short fragments, numbering in the thousands, called senones. Dong Yu proposed modelling the thousands of senones directly with Deep neural networks (DNNs). This allows for a significant leap in accuracy while achieving state-of-the-art performance. The architectural model is made feasible for neural networks by harnessing the computational power of modern graphic cards.

Using a novel way by employing artificial neural networks for speaker-independent speech recognition, Microsoft Research has brought fluent speech-to-speech applications much closer to reality. The research paper – Context-Dependent Pre-trained Deep Neural Networks for Large Vocabulary Speech Recognition – describes the first hybrid context-dependent DNN-HMM model applied successfully to large-vocabulary speech-recognition problems.

Bing Webmaster Tools Integrate Yahoo Data

The Bing Webmaster team has announced the integration of Yahoo traffic data into Bing Webmaster Tools reports. Bing Webmaster Tools will now be showing integrated data from Yahoo within certain areas and reports. At this time the data will be combined, not selectable. The transition happens in August, although September will be the first full month of combined data.
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Bing Webmaster Tools help site owners to drive more visitors to their site using Bing data on search queries, crawling, and search traffic.   They can see their site as Bing does, optimize for search, share site information with Bing, and view a comprehensive list of sites that are linking to their site.

In Bing Webmaster Tools, the Traffic summary report and Page Traffic reports will be impacted, although no actual rankings will be affected by the combining of data within Bing webmaster Tools. On these pages, both Bing and Yahoo! logos will appear above the graphs.

  1. Impressions will go up based on combined data numbers across both search engines
  2. Clicks will go up based on combined data numbers
  3. Click Through Rates (CTR) as appropriate for above (change only due to the mathematics involved in the first two items)

Zune Update Paves Way for Mango

Microsoft has released the next version of the Zune software to pave the way for the next release of Windows Phone, codenamed Mango. Zune software is a key companion for a Windows Phone device allowing you to update your phone software, sync photos and videos, shop for apps, and more.

zunetile

You can download the v4.8 of Zune software here or update the current installed version on your computer. To update your current version, click Settings > Software > General, and then click Check For Updates. The latest release does not introduce any visual changes but there are a few apparent additions.

    • 48-hour movie rentals
    • Parental Controls now support M-rated (Mature) content
    • Option to hide purchase confirmation dialog for faster app checkout
    • See what apps are compatible with the Windows Phone you own

 

Apart from the the under-the-hood refinements and fixes, the update sets up things for the Mango update. It streamlines the process to update your Windows Phone software. Zune 4.8 introduces progressive updates and the ability to skip phone backup. Since, Mango will expand the number of locations and languages where Windows Phone is available around the world, Zune 4.8 improves on the same.

Zune 4.8 now supports 22 display languages and is available in these countries or regions: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the United States.

As I wrote in my post on I Love Windows Phone, this update and Microsoft’s other announcement allowing developers to submit Mango apps to AppHub indicates that time is ripe for Mango. Although no specific dates have been shared by Microsoft as yet, Mango update for Windows Phone looks likely to come in September.

Microsoft Awarded Patent On Adaptive Video Streaming. Beats Apple, Adobe To It

Multimedia streaming over the Internet has seen rapid user adoption. In the US, Netlfix overtook Comcast in subscription numbers. There are several services (other than the ones RIAA/MPAA doesn’t want you to use) that offer online streams for content. Youtube, Netflix and Hulu to name a few popular ones. Microsoft introduced Silverlight (their Flash alternative) a while back. One of the features Microsoft talked about with Silverlight was adaptive streaming. In simplest terms, it is a concept where the quality of stream automatically adjusts to your Internet connection speed—in real time. So if your Internet connection gets clogged during an ongoing stream, it will switch to a low resolution (low bitrate) version on its own.

Microsoft calls this Smooth Streaming and has a lot of technical magic in the background. Smooth Streaming has helped Microsoft clinch several live event streaming deals which in turn have resulted in Silverlight getting a considerable user base. I recently came across a patent titled Seamless switching of scalable video bitstreams. The patent claims are concepts behind Smooth Streaming. Excerpts from the claims:

A computer-implemented method executable on a processor for switching between a first bitstream and a second bitstream, wherein the second bitstream provides a higher data rate than the first bitstream, the method comprising: identifying a switching up period associated with the first and second bitstreams, the first bitstream comprising first encoded data for a plurality of frames within a video sequence […]

An apparatus suitable for encoding a first bitstream and a second bitstream, wherein the second bitstream provides a higher data rate than the first bitstream, the apparatus comprising: a memory; one or more processors; an interface, operable on the one or more processors, configurable to selectively output the first and second bitstreams; and logic operatively coupled to the interface and configured to selectively encode a plurality of frames of a video sequence […]

Given the importance of Intellectual Property as observed recently, Microsoft being awarded this patent is quite interesting. My quick not-so-in-depth searches show that neither Netflix nor Hulu have patents on online video streaming (I could be wrong though). I haven’t played a lot with Netflix but Hulu offers an option to Auto-select best quality for the bandwidth available. Although, I don’t see Microsoft going after Hulu.

As it turns out, Adobe has a similar feature called Dynamic Streaming that they use in Flash and Apple uses a similar implementation for streaming their events to iOS and OS X powered devices. According to the patent, Microsoft filed for it back in 2005.

Other than Silverlight based streaming, Microsoft offers video streams on the Xbox too. A demo of Smooth Streaming over IIS is available here.

The Patent

Skype Buying GroupMe Isn’t for Windows Phone

Microsoft buys Skype and Skype buys GroupMe. Using a=b and b=c; Microsoft effectively bought GroupMe. Which sounds plausible and fine. As the news spread Windows Phone 7 integration possibilities were being thought. I decided to wait it out hoping either companies would explain their strategy. Unfortunately, neither have. So here’s my theory…

Windows Phone 7 has a lot of thought and focus on what phones are for—communication. Clubbing contacts into groups and sending group emails or texts is a Windows Phone 7 Mango feature. In this scenario, GroupMe’s purchase looks out of place for Windows Phone (and Microsoft). Secondly, Microsoft’s cozy relationship with Facebook and the tight Windows Phone 7 integration would suggest Facebook Messenger on WP7 to come out soon.

GroupMe has a Windows Phone 7 client, as a result, any immediate platform integration or even Skype integration for the phone won’t be happening. Reading Michael Arrington’s article on TechCrunch, it is clear that Skype was already eyeing GroupMe while talks of acquisition with Microsoft were happening. Skype introduced group video chats not long ago and has phone calling. It makes a lot of sense for Skype as a platform to add text messaging in addition to voice communication. Putting all of this together it suggests:

  • Skype bought GroupMe for the Skype platform (and it doesn’t have anything to do with WP7)
  • It’s a good old talent acquisition
The New York based GroupMe team has individuals who’ve worked with products like Tumblr and the growing Gilt Groupe. Though this deal has to have Microsoft’s blessings, it’s a Skype deal for Skype as a platform. Not Microsoft and Windows Phone.

 

Microsoft: The Future is Delicious

Remember the Bill Gates-Seinfeld ads that were aired before the popular I’m a PC’ campaign by Microsoft? The ads, with no product mention or any geeky conversation ended with the line: The future is delicious’.

I love the line. Yes, I do. Concept cars, technology vision videos, and even the scenarios in science fiction movies have been reasons of many of orgasms I have had. Anyway, do you notice a pattern in all these desires? The keywords are: concept, vision, and fiction. Well, that hurts. However, Microsoft’s peek into the future is built around current products and technologies and looks a certain reality in few months.

In the past, the focus for living room has been entertainment and electronic appliances like home-theatre systems and entertainment/gaming consoles like Xbox. The time has now changed and along with consumer interests the industry has also seen a transformation in terms of technologies and offerings. Traditional broadcast and cable TV have made way for time-shifted and on-demand TV via DVRs and other devices. DVD rentals have been replaced by on-demand movie delivery via services such as Netflix and Hulu. Watching videos on sites like YouTube almost equals the time spent watching TV series.

Xbox presents a wide array of entertainment options games, movies, music, TV shows, sports programming, services like Netflix and Hulu, and programming and on-demand options available through cable and satellite providers. By converging the Xbox’s catalogue with Bing’s deep search expertise, Microsoft Tellme’s voice technology, and the magic of Kinect, Microsoft hopes to give the consumers the power of simplicity, discovery, and personal choice in your living rooms with the people you care about.

Watch this video by Microsoft that is inspired by their philosophy in this space: All the entertainment you want, with the people you care about, made easy. Delicious indeed!

5 Apps That Add More Functions To Windows Phone 7 Features

For any new platform to succeed, it needs user adoption, developer acceptance and company resources. As I wrote in my last piece, Windows Phone 7 has Microsoft’s complete attention and developers have started considering it as a competent platform. While Windows Phone 7 is quite a complete platform in itself, however, there are some gaps that developers have started filling up. Over the several months with the phone I’ve found a few apps that integrate with the existing features of the phone to offer some additional functions.

1. Lyrics (Free)

DSC03282 (Custom)

The app once installed can be accessed from within Zune and will pull in lyrics of the song currently playing. The app   can be launched from the Music hub and also allows you to control playback. Some salient features of the app:

  • Lyrics are displayed in a big font size
  • The app pulls in Artist bio and lyrics to more songs by the same artist
  • Lyrics can be shared on social networks or via Email

The app lets you have your own little karaoke on the phone.

2. Tweet This Song (Free)

tweet-this-song-kanye

With the launch of Spotify there’s been a debate around which music service is more social. Is it iTunes with Ping; Turntable.Fm or Spotify. Zune is not counted and for good reason. Other than having a network of your friends and the ability to see what they are listening to, there isn’t much. I sometimes like to share what I’m listening to with my friends and Zune on WP7 doesn’t let me do that. RogueCode’s app Tweet This Song!fixes at least part of the limitation for me. Once you’ve set your Twitter account, the song being played Zune will be tweeted. The app allows you to customize the tweet under settings. You can share a link to the song on Zune Marketplace as well.

Personally, I find Spotify to be complete social music service. It allows me to subscribe to playlists curated by my friends, share songs and playlists. (Though I would Pandora with Spotify-like Facebook friends and their playlists integration.) Zune does not allow me to share a song I’m listening to.

2.1 NowPlaying (Paid with Free)

Nirmit, the developer of NowPlaying pointed me to his app that does the same and having tried it, I think I like it better than Tweet This Song. NowPlaying has Facebook and Twitter integration, the app also has custom messages with preconfigured meta options which makes it easy to create your own messages. The app has a free and paid version. The free version does not have any restrictions on sharing and is pretty good!

3. Where Did I Take That (Free)

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You can add location data to photographs taken using WP7. On the phone, there’s not a lot you can do with the geodata; that is unless you install Where Did I Take That. The app launches Bing Maps and you can select photographs from your phone and the app will plot them on the map. Photographs from social networks (Windows Live and Facebook) don’t seem to have geodata. Nevertheless, the app is fun.

4. Album Art Wallpaper (Free)

DSC03278 (Custom)

The app will pull out album art from your songs and let you create a WP7 lock screen wallpaper. The app is simple with some level customization. You can choose the albums you want and the number of tiles in the wallpaper. The app allows you to share the image over SMS or email too.

5. Here Is My Info ($1.99 with Free Trial)

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I am disappointed when it comes to apps around the amazing People’s hub. Microsoft has implemented a well thought-out contact card with LinkedIn, Twitter, Windows Live and Facebook integration. Unfortunately, so far, there is no app that lets you share all this information easily. I cannot forward a contact’s complete details automagically filled with data fetched from these social networks. The closest free app that lets you share your contact information and forward a contact card is Here Is My Info.

DSC03289 (Custom)

You can fill out your details and forward this as an email or select a contact from the People’s hub and share their information. What annoys me is that I have to manually point the app to the contact for adding the fields. However, the app is still better than all the alternatives in the Marketplace as of now. The lack of dedicated field for Twitter is a downer.