Category Archives: Microsoft

Try Xbox Kinect At Your Home Before Buying: New Microsoft India Campaign

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In a very interesting campaign, the Xbox India division is allowing users to try the Xbox 360 and Kinect at their homes and then decide if they want to buy it. The facility is available in partnership with an electronics retail chain E Zone and limited to only 3 outlets (and 2 cities) across India. Currently available only at:

  1. E Zone: Oberoi Mall, Mumbai
  2. E Zone: Powai (Mumbai)
  3. E Zone: Koramangala Mall, Bengaluru

This is a clever marketing strategy from people at Microsoft India. Though the fine print hasn’t been shared, enthusiasts and casual gamers should indeed give it a try and then perhaps buy.

via Xbox 360 India

Microsoft Pilots Xbox Kinect For Interactive Education In South African School

Microsoft shared details on how they are using Xbox Kinect in a rural South Africa school for education. The project involves, Microsoft’s Live@Edu, a NGO — SchoolNet SA who helped develop the training material along with the local experts.

For those who remember, Xbox Kinect was known as Project Natal and the school in South African province KwaZulu-Natal is where the pilot has started.

Here’s a video shared by the team:

Microsoft Shares NoDo & Pre-NoDo Update Status For US & International Phones

Microsoft has so far released two updates for Windows Phone 7, one being pre-NoDo that updates the updating mechanism for the phones (or something like that) and the second that brings copy/paste along with performance tweaks. Unfortunately, not all customers have these updates. Most consumers with unlocked phones seem to have the update while those with carrier contracts don’t. I have a Samsung Focus with AT&T and no NoDo. Microsoft has now posted a status report on the updates. For the US, both NoDo and pre-NoDo are under testing for Samsung Focus, HTC Surround and LG Quantum whereas Dell Venue Pro and HTC HD7 are being pushed the update. The schedule table:

nodo-schedule

For international users, here’s the page.

As disappointed I am about the not getting the updates, at least Microsoft made it official that they are not ready with the update for me. Based on the page, it looks like AT&T is not ready for the update. Damn you carriers, damn you.

Microsoft Uses Bing Maps To Show Before-After Pictures of Japan Quake

The tragedy in Japan and the use of Web 2.0 technologies to spread the word about the disaster has increased awareness about Tsunamis, Japan’s spirit and Nuclear power as well. Microsoft tried to leverage their twitter presence to pitch in but were caught off guard by the backlash. My colleague called the tweet "insensitive". Microsoft later made the right move and tried to fix the damage by talking about their various efforts.

Now the Bing Maps team has come up with an interactive map showing the before/after images of the disaster. The Bing Maps application is pretty simple to use and if I may point out, Microsoft has placed a link on how we can help the relief efforts in Japan.

Japan Earthquake Before and After

Bing Maps - Japan

New Kinect Sensor Being Worked On, From The Inside

The Xbox Kinect accessory for the Xbox 360 changed Microsoft’s fortunes. The company suddenly got  recognized  as an innovative company and bagged quite a few awards for the Kinect. One of the factors responsible for Kinect’s success are the community projects. Microsoft has not sued any of the hackers unlike Sony and in fact released a SDK for developers to play around with the Kinect. But what’s next?

Knowing Microsoft, the next iteration is usually under discussions by the time a version ships out and I came across two job posting that clearly indicate that the next Kinect sensor is well underway and Microsoft is looking to change the guts. Here are  excerpts  from job postings:

The optical engineer will be responsible for designing and specifying interface requirements among opto-mechanical system, modules, and components […]

should have a working knowledge of radiometry, photometry, and optical testing, and apply these skills to identify critical to quality metrics for imaging and illumination systems.

[…] will also be responsible for qualification of injection molded lenses, accessory components, camera module, and solid state light sources.

Opto-mechanical systems are tiny mechanical circuits, much like the motors in the Kinect that follow you around. Another application:

responsibilities of this position are focused on specifying, designing, implementing and verifying subsystems in the sensor electrical design. This includes owning the part selections, schematic capture, PCB layout, BOM, and cost analysis of the subsystem design.

The subsystems include high speed busses (RGB, IR, USB, I2S), memory, audio/video interfaces, system clocking, power and thermal management, and misc. analog/digital circuitry.

This job application talks about the internal circuits of the Kinect.


Microsoft Shares Windows 7 In Enterprise Success Stories

Steve Ballmer stated that Windows 8 will be risky for them, one of the reasons as seen by many is the enterprise upgrade cycle. The enterprise skipped Windows Vista based on several factors and most of them seem to be moving Windows 7 since the performance reviews and security features available in the OS are compelling reasons to upgrade. The enterprise market isn’t like the consumer market where users keep upgrading frequently. Rolling out something new in the enterprise is a phased process and as such re-doing the whole thing has to justify cost and time involved. The rate at which the enterprise is moving to Windows 7 (after skipping Vista) it indeed will be a challenge for Microsoft to convince CIOs and SMBs to invest in Windows 8, unless Microsoft does not introduce hardware upgrades as a necessity.

Microsoft recently has been sharing details about the success of deploying Windows 7 in SMBs and enterprises. The people involved talk about security features like BitLocker, ease of deployment in organizations and performance as reasons why they like Windows 7. Here are some videos:

City of Miami upgrading their infrastructure and being able to start a campaign to help the economically challenged citizens due to the cost in moving to Windows 7:

The video talks about the specific Windows 7 features leveraged by the city officials. The second video is about a private airline company that has deployed Windows 7:

In a post on the official Windows Team Blog, Microsoft has posted the story of a brewery deploying Windows 7, an excerpt from the post:

Tsingtao was able to minimize time IT administers spent on installation, which greatly decreased deployment costs. Tsingtao reported the rate of deployment for Windows 7 was 75% faster than with previous OS versions. Just 20% through its full company deployment, Tsingtao also found direct benefits to its mobile workforce and has reported greater efficiency due to the use of the new OS, which took minimal training.

There are two more videos from the SMB segment, one about an Accountant (focusing on data security):

Real Estate owner, talking about networking capabilities in Windows 7 Professional:

The sudden focus on Windows 7 Professional seems kinda interesting.

Android Dolls? Microsoft Has WP7 Foam Figurines

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At the annual South by Southwest (SxSW) conference Microsoft has been trying to push Windows Phone 7 out to technology enthusiasts. Developer evangelist Charlie Kindel has been giving away WP7 devices (Dell Venue Pro or Samsung Focus) to those who show him Windows Phone 7 application idea that they are working on. Engineers have also been demonstrating the IE9 on the Windows Phone 7 which expected to be part of the Mango update. Mango is expected some time in 2011. At the GDGT party, Microsoft is giving away Windows Phone 7 foam figures aka Windows Foam 7. As a viral campaign, Microsoft is giving away these Windows Foam 7 figures and is sharing placements of the figure next to gadgets at the party. The images shared on twitter so far:

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Microsoft has similar foam versions of Channel 9, we’ve seen Android dolls being sold online and I’d love to get my hands on one of these! Carriers should bundle these with each phone they sell!

PS: These images have been taken by a Samsung Focus and I should point out that the auto settings of the phone aren’t that great.

Windows 8 and Office 15 Screenshots Leak (Metro Theme For Windows 8 Confirmed)

In the past few weeks there have been quite a few posts about Windows 8 and yesterday there were Office 15 screenshots posted on twitter. Rumors of a metro-like interface for Windows 8 have been floating around. There are some interesting UI additions to Windows:

A user’s avatar is shown in the Windows taskbar next to the time. Screenshot:

win8-taskbar

I’d assume that since the user avatar is being shown in the taskbar it won’t be shown in the Start Menu. The next screenshot shows an update to the Windows Upgrade screen, you can now check the Restart option.

win8-update

I hope, by not checking this Windows would be less annoying with the restart reminders. A new screenshot was shared today that showed a language browser in Explorer. I’m not sure what it allows you to do, I’d expect system’s language settings to be under a panel, but we could probably install/uninstall language packs easily from here, much like fonts. Screenshot:

win8-lang

One of the features mentioned by   is that Windows 8 will have a restore to factory settings options, an upgrade to the useful Windows restore feature. Coming to the desktop, there is a new Aero Lite theme which is said to be a metro based look for Windows:

win8-aero

The elements in AeroLite have been posted by  AngelWZR at MSWin.me:

The wallpapers in these builds are pretty cheeky. They’ve got the text let’s not leak our hard workA high resolution wallpaper is available for download at Deviant ART:

win8-m3

Windows 8 is expected to be available in 2012 and if it follows a release cycle like Windows 7, the RTM builds should be ready by mid-2012 and public availability around the holiday season.

Regarding Office 15, @Sp3c1al5t posted screenshots and a video followed by a review at WinReview.ru. Other than a new cursor animation, there is nothing new. Tom Warren from WinRumors pointed out a metro-inspired interface look in Outlook. Screenshots:

Word 15

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Excel 15

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Powerpoint 15

office15-ppt

Outlook 15

office15-outlook

The M1 tab shows Data Grid which is the same as the Chart menu under Insert in Office 2010. With these leaks, we should expect a build to come out some time soon… on those websites that we shall not name.

Demos of Windows Phone 7 Features Showed At MWC 2011

We already told you about the upcoming software upgrades Microsoft plans this year for their WP7 platform. Among the key features expected are:

  • Copy/Paste in the first update expected in March
  • Multitasking
  • IE9 Mobile with HTMLS
  • Twitter integration to the People hub
  • Kinect integration

It was surprising of Microsoft to not implementing copy/paste in the first release and there have been a few explanations given but bowing to pressure, they decided to push copy/paste as part of the first update to Windows Phone 7. Here’s a demo of the copy/paste feature:

In many ways, Microsoft took two steps back with WP7 by not implementing copy/paste & multitasking which are both part of Windows Mobile but with time Microsoft plans to fill in these gaps. At MWC 2011, Microsoft demonstrated their multitasking implementation in WP7. Here’s a short demo (view around 2:50):

Similar to the cards in WebOS, press and hold action on the back button will launch the multitasking UI allowing you to browse through the apps running in the background. Audio applications will be able to continue playing in the background as part of multitasking.

With their desktop version of Internet Explorer finally being standard compliant to a large extent and fast to use, Microsoft will be bringing IE9 with HTML5 to Windows Phone 7 too. At MWC 2011, Microsoft showed a performance demo of IE9 Mobile:

Microsoft had earlier demonstrated the ability to continue playing a games across the PC, Xbox and WP7. At MWC 2011, Microsoft showed Kinect, Xbox LIVE and WP7 integration adding a new dimension to multiplayer gaming. The video demo shows two users throwing balls using their WP7 devices while the third player is defending himself using the Kinect & Xbox. Video:

The People hub that allows you to integrate your contacts with their Windows Live and Facebook profiles to fetch updates and contact details will add twitter as well. Microsoft posted a screenshot showing twitter updates of an individual along with Facebook and Windows Live updates:

wp7-twitter

If Microsoft is able to push out these updates by year end, Microsoft should have a mobile platform with all features one would expect in a modern OS.

Windows Phone 7 Gets Angry Birds and Instagram Clones

Android and iPhone have been instrumental for the success of applications like Angry Birds and Instagram, neither of these apps are available on Windows Phone 7. Angry Birds creators, Rovio don’t look too keen on bringing their popular game on the platform. Similar is the case with Instagram, a simple app that allows you to add filters to your photographs and has social network integration for sharing photographs.

Instagram reached a Million users in December and Twitter added the ability to view photographs from Instagram on their web interface. Angry Birds had a Million downloads on the first day of their Android version launch. The popularity of these apps and their absence on WP7 has inspired developers to fill in this gap with clones.

Bubblegum (Instagram Clone):

Like Instagram, the app allows you choose from a set of filters that you apply to an image and then upload the image. The uploaded image can be sent to Facebook and Twitter. you can also checkin to a location on Foursquare at the same time.

Unfortunately, the app does not make use of Foursquare’s image API and on Foursquare you get the URL to the image as a checkin comment. Even on Facebook, a link to the image is posted to your wall instead of the image being shown.  Some screenshots:

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Links to two images I uploaded using the app:

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Chicks n’ Vixens (Angry Birds clone):

First up, not the best choice of names. Talking about the game, the components of the game have been changed keeping the game play same.

  • Birds Chicken
  • Pigs Vixens
  • Slingshot Canon

The game is free for download and if you feel left out from the Angry Birds hype you should definitely try this app out. Screenshot:

vixens

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Microsoft Kicks Off Online Reality Show: Career Factor

Microsoft has been able to able to build a powerful social presence with active twitter and Facebook accounts for product teams. Leveraging this social network presence, Microsoft will be having a online based reality show with 9 contestants.

The 9 contestants with proficiency across Microsoft technologies will be given tasks to complete and everyone can follow their progress online. The show is called Career Factor, first spotted by Joe Wilcox the introductions of the contestants are available on Microsoft Learning’s Youtube page. The show updates can be followed on the Twitter account MS Career Factor.

The show is part of Microsoft’s Born 2 Learn initiative. Links to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles of the 9 contestants can be found here. A forum with sections dedicated to the contestants has been setup as well. While the show won’t be the next Apprentice, the concept is interesting.

LG Says WP7 Not Doing As Expected

The news doing round today are the comments from LG representative who said Microsoft failed in the Windows Phone 7 launch and that the operating system isn’t doing as well as they hoped.

With Microsoft not divulging a lot on numbers, the comments from LG get a lot of attention. What one doesn’t point out is that the WP7 handsets from LG are no good. There is no reason to buy a LG WP7 handset compared to HTC or Samsung.

Two of HTC’s main handsets have unique selling points. The HTC HD7 has the HD2 legacy, a thin form factor and the really massive screen while the HTC Surround has powerful speakers. Samsung Focus has the thin form factor, the gorgeous Super AMOLED screen and a really loud speaker. The LG Quantum has two features which don’t exactly make for a compelling purchase. The LG’s DLNA technology doesn’t exactly enhance your mobile experience when you are not near a DLNA compatible television and the slide out QWERTY keyboard is old school.

James Choi, Marketing strategy and planning director for LG  told Pokcet-lint that, From an industry perspective we had a high expectation, but from a consumer point of view the visibility is less than we expected.

LG’s solution to this is coming out with cheaper handsets, yes, that will definitely help maintain quality standards. Maybe LG should look into doing better handsets than complain about Microsoft’s handling of the launch and Windows Phone 7? With that said, LG says that they will continue to support WP7 as they do not want to rely on Android as the only OS they have handsets with.

Bing To be Part Of In-Car Systems From Hyundai and Toyota

Microsoft Bing will soon be powering maps for Toyota and Hyundai vehicles in the US. Toyota will be using Bing for their Entune system. Toyota Entune is a mobile app that connects with Toyota’s in car system over Bluetooth. Once the app the is downloaded and paired with the car, Entune will bring content from a variety sources such as iHeartRadio, Pandora, OpenTable, Bing and others. Some screenshots:

toyota-entune-bing-01 toyota-entune-bing-02

In a separate announcement, ATX Group said that they will bring Bing Maps to Hyundai cars as part of Hyundai’s Blue Link technology. Bing will be providing content such as restaurant ratings, gas prices and addresses. Users will be able customize the content they want to be sent on their car using a website. Bing Maps will enhance Blue Link’s services that will enable users to get real time assistance from ATX.

Windows 8 To Support ARM and Other System on Chip Processors

The big news coming from CES 2011 is that the next version of Windows will support ARM processors and SoC. At CES 2011, Microsoft demonstrated a range of devices running Windows 8 and Office on the SoC architecture.

SoC chips are small i n size and are designed for mobile computing devices such as tablets and mobile phones. Qualcomm’s famous Snapdragon is an example of a SoC. At the demo, SoC from Qualcomm, Intel, Nvidia, Texas Instruments were shown running the next version of Windows.

Microsoft showed a 1080 HD video being played on these tiny chips and even connected a printer with Microsoft Office by updating the ARM driver for Windows.

Image Credit: Long Zheng

Microsoft Shows Surface 2 At CES 2011

During the CES 2011 press conference and Steve Ballmer’s keynote Microsoft showcased their next version of the Microsoft Surface. The new Surface has two major improvements over its predecessor:

  1. The table is no more the big block but has four legs and a tablet top with the rest being hollow
  2. Surface now supports Pixel Sense

Pixel Sense is the technology that has allowed Microsoft to make the Surface 2 slimmer. Each pixel on the Surface 2 acts like a infrared camera that allows infrared sensors throughout the screen. Surface 2 has been developed along with Samsung and is also known as Samsung SUR40. From what is known, the new Surface is powered by AMD. Here’s the CES 2011 demo of Surface 2:

(Sorry about the lack of audio.)

A more comprehensive video from Samsung showing the features of the Surface: