The Gestures Supported In Windows 8 And Their Mouse Equivalent

Earlier today Microsoft announced the availability of Windows 8 Consumer Preview. The touch friendly Metro interface for Windows 8 is not restricted to tablets. Microsoft has followed a dual-UI strategy for Windows 8 and replaced the traditional start menu with a Metro version start screen. Since one UI is meant for the traditional keyboard/mouse interaction and the other for finger interaction (no pun intended), Microsoft has shared a simple chart explaining the gestures supported in Windows 8 and what they do along with details about how to perform the same tasks using a mouse:

(Click image to enlarge.)

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Now Available For Download

Sneaking on over to Barcelona for the convenience of the mainstream tech press, Microsoft has finally released the much-anticipated Windows 8 Consumer Preview, during a special press event at the Hotel Miramar.

There are almost as many changes in this build (from the Developer Preview) as there are mentions of Windows 8 being a “no-compromise” and “re-imagined” OS; over 100,000, according to Sinofsky. That being said, we put together a brief overview of the primary changes in the build (such as system-wide spellcheck, the start preview thumbnail, new notifications, boot forward, and Microsoft Account.)

Released in both x64 and x86 flavors, the build is available in English, Chinese (Simplified), French, German, and Japanese. Optimized to work well with the same hardware that powers today’s Windows 7 devices, here are the system requirements:

  • Processor: 1 gigahertz (GHz) or faster
  • RAM: 1 gigabyte (GB) (32-bit) or 2 GB (64-bit)
  • Hard disk space: 16 GB (32-bit) or 20 GB (64-bit)
  • Graphics card: Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device or higher
  • To use touch, you need a tablet or monitor that supports multitouch
  • To access Windows Store and to download and run apps, you need an active Internet connection and a screen resolution of at least 1024 x 768
  • To snap apps, you need a screen resolution of at least 1366 x 768
Head on over to the Microsoft Windows 8 Consumer Preview website to snag the build.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Has Universal Spellcheck, Microsoft Account ‘Roaming’

So, while you wait for that Windows 8 Consumer Preview ISO to download (you are downloading it, right?), here’s a brief and to-the-point rundown of the cool, more major improvements in the CP build.

Universal Spellcheck

Smug OS X users now have one less thing to taunt Windows users about; a feature that has been requested for a while now – universal, system-wide spellcheck – has finally been implemented in Windows.

Out With The Start Button, In With The Start Preview Thumbnail

One recent colossal change from a usability standpoint is the removal of the start button from the desktop (something that we have recently observed in leaked screenshots). While the functionality – though largely modified, in the form of the new Start Screen – remains, it’s still the removal of an iconic and well-known feature to users that has been there since Windows 95.

Nevertheless, while the actual start button is gone, they have essentially replaced it with something called a “start preview thumbnail” which can be accessed by hovering over the bottom-left corner beneath where the start button once occupied. Upon doing so, a small thumbnail will pop up that you can click to get to the start screen.

There will also be a menu that’s retrievable via right-click that will allow you to access a few important parts of Windows, such as Run,

Voosh! Flyout Notifications

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… wait, nope, it’s a Flyout notification! And it’s here to deliver a confirmation prompt, or some other notification that’s based off of your recent interaction with something. They can be dismissed via touch by tapping elsewhere, or by clicking on the “X”.

Boot Forward

So, since Windows 8 cold boots to the desktop so quickly, it’s near impossible to hit the F8 key in time to access boot options. There’s a new feature in the Consumer Preview called Boot Forward that will allow you to specify these boot options right before you reboot in Windows. 

Microsoft Account

Remember last week when Rafael Rivera discovered “Microsoft Your Account”, which is essentially a consolidated hotpot of various other billing portals of the company? It appears that this unified login service will play a big role in the OS. Imagine that you’re using a Metro app on your Windows 8 desktop, and you want to pick up where you left off when you take your WOA tablet to the toilet with you. Basically, thanks to Microsoft Account Metro app settings and states will roam between PCs.

You’ll also be able to utilize credential storage that roams across PCs as well, that will allow you to automatically log into websites using saved passwords.

Windows 8 Consumer Preview Wallpapers Leak, Download Them Here

With less than an hour left to go until the official release of the Windows 8 Consumer Preview, it appears that the wallpapers included in the build have already leaked out. Whether you’re someone who is eager for an appetizer to the impending CP build, or if you just happen to like the wallpapers and have no intention of installing pre-release software, you’re in luck.

Included in the pack are various nature wallpapers (of green leaves, orange leaves, flowers, an island, a beach, a harbor) along with a  betta fish wallpaper with some Metro flair.

This is probably the closest thing to an actual leak that we have seen in quite some time; somehow, Microsoft has been doing a great job at leak control. Since the Developer Preview build was published, there have been no new build leaks, and a relatively minimal stream of information leaks.

You may download them over at R27.

Bing Maps And Nokia Make Sweet Love, Give Birth To Unified Map Design

In what appears to be one of many collaborations that we can expect to come from Microsoft and Nokia, the Bing Maps and Nokia Maps teams have recently collaborated to develop — and launch across both products — a new and improved map design. Packing improvements to the road map style, typography, and the use of visual hierarchy, the update aims to, quoting the Bing announcement, “unify our map elements, improve contrast and usability to ultimately create a more beautiful and functional map.”

The color palette for the road map style has been improved, and, as a result, you will no longer mistake roads for rivers. In all seriousness, the improved colors are quite nice on the eyes, and they do not clash with overlaid data. Improvements to typography were also made; small type is now easier to read, city names are large and transparent, and their size scales with your zoom level, and type size hierarchy helps to bring order to the maps. They’ve also made improvements to the visual hierarchy — basically, what data is shown — at different zoom levels.

On top of these map improvements, they vastly improved their mapping coverage and data through their partnership with Nokia and NavTeq. As a result, map data has improved drastically in several countries, including Egypt, Israel, Malta, Philippines, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Short Review: Skype Beta For Windows Phone 7

Yesterday during Nokia’s keynote at the ongoing Mobile World Congress 2012 Microsoft released a beta version of Skype for Windows Phone 7. It took the company a while to come up with the version and there is some room for improvement. I downloaded the app and gave it a short try, here’s what I’ve found.

The good:

  • Can be used on first-gen Windows Phone 7 devices
  • Does not require a front-facing camera
  • Pleasant interface (animations for the splash screen and notification are subtle and nice)
  • App supports landscape mode for chat
  • Panoramic navigation within the video call—this is pretty cool

Now for the bad:

  • The app does not run in the background; you’re online as long as the app is open
  • No push notifications

The app’s inability to run in the background is a deal break. However, being beta I wouldn’t be surprised to see the two features in the final version. Here are some screenshots of the app:

 

The audio calling and chat interfaces:

Skype WP7

Microsoft Store India Hack Worse Than Anticipated, Financial Data Possibly Compromised

Remember that nasty incident earlier this month where the online Microsoft storefront in India — whose operation, by the way, was outsourced to a local Indian company called Quasar Media — had their users’ passwords stored in plain text in the database? At the time, it was thought that no serious financial information was compromised.

However, Microsoft has just sent out a new followup email with users of the Microsoft Store India website stating otherwise:

In a previous email on Feb. 12, 2012, we notified you there may have been unauthorized access to some of your customer account information on the Microsoft Store India site (http://www.microsoftstore.co.in) operated by a third party. We suggested you reset your password, among other security precautions, and to contact us with further questions.

Further detailed investigation and review of data provided by the website operator revealed that financial information may have been exposed for some Microsoft Store India customers. So, as an additional precaution, if you used a credit card on the Microsoft Store India website, we recommend the following actions:

Contact your credit card provider and alert them to potential unauthorized access to your account information.
Closely monitor and review your credit card account for abnormal activity, and if seen, immediately contact your credit card provider.
Microsoft is committed to protecting customer privacy and takes this situation very seriously. We understand that you may have additional questions, so we have set up a team of specialists to address any of your concerns. Please call them between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. at 1-800-102-1100.

Thank you,
Chakrapani Gollapali
General Manager, Microsoft India

Scary. Medianama is guessing that that perhaps Microsoft has learned that the hackers somehow breached the payment gateway itself, or that the site was also storing credit card payment credentials in plain text as well.

This is unfortunately a PR nightmare for Microsoft; having to retract a statement assuring customers that their financial data is safe reflects, well, horribly on them. But it’s worth noting that, while Microsoft is partly to blame here, we really need to aim the pitchforks and the riots at Quasar Media, the company that owned, operated, and managed the storefront. If you’re a client of theirs — low or high profile (which Quasar sadly has plenty of) — I strongly urge you to reconsider, lest you have a similar breach. No company that’s incompetent enough to store passwords in plain text deserves any business whatsoever, and we can only hope that Quasar suffers as a result.

ZTE Announces Entry-Level ‘Orbit’ Windows Phone

ZTE has announced that it will be launching an entry-level Windows Phone device — dubbed the ‘Orbit’ — come Q2 of 2012. Taking advantage of the new, lowered hardware requirements and significant performance enhancements to ‘Tango’, ZTE were able to produce such a lower-cost device. While pricing is yet to be announced, we imagine that the pricing will be similar to that of the Lumia 610; priced at 189 Euros, it is Nokia’s low-cost contender that’s tailored to developing markets.

The Windows Phone Marketplace was recently enabled in Argentina, Indonesia, Malaysia, Peru and the Philippines, and will be enabled in Bahrain, Bulgaria, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Iceland, Iraq, Israel, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam in the coming week.

“We’re broadening and expanding the range of prices that we support so you’ll be able to buy even more affordable phones, in more languages and countries and on more kinds of networks throughout the world,”

Microsoft’s focus on emerging markets with these lower-cost devices is commendable, but it will come at the cost of slight fragmentation. Unfortunately, it appears that 5% of the 65,000 published apps on the Marketplace will not be able to run on these lower-end devices. Nevertheless, perhaps the benefit of being able to bring smartphones to these emerging markets will outweigh the cost of this slight fragmentation.

HTC Confirms Plans To Launch Windows Phone ‘Apollo’ Devices

Speaking to Pocket-Lint, HTC has confirmed that it plans to create and launch Windows Phone handsets that will run the next major OS update, ‘Apollo’, later on this year. HTC mentioned this when Pocket-Lint inquired as to whether or not we can expect a Windows Phone (or multiple of them) to eventually join the ranks of the HTC One Android lineup. Here’s what Kouji Kodera, HTC’s chief product officer had to say when asked:

“For Windows Phone we haven’t decided on the branding yet, but you will see a new range of Windows Phones from us when Microsoft release their new Apollo operating system,”

Interesting. Could this mean that HTC will not have any (or, perhaps, any flagship) Windows Phones to announce at this year’s Mobile World Congress? Should that be the case, they’ll be joining the ranks of LG, who also does not have any devices to announce; and perhaps for similar reasons. HTC’s decision to hold off on creating a “new range of Windows Phones” until Apollo is a clear indication that this update is very major. Could the hardware that the OS will run on be significantly different?

We’ll see. Leading up to the end of the year, information about the mysterious major update is sure to trickle out, little by little.

Nokia Announces Lumia 610, Lowered ‘Tango’ Minimum Requirements Official

Nokia has just announced the new, entry-level Lumia 610. Priced at the low cost of 189 Euros before taxes and subsidies (approximately $255 US), it is now Nokia’s cheapest Windows Phone.

This low price point has been made possible thanks to the (now official), formerly rumored lowered Windows Phone specifications; as we reported earlier this month, a leak of Windows Phone Tango features revealed that Microsoft will be lowering certain hardware requirements to accommodate cheaper phones.

The minimum required amount of memory has been diminished to 256MB from 512MB, OEMs are now required to include a camera of at least 3MP (this is a good thing, they previously didn’t need to add a camera at all), and a lower-performance processor (the minimum here is currently unknown, though the Lumia 610’s is 800MHz, perhaps this is the new minimum). As some apps may not work on these lower-speced phones — and as there are some software differences as well — many, including myself and fellow Microsoft writer Manan are concerned that this will be the beginning of Windows Phone fragmentation.

The Lumia 610 will hit the shelves sometime in Q2 of 2012, and it will be available in Cyan, White, Black, and Magneta. The Verge have managed to get a hands-on with the device, so for a video and some additional photos, their post is worth looking at.