Interview with Ben Rudolph, the Architect of #smokedbywindowsphone

Smoked by Windows Phone

If you use Twitter and were following the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) tweets, it would be very hard for you to miss the #smokedbywindowsphone campaign, run by Ben Rudolph from Microsoft. I wrote about this campaign which pitted Windows Phone against a variety of today’s smartphones in conducting common tasks, in an earlier post. This campaign has been a super hit, and now that Ben has had some time to recover from CES, I asked him a few questions about the campaign. Here’s what he had to say:

Techie Buzz (TB): What was the motivation behind the campaign?

Ben Rudolph (BR): Everyone here on the Windows Phone team knew anecdotally, from talking with friends and family, and even strangers at airports, that Windows Phone is faster and easier than any other smartphone at doing the stuff that we do every day on our smartphones. We never went out to prove it in a head-to-head test. So, we decided to put our money where our mouth is at the biggest tech show in the world! What better place to put Windows Phone head to head against a huge variety of smartphone users, both in terms of their technical depth, but also in terms of the phones they have in their pocket. All in all, this was a fun way for us to stand up and say “We think we built something really awesome, and when you see it, we think you’ll agree”.

TB: What were the challenges like?

BR: All of the challenges involved tasks that smartphone users do every day – posting a photo to Facebook or Twitter, checking the weather, sending an SMS to your best friend, updating your status on your social networks, finding someplace nearby to eat – that kind of stuff.

Five Things I Learned from My First CES Experience

CES Keynote stage

Ah, what a fantastic experience CES 2012 was! Now that it is over, here are the five most important things I learned from my first CES experience. I had always dreamed of attending this event, which became a reality this year. Attending CES was as amazing as I ever imagined.

1. Plan way ahead in advance.

I think, both the locals and cabbies of Las Vegas will agree with me on this that CES is probably the biggest show which happens in the city during this time of the year. Hotel and airplane ticket prices are increased significantly, and prices everywhere are much increased.. My advice would be that you should plan your trip months in advance and find a nice hotel to stay in. Word of advice: Don’t stay at “Circus Circus.” The place has lost its charm and it is pretty far away from where all the CES events happen. Luckily, I had booked my plane tickets and hotel room months in advance so it really made a difference financially.

2. Plan out your time wisely.

Not only is planning way ahead in advance important for CES, but planning out what you want to do at CES is crucial. At CES, there is simply too much to see and not enough time. The CES Expo itself is huge and the amount of people traffic-jam you encounter is insane! In addition, while the Expo is going on, press conferences and keynotes also occur during the same time.

If you are a blogger, setting up your appointments should be done as early as possible and try your best to make a day without any appointments. By doing so, you are ensured to meet some great people, but more importantly, you get a hands on experience without anyone else around to interrupt. Also, have any questions and comments ready beforehand since they only have so much time.

One mistake I made was not to plan out my schedule beforehand. I was just making up my schedule on the spot, which resulted in me not getting a hands on experience at a lot of the booths and missing a couple of events.

3.  Know the layout of CES beforehand!

Did you notice something different with this piece of advice? Yeah, that “!.” Turns out, getting around CES is a super confusing maze! Not only a lot of walking to do, but when you are inside a hotel, every entrance looks the same so it is very easy to get lost. While I was on the expo floor, I was getting lost too because it was difficult reading the paper maps they provide. Becoming familiar with the layout of both CES and Vegas is very important beforehand.

Getting around in Vegas usually consists of waiting in long cab lines or for the bus. CES usually does provide a few shuttles that run on the strip to get you to and from the show. Oh, and travel time should be counted too. Sometimes it can take an hour just to get from hotel to hotel or from your hotel to the show.

4. Things to bring.

I carried around my Nikon D3100 DSLR to take some fantastic shots. While an iPhone 4S would have been sufficient, I needed to save battery. Turns out a DSLR’s battery last for an entire day or more! I think carrying around a good camera with you at all times is important. You can view the picture I took from CES 2012 here. In addition, battery packs for all your devices is a must.  You may think your devices may last the entire day, but in reality they will only last a few hours due to the amount of usage you’ll be doing on them. I also brought a power strip since hotel rooms don’t provide enough power outlets.

In addition, I brought five extra battery packs for my devices (iPhone 4S and iPad). The battery packs weren’t needed for my iPad 2 since the battery goes on and on, but my iPhone 4S’s battery would only last me a few hours since I was using it a lot.

One device I should have brought this year but didn’t bring was a mobile WiFi hotspot. Since the number of people trying to access the WiFi network available at CES at once is tremendous, the networks crashed instantly. However, it seemed that Verizon’s MiFi was working out well for many.

5. Have fun. 

It seems that this year there was an increase in the amount of people that didn’t want to be at CES.  Even though CES is a hectic experience, it is important to have fun at CES. Luckily for me, I had the time of my life. My entire trip consisted of having a blast and by choice got very little sleep.

CES is an amazing experience and you should at attend it at least once. But with that being said, it is important to plan out the trip carefully.  I got to meet a ton of new people in Vegas, attend keynotes and hangout with friends, and learned a lot regarding where the market is headed. Oh, and I smoked a Windows Phone at the Microsoft booth! It really was all I hoped for and more.

World’s First 180mm f/2.8 Macro Lens from Sigma Goes Missing at CES 2012

The CES 2012 exhibition held in Las Vegas from Tuesday, January 10 to Friday, January 13 saw some new and interesting announcements and releases. One such announcement made by Sigma, one of the major manufacturers of cameras, lenses, flashes and other photographic accessories, unveiled the world’s first 180mm f/2.8 macro lens that features a 1:1 magnification ratio. Apparently, out of the only two pre-production models, one of them has gone missing.

The Sigma APO Macro 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM is the world’s first 180mm macro lens that offers a magnification ratio of 1:1 and a large maximum aperture of F2.8. The lens is a successor to the older 180mm F3.5 EX DG macro. The new lens features Sigma’s proprietary Optical Stabilizer (OS) technology and the wide aperture features faster shutter speeds in low light and a narrow depth of field.

Sigma 180mm F/2.8 APO Macro EX DG OS HSM

The lens also has three “F” Low Dispersion (FLD) glass elements, which have an equivalent performance to a fluorite glass. These FLDs are included to provide correction for color aberrations and an inner focusing system minimizes aberrations that occur as shooting distances change.

At 1:1 magnification, this lens has a focusing distance of 18.5 inches, which is a greater working distance than shorter focal length macro lenses, making it advantageous when taking pictures of highly sensitive subjects like butterflies.

The lens is compatible to Sigma’s tele-converters, and the focal length can be extended to 252mm f/4.5 using the AF 1.4x EX converter (404mm equiv.). It can also be extended to 360mm f/7 via the AF 2x EX converter (576mm equiv.), however, in this case you’ll lose the AF though.

According to the president of Sigma Corporation of America, Mark Amir-Hamzeh –

“Our first 180mm macro was very popular with macro photographers and we’re certain that discerning photographers will be very impressed with its new technical and performance upgrades. The Optical Stabilizer technology and faster maximum aperture will make it even easier for users to capture the close-up, intricate details in the tiny world around them. We’ve released some really incredible products in the past year – there’s truly something in our lineup for every type and level of photographer.”

There are no further details available about the lost lens; however, it’s definitely worth hundreds of dollars. Sigma, however, has not revealed the pricing and availability of the lens yet.

Complete Specifications of Sigma APO Macro 180mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Principal specifications

  • Lens Type: Prime lens
  • Max Format Size: 35mm FF
  • Focal length: 180 mm
  • Image stabilisation: Yes
  • Lens mount: Sigma SA


  • Maximum aperture: F2.8
  • Minimum aperture: F22.0
  • Aperture ring: No
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9


  • Elements: 19
  • Groups:                14
  • Special elements / coatings: 3 FLD glass elements


  • Minimum focus: 0.47 m (18.50″)
  • Maximum magnification: 1x
  • Autofocus: Yes
  • Motor type: Ring-type ultrasonic
  • Full time manual: Yes
  • Focus method: Internal
  • Focus notes: Floating focus system
  • Distance scale: Yes
  • DoF scale: No


  • Diameter: 95 mm (3.74″)
  • Length: 204 mm (8.03″)
  • Sealing: No
  • Filter thread: 86 mm
  • Tripod collar: Yes
Image Credits (via)

Lenovo Ideapad YOGA: Gets My Vote for the Best Ultrabook at CES

Lenovo IdeaPad YOGA

While at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, I was able to get some video of the Lenovo IdeaPad YOGA. The YOGA is a convertible Ultrabook which has four modes of operation:

  • Regular laptop mode: In its simplest form, the YOGA is a nice Ultrabook. It conforms to the Ultrabook specifications with the thickness (16.9mm), weight (3.1lbs) and startup/resume times (not specified since it is not final yet).
  • Tablet/slate mode: With its patented dual hinge, the YOGA can flip back completely and become a tablet/slate. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is not going to compare to a regular slate in terms of weight or thickness. Instead,  think of it as a way to use your laptop more comfortably for say browsing the web or consuming other content.
  • Stand mode: The hinges are strong and the body is sturdy, and as a result you can flip back the screen and leave the computer on a table instead of carrying a dock around with you. The IPS panel (1600×900 resolution) does provide great viewing angles which helps this mode’s usage.
  • Tent mode: This mode, I am not too sure about, but for sake of completeness, let me describe it. You can fold the laptop so it becomes an inverted “V” and then use it as a photo frame.

I like it a lot because it is thin, it is light and it is not just another laptop. The skeptics may say that we have seen these before and they didn’t work then, so there is no reason they should work now – tablet users want a tablet, and PC users want a PC. Well, I was one of them! The difference between then and now is that this laptop is built for Windows 8. Lenovo didn’t even pretend that it is a Windows 7 PC upgradeable to Windows 8. Windows 8 is a touch-first operating system compared to Windows XP or even Windows 7 which is what powers the “legacy” convertibles.

The operating system being touch-first is one big difference, but also, the form factor. The convertibles of old were thick and bulky, almost like a tablet stacked on top of a regular laptop. The YOGA is sleek, and at 3lbs, it is lighter than most PCs in the market today. The person who was providing me the demo said that they are going to be able to shave another 100 grams before the machine becomes final!

There are many other Ultrabooks worth drooling over, at CES, but this is my best because finally there is a design which is different from the MacBook Air, and not just for the sake of being different (I am looking at you, HP with the Gorilla Glass-covered Ultrabook).

See below for a quick eyes-on, with a demonstration of all four modes in action.

Lenovo IdeaPad YOGA Video

Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph with Yet Another Cool Campaign (#smokedbywindowsphone): Smokes Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 4S, Others


At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Microsoft’s Ben Rudolph (@BenThePCGuy on twitter), the creator of several cool campaigns in the past like #DroidRage, outdid himself. This time, he first teased, and then announced a challenge where he would pay $100 to anyone whose phone could beat his Windows Phone (an HTC Titan) at common tasks. These tasks included identifying songs and downloading them from stores, updating social networks, finding a restaurant nearby with certain criteria and getting directions to it, etc.

The challenges were in fact suggested by the challengers, and mutually agreed upon. This laid rest to the speculation that the tests were rigged to help Windows Phone win (for example, uploading to Facebook which is native on Windows Phone but not anywhere else). Believe me, I was there, and I heard that allegation a lot.

The challenges were in fact suggested by the challengers, and mutually agreed upon!

Here’s Ben introducing the challenge:


So, how did it go? As of this morning, Ben tweeted that he had 30 wins, 3 losses and a draw. I say that is pretty fantastic considering that the challengers who lost included some of the latest and the greatest phones from competitors like the Galaxy Nexus, iPhone 4S, Galaxy S II, iPhone 4, etc. Heck, there was even a Palm Pre Plus!


One of Microsoft’s problems with Windows Phone has been awareness in the general market. Folks who use other smartphones have got used to those systems, and the best way to get the Windows Phone advantages across to them is for them to actually experience it. There is only so much someone can do if you walk them through the system (trust me, I have done that a lot, and it is good, but not ideal). That’s why this campaign is even more fantastic. It takes something that a person likes to do on the phone, and shows how they could do it faster on Windows Phone. 30 out of 34 challengers realized that at CES, and because they “lost” the challenge, it was a great opportunity for Ben to educate them on that specific feature and why Windows Phone is faster at it.

Some of the videos of Windows Phone “smoking” other phones out:


More videos are on this YouTube playlist. Check them out!

SpareOne Mobile Phone Promises 15 Years of Shelf Life

Yes, you read that right. SpareOne is a mobile phone that can stay alive for fifteen years without requiring a recharge or a battery replacement. Even more astonishingly, SpareOne doesn’t use some fancy new battery technology. It runs off a single AA battery!


SpareOne is positioning itself as backup phone that can come in handy in case of emergencies. Be it something as regular as a critical work related call, or as extreme as getting trapped in a flash flood, SpareOne wants to be the backup option that you can always rely on. Smartphone hardware has improved in leaps and bounds over the past few years. They are infinitely more capable than their predecessors, but they are also more power hungry than ever before. Multi-core smartphones with high speed data connectivity often fail to make it through the day without requiring a recharge. SpareOne attempts to return to the basics to solve this problem.

“SpareOne’s breakthrough technology provides an unprecedented lifeline during dire situations that require an emergency response,” said Alan Cymberknoh, SpareOne Project Director at XPAL Power. “By operating on a single AA battery, SpareOne solves so many daily issues, serving as a simple back-up phone you can carry without worrying whether it’s charged or not. It can be left in a car for emergencies, used by hotels who want to pre-program concierge numbers for guests, passed to your children or parents to maintain an open line of communication – it’s essentially designed to make and receive the most important calls, no matter what.”


In a CES dominated by smartphones and ultrabooks, SpareOne, with its curious shape, tiny screen, and keypad, looks like a relic of a bygone era. It is a dumb phone that is built only for calling and messaging. As far as connectivity is concerned, the first model to launch will be a dual band GSM handset that will accept microSIMs. WCDMA compatible versions will be released later in select regions. SpareOne also has a few other interesting tricks up its sleeve to help you in emergencies. It automatically attaches your approximate location with SMS by using the cell ID, and has a built-in torch – something that Nokia popularized in countries like India.

SpareOne is slated to go on sale during the first quarter of 2012 for $49.99.

Velocity Micro Cruz T507 and T510: Affordable Android 4.0 ICS Tablets

Velocity has been in the tablet business for a couple of years now, and despite not seeing much success, it continues to fight on, launching new Android tablets every year.

At CES 2012, it unveiled two new tablets – the Velocity Micro Cruz T507 and T510. Both run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, and come with some great hardware. The Velocity Micro Cruz T507 and T510 are powered by a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A8 processor and a ARM Mali 400 MHz GPU. They come with 512 MB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage.

Both have dual cameras, and come with mini USB and mini HDMI ports. The T510 sports a 9.7 inch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, while the T507 sports a 7 inch display with a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels. Both run Ice Cream Sandwich and come with Android Market as well as Amazon Appstore. They will ship with an optimized version of Adobe Flash 11.

Here’s the best part – the Velocity Micro Cruz T507 will be priced below $150, while the Velocity Micro Cruz T510 will be priced below $200, which will make them ideal for customers on a budget.

Check out our complete CES 2012 coverage: Techie-Buzz @ CES 2012

Here are some images of the Velocity Micro Cruz T510 and T507, courtesy The Verge:

Velocity Micro Cruz T510

Velocity Micro Cruz T507

Polaroid Announces 16 MP Android Cameraphone with Optical Zoom

In a somewhat surprising move, Polaroid has announced a new Android powered camera phone – the Polaroid SC1630. The SC1630 will feature a whopping 16 MP camera with 3x optical zoom and 5x digital zoom. On paper at least, it will boast of the most competent camera to grace an Android smartphone. According to Engadget, the shutter speed maxes out at 1/1400 second, aperture is between F3.1 – F5.6, and ISO can be dialed up to 3200.


The phone itself runs an unknown version of Android, powered by an unknown processor. However, we do know that it will have an 800 x 400 3.2-inch capacitive touchscreen, 512 MB internal storage, upto 32 GB expandable memory (microSD), and 512 MB RAM. All the standard features such as accelerometer, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS are present, in addition to some additional options like FM. The handset supports 850/1900/2100MHz WCDMA and 850/900/1800/1900 GSM.

Unfortunately, the heavy duty camera has its own disadvantages. Polaroid SC1630 is rather bulky and heavy with maximum thickness being 18.5 mm. In fact, Polaroid even had to opt for a smaller battery (1020 mAh) due to space constraints. This might turn out to be a major area of concern as Android is known to be a battery hungry operating system.

The SC1630 is expected to retail in April for a very reasonable price tag of $299. However, Polaroid once again had to compromise on multiple aspects, including build quality and design, in order to achieve this. The SC1630 has too many unknown factors and shortcomings for us to recommend it as a smartphone. Hopefully, Polaroid has done a damn good job with the camera, as otherwise this Android device is going to sink without a trace.

OnStar Decides to Allow Developers Access to Its API

Although cars have improved in speed, luxury and design, but the use of modern technology in car has always seen a slow growth. Except for high-end cars, the biggest piece of the technology pie that a car gets is a GPS navigation system on the dashboard. However, the sluggish world of in-car computing will be shaken by a new trend in the industry. OnStar Corporation, a subsidiary of General Motors has decided to make its API accessible to developers. This announcement was made at CES 2012, and it will probably spark a similar response from its competitors.

OnStar Corporation is a subsidiary of General Motors that provides subscription-based communications, in-vehicle security, hands free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote diagnostics systems throughout the United States, Canada and China. The service currently has more than six million customers.

OnStar uses mobile networks in the US and the GPS technology for data and location, respectively.

OnStar will allow developers access to its API, to create new apps on the Advanced Telematics Operating System (ATOM). It reached a variety of cars (last year) with their hi-tech rear-view mirror. They have bigger strategic plans in mind for this year. This access to the API will allow developers create applications on iOS, Android and the desktop. OnStar has also collaborated with RelayRides, which will let you rent out your car when it is not in use.

Companies like OnStar are very important for streamlined growth, in the in-car computing space. This move will create a central talent pool with specialized knowledge and experience of working with this technology. As more and more developers sign up to use the OnStar API, they will create apps that are more useful. With time, OnStar could capture cars independent of any manufacturer, like Android did in the world of mobiles.

However, some of the folks here at Techie-buzz are a bit skeptic about this news, as having access  to the API also lets a developer get a sneak-peek into you real-time location, your driving habits, your car conditions and above all, the security features in your car.

If you are a developer and are interested in getting access to the OnStar API, contact them at this email address: [email protected].

Dell Re-enters the Ultrabook Arena with XPS 13

Dell was one of the first companies to jump aboard the super-thin laptop bandwagon. However, after the ultraportable Adamo failed to make a dent, Dell seemingly dropped out of the race. It stood by and watched as Apple, Sony, HP, Asus and others flooded the market with ultrabooks during the 2011 holiday season. Now, with the XPS 13, Dell is re-entering the ultraportable laptop arena.


The XPS 13 is being touted as a 13.3 inch laptop in near 11 inch form factor. Thanks to the resilient edge to edge Gorilla glass, Dell has managed to do away with the bevel almost completely, thus saving previous space. The XPS 13 measures in at 18 mm at its thickest point, and weighs just over 1.36 kg. The ultrabook looks like the a child born out of a marriage between consumer and corporate laptops. The mix of machined aluminum and carbon fiber material used is stunning, but it’s still nowhere near as flashy as the HP Envy. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

The XPS 13 is quite obviously not built for gaming or heavy duty multimedia tasks, but it is no pushover either. Consumers have the option of choosing either Core i5 2467M or Core i7 2637M CPU. Dell’s ultrabook will ship with 4 GB RAM, SSD (128 GB or 256 GB), USB 3.0, and almost 9 hours of battery backup.

The XPS 13 will launch in March, and the base model is expected to cost about a thousand bucks.

Full Specification:

  • Ultrathin laptop (0.24-0.71”/6-18mm) with Microsoft Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium; precision machined aluminum with a carbon fiber composite base
  • Intel Core i5 2467M and i7 2637M processor choices
  • 13.3” HD WLED, 300-nit (1366×768) 720p; edge-to-edge hardened Gorilla Glass
  • Intel HD 3000 video graphics
  • 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1333Mhz memory
  • 128 GB SSD or 256GB SSD drive options
  • Full size, backlit chiclet keyboard; glass integrated button touchpad with multi-gesture support
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6230 802.11 A/G/N and Bluetooth 3.0 wireless connectivity
  • High definition audio with Waves MaxxAudio 4
  • Built-in 47WHr 6-cell battery (Dell XPS 13 batteries are built into the laptop and are not replaceable by the customer) offering up to eight hours, fifty-three minutes of battery life[5]; 45W AC adaptor
  • USB 3.0 (1) + USB 2.0 with PowerShare (1), mini Display-Port, and headset jack (1)
  • Built-in 1.3MP webcam (H.264 enabled via Skype) with dual array digital microphones
  • Dell ProSupport for business customers, Dell Configuration Services and Windows Trusted Platform Module options for commercial models
  • Dimensions: Height: 0.24-0.71” (6-18mm) / Width: 12.4” (316mm) / Depth 8.1” (205mm); Weight: starting at 2.99lbs (1.36 kg)

Update: The Ultrabook is now available for pre-order.