Early Build of Windows Blue Leaks

Windows Blue, the successor to Windows 8, which is expected to be released towards the tail end of this year, made an early appearance yesterday in the form of a leaked interim build. The leaked build is a 32 bit edition of Windows Blue with a build id of 9364.0.

Since its appearance, it has been thoroughly dissected by several Microsoft watchers, including the likes of WinSuperSite and The Verge. As anticipated, Windows Blue is an incremental update, rather than a major overhaul as Windows 8 was. It builds upon the foundation laid by Windows 8, and tries to alleviate some of the major pain points.

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Improved Multi-tasking
For me, the biggest enhancement is the new half-screen app snapping. The Metro UI is simply too inhibiting on larger form factors (especially on PCs) because it only allows 1 app to be in the foreground at a time. There is an app-snapping feature, but that only allows the second app to run in a mini-mode within a quarter of the screen. In Windows Blue, you can run two apps side by side in a 50/50 screen sharing mode. In fact, Blue supports as many as four apps side-by side.

Enhanced Metro Settings
One of the biggest problems with Windows 8 is its split personality. No where is the half hazard division between Classic and Modern UI more apparent than the Settings. While the Modern UI has its own PC Settings app, it’s woefully inadequate. Most crucial settings are present only in the classic Control Panel. Windows Blue takes a step forward by adding several more options to the new PC Settings app.

Enhanced Charms
Microsoft has added two new options to the Charms menu. The Share charms has received a new screenshot option for quickly capturing a screenshot and sharing it, while the Devices charm has been augmented with a play option.

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Enhanced Start Screen
Windows Blue adds two new Tiles to the start screen – the first one is minuscule, while the second one is oversized. Additionally, Windows Blue prevents accidental modification of the Start screen by locking it down. You need to specifically select the Customize option to be able to modify the layout.

And More
There are several other changes including new apps (Alarms, Calculate, Sound Recorder, and Movie Moments), improved SkyDrive Modern UI app, Internet Explorer 11, and new gestures.

Windows Blue is a step in the right direction. It attempts to solve some of the biggest issues with Windows 8. However, Microsoft still has some distance to travel. Modern UI is growing up, but still isn’t mature enough to stand on its own. Windows Blue will be a cheap (possibly even free) upgrade for existing Windows 8 user, which is expected to be released later this year.

[ Images via The Verge ]

Samsung Galaxy Premier Leaked

Samsung officially unveiled the Galaxy SIII Mini moments ago. Although the handset is titled as Galaxy SIII Mini, based on the specifications, it is more appropriate to call it the SII Mini. However, Samsung has another handset in the pipeline, which should fit in between the Galaxy SIII and the Galaxy SIII Mini – the Galaxy Premier.

Samsung is yet to open up about the Premier, but Mobile Geeks has already outed the device. The Galaxy Premier will sport a 4.65-inch 720p HD Super AMOLED display, and run on a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor. Other specifications include an 8-megapixel rear camera, 8GB or 16GB internal storage, microSD expansion, 14.4 Mbps HSDPA, 5.76 Mbps HSUPA, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, GPS, and DLNA.

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Samsung is really going for a consistent look and feel for their 2012 line of products, and the Premier will also retain the nature inspired Galaxy SIII design. I find this pretty disappointing as the original Galaxy SIII design itself was nothing to brag about. Sony or Motorola’s approach of allowing each of its handsets to stand out is much more refreshing and exciting.

The Galaxy Premier will be available for €480, which equates to about $620. However, it will most probably be just for the international markets.

Sony’s 2013 Android Lineup Spotted; Odin to Be the Next Xperia Flagship

AndroidSony has been pretty active this year, releasing new handsets every few weeks. Some might argue that Sony would perhaps be better served by focusing on releasing a handful of stellar performers, rather than confusing customers with dozens of different choices. However, Sony’s strategy of moving fast is definitely more preferable over its previous habit of mostly sitting and watching. It appears to be finally capable of releasing smartphones with both hardware and software that are current generation. The Japanese giant’s hard work seems to be paying off as reports suggest that Sony is now selling more devices in Europe than Nokia and Research in Motion. Of course, that isn’t really saying much, but it’s still progress.

2013 will hopefully see Sony continue its march in the right direction. While Sony has understandably been tight lipped about its next-gen devices, proof has emerged of the existence of at least three devices belonging to the 2013 lineup. The first device, which goes by the codename ‘Odin’ and sports a model number C650X, will be next year’s flagship. Unfortunately, the only thing that we know about the device at the moment is that it is running Jelly Bean (Android 4.1.1).

The other two devices that have been spotted are C150X and C160X. A Nenamark2 benchmark for the C160X suggests that the handset will be an entry level offering powered by a 1.0GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM7227A chipset with Adreno 200 graphics. It will most likely feature a small display (less than 4 inch) with a resolution of 320 x 480 pixels. No info is currently available for the C150X, but the model number suggests that it will possibly be an even cheaper variant of the C160X.

Android 4.2 will Feature Improved Battery Life Thanks to Project Roadrunner

Android-4-2Android 4.2 is expected to be announced sometime next month, along with the next Nexus device, which will be manufactured by LG. Google has managed to retain the veil of secrecy around the next version of Android. However, as we approach the official launch date, we will almost surely start seeing blurry cams and leaked information from “anonymous” tipsters. Kicking things off is Android and Me with a set of fresh rumors about the star attractions of the next iteration of Android.

Android 4.1 or Jelly Bean introduced a host of under the hood changes as a part of ‘Project Butter’, which increased the responsiveness of the Android user interface. Similarly, Google engineers have been working on something called ‘Project Roadrunner’ for Android 4.2. Project Roadrunner is going to deliver core improvements that will improve battery life.

Android 4.2 will also deliver several more visible improvements. The biggest of them revolving around the new ‘Customization Center’, which will act as a hub from where users will be able to change ringtones, language packs, background, launchers, and so on. Third-party Android apps will also be able to integrate themselves with the Customization Center. While the Customization Center will not sport anything too fancy in its first outing, it will support some form of icon packs and skins.

Google Play will be improved to support personalized search, optional promotional campaigns with notification center integration, more billing options, and easier in-app micro-transactions. Google Now will be able to answer basic system related questions like “Where can I activate Bluetooth?” that will help out new Android users. Finally, the video player will be revamped and provide more API hooks for third-party services.

Google will also reportedly change its Nexus program. Until now, Google has been releasing one Nexus device to showcase each major Android OS update. Google picked the Android OEM (original equipment manufacturer) for each Nexus device. It started off with HTC for the Nexus One, but has since used Samsung. Rumors suggest that LG is manufacturing a Nexus device for Android 4.2. However, LG might not be the only manufacturer to be working on a Nexus device. According to Android and Me’s source, Google is going to open up the Nexus program so that any manufacturer can launch a Nexus device. Currently, each manufacturer must meet some basic requirements to be able to use the Play store. Similarly, they will have to meet some additional requirements to be able to use the Nexus tag. For example, Nexus certification will have stipulations that will force manufacturers to use stock Android build and support Google Wallet. In other words, Nexus will simply become a certification program in the feature. Any device carrying the Nexus tag will offer an Android experience that will be in line with what Google wants.

Blackberry London Gets Photographed, to Be Released in January

The writing is on the wall for RIM. The Canadian smartphone giant was caught napping as iOS and Android stole its thunder. Not only was RIM too late to realize the potential of new-age, touch-first smartphones, its first few attempts to compete with Google and Apple were abysmal failures. Now, as Samsung continues to ship millions of Android smartphones, Apple books millions of pre-orders for its new baby, and Nokia inches towards releasing a promising alternative for the holiday season, Research in Motion is left without a flagship that can reverse its fortunes. In a meek attempt to regain investor and consumer confidence, RIM demoed the half-baked BlackBerry 10 as far back as May 2012. However, the first BB 10 devices won’t show up before January ’13.

BlackBerry 10 devices will mainly fall in two categories – the full-touch L series, and the hardware QWERTY sporting N series. RIM is yet to disclose any information about its new line of smartphones. However, BGR has spotted a couple of pictures of a full-touch Blackberry that goes by the codename London. London doesn’t appear to have any standout design features like the iPhone 5 or the Lumia 920; however, it looks pretty decent.

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BlackBerry-London-Picture-Front-Back

RIM has its task cut out as London and Nevada (its first N-series device) can’t afford to be anything short of stunning for BlackBerry to be able to offer even a semblance of competition to Android and iOS, both of which have a mature platform and a flourishing app ecosystem.

HTC Droid Incredible X Leaked; Will Go Heads-On Against Samsung Note 2

I am not a big fan of the phone-tablet hybrid segment that Samsung has been pushing with its Galaxy Note series of products. These devices, which are often referred to by the awkward sounding moniker phablet, are too large to be used comfortably as a phone and are too small to realize the benefits of a tablet. However, I must be in the minority as the Note has been doing pretty well.

If rumors are to be believed then HTC is also preparing to join Samsung. HTC Source has learnt from a tipster that the HTC hybrid device bears a codename DIx (which might stand for Droid Incredible X), and will sport a Qualcomm S4 Pro chip with four Krait cores. Other rumored specs include a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. This actually amounts to a pixel density of 440 ppi; however, somewhat confusingly, the source believes that the DIx will have a pixel density of 480 ppi.

The DIx will offer 1.5 GB RAM, and 16 GB internal storage. Unfortunately, no expansion slot will be provided. The battery is also said to be non-removable.

As always, take these rumors with a pinch of salt, but we do have a leaked snap of the device in question, which is embedded below.

HTC-Droid-Incredible-X

Microsoft Kills the Start Button, New Windows 8 Screenshots Leaked

Windows 8 is a bold new step forward for Microsoft. We already know that the Redmond giant will be ditching the traditional Start Menu in favor of its Metrofied full-screen cousin. Now, it appears that Microsoft has also made up its mind to get rid of the Start button, which has been a hallmark of Windows operating systems for almost two decades.

Windows-8-No-Start-Button

In Windows 8 developer preview, the Start button’s role was reduced to toggling between Metro and classic interface, and displaying “Charms”, which provide quick access to some basic functionality. However, newer builds of Windows 8, such as build 8220 that is pictured above, does away with the Start button completely. According to Neowin, Microsoft has instead decided to implement a hot corner in the bottom left of the screen, which will both provide access to Charms, and facilitate toggling between the Metro and classic user interface. Touchscreen users will be able to access the same functionality through a swipe gesture.

The death of the iconic Start button will undoubtedly trigger mourning across the web; however, one has to agree that this had to happen sooner or later. The new full-screen, touch optimized Start page pretty much stole the Start button’s thunder.

The beta of Windows 8 is slated to be released in a few weeks. Meanwhile, here are a few more screenshots of Windows 8 post developer preview (build 8220) to ponder over.

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Windows-8-USB-to-Go
Windows-8-Power-Shell

Microsoft Office 15 Beta Planned for January 2012

Microsoft-Office-15The next generation of Microsoft Office, titled Office 15, is expected to be released towards the end of next year. However, we should be able to get our first taste of Office 15 a lot sooner than that. If WinRumours sources are correct, then the first technical preview will be released in early January at the CES, followed by a public beta towards the end of the same month.

We have been tracking the development of Office 15 for more than a year. However, we still have very little concrete information about Microsoft’s market leading productivity suite. Microsoft is widely expected to adopt the new Metro interface, which has already impressed us in Windows Phone 7 and Windows 8. Office 15 should also play better with touchscreen devices like tablets. Earlier in the year, screenshots of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook leaked out, followed by a M2 build. The leaked build included a new tile-based gallery app called Moorea that is showcased below.

The first beta of Windows 8 is also expected to be released at the next CES. Windows 8 will be Microsoft’s first operating system that has been designed from the ground up to work in multiple form factors and even multiple hardware architectures. Office 15 has the potential to become one of Windows 8’s biggest unique selling points as far as tablets are concerned. However, the million dollar question is, can Microsoft successfully make a traditional desktop app like Office usable and intuitive on smaller resolution touchscreen tablets? Come January, we should have the answer.

Sony Ericsson’s First Dual Core Android Smartphone Leaked [Pictures]

Sony Ericsson’s current flagship, the Xperia Arc S, seems grossly underpowered when compared with the dual-core beasts from other major Android smartphone manufacturers like Samsung, HTC, and LG. While Sony Ericsson got its software segment in order in 2011, it was let down by the hardware department. It made a lot of right calls to woo the Android aficionados, including shipping devices with Gingerbread, unlocking the boot loader, and even officially providing support to the ROM development community. Both the Arc and Arc S are stunning handsets with a gorgeous body and a snappy operating system. Unfortunately, under the hood, both of them house a single core CPU that make the Xperia devices a dubious choice for the demanding consumer.

The good news is that Sony Ericsson’s next flagship device is indeed going to be a dual-core power house that can compete with the latest and greatest from other smartphone manufacturers. The device, which is currently going by the name Sony Ericsson Xperia Nozomi LT26i, will be powered by a 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU and have 1 GB of RAM. Here are some leaked snaps by the way of JustAmp.

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Sony-Ericsson-Nozomi-Back
Sony-Ericsson-Nozomi-About

Nozomi will sport a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, with a massive resolution of 1280×720 pixels. While Google’s Nexus Prime also has similar resolution, it has a slightly bigger screen, which means that the Nozomi will have an advantage as far as pixel density is concerned. Detailed spec-sheet for Nozomi is currently not available; however, from the leaked snaps it is clear that SE will include both front and rear cameras. The pictured handset is running Android Gingerbread 2.3.5, but this can change before release. Given that the handset will probably be released in Q1 2012, Sony Ericsson should ideally launch its next flagship with Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0).

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Gingerbread Update Might Deliver Multi-touch and More

Sony Ericsson has come a long way since last year, when it released its first Android handset the Xperia X10. It got a lot of things wrong with the X10. However, it seems to have learnt its lesson. This year it launched the Arc and the Neo with the latest version of Android. It decoupled its custom skin (UX) from the Android core. It gave users of the new Xperia handsets the option of unlocking the bootloader. It backtracked on its initial announcement, and decided to provide the Gingerbread update to the Xperia X10. It delivered dual touch to the X10. And, Sony Ericsson doesn’t seem to be done yet.

Sony-Ericsson-Xperia-X10If Sony Ericsson Brazil is to be believed, then the new update will introduce full multi-touch support to the Xperia X10. As mentioned above, Sony Ericsson delivered dual-touch to the X10 through a firmware update released earlier in the year. While dual-touch is good enough for pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scrolling, and other simple operations, it is often not good enough for gaming. SE Brazil reiterated in the comments section of its blog update that the new update will indeed deliver full multi-touch, and promised more details soon. The multi-touch issue has been a sensitive one for Xperia X10 owners since Sony Ericsson has changed its position multiple times. While this news will undoubtedly excite Xperia X10 owners, it will also raises a very important question. Full multi-touch support through nifty software tricks is impossible. And if the Xperia X10 hardware was capable of multi-touch all along, then why did Sony Ericsson insist to the contrary?

Unconfirmed chatter also suggests that Sony Ericsson might deliver multiple other improvements including 16 M colors, new kernel, and an unlocked bootloader. The update is scheduled for Q3, 2011; however, don’t be shocked if it is released earlier.