Acer and Lenovo Rumored to be Working on Intel Powered Windows 8 Tablets

Windows-8Digitimes has learned from its sources that Acer and Lenovo are preparing to launch Windows 8 tablets in the third quarter of 2012. Windows 8 will hit public beta in February, and is widely expected to reach RTM stage by May. With Windows 8, Microsoft is hoping to finally have a platform capable of taking on iOS in the tablet segment. Windows 8 merges the classical Windows desktop with a full-screen, touch optimized Metro UI, and will power everything from tablets and laptops to traditional desktop PCs.

Although Windows 8 is capable of running on the ARM platform, Acer and Lenovo plan on using Intel’s next generation Clover Trail platform for their tablets. As of now, Intel is getting clobbered in the mobile computing segment by ARM, which offers superior performance and power saving. Intel is expected to mount its first serious challenge with Medfield and Clover Trail, which will probably be out by Q3 of 2011. Intel will be demoing smartphones and tablets powered by its new mobile processors at CES 2012.

While the combination of Intel and Windows 8 is expected to offer previously unseen levels of performance and flexibility, the real test for Intel will be power efficiency. Even as mobile computing technology has continued to improve in leaps and bounds, the battery technology has remained practically stagnant. As a result, most mobile devices struggle to cope up with the demands of high speed 3G and 4G data networks and dual-core CPUs.

My 2012 Wish List for Windows Phone

Windows Phone

I have been using Windows Phone virtually from launch day, and have been patient with the team about so many things that have been missing from the OS. Windows Phone 7.5, aka Mango, addressed a lot of my complaints, but now I have another, deeper set of functionality (and wishes!) I’d like to see implemented.

The following is my wish list for Windows Phone for the year 2012. Given that one of the wishes is for more frequent updates, I am hoping some of the functionality gaps are filled sooner than later.

Ecosystem

  1. Market share: First and foremost, I’d like to see Windows Phone get to a decent market share. The stars have aligned nicely with RIM dying a slow death, and webOS being killed by HP for Windows Phone to be easily positioned as the #3 platform. However, it would be a pity if the 3rd-biggest  platform is at 5% with iOS and Android making up 95% of the market. It would be better if Windows Phone could get to 10-15% or above to really make it relevant. Education at carrier stores, more incentives for carrier salespeople, Nokia’s Rolling Thunder campaign, expansion to new markets, etc. should help.
  2. More Silicon Valley startup involvement: Most startups are not going to devote time to building Windows Phone apps with its market share around 1.5%. It simply does not make financial sense. I would like to see the Microsoft developer relations/evangelism folks to embed themselves in such startups and help them build the next cool appfor Windows Phone in addition to iOS/Android. For that, this evangelist team will have to work closely in Silicon Valley (and perhaps New York) to identify the companies which are doing great things in the mobile space and help them as early as possible in their lifecycle.
  3. Get existing marquee apps at par with iOS/Android counterparts: Microsoft would like us to believe that 90% of the top iOS/Android apps are available for Windows Phone. That may be arguable, but even existing apps like Facebook and Twitter have not seen updates to bring features at par with iOS/Android versions. For example, Facebook app does not support updating Groups or Twitter app (still) does not provide notifications. Also, given that some of these apps have been built by Microsoft, or even worse, by a third party, it is hard to understand who is to blame for the lack of functionality updates.
  4. Abandon the annual minor and major update cycle: Windows Phone has settled into a cycle where they have minor releases once a year and major updates once a year, each separated by about 6 months. While this is great for larger, non-mobile programs, it is absolutely slow in the mobile industry, especially for bug fixes and security updates. Until Windows Phone is  at  par with iOS and Android in terms of overall functionality, I don’t think they should settle down into a 6-month update cycle. Till then, the updates should be rapid, incremental and extremely frequent.

Windows Phone Marketplace Passes 50,000 Apps

According to a new report by AllAboutWindowsPhone, the very underrated Windows Phone platform has hit a new milestone – the Windows Phone Marketplace has now processed more than 50,000 app submissions. That’s much lower than the Apple iOS App Store, which has more than 500,000 apps and even Google’s Android which offers almost as many apps as iOS, but it’s a very important milestone which showcases the amount of developer interest in the Windows Phone platform despite it being very late to the market.

While Windows Phone reached this milestone in 14 months, Apple did it in 12 months, while Android took around 19 months.

In the last month, around 265 new apps have been added to the Windows Phone Marketplace every day. Going forward, we expect Windows Phone to add new apps at an increasing rate, as it becomes one of the top three smartphone platforms after Android and iOS.

Note: The total number of apps currently available in the Windows Phone Marketplace is less than 50,000. It’s slightly less than 48,000, according to statistics by WP7AppList. The discrepancy is because some apps have been removed by either Microsoft or by the publisher. However, Microsoft should offer more than 50,000 apps by the next two weeks, going by the current rate at which apps are being submitted to the Marketplace.

Windows Phone 50000 Apps

Motorola Infringed on One Microsoft Patent

If you have been following the patent wars in the mobile industry closely, you must know that Microsoft now has a patent licensing deal with almost all major Android manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, ViewSonic, Acer, Onkyo, Wistron, Quanta and some I didn’t even know existed until they signed the deal with Microsoft.

However, Motorola is one of the few Android device manufacturers which hasn’t yet succumbed to Microsoft’s charms (or assault, depending on how you look at it), and is fighting Microsoft in the courts. That may have something to do with it being acquired by Google, by the way.

Anyway, we have some updates on the patent battle between Microsoft and Motorola. Microsoft had filed a lawsuit alleging that Motorola infringed on 9 patents it owned. Today, the International Trade Commission issued an initial ruling that stated that some Motorola products infringe on one Microsoft patent, but not on 6 other patents originally mentioned in the lawsuit.

Not surprisingly, both Microsoft and Motorola are claiming the ruling as a victory for themselves.

We are pleased with the ITC’s initial determination finding Motorola violated four claims of a Microsoft patent. As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward,stated Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard.

We view it as a huge win for us. They had, originally, nine patents in their first case. They are down to one patent, effectively.said Motorola General Counsel Scott Offer.

While the battle is far from over, the long-drawn patent battles, which seemed interesting initially, are getting now getting very irritating and forcing device manufacturers to focus on fighting lawsuits instead of making new innovative products. The patent system seriously needs to be rebuilt from the grounds up.

In the meanwhile, Microsoft may add another cash cow – Motorola – to its herd, which it will probably keep milking for cash in the form of a patent licensing fee. Google’s plan to acquire Motorola for its patent portfolio may have backfired.

Apple Moving Forward with New TV Plans

When Walter Isaacson was working on Steve Jobs’ biography, he revealed that Apple was working on a new TV. Steve Jobs even told Isaacson that he had “finally cracked it [TV].”

According to a new report by WSJ, Apple is now moving forward with its TV plans. Apple executives have been discussing their TV plans with executives from many large media companies.

Apple is currently working on technology which would respond to users’ voices and movements, and allow them to control their TV using voice commands and hand gestures. Apple’s current TV offering has failed any significant traction. Apple itself branded it as a hobby project when it failed to take off.

It isn’t clear whether Apple is working on new Apple TV hardware, or if it’s just working to find different ways to bring more content to Apple TV. WSJ reports that Apple has considered licensing content directly from media companies to create a subscription service.

Apparently, Apple’s TV device would use a version of AirPlay, which would allow users to control it from their iPhones and iPads. It would also allow users to watch their TV content on their iPhone or iPad, while on the move. Additionally, it will also enable users to stream content from their mobile devices to their TVs.

Television is one of the few traditional industries left which hasn’t yet been disrupted by the advances in technology. Apple, Google, and Microsoft are all trying to gain control of the user’s living room. So far, none of them have really succeeded. Google TV has been a huge flop, while Microsoft has achieved only marginal success with Xbox Live.

The TV industry in the U.S. was worth nearly $150 billion in 2011. Given its history, Apple seems to be in the best position to negotiate content deals with the major players in the TV industry.

Nokia Doesn’t Have an “Exact Plan” for Windows 8 Tablets

In November, the head of Nokia France implied in an interview that Nokia was working with Microsoft on a Windows 8 tablet, which would be launched in 2012. However, in an interview today, Nokia’s CEO, Stephen Elop specifically said that Nokia doesn’t have an exact plan for entering the tablet market yet.

“Nokia does not have an exact plan, but we are studying the markets carefully. Perhaps we will come [to market] one day,” said Stephen Elop.

Nokia embraced Microsoft’s Windows Phone last year, and dumped Symbian. Nokia’s new Lumia phones have been getting rave reviews, and are expected to have good sales.

Microsoft will be launching Windows 8 in mid-2012, and most hardware manufacturers like Dell, HP and Samsung are already working on Windows 8 tablets.

Nokia is also expected to launch Windows 8 tablets eventually, but going by Stephen Elop’s statement today, don’t expect a Nokia Windows tablet anytime soon. It’s probably already late to the tablet party, which is now dominated by iOS and Android. Let’s just hope it makes up its mind, and launches a Windows 8 tablet soon after the Windows 8 launch.

Elop also confirmed that Nokia’s headquarters will stay in Espoo, Finland, amid speculation that Nokia would relocate its head offices to the U.S or the U.K.

“There’s no doubt about that. As long as I’m chief executive, the main office is in Espoo. Nokia has so much talent here in Finland. Also the key product development units and leaders are here.”

Microsoft Finally Makes Internet Explorer Updates Automatic and Seamless

Internet-ExplorerInternet Explorer users have proved to be extremely stubborn when it comes to updating their browsers. Internet Explorer 6, which was released more than 10 years ago, still commands 8.3% of the market share. Millions of users have clung on to outdated releases in spite of the fact that many modern websites don’t even work on them. One of the main culprits behind the slow adoption rate of newer versions of Internet Explorer has been the update system.

Google automatically and seamlessly updates Chrome whenever a new version is available. Mozilla Firefox and Opera also does the same. However, updating Internet Explorer requires manual intervention. Now, this is finally going to change.

“With automatic updates enabled through Windows Update, customers can receive IE9 and future versions of Internet Explorer seamlessly without any update fatigueissues”, wrote Ryan Gavin, General Manager of Internet Explorer Business and Marketing.

Going forward, Microsoft will be automatically updating users to the latest version of Internet Explorer for their system. Enterprise users and others who don’t want to be automatically updated can use the Automatic Update Blocker toolkits. Users who have declined previous installations of IE8 or IE9 through Windows Update will also not be automatically updated. Browser settings including favorites and search preferences will be retained between updates.

Even this won’t solve the issue completely as Microsoft has refused to support older operating systems in the recent versions of Internet Explorer. Internet Explorer 9 ditched Windows XP, while Internet Explorer 10 will drop Vista compatibility. However, it should at the very least help us in getting rid of Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Microsoft plans to begin the Automatic Update procedure with Australia and Brazil in Janurary, and then move on to the rest of the world.

Microsoft Unveils So.cl: Social Network for Students, Powered by Facebook Connect

Microsoft has finally unveiled So.cl, its new social network. We had reported on Socl earlier, when speculation suggested that Microsoft was aiming to compete with Facebook, Twitter and Google+ by launching its own network – Socl.

At that point, we commented that it would likely fail, just like Apple’s Ping. However, it turns out that Microsoft is still quite friendly with Facebook, and isn’t going up against it in the social arena just yet.

Microsoft Research just launched So.cl, which is a social network aimed at students. It is powered by Facebook Connect, and requires you to sign in using your Facebook account if you want to use it.

Like Facebook, it is rolling out slowly, and is currently available only for a few universities.

Apparently, So.cl has ben designed to enable students to “extend their educational experience and rethink how they learn and communicate.” It lets them “find students with similar interests and build communities around specific educational goals.”

So.cl aims to connect users not with their friends, but with people they don’t know who share similar interests. It won’t replace existing social networks, but may succeed in creating a niche of its own.

As we reported before, it comes with social search features powered by Bing, and also allows users to share videos using a Video Party feature. It also has instant blogging features, which allow you to share content easily.

You can check out Microsoft Socl here – So.cl

Microsoft Socl

Bill Gates is Not Coming Back to Microsoft

There has been a lot of speculation about the possible comeback of Bill Gates to Microsoft in the last couple of weeks, after Fortune hypothesized what Bill Gates’ return to Microsoft would be like.

Today, in an interview with Fairfax Media, Gates confirmed that he won’t be coming back to Microsoft. Instead, he will be focusing on his philanthropic foundation – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for”the rest of his life.”

“I’m part-time involved with Microsoft, including even being in touch this week to give some of my advice but that’s not going to change the foundation requires all of my energy and we feel we’re having a great impact,” said Bill Gates.

Ever since Bill Gates quit in 2000, Microsoft’s share price has dropped almost 50% and has been stagnating under $30 for many years. Apple’s stock, on the other hand, has risen exponentially in that period – Apple is now the most valuable company in the world.

Steve Ballmer has been asked to resign as Microsoft’s CEO by many prominent investors, including David Einhorn.

Steve Jobs and Larry Page are among some founders who returned to the helm to help their companies. Steve Jobs was wildly successful, while Larry Page’s return seems to be helping Google’s share price too.

Windows Phone Executive Shakeup: Andy Lees Out, Terry Myerson In

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Ina Fried at AllThingsD reported earlier today that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer had removed Andy Lees as the President of Windows Phone division. Terry Myerson, who has led the engineering effort for Windows Phone 7 and 7.5, will take over Lees’ duties. Ballmer’s memo was later posted on Microsoft’s News Center.

This news comes as surprise to me. Microsoft just completed a successful rollout of the latest Windows Phone update, Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. At the same time, Nokia just started selling their devices in Europe and Asia and are on the cusp of making their highly-anticipated return to the United States. In other words, it is a crucial time for Microsoft’s Windows Phone leadership to ensure the device sales pick up pace and that the boat is not rocked too much.

One way to look at this change is to think that Lees was relived of his duties because he was unable to get Windows Phone sales to a level that could make the platform count. Although, if that were the case, I’d argue that it would be cause for firing him than just moving him out of his leadership role. In this case though, Ballmer has revealed that he is moving Lees to a different position under him, for a time-critical opportunity focused on driving maximum impact in 2012 with Windows Phone and Windows 8. Interesting choice of words. I’ll get back to this point later.

Moving the operations of the division under an engineering person implies Microsoft is now shifting itself to be more engineering-led rather than business/marketing. Back in February 2011, Ballmer had reportedly planned to put more engineering-focused executives in a management shuffle. This move may be in fact be in line with that vision. I like that general realignment strategy because I believe Microsoft needs to get a bit more focused on delivering the vision than just painting the broad strokes.