Buying Guide: Best Windows Phone 7 Smartphones in India [2011]

Unlike many others, I quite like Windows Phone 7. Lately, I had gotten bored with Android, and I had a chance to try out a friend’s Windows Phone 7 device. The new tiles based user interface is a refreshing change from the standard icon based fare on both Android and iOS. It may not have hundreds of thousands of apps like the Apple App Store or the Android Market, but it does offer most of the essential ones. Additionally, one of the best things about Windows Phone 7 is that Microsoft enforces a set of minimum hardware requirements, which makes sure that even the mid range Windows Phone 7 devices are fast and responsive. You also don’t have to worry about OS upgrades; every Windows Phone 7 device will get the Mango upgrade.

Until recently, most Windows Phone 7 devices were priced prohibitively high, in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 range. In the last month, there have been a series of price cuts, which have brought some great Windows Phone 7 devices in the Rs 15,000 price range.

There are only a few Windows Phone 7 devices available in India. Of the available options, if I had to buy one, it would probably be the

HTC Mozart

HTC Mozart

Buy the HTC Mozart at Flipkart

The HTC Mozart was one of the best Windows Phone 7 devices which were released in the initial wave. Despite having a smaller display than the other phones, it received rave reviews.

It comes with a 3.7 inch S-LCD display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. It has an 8 MP camera with autofocus and Xenon flash, probably one of the best in the entire spectrum of Windows Phone 7 devices.

It comes with a 1 GHz Scorpion processor and an Adreno 200 GPU with 576 MB RAM. It has 8 GB internal storage and offers all the standard connectivity options – Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 with A2DP, 3G HSDPA and is powered by a 1300 mAh battery.

If you still aren’t convinced, here’s the best part. It is now available for just Rs 16,499. This makes it the cheapest Windows Phone 7 device in India. It offers the most bang for your buck from the current crop of WP7 smartphones.

HTC HD7

HTC HD7

Buy the HTC HD7 at Flipkart

This is another good Windows Phone 7 option available to Indians. It comes with a bigger 4.3 inch LCD display, with the same resolution – 480 x 800 pixels. It is powered by the same processor – 1 GHz Scorpion – and has the same GPU – Adreno 200. It also has the exact same amount of RAM – 576 MB.

However, there is one shortcoming – it comes with a 5 MP camera, which isn’t as good as the HTC Mozart’s 8 MP shooter.

It’s also a bit more expensive than the HTC Mozart, at Rs 17,599.

If I had to choose between the two, I would go with the Mozart.

Dell Venue Pro

Dell Venue Pro

Buy the Dell Venue Pro at Flipkart

The Dell Venue Pro was the phone that caught my attention when it was first unveiled as part of the Windows Phone 7 lineup. It was different from all the other WP7 devices, with a vertical sliding QWERTY keypad.

It has identical hardware under the hood – 1 GHz Scorpion CPU, Adreno 200 GPU, and slightly less RAM – 512 MB. It comes with a 5 MP camera too.

It has a 4.1 inch AMOLED display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. While it beats the Mozart in terms of display size and quality, and the presence of a physical keypad, it is much more expensive, at Rs 23,999.

If You Can Wait…

If you aren’t in a hurry, you might want to wait for a couple of months. Microsoft is planning to launch a series of new Windows Phone 7 smartphones by HTC, Samsung, LG and of course, Nokia. They will definitely be much better than the current crop in terms of hardware, and should be priced in the Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 range.

Some of them may also be budget devices priced under Rs 20,000.

You might also want to check out my Android Smartphone Buying Guide for 2011.

At Google, Left Hand Unaware Of What Right Hand’s Doing

Today morning, the anti-Microsoft and anti-patent teams joined voices in slamming Microsoft (and Apple) for strangling Android with patents. We wrote about how Google tried to take the moral high ground and ride on their high horse of (non-existent) openness into the bliss of community love.

Google’s David Drummond implied Microsoft and Apple were working together to make it difficult for OEMs to use Android using patent lawsuits as leverage. Google’s Eric Schmidt has made bold challenges  that competition is not innovating and instead using patents against Android. As it turns out, Microsoft invited Google to join them in the bid for Nortel patents and Google’s lawyer (Kent Walker) declined. Yes, they said that they didn’t want to be a part of the consortium. Now, with that in mind, a long blog post, slamming Microsoft and Apple with the title “When patents attack” seems rather intriguing. Why would you first say that you don’t want to be a part of the team and then accuse the team of not playing fair? They asked you to join, you declined, your loss.

What makes this saga interesting is that the anti-Microsoft feeling was quite evident. Tech reporters pointed their guns at Microsoft calling them evil when in fact Microsoft presented Google with an olive branch that Google arrogantly declined. And in attempt to score brownie points ended up making a PR blunder by presenting skewed version of the story.

Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith remarked on Twitter:

brad-smith

Microsoft’s corporate communications lead shared with the Internet the screenshot of Kent Walker’s (Google Attorney) email:

kent walker

GmailMan no deliver mail, Google?

Google: “Microsoft and Apple are Using Patents as a Weapon to Stop Innovation”

The patent wars just got official. Google has posted an official statement blaming Microsoft, Apple and Oracle for carrying out “a hostile, organized campaign against Android.” The post by David Drummond, SVP and Chief Legal Officer at Google, elaborates how Microsoft and Apple first acquired Novell’s old patents, and now Nortel’s patents, just to make sure Google didn’t get them.

Microsoft has been trying to profit at the expense of Android, seeking $15 license fees from Android manufacturers like Samsung for every Android device that they sell. Apple has also been involved in litigation against HTC and Samsung over iPhone design patents.

Google accused them of “attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Mobile; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it.”

Android

David also pointed out how Microsoft and Apple’s anti-competitive strategies are escalating the cost of patents. The price of the Nortel patent portfolio which was estimated to be worth less than a billion dollars was bid up to $4.5 billion. Even InterDigital, the latest company on the block with a large patent portfolio is likely to be sold for more than $5 billion (its market cap just a month ago was less than $2 billion), just for its 8,800 patents.

Even Google has been trying to buy some patents to defend itself against its competitors. “We’re also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone.”

Google also pointed out that the Nortel story is far from over; that the Department of Justice is ” looking into whether Microsoft and Apple acquired the Nortel patents for anti-competitive means.”

One thing is for certain, with Google taking it public, it’s definitely going to get even more interesting.

Microsoft Announces a Contest for Security Researchers

Microsoft’s Trustworthy Computing Group has announced a new initiative to inspire computer security researchers to focus on security defense technologies. The announcement was made today at the Black Hat 2011 security conference in Las Vegas. The inaugural Microsoft BlueHat Prize intends to encourage the world’s most talented researchers and academics to tackle key security challenges and generate original ideas to protect customers and provide a more secure computing experience.

bluehat

The BlueHat Prize is the first and largest award offered by Microsoft for defensive computer security technology. With over a quarter million dollars in cash and prizes, the BlueHat Prize will motivate the community and foster greater collaboration with researchers across the industry. Researchers will own the intellectual property from their inventions and Microsoft will be able to use the technology under a royalty-free license.

Microsoft wants to encourage more security experts to think about ways to reduce threats to computing devices. We’re looking to collaborate with others to build solutions to tough industry problems. We believe the BlueHat Prize will encourage the world’s most talented researchers and academics to tackle key security challenges and offer them a chance to impact the world.

– Katie Moussouris, senior security strategist lead for the Microsoft Security Response Center

The contest challenges security researchers to design innovative solutions to address serious security threats such as Data Execution Prevention (DEP) which helps prevent attacks that attempt to exploit vulnerabilities in software. The solution considered to be the most innovative by the Microsoft BlueHat Prize board will be presented the grand prize of US $200,000. A second prize of US $50,000 and a third prize of MSDN Universal subscription (valued at US $10,000) will also be given away.

The contest entries should be emailed to [email protected] between August 3rd 2011 to April 1st 2012. Microsoft will judge entries based on practicality and functionality, robustness, and the impact. The winning entry will be announced at Black Hat USA 2012.

Move over, Yahoo Yodel. In Europe, it’s Time to Bing.

As part of the Yahoo! and Microsoft Search Alliance, from August 3, Yahoo! search results in Europe will be powered by Bing. Yahoo! will be migrating organic search results for its European properties to the Bing search index.

Yahoo - Microsoft Search Alliance

Organic (also referred to as algorithmic) search results are the non-paid listings found on the main body of the Yahoo! search page. This transition will happen for Yahoo UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy. At this time, Yahoo! is not transitioning paid search results to Microsoft Advertising adCenter and companies can continue using their Yahoo! Search Marketing accounts.

In August 2010, a similar transition happened for Yahoo.com. After the transition, there were no changes in the branding or search experience, except a Powered by BingTM‘ text in the footer of the search page.

If you are a webmaster and organic search results bring traffic to your site, you are advised to compare your organic search rankings on Yahoo! Search and Bing for the keywords that drive your business and check for any potential impact to your website traffic. You might also want to check if you need to modify your paid search campaigns. Also, if you are not using the Bing webmaster tools, it is a good idea to do that now to ensure your site is prominently listed in both Yahoo! and Bing organic search results.

Nokia Changes Product Naming Convention; Does It Even Matter?

Nokia recently launched the new Nokia 500, a new Symbian smartphone powered by the Symbian Anna OS. All of you who were expecting to see a high end smartphone which could compete with Android heavyweights like the Samsung Galaxy S 2 or the HTC Sensation, be disappointed. It’s just a standard Symbian touchscreen phone with a 1 GHz processor. Except for bumping up the clock speed, Nokia doesn’t seem to have put in any effort at all, in the Nokia 500.

In fact, the only thing that excited most Nokia fans was that Nokia seemed to have deviated from its product naming norms, which had produced gems like Nokia C3-01, Nokia X2-03, and Nokia CRXT-07126 before. Ok, I was kidding about the last one, but Nokia has traditionally had some of the most confusing device names in the past. As they themselves admit, “What about comparing a Nokia C3 and a Nokia C3-01? It turns out they’re actually very different devices.”

Today, in a post at Nokia Conversations, Nokia has announced that they will be using a new product naming convention.

They have also tried to explain it in the post:

“The first number is the relative price/feature point. So a Nokia 900* would be top dog and a Nokia 100* is the most accessible option. The second two numbers gives each device a unique identifier within that point. So we can release 99 phones at the 500 point before we have to recycle any names, for example.”

While it’s a welcome move, and will definitely make things easier for users, does it even matter now? Nokia is truly on a burning platform right now, and their CEO has tied their future to the success of Windows Phone 7. What consumers need more than a simpler naming convention is a good product. Until Nokia can get that right, nothing else really matters.

In other news, Nokia and Microsoft are planning to unveil the first Nokia WP7 smartphone on August 17.

Nokia to Unveil Windows Phone 7 Devices on August 17?

After ditching Symbian and MeeGo to go with Windows Phone 7, Nokia has been working with Microsoft for months now. With Nokia’s support and low cost production expertise, Microsoft has a chance to go mass market with Windows Phone 7. It might even have a shot at dethroning Android as the king of smartphones in a few years.

The Nokia Sea Ray, presumably Nokia’s first Windows Phone 7 device was leaked about a month ago. It is identical to the Nokia N9, which received a lot of positive feedback.

Today, Unwired reported that Microsoft and Nokia are holding a joint event at this month’s GamesCom in Cologne, Germany. Since it’s a joint event, held by Nokia and Microsoft’s Windows Phone division, it doesn’t take Sherlock to deduce that we might see an official unveiling of the first Windows Phone 7 device by Nokia.

Android has been gaining market share at the expense of Symbian. It controls close to 50% of the worldwide smartphone market now. Nokia’s smartphone market share has been declining rapidly, thanks to the Android invasion and the tremendous growth of iOS. The move to Windows Phone 7 is regarded as its ‘Hail Mary’ move by many analysts. It will decide the future of Nokia in the coming months.

Here’s the invite to the event:

Nokia Microsoft Event

Drinks and food on me!

Microsoft Touch Mouse: How Microsoft Took a Concept from Research to Product

It is fascinating to learn that it took a collection of prototypes, collaboration between transatlantic teams, and a lot of user testing to bring Microsoft Touch Mouse to market. The Microsoft Touch Mouse project was unusual compared with other hardware-development projects, because it combined multiple disciplines in a tightly integrated way.

Microsoft Touch Mouse

The joint research effort between Microsoft Research Redmond, Microsoft Research Cambridge, and Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group introduced five different multi-touch mice prototypes. The research paper, titled Mouse 2.0: Multi-touch Meets the Mouse, presents novel input devices that combine the standard capabilities of a computer mouse with multi-touch sensing. Each prototype explored a different touch-sensing strategy that influenced the design of different mouse form factors and their interaction possibilities.

Humans are naturally dexterous and use their fingers and thumbs to perform a variety of complex interactions to a high precision. The traditional computer mouse design, however, makes little use of this dexterity, reducing our hands to a single cursor on the screen. Our fingers are often relegated to performing relatively simple actions such as clicking the mouse buttons or rolling the mouse wheel. With the emergence of multi-touch, we now have the opportunity to manipulate digital content with increased dexterity.

image

FTIR Mouse applies the principle of frustrated total internal reflection to illuminate a user’s fingers, and uses a camera to track multiple points of touch on its curved translucent surface

image

Orb Mouse is equipped with an internal camera and a source of diffuse IR illumination, allowing it to track the user’s hand on its hemispherical surface.

image

Cap Mouse (short for capacitive mouse) employs a matrix of capacitive touch-sensing electrodes to track the position of the user’s fingertips over its surface.

image

Side Mouse rests under the palm of hand, allowing fingers to touch the table surface directly in front of the device. These are sensed using an internal camera and IR laser.

image

Arty Mouse is equipped with three high-resolution optical mouse sensors: one in the base, which rests under the user’s palm, and two under the articulated extensions that follow the movements of the index finger and thumb.

 

The research team intended to refine their prototypes, both ergonomically and in terms of their sensing capabilities. Therefore, Microsoft Hardware decided to get behind the research, and a team was formed to bring a multi-touch mouse to market. The close collaboration between the hardware team and Microsoft Research in both Cambridge and Redmond went beyond just technology transfer.

The design of the final form factor required sculpting and testing of hundreds of models. The team also examined user interactions and evaluated the kinds of gestures that made sense. The multi-touch gestures are designed to amplify your experience with Windows 7, and are optimized for window management. The design also involved a challenge requiring that users should be able to operate the device using classic point-and-click interactions as well as the newly developed set of multi-touch gestures.

The delightful, fluid desktop experience of Microsoft Touch Mouse is a testimony to the value of the value of quality research to explore new possibilities.

Microsoft Loses Ancient Patent Lawsuit Against Alcatel-Lucent; Must Shell Out $70 Million

Back in 2003 when most of us were kids, and Facebook and Twitter did not yet exist, Alcatel-Lucent, a telecommunication equipment manufacturer from France had filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Microsoft.

Alcatel-Lucent claimed Microsoft was infringing on its patents related to touch screen form entry in applications such as Microsoft Outlook, among others.

In 2008, Alcatel-Lucent won the lawsuit and was awarded $358 millon in damages. However, Microsoft appealed against the verdict and managed to get a retrial to reassess the damages.

Today, according to a report by Bloomberg, a federal jury ruled that Microsoft would have to pay $70 million in damages. Alcatel-Lucent had asked for about $75 million while Microsoft asked the jury to limit the amount to only $5 million.

    Alcatel-Lucent is obviously pleased with the verdict and the jury’s recognition in the value of the Day patent that Microsoft infringed,said Luke Dauchot, a lawyer for Alcatel-Lucent.

This new verdict is much more favorable for Microsoft than the original ruling that required them to pay $358 million in damages.

    “We continue to maintain that current law requires a genuine apportionment of damages when the infringement is directed to a small feature of a feature-rich product. We are reviewing the verdict in that light and considering next steps.” said David Howard, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel.

Microsoft has been involved in a lot of patent lawsuits lately. It stands to make more than a billion dollars in patent licensing fees and damages off Android. It is also a major investor in Intellectual Ventures, infamously known as the world’s largest patent troll.

Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2011

The twelfth Microsoft Research Faculty Summit was held last week from July 18 through 20 at Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters. For the past 11 years, the summit has brought academic and government research professionals together to provide a forum for lively debate of the development, application, and funding of technologies in the environmental, medical, and educational domains.

Microsoft Research Faculty Summit 2011

Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft, presented the keynote at the event along with the leadership from Microsoft Research – Peter Lee, Distinguished Scientist and Managing Director, Lili Cheng, General Manager, FUSE Labs, and Rick Szeliski, Principal Researcher. Apart from the keynotes, the summit featured talks, panels, workshops, and demonstrations. The event encourages research by  highlighting the value of industrial research in society, education, and technology transfer and recognizing academic researchers for their contributions.

The summit features a Design Expo where student groups present their work to leading academic researchers and educators. This allows students to hone their presentation skills, and gain valuable feedback from notable design leaders from inside and outside of Microsoft. Each year, Microsoft Research sponsors a semester-long class at leading design schools. Representative teams from these schools participate at the Design Expo.

At the summit, Microsoft Research also gave away the 2011 Faculty Fellowship Awards. Microsoft believes that an able faculty is vital to the future of academic computer science, and the fellowship program stimulates and supports creative research undertaken by promising researchers who have the potential to make a profound impact on the field of computing and of becoming thought leaders in the field.