What I Wish Today’s Microsoft Announcement Will Be

Windows Logo

On Thursday June 14, late in the afternoon, Microsoft sent out invites to media for a special event in Los Angeles, CA which promised to be a major announcement not to be missed. Since it was so cryptic, it created a flurry of rumors, leaks and conjecture. Several pundits have written about what it could be, connected the dots and come to a conclusion and in fact this morning, one of those guesses was even shot down.

Instead of trying to think of what it could be, I am going to write about what I hope it will be. Based on the fact that this event is in Los Angeles, I am hoping it has everything to do with entertainment tie-ups. At E3 earlier this month, Microsoft took the wraps off their new entertainment brand (Xbox-everything) and showed some bits of their new (improved?) Xbox Companion app, Smart Glass. Also, Microsoft gave a glimpse of Xbox Music, their successor to the Zune Music service. However, neither Smart Glass nor Xbox Music were looked at in detail. What we do know is they said that the Xbox Music service will have a catalog of 30 million tracks (compared to Zune Music today, which is around 20 million).

So, here’s my list of what I hope may come today:

  • Details of Xbox Music service: Additional deals to get the catalog from today’s 20 million tracks to the promised 30 million. Also, most importantly, access for the service from other platforms besides Windows (8, RT and Phone) – so, iOS apps and Android apps.
  • Unveiling of Xbox Video service: While it was made clear that Xbox is the center of Microsoft’s entertainment strategy, not much was discussed about Xbox Video. I hope that Microsoft is able to cut some deals with Hollywood to get exclusive content built into Xbox Video. Hollywood has got to be scared of Apple (and Netflix), so a good tie up with Microsoft would of course make sense for them.
  • Merge Zune Music Pass and Xbox LIVE Gold: The most ridiculous thing about Xbox as an entertainment device is that to access almost any entertainment service on the Xbox, you need an Xbox LIVE Gold account, listed at $60/year. Although there are a lot of promotions for the Gold account (Amazon routinely sells these for $45 or so), it is still an unnecessary cost for normal (read: non-gaming) customers to access services they already pay for. On the other hand, Zune Music Pass is an awesome subscription service which can be accessed over the Xbox in addition to the PC and Windows Phone. It is time for Microsoft to merge the two and call it the Xbox Pass which enables access to the video services on the Xbox platform, as well as unlimited music.
  • Xbox Lite: The Xbox today is still seen as a gaming device which can also do entertainment, never mind the stats which show that Xbox users now consume more content on the device than play games. Also, a lot of households have multiple TV sets and getting a $200 Xbox for each TV may not be worth it just for say, Netflix and Hulu. What if Microsoft made a Xbox Lite which like Apple TV would have close to no storage and would not be used for gaming. This would work great for the non-gaming customers who want to consume the unlimited music catalog and also get access to the tons of video services now available on the Xbox. If it is priced at $79, it would be a super hit, I’d imagine.
  • Announce global availability of all of the above: Most of the Zune/Xbox LIVE services are poorly represented around the world. It would be fantastic if Microsoft is able to get availability parity across the globe.

Note, I am staying away from tablets, phones and cellular stuff. I do hope that it is not about a Microsoft tablet or a Nokia phone. On the cellular front though, some random rumor about a Verizon event have some tie in to this Microsoft announcement intrigues me – Verizon is a huge hold out when it comes to Windows Phones and any partnership they have with Microsoft, I see it as a positive step.

What do you think? Too much to hope for?

Nokia Acquires Scalado; To Lay Off 10,000 Employees By 2013

Nokia has just announced that it will be laying off 10,000 employees by 2013 as a part of cost cutting strategy. Nokia plans to reduce research and development projects. Apart from that Nokia has also announced that it will be paying more attention to its location based Navteq services.

Acquisition

What’s more surprising is that Nokia has quietly acquired Scalado, a Sweden based imaging technology that brings applications and engineering services for the camera phone industry. The company claims to have provided its technology to 1 billion imaging devices.

From the press release:

In Smart Devices, Nokia plans to extend its strategy by broadening the price range of Lumia and continuing to differentiate with the Windows Phone platform, new materials, new technologies and location-based services. In line with this strategy, Nokia today announced the planned acquisition of assets from Sweden-based Scalado, which currently has imaging technology on more than 1 billion devices. This acquisition is aimed at strengthening Nokia’s imaging assets.

However, it’s not clear how much Nokia had to shell out for the technology. Scalado has received $656k in Venture Round funding in 2005. The company has its products available on Google’s Android operating system and Apple’s iOS.

Focus on low end products

Nokia swears its loyalty towards smartphones yet has decided to further develop its Series 40 and Series 30 devices, and invest in key feature phone technologies like the Nokia Browser. It appears that Nokia has realized that it can stay profitable only with its low and mid-range devices.

Nokia Unveils The Asha 311 Touchscreen Phone With 1 GHz Processor

nokia asha 311
Today, Nokia announced the Nokia Asha 311 touchscreen phone. This handset comes with a 3 inch touchscreen display, 1 GHz processor, WLAN, 3G Connectivity, 3.2 megapixel camera and much more. The Nokia Asha 311 allows you to stay in touch with your friends and family with email and chat on the most popular instant messaging services. This handset is also pre-loaded with 15 levels of Angry Birds.

Brian Acton, Co-Founder of WhatsApp Inc, said:
“WhatsApp has a clear vision of creating a reliable and easy to use cross-platform messaging application that enables people to stay in touch with their family and friends from all around the world. By partnering with Nokia whose worldwide reach in mobile is well established, WhatsApp becoming available for the Asha Touch devices will enable us to further realize our core mission”.

nokia asha 311

The Nokia Asha 311 features a 3.0 inch WQVGA scratch resistant capacitive glass screen with polarization filters, Asha Touch UI, 1 GHz processor, 3.2 megapixel camera, GPRS/EDGE, WLAN, 3G Connectivity, Internet Radio, loud and clear inbuilt speaker, Nokia Life, 2.0 mm charger connector, Bluetooth 2.1, Micro USB 2.0 and so on.

Other features include a 3.5 mm headset jack, Music player, FM Radio, 256 MB internal memory, 32 GB expandable memory, Micro SD card slot, 2 GB Micro SD card bundled, Accelerometer, Proximity sensor, Ambient Light sensor, Nokia Browser, up to 29 days of stand-by time, up to 14 hours of talk-time and a 1110 mAh battery.

The Nokia Browser’s download manager feature helps the users to manage external content easily by saving music, video or pictures on a memory card, while surfing the internet. This handset measures 106 mm x 52 mm x 12.9 mm and weighs just 95g. Nokia Asha 311 will be available in Dark Grey, Rose Red, Blue, Brown and Sand White colors. This handset comes with a price tag of EUR 92 (approx. $115/ Rs.6,400). This handset will go on sale from the Q3 of 2012.

nokia asha 311

Nokia Asha 306 Announced; Nokia’s Most Affordable Wi-Fi Handset

nokia asha 306

Along with the Nokia Asha 305, the company has also announced the new entry-level Nokia Asha 306 in its popular Asha family. Today, there are 10 Asha devices available in more than 130 markets. This specs of this handset is almost similar to the Nokia Asha 306, except the Dual-SIM capabilities. The Nokia Asha 306 also comes with the Wi-Fi connectivity, which was missing in the previously announced Nokia Asha 305. This handset provides a smartphone-like experience to consumers, thanks to the new fully re-designed touch user interface.

Neil Mawston, Executive Director of devices research at Strategy Analytics, said:
“Nokia is taking another interesting step forward in connecting consumers to the Internet, seeking to improve their experience through a new touch user-interface that is allowing the company to compete in new mass-market price bands. The mass-market is a competitive segment, but we believe Nokia’s upgraded Asha portfolio has included an attractive package that can enable consumers to have lower running costs, taking advantage of things like its compressed browser and a long-life battery”.

nokia asha 306

Nokia Asha 306 Specs:

  • 3.0 inch WQVGA resistive touch screen display
  • Asha Touch UI
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • GPRS/EDGE
  • Wi-Fi Connectivity
  • Music player
  • FM Radio
  • Loud and clear inbuilt speaker
  • Nokia Life
  • 10 MB internal memory
  • 32 GB expandable memory
  • Micro SD card slot
  • 2 GB Micro SD card bundled
  • 2.0 mm Charger Connector
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Micro USB 2.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Up to 25 days of stand-by time
  • Up to 14 hours of talk-time
  • 1110 mAh battery

Nokia Asha 306 will be available in Silver White, Red, Mid Blue and Dark Grey colors. This handset measures 110.3 mm x 53.8 mm x 12.8 mm and weighs just 96.3g. Nokia Asha 306 users will receive an exclusive gift of 40 EA games to download for free. These games range across action, arcade and sports, and include titles such as Tetris, Bejeweled, Need for Speed The Run and EA Sports FIFA 12. Nokia Asha 306 comes with a price-tag of EUR 68 (approx. $85/ Rs.4,700). This handset will start shipping from the third quarter of 2012.

nokia asha 306

Nokia Unveils The Asha 305 Dual-SIM Touchscreen Phone

nokia asha 305

Back in October, Nokia introduced the successful Asha family of entry-level phones. Today, the company went ahead and announced the new Nokia Asha 305 phone, which takes the full touch experience to a new price point. This handset not only sports a 3 inch touchscreen display, but it also comes with the exclusive Easy Swap dual SIM technology. The Nokia Asha 305 takes full advantage of the Nokia Browser 2.0, which uses Nokia’s cloud technology to reduce data consumption by up to 90%.

Mary T. McDowell, Nokia’s executive vice president for Mobile Phones, said:
“By introducing the Asha Touch phones to the market, we’re accelerating our commitment to connect the next billion consumers. These phones deliver on what young, urban people value most – a great-looking device and an intuitive and affordable experience for connecting to the internet, to their friends, and to a world of entertainment, web apps and content.”

nokia asha 305

Nokia Asha 305 Specs:

  • 3.0 inch WQVGA resistive touch screen display
  • Asha Touch UI
  • 2 megapixel camera
  • GPRS/EDGE
  • Music player
  • FM Radio
  • Loud and clear inbuilt speaker
  • Nokia Life
  • 10 MB internal memory
  • 32 GB expandable memory
  • Micro SD card slot
  • 2 GB Micro SD card bundled
  • 2.0 mm Charger Connector
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Micro USB 2.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • Up to 22 days of stand-by time
  • Up to 14 hours of talk-time
  • 1110 mAh battery

Nokia Asha 305 will be available in Silver White, Red, Mid Blue and Dark Grey colors. This handset measures 110.3 mm x 53.8 mm x 12.8 mm and weighs just 98.3g. The Nokia Asha 305 comes with a price-tag of EUR 63 (approx. $80/ Rs.4,400). This handset will go on sale during the Q3 of 2012. Check out the promo video below.

nokia asha 305

Nokia Lumia 800 Review

nokia lumia 800 intro

Introduction

The Nokia Lumia 800 is the company’s first Windows Phone powered smartphone. This handset was announced along with the Nokia Lumia 710 at the Nokia World 2011 in London. It runs on the Windows Phone 7.5 Mango Operating System. This handset looks strikingly similar to the previously launched Nokia N9 smartphone, which was powered by the Meego Operating System.

The design of the phone is absolutely stunning. It comes with a 3.7 inch ClearBlack AMOLED display, sporting a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels, 1.4 GHz single-core processor, 16 GB internal memory and much more. It also comes with a 8 megapixel auto-focus camera with dual-LED flash. However, the much needed front-facing camera is missing from the device.

nokia lumia 800 intro

Nokia Lumia 800 Specifications

  • 3.7 inch ClearBlack AMOLED display
  • 800 x 480 pixels resolution
  • Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 1.4 GHz single-core processor
  • Windows Phone 7.5 Mango OS
  • 8 megapixel auto-focus camera
  • Dual-LED flash
  • HD (720p) video recording
  • Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n
  • 3G Connectivity
  • Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR
  • MicroUSB 2.0
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • 512 MB RAM
  • A-GPS
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • MicroSIM card support
  • Up to 265 hrs of stand-by time
  • Up to 9 hrs 30 mins of talk-time
  • 1450 mAh battery

What’s In The Box?

nokia lumia 800 box content

  • Nokia Lumia 800
  • Nokia Fast USB Charger AC-16
  • Nokia Charging and Data Cable CA-185CD
  • Nokia Stereo Headset WH-902
  • Quick Guide
  • User Guide
  • Product information leaflet

Nokia Lumia 610 Now Available In The UK For £165

Earlier this year, Nokia unveiled the entry-level Nokia Lumia 610. It is the company’s fourth smartphone in its popular Lumia family. The Nokia Lumia 610 is specially targeted at the younger audience. This handset runs on Windows Phone 7.5 Tango Operating System. The Nokia Lumia 610 was expected to launch during the first week of June in the UK. However, the device is already available for purchase at UK’s popular online retailers such as Unlocked Mobiles and Clove.

nokia lumia 610

Nokia Lumia 610 features a 3.7 inch LCD display, sporting a resolution of 800 x 480 pixels resolution, 800 Mhz Qualcomm Snapdragon S1 processor, Windows Phone 7.5 Tango OS, 5 megapixel auto-focus camera with LED flash, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, 3G Connectivity, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and so on.

It also comes with a 3.5 mm headset jack, FM Radio with RDS, 256 MB RAM, 8 GB internal memory, XBOX Live Hub, Microsoft Office, SkyDrive, A-GPS, Nokia Maps, Nokia Drive, Nokia Transport, Nokia Music, up to 720 hrs of stand-by time, up to 9.5 hrs of talk-time and a 1300 mAh battery.

The Nokia Lumia 610 comes with the Microsoft Office apps which allows the students to use the Word mobile, PowerPoint mobile, Excel mobile to manage documents and OneNote mobile to capture notes, ideas, pictures and voice memos. You can easily get this handset in black, cyan, magenta and white colors. The Nokia Lumia 610 is currently available for purchase at Unlocked Mobiles and Cloves for £165 (approx. $260) and £180 (approx. $280) respectively. To get this handset, head over to Unlocked Mobiles or Clove.

Nokia 110 And Nokia 112 Dual-SIM Phones Announced

Nokia recently announced the entry-level Nokia 110 and Nokia 112 phones. Both the devices comes with dual-SIM capabilities and Nokia’s unique Easy Swap technology. The Nokia 110 and Nokia 112 have been designed to appeal young, urban consumers who want to experience a fast, affordable online experience.

Mary T. McDowell, executive vice president, Mobile Phones, Nokia, said,
“Today’s mobile phone users want a quick internet experience that allows them to discover great content and share it with their friends – but without being held back by high data costs. The new Nokia 110 and Nokia 112 devices combine browsing, social media, apps, world-class entertainment and long battery life to create a great package for young, urban consumers who want to do it all.”

nokia 110 112

Nokia 110 and Nokia 112 features a 1.8-inch TFT LCD display, sporting a resolution of 128 x 160 pixels, Symbian Series 40 Operating System, Dual-SIM capability, FM Radio, Media player, VGA digital camera, GPRS/EDGE, 2.0 mm charger connector, Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR, 3.5 mm headset jack, 32 GB expandable memory, Nokia Browser and much more. Nokia 110 offers 10.5 hours of talk-time and 26.5 days of stand-by time, while the Nokia 112 offers 14 hours of talk-time and 35 days of stand-by time.

Nokia 110 measures 110 x 46 x 14.8mm and weighs 80g. On the other hand, Nokia 112 measures 110.4 x 46.9 x 15.4mm and weighs 85.5g. These handsets offer direct access to Twitter, Facebook and other social networks from the home page. Nokia 110 will be available for just EUR 35, while the Nokia 112 will be available for EUR 38. These devices will go on sale from the Q3 of 2012.

Has AT&T Enabled Visual Voicemail for non-LTE Windows Phones?

nokia-lumia-900-cyan-front-and-back

This afternoon, I noticed that my Nokia Lumia 800 prompted me for a voicemail password out of nowhere. Thinking that there was some connectivity glitch, I entered the password and guess what, it took me to a visual voicemail screen! I have not seen that screen on my Lumia before, and as I was made to understand, Visual Voicemail for Windows Phone was only available if you added a 4G LTE plan with AT&T.

AT&T Lumia 800 Visual Voice Mail Checking

Before everyone gets excited, I should provide a few disclaimers: I am on my company’s corporate plan, so I don’t know what plan I am on. However, knowing that my plan is actually an “iPhone data” plan, I know it could not be a 4G LTE plan, since there is no such plan. The other thing is that the screen stays at “syncing voicemail” and does not actually show me my voicemails. At some point this afternoon, I did get a message that it was not able to connect and that I could call the traditional voicemail. I restarted the phone to see if this disappeared, and it has not, so I suppose this functionality may actually be rolling out slowly. I sure hope so.

AT&T Lumia 800 Visual Voicemail Settings

Could this be another move by Nokia (and AT&T) to further the Windows Phone cause? We have seen that Nokia has been able to get a few exclusives and are making quite a splash in bringing the Windows Phone platform on par with iOS and Android. Could this be another move in that plan?

Lumia 800 About Screen

I am unable to confirm if this is true with other non-Lumia or non-LTE devices. If anyone has a Windows Phone (Lumia or otherwise) and is with AT&T but *not* on a 4G LTE plan, let me know. Let’s hope things are changing at AT&T with regard to their love of Windows Phone.

Update: I never saw it on my AT&T Samsung Focus, but here’s a response I saw on twitter:

 

 

More, from twitter:

Lumia Still Selling Out As Nokia Locks Eyes With Verizon

It appears that sales of the Nokia Lumia are continuing to be rather strong, with sales of the device “outpacing” supply, according to Nokia U.S. President Chris Weber.

Demand has been outstripping supply for the first couple of weeks, and we’ve been working hard to rectify that,” he said. “The demand for cyan [phones] is significantly outpacing supply. When you give people something different from a design perspective—colors, etc. —it really stands out, and consumers want that.”

Like you may expect on an episode of Undercover Boss, Weber has personally visited many AT&T stores over the past few weekends to monitor how the salespeople take to and promote the Lumia. The verdict? Support has been generally “very good”, but it’s overall still a “work in progress”, he said. Whatever the case, the Lumia does seem to be selling out quite rapidly at many AT&T stores; my Twitter timeline can attest to this, with people all over the country saying that their local store was either running low on or completely out of the Lumia.

“Selling out” is definitely a refreshingly new thing to hear with the Windows Phone, platform, however. But despite these not-too-shabby sales — Lumia sales topped 2 million in the first quarter of this year — the launch wasn’t without problem. A data connectivity bug plagued the device initially, resulting in Nokia/AT&T offering a $100 credit to those who purchased defective devices. This in turn prompted Nokia’s share price to hit a 16-year low, unfortunately. Some other quirks seem to also effect the device, such as a purple tint on the screen (as Mr. Rafael Rivera has encountered with two Lumias already.)

It’s also far too early to deem the platform a complete success; Windows Phone still has ways to go before it can catch up to iOS and Android in the marketshare leaderboard. And to help the platform grow and find its way into the hands of more users, Weber commented saying that the company is working hard to join forces with the CDMA carrier:

“We’re not making any announcements, but we understand the importance of Verizon and we’re working hard to make that a reality.”

Verizon did recently admit that it too had a crush on Windows Phone during an earning’s call late last month. Hopefully the two can proceed to copulate and put more Windows Phones in the hands of consumers