Predictions For MWC 2012

Mobile World Congress, popularly known as MWC, is the biggest mobile consumer show held every year at Barcelona. In the last couple of years, some of the best Android phones like the Galaxy S II, HTC EVO 4G and others have been announced at the show.

This year’s MWC promises to be no less exciting than previous years. However, this year’s most anticipated handset – the Galaxy S III – would be missing from MWC, which definitely is a deal-breaker for many. Nevertheless, HTC, LG and even Microsoft have got some major announcements coming up at MWC, and should keep tech enthusiasts intrigued.

Below are my expectations from MWC this year -:

Nvidia’s Tegra 3 – Last year at CES, Nvidia’s Tegra 2 SoC was found powering the majority of Android handsets and tablets announced. This year I expect a majority of Android devices to be unveiled at MWC to be powered by Nvidia’s Tegra 3 Soc – the world’s first Quad-core processor.

Even though the Tegra 2 was the world’s first dual-core SoC, it was by no mean the fastest. However, Nvidia has learnt from their mistakes, and Tegra 3 does indeed looks promising. The fifth companion core, NEON support, some architectural tweaks will make sure that Tegra 3 is worth the hype. Expect Nvidia to show trailers of some games and apps, which will utilize the full potential of the SoC and demonstrate its graphical prowess to the whole world

Windows 8 – Microsoft had released the WP7 SDK at MWC in 2010. The following year the company announced the NoDo and the Mango update for the platform, which added quite a lot of missing features to the OS. This year Microsoft should, or rather is expected to, announce a new minor update for WP7, dubbed as Tango. The Redmond based company will also announce the next major update for Windows Phone 7, codenamed Apollo. The company will also be providing users with more information about Windows 8 for PCs as well as for ARM based devices, and will be releasing a Consumer Preview version for downloading and testing.

HTC Next-Gen Smartphone – HTC had a pretty dismal 2011. The company’s profit fell throughout the year, and none of the handsets from the company could make an impact on the sale of Galaxy S II. HTC has promised to bounce back in 2012, and will go back to its strategy of releasing a Hero device – which will represent the best of what the company can do technologically.

While not yet confirmed, the leaked Endeavor might just be the company’s flagship phone for 2012. The Endeavor is going to the first HTC phone is quite sometime to come with a non-Qualcomm SoC. It will also be the first phone in the world to come with a quad-core SoC.

Cheap Android Tablets and Smartphones – Expect companies like Acer and LG to announce new Android tablets and smartphones, equipped with a high-resolution screen, an improved 3D technology, and a faster – possibly quad-core – SoCs. Pictures of Acer’s A700 tablet with a Full HD screen, and a Tegra 3 processor had also leaked on the Internet, quite a few months ago. Hopefully, these companies will also price their tablets competitively against the iPad, instead of charging an arm and a leg for it.

Nokia’s Major Announcement – Many of the loyal Nokia users are expecting the Finnish giant to announce its next-generation camera flagship and the successor to the N8 at MWC this year. Nokia announced the N8 nearly 2 years ago, and it still has the best camera ever found in a handset. Rumors suggest that the N8 successor will come with a 4-inch screen, a faster processor and more RAM, and an improved camera sensor as well. The handset will also come with an NFC chip, and will be running on the latest version of Symbian – Belle.

I hope, and am pretty much sure, that we will definitely see some more innovative products, and gadgets which are pushing the boundaries of engineering.

Mozilla Announces Firefox on Metro for a Touchscreen Optimized Browsing Experience

FirefoxMozilla took way too long to bring Firefox to smartphones, and suffered as a result. It had a go in 2004 with Minimo, but users had to wait until 2011 to get a version of Firefox Mobile that wasn’t slow as a cow and didn’t crash on a whimsy. Not wanting to repeat its earlier mistake, Mozilla has begun working on a Metro-fied version of Firefox for Windows 8 months ahead of the release of Microsoft’s next major operating system.

Firefox on Metro will be a full-screen, touch optimized app built on top of the same Gecko engine that powers Firefox classic. It’s still early days for the project, and Mozilla isn’t providing a lot of information. However, here is what we do know.

  • The feature goal here is a new Gecko based browser built for and integrated with the Metro environment.
  • Firefox on Metro, like all other Metro apps will be full screen, focused on touch interactions, and connected to the rest of the Metro environment through Windows 8 contracts.
  • Firefox on Metro will bring all of the Gecko capabilities to this new environment and the assumption is that Mozilla be able to run Firefox as a Medium integrity app so that it can access all of the win32 Firefox Gecko libraries avoiding a port to the new WinRT API for the bulk of the code.
  • Firefox on Metro is a full-screen App with an Appbar that contains common navigation controls (back, reload, etc.,) the Awesomebar, and some form of tabs.
  • Firefox will have to support three “snap” states — full screen, ~1/6th screen and ~5/6th screen depending on how the user “docks” two full screen apps. The UI will to adjust to show the most relevant content for each size.
  • In order to provide users with access to other content, other apps, and to Firefox from other content and apps, it will integrate with the share contract, the search contract, the settings contract, the app to app picking contract, the print contract, the play to contract, and possibly a couple more. Firefox on Metro will be a source for some, a target for some, and both for some.
  • Mozilla might offer a live tile with user-centric data like friends presence or other Firefox Home information updates
  • Ideally Mozilla will like to be able to create secondary tiles for Web-based apps hosted in Firefox’s runtime.

Mozilla is hoping that Microsoft will allow it to run Firefox as a medium integrity app (like Internet Explorer 10 Metro App). Medium integrity apps typically have more privileges and can load old school Win32 libraries. This will make Mozilla’s task simpler. Even then, Firefox on Metro is expected to hit alpha and beta stages only in the second half of the year. A preview should be ready by the second quarter of 2012.

Microsoft Shows Windows 8 Can Run On A Phone

In his post about development of Windows 8 for ARM processors, Windows president, Steven Sinofsky shared images of Windows 8 running on a phone. Sinofsky says that they did not hav ARM powered tablets in those days so ARM powered phones became the best choice.

Sinofsky added a note saying that the images were just testing and did not hint at new product. Rumors about running Windows 8 on phones have been doing rounds and these early-day trials could be the reason. As Long Zheng pointed out on his blog, these images are from 2010. Windows 8 on ARM powered phones:

PS: The first image reads Windows 7 but if looked at closely it is build 7652 which is widely considered to be one of the early Windows 8 builds.

Windows 8 Tablets: Software & Hardware Features We Now Know

Steven Sinofsky’s post about Windows 8 on ARM has provided us with a lot of information about platform and ecosystem. Sinofsky’s post describes how and why the Windows 8 tablets will be immune to existing viruses, why Windows 8 tablets will have the traditional desktop, they demonstrated Office 15 and Windows Live Metro on Windows 8 ARM. The finer details about some of the OS features included in the post are:

  • Windows 8 for ARM will not be available as a software distribution, it will only come pre-installed
  • There will be only 1 SKU of Windows 8 for ARM
  • Existing x86/x64 apps will not be compatible with Windows 8 on ARM
  • Applications can only be installed through the Windows App Marketplace
  • WOA will include Office 15 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote)
  • Windows 8 won’t support virtualization or emulation
  • Driver support for Mobile Broadband, Printers, GPS, a variety off sensors, Bluetooth will be provided
  • Windows 8 on ARM tablets don’t don’t turn off, hibernate or sleep; they go into Connected Standby
  • IE in Windows on ARM will not support browser plugins, like Flash (via All About Microsoft)
  • Windows 8 on ARM will be serviced through Windows Update, like desktop Windows
  • Windows 8 on ARM tablets will come with DirectX capable GPUs (which version wasn’t specified in the post)

Microsoft has in the past stressed on their partnership and the work done by hardware OEMs to make a lot of this possible. Sinofsky talked about acknowledged this partnership and talked about their priorities for Windows 8 ARM tablets:

Long battery life, thin and light industrial design
Texas Instruments, NVIDIA and Qualcomm are the OEMs that have worked closely with Microsoft thus far on ARM tablets

Rafael Rivera over at WithinWindows uncovered the minimum hardware specs for Windows tablets as defined by Microsoft in their Hardware Requirement Documentation. The important specs are:

  • Storage: At least 10GB free for use
  • System firmware: UEFI
  • Networking: WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 + LE (low energy)
  • Graphics: Direct3D 10
  • Resolution: 1366×768
  • Multi Touch: At least 5 touch points
  • Camera: 720p
  • Sensors: Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Gyroscope
  • USB 2.0
  • Speakers

A Windows tablet will have five physical buttons:
* Windows
* Power
* Volume (Up & Down)
* Rotation Lock

The form factor and pricing will decide whether Microsoft can beat Android based tablets, unify the ARM OEM army and pose real competition to the iPad.

[Screenshots] Microsoft Demos Office 15 & Windows Live Metro

Windows President, Steve Sinofsky’s article about Windows 8 on ARM, Microsoft shared a video demonstrating how the product looks as of now. During the demo, Microsoft showed what Office 15 will look like on a tablet and the Metro version of Microsoft’s Windows Live suite of applications. Here are the screenshots:

Microsoft Office 15 Word

Microsoft Office 15 Excel

Microsoft Office 15 PowerPoint

Microsoft Office 15 OneNote

Windows Live Calendar

Windows Live Metro Photos

Windows Live Metro Mail

Why Does Windows 8 ARM Still Have The Desktop

When Microsoft showed Windows 8 on ARM there was a lot of enthusiasm. It was clear that Windows on ARM is Microsoft’s attempt of developing an OS for tablets that will consume less resources, have a long battery life, and provide a nice UI/UX.

One of the biggest concerns raised by critics was the presence of the traditional desktop in the tablet version. Like many, even I’d like to see Windows 8 tablets to not have the desktop UI. Office 15 shows why I don’t want the desktop interface on Windows tablets–it’s schizophrenic. Having to switch between the tablet and desktop interface is confusing and at many times annoying. Behind the intuitive Metro interface and Metro inspired apps lies the dormant ghost of Windows waiting to be unleashed every few hours when you use your tablet, haunting you as you hold that tablet.

Steven Sinofsky in his post about Windows 8 on ARM explains why the design decision was taken to include the desktop interface. Long story short, to give you the best of both worlds. Sinofsky and Microsoft believe that there are features and capabilities in Windows that users have become familiar with over the years and would want to have them going forward as well. Sinofsky explains:

[…] Enabling Windows to run super well on the ARM architecture is a significant engineering task. We undertook this work because when you look to the future you can see that so many of the capabilities that have been added to Windows over the years are things that customers will inevitably desire or require in the types of devices supported by today’s ARM-based products—changes in form factors and the desire for mobility only add to the scenarios and capabilities we all desire in our search for no-compromise PCs. While it is tempting to make bold statements about “starting over,” we believe in the evolution of technology assets when the foundation is strong. The foundation of Windows, the core, is the most solid, scalable, and secure one around. Our desire to deliver a no-compromise experience motivates our efforts. […]

[…] The availability of the Windows desktop is an important part of WOA. The desktop offers you a familiar place to interact with PCs, particularly files, storage, and networking, as well as a range of peripherals. You can use Windows Explorer, for example, to connect to external storage devices, transfer and manage files from a network share, or use multiple displays, and do all of this with or without an attached keyboard and mouse—your choice. This is all familiar, fast, efficient, and useful. […]

[…] Some have suggested we might remove the desktop from WOA in an effort to be pure, to break from the past, or to be more simplistic or expeditious in our approach. To us, giving up something useful that has little cost to customers was a compromise that we didn’t want to see in the evolution of PCs. […]

Sinofsky does make a valid argument. The iPad does not have a file explorer and is tied to iTunes. Microsoft sees the tablet as a mobile computing device somewhere between the phone and a laptop. By keeping the desktop in WOA, Microsoft is letting the end-user have the familiarity of good ol’ Windows while on a tablet.

Sinofsky says that having the traditional Windows desktop on ARM will not result in performance loss. The other way to look at it is, because Microsoft can.


ARM Powered Windows 8 Tablets To Be Virus Free

Earlier today, president of the Windows and Windows Live division, Steven Sinofsky wrote a lengthy article detailing Microsoft’s development of Windows 8 for the ARM architecture.

As I still go through the article (it’s so long that I printed a copy), there is a lot of information hidden in the 8,600 word article which I will share in subsequent posts. However, the biggest news is that viruses that affect Windows 7 (and even Windows 8) won’t be compatible with Windows on ARM. According to Sinofsky:

  • WOA will not be able to run existing x86/x64 applications. In order to build applications for Windows on ARM, they will have to be developed using the WinRT architecture.
  • Apps that have been developed for WOA, using WinRT, will be only available through the Windows App Marketplace. The marketplace will act as a checkpoint for rogue applications.

The two steps ensure that a WOA device (primarily tablets) will not be as easily affected by the plethora of viruses that exist today.  Talking about the issue in the article Sinofsky says,

Our focus on delivering a new level of security for consumers using WOA is paramount. In one public event, we were asked if we would “make it easy for existing viruses and malware to run.” Now you can see the answer is decidedly, “no.”

I spoke with Windows hacker Rafael Rivera (of Within Windows fame) and he believes that unless a user roots his WOA device, his device is theoretically safe from virus infections. For Microsoft, Windows on ARM (WOA) is another version of Windows akin to Windows Server, Windows Phone or Windows Embedded. Microsoft is also expected to bundle their antivirus/antimalware tool–Security Essentials–with Windows 8.

Windows 8: A Fantastic Opportunity for Developers

Windows 8 Start Screen

There has been a lot of discussion about Windows 8, Metro-style apps, Intel vs ARM, etc., from the time Windows 8 Developer Preview was released at //build/ last year. A lot of the discussion and debates have to do with unclear communication and secrecy from the Windows team at Microsoft. For example, what exactly is the deal with Windows on ARM devices? Are they going to be a hard cutoff from today’s Windows and not have a desktop experience at all, or will they have a desktop experience? Will the desktop experience be open for all developers or only certain developers (like Microsoft Office) to provide signed apps for ARM which use a restricted desktop?

(Ed: On February 9, Steven Sinofsky posted details about Windows on ARM on the Building Windows 8 Blog, so some of the secrecy has been taken away. However, the points made here are in fact reinforced by the details revealed in the post.)

Those discussions and speculations aside, I truly believe Windows 8 is a huge opportunity for developers. In this post, I will tell you why I believe so. First of all, some math: According to Canalys, there were 415MM PCs sold in 2011. This is after accounting for a decline in sales per original projections! Even though smartphones have exceeded the number of PCs sold, that PC sales number is still a very large number.

Now, let’s assume that those 415MM PCs are split 60-40 with regard to sales to businesses vs. consumers. Taking a round number of 400MM PCs a year gives us about 160MM PCs sold to consumers a year. I am ignoring business PCs for now because let’s face it – they are not going to Windows 8 for some time, and even if they do, there is a strong likelihood of them turning off Metro via IT policies. Consumers on the other hand, won’t have the ability to turn it off, and all new PCs will ship with Windows 8 (Intel or ARM).

Rumor: Windows Store Games for Windows 8 Revealed

Reckless Racing

Windows 8 Consumer Preview (Beta) is nearing, and the news and leaks about the same have started flowing fast and furiously. Today (February 7), Tom Warren at The Verge is reporting that a source familiar with Microsoft’s Windows Store plans for Windows 8 has revealed several top notch games which will be made available in the Windows Store for the Windows 8 Consumer Preview.

Full House Poker

Here is the list they have revealed (in addition to Cut The Rope which was demoed heavily at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas):

  • Hydro Thunder
  • Toy Soldiers
  • Reckless Racing
  • Angry Birds
  • Ilomilo
  • Rocket Riot
  • Full House Poker
  • Tentacles
  • Crash Course
  • Ms Splosion Man
  • Wordament

In addition, Warren reports that Pinball and Solitaire will come preinstalled on Windows 8.

Hydro Thunder

As you can see, these games are not only popular, but they are from top tier development houses. This is a good sign for Windows 8, because Microsoft is virtually going to have to start from scratch with their Store just like they had to do with Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. WinRT and Windows 8 are brand new and so is the Windows Store, and it has been well-documented that the most popular “apps” in any ecosystem are games. To have high quality games as well as top tier brands at the time of Consumer Preview, and most definitely at the time of launch is a must-have in order for Windows 8 to gain any kind of foothold in this rapidly approaching Post-PC or PC-Plus era.

What is more intriguing though, is that most of these games are familiar to Xbox and Windows Phone users. Could we see some sort of multi-player scenarios among Windows Phone, Xbox and Windows 8? Wouldn’t it be awesome to play Full House Poker with your friends who may be on their Xbox, and you are on your Windows Phone or your Windows 8 PC? Xbox has already enabled “Cloud Save” with games; could we see a scenario where I can continue Angry Birds on my phone and not lose the progress I have made on my Windows 8 PC? It is so annoying to have to start from scratch every time the game is reinstalled or you install the game on a new device. With the power of the Microsoft Cloud (a.k.a. SkyDrive), we could see games which tap into the Cloud Save concept and allow seamless movement across devices without losing progress.

Wouldn’t that be awesome?


Reckless Racing: From iTunes Store

Full House Poker:

Hydro Thunder:

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.


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.