Microsoft to enable phones running Windows 10 to connect to peripherals, USB mass storage & Xbox Controllers

usb windows phone1There has been a lot of speculation as to what Windows 10 for phones will offer in terms of productivity as this is a very important mantra for Microsoft. This is something that can really push the platform’s adoption in business, and the software giant has officially unveiled something rather intriguing.

During WinHEC today in China, Microsoft talked up how Windows 10 on mobile devices would interact with USB.  The software giant added support for the new USB type-C standard on Windows 10 for phones, and although it’s much smaller than its type-A counterpart, it offers more power and function.

usb windows phone2 usb windows phone3OEMs building phones running Windows 10 will be able to implement the USB Type-C and enable many device class drivers. Microsoft mentioned USB serial devices, USB Bluetooth and Generic USB Host Drivers, but USB driver installation by the user will not be supported.

This provides many interesting scenarios with Windows 10 for phones, as users will be able to connect many different devices to the phone as shown in the photo above, and even an Xbox controller and an external display.  This falls in line with a previous rumor of the new flagship Lumia having the capability for docking, but this part was left out in discussions with vendors.  However, Microsoft could still provide something comparable with the features mentioned.

Source: Channel 9 via Windows Central

You can now add MP3s and many more file types to OneDrive for streaming

xbox-musicIt has been a long time in the making, but OneDrive music streaming is finally ready to go. As of now, you will be able to store all of your local MP3s on OneDrive. This will allow you to stream music with Xbox Music app on any of your Windows devices running on Windows 8.1.

This feature will support MP3, M4A (AAC), and WMA file types. In addition, you will not need to have an Xbox Music pass to use this feature, but for those who do own one, Microsoft will honor them with 100GB free of OneDrive storage.

It’s worth noting that even though Xbox Music is available for iOS, Android and Windows 8, the streaming features are not available to these OSs. It’s also worth noting that Apple charges $24.95 for a similar service, so this is definitely an advantage to the Microsoft side.

There will be a limit of how many songs one can store, and that limit is set a 50,000. This service is available in the US, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.


Windows 10 will be released this summer

windows 10 family1Microsoft is really focused on delivering Windows 10 as early as possible, and in recent blog post, head of Microsoft’s operating system team Terry Myerson revealed that Windows 10 has a planned summer release.

The exact time-frame is not outlined, but Myerson did go on to say that Microsoft’s new flagship OS will be available in 190 countries and 111 languages on release.

Microsoft wants to make a big splash with Windows 10 and intends to get everyone on board as it’s offering the OS for free for those upgrading from Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Phone 8.1 and even from pirated copies of Windows 7.

This time-frame aligns with an RTM version of the OS to be complete in June and it should be perfect timing for Microsoft to unveil the Surface Pro 4 and possibly a flagship Windows 10 phone.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft to offer free Windows 10 upgrades even for pirated Windows versions

Win10_Windows_StartScreen1_PrintIn a blockbuster announcement, Microsoft has revealed it will give free Windows 10 upgrades to all Windows 7 and 8/8.1 users regardless if they are running genuine or pirated copies of the operating system.

This strategy is important for Microsoft as they’re looking to launch Windows 10 in 190 countries this summer, including China. The software giant wants to make a big push into the Chinese market with its upcoming operating system, the only problem is – more than 70% of the Windows copies used in that country are illegal. So Microsoft figured – if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

Terry Myerson, who heads Microsoft’s Operating Systems unit, made the announcement at the WinHEC conference in Shenzhen, China.

“We are upgrading all qualified PCs, genuine and non-genuine, to Windows 10,” he said in a telephone interview with Reuters. The plan is to “re-engage” with the hundreds of millions of users of Windows in China, he said, without elaboration.

As Microsoft is looking to switch monetization strategy for Windows 10 and increase its market share for PCs, Tablets and Smartphones running their OS, having high adoption rates in all major markets will be the key to their success.

China is a very important market for Microsoft and by giving the new OS for free to everyone, Microsoft will greatly benefit in the long run as pirated users all of a sudden become legitimate license-holders.

Source: Reuters

Microsoft will drop the Internet Explorer brand in favor of its new "Spartan" browser

Internet Explorer 10We have all expected Microsoft to replace Internet Explorer in favor of their new Windows 10 browser codenamed “Spartan”.  In a recent report by The Verge, the software giant has confirmed this will indeed happen.

Although Internet Explorer will live on in some version of Windows 10, mainly for enterprise compatibility, Microsoft intends for “Project Spartan” to be the primary way users access the internet in Windows 10.

Microsoft still remains undecided on the new name of the successor to IE, and are in the process of researching what to call it. However, their research in the UK suggests that putting the name Microsoft in front of the new secret name increased the appeal to some Chrome users. “Just by putting the Microsoft name in front of it, the delta for Chrome users on appeal is incredibly high,” says Capossela.

Microsoft is really aiming for the moon with Windows 10.  Their goal is to have a big and lasting impact while creating a personal and emotional attachment with users. During the Windows 10 event in January, CEO Satya Nadella emphasized about how he wants users to love Windows, and so far, Microsoft has been looking at every possible avenue to make this happen.

We’ve seen and reported many intriguing things, and with the replacement of Internet Explorer, this only adds to the list as the company wants to rid itself of all the negative perception. If Microsoft delivers on their promise, alongside some new innovative hardware, Windows 10 will definitely be something to watch unfold.

Source: The Verge

Lumia Denim update is rolling out to Lumia 830 owners in Canada

lumia 830The major firmware update to Lumia devices, called Lumia Denim, has been rolling out world-wide to many phones and carriers for a couple of months now. Although Microsoft has promised to deliver the update to eligible devices in all markets by the end of February, many North American Lumia owners are still patently waiting.

According to WindowsCentral, Lumia 830 owners in Canada are widely reporting that they are now able to download and install Lumia Denim on their devices. Reports indicate the update is available for the device on all major carriers including Rogers and Bell.

The update brings OS version number to 8.10.14234.375 and the firmware version number is 02040.00021.15063.02001.

Microsoft hasn’t announced they are pushing the update to Lumia 830 in Canada but we expect to get the official confirmation shortly. It is worth noting that Lumia 830 owners in the U.S. are still waiting for their Denim update, perhaps this is a precursor to the massive U.S. roll-out to the popular Windows Phone.

Lumia Denim brings some major improvements to the Windows Phone 8.1 OS including “Hey Cortana” feature as well as enhancements to the Lumia Camera app experience  HDR, Dynamic flash and much more.

Microsoft will make passwords a thing of the past with "Windows Hello"

Windows HelloWindows 10 so far looks to be feature-packed, but Microsoft wants to make it even better while addressing security issues at the same time and protecting your passwords. Microsoft wants to eliminate the use of passwords and make signing into your machine seamless and hassle-free, and they intend to do so with a feature called “Windows Hello” and “Passport”.

Windows Hello is an authentication system which allows for seamless and secure user recognition and sign-in options through the use of various biometrics. These biometrics include facial recognition, iris and fingerprint scanning in order to unlock your Windows 10 devices.

This system makes signing into your PC incredibly seamless, secure and almost instant just by standing in front of it.

“Windows Hello offers enterprise-grade security that will meet the requirements of organizations with some of the strictest requirements and regulations. It’s a solution that government, defense, financial, health care and other related organizations will use to enhance their overall security, with a simple experience designed to delight.”

Once you sign in to your PC, Microsoft has enabled another feature called “Passport”.  This system is designed to replace passwords in order to sign in to apps, websites and online services which would normally require a password.

Passwords have proven to be insecure and there are many examples of hackers stealing user passwords from websites they hacked.  With Microsoft Passport, the software giant plans to eliminate this problem once and for all.

“Windows 10 will ask you to verify that you have possession of your device before it authenticates on your behalf, with a PIN or Windows Hello on devices with biometric sensors. Once authenticated with ‘Passport’, you will be able to instantly access a growing set of websites and services across a range of industries – favorite commerce sites, email and social networking services, financial institutions, business networks and more.”

This is definitely an intriguing feature and can potentially be a game changer for the industry if implemented well, and definitely something that we could expect in the next flagship phones running Windows 10.

Source: Microsoft

Microsoft Band now selling at Best Buy, Target & Amazon in US; UK expansion & pre-orders announced

MSBand_Group_Bike_Mapping_RGB-640x357Up until now Microsoft Band was only available at Microsoft’s retail locations. Since the smart fitness tracker launched in November, its supply has been extremely limited with many Microsoft stores quickly running out of stock as soon as new shipments arrived, especially in the more-popular sizes.

Now it appears that Microsoft is ready to mass-produce the popular gadget as the company has just announced that as of today the Band will be sold at Best Buy, Target and Amazon in the U.S. The Microsoft Store (brick and mortar locations as well as will, as of today, start receiving much larger and more frequent shipments of the wearable units. The price of the Band will remain at $199 for now.

Additionally, Microsoft Band is for the first time since launch becoming available for sale outside of the U.S. borders. As of today, it is available for pre-order in the U.K. through Amazon, Curry’s PC World, Dixons Travel, Harrods, and O2. The wearable will cost £169.99 (ERP) and the device will ship on April 15th.

Entrance into the U.K. market marks the beginning of what Microsoft expects to be the first of many non-U.S. markets to get the Band.

“We are excited to expand to an additional market, and to incorporate the feedback of more customers into our future product and service updates.” – Microsoft Corporate Blogs

This is truly exciting news for many who have wanted to get their hands on the fitness tracker but couldn’t because of supply issues in the U.S. or because of the lack of availability outside of U.S. Microsoft is positioning itself well just in time to compete with Apple in the wearable tech space.

Source: Microsoft Blog

Cortana can now help you stay fit by keeping track of your workouts

cortana-1024x576Microsoft has enabled Cortana with a new fitness tracking capability under the lifestyle interest category which will help you stay on top of your workouts.

Upon enabling this feature, Cortana will track when you go to the gym and give you a quick reminder when it’s time to head out to your next workout.  She’ll automatically schedule make-up days if you don’t happen to be in the mood for a work-out that particular time.

CortanaFitness3 CortanaFitness1

Here’s what Microsoft has to say about Cortana’s new fitness tracking capability:

Cortana is always learning and can now infer places that are important to you based on how often you visit them. So if you go to a gym or attend an aerobics class regularly, Cortana will soon learn your visitation habits, recognize that the place is important and prompt you to name the location. You can call it “gym” or “my swimming club” or “Aerobics world,” any name associated with the activity.

Powered by the knowledge of Bing, Cortana understands the purpose of real-world terms such as “gym” or “my swimming club.” Cortana also knows that despite our best efforts, our work-out regimens can slip. She will offer to help you maintain your fitness schedule.

Let’s say you are in the habit of working out every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the gym, but take it easy over the weekends. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, Cortana will alert you that it’s gym day and remind you to take your training kit. Clicking on “It’s a workout day” will take you to the Health & Fitness app, where you can find different workouts to try.

Keeping motivated is a difficult task for many, and sometimes the difference between not going to the gym and going requires that little bit of extra motivation which could go a long way at times.  This is definitely a great addition to Cortana’s many unique capabilities, and these are the types of things that put Cortana over the top when comparing to Siri and Google Now.  With the arrival of Windows 10 this fall, the possibilities of Cortana with the use of more device types in providing you with assistance will be much more intriguing.

Source: Bing Blog

Windows tablets are set to be a threat to the iPad, according to IDC

surface pro 3 ad 1IDC’s latest report on the tablet market doesn’t look so good in respect to growth. In February, IDC reported a 3.2% drop in tablet shipments which marked the first ever year-on-year decline, and in their latest outlook, the projections of market growth are gloomy as the research company scaled back its earlier projections. IDC’s new forecast has tablet shipments reaching 234million in 2015. This represents only a slight increase of 2.1% when comparing to 2014.

IDC has provided us with a chart representing their growth forecast which looks to gain a slight bump in 2016 and continue declining until 2019 to almost minimal growth.

IDC tablet growth forecastOne of the interesting takeaways in their latest report is how quickly Apple has begun to lose share and not just due to the market growing at a faster rate than Apple can keep up with, but due to the decline in iPad shipments overall, calling them the “weakest link”.

Android on the other hand increased overall shipment but is expected to have a very slight increase year-over-year from 154.7 million in 2014 to 158.1 million in 2015. It’s also worth noting that IDC expects Android tablets to experience a market share drop to 62.9% in 2019.

It’s not all gloomy for the newest member in the tablet market space, the Windows tablets, which are expected to gain significant share by 2019. Although Windows had a market share of 5.1% in 2014, climbing to 14.1 in the next few years is a large jump, and IDC is convinced that Windows 10 will play a big role in this movement.

Source: IDC