All posts by shailpik

Intel Strikes Deal For NFC Technology Ahead of Windows 8 Launch

It is a well-known fact that Intel has plans to enter the smartphone market soon and it looks they have plans for doing it with Windows 8. Just ahead of the expected Windows 8 launch in mid-2012; Intel has struck a deal with Inside Secure for use of its NFC technology. NFC or Near Field Communications is much like Bluetooth in its convenience but is much more robust and secure. It has become the preferred ad hoc networking technology for almost all future smartphones. Using this technology, you can turn your phone in to a contact-less credit card, security card and much more. It is all the rage in Japan and the rest of the world is just trying to catch up.

What Intel intends to do with this technology is to integrate it in to their chips and make market for themselves in the smartphone category. With Windows 8 coming up, most people are expecting a major push from the world’s largest chipmaker in the smartphone direction with mobile chipsets.

NFC is a technology that is heralded by most industry experts and is all set to explode in the next few years. It is going to be supported by major players like Google (with their Wallet payment system), who are looking to introduce a simple and secure payment method that can be integrated in to consumer electronics. Imagine having a virtual account like PayPal and then waving your phone in front of a machine to make a payment at your local grocery store.

Uses of NFC
Windows 8 Will Have NFC At Launch

Coming up after that are ticketing services. So if Intel has its way, your Intel powered Windows 8 smartphone might be able to buy tickets online and then act as the ticket itself at the checking gate. Wave your phone at the gate and your ticket is recognized and ‘punched’.

Security is a big issue in such systems and with NFC’s 10cm range, there’s hardly any chance of eavesdropping like there is with Bluetooth. Plus there are industry standard high-level encryption methods at work here.With some tablet makers also thinking of integrating NFC (the official Windows 8 demo tablet has NFC), Windows 8 is likely to become the first mainstream OS to see real utilization of this.

Rage Against Android On Twitter, Win A Windows Phone!

Are you a disgruntled Android phone user? Do you fee like raging and shouting about it? Well, now it is time to benefit form that urge and win a Windows phone in the process. In its latest marketing stunt, Microsoft has decided that a free Windows Phone giveaway is not good enough. Why give them away to good people for praising your product when you can give them away to people who can malign the competition.

After holding other giveaways, the Windows Phone maker now wants you to talk about all your bad experiences with Android on Twitter for a chance to win an Windows Phone. Started by Microsoft’s Windows Phone evangelist Ben Rudolph, this contest urges you to share your malware stories using the hashtag #droidrage for a chance to win a brand new #windowsphone. As to which Windows Phone you actually stand to win, Ben has not been clear on that although many are hoping that it is a brand new Nokia Lumia 800. This phone is arguably the flagship model across the entire line of Windows Phones and clearly the most coveted one.

Microsoft Ben Rudolph Windows Phone Giveaway #droidrage
Microsoft's Ben Rudolph Tweet About The Givaway And Various Reactions

If you look at the screenshot above, you will see that this contest has generated a mixed response from the crowd. Taken at the time of writing, this offer from Ben has gotten some android problem stories across whilst quite a few people are calling it a cheap publicity stunt by Microsoft to gain more exposure. However, depending on the responses it might just turn out to be a brilliant marketing ploy also. So long as it works in favor of the company, it is a success. The average  consumer does not think about all this. All they see is an opportunity to grumble about a problem and stand a chance to win a shiny new gadget in return. When you distill it down to that level, it is a pretty effective strategy to turn your competitor’s consumers against them and win the same consumers to your side. And this is also a good time to do it so that people have some retention of the brand when Windows 8 is launched by mid next year. Hopefully, Windows Phone 8 will not be far behind either.

Interesting problems so far include an LG2X phone resetting it self and a rebooting during a call to a service number to fix a rebooting problem! Another tweet says the users phone short circuited the SD card. That is probably a hardware problem but that’s the advantage of mudslinging — it will all get blamed on Android. So this campaign might pay off for Microsoft after all because after Android, the only place left to go right now is Windows Phone and sure looks good and most importantly — affordable.

This offer is presumably only open to US residents. However, since Ben has not mentioned that in his tweets, he might be able to offer some to residents of other countries as well. After all, if he wants to make an impact, ignoring the Asian market would not be wise. So if you want your #droidrage to be heard, tweet it to @benthepcguy.

Microsoft Confident Of Developer Interest In Windows 8

Numbers is one thing that Microsoft has on its side. After disclosing the coming of the Windows Store before the official release was to happen, Microsoft said that they have so far served the Windows 8 Developer Preview over three million times through downloads. And we know that the actual number of downloads will increase when we count the circulation through unofficial channels. When it comes to developer support, Microsoft confidently quotes the current Windows 7 install base — 500 million. All of these machines have the ability to run Windows 8. If you are not convinced, there’s another number to be talked about — the 400 million PC’s that are sold worldwide every year. Every PC coming out now has the ability to run Windows 8.

Windows Store Icon
Windows Store Icon

Senior VP of consumer channels ar Microsoft, Capossela, had all of this to say and some more about the developer interest about Windows 8 and whether there will be enough of it. According to him, there’s a lot of opportunity on the market for developers to tap in to. Considering the plausible install base that runs in to at least a hundred or two million initially, it is easy to understand why anyone would want to get in on it. Additionally, the Windows Store’s revenue models rewards higher selling apps through greater sales percentage. Whereas developers get 70% normally, any app that sells over $25,000 worth will receive 80% of the sales. Also, Microsoft is building in support for multiple ad networks for developers to use. However, they are also not going to force developers to use particular ad networks and they will be free to choose on their own.

These are all measures that Capossela talked about when commenting on why the company is bullish on gaining developer support. However, these are only features that are meant to attract developers. A platform such as this is nothing without its buyers and Microsoft has been hard at work devising strategies to ensure buyer interest as well.

The Windows Store’s policy is very much tilted towards making the consumer’s experience a smooth one. To start with, developers will have to ensure that their apps are CPU architecture agnostic, which means that they will have to develop each app for x86 and ARM processors. For users, this will mean all apps being available on anything that is running Windows 8. We have already reported on how Microsoft intends to handle the varying screen size issue.

Video streaming will be capped at 256Kb/s and audio streaming at 64Kb/s to safeguard the user against maxing out their data cap. However, Microsoft is not looking to get all big brotherly here. So if the app needs to have greater video or audio bandwidth, it will simply have to ask for permission from the user. This way, the user will be aware of the potential drain on their date usage and won’t be taken by surprise.

Best of all though is the multi-machine installation policy. Microsoft allows not just two or three, but up to five machines to have the app installed per purchase. The higher number makes sense because Windows 8 is going to have multiple devices types under it and there are 3 main classes already — PC, Tablet/Slate and Phone. So 5 installs per app is going to be a very realistic scenario once Windows 8 launches. This would be great especially for the professional people who have to buy expensive pro-level apps for their work. Now they can enjoy having them apps with them on all their devices.

So it shows that Microsoft is definitely working hard to promote the Windows Store to both the contributors and consumers. At the same time they are taking care of the finer details of user experience on both ends. Put together, it is the prefect combination to have, at least on paper. If they can actually pull this off, it will be a great store that will ride on the tidal wave of market penetration that is almost certain for the world’s largest OS platform.

[Via: TabTimesiStartedSomethingSlash Gear]

Remote Kill Switch In Windows 8 Apps: Microsoft

There you go — Microsoft has confirmed that they have remote kill switch installed in to Windows 8 apps. using this access, they can disable and even remove an app entirely from a user’s device. This piece of information was released along with other details of the upcoming Windows Store for Windows 8.

If you are shocked or outraged, don’t be. This has become standard procedure for app stores of this kind and it is seen in both Apple and Google run app stores. So both of the market leading companies can trigger a command to wipe out an app from your system and they do not necessarily need your permission to do it. However, it is an extreme maneuver and is reserved for the times when malware has accidentally slipped through the screening process or there’s a severe amount of controversy or legal battle regarding the app. It is is sort of a last resort for the companies. And users are usually well compensated for their inconvenience through app store gift cards and so on. In fact, Microsoft has precedent for being generous in this regard. Recently there was a security glitch in the Xbox Live platform that banned people without rhyme or reason. These users were promptly reinstated in their full unbanned glory and were actually given free download codes for an entire game! Needless to say, Xbox Live gamers are now hoping to be similarly inconvenienced at the first given opportunity.

Kill Switch
Windows 8 Apps To Have Remote Kill Switch

Microsoft has made it clear in the terms of use that this kill switch will be part of the agreement where Microsoft gets to use its discretion. The user will not be informed or asked permission from before the command is executed. This is what the company has to say about it in official terms: -

“In cases where your security is at risk, or where we’re required to do so for legal reasons, you may not be able to run apps or access content that you previously acquired or purchased a license for,”

Other than mentioning the fact that the users will be compensated, the Windows makers also mentioned one more point of interest. They may also clean out the data created by the offending app.

“If the Windows Store, an app, or any content is changed or discontinued, your data could be deleted or you may not be able to retrieve data you have stored,”

Not very convenient if you were depending on it but when it come to security risks, it is going to be quite the blessing to have Microsoft do the clean up for you.

So far, there has been no incident in the the mobile app store history where Apple has had to use their kill switch. Steve Jobs had acknowledged the presence of such a command though. iOS apps that have been removed from the app store after it was approved and put up, have so far not been removed by Apple. Those who purchased the apps could continue using it as normal. There was no remote wipe. Google however has used their kill switch multiple times, usually after discovering a malicious app on the lose.

Microsoft has not detailed the review process for the apps but they will surely be helped by the precedents set by Google and Apple. It will be easier to perfect the existing system now that there are others who are already doing it. Experts have chimed in with their opinion saying that it will most likely be much more stringent that the standards set by Google. But perhaps it won’t be as strict as Apple. It is easy to see that the best path is to take the middle path that lies between the two renowned extremes.

There has been no official word on it but the Windows Store is expected to throw open its digital gates the same time as the first beta release of Windows 8.

[Via: Computerworld]

2012 Intel Ivy Bridge Processors Leaked: The Chips That Will power Windows 8

Intel’s next generation Ivy Bridge processors are expected to come out in the April-May timeframe in 2012. However, you do not have to wait that long to know about them. A detailed list of all the up coming models including their launch date, cores, threads and other crucial details has already been leaked on to the web. And the verdict simple — hold your Intel powered purchases until next year.

These processors are going to be in the forefront for Windows 8 machines, appearing on everything from traditional desktops and notebooks to Ultrabooks and even tablets. Ivy Bridge processors succeed the Sandy Bridge generation and are different in regard to the manufacturing process and design. These will be the first ’3D’ transistors built with Intel’s industry leading 22-nm manufacturing process. When compared side by side with Intel’s first ever chip — the 4004 (1971) — this 22nm process manufactured chip runs over 4,000 times faster and each of its transistors uses 5,000 times less energy. What’s more, the price factor has dropped by a factor of 50,000. These are facts straight from an Intel fact sheet and put things in quite the perspective.

Given the way the industry is set up right now, Intel’s Ivy Bridge will become almost omnipresent in Apple’s MacBooks and all the varied Ultrabook models that will be released in 2012. This way, it will likely become the mainstay of Windows 8 by the time it is released next year.

Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs
(Credit: CPU World)

Looking at the models in the list, there’s one that looks quite interesting — the 3427U. It is very likely to be chosen for most of the Ultrabooks and even their competitor the MacBook Air from Apple. That’s because this model or one related to it is going to be the most power efficient processor in Intel’s arsenal. Rated at just 17watts, it will definitely prove to be quite the battery saver.

Intel is well aware of the competition that ARM chips will pose and they have been working very hard to remain competitive. These processors are a lot more compact and have more components than there predecessors. Instead of being just the CPU and some basic components, Ivy Bridge processors carry both the CPU and the GPU along with the memory controller and some more components. So even though Intel processors have been similarly power efficient in the past, they have never had this many components on the chip. Neither did they have the number of transistors that Ivy bridge processors will have. These processors are hence more similar to SoC’s in their design than what we have traditionally come to see as chips for mainstream computers.

New Windows 8 Specific Solution From BIOS Maker Phoenix Technologies

Phoenix technologies has recently announced latest offering — the Phoenix SCT 2.2 — to help their PC partners develop products based on the up and coming Windows 8 operating system from Microsoft. Phoenix Technologies is the second major market share holder when it comes to BIOS solutions on notebooks at 45% and is led by Insyde Software at 55%. The desktop BIOS market is still dominated by American Megatrends (AMI).

Kelly Wu, President Phoenix Greater China, said that the new product has over 60 new features to help their partners work on Windows 8. It is optimized for better system performance, stability, connectivity, security, user experience and mobility.  This new product also supports multiple technology standards, namely — UEFI 2.3.1, TCG 1.2/2.0, ACPI 4.0/5.0, USB 3.0, SMBIOS 2.7 and NIST-SP800-147.

Even though they have mainly been PC player, working on the x86 platform, Phoenix technologies is also working on Windows on ARM (WOA). The Chinese BIOS makers are working in collaboration with Qualcomm and Texas Instruments — two of the largest makers of ARM based chips in the world. Texas Instruments is more popular in embedded systems although they are slowly gaining entry in to the high smartphone segment. Qualcomm is currently very popular with phone and tablet makers for their super fast Snapdragon mobile processor.

Phoenix also expects to increase their share in the desktop market, stealing share away from AMI. The BIOS makers are also expecting to gain some relevance in the cloud computing segment. They have been hard at work for entering the server and embedded products markets. Overall, it looks like Windows 8 is helping them bolster their already ambitious expansion plans. With its versatility, it is possible that Windows 8 will help Phoenix technologies gain greater market share and help them win over new markets. According to statements from the company, they have already secured several deals for supplying their BIOS solutions for servers and embedded products. These are going to come to fruition for the company in 2012.


Windows 8 Will Be Fully Cloud Enabled With SkyDrive

Although Microsoft has already spoken about how Windows 8 will have SkyDrive features right in to it, they have now posted an in depth look at how it is going to change the way consumer computers work with the cloud. This post, penned by Microsoft SkyDrive group program manager Omar Shahine, talks about how SkyDrive is going to take cloud services on personal computers to a whole new level with SkyDrive on Windows 8.

Whilst talking about cloud services, he talked about three main service types — File Clouds (e.g. the SkyDrive service itself); Device Clouds (e.g. Apple’s iCloud because it is all about keeping Apple devices in sync with each other) and app clouds. This last one he broke down further in to fully cloud based applications like Google Docs and and media service like Netflix and Pandora.


With SkyDrive, Microsoft seems to want to try doing everything. That would include enabling the whole Windows 8 system with cloud features. This give you features like having access to your files from anywhere on earth via the internet. It will allow the future generation tablets that are going to come out in large numbers next year, to stay connected and updated with all your file changes or just the ones that you have chosen to be synced. Even if Microsoft ends up not providing such features, third party solutions are bound to show up. You already have services like DropBox where the application starts backing your files up online right as you are working them and they even give you time based restoration features. App developers can easily do this because cloud features are built right in to the SDK. They can build access to SkyDrive in to any software that needs cloud support.

This way, any developer who has a brilliant cloud based idea can execute wit without being stymied by the need for a reliable cloud that he/she can afford. The cloud needs to be reliable, fast, secure and over all sturdy. Only very large entities have the resources to hold such services and Microsoft is one of them with their SkyDrive. On top of that, Skydrive is a tried and tested service. According to the October 2011 stats released by Microsoft, over 17 million users onboard SkyDrive every month. Together they upload more than 320 million files every month. All of this comes from 5 million devices that connect to SkyDrive.

According to Shahine, the order of the day is simplicity, security, favorable storage limits and cross-device compatibility. He seems to be pointing at a seamless experience across different device. He also said that they would work with key apps especially that help users collaborate, organize  and share things.

Via [PCMag]

Windows 8 Might Come With Siri-Like Voice Recognition And Interaction

Microsoft’s Chief Research & Strategy officer Craig Mundie spoke to the Forbes magazine recently and stated that Siri — Apple’s new voice activated digital assistant — is nothing new. Microsoft has been doing it for over a year now. Windows Phone 7 already has a feature called Tellme that allows you to dictate and send text messages to people. And there is Bing’s voice search engine as well. Mundie also added that Siri is only this popular because of Apple’s marketing and admitted that perhaps that only area where they (Microsoft) could learn from Apple is in the marketing.

Now that he has highlighted it, let’s look at Windows 8 and its allied resources that are going to start becoming available throughout next year. Microsoft’s official word on the Windows 8 phone situation says that it is not happening with the Windows 8 launch for PC’s. So let’s talk only about PC’s here.

As Mundie has already pointed out, Microsoft already has the necessary resources to pull off a proper voice recognition system. It can in fact do more than just voice — it can recognize colors and gestures too. Yes, I am talking about Kinect. Recently Kinect came in to news because Microsoft decided to star making a SDK for Kinect on Windows 8. And earlier this week, Microsoft announced that they are going to launch a beta hardware of Kinect for Windows in January 2012.

With the technology already in place, it is hard to think of reasons why Microsoft would not want to put it in there. Thus, it is entirely possible that once you buy a Windows 8 PC, all you have to do is hook it up with Kinect and start talking to it. Give it dictations, ask it set reminders, open an application or a website, etc. Bing voice search is already coming to Xbox and it is a Kinect dependent feature. Hence, Windows 8 is very likely to be completely voice aware just as the new iPhone 4S is with Siri.

Once Windows 8 makes it way to phones, it should be able to deliver the exact experience that Siri delivers but probably with some Microsoft twists in it. You can already to a lot with Tellme, so it would interesting to see that technology developed further and ported over to Windows 8 so that it can eventually work without any Kinect support. Right now however, even if Microsoft does not include a voice recognizing digital assistant in to Windows 8, third party solutions surely will have it ready soon with the Kinect SDK for Windows 8. At which point we should be seeing a sharp rise the adoption of Windows 8.

New Xbox 360 Dashboard Gives Glimpses In To The Final Look And Feel Of Windows 8 Metro

There’s a upgrade coming to the Xbox 360 gaming console’s dashboard and it seems to have been heavily influenced by the Metro interface from the current Windows Phone 7 and the upcoming Windows 8 platforms. Windows 8 is not even in Beta yet and this dashboard is a finalized UI. This gives us a peek in to what the Metro UI would feel like when Windows 8 is finally released.

xbox-windows-8-metro-uiThe new dashboard features the signature Metro UI tiles with live updates and other relevant features. It is an colorful array of tiles that totally changes the experience that you have had so far with Xbox 360′s dashboard. Part of the Xbox Live platform, the new dashboard will be launching officially on December 6th, Tuesday. The new dashboard is not only a precursor to the full fledged Windows 8 Metro experience, it comes with a host of new features like Sky Drive storage, voice search through Bing (UK, CA and US only at the moment, needs Kinect), better voice and gesture control (also requires Kinect) and some new content.

This new content will be supplied by different providers in over 20 countries. Many of these providers have a worldwide presence. New movies and TV shows are only a part of the whole entertainment upgrade that is about to come in with the new upgrade to the Xbox 360.

In changing the look of the new Xbox 360 dashboard, Microsoft seems to have started its migration to a unified user experience. Its one of the best design decisions that Microsoft has taken so far. They are looking to keep the user experience unified across all their platforms. Currently that includes both the Windows Phone 7 series and the Xbox 360. Windows Phone 7 is what introduced Metro in the first place and now that Xbox also has it, Windows 8 will be launched amidst familiar grounds for users of either or both of these platforms. But most importantly, new users will always feel like they are on familiar territories once Windows 8 launches and completes the cycle.

ARM Based Windows 8 PC Running Snapdragon From Qualcomm By End Of 2012

Qualcomm SnadragonQualcomm is going to introduce the new Qaudcore Snapdragon processor by the end of 2012, the company CEO has stated. This processor will be designed to run the ARM version of Windows 8, which is expected to release the same time as the full version — sometime in the second half of 2012. With this step, the mobile chipmaker intends to step in to the PC market.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon is currently the most commonly used high-end mobile chip. It’s current version can clock over 2.0GHz and is a dual-core processor. All of this without creating a severe drain on the battery — something that ARM specializes at.

Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm, said that the PC business will come much close to the smartphone segment in this manner. According to him, developers will be better invested if they are developing for the phone. That’s because the current growth is in that sector. Windows 8 will have its own app store where people can buy Metro apps. Windows 8 on ARM will only be running on Metro, unlike Windows 8 on Intel where it can also run legacy apps. So what Mollenkopf seems to be saying is that developers can now develop the same app to be used on desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones because they’ll all be running Windows 8.

A lot of experts have commented on how Windows 8 on ARM will be crippled initially by the lack of support for legacy apps. However, most companies working on ARM based devices for Windows 8 aren’t very worried about it and neither is Qualcomm. What these makers are looking at is what the future will hold for the platform. They are not looking to woo those who are already entrenched in the current Windows experience. Instead, they are trying to capture the crowd that would be happy to buy a cheap and affordable Windows 8 PC running on ARM and has access to its own apps. This would be a solution for those looking for a way to bridge the gap between the netbook and the tablet. It will also be welcome by people who think that the iPad is too expensive and the other tablets are not functional enough.

In meantime, Qualcomm’s financial statement shows bullish predictions of growth through 2015. This means the company is pretty confident in whatever it is that they are planning.


Via []