And yet another gotta-have-it app appears on Windows Phone: the official Fitbit app launches on Windows Phone 8.1 later today, offering real-time Bluetooth syncing between your smart phone handset and Fitbit activity tracker.
On the heels of Microsoft's recent Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington D.C., I swapped the final night in my perfectly serviceable midtown hotel for a night at the upscale Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which is conveniently located between both the National Mall and Reagan National Airport. I didn't do so to abuse my expense account—indeed, the stay was provided free of charge—but rather to experience an interesting new fusion of two of my top interests, technology and travel. You see, Mandarin is piloting the use of Surface Pro 3 in its rooms. And I was curious to learn how that would work.
With Windows Phone 8.1 starting to dribble out to users via the ever-slow wireless carriers, tech enthusiasts have already turned their attention to Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1. To date, there's been very little information about this update, beyond the fact that it was a bucket of sorts for features that didn't make the original 8.1 cut. But thanks to a nice leak from—you guessed it—Microsoft, we now know quite a bit more.
One of the highlights of Build 2014 was Microsoft's public introduction of Cortana, the digital personal assistant in Windows Phone 8.1. Obviously aimed at Siri in iPhone, Cortana comes with a surprisingly strong list of capabilities. Including, apparently, the ability to make Siri look bad, as a new TV ad ably demonstrates.
While little is known at this point, Microsoft China has confirmed that it faces an official inquiry in that country, possibly related to antitrust. And various reports note that at least four Microsoft offices in China were visited by government officials early Monday, with those officials questioning employees.
When you think about all the stuff that goes into what we think of as "Windows Phone 8.1," the reality is that a bunch of it isn't even part of the OS. There's the Cyan firmware update for Lumia users, of course, which adds a ton of new features of its own. There are various new and improved Microsoft and Nokia apps. And then there's a Live Lock Screen app that Microsoft promised to deliver all the way back in April. Well, it's finally here in beta form.
Microsoft's 343 Industries this week offered up the first trailer to the "Halo: Nightfall" live-action TV show that will debut this fall on Xbox. Made in conjunction with Ridley Scott's Scott Free Productions, the show appears to have the high production values "Halo" fans were hoping for. In fact, it looks great.
Gameloft this week released the next installment in its Call of Duty-like Modern Combat series for mobile devices. That's no surprise, of course. But there's some good news for Windows users, in particular. Modern Combat 5: Blackout is available for both Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8/8.1, and was made so simultaneously with the release on other platforms, which is a first. And better still, you only have to buy it once: If you get the game on Windows, you own it on Phone too, and vice versa.
An often irreverent look at this week's other news, including an expansion of Microsoft's retail plans, Yammer moves around as co-founder leaves, tablet slowdown doesn't explain iPad sales freefall, Google grilled by EU regulators over "right to be forgotten," e-book judge is troubled over Apple settlement proposal, and Amazon sells everything but profits.
Microsoft has released a public beta version of the promised Xbox One SmartGlass release that adds a ton of new features for Xbox One users, including the ability to buy Xbox One games on your handset, "like" items, and more.
Microsoft's ubiquitous note-taking mobile app just got a lot more, um, ubiquitous. Its available now on Amazon's Fire OS-based devices, the Fire Phone handset and the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HDX tablets.
Bet you never saw this one coming: Ever-late-to-the-party is now among the first wireless carriers to rollout Windows Phone 8.1 to existing customers. The firm announced today that it is now delivering the update—presumably with the Cyan firmware update and whatever updates of its own—to Lumia 1520 users. The bad news? You can't currently get it if you're on the Developer Preview.
In the latest episode of Windows Weekly, Leo Laporte, Mary Jo Foley and I discuss the Microsoft layoffs, five Microsoft communication miscues from just the past week, Lenovo's own communication miscue, Microsoft's quarterly earnings, and of course the wonderful OneNote parody video.
Lost amid the huge list in my most recent What I Use article is a product I'm surprised no one commented on: Google's Chromecast. Like Chromebook, Chromecast was something that launched in a fairly half-assed state. But it's improved over time, and while I still think more expensive competing solutions like Roku 3 are better living room solutions overall, Chromecast earns a spot on the list for one very important reason: It's the only inexpensive living room device that works with Google's ever-improving Play services.
In my What I Use article series, I occasionally document the hardware, software and services that use every day. But there are a number of other useful tools which are needed far less often and are yet no less valuable. Key among them is a USB 3.0 to SATA adapter, recently acquired to replace an older USB 2.0-based solution. This lets you access the contents of an internal hard drive externally, aiding in PC disaster recovery and other scenarios.
It's been a while since the last What I Use, but there haven't been many major changes since late last year: Surface Pro 3 has become my go-to travel companion, I've added a third cellphone line for testing Windows Phone, Android and iPhone side-by-side, and have rotated through some new tablets and other devices. We've also switched from FIOS to Comcast and added to our set-top box collection....More
This has been a great year for Windows Phone users in so many ways. Not only did we just get a major, major OS update in Windows Phone 8.1, but Microsoft and a variety of third parties have been busy launching an unprecedented number of new and improved apps on the platform as well. With all that in mind—and with the understanding that this is just a slice in time—here's a peek at what I'm using on my own Windows Phone handset....More